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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confident (07/05/07)

TITLE: The Choice
By Maxx .


I stumbled in the darkness, knocking pink and green pottery, and swore. My fingers trembled as I grasped the closet doorknob.

Through the window, the glow of halogen streetlights painted my arm a luminous blue, except for the rivulets of purple that spilled along my bicep, elbow, and palm.

A spasm of laughter tightened my lungs and broke. I doubled over, swallowing.

“I capped your hide, Ty.” The vacant room shrouded me. “Capped you. Promised I would.”

In the distance the incessant howling of sirens wailed against the concrete arroyos of the barrios, like coyotes endlessly tracking.

“Hector?” A voice from behind, tight, questioning.

The corner lamp clicked and flickered. I squinted in the sudden glare.

“Meja…” A gasp. The figure, short, round, lurched toward me. “You’re hurt… bleeding… ” Her words trailed away.

Ma-Ma, no.” I lifted my sodden arm. “It’s not mine.” But the flow spoke otherwise. I watched droplets spattering into a crimson blot on the ragged carpet.

My shoulder chilled as if an icicle had speared my collar bone. The room spun as the first conscious spasms of pain began to radiate over frayed nerves.

Awareness can be an agonizing thing.

Ma-Ma’s hands moved to her face then covered her heart, pressing against a threadbare nightgown. She mouthed syllables … a silent prayer? … just as she’d done for Raphael the prior year. She blinked, her brown eyes brimming. “I’m calling 911.” Her words strident, sharp, afraid.

But her feet didn’t move.

Sirens cried, louder, nearer, until their combined cacophony was deafening. Three, five, ten? Around our block, down our street, in front of our home. Red and blue lights pulsed into the shadows.

I kicked the plug powering our solitary lamp. Darkness. “Stay low.“ My voice was hushed, conspiratorial. Ma-Ma and I became lost in a strobing kaleidoscope.

Her knees locked, firm, as the tilt of her chin lifted. The silhouette of her face twisted blue, purple, and red. Her gaze shifting between the window and me. “No.”

Her eyes found mine and held steady. The tendons of her jaw and neck clenched beneath puffy, ashen cheeks. “What have you done?”

I wrenched the closet door open. Reaching behind aged coats, I shoveled boxes onto the floor.

Motion outside, a footfall on twigs. Figures, dark clad, badges glinting, moved through the midnight.

I pulled a 9 mm pistol from the small of my back, holding it out, aiming toward the picture window overlooking the street.

Shouts beyond my vision. Ominous, anxious, threatening.

Ma-Ma raised her arms, stepping in front of me. “Meja! No!”

The muscles in my finger twitched, the trigger cold and sure. My arm shook and beads of perspiration peppered my brow. Breath whistled through my set jaw as my eyes saw nothing but the gleam of the steel barrel.

“Hector,” she whispered, close. “What’s going on?” She placed her palm on the weapon and lowered it.

I stumbled again, back, against the ancient clothing. Boxes spilled around my feet. I pushed with my heel, breaking them open…

…until the rounded tips of bullets firmly loaded in a dozen extra clips lay strewn across the floor.

“Blood for blood, Ma-Ma.” I winced, bending to gather them. “Ty for Raphael.”

Her breath caught, jagged. “I was praying for him…”

I slapped ammo into the magazine.

Ma-Ma dropped to the carpet, hands to her temples. “If I could forgive, why…”

“I couldn’t, ok?“ I lunged, standing over the crumpled woman, peering down. “He killed my brother!” I was sharp, edgy, each syllable a distinct shout.

“And my son!” Her fingers knotted my saturated pants leg. “He forgave, too.”

“That didn’t keep him from being shot like a starving dog, did it?” I waved the pistol above her head. “What good did it do serving Kool-aid to bums and whores?” I pushed her with my foot. Tears choked my rage.

“The least of these…”

“Nobody was saved and Raphael’s brains were blown all over the sidewalk.” I coughed. “I saw him, broken…”

“He chose…” She pleaded, gaze unwavering. “…hope… faith. What do you have faith in, Meja?”

I cocked the 9 mm. “There was no purpose. A wasted choice.”

She stood, placing her palms on my cheeks. “I don’t know the ways of God. But maybe your brother died only to bring you to this moment where you can make a choice, too.” She kissed me.

I squeezed my eyes shut. “How can you be confident in that?”

“Faith in things unseen, Meja.”

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This article has been read 1137 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Cartwright07/12/07
Wow! Graphic, elegant, piercing! Some may feel the topic a bit shrouded but I feel Ma-Ma's confidence, triumphant over colossal odds.
Dee Yoder 07/12/07
Oh, man. A powerful story and written like the scene would play out in real life. The tension displayed in your writing had my shoulders hunched as I read! A mother would have to have confidence in the Lord during a night like the one described here.
Patty Wysong07/14/07
Wow. By the end I was no longer lounging in my chair but had my face as close to the screen as I could (and still read) Good job!
Venice Kichura07/14/07
Powerful piece, masterfully written!
Sharlyn Guthrie07/15/07
Intense, action-packed, and suspenseful! You packed a lot into this piece, but I am left with so many questions. I want to read the chapters before and after this one! Your Mama character fit the topic well. Nice job.
william price07/15/07
Super job! Some masterful writing. I had to slow my reading down on my second read to capture your intent with the beginning. I'm glad I did! I am very interested to find out who wrote this. I haven't read this voice before up here. It's fresh and brave. I'm impressed. God bless.
dub W07/17/07
I liked it, I counted 6.
Jan Ackerson 07/17/07
Wow--another masterpiece from one of the best writers on this site!
Joanne Sher 07/17/07
You just have a way of painting amazingly detailed pictures of your scenes. This felt amazingly authentic. Wow.
Jacquelyn Horne07/17/07
Hopefully the right choice was made here.
Linda Watson Owen07/17/07
Wow! You always take your reader on such unforgetable rides! This is another gripping, and wonderful story. What a skillful capturing of character, detail, suspense, and theme!
Kristen Hester07/18/07
This is so gripping and vivid. I was there in the action. Thank you!
Loren T. Lowery07/18/07
Reading your work is like riding the rapids of of the Colorado River. Fast paced, lots of excitement and some beautiful scenery along the way. The ending? Well, I lost a friend in those waters a long time ago, let's hope your MC makes the better choice.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/18/07
Awesome suspense and description make this a story that grabs the heart.
Sara Harricharan 07/18/07
I smell a movie script! ^_^ I could see this playing out on the big screen. The drama, the emotion, this is riveting! It was a little spotty in some places, everything moving so fast, but a suspenseful read just the same. Good job.
Pat Guy 07/18/07
I recognized this as yours a few days ago but wanted to make sure - now I have to go back and see what I can find - so hold on a minute ... first I noticed we used the the same unusual word this week - "shrouded" (cool) - second '“Hector,” she whispered, close' confused me .... is Hector Meja? :)

Now ... did I like it?

It was so cool! And right on topic in a stretchy kind of way.

What a ride Maxx.
Catrina Bradley 07/18/07
Not a wasted word - every one powerful. Wow. I simply love your writing.