Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
TITLE: The Hardest Lesson
By Stephanie Bullard
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A man lay sleeping, head snugged securely into the lush depths of an overstuffed down-feather pillow. Yet, as he lay, nearly motionless, his mind clicked and whirred to life beneath the skin and bone that would hold him to the mortal world. Firing synapses collided with a stored and forgotten recess of memories and realities, and in a moment, the man was transported beyond his pillow and bed, beyond his world and his time, to the immortal land of dreams. And in that world, his feet landed him softly onto a path of hard-packed dirt, and soft grass.
Following along the apparently well-worn path, the man found himself led to an open yard area, in which a number of people milled around, chatting to one another with obvious cheer and good-will. With a slight jolt of surprise, the man realized he recognized many of the figures. They were not, however, people of his immediate acquaintance. They were not his family or friends, fellow church-goers or coworkers. Instead, the men and women seemed to have stepped from the pages of history, or the modern newspapers, they flashed smiles at him that he recognized from current movies or CD covers. A variety of clothing and accents identified the many different eras and cultures from whence they originated.
Spotting a familiar figure with wild, white hair, the man eased over.
“Mr. Einstein?” The scientist turned with a friendly smile.
“How are you?” he asked kindly, with a slight accent.
“I’m fine, sir. May I say, I have read all of your works. I think you have one of the most brilliant minds in history.”
“Thank you. I have often seen you reading my works and consider your praise a great honor.” Smiling the man walked on, stopping in front of the tall, lanky and bearded form of a man in a black hat.
“Mr. President Lincoln, sir,” he said. “It is an honor. You have always been my favorite president. I did my doctoral thesis on you, you know.”
“I do know. You did an impressive job on that research. Very well done.” After several minutes, the man caught sight of a blond-haired lady. Making his excuses he rushed quickly over, grasping her hand.
“Ms. Ryan,” he said, “I am your biggest fan! I have every one of your movies.”
“And it is nice to hear a man admit
that,” she said, her voice cheerful. “I can’t tell you how nice it is to see you watching me so often when I am performing. It’s nice to know I have real fans out there.”
As he was walking away, the man accidently bumped into someone. Turning, he caught a strong odor he couldn’t immediately identify, and took a step backwards.
“Excuse me,” he addressed the other man who was short with dark skin and beard, dressed in strange robes.
“Don’t worry about it,” the robed man said. The man looked at him curiously.
“You look vaguely familiar to me,” the man said. “Are you a TV actor?”
“No,” the other said, smiling. “I’m a fisherman.” With that he turned to hail two other men who were a short distance off.
“James, John, wait up.” The man watched him as he left. Then a soft voice behind him said,
“Do you know them?” The man turned to see another man, dressed similarly to the last, smiling gently. “They’re friends of mine.”
“Are they Peter, James, and John from the Bible?”
“That’s right,” the other said.
“Huh,” said the man. “You’d think I would have recognized them. I mean, I’m a Christian. I go to church and everything. I have a Bible.”
“That’s very good,” the other man said gently. The man turned fully to him now, wondering if he should know this robed figure as well.
“Remind me of your name?” he prodded.
“My name,” the man said, his smile almost sad, “is Jesus.”
They say that dreams teach. And somewhere a man lay, head snugged securely into the lush depths of an overstuffed down-feather pillow, and, with a tear tracing down his silent cheek, he learned.
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