“Congratulations on your promotion,” said the grizzled editor in chief, who was sitting back on his reclining office chair, elbows on armrests, fingertips touching one another like a spider on a mirror. “What did you do at Heaven’s Chronicle before you made it to this department?”
Beemer, the young lad on the other side of the editor’s desk, straightened his tie and sat up straight. “I was a binder.” Before his new boss could ruffle his thick brows or make an intimidating comment, Beemer added, “Not the most glamorous of jobs, but I had to start somewhere.”
“Indeed.” The older, balding man, now thick around the middle from too much on-the-job sitting and not enough in-the-field observation, eyed the young man over his ever-present reading glasses. “And you thought binding our precious memoirs was beneath you?”
Beemer squirmed and cleared his throat. “Oh no, Chief. It’s just that, well … as important as binding is, I want to be a part of the really important aspects of the business. You know, like writing about famous people, like the one you wrote about Aristotle.”
“Famous people?” The editor closed his eyes mid-eye roll, then he fur-rowed his bushy eyebrows. He stood. “Come with me.” He walked out of the office.
Confused, Beemer jumped up and obediently followed.
The suspendered editor led the new employee down a labyrinth of dimly lit hallways to a massive, ornate, wooden door. He pivoted to the taller, thinner pupil before him. “Whenever you’re feeling too high on yourself or unmotivated or insignificant, I want you to come here.” He turned and pushed the door of all doors with all his might, feet fighting for traction, face reddening. Slowly, the door swiveled open like the earth revolving into a breathtaking sunrise, warm and inviting.
Beemer did not question the light or its source. His eyes took in the immediate wonder of the obvious significance of the sanctuary. Everywhere before him, as far as his eye could see, straight ahead, to his right, to his left, high above him—books!
“Whoa! I’ve never even imagined so many books in my whole life. What is this, the Big Guy’s written fantasies or something?”
The publishing guru stifled his immediate irritation, opting to utilize a teaching moment for the young intern instead. “Look, if you want to stay in my department, you need to get some things straight.”
Beemer’s eyes froze wide-open.
“First, THE BOSS is in charge of all of this.” Chief swept his arm across the unending room. “We don’t call our creator and employer, The Big Guy, Old Man, Daddio, Big Mamma, the Ole Storyteller, or any other colorful term that may roll off your profuse tongue. THE BOSS goes by, THE BOSS. Nothing fancy. Nothing mistaken to mean something else. Nothing to show anyone’s nuanced opinions. THE BOSS is the fulfillment of male and female, but categorically beyond either. Just, THE BOSS. Got it?”
Beemer, mouth agape, nodded.
“Second,” the old journeyman continued, “this sacred room is The Great Hall of Annals, the largest library imaginable. These books are THE BOSS’s most prized possessions. These,” he looked from side to side, “are THE BOSS’s sole purpose. They require skillful depiction on every page. Scrupulous accuracy is our duty here. We hold them in the utmost, highest regard.”
The student let go of the book he had just tilted from a bookshelf, drop-ping it to the floor. He frantically scrambled to place it back on the shelf, only to fumble it to the floor again. He jerked his head back to his mentor, breathing erratically. “Sorry, sorry!”
The stone-faced, red-cheeked editor continued. “And third, THE BOSS doesn’t write fantasy … or fiction of any kind. These books are all creatively true. Never forget that!”
Beemer nodded, then he gulped as he placed the rascally book back on the shelf. “So, they’re theology or something?”
“No, they’re true-life stories. Biographies of every person who ever lived.” “Whoa!” The new hire gawked anew at the billions of books before him.“We don’t use that word up here.”
The editor nodded. “This is the recording sanctuary of humankind’s history. Every person’s life story ends up here.”
“Too cool! So, where are the really famous people books kept?” Beemer stretched his neck to look high above. “I know you wrote tons of them. Are they at the top?”
“Why not? Afraid of insulting the schmucks?”
“Because it means nothing,” the editor fired back. “Everyone’s life is of equal value to THE BOSS … as are the books.”
“Oh, come on! Surely, Abraham Lincoln was more important than John Wilkes Booth. Beethoven more important than a tone-deaf janitor, Thomas Edison more important than a college dropout, and Shakespeare was surely greater than some two-bit reporter …”
“No!” the chronicling expert cut off his subordinate. “That’s not how THE BOSS sees all these prized gems. Surely you accepted this position in my department knowing this?”
“Yeah, well, I guess I did hear that, now that you mention it.” The young employee cleared his throat and swallowed again. “But I guess I didn’t really believe it. I mean, if I was THE BOSS, I’d be more interested in Socrates than a backslapping minion. I’d delight in one of the great Caesars more than some drab politician. Or …”
“If you don’t stop, I can see to it that you never leave the binding depart-ment again.”
“Okay, okay.” Beemer held his hands up. “I was just trying to think like THE BOSS, sir.”
“I go by Chief. You can cut the sir nonsense.”
“Yes, sir … ah, Chief ! I mean, Chief.”
“And stop trying to ‘think like THE BOSS.’ Learning is what this phase of your employment is about, not taking charge.”
Beemer swayed from side to side. “So … when do I start writing?”
“Oh, you won’t be writing for some time.”
The young man’s jaw hung open. “Ah … I thought I was hired to write.”
“You were. You are. But you can’t start writing until you know how to write.”
Beemer blew a jilted snicker out his nose. “I know how to write. I proved that in all the testing modules.”
“Oh, we know you can write. But you need to learn to write from the soul.” “But my writings have shown a lot of soul. My teachers have even said so.” “I’m well aware of that. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t displayed this gift.” “Sooo … what’s the problem then? I don’t understand.”
The sad-faced manager with drooping eyebrows nodded. “I know you don’t. You will. You’ve got to learn to connect with the soul so your writing flows like honey from a ladle.”
“But I’ve shown I can write the hell out of my soul.”
The chief editor took two large strides toward his subordinate, his bulbous nose a whisker from Beemer’s chin. “If you’re serious about this job, that’s the last time you ever use that word up here. Understand me?”
Beemer looked down into the steely eyes of his angry editor. “Oh yeah. Sorry, Chief. It will never happen again. I don’t know what I was thinking. I just meant that, like you, I’m good at writing from my soul.”
“It’s not your soul we’re concerned with here.”
Beemer went slack-jawed again. “Huh?”
The exasperated chief gestured to all the books around them and then nodded as if stating the obvious.
Beemer’s head jutted back. “Whoa! You mean I’m going to be authoring books like these?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, tiger. You’re not authoring anything.” Beemer squinted his boggled eyes and tilted his head. “But …”
Chief held up his hand. “Authoring suggests you write your views or ideas, your soul. That’s not what we do here. We write the souls of others. You’ll be what we refer to as a chronicler. You write only facts. No embellishing.”
“But won’t that make these books kind of boring? All facts, no imagination?”
“THE BOSS is not boring! Read any book here, and you’ll see that THE BOSS and the people THE BOSS authored are wholly imaginative. You’ll not find a boring book here. They’re all good reads.”
“But I’ve only written from my perspective. I’m not sure I know how to place all the facts of someone’s life into a book interestingly.”
“Precisely! That’s why the first part of the job is to read how others accomplished this.”
Beemer’s lips bunched to the side. “I’m not real good at those how-to manuals. I’m more of a hands-on kind of guy.”
“Good, then you’ll learn real good when you get your hands on some of these books and see how the pros do it,” said the editor, sure to include the novice’s grammar faux pas. “Your job is to read, read, read. That’s how I learned when I became a chronicler.”
The editor headed for the door. “I’ll see you in a few.”
“But … whose story will I be writing?”
“That depends on who’s ready at your christening.”
“You mean, I won’t know who I’ll be writing about until they’re born?” “That’s how it works.”
“How will I get all the information on their life if they’re just born?” “You won’t get it sitting in a cushy office. This is an in-the-field job. You follow them around and report their experiences, reactions, and choices, and when you get exceptionally adept, their thoughts and feelings.”
“For their whole life?”
“That’s the only way to be an accurate chronicler.”
Beemer looked like he had seen a ghost.
“Relax,” Chief said, “you’re young. You’ll do thousands of these before you’re my age.”
“How many lives do I cover at one time?”
“Oh, never more than one at a time. We want the full story. It will require your complete concentration. This is not a job for the faint of heart.”
“But won’t I bother them if I follow them around all their lives?”
“No, that’s the brilliance of THE BOSS’s plan. No earthly person can see her or his chronicler. You fly under the human’s radar wherever they go. In fact, you heavenly chroniclers won’t see each other either.”
“Hmh. That’s rad.” Beemer felt the chief ’s eyes locked onto him. “Where do I start?”
“Just pick one and start reading.”
“Can I start with a famous one?”
The chief editor’s eyes drooped in coordination with his eyebrows.
“Just kidding!” Beemer retracted. “I’ll just pick this one right here.” He snagged a book. “Penrose Martha McCarty.” He smiled a bit too wide, covering his false optimism.
“Ah, huh. Well, we’ll talk when you’re ready.” The editor walked out the door.
Praise for Clayton’s Chronicles
“An important story about how negative childhood environments greatly affect us AND how overcoming those difficulties is possible. This is a must-read book, especially for those who have hidden their thoughts and emotions within themselves for far too long.”
—Ben Bouman, Pastor of Walnut Hill Mennonite Church
“Clayton’s Chronicles is a story many could resonate with; real people, doing real life, impacting lives in humble ways, all through the grace of God.”
—Kim Ray Mishler, Author, A Life Rescued
“The ‘chronicler’ aspect sure added a different dimension. It is also a journey of psychological and spiritual dimensions.”
—Curt Kuhns, Retired Pastor
About the Author
Jere Steiner has always found inspiration exercising his creative gene, whether through inventing games, performing curious skits, composing essays, or writing his first published book, Clayton’s Chronicles, with his uncle, Clayton Steiner. Jere Steiner lives in Farmington, Arkansas, with Jennifer, his wife of thirty-seven years. Clayton Steiner and his wife, Jeanne, live in Bakersfield, California.
Clayton Steiner has taken great satisfaction in organizing numerous historical records for various organizations, as well as publishing a family ancestry book. For his own records, he dutifully journaled his experiences throughout his lifetime, paving the way for this book.