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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Pastor (11/30/06)

TITLE: A Gentle Giant
By julie wood



“Re-pe-ENT!” His fist, pounding the pulpit, is the size and pinkness of a country-baked ham. His face is a squashed tomato, juiced by the sweat dollops rolling down his jowls. But what I dread the most is his voice—a nasal drone escalating to an ox’s bellow. “Re-pe-ENT…”

I wince, close my eyes, fight the urge to clap hands over my ears. Why can’t Pastor Elkins talk like a normal man?

My mind drifts to the outskirts of fifteenth-century Assisi. A barefoot, brown-robed monk prances through a sunlit meadow, pealing Latin plainsong amongst the birds and butterflies. His face is not tomato red but rose pink as the sunrise. And his praise to his Creator flows as light as Brother Breeze, as gentle as the glow of Sister Moon. Why can’t Pastor Elkins sound like that? I’m wondering. But he can’t. He’s no great humble Francis of Assisi. He may have twice the brawn of that fragile bird-boned saint, but he’s just another shouting Southern preacher…

A scream, needle-sharp, pierces through my daydream. The sunlit meadow shatters, becomes a gloomy sanctuary; my gaunt monk is again replaced by burly Pastor Elkins. But the new noise doesn’t come from him, for he’s paused to mop his forehead with a sodden handkerchief. Through the brief and blessed silence shoots a second piercing scream.

It’s coming from the back of the church. I crane my head around to see another face like a squashed tomato—a cherry one this time, planted within the lettuce leaves of wadded blankets. Michelle’s newborn, I realize. She’s tinier than one of Pastor Elkins’ meaty fists, yet her lungs rival his in their great power.

Once again I wince, close my eyes. I brace myself, picturing the preacher’s sausage-sized finger stabbing towards the errant babe. Waiting for his bull’s bellow to banish her to the nursery …or perhaps even to the nether regions. Instead, there’s just a single newborn wail. I open my eyes to see something even worse: Pastor Elkins barreling out from behind his pulpit, bulldozing his bulk straight down the aisle. Aiming his titanic wrath directly towards the mother and her child…

Her screams veer closer now, but they’re waning just a bit. Our pastor’s heading back for his pulpit, but this time he no longer resembles a bulldozer. He’s inching along with caution, as though skirting shards of glass strewn across the carpet. His arms are full of something that, given his furrowed brow, could be a dozen loose raw eggs.

He mounts his platform, turns, faces his congregation. And that is when I see the miracle. His jowls, still damp with sweat, have faded to rose pink. A smile lights his face with the gentle glow of Sister Moon. And his voice flows out soft and tender as Brother Breeze as he peals praise to his Creator for the child.

“Unless you become like one of these little children…”

Soothed by his sunlit sermon, the newborn nestled in his arms drops off to easy slumber. The gentle giant cradling her may be just another shouting Southern preacher. But to me he’s morphed into the saint within my daydream. I’ll no longer flinch beneath the roars that mask the love of my Creator, more gentle and gigantic than the man through whom I now see Him moving.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 12/08/06
Oh, wow...just wow. This is just so, so good. Your descriptions of your main character are so REAL, and the ending just blew me away. I could go on and on about this piece. My favorite, by far.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/08/06
I love your comparisons between preacher, saint, and baby. It was all so vivid and such a unique perspective. Terrific piece!
Jen Davis12/09/06
This wonderful story is incredibly well written. I loved how you carried the theme of your metaphors throughout your story. This is truly master quality writing. Fantastic!
william price12/10/06
Either some cold Florida, 30 degree air, just blew past my desk, or this story gave me chill bumps it was so powerful. I think thats the first time I've used that word commenting. I just checked the window, its closed, and I reread this again with the same result. I'm beyond impressed. I fancy myself with being able to present a memorable character, but your pastor was standing right before me. Excellent job!!!! God bless.
Lynda Schultz 12/12/06
Powerful description. Was this "like calling to like" and the baby won? Your preacher took his own advice and became as a little child. Good job.
terri tiffany12/12/06
Terrific opening! terrific descriptions! You did a masterful job of presenting your character! Good word choices and loved the ending. The title says it all:) Glad I stopped for a read!
Marita Vandertogt12/14/06
I just came across this story and I'm glad I did. I can't believe you didn't place somewhere in the winnings. Did I miss something?? Your writing is powerful in its description... and like the others, the preacher hit my mind and stays there. You have an amazing gift at characterization, and writing in general. Keep going!!!!!
david perez12/14/06
There's a wonderful balance of all the writer's tools at play here, of the gentle and the giant. Excellent work.