Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm a new millionaire

I can only assume you saw my post on Facebook announcing that I won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes today. Yep, it’s true. It is the dream of every American to answer his phone and hear those magic words, “Sir, you are a millionaire.”

That’s exactly what happened to me today. I was sitting at my desk around noon slugging away at a new book I’m writing when my phone rang and Mr. Robertson, a manager with the United Parcel Service called to say that a UPS truck was on route to my house with a certified check for 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz automobile, both being escorted by a U.S. Marshall to ensure both my safety and the safety of my prizes. He provided me with a UPS tracking number, 1945886201UPS, his UPS supervisor identification number, and his personal office and cell phone numbers.

Being the curious person I am, I asked Mr. Robertson how I happened to win this fabulous prize, and he told me that since I paid my utility bills on time and was never late, the power company that supplies electricity to my house automatically entered my name into the sweepstakes. Now that’s service, especially since I live in an all-expenses paid house at my church and don’t have any utility bills in my own name. Must be a miracle from the Lord, I thought. He knows I could use the money and a new car.

Oh joy, what a day! I remembered 1977 when I won the Reader’s Digest grand prize of a brand new Chevy Vega. Unfortunately, I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Okinawa, Japan at the time working with the top secret spy plane, the SR-71, and couldn’t leave the island to claim my prize. Alas, it went to the runner up. Just my luck. A Chevy Vega and I missed it!

But today wasn’t a Chevy Vega. It was a certified check for 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz automobile, and it was at a gas station only four miles from my house where the UPS truck was filling its tank, waiting for me to call and confirm that I had my receipt.

What receipt, you ask? My Western Union receipt, of course. Haven’t you ever won 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz?

“But I don’t have a receipt,” I said to Mr. Robertson, “and I don’t know what kind of receipt you mean.”

“Oh that’s ok, Mr. Laughter,” Mr. Robertson said. “Do you live near a Western Union?”

“Yes, I do,” I assured him. “There’s a Western Union about six miles from my house.”

Mr. Robertson assured me that all I had to do is go to the Western Union and pickup my receipt. And to attain my receipt, all I had to do was fill out a money transfer request and send $299 to cover handling charges to Mrs. Mary Robinson (which I thought was oddly similar to his name) at 643 7th Avenue, Bessemer, Alabama 35020. Once the money was sent and she confirmed receipt, all I had to do was wait for the UPS truck to arrive with my 2.5 million dollar certified check and brand new Mercedes Benz automobile. But this $299 wasn’t a fee. Oh no, not at all. Mr. Robertson assured me that the US Marshall would reimburse my $299 when they delivered the car. Well if you can’t trust a U.S. Marshall, who can you trust?

“It’s that simple?” I asked. “All I have to do is wire $299 to Mrs. Mary Robinson in Bessemer, Alabama, and you’ll deliver 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz automobile to my home? And that truck and automobile is at a gas station only four miles from my house waiting for confirmation that I’ve sent the money?”

“Yes sir, that’s absolutely correct,” Mr. Robertson assured me. “How long do you think it will take for you to wire the money, sir?”

I didn’t hesitate. Boy, oh boy, I know a good deal when I hear one, and 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz automobile for a reimbursable $299 fee was a good deal.

“Give me an hour, Mr. Robertson,” I said. “I’m still in my pajamas, working at home, so I’ll need a few minutes to get myself together.”

“An hour, sir?” Mr. Robertson asked. “You can’t send the money any faster than that? I’d hate for you to miss this opportunity.”

“But Mr. Robertson,” I said. “If I’ve won the sweepstakes, it’s mine, and the only way I can miss it is to decline it. Isn’t that right?”

“Well, yes sir, that is correct. And if you’d like to decline your prize, just say your name three times and we’ll move on to the alternate winner.” Just say my name three times? It reminded me of the movie Beetlejuice where innocent people had to say the ghost's name three times to free him from his bondage. I'm a good citizen and didn't want to take the chance of releasing something like that on the world.

“Oh no, I certainly don’t want to do that,” I said. “Just give me an hour and I’ll call you when I have my receipt.”

This pleased Mr. Robertson very much. He was such a nice man. From the accent of his voice, it sounded like he was from Bangladesh, or maybe Madagascar. Could have been Texas. Foreign accents throw me a little. I’ve never heard of a Bangladeshi named Robertson, but who can tell with all of the job out-sourcing in the American marketplace nowadays?

I only had one more question for Mr. Robertson. “Mr. Robertson, what if the UPS truck and the U.S. Marshall can’t find my house? What should I do then?”

“Oh, that’s easy, Mr. Laughter,” he answered. “Then all you’d have to do is go back to the Western Union office and they’ll refund your $299. No questions asked."

Wow, what a deal. This was really a nice guy. I receive a lot of packages from UPS. Being an author, I receive and ship books quite often, and I use their services regularly. All of the local drivers know me so I wasn’t worried about the delivery truck not being able to find my address. And I didn’t want to miss that new car. After all, my KIA is 3 years old already.

We hung up from our conversation. I was elated that I had won 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz. Did I mention that Mr. Robertson said this car came with three years of prepaid full-coverage insurance? I think I might have missed that detail. Sorry. I'm getting forgetful. According to my kids, old age is creeping up on me.

I knew I had a few minutes to spare because my bedroom is only across the hall from my office, so it wouldn’t take me long to get out of my pajamas and into my blue jeans. I was so excited that I decided I wouldn’t even put on any socks; just my sandals because I was a millionaire now and could dress any way I want to. But in the meantime, I decided to make a few phone calls, just in case this wonderful windfall might not be completely legitimate.

I called the local UPS store and asked them to verify the tracking number of my 2.5 million dollar certified check delivery, and that they had a truck parked at a gas station only four miles from my house. Can you imagine my dismay when I learned that my tracking number was not properly formatted? “Oh no,” I said to the UPS clerk, “what am I to do?” Well, being the wonderful service organization that UPS is, the clerk connected me to the national UPS tracking service. But again, much to my dismay, the UPS number wasn’t properly formatted and the UPS had no record of Mr. Robertson or his personal identification number.

I thought, does Mr. Robertson know that UPS tracking numbers are 16-digits long now, and they start with 01 instead of 19? Maybe I should call him back and confirm my information. So I dialed the number he gave me, which by the area code I recognized as an Oklahoma number. Much to my surprise, the phone rang in a private residence in Duncan, Oklahoma and was answered by a very nice lady that did not know Mr. Robertson either. The lady and I had a very pleasant conversation about Duncan because my wife and I had just returned from the annual Chisholm Trail Book Festival hosted by that lovely little town. We also discussed Mr. Robertson giving her phone number out as his own. How odd? She said she might call the police and report it, just in case.

What was I to do? The UPS couldn’t confirm my tracking number, and the lady in Duncan didn’t seem to know what was going on. Perhaps I should call the Better Business Bureau. Maybe they would know how to get hold of Mr. Robertson.

“A scam!” I exclaimed when the lady at the BBB said they’ve had several people call them about the very same phone call claiming they’d won 2.5 million dollars and a brand new Mercedes Benz automobile. But that’s my car and money, I thought. Why is Mr. Robertson offering it to people all over town. I wondered if the UPS truck was parked only four miles from everybody's house.

Wilma, my wife, showed up about that time. I explained our good fortune to her, and that with 2.5 million dollars, we would use that money to pay off all of our credit cards, as far as it would go, and if there was any left, she could use it to buy her own 40-year anniversary present that I forgot to buy for her last week. Guess I am getting just a little forgetful.

I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t take my good new serious. Instead, this woman that I've loved for forty years wrestled me to the floor and took my car keys and checkbook away from me, and wouldn’t let me go to Western Union to send $299 to Mrs. Mary Robinson (still oddly similar, isn’t it?) in Bessemer, Alabama. She sat on top of me, and pulled my ears, and told me that I may have been the unwitting victim of a scam artist.

“Mr. Robertson?” I asked. “That nice man? Not Mr. Robertson.”

I was heartbroken, devastated, demoralized, and disillusioned. Did this mean I wasn’t going to get my prize? Could that nice Mr. Robertson be a scammer, a dishonest person that calls elderly people at home in the middle of the day to defraud them of their meager savings? Surely not. “Not Mr. Robertson, Lord,” I prayed. “Say it isn’t so…!”

Thirty-minutes after hanging up from Mr. Robertson, he called again to say that Mrs. Robinson (there’s that name again) in Bessemer, Alabama had not received the $299 wire from Western Union. What could I say? Wilma had my car keys, she had pulled my ears, and the battery is dead on my truck. So I did the only thing I could do. I told Mr. Robertson that I had called both the local UPS store and their national headquarters, and that neither he nor the tracking number he gave to me existed, and that the lady in Duncan, Oklahoma would like for him to stop giving out her phone number. I also told him that I had called the Better Business Bureau and they were aware of his scam. I also told him that he was a liar and a thief and that he’d better never call me again. Then just to show that I am a true gentleman, I told him that he could personally take my 2.5 million dollar certified check and my brand new Mercedes Benz automobile and drive it up his ….. driveway…..

So for all of my friends and relatives that I’ve not seen in 15-years, it won’t do any good to call and tell me about your sister needing a kidney transplant, and if you only had $10,000 you’d pay for it yourself. Sorry, I didn’t get the money. Call me in 15 years. We'll try again.

I’m very sad. I’m not a millionaire. Oh well, I wasn’t one yesterday either. Guess I better get back to writing my new book and try to get rich the old fashion way -- by working for it.

P.S. This is a true story. Every detail I've outlined in these paragraphs is absolutely true. Well, almost. Wilma didn't really wrestle me down, take my keys, and pull my ears. But she could have if she had wanted to.


Hey folks, my new children's book Strangers in the Stable is available October 1, 2011. It's a wonderful telling of the nativity on the night of Christ's birth, seen from the viewpoint of the animals in the stable. Visit my website at for details.

And don't forget my newest novel, The Apostle Murders, a suspense thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat while you watch a serial killer recreate the martyrdom of the original apostles of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'm Tired

I don't intend to post political and religious diatribe on this blog unless it's something that really stirs, angers, or inspires me, which is why I've decided to post the following article written by for Senator Robert A. Hall. I think he says thing in this article that many people feel but won't say because they're afraid of recrimination, ridicule, or rejection. I may be shooting myself in the foot, but I'm afraid that with exception to his comment about global warming, which I believe in, I agree with Robert's point of view. So here goes ....

"I'm 63 and I'm Tired"

Robert A. Hall is the actor who plays the coroner on CSI... if you watch that show. He also is a Marine Vietnam War veteran, and served five terms in the Massachusetts StateSenate.

by Robert A. Hall

I'm 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I've worked hard since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.

I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

I'm tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes." Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money.

I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities Americaoffers. In thirty years, if they get their way, theUnited States will have the economy ofZimbabwe , the freedom of the press of Chinathe crime and violence of Mexico , the tolerance for Christian people of Iran , and the freedom of speech of Venezuela .

I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.

I'm tired of being told that "race doesn't matter" in the post-racial world of Obama, when it's all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of U
.S. Senators from Illinois.

I think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.

I'm tired of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but thinks that Obama's, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush's military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin, with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best president ever. Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004

I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America , while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.

I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore's, and if you're greener than Gore, you're green enough.

I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers," especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or crime. What's next? Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"? And, no, I'm not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it's been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion. I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn't have a criminal record and who is self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for three years in our military.... Those are the citizens we need.

I'm tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than themselves. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave? Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close. So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.

I'm tired of people telling
me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I'm tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois , where the "Illinois Combine" of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama's cabinet.

I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

Speaking of poor, I'm tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, color TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans didn't have that in 1970, but we didn't know we were "poor." The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.

I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.

Yes, I'm tired. But I'm also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just sorry for my granddaughter.