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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)

TITLE: The Hitchhiker and the Idol


It wasnít that I loved Wally; it was more that I idolized him. He was everything I was not: calm, assured and self-possessed. He always spoke in a calm, soothing voice that had a certain nasal quality unique to heavy marijuana users of the early 1970ís.

He was blond from the bleaching Arizona sun and his hair was long. His eyes were sparkling blue, crystalline like the desert sand. He was in the forefront of the health food fad while I was still fresh from the streets of Chicago, smoking cigarettes and living on coffee.

I remember the evening ritual of sitting around the edges of a living room listening to music, with Wally and his roommates, the guys who had picked me up hitchhiking from Chicago on my adolescent pilgrimage to California. We sat around, not talking much, at least not me. I sat thrilled just to be included with this Ďfar-outí group of friends, amazed that they apparently couldnít see my inner panic under the thin veneer of teenaged cool. Since I felt as if I were so different from everyone else, I was sure no one would understand a single bit of what I was thinking. I stored everything up like a sponge and wrung it out in the novels I would write later.

Wally, on the other hand, laughed easily and looked everyone steadily in the eye. I remember how, once when I was finishing breakfast with a cigarette, he looked at me calmly as he asked me ďWhy do you still do that to yourself?" My own brothers or my parents had never asked me a question like that.

I admired Wally so much that for a few months I even imitated his calm, nasally voice. A mutual friend even asked me once on the phone why I was talking like Wally. Talking like Wally; I wanted to be Wally!

I left Arizona and continued on hitching across the county. I lost much of my anxiety along with my adolescence and gained more confidence in who I was, without having to imitate people I admired, like Wally. Years later I met a mutual friend who told me that Wally had attempted suicide and had checked himself into a mental hospital.

I cannot describe the disillusionment I felt. What was Wallyís calm all about? Where did he get that peaceful appearance and steady eye only to fall apart? If his peaceful calmness was so fragile, why did it appear so strong to me?

I couldnít answer those questions for years until I came to understand a source of peace that was beyond human comprehension, a peace that can only be given to man, but never achieved or obtained. It is a peace that goes beyond just being emotionally calm. It is a peace that is quickening to the spirit and healing to the mind. It can never be taken away; it can only be lost by neglect or carelessness. It grows when it is shared.

Itís been over 30 years since Iíve seen or heard of Wally. I donít even remember his last name. I still admire the calm spirit he had. I can only imagine his beauty of character if I could have shared with him the peace that Iíve accepted as a gift of God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

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This article has been read 775 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Murray09/20/07
Doesn't Jesus make your heart ache for people? This is a story with great impact on me. I think it's the beginning of greater stories. What a novel this one would make!
Sherrie Jackson09/21/07
Wow. This is an incredible story, and when I say Masters-level, I mean it. The characterization is PERFECT for a short story, for drawing people in, for captivating interest. I can't say enough about how perfectly, to me, this has been crafted.

Your message filtered through effortlessly, and the impact of the years that passed and how the two characters changed was really, truly felt. Of course I wonder if this is true. But true or not, you've written a fantastic story. I sincerely hope this places, and even if it doesn't, keep on writing JUST like this. I'm in awe.
christine bastow09/21/07
Good story. Well done.
Grover Gall09/21/07
Well written.
Joanne Sher 09/22/07
This is just excellent! Your characterization, especially, is just wonderful. Such atmosphere. Can't wait to find out who this is!
Dee Yoder 09/23/07
You really drew me into your story and developed the characters in a vivid way. I'm glad you found the real Source of Peace and sorry for Wally that his peace was not so steady. Good writing!
Marita Vandertogt09/23/07
Excellent characterization - and the theme well presented. I think you must write in other places, and if not, I think you must write in other places, you have the sound of a pro. But please keep submitting here as well. Great entry.
dub W09/23/07
Wow, I see why everyone is talking about this one. Definately, this is beyond the level and appears like it could be the start of a great novel. Thank you. This one goes in the Puppy Pen.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/23/07
I echo what the others have said. Very well written, vivid and unique descriptions and details, realistic characterization. You brought it all together with appropriate scripture. Nicely done!
c clemons09/23/07
The title said volumes. Most people go thru life trying to hitch on someone else's star. Any and all idols have to be pulled down. Your MC found this out and now has that thing that no man can take away. Very good writing.
Catrina Bradley 09/23/07
Great flow to this story. Great lesson too. :) Cat
Sharlyn Guthrie09/24/07
I was a little confused about the friend asking why you talked like Wally, considering that Wally picked you up as a hitchhiker. Other than that small detail,(and it could very well just be my problem) this is excellent writing. The lesson on character is poignant.
Kimberly Lane09/26/07
I've known a few Wally's in my life! You're a great story teller. Loved it.
Carol Wiley10/10/07
Very nice story and characterization.
Gregory Kane01/16/08
This really is a beautiful piece of writing. I particularly like the almost seamless transition between the searching adolescent and the more assured adult.

Thanks for your comments on my Gomer story and your encouragement not to pull any punches in my writing. Mind you, if you thought that was bold, wait until you see my submission for "bird in the hand"