Category Archives: Bonus
The Dunce Hat Lands
In literature, the “inciting incident” is the event that irrevocably changes the direction of the story character’s life, for better or for worse. I met mine at age four, and it wasn’t for the better.
I felt like shouting as I skipped alongside my four siblings. “Yay, I’m a big boy now! I’m going to school just like you!” I could hardly believe it—my brother Jay was a year and a half older than I was, but I got to start to school with him! He and my two sisters, Joan and Mary, and my older brother Paul were all here. We had to walk on a gravel road for a mile and a half to get to the school, Washington #5 Country School. I did a little spin-around as I all but danced along. What I really felt like doing was running, I was so full of energy, but I needed to stay with my siblings.
The one-story, one-room school building sat on a hillside at a “T” in the road. A coal shed stood next to it, and in back were two toilet sheds, one for the girls and one for the boys. All the buildings gleamed with fresh coats of paint. The fenced-in schoolyard enclosed mature oak and hickory trees, and squirrels scampered about collecting nuts for the winter ahead. The school was its own little world, with no other buildings visible from the location.
We arrived and I proudly entered the schoolroom. I was directed around a potbelly stove in the middle of the room to the front, where the kindergartners sat. Behind me, the other kids, ranked according to grades one through eight, filled jumbled rows of desks. Teacher stood at the front and assigned everyone to a seat. She’d have to teach all of us, and she looked happy about it. I’d heard my parents say she had graduated last spring from high school. Over the summer she had gotten her teacher’s certificate. It made me feel good that, in a way, we were both starting school at the same time.
My desk was right against Teacher’s. How cool was that? I turned around and waved at Paul and my sisters. Who else did I know? I wanted to look at everything, hear everything, be a part of everything. This was a big day. My first day at school! And I was going to learn lots of stuff!
Or was I?
I found it hard to sit still. Hard to concentrate. Hard to complete my work while Teacher was busy with the other grades.
Before a week had gone by, Teacher marched me up front to a corner next to the blackboard. “Face the wall and don’t turn around,” she commanded. I shrank back as a pointed dunce hat landed on my head. Honestly, I was trying to learn my ABCs, but how could I sit still that long? If I even wiggled, Teacher’s eyes shot to me and she shook her head. My chest snuffed in a sharp breath. I thought school was supposed to be fun. That’s why I begged Mom and Dad to send me. I hung my head when I heard my classmates giggle.
Next thing I knew, it wasn’t just wiggles that earned the dunce hat. I got stuck learning the letter E and had to make a big E out of cardboard and tie it around my neck. Everybody was told to call me “E.” I wanted to be called by my name, Don, but, no, they had to call me “E.” I hated that! I wanted to shout, “My name is Don!” But to do that meant I’d get in even more trouble.
Sometimes other boys wore the dunce hat, but for me it was every day, often several times a day. Finally Teacher got desperate. She gathered the kids to stand at my back when I was in the corner and said, “Throw paper wads at him and call him ‘Dummy.’ That will help him. He’ll never learn unless you make fun of him.”
I trembled, shocked by what the “fun school experience” was turning out to be. Sweat covered my body and I clenched my fists as anger punched against my throat. I needed to see who was throwing those wads at me! But just as I started to twist around, Teacher snapped, “Stop!” The pitch of her voice rose and she pointed her finger at me. “Now you have to stay there longer!”
Oh no, when she yelled, it terrified me and I wet my pants. I’d have to be in wet clothes all day and stink of pee. I was horribly embarrassed, but the stupid dunce hat was worse. It was my badge of shame. I wanted to cry, but big boys don’t cry, even if they’re only four years old. I wanted to be big like my siblings. I was trying so hard not to be a baby anymore.
When I misbehaved at home, Dad told me what I’d done wrong and spanked me. Then it was over—I’d paid for what I’d done, and I got a fresh start. I knew Dad corrected me because he loved me. But here at school, I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. It didn’t make sense to be punished because I couldn’t learn fast enough. Or because I couldn’t sit still. Those things weren’t wrong!
Teacher never laid a hand on me. She just told the other kids to make fun of me. Mock me because I was stupid. Jeer at me. They loved playing the game of “Helping Don Learn.” I could tell school was fun for them.
Teacher was always sad when she punished me. That was my clue that I was the one in the wrong. She never smiled doing it, so I knew it wasn’t because she was just mean and enjoyed tormenting me. That made me angry with myself. Why couldn’t I control my body and sit still? Why had God made me so dumb and squirmy? It seemed He’d made everybody good but me. Why couldn’t I just understand what I’d done wrong and be spanked? Then I could pay for it and start over like with Dad. But no! I had to carry this guilt, and it kept piling up on me. More and more I hated myself. I felt like I was going to explode.
For five years I wore the dunce hat. I was the Dunce Hat King. It changed me.
On the front wall above the blackboard, just beyond Teacher’s desk, was an unfinished portrait of George Washington. Teacher told us the artist didn’t want to finish it because it was his best work and he’d never be able to do as well again. I was drawn to the picture. I looked at it a lot. I wished that someday I might get to be finished.
Available in digital and paperback on Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/B08ZJT33DN
The Last of the Trilogy: 3 Reviews of Targeted: A Novel
“I was excited when I discovered that the third novel in this series had been published. The fate of Jake and Eve was in question but now many blanks have been filled in with ‘Targeted.’ I believe this is the best yet as the Prichards continued their great storytelling, weaving intrigue, passion and suspense into a definite can’t-put-it-down novel.”
“I really loved the first two books in this trilogy, Stranded and Forgotten, and the third book, Targeted, is the perfect ending to a well-written and riveting series! It completes the story of Eve and Jake as they struggle to bear the painful circumstances they find themselves in, fleeing from danger and trying to make wise decisions. To be able to finally be the family that they believe God desires them to be. There are two story lines: a suspenseful and dangerous mystery that crosses continents, rich with character development, and good research but also a spiritual story line, their commitment to their faith and belief in Jesus tested and found true. The authors did a great job weaving both together into a wonderful tale. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and the trilogy as a whole!”
“Best one of the three. Suspense, intrigue, romance, and most of all the grace and love of God. Loved how man protected the good guys, but in the end it was God who kept them safe. Great read Don & Steph!!”
Available in digital and paper: https://www.amzn.com/B082H4HFNX
If you haven’t read Targeted, what’s your best guess?
Eve has to decide between Jailbird Jake and her career as a judge, and she chooses …
Emilio’s father takes revenge on Jake by …
Eve’s father sabotages the romance and forces Jake to promise to …
Oh c’mon, they get married without a hitch! Suuuuuuure!
Targeted: A Novel https://www.amzn.com/B082H4HFNX
Yum! Here are three Amazon reader reviews of Forgotten: A Novel to salt your appetite:
“Awesome story, fabulous read! Thank you!!! My husband bought me the 1st book, ‘Stranded’ and I couldn’t put it down … sacrificed sleep to keep reading with no problem at all … and then I was blessed at the end with the name of this sequel … oh wow!!! I bugged my husband while filling him in on the story until he found it for me. It only took me a day to read it … even though I sacrificed more sleep … (again, no problem at all)!!! I loved the suspense, the different settings throughout both books and most of all I loved the characters!!! This was my first time reading the Prichard’s novels and they have been elevated to the top on my favorites list. So again I say … Thank you and keep them coming!!!!!”
“Finally! The saga of Jake, Eve, Betty, and Crystal continues. “Forgotten” held my attention from start to finish. I often thought I knew what was coming next but was invariably wrong.
In addition to enjoying a novel jam-packed with suspense, I was challenged by the overarching message about injustice and the proper response to it. Repeatedly I was pulled emotionally into the injustices, both great and small, suffered by Jake, Eve, Betty, and Crystal. Unlike Jake whose thoughts usually turned to the Lord whose throne is in heaven and who is righteous & loves justice, my thoughts reflexively turned to the unfairness of it all and the need for revenge. Then I would be reminded, usually by Jake, of the scriptural admonition and promise, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.”
“This story has everything I am lucky to get in one book. A great plot, strong female characters, sensitive alpha males, passion, pulls the heartstrings of love and sexual tension. I got hooked on the 1st page, thought of the characters when I wasn’t reading, couldn’t wait to get back to reading and didn’t want the story to end. I definitely recommend.”
Available in digital and paperback.
You’ve read Stranded. Have you followed Jake, Eve, Betty, and Crystal off the island to what happens next? Read about it in Forgotten: A Novel.
It’s frightening to lose your memory. Even scarier is to forget what’s at stake.
Federal prosecutor Eve Eriksson disappears under mysterious circumstances and shows up a year later in a coma. What happened, and where has she been? She can’t remember, and her life is in jeopardy. Four people are hunting her down. Three claim to have been stranded on an island with her. The fourth is her old nemesis, Chicago drug lord Danny Romero, who still wants her dead.
Jake Chalmers is shocked to discover his fiancé is a federal prosecutor. Why did she hide this from him on the island, and who is going to such great lengths to prevent their reunion? If she doesn’t regain her memory, he’ll be thrown into prison for murder.
Don’s memoir is now available in both digital and paperback. Laugh and cry with him as he grows up, an Iowa farm boy educated in a one-room schoolhouse with a frustrated teacher. Don started out totally miserable, and ended up making sure his teachers were totally miserable–until finally he was sent home for good his eighth grade year. Uh-oh! Now what?
Yep, I did it. Walked smack dab into a men’s restroom. I was in such a hurry I raced straight to a stall and was in and out before I stopped short at what was supposed to be the sink but instead turned out to be a row of urinals. Oh my heart! I honestly believe I died in that one microsecond of horrid comprehension.
My next brain-conscious moment was the realization that at least I was alone. Follow that with a mad dash for the door to get out before anyone saw me.
Only, the door was locked.
There wasn’t even a handle to pull. The door was supposed to stand open, and I must have jarred it shut.
I sucked in a lungful of oxygen. Slow down, Steph. Breathe. Take stock of the situation. Think.
It was Election Day, and I was the precinct chairman overseeing the voting procedure for my sector. The poll was located at one of our local high schools, and I’d been there guzzling coffee all day to keep me on my toes against rogue voters and invading high schoolers. When I went out for lunch I’d taken a restroom break, and my bladder had been signaling for the past half hour that I was due for another. Thus my brisk pace into the, ulp, facilities for the other gender.
School was over for the day, which explained the absence of needy users other than (blush) me. Now, instead of dreading discovery, I faced the stomach-acid-blazing fear that I wouldn’t be. I could end up here, locked overnight, with a hard tile floor for my bed and my stiff leather purse for a pillow. What would my poll workers think when I didn’t return to tally the day’s votes with them? Would my husband send for the police when I didn’t show up at home and he found my car all by itself in the school parking lot? Would they think to enter the school and look in … men’s restrooms?
Did I mention I didn’t have a cell phone on me? Uh-huh, live and learn.
I began pounding the door. Yelling. Screaming. Please, somebody had to hear me!
But wait! Had the janitors cleaned the restroom yet? Desperate, I dared a hefty sniff. The odor of industrialized cleansers eradicated any lingering bacteria in my nostrils. My hope for rescue faded. I would have to find my own way out.
The only other escape route was the windows. They were a slight four-foot stretch above my head. All I needed was a little boost and I could climb up and crawl out. I scanned the room for something not bolted to the floor. Something like a bucket I could turn over and stand on. Something that, hey, might be in that closet over there.
Of course, chances were it was locked. I held my breath, gripped the door’s handle, and pulled.
Into the school hallway.
I stood, stunned.The truth trickled painfully over my numb gray cells. You know, Steph, where there’s an In door, there’s usually an Out door. I remember that incident now whenever I face a trial designed by God for my good. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape.” Don’t trap yourself in the emotion of your trials. Look for God’s way out. It’s handier than you think.