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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Salt and Pepper (07/24/14)

TITLE: Like Pepper in the Wind
By Joe Moreland
07/30/14


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Steve arrived at work a few minutes after starting time, and noticed that his counterpart, Mike was already at his desk, having coffee and reading the overnight report.

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.

I can't.

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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This article has been read 103 times
Member Comments
Member Date
CD Swanson 08/02/14
Interesting story and well done...God bless~
Judith Gayle Smith08/03/14
You caused me to think, and that can be most unnerving. I find the format interesting, but my brain kinda froze - I must read it again - and I will . . .
Jennifer Liang08/04/14
Hi, I liked the tie in between the spiritual world and physical world.
I had to reread it to understand more and it has a lot more depth each reading.
Quick question - Do Mike and Steve share the same work space? Blessings to you this week.
Laury Hubrich 08/04/14
This was very thought-provoking and well-written but I have the same question as Jennifer. Did the men share the same work space? You're saying good & evil work side-by-side? Just wondering... It's your story. Your imagination. I read it a couple times too. That's a good thing:)
Joe Moreland08/04/14
I guess I will just put this out there, since more than one person seems to have the same question. I don't normally comment on my own stories, but I guess some clarification is needed (not a good sign).

What I was going for here was a more modern version of the angel on one shoulder, devil on the other cliché. Let's face it, everyone, saved or not, still fights their demons. In theory, those of us who are saved should be free of our past and it's true we have the key to break those chains and be free, but so many of us still hear the temptations or condemnation sent our way by the enemy. If you think good and evil don't operate in, or vie for, the same space then I'm not sure what you call what goes on the heart of the average Christian I've known in my life. We know who wins, but I'm not sure we always hear only His voice.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback thus far. I'm sorry the story wasn't more clear.
Rachel Barrett08/05/14
This may sound funny, but I was captivated by this story because it wasn't easy to grasp on first reading. I found it very deep and thought-provoking.

I was a little confused by Bill and Greg. Likely just me. I'm sometimes slow on the uptake when reading. Was Bill another man, and Greg his shoulder demon?

Forgive me for chuckling when I read the explanation about angel on one shoulder, devil on the other...for a minute all I could see was Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove.

I enjoyed this story. It felt like a snippet of something longer that could be really fascinating.
Bea Edwards 08/06/14
I liked your multi layered entry. It was one of those stories that needed to be read a few times in orderto garner its richness.