The following story is a chapter from an elementary, young readers book I am writing about a boy named Charlie. I started it primarily for my grandkids, but by the time I’m finished they will probably be adults! Each chapter coincides loosely with a Bible story. I place a few hints within each story to direct the reader to the Biblical passage which will be listed in the appendix. The hints in this story? “Five smooth stones” and, the boys “seemed twice his size.” There is still editing to do, but meantime, I hope you enjoy this first offering “as is.” If you have kids, read it to them and let me know what they think.
“Why did I turn down this alley?” Twelve-year-old Charlie kept hearing his own voice scolding him as he ran. The four gang members got closer and closer. He could almost feel their hot breath on the back of his neck, ready to strike him like vipers venom. Charlie ran harder, his lungs gasped for new air, his rubbery legs screamed for oxygen.
“We’re gonna get you kid”, one of the gangsters yelled. “Your life is over tonight!” Charlie thought of his mom and dad, waiting for him at home. They had allowed him to attend a school event that night. It was a special science fair featuring a geologist who explained the composition of the colorful rocks which made up the nearby mountains. The man allowed the kids to take as many samples home as they wanted of the unique crystal rocks he had brought. Charlie had taken five. They were the smoothest of the bunch. He chose the ones that looked the most like the shape of a baseball, his favorite sport. Charlie loved geology and he loved baseball, especially pitching.
Some summers Charlie would visit his grampa’s ranch and discover all sorts of interesting rocks. His grandfather lived on a big ranch in Arizona. There were all kinds of cool things for a kid to do there. His grampa even had a sailboat which seemed out of place in the desert, but he would tow it to the coast from time to time and sail all over the world. Two years ago he was rescued from being lost at sea. Charlie had not been to the ranch since. He missed his Grampa and missed the special rocks they would find together. He was hoping his parents would let him visit soon. The science fair brought back good memories.
But it was getting late, he needed to stop reminiscing and get going. Charlie’s mom and dad had cautioned him about making sure to be home before dark. They lived in a two-story townhouse in the inner city and it wasn’t safe to be out after dark. Charlie had lost track of time and as he left the school gym, the Sun had already dipped below the horizon. The streetlights were coming on. He needed to get home, and fast.
On the way out of the gym some of the neighborhood boys were gathered, just hanging out. They hadn’t been to the science fair. They were the kind of boys who looked for trouble and the kind of boys to stay away from. As Charlie hurried out of the double doors of the gym he made the mistake of bumping into Jose, a kid about Charlie’s age but a known gang member. It was an accident. Charlie had not been paying attention. He was thinking about his rocks and how he needed to get home soon or his mom and dad would be worried.
Jose whirled around, “What do you think you’re doing boy?” Jose said with a look of hatred. Charlie kept moving. He knew it was best to avoid trouble. “Fight if you have to, but first try to get away”, his grampa always told him. “I said, what you think you’re doing? Disrespecting me?” Charlie tried not to return Jose’s gaze. “I, I’m just going home, I didn’t mean to bump you. Sorry”, Charlie said looking toward the school gate for a fast exit. Jose wouldn’t let it go, “Why don’t you look at me? Don’t you like me?” “I don’t even know you” Charlie replied. “You don’t know me? You should know me. I’m important. Now I know you are disrespecting me. You will know me before the night’s over.” Charlie wondered what the boy meant and what was going on. He just wanted to get home.
“Hey homies, this guy is disrespecting me” Jose called out to his friends. The problem was escalating quickly. Three of them came over. They were older than Charlie and seemed twice his size. “Is that true? Are you disrespecting our boy Jose?” Charlie kept moving. “Where you going youngster? Come here, we don’t like you.” Charlie picked up his pace, moving toward the gate. The older boys began to follow. He didn’t know them personally, but he knew the bad reputation of these four boys. They were always in the principal’s office and even got kicked out of school for a few days. One of the boys had even stolen a car and had to spend two months in juvenile hall. He knew he had to get away from them. Charlie ran!
Being a fast runner and believing he could lose them, he made a turn down an unfamiliar street. As soon as he did, he knew it was a mistake. Maybe a deadly one. It wasn’t a street; it turned out to be a dark alley.
As he ran he squinted to see in front of him to where the alley ended, but he might as well have been in a dark cave. The Sun has fully set. There was no light. A cat ran in front of him and made him jump to one side. They boys followed him into the alley. He could hear their footsteps and they were getting louder.
Charlie’s heart pounded in his chest. He kicked his running into another gear. He was fast! The boys started to fall farther back. He could relax a bit. Now there was some distance between him and the boys. He was safe.
The alley made a slight turn. As he made the turn, still running, his body shifted weight from one leg to the other, he lost his balance and slipped on some slimy garbage that had fallen from someone’s trash. He fell right onto his back and he winced in pain. His shirt and shorts were slick with grease or some kind of smelly slime. He pushed himself up with both arms trying to regain his balance, sand, dirt and grit stuck to his hands. He saw the shadow of the boys approaching, they weren’t giving up. Charlie managed to get fully back up and resume running. But his slip had allowed the boys to gain several yards. “There he is!” They yelled.
Something sticky stuck to the bottom of Charlie’s shoes, slowing him down again. The older boys got closer. Charlie grabbed a metal trash can and threw it behind him to block their path as he continued running, cutting his hand in the process. It didn’t help. It always worked in the movies, he thought. He heard the boys kick the can aside as they maintained their pursuit.
Charlie knew he could not run much farther. Was he going to die tonight? A million things went through his mind. He thought of how sad his parents would be. He asked God to forgive him for not paying attention to the time. Why didn’t I leave sooner! He lamented. Charlie wondered if it would be painful to die. He was a Christian, but he was still scared.
“Lord!” Charlie cried, “Help me!” He knew God answers prayer. He remembered how his grandfather had been lost at sea for three days, after being caught in a storm. Charlie had prayed his Grampa would be rescued. He read his Bible all during the Coast Guard’s search. He remembered the Psalm, “I trust in the loving kindness of my God forever!” Shortly after reading those words their phone rang with the news Grampa had been found. He was hungry, dehydrated, and tired but he was alive!
That verse came to mind again as he ran, almost ready to give up, Trust in my loving kindness Charlie, use your gift. What gift? What in the world could that mean, he thought. Charlie tried to run faster, but he was weighed down by the rocks in his pocket.
The boys were only 50 feet away when the verse Charlie had thought about made sense. “My gift!” He said it out loud! The boys were close enough to hear him and wondered who he was talking to. Did he have a cell phone, was he talking to the police? The boys decided to hurt him badly before the police could arrive. They’d be gone and there would be no evidence.
“My gift!” This time he almost screamed the words. Charlie reached in his pocket and pulled out one of the five smooth stones. He stopped dead in his tracks, turned toward the boys in a pitchers stance, did a wind up and threw the stone toward the first target. It hit Jose square in the shoulder, he whirled and fell. In no time Charlie had the second stone ready to launch. It hurtled through the air smacking the biggest boy on his left thigh.
By then all the boys had stopped chasing him. They stood shocked looking at their two friends now on ground writhing in pain. They looked up and saw Charlie winding up again with the third rock. “Let’s get out of here!”, the second oldest boy yelled. They turned and ran. The two boys who had been hit limped slowly away behind them. Charlie turned and jogged toward the lighted street which now appeared in front of him, gratefully heading home.
(c) 2019 Roger L. Feenstra
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