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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Blessed (10/11/12)

TITLE: Blessed Stranger
By Doug Spurling


“How are you?” I said it without really thinking. It just came out.

The monitors beeped a steady beat. Confusion peeked through his swollen eyes.

Probably doesn’t recognize me, I thought. After all, we only met for a moment. I stepped back, “I should go.”

But then his eyes flashed. At first they looked angry. Which was understandable, and what I expected. But then just as quick the anger melted into an understanding kindness. Those kind eyes caused me to follow the ambulance here.

The bandage around his head was starting to soak through red. I knew a nurse would be in to change the dressing, just like clockwork they checked in every few minutes. I know because I stood outside for an hour watching the door. No visitors; just nurses and doctors. I finally got up enough nerve, told the nurse I was his brother, and walked in.

His eyes drifted from me to a chair next to his bed. I wiped cold sweat off my forehead and slid into the chair.

His swollen lips bent into a crooked smile. I stared at those eyes and looked for hurt, for hate, for anger, I found none—just joy.

My mind drifted back. Two hours earlier I leaned against the brick wall at the Salvation Army. My head was pounding and I had just crushed my last cigarette. I was without a dime and miserable.

From out of nowhere, this stranger walked into my life. “How are you?” he asked.

I figured he was being polite, like do-gooders do. I said, “I’m cursed.”

He looked me in the eyes and reached into his pocket. I figured he was about to give me some money, so I gave him a humble smile. He pulled out keys instead. I looked at the ground and spit. Figured he’d walk away, but he didn’t.

He said, “I’m blessed. You can be too.”
“Listen mister, I’ve got a hangover. I’m outta smokes and ain’t got a dime. I’m cursed. You’d say the same thing if you were in my shoes.”

He never blinked. He just stuffed the keys into my shirt pocket. “Being blessed has nothing to do with possessions.” He pulled out a money clip and held out his hand.

“Words are cheap.” I slurred. I figured he was trying to make a point and would eventually want his truck keys back. But, making his point would cost him. I grabbed the money and shoved it in my pocket.

He pointed at an old white pick-up. “I’m not rich by earthly standards. But concerning what matters most, I am blessed.”

“Yeah, that’s easy to say when everything’s going your way.” He was starting to get on my nerves.

His eyes danced as he said, “You and I could change places right now and I’d still be blessed.”

“I’ll have to see it to believe it,” I scoffed.

“Whether you see it or not—it’s still true.” He tilted his head and smiled.

About that time trouble showed up. “Who’s your friend?”

I recognized three of the four thugs but didn’t know their names. “I don’t know, he’s cool, just a volunteer fixin’ to leave.” I shrugged.

“Well, he oughta leave us some parting gifts then.” They sauntered close.

I started to tell them I had his money, but I didn’t. I thought he would tell them—but he didn’t.

I ran.

I felt guilty as I peeled a ten out of the money clip and laid it on the bar. Three shots of whiskey later I heard the sirens.

I shook my head and the memory faded.

“Figured you might want these.” I laid the truck keys on the table next to his bed. “I found a good parking spot for your truck real close to the door.” I hesitated. “Oh and here’s your money—what’s left of it. I used a little…sorry.”

I sucked in a deep breath, “I should’ve stayed. I figured they’d leave once they saw you didn’t have any money. You probably hate me for running out after you gave…”

He raised his hand, and I stopped rambling.

My words, “I’ll have to see it to believe it” came back to me and his face lit up with a joy I’d never seen before.

His words were only a whisper, but to me they clapped like thunder… “I am blessed.”

It had been a long time, but I bowed my head and prayed. Now I know, I too, am blessed.

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This article has been read 418 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Rice 10/19/12
Amazing story. You nailed the topic and I liked your dialog. Good job.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/20/12
Wow! I really loved this. You did an outstanding job of showing what blessed really looks like. I was riveted from the very beginning right on to the end. Your characters felt authentic, the dialog natural and the conflict riveting.

There are a few tiny errors like in the following: I stepped back, “I should go.”
I stepped back is a narrative line and needs a period after back, not a comma. It is also an excellent example of showing and using narration instead of taglines like he said.
Another tiny error is in this line: Two hours earlier I leaned against the brick wall
Because you are speaking about a past, ongoing action that was completed before some other past action it should be I had been leaning. All of the tense rules for English can be super confusing which why it's a great idea to have a challenge buddy or a critique group to catch little things like this. If you can't find one on the message boards and need help feel free to PM me.

Now you may be wondering why I'm being so nitpicky and the answer is because I see huge potential in this piece and you have a natural talent that needs just a bit of polishing (every single story ever-written needed or needs polishing) Not only did you nail the topic in a fresh way but you delivered a message that just about everyone can relate to. You have several lines that are great examples of showing the reader what the character is feeling as well as giving the reader a peek into his personality. And again, for me, the word that best describes this story is Wow!
Michael Throne10/24/12
Well written! This story has great flow; it kept my interest all the way through. I like the pace of the story, and the MC. This is one of my favorites.
C D Swanson 10/24/12
Wow! This was a riveting and jarring read that not only held my interest, but poured out a gigantic message.

Excellent job. Thank you.

God Bless~
lynn gipson 10/25/12
I see real talent here, wow, what a story! This is exceptional.

God Bless, Lynn
Loren T. Lowery10/25/12
Great story, you had me seeing/feeling everything. And, very importantly (at least in my mind) it all seemed authentic - Congratulations on your win!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/25/12
Congratulations for placing second in level two and 11 overall!