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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Day and Night (07/10/14)

TITLE: Good Ol' Billy
By Lollie Hofer
07/16/14


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This wasn’t the first gravesite service held on the hill overlooking the Reynolds’ homestead nor would it be the last; but by far, it would probably be the most memorable. It started out like every other service where the entire family was present with the exception of the deceased, of course. The Reynolds’ clan prided themselves on memorializing their dearly departed.

Pushing back damp locks with one hand and fanning fervently with the other, Mazie began the diatribe. Leaning close to her sister her pretense at a whisper was heard by all.

“You’d think that someone would have the courtesy to die in the spring or fall for a change. Why does it always have to be in the freezing clutches of winter or the sizzling heat of summer?” A few murmurs of assent were heard.

Sitting in a watery pool of sweat, Gertie’s fan kept pace with Mazie’s. “Hush, sister. That’s no way to honor the dead. Don’t turn around but there’s a burly guy with snake tattoos sitting in the last row. Kind of creepy, if you ask me.”

All eyes turned six rows back to a man who already seemed uncomfortable. After pulling at the collar of his short-sleeved white shirt, the man stared at the grass beneath his feet. The stranger was saved from further scrutiny as the elderly minister, who had been the Reynolds’ pastor forever it seemed, began to eulogize the man who had died in a tractor accident. Letting out a deep sigh now that he wasn’t being scorned, the stranger couldn’t stop the one tear that slid down his face and splashed onto his hand.

The service progressed down a familiar path until the very end. Everyone knew what should have come next after “Amazing Grace” was sung by Cousin Fester. Instead of hearing the expected “ashes to ashes and dust to dust…” adjusting his glasses, the Reverend cleared his throat saying, “At this time a friend of the deceased, Tuffy Sloan, would like to say a few words.”

Hearing a chair creak all eyes once again looked six rows back as the large man stood.

“Well, I never!” hissed Mazie.

“Hush!” Gertie commanded. “Let’s hear what he has to say.”

“Uhm, I-I-I’m not much of a public speaker but, heck, I just gotta share with you what Billy Reynolds done for me. As you can all see, I’m a big, mean ol’ cuss. Well, I used to be,” Tuffy said as he walked over to the casket.

“Billy used to come to the prison where’d I was holed up for armed robbery. He’d get out his fiddle and sing about God and all and then preach from his Bible. Shoot! My buddies ‘n me would go to the meetings just for something to do. We liked the music but mostly made fun of his religion and all. I didn’t quite git Jesus lovin’ a man like me. Nope. I refused to believe He would die for me.”

Absently patting the casket Tuffy continued his story.

“Then one day I opened my stupid mouth and got the shi….the snot beaten out of me. I was in a hospital ICU for a long time with my head bashed in. Here, you can see the scars on the back of my head.”

Folks cringed as Tuffy showed them the scars.

“It’s amazing but every time I came to, Billy was sittin’ there by the bed in a rickety ol’ chair. It didn’t matter whether the sun was shining or the moon was a-glowin’. Day and night Billy was there. Just a singing and praying and telling me about Jesus. Some folks think I’m crazy but I swear I heard him even in the depth of unconsciousness. I-I-I owe him my life.”

Not able to stop the tears anymore Tuffy allowed them to flow down his face and neck soaking his white shirt.

“And what he said started to make sense. Enough sense that when I woke up for good I gave my heart to Jesus. I ain’t that mean ol’ cuss anymore. I still don’t understand why Jesus would love a loser like me but I’m glad He does. And I know He loves you too.”

Rubbing at the scars on his head Billy walked back to his chair. No one moved, no one said a word. Finally, the Reverend stood.

“Let’s sing ‘Amazing Grace’ one more time,” he said. “I don’t think we’re done here quite yet thanks to good ol’ Billy.”


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This article has been read 145 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Phillip Cimei 07/17/14
Outstanding! Great writing. The setting was felt as was the character development. This is a winner. it would be hard for many of the elite christian sect to accept this poor rough soul's conversion. I will be watching for future writing.
Lois Farrow07/17/14
Beautiful, heart-warming story. Well done. A reminder not to judge on outward appearance.
Lynda Schultz 07/17/14
Wonderful story. Love the "accent" of the characters.
Virgil Youngblood 07/17/14
I enjoyed the flow of the story and the characters you created. Well done.
Gregory Kane07/18/14
Great stuff. Certainly put Mazie and Gertie in their place!
Danielle King 07/19/14
I was right there in the funeral service sitting alongside your great characters. Wonderful story with a powerful message.
lynn gipson 07/19/14
I loved this story of the stranger who testified for Jesus. The dialogue was spot on. He could have been from my neck of the woods!

Very well written and really great job!
Margaret Kearley 07/19/14
A wonderful wonderful story beautifully told - surely 'Amazing Grace' could not be sung in more appropriate heartfelt circumstances. This was a God-glorifying delight to read. Thankyou.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/19/14
What an awesome story! The dialogue between characters made it very real. I loved the "tough guy." Well done!
Joe Moreland07/19/14
I love everything about this piece, the characters, the names of the characters the backstory that Tuffy tells. Just a great, great job.

One little bit of red ink, and something I've learned as a scriptwriter in the past. Be sure to remain consistent in your character's dialogue. Tuffy's previous dialogue didn't seem to indicate that he would say something like "...in the depths of unconsciousness" as much as he'd say "even when I weren't awake". :)

But that is extremely nit-picky and a very minor item in an otherwise excellent piece.

Thanks for sharing it with us.
Phyllis Inniss 07/20/14
What a great and touching story. Your outline of the characters was very convincing and this could be a good theatre setting. I admire the way you hinted at the big, burly guy at the beginning and his important role in the story.
Brenda Rice 07/20/14
Wonderful story that seemed to unfold right in front of me. Your dialog is great! The topic is displayed with creativity and your point is made clear from the most unexpected source.

Have to say, this is my favorite this week. Thanks for sharing.
Graham Insley 07/20/14
This was an excellent story told with great skill. You did a great job of developing the characters and I loved the fact that Gertie talked just as loud as her sister, while telling her to hush.

My red ink is to draw attention to the first, very long sentence. As a hook it would work better if it was punctuated a little differently and a few words chopped...

This wasn’t the first gravesite service held on the hill overlooking the Reynolds’ homestead. Nor would it be the last. But it would be the most memorable.

Of course, this is only my opinion and many obviously found no problem here.

I loved the dialog (but do agree with Joe above) and felt you did a great job of bringing everyone to life.

Blessings.

Jody Day 07/21/14
Tender and poignant slice of life. I really liked it.

“You’d think that someone would have the courtesy to die in the spring or fall for a change..." is such an attention getter sentence. I would start with that.

Great job:)
Bea Edwards 07/21/14
I absolutely adored the way you crafted this tale.

Great piece of storytelling, it lifted my spirits, put a smile on my face, and energized me to throw a few more bricks!
Judith Gayle Smith07/21/14
Poignant, clever, disarmingly witty and what an ending! Love this!
Diane Bowman07/21/14
Wonderful story. I like the way the telling of the family members wishing he had died in cooler time of year accentuated the love the stranger had for him.
Camille (C D) Swanson 07/22/14
Echoing everyone's statements including my own, one word "epic!"

A winner!

God bless~
Lollie Hofer 07/24/14
Since we've already thrown bricks and folks know this is my story...I just wanted to express my appreciation and gratitude to everyone for their words of encouragement and for the red ink. You have blessed my socks off. I'm thankful to the Lord for leading me to this site and for His anointing, inspiration, illumination, and direction. I can't (and don't want to) write without His input and anointing. Again, thank you for your kindness. God is Good!
Camille (C D) Swanson 07/24/14
Congrats!

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/24/14
Congratulations on ranking 4th in your level and 22 overall.