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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)

TITLE: Lance Goodbody, Lifeguard Extraordinaire
By Jan Ackerson


Lance Goodbody turned away from the police officer and bent down to gaze into the window of the nearby squad car. A lock of bleached blond hair had flopped over his brow in an unsightly manner. Lance smoothed the offending lock back into place and grinned at his reflection. My teeth are very white against my bronzed skin. I am a handsome man…

“Mr. Goodbody? Can we continue?” Officer Wright tapped Lance on the shoulder. “I still have lots of questions about what happened down there.” He pointed toward the beach, where paramedics from two ambulances were attempting CPR on several victims.

Lance dragged his gaze away from his own reflection. “Sure, dude. What d’ya want to know?”

“Well, in the first place, why did you let those people swim today? Weren’t the conditions too dangerous?” Behind the officer, four-foot waves crashed into the sand.

Lance snorted. “Hey, it was their choice. No one forced them to go into the water.”

Officer Wright stared at Lance in amazement. “Isn’t that your job, though, to keep them from danger?”

“Well, if you want to get all technical, I guess so. But man, it wasn’t that bad, dude. Just one time in the undertow won’t hurt. Besides, it’s boring swimming in the nice, calm water all the time. People gotta have a little bit of fun, dude. It’s no big deal.”

“Tell that to those guys being worked on over there.” The activity on the beach increased as one paramedic used heart paddles on a victim, while others called out frantic instructions.

Lance flexed a muscle and brushed a few grains of sand from his bicep. “Listen, dude, I gotta get back on my stand. Lotsa chicks—uh, people—down there are looking at me. I mean, looking up to me. I’m kinda like a role model. So is that all?”

“No, that’s not all. I have several more questions, Mr. Goodbody. Didn’t you see those people waving for help? Couldn’t you hear them screaming?”

“Dude, I heard ‘em, but I just couldn’t let it get to me, y’know? I mean, if I swam out there every time someone was in a little bit of trouble, I might offend ‘em, see? I don’t want ‘em to think I’m judging their swimming ability or anything.”

The officer blinked in disbelief. “But they were dying out there! You knew how to save them—why didn’t you?” On the beach, two of the victims were zipped into body bags.

“It’s like this, officer. Everybody’s different—there’s lots of ways of getting rescued. Maybe my way wouldn’t work for those people. Some people just aren’t into being dragged out of the water.” Lance spoke as if to a child. “You gotta respect their point of view, man.”

Officer Wright sputtered. “You call yourself a lifeguard?”

Lance examined his well-manicured fingernails. “Chill, dude. I figured someone would save ‘em. And you know what? There’s millions of beaches. I just can’t be responsible for all of them, so why sweat it? Besides, I didn’t want to—“ He hesitated for a moment, smoothing his tank top over his chest muscles. “—get all messed up, y’know?”

Snapping his notepad shut, Officer Wright spoke sternly. “Mr. Goodbody, I need to see your lifesaving certification.”

Lance patted the pockets of his swim trunks with a sheepish look. “Whoa, dude, I don’t have that on me. Truth is, I haven’t renewed it in years. Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard, right? Besides, it’s a bummer going to all those refresher courses.”

The last of the bodies on the beach below were loaded into ambulances. Officer Wright watched for a moment, then continued his interrogation. “Why wouldn’t you want to keep your skills current?”

“Well, officer, it’s like this. I can learn all I need to know about swimming by just hanging out here at the beach. I don’t need that lifeguard instructor always telling me what to do. And besides, those classes are just full of do-gooders—always blowing their whistles at every little splash. I’m a good enough lifeguard, dude. I even donate money to the Lifeguard’s Retirement Fund. Want me to show you how well I can swim?” Lance bounced on his toes, as if preparing to dash into the water.

The policeman shook his head. “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Goodbody. I believe I know just exactly how good a lifeguard you are.”

The ambulances pulled slowly away from the beach, their sirens silent.

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This article has been read 1744 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jen Davis11/16/06
I liked the double meaning throughout the story. Your message is a good one and really comes through. “You knew how to save them—why didn’t you?” Although this was a somber piece I still had to smile at the meaning behind: “…it’s a bummer going to all those refresher courses.” A very clever and creative piece. Nicely done!
Helen Paynter11/16/06
Excellent, excellent piece. Love the cut, love the subtlety, love the voices, loved the last few words. Perfection, as far as I'm concerned. I know who you are!
Angela Logsdon11/17/06
Great job!!! Powerful message done in a very unique way. Loved it!!!!
James Clem 11/17/06
Wonderful allegory - cleverly done. Loved the name choices.

nitpik: I'd cut the last line, ending with the policeman's final words.
Joanne Sher 11/17/06
Exceptionally poignant allegory, and a great story even without it! I think everyone, if they look hard enough, will see themselves in this somewhere. I know I did!
Lynda Schultz 11/17/06
Lots of "ouch!" value here. Great message well written.
Trina Courtenay11/18/06
I have to agree with all of the above comments and the nitpik. Dude, this is a masterpiece!
Suzanne R11/19/06
I love the way Lance talks. Clever names. Excellent message. Well done!
Jan Ross11/19/06
Excellent story that could be used as a "sermonette". I love it! Masterfully created! :)
Donna Haug11/20/06
"I mean, if I swam out there every time someone was in a little bit of trouble, I might offend ‘em, see? I don’t want ‘em to think I’m judging their swimming ability or anything." Yeah, ouch! Personally, I liked the last line - emphasized the point that while he defended himself, those people died. Great job.
Shari Armstrong 11/20/06
Oh - a great lesson - hopefully people pay attention! well done.
Venice Kichura11/20/06
Great message and so masterfully written! The ending was excellent
Donna Powers 11/20/06
This made me laugh but there is an important reminder buried in the humor. Excellent article. Thanks for sharing it
Betty Castleberry11/20/06
This was a very good read. I like your main character's "cool" voice. Like the message in your story as well. Very well done.
Stephen Paynter11/21/06
Awesome dude, awesome! I loved Lance's voice. I also found his arguments strangely familiar ... now that is what I call an allegory!

For what it's worth, I disagree with the nitpics ... I think the last sentence adds extra solemnity
to the piece, and masterfully underlines the seriousness of such a laissie-faire (sp?) attitude to ... life-saving.

So ... who will stand in the gap ...?
Lynda Lee Schab 11/21/06
This is exactly why you are in Masters, Jan. Excellent writing, great story and even greater message. This one commands the reader to stop and think. My toes got a little stepped on this morning...in a good way. A contender, for sure!
Allison Egley 11/21/06
Wow. This one is funny, and yet hits way too close to home in some places. I also think the last line is perfect and adds a lot to the story.
Val Clark11/22/06
Sucked me right in and then got me right where it hurts. Ouch. Well done. :-) Loved the voice and the characterisation. Subtle yet clear. yeggy
Sally Hanan11/22/06
Brilliant Jan! I love your serious message, doused in humor, without diluting anything.
Maxx .11/22/06
Way rad, dude! Like, it totally rocked! You'll, like, land a gnarly score!
Marie Fieldman11/22/06
Julianne Jones11/23/06
Very clever and very well done. And definitely 'ouch' material.
Debbie OConnor11/24/06
This was so much fun to read. "I am a handsome man..." Congrats on your win. Love it!
Debbie OConnor11/24/06
I reread this after I left my comment from memory. Jan, this was so excellent. A message that the church needs to read, delivered perfectly.