A Collection of Stories

Richard L. Provencher

© Copyright 2005 by Richard L. Provencher




One day I sat down on our front lawn and wondered about growing older. Am I still relevant? Do people care about my counsel, I wondered. And the good Lord sent me David, eight years wise, who sat beside me and carried out the following chit-chat.

It’s cool when I talk to my Grandpa. Like right now. He lives on the other side of the street. And he's on my paper route. I have eighteen customers. Sometimes on Collection Day he gives me a great big tip. Two dollars. I call that a really super tip. Today I feel down in the dumps. That's a pretty big thought for me, David…

I'm eight now, grandpa. But I'll be nine next March. Let me see, that's oh, uh...nine more months. See, I can figure things out.

I'm pretty good in math too. My mother said I should be a banker, like my uncle Larry. But I think that might be boring. Besides I hate wearing a tie. I know my daddy hates wearing a tie.

Maybe that's why he became a Preacher. He wears a white collar instead. He really likes talking to everyone. I mean grownups. Does that make sense, Grandpa? I know  'cause he talks to all the adults who go to his church. He's pretty busy. But I still love him though.

And I really think he loves me.

Sometimes when I lie in my bed in my favorite PJ’s, I cry. I'm not really a baby but I wish my daddy would talk to me, Grandpa. Like you do. I know maybe you think I'm not a good boy.

But I am. I help out ... well sometimes.

Me, and my brother Todd, we fight a lot. It's not really my fault. He keeps punching me on the shoulder. It hurts too. Todd is thirteen.

He's really strong.

When we fight, my daddy goes to work at church. He says he has lots to do. I think he might be scared to lose his temper with us kids.

After daddy leaves then Todd does his ... you know ... his punching bag thing. Except, I’m the punching bag. I wish he would stop. Maybe he will when I grow up. Hey, maybe I'll be really tall. Even be bigger than him.

Do you think so, Grandpa? But I won't beat him up. My daddy says fighting is not nice. And I love my daddy.

Guess what, Grandpa? It's okay if I sit right beside you, hey? I really like to talk to someone. And you give good advice. After I leave here, well ... what should I do Grandpa? About Todd hitting me. Not go into his room?

But I only go in once or twice a week. And don’t even take anything. Only look around? Don’t go in even once? Maybe he won't hit me anymore? I think I'll try that.

Guess what, Grandpa? My mom went away to visit her aunt. You know already? She lives really far away. I think its a hundred thousand miles. Two hundred? Is that a lot?

You say, from Truro to Canso town? Oh, that's far. Anyway, my daddy is the cook when she's gone. And guess what? He's not really a good cook.

No, not really.

But I still eat the food. He makes burned pancakes. Even the juice is lumpy. But I drink it. Do you think I can tell my daddy about that juice, Grandpa? Would he be mad if I said, daddy you're not a very good cook?

I bet he might laugh. He wouldn't?

Hey, sometimes I wish I could tell him some things. But I think he would get even madder. Like, my daddy preaches too long. I sit and I listen. And I listen and then I wish he would stop. He talks for a whole half hour.

That's too long. It's not? Some ministers preach for a whole hour? Then he must preach at least an hour too.

Do you think one day I can talk to my daddy like I talk to you, Grandpa? Good. I can’t wait. Sometimes I wish my daddy would take me fishing, just the two of us. And Todd could stay home and cook.

I have to go and finish my newspapers now, Grandpa. And thanks. You give good advice. What's for supper? Probably some more burnt pancakes.

Why do I eat them? That’s easy.

Because I love my daddy.”


Often, our children have issues to discuss. When is the appropriate time, and under which circumstances should adults be around to listen. Parent must decide any time is right and to help their offspring understand the depth of their parental pride and love.

It was quite simple to hide from the early morning sun. All Paul had to do was pull down the shade gaining an opportunity for added sleep.

But his restless spirit had a most difficult time settling down. So, he decided to leave his bedroom and go downstairs to his sister's vacant room. Paul moved quietly from his bed, taking his blanket and feather pillow.

Bare feet dashed quickly before freezing toes changed his mind. He was silent as a deer not wanting to wake up Sheeba. Neighbors knew her protecting bark almost a block away. And Paul certainly did not wish to wake up mom and dad. They both needed their sleep on a Saturday morning.

At least Jo-Ann couldn't complain about him using her room. Sis began college in Prince Edward Island a few weeks ago. Not having her around was a real pain though. He hated to admit he really missed her. Paul checked over some family pictures she had hung up. Three seashells dangled on beads from another wall.

He remembered when she made those a couple of years ago. That was when everyone in the family helped build this room. He was still a kid then. Right now, it seemed so long ago. Jo-Ann’s bed was piled with leftover clothes. Paul guessed they couldn't be fitted into her suitcases. Not even in three of them.

Where to place his tired head? Another hour of snoozing would do it. He noticed there was barely enough room on her bed to stretch properly. Mom and dad said they might have to stop feeding him if he kept growing.

Then Paul spotted the answer to his sleeping problem. In the corner of the bedroom were two large empty boxes. Being too large, they had been left behind. That was the way he sometimes felt, since Sis left, alone and forgotten.

Dad was always working on his woodpile then delivering one hefty load at a time to Truro for sale. Paul didn’t mind helping, but he wanted to do fun-things, like hiking or canoeing or a little golf. Right now he’d be satisfied just going for a walk with his sister. And mom was busy with the Arts and Craft club in their Village of Bass River, so she wouldn’t be around today.

No one seems to notice me anymore, Paul thought. But then, mom and dad must be feeling a little sad too, since Jo-Ann left.

The sun shone through the basement window, making sleep impossible. Paul turned off the bedroom light switch. But, it was still too bright. Then from the recesses of his mind a solution made itself known. He placed the largest box on the only uncluttered part of the bed. Then climbed in, taking his blanket and pillow inside. Reaching up, Paul pulled the top cardboard flaps behind him.

Now there was no shining sun to worry about. Nor any parents to wonder where he was. In fact he could remain in the dark box as long as he needed. At first it was quite uncomfortable, until he rolled into a ball, using some of Jo-Ann's sweaters as a mattress. The smell of perfume still lingered from her clothes and the aroma made it seem like she was close by.

Mom was probably lying in bed, wondering about all the housekeeping she had to perform at her neighbors today. Maybe dad was counting his money thinking of successful wood sales in Truro to pay off more bills.

Then he heard a loud "meow." It was 'Sport', his cat.  Of course, the kitten would want to join him. Either let him or wake the whole house up with his persistent whining. "Get in you," Paul said, more than happy for the company.

Sport’s purring was almost as loud as a motorboat. If only dad had bought the boat and ten horsepower uncle Richard wanted to sell. Think of the fishing they could have done on Lake Mattatall.

Wishing’s only good for wells,” mom always said.

Paul patted his cat's head. He wasn't feeling so lonesome anymore.

He and Sis used to have barrels of fun together spending lots of times talking about things. Mom and dad never forgot the time he hit Jo-Ann on the shoulder. That made her really angry. But Paul still felt Jo-Ann deserved it for pinching him, even if she was sort of his best friend. When mom and dad weren't around, Sis listened to his problems. He told her about bullies at school. Even failing his tests when he forgot to study.

Sometimes he cried. And Sis held him the way mom did when he was just a little kid. He thought about their trampoline.

Dad bought it when Paul was nine. He was a lot smaller then, just the right size of little squirt for kids to pick on. Mom and dad almost fainted once when Paul and Sis were doing really high jumps and back flips. That's a fact. He could almost hear his sister still laughing. She has such a nice smile, just like moms. Both their eyes twinkle, like his cat.

Paul wondered if mom was up yet. The box was beginning to feel a bit cramped. Carefully moving one shoulder, he was able to jiggle around and almost turn himself into a tire. But he felt more like a caterpillar cocoon. During Health classes he learned about babies. And how they lay in a 'fetal' position, inside their mothers. Was he acting like a baby right now? He knew he really wasn’t one needing special attention. It’s just that he was a growing boy, with his own developing needs.

So what if Jo-Ann wanted to move away? He knew she had to if she wanted to get a good education. If only Prince Edward Island wasn’t so far away. He wished she had gone to Bible Hill’s Agriculture College instead of that darn old Chef School. Then visiting each other would only be an hour away by car.

He chuckled about the times he ran downstairs and pounded on Jo-Ann's door. Sis would scream, "Buzz off Paul!!" But he used to come in anyway and throw her covers all over. They often laughed and jumped on the bed, using it as an indoor trampoline. That’s before dad finally gave in and got the new one. When they got older, that kind of fun ended. Sis needed to be by herself, to have her privacy.

Just like he needed some privacy right now.

He knew growing up was hard to do. But, he missed those fun things they did together. Paul sure hoped dad was getting up soon. It wasn't that Paul didn't like his own room. It was a great place. He had a nice library and good clothes. Even models of cars and tractors his parents gave him. Now he wanted a baseball glove to celebrate his 12th birthday.

Would Jo-Ann be able to make it to his party next week? He wondered. If she did, he promised himself to give her the largest piece of cake. Just then he heard a commotion. It must be 'Sheeba' or his parents getting up. Paul turned on his back and kicked open the box flaps.

"Surprise!” echoed from two people he loved most in the whole world.

"Mom! Dad! How long have you been here?" Paul asked.

"Only a few minutes son. We figured you’d be down here. We miss her too, you know." As if he was aware of Paul’s thoughts, dad added, “We haven’t forgotten you’re still around.”

Mom also knew how to make the sun shine in Paul's eyes. She boldly stated, "Your favorite breakfast, Blueberry pancakes is waiting!"

And dad placed the thickest icing on the cake. "Want to learn how to drive a 430 John Deere Loader-Crawler? After breakfast, of course."

Paul answered both questions with two jumping twirls. His sister's bed almost permanently bent in two. "Got to go now, Jo-Ann!” he yelled.

Then he raced mom and dad up the stairs.


Before my stroke, I didn’t spend much time chatting with those with lesser health, lingering by street corners, trying to catch someone’s attention, to be noticed as someone alive. After my stroke, I became one of them, and now know how to live.

Walking in Truro, Nova Scotia is more like meeting a feast of personalities. Angels are definitely around us. And they come in the form of laughter and smiles from people often missed as they gather in little towns such as this.

As others hurry to work, Angels in Paradise may be overlooked. A slower pace easily brings them into view. When encountered, Angels are unduly labeled the “walking wounded” of society.

Since my own encounter with a serious illness, causing slowness in my daily walk, more meaningful moments have been drawn to my attention. And these very Angels have enriched my flagging spirit.

It was my joy to discover Ralph, a man of darker skin and whiter teeth than mine, who hailed me on the street. Since our many conversations, it is now “Hello Richard,” instead of simply “Hey.” His red baseball cap continues to attract my attention, and I no longer wonder why so many deliberately stop and chat with the man.

He is a dispenser of wisdom, unused to foul language, cheerful in spite of weather conditions and moves from one selected corner of Inglis street to other stations. His eager shuffle captures my admiration.

Then there is Hank. He saunters along, window-washing pole slung over his shoulder, pail of water in the other hand. Are his blue-painted running shoes a giveaway to his eccentricity? I can attest to the fact he is sane.

This man has a closet full of creative urges. He works away in the lateness of each night. When most of us are sound asleep, he’s preparing his theme for next day’s journey downtown.

And Hank carries himself with mature pride. No one knows much about his past, where he worked, if he had a family or how old he really is. Merry eyes belie the cracks of skin across his face.

Now everyone notices him when adorned in his latest creation, green painted hat a sash of green across his chest, green pants and similar colored running shoes. “Haven’t figured out how to carve a shillelagh yet,” he proudly boasts.

There goes Greg, stilt-like in his walk, as he maneuvers a tall frame around crowds of urgency. Beginning quite early he walks the streets of Truro, like some guardian of the town. Arm and leg movements visibly strained due to his car accident some twenty years before.

But that was then, and this is now. Once I too hurried on by with a wave and an admonition about the weather. Now I can barely keep up to that walking wonder. Limbs stretch forward each day, dispensing a will to overcome his limitations. And I feel privileged to inhale his cheerfulness, his vigor.

Then there’s Dave, hat pressed tightly to his forehead. Can’t afford to lose it in the wind, since his steps are slow in the event of needed chase. Some wrongly state he is a “special” person, unable to contribute much to society. So wrong are those statements of confused thinking.

I see him as a painting on a canvas. His colors are a never-ending smile. When he fixes his gaze in one’s direction, you can sense the depth of peace within his heart. And I seek to absorb that contentment. The steady movement of his broom across the asphalt, dust pan in hand at MacQuarries parking lot, is a fixture upon the scene, valuable as any cherished antique.

Watch carefully, as his wife nearby has only eyes for her man. And inside her breast is her own bucket of love, ready to be shared.

Each of these angels, are monitors during my daily walk. Yes, once I too hurried on by, off to some important destination, eyes focused on my wristwatch, not wishing to be delayed. So busy, and more concerned was I for a meeting, coming up sooner than a coffee break.

Each day is the same for so many hurried persons; their bustle in life, worrying and heading gosh knows where. Some destinations call to them as a mother loon anxious for her baby chicks. And when they arrive, perhaps continue on with unfulfilled lives.

Sadly, amid another day, some unknowingly have passed through Paradise. Not realizing that love, caring and blessings from nearby Angels are waiting to be dispensed. All it takes is a moment of hesitation, a glance, perhaps a pause.

Stop, watch and listen.

And I am thankful that I am now able to do so.


Each anniversary of the tragedy of New York, Sept 11, sends shivers up and down our spines. Yet, in spite of the recollections in the memory of tragedies, there is another dimension not fully understood. Love, forgiveness and honor to each other is pertinent.

During the evening of September 12 above New York City, there is a reason for laughter and joyous times. Yesterday’s terrible occasion in the Twin Towers is completely forgotten. Now everyone is a participant in a blessed victory over death.

A large group of people are chatting and moving about. In their excitement, there is singing, laughing and hugging one another. A feeling of warmth and friendship helps provide a breath of new life. Everyone is preparing for a grand dinner of celebration.

A feast of blessings covers the huge, well-prepared table for those wishing to indulge. Besides turkey, ham, dressings and salads, there is a pudding of Righteousness. And Fruits of the Spirit, Tongues of Peace, Turnips of joy, which also help excite tummies.

Everything upon the beautiful mahogany table sits on glistening gold-rimmed bowls made from the finest Potter of them all.

In the lineup waiting his turn is Harry, now bald and badly burned. Once he had a shock of hair, thick as a wheat field. Now he chuckles about it.

Marie is patient for her turn and pirouettes around the floor. She can still do a perfect circle, this time with only one leg. Before September 11, her slim legs were the envy of all the bachelors in the neighborhood. But no one seems to notice her missing limb.

And Janet smiles in her own memories. She looks with loving eyes at children of all ages scrambling for a place at the table. They are of every race and color, each with limbs maimed on their young bodies. Their excitement can barely be contained. Many met as visitors before the Twin Towers dissolved into dust.

As everyone seats themselves the assembly of voices intermingle like the colors of a rainbow. Between mouthfuls of angel-prepared food, all are anxious to take turns sharing a story of triumph. In the midst of memory there remains a smile, an upraised eyebrow. And within the midst of this special company, there is an absence of tears.

I remember just before the first plane hit,” Bill says. “I was lifting a cup of my favorite coffee to my lips, then … BANG!”

And not long after, the first of both towers fell,” another remarked. “You should have seen me,” Annie interrupted with a hearty laugh. “People were pounding on my bathroom door. In a minute, I kept saying. How was I to know the whole place was going to fall down?”

Daddy hugged me really tight, then kissed me on my forehead,” a little boy piped up. “He never did that before. Then we went flying out the window, like two Bald Eagles. It was neat.”

A melee of voices spoke of challenges trying to escape the burning World Trade Center. None of those present made it to safety. And now, here they were all together. Some of the speakers lost their voices and did not speak for long. They missed those husbands, wives and children left behind. For time unending everyone knows they are the beginnings of a new family.

In this great room, tales of special circumstances come steadily from the mouths of dark and light skinned casualties.

These individuals represent many faiths, shapes and sizes. “And from over 100 countries around the globe,” someone whispered. Just yesterday all sitting at this table were burned and broken in their bodies, but not in spirit.

And before the end of this joyous celebration, miracles were to descend as gifts from the Creator above. Each precious part of their bodies was reclaimed. Right down to the mole on Phil’s cheek. And everyone sitting together is in harmony, part of God’s abundant family.

Yesterday was September 11, a day of agony for so many. Then, they sat side by side as soon-to-be plane victims. Many others occupied space in the World Trade Center. So many firemen and policemen and health authorities were there too.

As tragedy struck, phone calls brought words of anguish as well as loving messages from one to another. Hurried steps joined with cries of alarm and chewing fingernails or lower lips became part of the scene. Then a roaring fire and waves of smoke engulfed them all. When the Twin Towers fell, so many dreams were lost. And futures terminated in one rushing scream. And their past troubles were erased in one brief moment.

Now the meal is fully ended, and everyone reaches out. Hands clasp firmly, completing the circle of a caring family. Not bound by flesh, but their birthright is one of passion and common experience. Heads bowed, prayers are said once more for dear ones left behind.

In God’s Dining Room, an abundance of Love can be found. And humming voices are filled with Forgiveness.


In this world, temptations abound and once in a while a figure comes out of nowhere to remind us, there is another viewpoint, such as brotherly love and caring for one another. My story is built on this premise, that indeed we are our brother’s keeper; believe in it.

One day, a stranger stepped carefully off the highway. Then climbed down the rocky embankment. He crossed into a beautiful green valley that surrounded Truro, Nova Scotia. His cane added strength to a sore leg. There were no bugles playing.

Neither was there a crowd of people to cheer his arrival. But he had several distinctive features. He wore a tam.

His age may be guessed by the many wrinkles on his face. He was very short, almost the same height as a regular eight year old boy. And stood perhaps four feet tall in his stocking feet. When he smiled, it seemed as if warmth pressed against your face. Happiness shone in his eyes.

Passers-by could hardly miss noticing him. Some felt it would be appropriate to call him,  “SHORTY.” Thankfully, they still had some manners. He crossed a small bridge then paused. A friendly breeze carried the scent of new mown hay. Nearby, a farmer’s house meant food, perhaps a rest in the barn.

Maybe, even a piece of pumpkin pie. His favorite.

One little boy leaning against a tree boldly asked, “Who are you?”

Goodness is my name,” the man answered. The sound of his voice was melodious, as a hummingbird’s flutter of wings. There was a hint of dryness in the stranger’s voice.

Well, this little boy was confused. He knew  “Good” meant “Being Good.” Or getting homework completed for Miss Silver, his grade three teacher. But. “Goodness,” as a name?

Just then, an old car barely made it across the bridge. The motor coughed and spluttered, finally giving up. The short man quickly fixed it with a wave of his right hand. Or had the car simply stalled? Others may say he fully understood the workings of mechanical things. Then he was on his way.

Repairing the car for Uncle Steve really made the little boy happy. Now he could get a ride home. Mom would be pleased he wasn’t late for supper. Again. A barrier now blocked the trail. An angry Terrier barked at the stranger. Her babies had been given away. And in desperation, was searching for them.

But no one had been interested in helping her.

Something about the stranger took away her fear. Was it his soothing hands? Maybe the beef sandwich the stranger shared? The poor dog had not eaten for several days. Certainly not fine food such as this. A kindness cemented their friendship. Dog and Stranger were now pals.

As the stranger approached, people hurried by on the sidewalk. He didn’t appear well dressed for shopping in town. If they only knew his small knapsack held a wonderful treasure. It was all he desired to survive each day.

Children seemed to follow, wherever he went. They were curious at first. A few tried name-calling. But for some unknown reason, their harsh words were turned aside. Before long, children’s taunts turned to song. And mean tempers from adults turned their thoughts to feelings of friendship.

It was as if the stranger was able to encourage good thinking.

He was able to turn frowns into smiles. And images of anger turned people’s thoughts into caring. And several couples decided to baby-sit their friend’s children. Even shopping for an elderly neighbor. Others got busy and cut an overgrown lawn for a friend.

It was not long before his peculiar shortness didn’t seem important. His look was full of compassion. And soothing words of encouragement gained new friends. When an unpopular child received his glance, other children soon wanted to be their pal. When he sat at a rundown restaurant for a sandwich, everyone stared through the windows.

Later, business became very brisk.

As he passed by the only school in town, children watched from windows. A bark from the dog amazed everyone. It was the first time in a long while the animal made any noise. The once mean dog now licked every reaching hand. Making new friends was also a pleasant experience for the little fellow.

People’s lives changed as the stranger and dog traveled around town. Anger and unsmiling faces soon turned to a new caring. Neighbors became close friends and love was more than just a word. Then one day, there was panic in the streets.

Somewhere around the bend in the road, man and dog disappeared. It was their last time seen in town. Townspeople searched everywhere. Men, women and children looked in alleys and deserted corners. They had teams of rescuers searching in the countryside. Their seeking also took place in barns and beside riverbeds.

Finally, on the side of a little side trail, his pack-sack was found. And on a folded note, a scrawled message: “PEACE ON EARTH,” it read.

During the next few weeks, the town developed a new plan. A welcoming committee met any strangers coming into this valley. And that person was quickly taken to the most comfortable room in someone’s home. A generous slice of pumpkin pie followed supper.

The town’s new kindness also included any stray dog. They too were to be taken in. Then given a bath, dried off and a tummy filled with food. And all done in the hope their stranger and his dog returned. Or perhaps their own children even an offspring to the Terrier who once roamed their valley.

Very important to all, the town’s new name, no longer was ‘End of the Trail.’ A bright new sign said it all, ‘WELCOME TO GOODNESS.’

And In brackets just below the town’s name-- (especially if you have a dog).


Eating, eating and more eating is the bane of society today. Yet, we expect to live forever. After all, we have the best medicines and doctor care, and yet somehow we forget to look after ourselves. It took a while but now I do; discipline and a great wife.

When I lived in Northern Quebec, the only garden we ever grew was covered in stones. Some were pretty with copper pyrite flakes. Never rounded like those I found later on the shores of large lakes, but jagged as if the mining countryside I lived on was determined to protect its territorial hold on the landscape.

Yes, it was said the only things you could grow “up north” was rocks.

When our family moved to southern Ontario, I could not believe how well everything grew. The farmers covered their fields in tractors, thrusting forward over great sheaves of growth, especially corn and hay, sights I had never seen before. Tomatoes, carrots, beets and asparagus spread lusciously in backyard patches of black earth full of zing. There seemed to be nary a rock to come between finger and seed.

My turn to grow a garden!” I yelled to friends cheering me on.

I was determined to produce the best garden there ever was. My son, ten years of age shared my eagerness. My wife, born on a farm in New Brunswick, smiled knowingly as I dug fingers into the churned up earth. Such peace as I closed my eyes and absorbed the humus scent, felt the black earth creep under my fingernails and finally awoke from this revelry as my son spoke up.

Come on dad, I opened all the packages of seed. Let’s put them in now. Okay?”

He was more like my wife, a no nonsense kind of person. ‘Let’s get the job done’ kind of guy. I was the dreamer, oh, the scenery of the fruits of my first garden. I could see my wife smiling from the window. She will be so pleased when her man stomps into the house carrying an armload of potatoes.

My son and I built up long mounds, which we filled with seed. I wasn’t sure how many should be sprinkled in, but I felt the more the merrier. My son suggested we follow the directions, but what does he know? He’s only a kid. We quickly scrabbled in the dirt to complete our task, since it began snowing. Snowing in April, in Sarnia, Ontario? Impossible, I thought. Somehow we managed to get the seed under protection as an assault of the white stuff covered our little garden, my first efforts.

My wife did advise it was much too early in the season.

When it was finally warm and proper (according to my wise wife) I had two son’s help me, except this time it was late June, and much more accommodating. Yes, I thought, there will be a garden of plenty with my twelve rows, about six inches apart, with more goodies to harvest.

I didn’t mind the weeds, which came out in great abundance, determined to overcome my first garden. As my very wise wife said later, “Your rows are too close.”

Next season I’ll do better,” I promised.

My children were older this time, and my daughter and two sons helped me with suggestions. They met with neighbor children and cautioned them about raiding my garden-to-be. “Be kind to our dad,” they wished upon their friends. “He tries so hard.”

Now I thought, I was prepared for any weeds. My rows were less, but they were three feet apart, and using my lawnmower would keep the weeds down. Fellow workers thought it strange, when I regularly announced, “Got to go home and mow my garden.”

Our family taught me well over the years. We did grow a variety of crops, berries and cucumbers, and carrots, and corn, and…I finally allowed my wife to captain the ship.

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