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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: This Side of Paradise (not about the book) (07/14/11)

TITLE: Hail Mary
By Marita Thelander


I knew it would come to this eventually. I lived, if you can call it living, on the wrong side of the tracks. The wrong side of the law, the wrong side of the prison wallsÖif there was anything to be on the wrong side of, I lived there.

I was born to a drug addict who prostituted herself to support her habit. Doesnít it always come down to who gave birth to you?

Mama was beautiful, even in her drug-stricken form. ďHail Mary, full of graceÖĒ I remember the men teasing from some prayer they learned, but the words they said after that werenít prayerful at all.

I started stealing at the ripe old age of none. Mama would stuff things inside her maternity clothes and walk right out of the store. She came in looking four months pregnant and went out with a rounded belly of about eight. She laughed every time she told that story.

From there things were wrapped in my baby blanket, swaddled around my innocent body. Then came diaper bags, back-packs, and eventually I took care of getting whatever goods out I could.

Life in a hookerís home made me a man in every sense of the word before I had hair under my armpits. There was no hope for me. At least thatís what I heard over and over. No hope to be anything but a pathetic criminal in a 5x9 on death row, waiting for it all to come to an end.

God was only a word I spewed followed by a string of other colorful choices. I tried to doubt His existence, but once in awhile I saw things that made me know He was real. I should be dead, but I know I experienced some sort of divine intervention more than once.

Ironic, isnít it? I should be dead and here I sit waiting to die, but Iím not dead? I wonder if Iíll ever die.

Iíve talked to the chaplain once in awhile. Itís sort of good to talk things out. He told me all about Jesus and his mama, Mary. He told me about how he died on a cross between two thieves and how one thief cursed him and the other asked to be remembered when he came into his kingdom. The chaplain told me I had a choice what type of thief I wanted to be before I hit the chambers: the cursing or confessing kind.

One night I stared at the ceiling and thought about a lot of things. The chaplain talked about my mama and about how her name was the same as Jesusí mother. I got to thinking about how it all comes down to who your mama is.

Jesusí Mary was a virgin that God almighty chose to give birth to His son. My mama was anything but a virgin who accidentally gave birth to a son.

Yet both sons were sentenced to death.

I decided right then and there to pull a Hail Mary prayer football style. You know, where a quarterback throws a desperate pass aimed towards the end zone and prays it lands into the right hands? I got on my knees like some pictures Iíd seen of little kids and women saying their night time prayers. I told God how His son and I have a thing or two in common, so if He didnít mind, Iíd like to address my prayer to His son.

I said: Jesus, Iím a convicted criminal sentenced to die and I deserve it. I heard about the two guys that died on the cross when you didÖthe cursing and confessing thieves. Tonight I want to be a confessing thief. Iím sending you my own Hail Mary prayer in honor of our mamas. Iím asking you to remember me in your kingdom when I die like you did the thief on the cross.

After I prayed, I felt clean inside and lay there quietly and pretended to hear Jesus say: I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.

Then it hit meÖIím not dyiní yet. I could wait to confess until the last minute when they strap me to the chair and stick the needle in my vein. I looked around my cell and thought, why would I wait?

I did the crime, Iím doiní the time, and as long as Iím on this side of paradise, I choose to live what life I have left as a confessing thief.

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This article has been read 3057 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Eliza Evans 07/23/11
Very good. I enjoyed reading this.

"I started stealing at the ripe old age of none." Nice.

At first I thought this was a girl so you might want to establish that earlier on. :)

"I decided right then and there to pull a Hail Mary prayer..."

I love that paragraph. Great voice!

I like the Chaplain and his analogies.
Kimberly Russell07/23/11
Well done. You told a hard-hitting story without wrapping it up all neat and tidy. Lots of raw emotions and very realistic. Terrific.
Laury Hubrich 07/24/11
I feel like I know this young man. What a life to be born into. Excellent story-telling, as always:)
Jim McWhinnie 07/25/11
Quality story-telling with excellent sentence styling.

Quite effective.
Noel Mitaxa 07/25/11
I love how you introduce and maintain a crossflow of similarities and contrasts and keep us with you all the way.
Thank God for prison chaplains - for of all preachers they have a captive audience.
Very well-written.
Edy T Johnson 07/25/11
Wow, this is good! How you managed to get such a complete story across within the word limit amazes me. I especially liked the pastor's making a connection for the man on death row with the thieves on the cross. This is a keepsake!
marcella franseen07/27/11
This is really good! Very, Very well done!
Francy Judge 07/28/11
Congratulations on your well-deserved first place. I enjoyed this interesting story told with a great voice and style.
Glynis Becker07/28/11
Story-telling at its best. A great piece and a well-deserved win...congratulations!!
Margaret Kearley 07/28/11
Wow - this really touches the heart with its excellent storyline. Beautifully written. Congrats on your very well deserved 1st place.
Carol Penhorwood 07/28/11
I certainly agree with the judges. This is first rate. A story that will stick in my mind for a long time. Congratulations!
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/28/11
Congratulations on "sitting on top" with this outstanding story! The last paragraph is "priceless."
Joy Bach 07/28/11
All of the above, Mari. You are definitely an awesome writer. And I can say I know you ... or when you are famous ... I knew her when.
Eliza Evans 07/28/11
Excellent voice. Love it.

Congratulations on this bit of awesomeoness, Mari!
Mona Purvis07/28/11
Mari, I love this for so many reasons. First of all, it's believable, a real story. The POV is strong and lets the reader get into the mind of the character. Then it 'says something' worth saying, it has a point. Just splendid and worthy.
Rita Garcia07/28/11
WOW! Mari, God has really given you a mighty gift with words! I look forward to seeing how He choses to prosper this gift! Love you! CONGRATULATIONS!
Bonnie Bowden 07/28/11
Congratulations on your first place win.

The story was told with conviction and promise. Excellent perspective about a young man in prison.
Yvonne Blake 07/29/11
Wow! This definitely deserved 1st place! Great Gospel message wrapped in an interesting setting and story.
Beth LaBuff 07/29/11
Mari, I LOVE this!! Excellent in so many ways. It gave me goosebumps. You definitely deserved your editor's choice award. Super congrats on 1st place!!
Uzoamaka Eneli09/20/11
Wow!i love this.i really love your style of writing.it makes easy for the reader to comprehend.Congratulations again!
Seema Bagai 07/01/12
Congrats on your BoB placing!
Joanne Sher 07/01/12
Mari - this is absolutely, positively STUNNING. Just WOWzers. Congrats and 2nd place BoB, my friend (and I need/get to interview you - watch for that :D). LOVE ya.
Michael Edwards 07/01/12
Hi Marita,

Great entry and very deserving. Bea and I love sharing the gospel and this really touched our heart.

Congratulations and God Bless, Mike & Bea Edwards

Glynis Becker07/01/12
Re-reading this reminded me how much I love this piece. Congratulations on your win!
Amy Michelle Wiley 07/01/12
I can see why this was a runner up for the Best of the Best. Awesome job!
Catrina Bradley 07/01/12
Mari, this is so AWESOME. The thief's prayer made me almost cry. Love it - congrats times a kazillion on your BoB 2nd place!
Danielle King 07/01/12
Marita, this is superb and well deserving of runner up in BoB! Congratulations!
Betty Castleberry07/01/12
Whoa! This is very good. Especially love the voice.
Allison Egley 07/01/12
Wow. This is amazing. A mighty big "CONGRATS" on 2nd place Best of the Best!
Beth LaBuff 07/01/12
Mari, you have so many wonderful elements and references in this. Super, heart-felt congratulations on 2nd place Best of the Best for 2012!!! <3 <3 <3
C D Swanson 07/09/12
Congrats! I am so happy for you. God Bless~
Myrna Noyes07/11/12
Marita, I too congratulate you for a story so very well-told!
Winnie Kaetzel09/29/12
Praise God, young man. Welcome to the family of God. You are loved.

--a sister in Christ
Don V. Standeford06/23/14
Nice story. Very real.