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TITLE: The Book
By Terry Atchison

One of my very earliest stories. God is always there, even when we try to reject Him. His word is our saving grace.
Dave was putting things away in his room in the Grand Hotel Chalet. Of course it irked him that his room was on the ground floor with a window facing the mountainside. His view consisted of about twenty feet of snow-covered hill that slanted upwards towards the sky. Well, this was their last job up here in the mountains, then 'home sweet home' for the holidays. He was thinking of that big roasted turkey when he opened the drawer of his night table. There it was! “Why do they always have to put one of these in every room?!” He took the Bible in his hands and tossed it over to the corner of the room. It landed half open in a heap, which made it resemble a small chalet itself.

Tom knocked, then entered through the half open door. “Hey Dave!? Are you just about ready for supper? This evening, the menu is fondue with cheese and meat. It oughta be pretty good stuff.”
“Okay Tom. I'm almost done. Take a look at my view. Sure am glad that this is our last one, 'cause I am in dire need of green grass and warm sunshine.”
“Wow, kinda looks like the hill is gonna come through your window! Hey, what's that? Did you drop your Bible?”
“Now don't start, Tom. You xxxx well know that I don't believe in all that xxxx xxxx!”
“Okay, Dave, just let me close it and leave it under your bed. Is that okay with you?”
“xxxx yes! I just don't want to see it. Let's go eat now. I'm thirsty for a couple of cold ones, then I will really pig-out!”

The dining room was located on the ground floor at the end of the hall. Tom and Dave sat next to the big fireplace in the middle of the high ceiling room.
“Dave, can you imagine all the work that went into building this place? All this wood is sure beautiful. Makes ya feel warm and cozy, don't it?”
“Yep. I'm so warm that I think I need me a couple more cold ones.”
“Dave, now don't get upset, but when you were younger, didn't you go to church?”
“C'mon man, not tonight! Let's just concentrate on good food and goin' home.”
“But all this time together, and you never want to talk about it. Are you angry with God?”
“Okay Tom! You asked for it!. As far as I'm concerned, God kicked me in the teeth and ruined my life a long time ago. But I came through it all alone, like a soldier. No xxxx help from no one!”
“God doesn't kick peop...”
“SHUT UP and listen, Mr. Hypocrite! What do you know about suffering?!”

“Yea, we went to church when I was a kid. Every Sunday we were there: my mother, my sister, and my brother. Dad always worked. Always. Six days a week, ten hours a day. We never did anything together, my dad and me. He was always too tired. Never could help us with our schoolwork either. It's not that he didn't care, he was just too beat. He ate and went to sleep, then got up and went to work. On Sunday, we went to church with my mother, and he stayed home to rest and get drunk. After church, when we got home, he would be passed out on the couch in front of the TV. Mom cleaned and cooked...and cried a lot. It was like this from the time that I can remember, until my seventeenth birthday. Then all xxxx broke loose!”

“Dad got fired because he went to work drunk. On the way home, he got into a fight in a bar and killed a guy. He got life and we got xxxx! School ended for me that day. Mom had never worked in her life. Just took care of us. So, at seventeen years of age, Davey boy started playing Papa. I worked two factory jobs to help out at home. I saw to it that my brother and sister didn't want for anything. Mom even budgeted the money so that she had a little put away. Of course, church was out! I was 'the man' and didn't need anyone telling me how to run my life. Working became a drug for me. Drinking, swearing, drugs and womanizing; I did it all. It was fun to forget my problems. You see Tom, I figured since God didn't help me, I might as well do as I please.”

“ Then, about one year later, mom developed liver cancer. She wasted away very slowly. Each day she thanked God for the life that she had lived. Can you imagine that? She actually thanked Him for her messed up time here on earth. At each visit, she prayed for me and asked me if I was going to church. I lied of course and said yes, just to make her happy. Mom promised me to take care of my sister and brother. Of course I promised to never leave them alone. That turned out to be another lie. Mom died and they went to the 'state'. We didn't have any relatives that I knew of.”
Long pause, stare into space, and then some guzzlin'.

“About a month later, I joined the Navy. What a life! They gave me an education and I saw the world; just like in the posters. Six years of 'party'! Drugs and women and women and drugs! xxxx! That was the good life! But you know what? Deep inside, I knew that it wasn't right. There were times that I felt that I really wanted to relive those Sunday mornings again in church. I'm talkin' soft. Drank too much. Let’s eat!”

Tom had been listening and praying small prayers at the same time. What hurt this man had experienced in his life! He also understood that a spark of Christianity was still alive within his friend. He started to say grace.
“Lord, bless this man before you. Let Dave understand Your love and kindness. Touch his heart and soul, Lord. And Lor...”
“Can we eat Tom!?”
“And Lord, bless this food and show us this evening that you are with us and love us. Amen.”

“Man oh man, this is some good food! The wine is excellent Tom. Want some?”
“No thanks, I'll just keep with my iced tea. Wow, this cheese is fabulous!”
'What happened?! Where's Dave? Why can't I move? Are my eyes open? Oh my God, the building has collapsed! Okay, let's stay calm.' Tom checked out his body. He didn't seem to be hurt. He started to push against the rubble when he saw a light and heard a voice.
“Are you okay sir? Try not to move. Let me...”
“I'm okay! Just stuck. Pull me out of here. My friend is gone. His name is Dave. Oww! That hurts! Pull slowly!” Tom was extracted without much trouble. He only had a few cuts and scrapes.

Dave opens his eyes. It is almost completely dark. He can just make out his hand in front of his face. He is freezing! You see, when the avalanche hit the chalet, the fireplace fell through to the basement. Dave was sitting right next to it, so down he went too. He was now under tons of wood and snow. He was lying on his back, unable to move his legs. His chest was pinned by broken beams. He could only move his arms and head. Water was up to his cheeks. Nothing was supporting his head, so he had to hold it up with his hands, otherwise his neck muscles got tired and his nose went underwater. But he was cold and the strength in his arms was waning rapidly; if only he could find something to slide under his head. He passed his arms in an arc, as wide as possible, from his hips to his head, searching for anything under the water that he could use for a support for his head. He was shaking and couldn't feel much with his fingers. Just above his head, his fingers make contact with objects that felt like books. Slowly but surely he was able to pull them under his head. Whew, at least now he wouldn't drown. That is, if the water didn't rise anymore.

How long had he been there? Hours it seemed! He could now hear people’s voices. He tried to call out, but only stuttering noises came out of his mouth. 'I am going to die here' he thought. 'God, why are you doing this to me?' Then he passed out.
“Dave, can you hear me?!”
Dave wakes up. He recognizes Tom's voice. Tom is alive!
“T-T-T-mmm” was all he could manage to utter. 'Oh man, I am gonna die here! Thank the Lord for these books...What am I saying? The Lord let this happen. Why should I be thanking Him for anything?'
“DAVE?! Can you hear me? Please make some kind of noise. PLEASE!”
'Okay Tom.' “T-T-T-m-m-m.” 'It's no use. Now what? I'm going to die here with help so close? I can't feel my arms or legs anymore.' Crying, Dave started to pray out loud.
“Lord, thank You for these books. Please have mercy on a poor sinner. Yes Lord, I do believe in You. My life is nothing without You. I will live the rest of my days for You if you will let me. My past has been a shambles, but I know that with You, all is possible. Have mercy on me and let me make enough noise for them to hear me. PLEASE?!”
“Dave?! Is that you?!”
“TOM! TOM! TOM!” Over and over Dave screamed out his name.
“It's gonna be okay Dave! Don't try to move. We'll get you out of there. Thank you Jesus.”

They pulled Dave out from the rubble. Two broken legs, hypothermia, a couple of frozen spots on his body. He would be fine in a couple of months. As they were pulling him out, Dave asked Tom to get the books on which he had rested his head. He wanted to keep them as souvenirs. When Tom reached down, he pulled out only one book.....the Bible. There were no other books. Tom stuck his hand into the water where Dave's head had rested. He found that the water was at least three feet deep.....

By Terry L. Atchison
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