Recently in Fiction Category

A Story
October 12, 2020 2:46 PM | Posted in: ,

I wrote the following story more than a decade ago. I posted it to the Gazette at that time, but for reasons now lost to me, I didn't include it a few years later when I rebooted the blog following an extended hiatus.

My inspiration came from the life of a real person, someone who -- as it is often said -- was famous for being famous. You would recognize the name, but it's not really important, because it could be about any one of us...at least where the important facts are concerned. Anyway, while contemplating the hot mess she had made of her life, I began to think about how God might use one very flawed individual to affect the entire human race.

My purpose in republishing this is because today, in 2020 -- a year of grief and strife and uncertainty -- it's exceedingly important to understand that there's more to this world and this life than our physical eyes can perceive. Spiritual forces and battles swirl all around us, and they often envelop us. But there is a God Whose love, grace, and mercy provides us assurance that in the end, He is our Rock...our Advocate...our Salvation.


Once upon a time, there was a little golden-haired girl who slumbered in silken sheets, and God whispered his love to her, and she smiled in her sleep.

As she grew older, God continued to whisper to her, but she forgot how to listen to him. She smiled less and less, even though she lived in the midst of riches that the rest of the world could only guess at.

At some point, she began again to hear a voice in her sleep, but it wasn't God speaking, and it didn't make her smile. This voice didn't tell her she was loved, but that she could be loved, if only she would do...things. Things she knew were unspeakable, but the voice convinced her otherwise.

So she did them, and sure enough, the world said that it loved her. The more outrageously she behaved, the more it applauded her, and the stronger the voice spoke to her in those times no one else would.

Then one day, she did things that even the world would not accept, and her freedom was taken away from her. Everything she held important was taken away.

As she lay on her prison bunk, far from the silken sheets of her youth and drifting in and out of a fitful sleep, the golden-haired girl thought she heard a familiar voice, so soft, so tender. She didn't know how to answer the voice; she didn't know if she even deserved to hear it. But she lay still and silent, and then a wonderful, unimaginable thing happened. She was changed -- not physically, not so you tell just from looking at her, although the smile she'd lost as a little girl returned -- but in her heart and soul and spirit.

Later, when she was released, the world pretended again to care, and the acclamation seemed overwhelming but the young woman was untouched by it all. The world didn't notice.

A television network came to her and offered a vast sum of money if she would tell her story in front of their cameras, much to the outrage of the competing networks who deemed it unethical (besides, they would have paid more). She agreed to do so, and was soon seated in a studio across from a professional-looking woman -- a TV star -- who had a long list of questions designed to satisfy the needs of the millions of people who would be watching when the taped segment was finally aired.

So, tell us what prison was like, began the professional interviewer, who had heard it all before, many times over.

I will tell you, but first, I want to thank your network for paying me so much money to be here. And I want to let you know that I will be donating that money -- plus another five hundred million dollars -- to an organization called Voice of the Martyrs.

The interviewer frowned, and heard frantic conversation from the director and crew over her earpiece. What is Voice of the Martyrs?! Who knows anything about it? Oh, you've got to be kidding me: it's something religious!

The golden-haired woman continued, with an assurance hitherto unseen. Prison was both the worst and the best experience of my life. But what I want you to know is that I learned once more how to listen to God, and I re-learned his love and grace. I let him change me, and as wonderful as that is, what I want more than anything in the world is for you to experience that same change.

The interviewer's eyes had narrowed to slits, her worldly cynicism turning her lips to flint. She'd heard it all, and she wasn't buying it.

The golden-haired woman continued speaking, her voice low and calm and sweet, her face beatific. And another marvelous thing happened. As she listened to the woman's story, the interviewer's features began to soften, following her heart. Her lips loosened and her eyes widened and glistened. And wondrously, inconceivably, she found herself down on her knees, sobbing and crying out to the same God she'd denied her entire life, since the time she, too, decided to stop listening to his voice in her youthful sleep. 

The golden-haired girl knelt in front of the TV star, wrapping her lovely arms around the star's shaking shoulders, and calming her with whispers of God's love and redemption.

The producers and director were aghast, and the network executives wasted no time in calling to express their extreme displeasure. We can't use this; it's completely worthless. We'll be laughingstocks around the world. They instructed the producers to destroy the tape, and they mentally wrote off their investment.

Leaving the studio an hour later, the golden-haired woman emerged from the studio hand-in-hand with the interviewer, both faces tear-streaked but smiling, and were engulfed by waiting paparazzi and hangers-on who were oblivious to what had just occurred on the closed set inside the building.

The pair pressed through the mob, the people reluctantly parting, puzzled at the expressions on the faces of the two women. At the street corner, they hugged, and the TV star continued to the right to her parking space. The golden-haired girl waited for the light to change so that she could cross the street to a waiting limo. She found herself standing next to a bag lady, pushing a shopping cart and heading in the same direction.

The bag lady, seemingly confused by the scene at the nearby studio and mumbling incoherently to herself, stepped off the curb before the light changed, unmindful of the onrushing bus. No one noticed, because they were all focused -- eyes and cameras -- on the golden-haired woman.

And thus they were witnesses to the shattering impact of the bus slamming against her slender body, but not before her sacrificial leap had pushed the bag lady out of harm's way. The mob grew temporarily silent at the sight of golden-haired woman's lifeless body, limp and broken, but some would later speak of an inexplicable smile on the lips.

None of them noticed the bag lady's exit, nor the faint glow emanating from beneath the tattered red watch cap she wore.

As expected, hundreds of photos and videos of the golden-haired woman's unselfish act appeared within hours on the internet and via national and international news broadcasts. However, the release of the taped network interview on YouTube was completely unexpected -- and unexplained. The producers would later swear that it had been destroyed immediately following the phone call from their bosses.

Within a few days, every corner of the earth had seen or heard the golden-haired girl's clear and beautiful testimony of God's salvation, and her cogent explanation of how to follow in her footsteps.

Then, a few days later, seven trumpet calls, blown by unseen lips, were heard 'round the world.

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NASB)

For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 1 Corinthians 1:19 (NIV)


A Running Story
October 20, 2012 12:27 PM | Posted in:

It was the most rare of days: cool and clear, with hardly a breeze, and it occurred to me while driving home from work that this would be a perfect day to ditch the usual treadmill workout and go for a run outdoors. I figured I could easily get in five miles before the sun got too low in the sky.

Besides the remarkable weather, I was enticed by something new in the neighborhood. The development was being expanded to the north and to the south, and the streets were paved with virgin asphalt and still closed to traffic. The thought of running down the middle of a street with no danger, other than what I might inflict on myself, was the icing on the cake.

That's not to say that danger was non-existent. My intended route would take me across those beautiful new streets, but it would also entail some running down trails in the pasture that surrounds the neighborhood on three sides. With the recent rains, these trails were a bit overgrown, and it wasn't uncommon to encounter a rattlesnake in those fields. I was counting on the cool weather to keep the snakes dormant and out of my way, and on my senses to alert me otherwise.

I made two circuits around the neighborhood, each about two-and-a-half miles. I wasn't concerned about the off-road portion of the route until I got to the last quarter mile of each circuit, which meandered slightly away from the development and into the pasture to the west. The first time around was uneventful, but the second lap - about twenty minutes later - was a bit different.

As I veered onto the trail, I caught a movement to my left, out in the pasture. It was hard to make out at first, but I finally realized it was a coyote, and he seemed to be stalking something, creeping low and slow through the mesquite, coming toward me. He wasn't close enough for concern, and I'm not afraid of coyotes anyway, although I suppose there's always a chance of rabies. It was actually kind of cool to be running in the company of wildlife.

The sun was getting low in the sky, and the lengthening shadows stretched over the trail and made it difficult to discern details. That's my excuse for coming around a slight bend and finding myself almost on top of a stick-looking thing spanning the entire width of the trail, a stick that I was sure wasn't there during the first lap.

My momentum and surprise caused me to do something that isn't recommended in any rattlesnake avoidance manual: attempt to jump over the reptile. It was apparently as surprised as me, but was also significantly quicker (I thought they slowed down in cool weather!).

You know how they say things slow down in a crisis? Perhaps it's your body's survival instinct kicking in, trying to give you every chance to find a way out of the predicament you've put it in. In any event, time seemed to stop while I hovered in mid-air over a very large and annoyed diamondback rattler, and I saw his head come up toward my right leg while simultaneously sensing a movement from my left. I waited for the pain of the fangs sinking into my calf, but just as the snake's head was about to make contact, a blurred figure came between the rattler and me.

Remember the coyote? He'd been stalking a jackrabbit while I was running down the trail. Said jack had realized his danger at the last second and had bolted away from the coyote, not realizing (or caring) that he was on a virtual collision course with yours truly. And his timing was exquisite, because he flashed by just in time to take the hit from the rattler.

The snake, the rabbit, and I (and, I suppose, the coyote, but he didn't stick around to confirm it) were equally shocked by this turn of events. In fact, the snake apparently wasn't ready to administer the coup de grâce, thinking my leg was the target, and the bunny bounded off unharmed, heartbeat undoubtedly racing but still lagging my own.

I'm sure there are many lessons to be learned from this encounter, not the least of which is that treadmills are really quite nice, now that I think about it.

Some of you have accused me of making stuff up, and I confess that I have not told the truth...not the whole truth, anyway. I apologize for that, and I've revised the end of the story to address the situation. Let's rewind a bit, shall we?

Remember the coyote? He'd been stalking a jackrabbit while I was running down the trail. Said jack had realized his danger at the last second and had bolted away from the coyote, not realizing (or caring) that he was on a virtual collision course with yours truly. And his timing was exquisite, because he flashed by just in time to take the hit from the rattler.

The snake, the rabbit, and I (and, I suppose, the coyote, but he didn't stick around to confirm it) were equally shocked by this turn of events. In fact, the snake apparently wasn't ready to administer the coup de grâce, thinking my leg was the target, and the bunny bounded off unharmed, heartbeat undoubtedly racing but still lagging my own.

I was already winded by the run, and the adrenaline rush from this encounter lasted only a couple of seconds, so I stood a few feet from the now-coiled rattlesnake, trying to catch my breath and figure out the next move. The snake and I locked eyes, neither trusting the other, and the only sounds were my heavy breathing and the rattler's buzzing...and a peculiar mixture of growling and moaning coming from the same direction the jackrabbit had appeared.

I whirled to find that the coyote hadn't left after all. This one was displaying a decidedly non-coyote-like behavior as he sped toward me, yellow eyes seemingly on fire and a disturbing froth flying from his mouth.

If you don't know coyotes, you might be surprised at how fast they are. I've seen one cross a four-lane highway, slinking under the barbed wire fences on both sides, so quickly that I wondered if I'd seen him at all. So I knew instinctively that I had no chance of outrunning this one. I froze, watching him tear toward me, that horrible growling growing louder, drowning out the almost forgotten rattling of the snake behind me.

A rabid coyote isn't clever, but it is focused, and this was my salvation. He had no intention of slowing in his sick rage, so at the last second I dodged to my left as he left the ground in a lunge for my chest. I could hear the snap of jaws flying by, and I whirled again to prepare for another evasive move, however futile it would ultimately prove.

The rattler wasn't going to miss twice, though, and he caught that coyote in mid-air, sinking his fangs into the animal's throat and delivering the full load of venom that he'd prepared earlier. The crazed coyote stumbled as soon as his feet touched the pasture, and he staggered only a few steps before keeling over, free from his misery and madness.

The rattlesnake apparently felt that he'd been sufficiently vindicated, and that I posed no further threat, so he took his leave and slithered back into the pasture, with my full blessing, I might add.

So, there you have it. Saved by a rattlesnake. Life can be funny sometimes, huh?

OK, OK...I know. You got me. That wasn't the way it happened at all. Or, at least, it's not the complete story. I apologize for not be completely transparent with you. They say the third time's a charm. I have no idea what that means, but here's how the story really, truly, actually played out.

Remember the coyote? He'd been stalking a jackrabbit while I was running down the trail. Said jack had realized his danger at the last second and had bolted away from the coyote, not realizing (or caring) that he was on a virtual collision course with yours truly. And his timing was exquisite, because he flashed by just in time to take the hit from the rattler.

The snake, the rabbit, and I (and, I suppose, the coyote, but he didn't stick around to confirm it) were equally shocked by this turn of events. In fact, the snake apparently wasn't ready to administer the coup de grâce, thinking my leg was the target, and the bunny bounded off unharmed, heartbeat undoubtedly racing but still lagging my own.

I was already winded by the run, and the adrenaline rush from this encounter lasted only a couple of seconds, so I stood a few feet from the now-coiled rattlesnake, trying to catch my breath and figure out the next move. The snake and I locked eyes, neither trusting the other, and the only sounds were my heavy breathing and the rattler's buzzing...and a peculiar mixture of growling and moaning coming from the same direction the jackrabbit had appeared.

I whirled to find that the coyote hadn't left after all. This one was displaying a decidedly non-coyote-like behavior as he sped toward me, yellow eyes seemingly on fire and a disturbing froth flying from his mouth.

If you don't know coyotes, you might be surprised at how fast they are. I've seen one cross a four-lane highway, slinking under the barbed wire fences on both sides, so quickly that I wondered if I'd seen him at all. So I knew instinctively that I had no chance of outrunning this one. I froze, watching him tear toward me, that horrible growling growing louder, drowning out the almost forgotten rattling of the snake behind me.

A rabid coyote isn't clever, but it is focused, and this was my salvation. He had no intention of slowing in his sick rage, so at the last second I dodged to my left as he left the ground in a lunge for my chest. I could hear the snap of jaws flying by, and I whirled again to prepare for another evasive move, however futile it would ultimately prove.

The rattler wasn't going to miss twice, though, and he caught that coyote in mid-air, sinking his fangs into the animal's throat and delivering the full load of venom that he'd prepared earlier. The crazed coyote stumbled as soon as his feet touched the pasture, and he staggered only a few steps before keeling over, free from his misery and madness.

The rattlesnake apparently felt that he'd been sufficiently vindicated, and that I posed no further threat, so he took his leave and slithered back into the pasture, with my full blessing, I might add.

So, there you have it. Saved by a rattlesnake. Life can be funny sometimes, huh? Shaking my head in bemusement, I turned around and started walking back to the neighborhood, having experienced enough unbelievable excitement to last a lifetime.

That's when the first zombie appeared. 

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