Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: CROWD (07/06/17)
TITLE: Standing Out From The Crowd
By Nicki Jeffery
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Whoosh! The rollercoaster races around the track.
Moments later it slows to a stop. One young man sits head and shoulders above the other passengers. As he unfolds his legs and clambers out of his carriage, Chad sees his grandfather wink. He walks the few steps to the waiting area.
“Quite a ride, eh?” Sid leans on his walking stick and looks up at the 21-year-old.
Chad smirks. “Yeah.”
“The young lass behind you had a nice windbreak.”
Chad rolls his eyes. “Aren’t you sick of making tall jokes yet, Pop?”
The same smirk appears on Sid’s face. “Take it from a shorty like me, Chad. Being tall is an asset. You stand out from the crowd in more ways than one.”
Chad shudders at the memory of his classmates calling him lanky.
“Hey Lanks, how’s the weather up there?”
“You had better duck, Lanky, ‘cos there’s an aeroplane coming.”
“I don’t like standing out from the crowd.” Chad retrieves his backpack and the pair start walking. “I’d rather melt into obscurity.”
The noisy theme park surrounds them, but it is always calming when Chad spends time with Sid.
“Remember Saul, son of Kish, was a head taller than anyone else.”
“What good did that do him in the end?”
“He was God’s chosen one. His choices let him down, but he could have been a great king.”
“Ice cream?” Chad lingers at the shop.
“Sure. My shout.” Sid pulls out his wallet and orders two double waffle cones of salted caramel and cookies and cream ice cream. The cold substance slides down like velvet, smooth and soothing.
Lost in thought, Chad wonders, as usual, how his pop senses he is making bad choices. Or about to make them.
“I wasn’t a head taller than my friends, and I wasn’t smarter than any of them,” Sid wipes smeared ice cream from his chin with a napkin. “But I could say ‘no’. That night when Jimmy took his father’s car out for a spin when we were 15, I didn’t go. I remember it like it was last week.
“April 15. Four friends. One quiet road. And then the truck came around the bend.”
Chad holds his breath.
“Four coffins. My life was forever changed.” Sid taps his fingers on the outdoor table as though playing a piano. “Stand out from the crowd, son. It’ll save your life.”
As they stand, Chad bumps his head on a nearby tree branch. Sid notices and they both smirk.
Heading towards the water, Chad drops his backpack and sprints off.
Sid weaves through the crowd as fast as his walking stick and limp will allow. Gasping for breath, he struggles to see, like Zacchaeus when Jesus was walking by.
A throng of theme park goers have gathered by the water’s edge.
Soaking wet and shivering, Chad ambles up the bank with a small child in his arms.
The crowd claps and cheers.
“I’m so sorry,” the mother whimpers. “I only turned my back for a moment.”
“How could you see …” the father starts to say to Chad, then looks up at him when Chad reaches level ground.
“He’s a cut above the rest!” Sid proclaims, squeezing through the onlookers to wink at his grandson.
The attention of the theme park families turns back to their day after Chad is showered with praise for his valiant rescue.
“It might be time to take you home, son.” Sid pats Chad on the back. “Oh! Your backpack!”
Backtracking, they are surprised to find the abandoned bag untouched.
Chad clutches his wallet, iPhone and headphones and struggles to pull his jacket on.
As he throws the backpack into a rubbish bin, Sid objects, “Hey! What are you doing?”
Chad shrugs. “You know what, Pop? I think I’ll leave it behind. I need to stand out from the crowd.”
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