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Strength Chapter One
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Chapter One—The Accident
Seventeen year old Thomas Wilson looked hopefully at the clock. Fifteen seconds remained before his life as a high school quarterback ended. It was the last game of the season, and the score was 21 to 15. They were losing. His team, the Logansport Lions, was playing against the Louisville Knights. He received the play from his coach and ran back onto the field. They were 30 yards away from tying the game, and if they got the extra point, they would win.
“Hut!” he cried, gasping for the air to keep enduring. The countdown started. 15…
“It seems the Lions need a miracle to win this one,” the sports announcers started…14 …“They’re too tired to play that hard.”…13…“Wilson looking for an open man.”…12…“The Knight’s number 52 makes it through the linemen.”…11…“It seems the QB will be sacked.” …10…“Wilson sees number 52 approaching.”…9…“Wilson runs right to avoid 52.”…8…“Wilson’s running full speed down the field!”…7…“He’s at the 25.”…6…“He’s at the 20.”…5…“He’s at the 15.”…4…“He’s at the 10.”…3…“He’s at the 5.”…2…“Touchdown Lions!” “That was the greatest play I’ve ever seen!” the sports announcer hooted. He continued, “Extra point by Smith is good! The Lions have won the game 22 to 21.”
After taking a shower in the gym, Thomas offered to take his teammates out for a soda. On their way to Frank’s Diner, he recalled what Coach Jones had said to him before the game had started. “I sure am gonna miss having a quarterback who can throw the ball accurately and run like the wind. There’s no replacing you.” After the game, he and the coach had had a more serious discussion.
“Life has lots of problems, and for most of them you can’t just juke out of the way. You have to face them with strength, which you can only find in Jesus. If you stay with Him, you’ll find that it’s easier to get through those problems.”
Thomas had just nodded, and then walked off to the locker room with his teammates. He went to church with his family every Sunday morning, but he didn’t exactly believe in God. Thomas turned into the diner’s entrance and pulled into a parking space. The place was unusually full for a Sunday night. Almost everyone in Logansport was at the Strength of Jehovah Church for prayer meeting. Only several young people and the football team were absent. Thomas followed his teammates into the diner and sat down at a booth with Edward Carter and a couple other friends. He had known Edward since the fourth grade, and they had become better friends every year. Edward wasn’t exactly what they call a saint, but Thomas didn’t mind, as long as he had a good friend. The waitress came to their table and took their orders. As they were waiting for their food, Edward said, “So Thomas, since we played so hard, I think we deserve a beer, don’t you?”
“Well first,” Thomas started, “you only played for about five minutes of the game; and second, it’s not gonna happen. We’re seventeen, and everyone in here knows it.”
“Just leave it to me,” his friend answered dramatically.
Thomas sighed. He didn’t like alcohol, but he still drank it. Every time he had it, he could feel himself becoming more and more addicted to it. Edward walked up to the counter and talked to one of the waitresses. It was Molly McCuller, Eddy’s girlfriend. Anything he asked her to do, she did it. Sometimes Thomas thought she would even kill herself if Eddy requested it of her. Eddy Carter’s father was the owner of seven widely known steel companies. Mr. Carter somehow managed to keep half of his money during the Great Depression, which left him one of the richest people in the country. In September of 1939, steel production tripled in America when the second Great War, as Thomas called it, began. Eddy’s looks made him appear to be an average boy, but his wealth made him one of the most popular guys at Logansport High. He wore thick red hair, and his face was covered with hundreds of big freckles. On top of that, he wasn’t very skinny either. Thomas, on the other hand, had silky blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and arms that were more muscular than one would deem possible for a boy his age. Eddy returned to the booth with two bottles of alcohol hidden within his expensive, leather jacket. They paid for their untouched sodas and hurriedly sneaked behind Frank’s Diner. As Thomas opened the beer bottle, he thought of the first time he had drunk alcohol. He had been sixteen, and his football team had just won another game. Thomas hated the bitter taste of the beverage and the awful smell it left, but if it kept him the most popular guy in school, he would continue to drink it. At Logansport high school, a guy needed three things to be popular: a convertible, a six pack, and a big wardrobe. Thomas had all three. When he and Eddy had finished the alcohol, they headed back into the diner to inform the team that they were headed home. “We’re gonna leave now,” Eddy said, every word a slur as he wobbled back and forth. The coach looked suspiciously into Eddy’s eyes and asked, “Have you been drinking?” “No,” was his reply. “Thomas?” the coach asked disappointedly. “I’ll drive you both home,” he sighed.
“I’ll drive,” Eddy said. “We’ll be all right, coach,” Thomas said convincingly. “All right, but I’m calling both of your parents,” he said reluctantly. Thomas followed Eddy out the door and into the car. It was a red 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe Convertible. He and Eddy had saved for three years to get the car, with only a small donation from Eddy’s father. Mr. Wilson had disapproved of Eddy and him buying the expensive car, especially during a war, but had given in after they had earned all of the money by themselves. They had just made the purchase two months ago, and they took the car everywhere. Eddy had a choice of eight different convertibles at his family’s garage, so he agreed to let Thomas keep the expensive vehicle in the Wilson’s driveway.
“So Tom,” Eddy said, “are you excited about the trip we got comin’ up? My dad said we get to stay at an army base with him.”
“I sure am!” Thomas answered, remembering how excited he was when Edward had invited him to go to a U.S. Naval Base in Hawaii. Eddy’s father had a business deal with the base, and had kindly invited Eddy and him along. They would leave on the first of December and return on the twenty-first. Eddy had given him a brochure about the base, which he had put safely in his dresser drawer. Eddy drove the car onto Mayfield Avenue. He was thirty miles over the speed limit, but Thomas didn’t notice it. He was dazed, just like he always was after drinking a bottle of alcohol. The light was red, but neither of them saw it. Thomas reached for the steering wheel to drive them out of the way of an oncoming car, but it was too late. Thomas and Eddy were hit hard on the right side of their car. The convertible flipped and Thomas felt a stinging pain on the back of his head. His eyes closed as his mind went blank.
Thomas heard the constant thumping of his heart. He slowly opened his eyes; his vision was very blurry. His ears were ringing, but he could hear someone say, “He’s awake.” “Eddy?” Thomas heard himself say. “Eddy’s down the hall a ways recovering, but he’s gonna be fine,” a man said to him. It was then that everything returned to him—the football game, the drink…the accident. His head throbbed, and he believed he might faint. His vision slowly returned to him, and he saw his brother and Nancy Miller. Thomas’s brother, Paul Wilson, was only twenty years old, but he was more like a father to him. Their father wasn’t around for him much. Paul was Mr. Wilson’s favorite child, him being the oldest, and because Thomas played football, Mr. Wilson saw him as a disgrace to the family. Thomas tried to ignore the fact that his father hated him and lived his life without a father. Whenever Thomas was in trouble, Paul came to the rescue. Paul listened, when Mr. Wilson did not. Paul also cared when Mr. Wilson found no time to care. Nancy Miller, the girl sitting next to Paul, was Paul’s girlfriend. She was a very pretty brunette who worked as a secretary for the boss at the Logansport Times, the local newspaper. “You were unconscious for two days. You alright?” Paul asked. Thomas gave a quick nod to show that he was truly alright, but he saw that his hands were shaking. “Where am I?” Thomas asked after putting his hands under the sheets of the bed he was laying on. “We’re at the Cass County Hospital,” his brother replied, “What happened?” Before Thomas could answer his brother and tell him the truth about the alcohol, the door to the room opened and a doctor walked in. He looked like he was about 50 years old, and he wore round glasses that covered his blue eyes. “Hello, I’m Dr. Brown,” he said, extending his hand toward Paul. Paul shook it as the doctor asked, “How’s our patient?” “I’m okay,” Thomas spoke determinedly, but deep down not feeling alright at all. “Now, I’m going to have to ask you a few questions to calculate the right time to send you home. Is that alright with you?” the doctor asked almost in a whisper. Thomas nodded reluctantly. Dr. Brown’s questions were quick and simple, including, “How does your head feel?” and “Is your vision blurry?” He wrote all of Thomas’s answers on a large maroon notepad that was entitled “DR. JERIMIAH BROWN”. Thomas stared at the clock that hung on the wall to the right of him. It was eight o’ clock in the evening, and his brother continued to sit by his side, even after Nancy had left. “One last question,” the doctor spoke up, his big round reading glasses at the tip of his nose, “we’re you intoxicated at the time of the automobile accident?” The question hit Thomas like a heavy weight, and he could feel his face turn red. Paul’s once weary eyes looked wide and full of wonder at his little brother. “Yes,” Thomas answered shortly. Dr. Brown gave a quick nod, scribbled something down in his notebook, and said, “We should have you going home in a few days. The man and the woman who were in the other car are going to be fine and say they aren’t planning on taking the matter to court. Your convertible was crushed, and the police said it was almost impossible to get you and your friend out of it. God really must have been with you and Mr. Carter. You should be thankful you’re alive.” Right now, Thomas didn’t feel lucky to be alive at all. Dr. Brown shook Paul’s hand once again, and left the stuffy room. “What were you thinking Tom?” Paul let out, “Drunk driving is against the law. This could cost hundreds of dollars to fix.” Paul scratched his black hair with his left hand, one of his habits, and then rubbed his temples with his pointer fingers. “I’m sorry, I really am, but I wasn’t driving,” Thomas said. Paul sighed, “I can’t deal with this now. I’ve gotta go home and tell the family what happened, and then go to work.” Thomas’s brother worked at an automobile repair shop, where he’d been working since he was sixteen. Just several months ago, Mr. Andrews, the man who owned the shop, died and left the entire place to Paul, who had been running it ever since. Paul said goodbye, then left Thomas alone, where he sat for three hours until he put his problems aside and fell asleep to the ticking of the clock on the wall.
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