Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: South America (02/05/09)
TITLE: The Difference
By Steve Fitschen
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Pedro’s mind was already on the journey to Rio de Janerio. The miner whose throat he had slit was barely a memory.
He had not started as a killer when he came to the diamond fields in 1860. The miners forced him to it. All he wanted was their diamonds. They could keep their lives. And many had. But as his legend grew, the miners fought back. So, he adopted the method the jaguar. He crept up silently from behind. He grabbed them by their hair; jerked their heads back; and with no warning, slit their throats.
Who could blame him? What gems he stole! Diamonds, huge diamonds. Many over 50 carats. What was a man’s live compared to these? Everyone knew the diamond was different. No ruby, no sapphire, no emerald could compare to the diamond. When the light struck a diamond, ruby red, sapphire blue, emerald green, were all reflected in the diamond’s rainbow. Not that Pedro killed for the diamond’s beauty. He killed for the money.
And when he collected enough diamonds he would make his journey from the diamond fields of Minas Geraes to Rio de Janeiro. There, he could find men who, like himself, knew diamonds were worth more than human life and who knew how to avoid the royal monopoly and to smuggle the gems to Europe.
But this time when he walked into the hovel where his buyer was supposed to be, he saw in the dimness only an elderly priest, sitting in a chair against the wall.
“Father, why are you here? This is not your place. Where is Vasco?”
“Yes, I killed him.”
Pedro’s hand crept toward the knife hilt. “You, Father?”
“Well, maybe I will kill you. You have caused me a problem.”
“No, Pedro, I will kill you.”
In a flash, Pedro was across the room. He grabbed the priest by his frock and pressed the knifepoint into his throat, drawing a trickle of blood.
“No, Pedro, you cannot kill me. But I <I>will</I> kill you.
Pedro spit in the priest’s face and snarled, “Oh, but I <I>can</I> kill you.”
“No, all you can do his hasten my release. Maybe you could not see in the dimness. Maybe you crossed the room too quickly. Look at my face. Do you see the pox? I gave it to Vasco and I have given it to you.”
Pedro saw it was true. He stared at the priest for a long time. He thought about killing him. Finally, he spoke. “How do you know my name?”
“I am the servant of God.”
“That is no answer.”
“It is a complete answer. Ever since Abraham, God has told his servants what he was about to do. He told me He was sending you here.”
Pedro thundered, “God did not send me here.”
The old priest steadfastly returned Pedro’s gaze.
“So, how does this end, old fool?”
“It ends with your choice, Pedro.”
“You can die a condemned, murderous diamond thief or a redeemed, murderous diamond thief.”
“What are you talking about, priest?”
The answer was a question: “What makes a diamond valuable?”
“A diamond is <I>different</I>. When light hits a diamond, it is reflected with a brilliance that draws kings … and the rich.”
“You are right,” replied the dying priest. “It <I>is</I> the diamond’s difference that makes it valuable. Rubies? Sapphires? Emeralds? It is a matter of taste. But diamonds? Irresistible.
“Names can be different, too, Pedro. The Bible says Jesus has a more excellent name than the names of the angels. But in the Greek it says Jesus has a ‘different’ name.
“Do you know why Jesus’ name is different? Because there is no other name whereby we can be saved. Pedro, confess your sins. Accept Christ’s sacrifice. His blood cleanses. You can die redeemed.”
“You give me the black pox and offer <I>this</I> in return?” The knife plunged deep. The old priest slumped back in his chair.
Pedro never left Rio. As he lay dying in an alley, one hand clutched a diamond and the other his knife, still stained with the priest’s blood. He stared at the stain and thought of other blood.
With his last breath, he whispered, “Tu és … o Cristo, … o Filho … do Deus … vivo.”*
*Matthew 16:16 (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”)
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