“Thank you for being honest.”

I just returned from a shopping trip where I handed the clerk $20. I donated the coins change, but as I started out of the store, I realized I held a $20 bill in my hand.

I returned to the clerk serving the customer after me and said, “You gave me a $20 bill.” She looked confused, and then embarrassed. “I should have given you five.” She exchanged it and then said, “Thank you for being honest.”

It was my turn to feel embarrassed. She’d given me too much change. It wasn’t quite an unusual occurrence over my decades of shopping. But it got me thinking. I wondered why anyone should be thanked just for being honest? Shouldn’t honesty be the norm, the line below which ought to have repercussions and shame, the line above which ought to have respect and thanks?

I might have to wait another decade for the chance to “be honest” with another clerk, but as a writer, I can have my characters be honest – as the norm!

I see my books like society’s teeth braces, ever so slowly, over time, straightening out the line, the line of what should be normal. My characters go through difficult times and sometimes create trouble for themselves, but in the end, my good characters are better than the norm of good. (And my bad guys below that line, the farther down, the more interesting on my poor main characters.)

I know from my thousands of folk tales that other cultures honor and respect different virtues, like lies and trickery. In my fantasy or historical fiction worlds, goodness is expected. It’s the norm. Even so, there are some characters who prefer the lies and trickery, feeling that is the norm. For if my main characters didn’t have something to overcome, it would make for some awfully dull reading.

As far as the real world goes, all of us may make mistakes, like today’s clerk, but being honest is, and should be, the norm.

Thank you for listening/reading.

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Motorcycle Twos and Fairy Tales

While on a motorcycle ride with my husband this week, I noticed two boats in a cornfield. That they were in a cornfield didn’t actually bother me. That they were there without trailers did. It reminded me of sights a few years ago while helping in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Only, those trailerless land boats down south were considerably larger and just plain sad. These two MI cornfield boats were just out of place.

I didn’t have much time to reflect on it as we sped along, when I saw another cornfield half cut of its crop. Again I slipped into melancholy mood noticing that the stalks were only chest high on the last week of September. Oh, what a hot, droughty summer we’ve had! But then I went into manic-depressive mode when we flew past two sand hill cranes enjoying the left behind corn. For some reason, those gallant-looking birds with their red-spotted eyebands just tickle me. I would have tapped my husband to stop to see them, too, but we were going about 50 mph, a car was closely following us, and by the time we’d have safely stopped and turned around, the two birds would have flown off anyway. But they got me thinking about numbers. Twos, to be precise. And being the proud owner of thousands of fairy and folk tales, I started looking for the third set of two – three tasks to complete in order to marry the princess, a poor step-sister returns to the palace ball three times, three little pigs; you get it – so my eyes were peeled for another pair to complete our journey.

Ride. Ride. Ride.

Look. Look. Look.

I noticed tips of some trees starting to turn color, but no two colored trees standing together.

Poison ivy has already turned. Green-leafed trees with red-leafed trunks is an interesting and sure clue of that tricky stuff that gives me rashes, but I saw no two red-leafed trunks by each other.

Ride. Ride. Ride.

Still no two.

I thought if it had been Tuesday, maybe I could cheat. Then it clicked that two of us were on the motorcycle. It might be cheating again, but not really, since it was my own game and I was playing it alone, and we are two. That reminded me of when we played the ABC game while traveling when our boys were little, we knew we could always pull into our drive and run around the car to end the game because a Z was on our car license plate. It was very satisfactory to complete the game.

Ride. Ride. Ride.

Maybe I was going to have to call in my two on a motorcycle.

And then about four miles from home, I saw them, romping in a bright green field at first dusk. The most beautiful creatures of all – two muscular horses on a hill, their coats shimmering in the fading light. How more fairy-tale could it get?

With my quest successfully completed, we galloped home. I mean, rode. And, oh. Right. We were heading there, anyway.

Game over.