Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: Sweet Apples, Prison Apples
By BILL HUNT
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Joe appears a thin, dark haired young man in his late twenties. He first paces as if his thoughts predominate the day. Chuck, ten years older, measures a very big man with broad shoulders. He's worn ugly by his years of devastating life, his face and neck scarred by old knife wounds. Colorful tattoos cover his wide, thick arms. Both men sport short haircuts disciplined by state regulations. Both are attired in blue uniforms, soiled by sweat.
“Trouble from home. Trouble in the dorm. Life stinks,” reports the big man.
“What do ya mean?” asks the younger one.
“My ole lady's dying of cancer any minute in the city hospital. My sister won't tell me a thing. I hate not knowing. That old senior chaplain says he can't reach them by phone. I don't think he's even tried.”
“Have you ever tried prayer?” asks Joe.
“The 'family' in the dorm plots to do me in some night. I have to “z” with one eye open.”
“What happened?” asks Joe.
“I took out a library book on civil law,” said Chuck. “They lifted it, and now they want to keep me from getting it back, so Sgt. Jones won't get on to it.”
“I see it this way,” said Joe. “We are handed life on a silver platter, only it's loaded with apples. Some of those apples are sweet, like red delicious, and some of those apples are bitter, like green field apples.”
“Ya, well, I've eaten a lot of bitter apples. And there's no way out; just look at that wall.”
Both men glance up at the wall.
“Well, I know a way out,” says Joe.
“There ain't no way out!” snaps Chuck. “You've lost your mind.”
“Yes, there is,” retorts Joe. “You gotta have faith. You ever hear of Mount Horeb?”
“Well, that's where God gave Moses the ten commandments,” said Joe. “I saw a movie in the free world.”
“I hear ya,” said Chuck.
“Explorers snuck in and found the mountain about ten years ago. Imagine that! After 3500 years, they found the real mountain and the evidence. This'll grab ya. It's in Saudi Arabia, fenced in and guarded from the world by the Arabs. They know what they've got.
“The huge base to the altar of the golden calf is there, crumbled. I saw all this. The whole mountain is surrounded by broken markers, spaced out, just like it says in the Bible!”
“I wonder if it's true,” said Chuck.
“Of course it's true,” said Joe. “The outer dirt on top of that mountain is burnt black as coal by the fire of God. It's about 8000 feet high, the highest mountain in that region, Midian, just like the Bible says!
“And you know what? There's a large cave dead center in the middle of that mountain where Moses visited...and Elijah visited hundreds of years later. The whole mountain and the plain near it are covered with evidence. The huge rock Moses split is just down the way.”
“That's neat,” said Chuck.
“You need to know about those ten commandments,” said Joe. “Let me tell you about them!...” The two men continued their discourse for an hour. Time runs short. A brown uniformed officer beckons to them from the one wire doorway in the fence.
“Where's he taking you?” asked Chuck.
“Oh, the mess hall is planning my last meal,” Joe looks down, then starts to leave. His body betrays a feint tremor. “They're not gonna let me out here, anymore.”
“Buddy, thanks for the mountain.” said Chuck. “I'll check out those ten commandments a little more. I never heard them before.... I'm no good at saying goodbye, so don't ask me.”
“You know,” Joe brightens and turns back toward him. “You wanna know what you can do with them bitter apples? You can bake an apple pie!
“See ya on the mountain.”
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