Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: ROAD TRIP (vacation)( 07/02/15)
| TITLE: A Wretch Like Me |
By Beth LaBuff
| ~ 3rd Place |
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My dad, mom, brother Jake, and I had been traveling the “scenic route” through all four verses of “Amazing Grace.” We’d taken a shortcut between highways. Dad said we would trim a half hour off our travel time. When the gravel ended, Dad was unfazed; our red Chevy Bel Air plunged ahead onto a dirt road. Encroaching elms dappled the narrow path. Our voices belted out I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop. Fresh-mown alfalfa scented the breezes that flowed through our windows and coaxed ripples from my green striped shirt.
As the last verse faded, Mom sighed, “We’re lost, aren’t we?”
“You worry too much,” quipped Dad with a smile. As the car vaulted over what appeared to be a clod we pitched to the right and then slowed to a stop. Jake, Dad, and I hopped out, maneuvering around a Scotch thistle that insisted on being front and center to view our flat tire. Dad unlocked the trunk and unloaded our luggage in order to retrieve the spare tire.
This seemed to be a bump on our journey for my dad, but for Jake and me, it was an opportunity. Adventure beckoned in the form of a derelict two-story house, surrounded by a cornfield. It was hardly that mansion over the hilltop, yet we scampered to the barbed wire fence where a “No Hunting, No Trespassing” sign flapped in the breeze.
“Be sure your sin will find you out.—Numbers 32:23.” In my head, I could hear Mr. Flawless, Tommy Callahan from Sunday school, reciting our memory verse. I ignored Tommy Callahan. Jake was lifting the barbed wire and insisting I hurry. I crawled under and then held the wire for him. We sprinted down a rustling corn row while pollen showered us from above.
I wondered what Tommy Callahan would have said if he could have seen Jake yank on the sagging door to the house. We crept into a kitchen where we were greeted by scuffed linoleum and decades-old dust motes that waltzed on the sunlight. Our eyes traveled from sun-bleached yellow curtains, then across a shelf with a lone tin cup hanging from a hook. We listened intently, hardly daring to breathe. We made our way up the stairs and were exploring vacant bedrooms when something must have awakened in the attic. A snarling, dervish ruckus caused Jake and me to freeze like spit on a sidewalk when it’s twenty degrees below zero. The clamor grew more diabolic. I should have listened to Tommy Callahan; our sin had found us out and now we were going to pay by being eaten by a pack of devilish blood-thirsty beasts.
A wretch like me—the phrase from “Amazing Grace” pounced on my mind. How does a wretch like me escape from where my sin had led me? Boy, did we need help. I prayed that God would forgive me. I even promised to be a friend to Tommy Callahan if we could get out of here alive.
While the fury raged above, we tried to backtrack. With each step, dread fastened its fangs into my brain. Each second lengthened into an eternity. When we reached the landing we vaulted down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out of the house, not bothering to shut the sagging door. We careened through the cornfield. When we reached the barbed wire fence, neither of us held up the wire. A barb grabbed my striped green shirt as I scooted underneath.
We catapulted into the car, relieved the tire was fixed and we were on our way once again. My breathing had just started slowing as we came to a highway. With a twinkle in her eye, Mom crooned, “I once was lost but now am found. . .” Dad sheepishly grinned and countered with a lyric of his own, “And someday yonder we will never more wander. . .”
And somewhere in Baxter County, where sins are found out, there’s a barbed wire fence that grips a swatch of striped green cotton.
“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1779, in Public Domain
“Mansion Over the Hilltop” by Ira Stanphill, 1949, in Public Domain
Numbers 32:23 quoted from KJV
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