Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)
TITLE: BATTER UP!
By Marilee Alvey
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“Better find a way to get yourself out of this cell, you worthless piece of garbage, ‘cause if you don’t, you’re gonna be missing pieces. You won’t even know who’s comin’ for ya ‘til it’s done,” his cellmate hissed.
“I don’t want any trouble. I’ve got nothing against you. I’m trying to get in the college prep program.”
James winced. Not the right thing to say, but he wasn’t skilled in talking to felons, though he, himself, now was one. K-Dawg’s eyes were as cold as a marble slab. His massive biceps held the promise of pain.
Meth had come courting James. The crystal ladder was thrown before him, promising no more shyness or awkwardness. In the beginning, he was confident, self-assured and empowered. Then, too soon, the crystal ladder became a sticky spider web that engulfed him. He was lured in, then strung out to die.
“College prep, huh? Better study mortuary, ‘cause you’re lookin’ at the grave, maggot.”
He played his internal tape once again. Sneaking, snatching, lying…. Just another meth addict with no borders. James proved it when he decided to hit a credit union for cash. Using pepper spray in the attack, he thought that it wouldn’t qualify as assault with a deadly weapon, but he was wrong to the tune of thirteen years. At twenty-six, James found it impossible to imagine being thirty-nine.
James lay down in bed and, in desperation, began to pray.
“God, I’ve made such a mess of my life. I don’t know what to do. I’m scared. I’m so scared. Please don’t forget me here.”
He pretended to be asleep in an attempt to diffuse K-Dawg’s anger. Eventually James’ breathing slowed, and his eyelids got heavy. Sleep arrived, giving him a momentary reprieve from his cell. He found himself sitting, once again, on a bench in his high school dugout. The air felt as hot as car exhaust. Sweat trickled down the front of his uniform, forming mud of the earth that clung to him. His catcher’s mask and chest protector kicked up dust as he flung them to the ground. Standing up, he grabbed three bats and began to swing them as he watched the pitcher. After several more practice swings, he selected his bat of choice and approached the batter’s box.
Laying off the first pitch to see what the pitcher had, he heard the grunt of the umpire,
James stepped out of the box and took several swings to stay loose. Stepping back in, he felt the adrenaline kick in. He swung as hard as he could. Whoosh!
Stepping out again, James swung several more times, trying to remain loose and calm. The crowd was yelling, but it sounded like it was all screamed underwater to James, sweat having dripped down into his ear canals. Stepping back into the batter’s box, he steadied himself. Somewhere in the distance his ears picked up desperate cries of, “It just takes one, James!” and “Keep your eye on it!” The pitcher released the ball. It was a rocket headed straight for the strike zone. James swung once again as the ball dipped suddenly.
“Steerike three! You’re out!”
Shame made its bed in the pit of his stomach while self-condemnation made a nest in his heart.
James woke up breathing heavily with a sweat soaked sheet twisted around him. With relief, he remembered that it was five in the morning. K-Dawg would already be on duty in the dining hall. He hung his arm over the edge of his bunk, feeling for his Bible underneath his bed. Looking up “discouraged” in the back, he found “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." *
“God, I’m stuck. There’s no hope left in me… It’s too late. I’m completely out of control of my life and I’m scared to death.”
At that moment two guards appeared. One began to unlock his cell door.
“Got some good news for you.”
“Gather up your stuff. You’re being transferred to the college prep wing.”
“No, next month. Now, get goin’!”
Gathering up his belongings, James stepped into the batter’s box once again. Walking out of the cell, and only for his Savior, he pointed…..toward an imaginary fence.
*Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV.
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