Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Salt and Pepper (07/24/14)
TITLE: Like Pepper in the Wind
By Joe Moreland
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As he clocked in, Steve turned to Mike with his regular Monday morning greeting.
“Early as usual, I see.”
“Late as always, I see” came Mike’s standard reply.
“You hear the news about last night?”
“I was just catching up on it, why?” Mike seemed puzzled.
“I heard Bill was let go.”
“What? I didn’t hear that!”
“Greg called me last night. He was really excited.”
Mike frowned. “I bet he was. He should have had a field day.” He flipped through the reports on his desk. “But I don’t see anything out of the ordinary.”
Steve smiled. Everything was going according to plan. “Greg’s been taking it a little easy, these days. Maybe he’s slipping.”
Mike's eyes narrowed. “You’ve been taking it a little easy yourself these days. What’s going on?”
Steve tried unsuccessfully to hide his grin. He covered his mouth with his hand and coughed a little. “Nothing’s going on. You guys are doing a great job, that’s all.”
A light bulb went off inside Mike’s head and suddenly he was moving to the red phone that hung on the wall behind him.
“This is guardian 3241, I have an emergency. Yes, I know there’s been no alarm, but I’m telling you there’s something going on. Look, trust me…I need a memory verse. Yes. Psalm 37:24. Look, just do it. Thanks!” Mike hung up the phone.
Steve looked worried. “Ummm…what’s Psalm 37:24?”
Mike gave him a lopsided grin.
Roger woke up with his face stuck to a sheet of paper on his desk and an empty bottle lying under his left hand.
“Oh no.” The sound came out half groan, half whimper.
No! Not after all these years. But the clanging head, the dry mouth, and, most of all, the drained bottle of booze, all told him otherwise.
“You idiot!” The sound of his own voice caused his ears to start ringing. “How could you let this happen again?”
Roger put his head back on the desk and began to sob. Big heaving sobs. Depression settled over him as the ramifications began to set in. He couldn't go through this again. The last time had cost him so much. Now here he was, about to start it all over. He just couldn't do it.
As it had so many times before—before rehab—Roger's thoughts turned to ending it all. Anything was better than this. He picked his head up off the desk. Once more, the paper was stuck to the side of his face.
What is that?
Ripping the sheet from his cheek, Roger held it out to read. It took his bleary eyes a moment to focus, but something was scrawled across the page: Psalm 37:24.
“What the heck is that verse?” He must have written it down in his drunken stupor, before passing out last night. He reached for his Bible from the bookshelf, and opened it to Psalms.
“When he falls he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”
All depression and thoughts of ending his life lifted from Roger like a smothering blanket being tossed aside. He had never read that verse before in his life. Suddenly he knew God was telling him that this time would not be like before. And Roger believed Him.
“No, no, no!” Steve was yelling, trying frantically to work the controls on his interface. “What have you done?”
“Not much.” Mike was still grinning. “Just applied a little salt to cover your pepper.”
“What are you talking about? That doesn't make any sense.”
“You know, salt. The seasoning? You can't live without it. It's symbolic of our side.”
“And pepper is symbolic of our side? Why? Because it's black?”
“No, although that is a stark contrast. Did you know that pepper was once used to mask the taste of spoiled meat? Salt was used to preserve meat. That's all you really are, is a very strong flavor meant to hide the fact that it's poison you're shoveling down their throats. I just gave him a taste of something that's real, that's all.”
Steve's good mood had been whisked away. Like pepper in the wind.
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