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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Astonishment (02/02/12)

TITLE: The Day Angel Died
By Leola Ogle
02/06/12


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I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it in astonishment. Putting it back to my mouth, I said, “Pardon me, but could you repeat that?”

“Is it true that Pastor Angel died?”

I paused, wondering if this was a joke. “I’m sorry, but I haven’t heard anything like that.”

“Well, is he there?”

“Not at the moment. I could put you through to his secretary.”

“No, let me talk to Jeff.” The caller was referring to our program director.

I transferred it to Jeff, explaining briefly the nature of the call.

It was 1992 and I was answering the phones that morning at Phoenix Teen Challenge. Unlike most Teen Challenge centers, ours had a fully functioning church on the property. Angel was pastor of Phoenix Inner City Church and the director of Teen Challenge.

It was a typical morning. There was certainly nothing to indicate that tragedy was lurking. Just when I convinced myself that the caller must surely be mistaken, another call came in. This time the caller sounded distraught, identifying himself as someone from Texas. Pastor Angel and his wife had family in Texas.

Now my astonishment turned to alarm. My hand trembled as I transferred the call to Jeff’s office.

Then the executive director from Teen Challenge in Tucson called and asked to speak to Jeff. I felt nauseous. When I saw that Jeff’s line had cleared, I summoned an intern to my office.

“Orlando, answer the phones. I need to run to Jeff’s office. I’ll be right back.”

“Sure,” he responded. “Hey, are you okay? You look sick.”

“I’m fine,” I murmured as I headed out the door. I flew up the stairs, knocking on the door before pushing it open. One look at Jeff and my heart dropped. His face was ashen and his eyes filled with anguish.

“Oh no! Is it true?” I choked out.

“I don’t know yet. Can you keep all calls from me while I make some calls of my own and try to find out what’s happened?” Jeff was already reaching for the phone.

“What should I tell people?”

“Just say that we’re trying to confirm the information,” Jeff replied.

I rushed to my office to relieve Orlando, who glanced at me and tried to pump me for information. I rolled my eyes and signaled that I wasn’t saying anything.

Although I felt overwhelmed, I managed to maintain a professional air as I handled normal incoming calls and a couple more inquiries regarding Pastor Angel’s demise. One call was from our fellowship’s district office. Our superintendent’s secretary asked to speak with Jeff, so I complied.

I thought of Pastor Angel’s wife and three young sons, of the impact his death would have on so many people, not to mention the ministry. In between calls, I prayed, willing myself not to break down in tears. He wasn’t just my boss, he was a friend, and a great inspiration and encouragement.

During a lull in the phones, I managed to swallow a few gulps of my soda. That’s when I saw it, out of the corner of my eye, through the side window of my office that looked out onto the parking lot.

My mouth dropped open and my eyes widened. What in the world? The door to my office opened and there he stood with that wide, infectious grin of his.

“How’s it going? Anything important that I should know about?”

“Dead. They said you were dead.” All I could do was whisper.

That grin never left his face. “What?”

I guess he didn’t hear me. “Dead!” This time my voice raised a couple of octaves.

His eyes flickered and his grin wobbled a little. “Who’s dead?”

“You!” I was still in shock. I reached for the phone and hit the page into Jeff’s office. “Jeff, Angel’s in my office.”

Jeff was in my office before I could blink. Pastor Angel was still grinning. “What’s up?” he asked Jeff.

Jeff stared, then blurted out, “We’ve been getting calls that you’d died. Your wife’s on her way to the hospital. Someone claiming to be a doctor called saying you’d had a heart attack and pronounced dead on arrival.”

Now Pastor Angel looked astonished, although that grin never left his face. “No! You’re not serious, are you?”

We were serious. It had been a well-planned hoax designed to cause grief and havoc. We talked about it for years. To my knowledge, the perpetrator was never discovered.

*Author’s note: This is a true story. Names have not been changed, although none of the above is at Phoenix Teen Challenge anymore. However, they are all still very much alive.


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This article has been read 248 times
Member Comments
Member Date
annie keys02/09/12
My husband and I personal friends of the Director of one of the facilities. Your story gripped my heart--I kept hoping the story was either fiction or it ended well. So thankful for the outcome! Mercy!

You might want to work some on 'conversations' in your writing. Quotes, without any kind of 'claimer', can be confusing, even when there are only two characters speaking.

It can help break up the monotony in over use of "he said & she said" by using descriptive words to show who is speaking. "I'm here, now." Mary said breathlessly. can really help put the reader in the room with Mary.

Well done, an edgy read! I'm SO glad it all was a bad (mean!)trick and not real!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/09/12
Wow, knowing this is a true story makes it even more incredible. Wasn't it Mark Twain who said The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated? This is an awesome story.

The only red ink I have is tiny. I was just reading one of the most common misused words is nauseous when it really should be nauseated. Nauseous means causing nausea or sickening where nauseated means feeling like you might throw up. :)

I think you did a wonderful job creating suspense. I can't imagine the cruelty of some people and find it astonishing that anyone would play such a horrible prank.
Hiram Claudio02/10/12
This really was a gripping and suspenseful story and even more so because it was true. You write very well and it kept me reading to the very end.

Wonderful work!
Camille (C D) Swanson 02/10/12
Quite an impressive entry. It held my attention and was riveting throughout.
God Bless~
Lisa Fowler02/15/12
Imagine, having to go through the entire day before finding out you're really dead! Great read and on topic for sure. Thanks for sharing.
Linda Goergen02/16/12
Yes, having someone walk in that you were told was dead would be astonishing. More astonishing is that someone would be cruel enough to start a rumor like that. Imagine the grief the wife was experiencing as she headed to the hospital. This was a well written, engrossing read!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/16/12
Congratulations for ranking 9th in level three!