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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)

TITLE: Soul Shopper
By Beth Muehlhausen


Soul Shopper

An ongoing series of patterned squares on the mall floor seemed to perfectly match my six-year-old steps. One, two, three, four … then tippy toes through the little squares … one, two, three, four. Both hands held treasures: my mother’s hand in my right and a bag with new school shoes in my left.

The mall seemed relatively quiet. I didn’t have to swerve even once to avoid an oncoming shopper, but could concentrate on my steps without interruption.

I was so preoccupied with the squares that I didn’t notice as my mother stiffened in response to a figure lurking in a dark shadow. As we passed the aisle leading to an exit, a very large man dressed in a black leather jacket and matching cap seemed to study us from behind black sunglasses. A cigarette smoldered from his hand as he slouched against the wall.

All of a sudden mother’s steps quickened. “C’mon, Anna, we need to hurry now,” she hissed.

“But Mommy, the squares … !”

“No time for squares, honey. We’ll do squares another time.”

Then I heard his voice. It sounded gruff, and pressed down on us with a fierce quality like what I would have expected from the dragon in my favorite storybook. “Hey you, woman, you with that little girl. Come over here.”

Mother almost lifted me off the ground as she trotted along, forcing me to keep up with her pace. “Didn’t you hear me?” he half-shouted through a growl. I glanced quickly over my shoulder – he was following us! What did he want?

“Why is that man walking toward us, Mommy?”

“Hush child, just keep moving and don’t look at him!”

I did as she said but banged my sack with the box full of shoes on the floor as I half-ran and half-skipped to keep up with her. The squares flew by, unnoticed.

“You! Woman! Stop right now and come back here! I need to talk to you!”

I felt a jolt of electricity, or maybe it was fear, jump through my mother’s now sweaty hand as she suddenly stopped us and turned to face the man in black. “What do you want? Why are you badgering us? Leave us alone!” She turned from side to side looking for help, but there were no witnesses in close range.

“Ah then, you don’t recognize me?” he laughed. How strange, I thought, for his voice to take on a friendly tone so quickly. Could we trust him?

“Recognize you? Of course not! I don’t know you!” Mother tossed her head and threw her curls from side to side indignantly. “Now what do you want?”

He reached up and pulled the sunglasses from his face with one hand and tipped his billed cap back with the other. Mother gasped and then shook with staccato laughter while I danced to her beat on the squares underfoot.

“Pastor! Oh my, now this is too funny! What in the world are you doing in that get-up?! Why, you scared me half to death!”

He squatted down beside me. “C’mere, Anna honey.” I sidled up to him, looked directly into his clear blue eyes and asked, “But where is that collar you always wear? Why are you dressed like this, Pastor Ken?”

Ken smiled up at mother who nodded her agreement. “Yes Ken, why ARE you incognito at the mall, anyway?”

“Well ladies, I come to the mall at least once a week anymore to do a little shopping … but not the kind of shopping you think. You see, if I dress like this … sort of pretend I’m someone else with a different lifestyle … you’d be surprised the conversations I can get into. Certain people are very comfortable with me dressed like this – people who wouldn’t begin to talk to a pastor wearing a clerical collar. But dressed my black leather they’re willing to talk to me about lots of things. It’s not hard to guide a conversation and maybe end up talking about spiritual things.”

A huge smile spread over mother’s face. “So you’re out here shopping for people to evangelize – clever!”

Meanwhile, I hugged my sack of shoes to my chest. “Wanna see my new school shoes, Pastor Ken?”

“Sure, honey, I’d like to see what you got today. Then I’d better get back to MY version of shopping … shopping for souls, that is.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey03/10/07
I was so afraid for the your charcters! I'm glad the man was the pastor and not some convict! I liked the tale told in the voice of the little girl. It added a different touch than had it been told by the mother or another adult. Nice imagery with the squares and the fear through the mother's hands.
Cassie Memmer03/14/07
Though suspenseful and ezxciting, I was a bit perturbed that a pastor would scare his 'sheep' like that! Grrr! Let me at him! LOL! Nice writing though and clever.
Sara Harricharan 03/14/07
Cute! I really thought they were about to get mugged. Great suspense and surprise woven in there! I like Ken's Version of 'shopping', very fun to read! ^_^
Terry R A Eissfeldt 03/14/07
You did a great ob communicating from the little girl's perspective - enjoyed it and kept me to the end
Jan Ackerson 03/14/07
Your first paragraph is a wonderful hook, with some amazing phrases--and the rest of the piece lived up to it.
Brenda Welc03/14/07
Where's the blood pressure medication? You really had my heart racing! I thought this was a great story, good concept! Keep up the good work.
Joanne Sher 03/14/07
Clever take on the topic. You definitely had me shaking in my shoes until I figured out what was going on! Could be me, but the thoughts, etc. seemed a bit too advanced for a 6-year-old. Loved the story, though!
Laurie Glass 03/14/07
You had me right there the whole time. I love how you brought the squares in throughout. Great point. I really like this one.
Myrna Noyes03/15/07
Certainly a suspenseful story, but I was concerned about the pastor's methods of evangelism. Maybe I'm old-fashioned (Okay, definitely, I am! :) ), but it seemed a bit deceptive and "dark" to me for someone who is supposed to be reflecting the light of Christ to the world. However, it was well-written, and I liked seeing things from the girl's point of view.
Julie Arduini03/15/07
My goodness I'm a wreck! You are a master in suspense! I thought this flowed great with strong characters. That's some pastor!