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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)

TITLE: Life or Death
By Scott Sheets


Sheldon rolled over on the corrugated box he called his bed. The cardboard "mattress" offered little relief from the coarse concrete beneath it, but at least he wasn't waking to the stench of a sewer, the pains of a beating, and the theft of what few belongings he owned. That was last week. This evening he awoke to the odor of his own filthy flesh in a garbage strewn ally, the pain of being dry for two days, and the cold steel of his sole possession still pressing against his skin.

He sat up and reached his hand down to retrieve the ruger .38 special tucked in the waist of his pants. He had traded his last ounce of heroine for the pistol and now he would put it to good use. He wrapped his fingers around the composite handle and held it firmly. The solid, heavy steel felt good in his hand; it was the only solid thing in his life at the moment. It reminded him of his father's strong hand that upheld him his younger days...

"Daddy, help I can't do it."

"You can do it, Sheldon. It's just like riding with training wheels, except now I'll catch you if you fall."

Sheldon's father pushed his son on the Schwinn racer and Sheldon began pedaling. "Look Dad, I'm doing it. I'm doing it." He turned around to see how far he had ridden and lost control of the bike. As he plunged toward the concrete he felt his father's strong, solid grip lift him from his self-induced disaster.

"You need to be careful when you ride, son. Always keep your eyes ahead of you." His father set him down on the sidewalk and knelt on one knee in front of him. "Sheldon, riding a bike is a lot like life. You need to focus on where you want to go, not where you have been. Focus your life on heavenly things, not on the things of the earth."

Sheldon caressed the steel weapon with his left hand and critiqued his father's wisdom. Life's nothing like riding a bike. It's just a cruel game. He raised his eyes up into the darkness of the ally and shouted, "It's just a game, Dad, nothing more. Life's just a game." Then lowering his head he muttered, "If it was more, you wouldn't have died when you did. Why did you leave me? Why did God take you– if there is a God?"

Sheldon locked his attention on his perceived answer to the game of life. He opened the cylinder and filled the chambers with lethal shells. This would relieve the pain, the loneliness, and the emptiness permanently. The drugs never lasted and left him in deeper despair than before, but death would put an end to it at last. Sheldon was ready to take his last turn in this cruel game called life. He closed the cylinder and rose from his paltry excuse of a dwelling. He locked the hammer in place, enabling it to unleash its deadly force in an instant. His index finger rested at the side of the trigger while he slowly and deliberately lifted the gun to his head. The two and a quarter inch barrel pressed against his right temple. It's time to quit this game,

Sheldon flashed back to a board game he and his father had played many years ago.

"Dad, I quit. I'll never win." Young Sheldon crossed his arms and puffed out his lower lip with childlike expertise.

"Sheldon," his father gently reminded, "life is not about winning or losing, but how you play. Sometimes life gives us a card that we don't like, like Daddy's cancer. But that doesn't mean we quit. We persevere until the Lord says were done, not when we think we are. Don't quit now. Roll the dice again and see what happens?"

Sheldon's whole body quivered as he held the gun to his head. The memories rose unexpectedly in his drug damaged mind, but he couldn't ignore them. "Alright," he shouted into the emptiness, "I'll roll the dice once more." Sheldon released the hammer and opened the cylinder. He removed three of the five bullets, closed the cylinder, and then gave it a spin. "God if you're real and my father's with You, let me live and I'll follow You." Sheldon cocked the hammer, pressed the barrel to his head once again, closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger...


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This article has been read 617 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 09/18/08
Excellent writing! The flashbacks are great, and you've used very good imagery.

A quick note: "heroine" is a female hero. You wanted "heroin." I love the open ending, and don't think you need the "CLICK" at the end. Your writing did its job--your readers know what happened without the onomatopoeia.

This is a very strong entry.
Beth LaBuff 09/19/08
Your opening paragraphs are so compelling. I appreciate the wisdom in this, "We persevere until the Lord says we're done, not when we think we are. Don't quit now. Roll the dice again..."
Joy Faire Stewart09/21/08
Great, vivid descriptions and the flashbacks flowed smoothly. Excellent job!
Shelley Ledfors 09/21/08
This is very well done. Your descriptions and imagery put me right into the scene.
Celeste Ammirata09/22/08
This is very well written, and thought provoking. Glad he heard the click in the end. And that the Lord reminded him of earlier conversations with his Dad. Great job!
Kristen Hester09/22/08
This is a very strong entry! The image of him in the box were very strong. So sad that he went downhill like he did. I loved the ending. Great job!
Dee Yoder 09/24/08
Poor man. The images you depicted of his despair and hopelessness are gripping. I also like the way you bring a light of hope to the end of this entry.
Yvette Roelofse09/24/08
This is an excellent piece...powerfully and compellingly written. Great writing!
Karen Wilber09/24/08
Vivid and emotional. (I think I was holding my breath.) Well done.
Joshua Janoski09/24/08
You had me holding my breath and biting my lip in anticipation to see how this would end. Great job building up suspense and providing a wonderful message.
Joy Faire Stewart09/25/08
This was one of my favorites this week. Congratulations on your win.
Celeste Ammirata09/25/08
Congratulations on placing third. It's well deserved.
Joshua Janoski09/25/08
So glad to see this one up there in the advanced top 3. It was amazingly written.