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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Car Trip (07/18/05)

TITLE: El Cristo
By Maxx .


The gun had gone off. It was an accident.

A medallion of El Cristo hung from the rear view mirror at the end of a silver chain. The dashboard splashed it with red light. Its polished surfaces reflected the desert moon. Manuel stared. It swung with every turn, each bump in the road. It was his only companion. He felt alone, in more ways than he cared to count.

El Cristo was watching him, he knew.

“Come on, come on!” He swore. The Rio Grande, and escape, lay ahead. He checked behind, certain that the sky would soon be blazing with red and blue strobes. His foot was to the floor. The engine strained to maintain the pace. A sign blurred in the darkness. Fifteen more miles.

His heart raced, he could scarcely breathe. A cry jerked from his tightened throat.

He had robbed a church. The same church where his mother wept each day. She prayed without ceasing, always for him.

“I ask that El Cristo will humble you in this life, Manuel,” she had once said, “so that you can live in the next. You and your gang think you’re tough. But you’re arrogant and cause nothing but pain. Niño, come pray with me.”

He had pushed past her. “La Raza first, mi madre. El Cristo can wait.”

When the gun fired he had shrieked like a child and ran stumbling from the sanctuary. Arrogance had been stripped from him in a muzzle flash.

The tires kicked up gravel along the shoulder. He struggled to regain control. Branches from the sage brush slapped at the windshield like claws grasping for his throat. He swerved back onto the pavement, straddling the center line.

He had dumped the money box onto a table. There wasn’t much from the poor congregation. He was searching for more when a hand touched his shoulder. He turned, startled, his muscles tensing. His finger squeezed the trigger. He hadn’t meant to. The report was deafening but not as jarring as the eyes that searched his own.

The exchange lasted no more than an instant. The instant seemed eternal and continued to replay in his mind.

What haunted him most was the sound of his mother’s last word. “Niño?” She didn’t seem angry, there was no fear in her voice, no disappointment. Instead her tone was laced with confusion as if she were searching for a last puzzle piece that had somehow slipped away.

Then the bullet had pierced her face.

His eyes stung at the memory, his vision blurring with moisture. “Mi madre, mi madre, mi madre. Lo siento. Lamento mucho.” The words choked him, burning as they spilled out. “I’m sorry. It was an accident.” Tears streamed down his cheeks. He swiped at his eyes, trying to shut off the torrent.

His face felt sticky.

He looked at his palm. It was smeared with blood, dark and clotted. He couldn’t breathe. He rubbed his forehead, running his hand along his nose. More of the same, streaked and red. He screamed and began to claw at his face with shaking fingers, trying to scrape away his mother’s gore.

But he was stained with it, both on his flesh and in his being.

He felt a blackness swallowing him, his soul being dragged into a depth he couldn‘t fathom. A weight pressed against his mind. “Mi madre! Why were you there? You weren’t supposed to be there!”

She wept each day, always for him. “You cause nothing but pain. What will you do in the next life?”

He didn’t hear the grating sound of metal shattering the wooden guardrail. The arroyo was one hundred feet deep, the embankment steep and rocky. His world became a tumbling cacophony. But all he could hear was his mother’s confused voice, “Niño?” All he could see was El Cristo, flickering in the darkness and reaching for him.

And then there was nothing.

One arm was pinned. The steering wheel pressed into his ribs. Liquid, vile and hot, spilled from his mouth. The medallion of El Cristo swung before him, splashed red from his blood, and that of his mother. Its polished surfaces reflected the flames coming through the engine compartment. Manuel stared. El Cristo was calling for him, he knew. He closed his eyes. He saw himself covered with blood, the blood of El Cristo.

He stretched out his hand and grasped the medallion.

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This article has been read 1468 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Crista Darr07/25/05
Wow - this one blew me away! Awesome writing!
Helga Doermer07/25/05
Your story is vivid and well written. It moves at a fast pace that just carries the reader along.
Karen Deikun07/26/05
Very intense. Very well written. Excellent.
Nina Phillips07/26/05
This was very well written. Solid, intense-very good. God bless ya, littlelight
Beth Muehlhausen07/27/05
Vivid and deeply involving! There are many awesome lines, but here's one that jumped out at me: "Instead her tone was laced with confusion as if she were searching for a last puzzle piece that had somehow slipped away." Good job!!

Phyllis Inniss07/27/05
Vivid and brilliant writing, like a scene from a film.
Theresa Kissinger07/27/05
Incredible, could be a film....but the powerful descriptive use of words played just as vividly on the screen of my imagination.
Kyle Chezum07/27/05
Great work! One of my favorites ever! Good job.
Debbie OConnor07/28/05
Wow! Heart stopping action, drama...and so believable. Awesome work.
Linda Watson Owen07/28/05
Spellbinding---again! I can still sense the warmth of the blood(s).
darlene hight07/31/05
Riveting! You had me clinging to every word. Great job!
Al Boyce08/01/05
Excellent piece Maxx! I love the way he found redemption at the very last. Blessings - Al
Val Clark08/01/05

Phew Maxx, edge of the seat stuff. You hold back the identity of the victim well, and reveal it without me feeling hoodwinked or that it is clichéd.
Karen Ward08/01/05
I didn't get to this one until after your win, but I'm not surprised to see your name next to it. Your writing is consistently excellent Maxx.
Suzanne R08/01/05
Whew ... my heart is racing having just read your piece ... wow.
Deborah Porter 08/02/05
Maxx, I knew this was yours before I even saw your name. Written powerfully and excellentely - as always. An uncomfortable piece that really did put me right in the car there with the main character, but that ending - WOW! Congratulations on your 2nd place wins in both the Editors' Choice and the Level 3 Champion Challenge. Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Jessica Schmit05/26/06
ok, I purposly tried looking fro some huge mistakes in your story because I never seem to be able to find any problesm with them. So, I found a few. This sentance, "He had robbed a church." seemed void of your usual "showing, not telling method. I think it was for dramatic effect, but I wasn't sure. The sentance struck me as odd. Also you used the term "splashing red" twice. Ther eyou go Maxx. Those are your huge mistakes! LOL. I wish my mistakes were as huge as yours (he he.) Honestly, this is one of my Maxx Favs. I remember where I was when I read this the first time. It's masterpiece. I do have one question. How long does it take for you to write a challenge entry (on average.) You have so much depth to your pieces that I think they must take hours to weave all that incredible goodness throughout. I loved the ending. How hopelessness consumed him and how El Cristo was really a symbol for his hopelessness and eternal damnation. I also loved the description of the car bursting into flames at the end. I pictured him at the doorway of hell, ready to enter. Kinda a morbid thought, but it was what came to my mind. Your descriptions were perfect. they always are. I've actually been absorbing your choice of words, hoping that they'll rub off on my writing. Oh, you'll love this next question. Are you Max Lucado? You see, me and my husband are betting that you're him and that FW lets you explore your "not having to be in the Christian box" writing style. Come on. I won't tell. LOL
suzana bivins10/27/06
Great story. I read the reviews on your article and the last one that Jessica Schmit wrote was funny.Specially the end, because I was thinking the same question. And if you're really Max Lucado, do you think you can autograph one of your books that I happen to owned.LOL!