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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Inner Person (09/09/10)

TITLE: Masks of Many Designs
By Joy Bach


The school bus reverberated with the sound of teenage voices … excited over their win at the choir competition. Don, their director and bus driver, smiled as he heard their comments. He rounded the curve and headed west through the darkness on the two-lane highway. Home was an hour away.

Patchy fog floated over the road. “Could you please talk a little softer?” Don asked. “I need to concentrate on my driving.”

Halfway home the unbelievable happened. The headlights on the bus went out. Don frantically tried to find the side of the highway while he pushed the brake pedal. Suddenly he was facing the headlights of an oncoming truck. There was a grinding crash as bus and truck collided.

Through the screaming and moaning, Don’s voice could barely be heard. “How badly are you hurt? Talk to me.” The noises subsided as each student reported in. No one was seriously hurt … no one but Don.

In a calm voice, he requested, “Would you do something for me? Please sing It Is Well with My Soul.” The kids kneeling close to Don understood this was not just a simple request. Don was dying.

Word trickled to the back of the bus. His students crowded around him. The singing began. Through the darkness, the sound of teenage voices rose … voices quavering … as they performed one last time for their teacher.

Before the paramedics arrived, Don had gone home. He hadn’t planned to go there tonight. But he was ready for the trip. Don’s inner person witnessed to his students that he had peace in his final journey.

Gail was the typical jolly, fat soul. Happiness just oozed from her pores. Even though she was short, she stood out in a crowd. She was the sounding board for young people who always gathered around her.

Very few people knew that one morning, after her husband and children had gone for the day; she blew out the pilot light in the oven, turned it on and stuck her head in. Her plan might have worked, except her husband forgot something and returned unexpectedly.

Only those of us who were the very closest understood the turmoil she dealt with … every day. Looking like the Pillsbury dough boy created a deep sense of shame and worthlessness.

Her inner person just wanted to die.

When Anna sang, her audience was captivated by the sound of her voice as it rolled over them. A picture of poise, she stood straight and tall, energizing the room with the feelings evoked by her song. Applause was long and loud.

Anna dressed like a model … with every hair in place. She exuded an aura of money and upper class up-bringing. But even in the warmer weather, she always wore long sleeves. In conversations about her, the story was passed along that she was always cold.

Anna was a “cutter”. To help herself feel alive, she needed the pain and the blood. She lived alone and no one knew her inner person was in torment.

Claire and her husband were very active in the church. She taught Sunday School and then on Sunday evenings they were leaders for the youth group. Claire was always there when a meal needed to be provided for a grieving family or one celebrating the birth of their baby.

She could have been a model … long hair … slender body. Yet, her name was given to me as someone who needed counseling. She had attempted suicide. In her mind her breasts were too small … and she could think of nothing else. She focused on her perceived flaw for hours … and sometimes days. If she couldn’t have plastic surgery, then suicide was the next step.

Claire had an anxiety disorder called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Even though her outer body was very pleasant to look at, all her inner person saw was imperfection.

He was black, unemployed and couldn’t speak good English … and he lived under a bridge. Most of the time he had no way to bathe, so didn’t smell very good. But Custer had pride … and didn’t want any handouts. If you were willing to give him a meal, then he would do some work in return.

When you saw Custer, the focal point was his smile stretching from ear to ear … all that white in his black face. Custer had Jesus. His inner person saw way beyond this life and looked ahead to heaven.

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This article has been read 591 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Connie Dixon09/16/10
Love this! You have so beautifully depicted the inner person in all of your characters. I wanted to know more about each one. Very nice.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/16/10
You have done a great job showing how many people can appear one way to the world but deep inside something entirely different is going on.
Sarah Heywood09/18/10
You did a nice job with this topic. I'd love too see this piece in a longer format, with the characters fleshed out more - it would make for riveting reading.

Great work!
Genia Gilbert09/19/10
Your title prepared the way for all these illustrations of what really goes on inside people that are in our sphere every day. Hope we'll be more alert to that.
Amanda Brogan09/20/10
What a great idea to show the differences of many people's souls! I was somewhat surprised when the story jumped from the bus driver to a completely different character, but I guess I should have seen that from the title. :) I found myself captivated by Don's story and wanting more! I love how he had all the students sing for him in his dying moments.

Love how you put all these short stories together so nicely. Great for the topic!
Christina Banks 09/21/10
You did a great job showing us the inner person in each of these characters.