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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Police (10/12/06)

TITLE: It's Harder To Believe Than Not To
By Steve Uppendahl
10/18/06


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I sit in my squad car and stare out the window. I glance at my watch. Mass will be over in six minutes. A smile pulls at the corners of my mouth. Good old Father Daugherty, Saturday night mass, fifty-two minutes, reliable as Seattle rain.

Father D will be expecting me. Colleen called him. I shouldn’t haven been surprised.
************************************************************************
“You what? Why?”

I slam my beer on the end table and mute the television. Her green eyes widen, then narrow. We both realize the importance of this moment, the putting down of an unfinished Guinness, the muting of the Mariners.

“Paddy, you need to talk to someone about this. It’s been two months, you need to get it out.”

“Get out what? I didn’t die. No one I cared about died.”

Flashing eyes, “Don’t. Don’t feed me that crap. You did care. You still do. It’s affecting you, which means it’s affecting us. It’s damaged your faith.”

My turn to flash, “Then you don’t know me. My faith is not damaged.”

Incredulous, “How can it not be?”

I shake my head, pick up my Guinness with one hand and turn up the sound with the other. Discussion over. She doesn’t get it.
************************************************************************
After mass we’re sitting across from each other, each with a steaming cup of coffee, a fire burning in the wood stove. Father stands, dims the light to the standard setting for your neighborhood dive bar. Father believes darkness frees up insecurities about speaking to a priest. He may be right.

“I know about October 22, Patrick. I knew before Colleen called me.”

I nod my head. Father D always seems to know everything and everyone. A well-trusted priest in a close-knit neighborhood will know more information than the CIA.

“So, why am I here?”

“You tell me. And don’t tell me it’s to appease your wife. I’ve known you too long. What is it?”

“Colleen thinks my faith’s been challenged.”

Nodding, “I would assume it has. In your line of work, I’d imagine that’d be a daily occurrence. But, that’s not what she thinks and we both know it.”

My turn to nod, “Yeah, yeah. She thinks I’ve lost my faith.”

Leaning forward, “Have you?”

I shake my head and look him directly in the eyes, “No.”

Father D leans back in his ancient oak chair causing the same creak that’s been there since grade school. I smile in the darkness and wait for it. Father laces his fingers behind his head, stares at the ceiling, then at the cross above the door. He then leans in and says his famous three words, “Tell me why.”

“No. Not this time, Father.”

I sense his surprise, but hold my ground. Father doesn’t. He rises, chooses a piece of wood from the old cedar box and places the log atop the fire.

With his back to me he tosses a question over his shoulder, “What do you remember most about the events of that night, Patrick?”

I answer mechanically, no thought is required, “The smell.”

I crinkle up my noise and rub it vigorously with the palm of my hand.

Without thinking I continue, “The smell of their blood was so strong. I saw so much of it that night. The domestic dispute. The hit-and-run. The assault. The two accidents. It all looked the same, the blood I mean. But, each…one…smelled different and distinct. I can’t explain it.”

“I heard six people in all died that night and you knew four of them.”

Pinching the bridge of my nose, “Yep.”

“You didn’t truly know them, though. Just through your job?”

“Yeah, each of them were often in trouble.”

I stand and stare at the fire.

“So, why didn’t that night test your faith?”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t tested. I said I didn’t lose it.”

“Tell me why.”

“Otherwise, I couldn’t do this job. If I didn’t believe that God is up there, doing whatever he’s doing for whatever reason he’s doing it, I couldn’t be a cop.”

Leaning forward, “Tell me why.”

“Because if He wasn’t there there’d be no reason for me to ‘protect and serve’ anyone. There’d be nothing worth protecting.”

Placing his hand upon my shoulder and looking deep into my eyes he asks one final question, “It’s hard isn’t it, Paddy? Believing.”

Nodding through tears, “It’s fitting, though. I always chose the hard way growing up, didn’t I?”

He beams, “Yes. But, don’t forget. The hardest way is often the most rewarding.”


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This article has been read 840 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Haug10/20/06
I liked the sense of familiarity between the two men. They knew each other well, and out of that bond they were able to communicate on a deep level.
Marilyn Schnepp 10/21/06
You did it! "What does that mean?", you may ask. It means that I'd been reading challenge entries for quite some time now...when finally THIS one did it! Brought me to tears! If I laugh aloud, or shed tears...that means my emotions have been touched, and I felt it! You did it! Very well done! Great read, and super write! Bless you and thank you!
Peggy Bennitt10/25/06
This one really spoke to me on a personal level...and I'm NOT a cop. This is a statement about our humaness and existing in this world, doing whatever we do, still holding on to the Lord. If our faith isn't tested everyday, we're probably not fully involved in life. This story speaks directly to that very intuitively. This is a beautiful slice of life and all its degrees. Wonderfully engaging!
Steve Uppendahl10/26/06
Author's note: I didn't have enough words to put this in the actual story, but the title of this story is in honor of a Steve Taylor song of the same name.
Joanne Sher 10/26/06
What great dialogue, Steve! I can definitely see why this did so well. Exceptional job, my friend. Congratulations!!
Val Clark10/26/06
You packed a lot into this; the relationship between husband and wife, man and priest and man and God. Also you got inside what it must feel like for some policemen in a realistic and believable way. Yeggy

Edy T Johnson 10/27/06
Congratulations, Steve! It's great to see your name and your story in Editor's Choice. You know how to set the stage with precision in just a few words (first paragraph). Then, this reader felt like a mouse in the corner, feeling the warmth from the stove, inhaling the fragrance of the coffee, joining in the thought-processes triggered by Father D's question. Just the sort of story I relish! Thank you, friend!