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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)

By Marilee Alvey


James sat on his bunk, hugging his knees to his chest and rocking.

“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,

“Steerike one!”

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!

“Steerike two!”

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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This article has been read 1018 times
Member Comments
Member Date
cindy yarger02/23/07
I like stories that are without hope and then God steps in. Good job!
Allison Egley 02/24/07
Oh, come on now. It's not that bad. Really. I liked it. There were a few awkward parts here and there, as far as wording goes, but nothing to serious. I just hope he doesn't strike out this time!
Joanney Uthe02/25/07
I really liked the contrast between his high school days remembered in his dream vs his current situation, then the hope his transfer brought.
Brenda Craig02/25/07
No "strike outs" here. Loved the comparisons, loved going from desperation to hope. God redeems everything and anything. He is only a breath, a prayer away. You demonstrated this well. Great job!
Leigh MacKelvey02/26/07
"Shame made its bed in the pit of his stomach whike self condemnation made a nest in his heart." Vivid personification! This was a nicely done creative and different piece. Not at all as awful as you think it is!
Jan Ackerson 02/26/07
Was that a Babe Ruth reference at the end? Oooh, did I catch it? I hope so...this is unique and well-written, highly creative.
Joanne Sher 02/26/07
You have some amazing description in here. This is definitely a creative take. And it DOESN'T stink (though I'll give you that it isn't the best you've written).
Jen Davis02/26/07
You began the story well by giving a good, short description of your character, and the story held my attention all the way through. I thought there were a couple of places where you could have better connected some of your dialogue with the character, although the dialogue at the end of the story was very well done and very realistic. The scripture fit beautifully with your story and was a wonderful reminder that no matter how bad things get, God will never leave us or forsake us. Thanks, Marilee, for sharing this one with us.
Jacquelyn Horne02/26/07
I, too, enjoyed this. It is a good story and brings out a wonderful pov. God always comes through or none of us would make it.
Suzanne R02/27/07
The way you connected the sports and his life was unique - good job. The long drawn out way 'Strike' was written was effective too.
James Clem 02/28/07
A very creative approach to the topic (I wasn't at all sure how you were going to get there.)

You have a good message and good descriptive word usage.

Your MC is a wonderfully complex person - a meth addict / robber but also one who has a Bible and prays, and has the drive to persue a college degree. Makes the reader wonder: is this a Christian who got tangled in meth or a meth addict turning his life around.
Loren T. Lowery02/28/07
I must say some of your analogies are brilliant, such as the crystal ladder turning into a sticky spider web.

I, too, was rooting for your protagonist and heartened by the way you chose for his outcome. We need more right-choice redemption stories like this.
Sara Harricharan 02/28/07
I think this is great! (and yes I did track your hint down just see what everyone was talking about-LOL) I liked the character of James and especially his dream. Very different and the ending is a wonderful reminder of how we can still change-regardless. I also liked the piece with the crystal ladder turning to a spider web. A wonderful piece. ^_^
Sue Dent02/28/07
Well, gues what Marilee? I found your entry and I wasn't even looking. Had forgotten all about doing so thinking I'd never find it anyway. I was just hopping around as I do sometimes and started reading this. Well, I couldn't stop. Then I said, "great, I'm out of the running." Good grief! This entry may be a lot of things, but it ain't a loser. I'll say it again. It's going to place. I LOVE your descriptions.
Sue Dent02/28/07
How did you know I'd had my wine for the night? Hmmmmm . . . LOL :)
Marilee Alvey02/28/07
It was evident in your critique, Sue! Stop drinking! LOL!
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/01/07
Three cheers for you, Marilee! I don't know how I missed this. It is excellent. Talent will "out"!
Sue Dent03/01/07
AHEM!!!!!! The prophet has spoken! So shall it be written, so shall it be done!!! TOLD YA!!!!!! :)

And don't look for mine on the top 40 cuz it won't be there! Oh, and just for the record, that doesn't bother me!
terri tiffany03/01/07
Congrats Marilee!!!
Sara Harricharan 03/01/07
Congrats! (Didn't everyone tell you you'd place?) ^_^
Helen Paynter03/01/07
Congratulations, Marilee. Looks like you're on a roll!