Miguel collapsed, dazed. His heart pounded in his chest as if he’d just run a marathon. Adrenaline coursed through his veins loosing his mind from the effects of the tequila he’d consumed a few hours before.
He pushed himself up and sat facing the water. The half-moon above him played tricks with the shadows while salt water seeped through his jeans. The consistent pounding of the waves pushed fingers of foam up the beach, circling his worn shoes, then pulling them to the ocean again.
Looking back over his shoulder, Miguel squinted through the darkening night to the form of a young man stumbling up the bank. The soft, ankle-deep sand seemed to slow his progress. As he crawled over the aging, brick sea wall, headlights from a motorist passed over him, spotlighting a glistening trail of blood down the side of his face, then moving on. Miguel noticed him glance back one last time, then disappear across the street.
Fragments of memories began connecting in Miguel’s brain – a night’s worth of puzzle pieces collectively creating a sequence of events.
He vaguely remembered stumbling from the cantina into the street, out of drink and money. As he had pushed through the evening crowd his attention was caught by a well-dressed young man looking strangely out of place, just a few paces ahead of him. Miguel began concocting a plan born out of an alcoholic’s desperation for the next drink.
Across a busy intersection, then through a narrow lane they had come out at a popular beach, now deserted. In the next crazy moments, Miguel had grabbed a loose brick, jumped the young man from behind and began pummeling him to the sound of the surf and screams. His and the young man’s.
Miguel had overestimated his own strength and underestimated his victim’s, but with a sudden turn of luck and quick reactions on his part he found himself straddling the young man. Raising both arms in the air, the brick between his hands, he knew this was his chance.
Even now he couldn’t remember where the two men came from. Unless… No, the voices couldn’t have just been in his head. He had heard them, plain as day, above the wind and crashing water.
The first sneered, prodded. “Do it. Finish him while you can. Take his money and run.”
The second, strangely calming, spoke with a fatherly tone, reminding Miguel of a gentler time in his childhood. “Release him and you both live.”
Taking advantage of Miguel’s hesitation and obvious distraction, the young man had pushed out of the stronghold, squirming just beyond reach.
“Seems God… has heard… your prayers and… given you rescue.” Miguel gasped between breaths.
“What’s going on down there?”
Both of them, momentarily blinded by a strong beam of light, hesitated. Miguel panicked as he saw the distinctive shape of the policia’s uniform, then noticed the parked cruiser to the right. The young man spoke, turning his bloodied cheek away from the searching light.
“Everything’s fine, Officer.”
As the car drove off, Miguel looked into the eyes of his victim and watched him speak with a quiet confidence.
“It looks like I’m not the only one with a rescue tonight. God is giving you a chance to start over; to find a better way to live.” Struggling to stand on shaky feet, he attempted to wipe off the wet sand, then stumbled up the bank.
Now, with the young man’s words still ringing in Miguel’s ears, he tried to make sense of all that had just happened. Overwhelmed by relief yet stunned by disbelief, his mind swirled, confused.
Suddenly repulsed by his actions, he hurled the brick into the ocean. Shame and guilt covered him like a heavy blanket, causing an even greater disorientation. After the life he’d led, all that he had stooped to and been a part of, he never would have imagined getting a break. Why was this happening to him? Anybody could see he didn’t deserve it.
A strange voice startled him. “Excuse me, Senor. I was wondering if you needed some help.”
Struck by the compassionate eyes of the village padre, Miguel covered his face with dirty, bloodstained hands and sobbed.
**Author's note: Testimony has been given of a similar event taking place earlier this summer. God is, indeed, the giver of second chances.
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