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The story of Mr. Lion

A few years ago, I was shopping at one of our local groceries. After the first aisle, I noticed this big fella behind me. When I would stop, he would stop. By the time I went down the fourth aisle, it was obvious I had a stalker.

Before I got a chance to turn around, it happened — a hard shot in my backside. I turned around with my fist clenched. I have no idea what my plan was for he stood about six foot, six inches and was likely fifty years younger. It must have been some primal fear because I did not stand a chance.

“Calm down old man. Aren’t you the guy that writes those third and fourth grade stories for the paper?” For some reason, I took the insult with a deep breath, considering the other option. However, his size could not disguise that big smile. I began to breathe. “My mum calls me or my wife every time you have a story in the paper. She collects them.”

“What’s a mum?” As soon as I blurted that out, I began to shrink, looking for an exit. “Watch it Bo. That’s my mom!” Once again, that smile betrayed any anger. I had metaphorically slapped the lion and survived.

“There’s a bench out front. It will only take a few minutes. I’ve got a real story but you are going to bring that vocabulary up to at least a ninth grade level.” The lion loves me. We are good friends and I live to shop another day! “Now this story took place some years ago. You must write every word exactly as I say.”

“My wife is a Civil War buff and on our way back to med school, she had already mapped out a stop at Cold Harbor Battlefield in Virginia. We would be the first visitors the next morning. After the tour, she wanted to walk the battlefield. She wanted to get as close to the real event as possible. She could already give a tour. It was a beautiful morning and I suggested we walk along the woods and ravine and really enjoy our journey. Before you know it, we are lost in thick woods. Time stopped. We would walk and cry out. Then we heard musket balls crashing all around us.”

“Next we saw soldiers crying out. I knew they were ghosts. My wife would rush to aid the fallen soldiers and they would disappear. The screams, the blood, the agony were all very real. Then things got deathly quiet. We had lost track of time and it was already dark. Then the strangest thing of all happened. A young boy, surrounded by a bluish light, was playing a flute and we somehow knew to follow.”

“The next thing I remember was one of the guides tapping on the car window. He was telling us it was time to leave as they were closing the park. I asked the time and he indicated it was 8 p.m.”

“Now, if you use this story, remember it word for word. Remember — word for word.” I sat there with my mouth open. I think I may have mumbled a soft, “Yes, Mr. Lion.”

Then he pulled the string. “I gotcha! I ain’t got no wife. I live with my mom. Med school — I barely got out of high school! I’m just a good old hillbilly going around trying to help struggling writers keep their jobs. I have to admit I like your imagination, and anybody my mum likes, I like. Watch it — don’t make no wise comment about mum!”

“By the way, you called me Mr. Lion. How did you know my name?”

“Nice to meet you Walt. Lion, Jim Lion.” He stuck out his paw — uh, I mean his hand.

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