Friday, December 27, 2013

Hats off to Graham Diamond

3351607The first book I ever read for pleasure was The Haven by Graham Diamond.  We (my older sister, older brother and I) were kind of stranded in a Miami hotel (I know it sounds horrible) while our father attended post graduate dental seminars.  We went to the pool, stayed in our room and ate in the hotel's dining room.

As a young, active boy, that was torture.  The pool was great for the first few days, but as the week went on, I got extremely bored.  My mother, tired of my incessant whining, gave me some money and told me to go down to the hotel's gift shop and find something to occupy my time.  That's when I saw it!  The cover (shown above) gripped me.  I was in junior high (middle school for those young enough to know what junior high was), and that's exactly the kind of thing I wanted to read.

I bought the book and went back to the pool.  I opened the cover and I read...and read...and read...and read.  I couldn't put it down.  I read in the room, by the pool, and in the dining room.  I finished it that week, and I was a slow reader...still am for that matter.  I dug for all the details and underlying messages like a young Sherlock Holmes.  I searched for more of Graham Diamond's books.

I later found Lady of the Haven (the sequel), and was hooked forever.  I anxiously awaited the next book and then the next.  I invested myself not only in the story but in the characters as well.  When I later began to play Dungeons and Dragons, I used a couple of Graham's characters in my journeys.  I'm a little ashamed to admit it as an adult, but I was hopelessly in love with Stacey, the lead character of the series.

Long story short...I was on sabbatical this last summer (at the age of 50) and somehow stumbled across a Facebook person by the name of Graham Diamond.  Believe it or not, he actually befriended me.  My secret mentor, my favorite author, the man who instilled not only a love for reading, but a passion for writing.  Thanks, Graham.  You made my day and my half century.

I just learned from Graham that they are re-releasing his first novel, The Haven.  If you've never read it, I would encourage you to do so.  Maybe it will inspire you as it did me.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

A New Year?

I am looking forward to 2014...especially as an author.  I have scheduled several speaking & signing engagements for the new year and am eagerly awaiting the release (April 3, 2014) of my second book in the Canaanshade series.  My lifelong dreams are finally coming to fruition!

It made me wonder about dreams and resolutions.  What do we dream about?  What do we long for?  And why does it take so long for some of these dreams to come true?  If they ever do.  I have wanted to write all of my life, but things kept getting in the way of that dream.  Still, the longing never waned.

Finally, at the age of 50, I've managed to make time for that dream.  One of my writing mentors once told me:  "Mitchell, you don't want to want to have written."  That was certainly true back then, but I've hopefully matured...I actually long to write.  Of course it's an even greater pleasure to watch someone read my stories.  Sharing is twice the delight.

My 2014 New Year's resolutions are:  to be a better husband, father and pastor...and to enlarge my audience and influence as an author.  I hope this is just the beginning of a long and prosperous writing career.  So, will I keep the pace and discipline throughout the New Year?  I hope so...but only time will tell.  I hope I don't have to wait around for another new year for it to happen.

See you in 2014!  May God bless us one and all!

Mitchell S Karnes

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Things Stories are Made of

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Having seven kids from 10-24 years of age (5 teenagers at one time), I am often down on them.  Let's face it, teenagers usually don't think of anyone else but themselves.  It gets old...having five at once it gets old really quick.  Don't get me wrong...I love my kids.  I just don't like them all of the time.

Well, this Christmas I had my full of them.  Seeing that "entitlement" is one of my biggest pet peeves, and since most of my children were feeling entitled to a big Christmas ("cash only this Christmas, Dad"), I lost all of the sense of pleasure the season could offer...that was until two specific events changed my attitude and my heart.

First, my family attended and participated in our church's annual Christmas Eve service.  We're a small church that runs 145-165 on a Sunday.  Well, our little church had over 200 people in our Christmas Eve service.  Can you believe it?  On the eve of our culture's "give me" Christmas glitz, over 200 people set aside an hour of their precious time to celebrate the real reason for the season...our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It was beautiful...probably the greatest gift I've had in a long time.  And, as we left church, we passed church after church of people going to or coming from Christmas Eve worship services.  Wow!

Then, as my children's attitudes of entitlement persisted, that wonder and joy slipped back away.  I went to bed dreading once again the Christmas time.  And as I drifted off to sleep I wondered how we digressed from Wise Men bringing precious gifts from afar to everyone else getting gifts on Jesus' birthday.  Can you imagine the look on your child's face if he/she sat down at the birthday table, blew out the candles and watched everyone else exchange gifts?  No one gave him/her any?  I don't think they would be very happy.

Well, back to my family.  We exchanged our gifts and I walked away disappointed in the lack of appreciation and gratitude.  Then, my oldest daughter gave my wife and I an envelope.  It was the first of many clues that led to a surprise.  At the end of our journey we opened a gift sack that had a letter of thanks, a gift card for a dinner date, and a reservation to a hotel.  They had even arranged places for each of them to stay with friends or family.  Wow!  Just when I had given up, God surprised me again.

Now, those are the things stories are made of.  Merry Christmas to all...and to all a great new year!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Announcing Book Signing and Book Tour Schedule

I've finally moved into the new house.  Well, let's just say I've moved out of the old one.  We are still in boxes and can't find anything.  I'm sure I'll eventually get settled.

I also have fantastic news!  I will have my first official book signing at Barnes and Noble of Cool Springs in Franklin, TN on January 31, 2014.  It is a "Meet and Greet" event for local authors and I have been invited to participate.

Also, my novel, The Pact, will be on a 10 Blog Book Tour in January and February of 2014.  Here is the schedule.  Please check out the sites and chime in with your questions and comments.

Tuesday, January 28:  Tiffany's Bookshelf
Thursday, January 30:  Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, February 3:  Patricia's Wisdom
Wednesday, February 5:  You Can Read Me Anything
Monday, February 10:  Suko's Notebook
Wednesday, February 12:  Maureen's Musings
Monday, February 17:  Seaside Book Nook
Tuesday, February 18:  The Things You Can Read
Wednesday, February 20: Savings in Seconds

I will be attending The Tucson Festival of Books and manning my publisher's (Black Rose Writing) booth and signing copies of The Pact Saturday, March 15, 2014.  And finally, The Dragon's Pawn, book two of the Cannanshade series (the Pact is book one), is scheduled for release on April 3.

Feel free to post questions or comments here on The Pact, if you've read it.  Pass the word along.  Thanks again for your support

Mitchell S Karnes

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I just heard from a state counseling association for schools today.  They are interested in hearing more about The Pact and the speaking program I do for bullying.  This would be an incredible opportunity for me and a major door opened for both speaking and writing.

It's nice to know my book not only entertains, but also educates and makes a difference in the lives of children and teenagers.  It's not happening overnight, but I am making progress.  Keep praying and I'll keep pushing forward.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cranking it up...but overwhelmed

I am officially overwhelmed!  I've had to put my writing temporarily on hold.  I am trying to patch and paint all the walls of my house so a renter can move in on December 15.  I am also trying to coordinate change of banks and utilities so we can move into our new house on December 2.  If that weren't enough, I am trying desperately to get my writing career off of the ground.  Here's what's going on in that realm.

2014 is looking up for my writing career.  In January I have my first speaking engagement on bullying at BGA's Lower School in Franklin, TN, using The Pact as a catalyst.  In January and February I have a 10 Blog Book Tour.  Not exactly sure what that is, but I'm excited to have my book reviewed and get the word out into the the cyberworld.  In February all of my final revisions are due on book 2 of the Canaanshade series, The Dragon's Pawn.  In March I head out to Tucson for the annual Tucson Festival of Books to man a booth for my publisher, Black Rose Writing, and plug The Pact.  I hear 120,000 people attend the festival.

All of that and I am still holding down a full time job as a pastor...and am the father of seven children (5 of which are teenagers right now!).  I've heard of burning the candle at both ends, but my is being consumed by a blow-torch.  That's okay though...this is a dream come true.

So long for now.  I'm cranking it up...but overwhelmed.

Mitchell S Karnes

Monday, November 18, 2013 unfortunate hot topic

It is sad to say that The Pact is hitting a hot topic these days.  Why is that sad?  Because it means too many people are being bullied by others.

When we think of bullying, a scrawny little kid with glasses being cornered by the over-sized jock comes to mind.  Unfortunately that is just a stereotype and bullying takes many forms.  Why even a huge, athletic professional football player has recently come forward with his tale.  In fact, the bullying was so incessant and traumatic that this grown man gave up his dream...the NFL.

So, if bullying can affect a muscular athlete like that, just think what it does to the isolated, defenseless younger child.  Add to that the anonymity of cyber-bullying, and we have an epidemic on our hands.  My book, The Pact, isn't the cure to bullying, but it is a catalyst for a healthy discussion of its effects.  It is available at "" "" and ""  Pick one up today.

I have recently scheduled my first talk on bullying.  I will be addressing an assembly of K-4th graders.  I hope to impress them with the reality of bullying, teach effective means to stifle it, and challenge them all to make a pact:  "No one should ever have to stand alone."


Mitchell S Karnes

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Dragon's Pawn out of my hands

I'm really starting to like this writing gig.  Less than five months ago my first legitimate novel was released by Black Rose Writing, an independent press in Texas.  Tomorrow, I will submit the revised copy of book two, The Dragon's Pawn.  It's out of my hands.  And, believe it or not, I'm ready to let go.

The Canaanshade series continues.  Now I am hard at work on book three, The Treasure of L'lor Rac Siwel.  Book three highlights the war to end all wars of Canaanshade...the surface dwellers are under attack by all the underground creatures and the giants.  If the infamous red and black dragon chimes in, the war will definitely tip in the favor of evil.

What will happen?  Will the surface dwellers join forces in time?  And will our heroes find a way back to the real world before it's too late?  I'll let you know the answers to these questions and more when the time comes.  Until then...stay tuned.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Adventure Continues

It's hard to believe The Pact has been out for two months already.  The Dragon's Pawn is poised for a late spring/early summer 2014 release, and book three is underway.  Here are my suggested themes:

The Pact - "No one should ever have to stand alone."

The Dragon's Pawn - "Redemption is possible for everyone."

The Treasure of L'lor Rac Siwel - "Heroism requires sacrifice."

Return to Canannshade - "Love conquers all."

Of course, only time will tell how the subsequent books turn out, but that's where it's all heading.  I am hoping book three will release in 2015 and book four in 2016.  That would be cool because my 35th high school class reunion is in the summer of 2016.

Keep reading.  Keep giving your feedback.  The Pact begins the story.  With The Dragon's Pawn, the adventure continues.  Thanks for your support.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Back and Running

Hey, everyone, I'm back and running.  Been extremely busy with church, five kids still living at home, trying to sell our home, and finishing book two, The Dragon's Pawn.

It's been really wild lately.  I've been asked by my publisher to attend the Tucson Book Festival in March 2014.  I live in Tennessee, so that's quite and honor and a trip.  I accepted.

I didn't realize how much PR a writer has to do in the process of getting a writing career launched.  It's a lot of work, but it's fun too.  Of course I still have a full time career (pastor) and a full house of people (five kids and two adults).

It is truly an amazing journey...beginning a writing career.  It took forever to finish the first book.  Now I can't seem to write them fast enough.  The story's already in my head and anxious to get onto the page.  If you've read the first book, The Pact, I would love your feedback (+ or -).  It all helps.

Anyway, I'll try to be back on a regular least once a keep you posted as to the progress.  Thanks for your patience.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Till Death We Do Part

It was always a staple expression in the vows of wedding:  "Till death we do part."  Now it seems to be an option.  The modern vow is conditional and really states, "Until you cease to please me and something better comes along."  What a shame!

What is it that eroded our sense of commitment and sacrifice?  When did we become a world of narcissists?  When did the other person's pleasing and serving of us override the desire to please and serve them?  I'm not sure, but it has.

Sadder yet...this has also happened to our commitment and service to God.  We have reduced the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, to our personal genie in a bottle...there to serve our demands and wishes rather than the other way around.  It's time we all took a stand and reversed this trend.

One person CAN make a difference.  Will you be that one?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dreams or Nightmares?

I was talking with someone the other day who would not allow herself to get excited for me.  I finally had the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and have a book published...not by me, but by a real publisher.  I was excited, but she cautioned me...told me to be careful not to get too excited or the fall would be unbearable.

Should I be so worried about the fall that I never enjoy the flight?  Should the nightmare outweigh the dream?  Absolutely not!  I may never experience the dream again.  I hope I do, but I may not.  So, in my book (no pun intended) I should enjoy the success while I have it.

My parents were opposites for most of my life.  They have each mellowed a little and gravitated toward the middle over the years.  But I used to say:  "Give my mom a pony and she's worried about where it'll go to the bathroom."  "Give my dad the crap and he'll dig until he finds the pony."  One thing I learned early on:  sometimes my mom worried so much about the train crash that she never enjoyed the ride.

Go ahead and dream.  Enjoy successes while you have them.  Live now as you also prepare for eternity.  As far as I remember, Jesus said, "I came that you might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).  So enjoy the blessings He gives and look forward to the greatest blessing of all.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Inspiration...receive it and then pass it on.

Do you ever stop and think why you like what you do?  Why your interests are different than those of others?  I do often.

As a pastor, I know of two men who inspired me to be the pastor that I am.  These men were good preachers, but they were fantastic pastors.  The first was Arthur Farmer.  He was my pastor two times:  once when I was a child and again when I was a teenager.  Arthur was more of a grandfather than just a pastor.  He took the time to listen.  He guided me.  He cared for people.  He was one of the most gentle and loving men I ever knew.  he taught me that being a pastor was more than just being prepared to preach.  It was teaching and showing others that the most important thing they could do in life was to love God and to love others.

The second man didn't come into my life until much later.  In fact I was an adult with children before I met him.  But his influence was and is still tremendous in my life.  He wasn't the best of preachers, but that didn't seem to matter.  He was the best pastor ever.  He truly loved people and it showed.  He was humble in spirit, but wise beyond measure.  He remains an inspiration to me today.

By the way, both of these men passed on their pastoral libraries (at least a large portion of them) to me.  Thank you both.

As a writer, I have to credit Graham Diamond over others.  I wasn't much of a reader growing up...unless you counted comicbooks.  One summer my family went to Florida.  Don't get too excited.  It was one of my father's many post-graduate studies.  We got the trip, but stayed in the hotel almost the entire week while he went to classes.  It was okay, I guess.  We went to the pool most of the time.  Well, I got bored of the pool and went to the hotel's store.  I found a book that caught my eye.  It was black with a picture of a dog's head.  His mouth was open wide, teeth baring and one fang had something dripping from it.  I bought it.  That's the last thing I remember about that trip.  I couldn't put the book down.

Later that year and the years to follow, I read every Graham Diamond book I could find.  Then I started really writing my own stories.  Oh, I had tried since I was 5 to write stories, but they were never very good.  But his tales did something to me.  Thanks Graham for the inspiration.

One last thought:  this summer while I was on sabbatical in New York, I came into contact with Graham Diamond.  Believe it or not, he requested to be my friend on Facebook!  Well, he is now reading my book.  How cool is that?  God is good.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Isaiah's Gift" part 3 of 3

"Isaiah's Gift" - the conclusion   This is a much larger portion than the others, but it is the rest of the story.  I hope you enjoy it and understand it.  I would love feedback on the story.

...Monday morning Sarah waited in the hallway of the science building.  She decided the missing student in B lab was way too effeminate and manicured to ever be caught dead in a sweat shirt of any kind.  As the student in D lab entered the room, he did so without a limp or a gray hoodie, but he was bent over and had multiple bruises on his cheek and jaw.  The young student was wearing black leather gloves but was wearing a blue windbreaker.  It was dark that night, maybe Chrystal had made a mistake.  Sarah took a picture of the boy with her phone.  Then, she turned the audio recorder on, held it to her side, and introduced herself to the stranger.  “Hi, I’m Sarah.  What’s your name?”  He looked up, but didn’t answer.  “Your name?” she asked again.
            The boy looked around the room.  “Is this some kind of joke?” he asked through swollen lips.
            “What?  A joke?  Heaven’s no,” she said.  “I just wanted to get your name.”
            “Isaiah,” he said shyly.  “Isaiah Carpenter.”  He extended his hand and shook Sarah’s.  “Nice to meet you, Sarah.”  He sat on the gray metal lab stool and set his backpack on the counter.  “Are you a new student too?” he asked, making room for her at the next stool.
            “Goodness, no.”  She blushed at the thought of Isaiah thinking she could possibly be a medical student.  “I’m a journalism major.”  Then she took a wild shot.  “I’m Chrystal’s roommate.”
            He put his laptop on the desk.  “Who?”
            “Chrystal Jennings.  She’s my roommate.”
            “I’m sorry.  Am I supposed to know her?” he asked, flipping up the screen.
            The graduate student running the lab cleared her throat and motioned to the door.  Sarah whispered, “She was attacked last Thursday,” and then left.  As Isaiah looked back to his laptop to turn it on, he noticed a card with Chrystal’s name and number.  He glanced back to the door, but the girl with short brown hair had gone, so he slipped the card into his pocket and quickly busied himself with the lab assignment posted on the whiteboard.
            Two days later, as Isaiah walked down the hall towards his lab, he recognized the brown haired girl from Monday.  Sarah was standing at the door to his lab with the red-headed girl from the courtyard.  She was smiling at him.  “Isaiah,” Sarah said, pointing in the direction of her friend.  “This is Chrystal…my roommate.”
            He held out the gloved hand and Chrystal shook it.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said.
            Isaiah was befuddled; people actually wanted to talk with him, but it was time for lab.  He pulled his hand free from her grasp and added apologetically, “If you don’t mind, I’ve got class.”
            “Did you get my card?” Chrystal asked.
“Yes,” he said, looking past the two women and into the awaiting lab.
“But you didn’t call,” she said.
            “I’m sorry, but I’ve got class and I’m already a week behind.”  Isaiah slipped between the two women and into his lab. 
“Wait,” Chrystal said.  “I need to talk with you.”  They watched him take his seat, but he never looked back.
            “You sure that’s the one?” Sarah asked.
            “Absolutely,” Chrystal answered looking through the small square glass window to the room.  “I’d remember that voice anywhere.  And look, he’s still wearing the gloves.”
            Sarah couldn’t imagine the scrawny little boy scaring anyone off.  “He’s sweet, but he’s just a kid.  I mean he’s what fifteen…sixteen at the most?”
            “That’s him.”
“So where’s the limp?”  Sarah failed to notice the lack of bruises on his lip and face.  “Come on,” Chrystal said as she pulled Sarah from the little window in the door.  “He
won’t be out of class for another hour.  Now that we know who he is, we can print off his class schedule and find him any time we want.”  Chrystal checked her watch and ran on to her own class.  “I can’t afford to miss my class either.”
            They ran their respective ways:  Sarah to world literature and Chrystal to calculus.  Her math class ran five minutes over-time, so as soon as the professor dismissed them, she bolted out of the room and over to the science building.  By the time she arrived, the lab was completely empty.  Chrystal ran out of the building and scanned the campus for any sight of Isaiah.  Off in the distance, down the sidewalk beside the early education department’s affiliate school, Chrystal caught sight of the back of a blue windbreaker.  Isaiah!  She ran after him.
            Isaiah rolled his neck from side to side.  The bruises had healed quickly, but the stiffness in his neck and back were lingering.  He had taken quite a beating.  Isaiah walked down the shaded area of the sidewalk, past the preschool manned by Everbrite’s education students.  As he glanced over to the playground full of children, a little girl waved at him.  He waved back.  When she waved again, her other hand slipped momentarily from the swing’s chain, causing her to flip back out of the seat and land awkwardly on the ground.  She screamed as she got to her knees and discovered her right arm bent back behind her, dangling loosely.  Isaiah was over the chain link fence in a single leap.  As children scrambled chaotically, screaming for the nearest teacher to come see Izzy’s arm, Isaiah rushed to the little girl’s side. 
            Chrystal watched quietly from the other side of the fence as Isaiah looked toward the school building one more time before removing his black gloves, rolling up the girl’s sleeve, and touching her arm.  She screamed for anyone to save her from the strange man, but the moment Isaiah touched her skin, she stopped.  The little girl stared in awe.  She straightened her arm and moved it back and forth without pain.  Even though he was a complete stranger, something about him seemed to calm her.  Isaiah whispered something in her hear as he wiped her eyes with his left hand; she stared into the eyes of the strange man kneeling over her.  It was a moving sight.  Chrystal felt the tear rolling down her own cheek.  Isaiah whispered something else, picked up the gloves in his left hand, and grabbed his right arm that had gone suddenly limp, pulling it to his side.  Isaiah bit his lip as he doubled over in pain and shuffled to the fence.  He glanced back once more to see if anyone was watching before struggling to climb back over the fence.  As soon as Isaiah got one leg and the upper part of his body over the edge of the fence, someone grabbed his jacket and steadied him as he fell to the ground.  Isaiah winced in obvious pain.  As Chrystal reached for his hand, he pulled away.  “Don’t touch me!”
            “Sorry,” she said.
“Just give me some room,” he snapped as he struggled to put the gloves back on his hands.
“What’s going on?” she asked. Chrystal looked back and forth between the little girl who stood silently waving and Isaiah who was bent over in pain, cradling his own arm.  The moment Chrystal grabbed Isaiah by the shoulders to make him face her, he dropped to his knees.  He slumped over and cried silently for a moment or two before rising, pulling away from her grasp and running off.  He cradled the injured arm with his left.  Chrystal started to follow after him, calling, “Isaiah!”
            “Leave me alone,” he said.  “Just leave me alone!”
            Chrystal let him go.   Instead she returned to the playground.  The little girl leaned against the fence, gripping the chain links with both hands, and watched Isaiah run away.  “What did he say?” Chrystal asked.  But before the girl could answer, one of the preschool teachers found Izzy, pulled her from the fence, questioned her about the stranger and examined her arm.  She turned and chided the children gathered around for lying and corralled them all back inside.  Chrystal stood silently for several minutes before realizing she was once again late for her next class.  Isaiah was hiding something, and she was determined to discover what his secret was.
            Three days later, around four in the afternoon, Chrystal spotted Isaiah across the courtyard in front of the library and waved him down.  He waited for her.  “Where have you been?” she asked.
            “You missed class yesterday.”  She looked at his right arm holding the heavy backpack containing his laptop.  “I’m so confused,” she said, pulling her long red hair behind her ear.  Isaiah noticed her slurred speech and alcohol soured breath.  He set the pack on the ground and motioned to a nearby bench.  Chrystal sat.  “I saw it” she swore, pointing to his shoulder.  “Your arm was hurt.”
            Isaiah stretched it out and showed her nothing was wrong.  “I’m okay.”
            “But I saw you,” she challenged.  “You touched the girl, healed her arm, and yours was suddenly broken.”
            Isaiah pulled the windbreaker’s hood back and smiled.  “There’s nothing wrong with my arm.”
            “No, no, no” Chrystal said, waving her finger back and forth in Isaiah’s face.  “You can’t fool me.  It’s just like my ankle.”
            “You don’t know what you’re saying,” he said, leaning away to take a breath of fresh air.
            “You touched my ankle, and then you limped away.  Today you don’t have any limp.  Your arm was broke and now it’s not.”
            “Are you drunk?” he asked.
            “Want some?” she asked.  Chrystal smiled and put her arm around his neck.  “You’re cute.  If you weren’t so young, I might just take you home with me.”  She winked.
            “No thanks.  Besides, I’m not as young as you may think,” Isaiah said.  He looked at his watch.  “You’re drunk and it’s only four in the afternoon.  What’s going on?”
            “It’s Saturday.”  She grabbed a lock of his chocolate brown hair and twirled it between her fingers.  “Do your parents let you go out yet?” she asked, nuzzling against his shoulder and neck.
            “My parents aren’t alive; they passed away several years ago,” Isaiah said, scooting down the bench to create a little more space.
            “Oh, no!” she said.  “I’m soooo sorry.”  When she said it, she let out a big breath of air, right in his face.  Then she covered her mouth and giggled.  “How did they die?”
            Isaiah waved the fumes from his face.  “Natural causes, why are you suddenly so interested in me?”
            “You’re cute!” she said.  Then, scooting back toward him on the bench, she asked, “Do you think I’m cute?”
            Isaiah didn’t know how to answer.  If he said, “No,” he’d hurt her already fragile ego.  But if he said, “yes,” he’d encourage more of her inappropriate behavior.  He’d just tell her the truth and let her deal with it.  “Chrystal, I think you are a beautiful woman, but not so much when you’re drunk or being promiscuous.” 
            “You think I’m beautiful?” she asked.
            Isaiah pulled away from her touch and stood next to the bench.  “Not right now, I don’t.”  About that time, a familiar group of athletes came their way.
            “Chrystal,” one shouted.  “We’ve been looking all over for you.”
            Isaiah looked deep into the girl’s bloodshot eyes.  He knew exactly what lay before her.  He’d seen it before…too many times before.  “You don’t have to do this,” he said.
            “You don’t understand,” she said.  “Someone like you would never understand.”
            “Like me?” he asked
            “Come on, baby, let’s have some fun,” another one said.  “We brought the stuff.”
            Crystal looked up into Isaiah’s eyes and matched his glance.  He could tell her eyes were distant and full of sorrow.  She seemed momentarily to plead with him for help, but then she winked, blew him a kiss and said, “Let’s party, boys!”
            Isaiah turned to the crowd of men.  They were as drunk as Chrystal.  “Leave her alone, guys.  She’s in no shape to party.”
            The leader of their group stepped forward and grabbed Isaiah by the collar.  “Hey, it’s the black gloved freak again.  I thought I taught you a lesson the other day, but…”  Before he finished the sentence, he punched Isaiah in the stomach and kneed his face.  Isaiah reeled backward and fell to the ground, grabbing his face.  “Come on, Chrystal, the guys are waiting.”
            She was torn, even in her inebriated state.  She wanted so desperately to help Isaiah as he had helped her, but she didn’t want to jeopardize her popularity with the in crowd on campus by sticking up for the outcast.  But he looked so helpless and desperate, lying there in the fetal position.  Once again, Chrystal’s desire to be social won out and she left in the groping arms of the men.  She hated herself for it, but didn’t have a choice.  Did she?  She needed to be needed, if even just for sex.
            Later that same night, there was a knock at his door.  “Pizza,” she said.
            “Just a minute,” Isaiah said as he put the gloves on his hands and grabbed the money from the counter.  He opened the door.  “Sarah?”
“What happened to your nose?” she asked, noticing the broken nose and the swelling eye.  “Some jocks on campus…”
“Who?” she asked.  “Let me know and I’ll…”
“Do nothing,” he said.  “Every campus has them.”
“Well, that doesn’t make it right.”  He smiled.  It felt nice to have someone come to his
“I appreciate the sentiment,” Isaiah said, “but it’s best if we just leave it alone.”
“I don’t think leaving it alone will help anything,” Sarah said.  “Those bullies need to be taught a lesson.”
“They will one day.  Trust me; they will.”  She could tell he didn’t want to linger on the subject.  He was grateful for her keen sense of perception.
“Hey, I didn’t know you lived in Pembroke Apartments.”
            “Yeah,” he said, handing her the money.  “It’s cheap and close to campus.  Keep the change.”  He wished he could give her more.  These were the kinds of people he wanted to help.
            “Thanks,” she said.  Pointing to her red hat with a caricature of a short stumpy Italian man tossing a pizza, she said, “Goofy, huh?”
            “Not really,” Isaiah assured her.  “It’s my favorite place.  Besides, nothing to be ashamed of; it’s an honest living.”
            “Well, I have to pay for school,” she said. 
            Noting that Sarah wasn’t rushing off, Isaiah said, “Won’t you get in trouble if you’re late getting back?”  He opened the box and offered her a slice.
            “Not really,” she said as she shook her head to the offer of pizza.  She’d eaten enough pizza to last her a lifetime.  It was cheap and when someone failed to pick up his order, they were allowed to eat it.  Those were free, and even Sarah couldn’t pass up a free meal.  Right now she had other things on her mind.  “But you probably want to be alone,” she offered picking up on his subtle cue.
            Isaiah smiled.  Sarah was the first person in decades to actually show interest in his opinion.  “Not really,” he said.  “It’s just ends up that way…a lot.”  He put his hand to his ribs as he bent over and set the box on a small coffee table. 
            “You okay?” she asked, noticing the wince on his face.
            He cocked his head to the side.  “I’ll be fine; thanks.”  Turning to the curious girl, Isaiah added, “You’re welcome to hang around…if you want.” 
Sarah looked at the clock on her phone and said, “I gotta go.”
“Sure,” he said, “I understand.”
“But I get off in a couple hours.”  Then something hit her.  “Oh, I better not, Chrystal would kill me.”
            “I wouldn’t worry about Chrystal,” he said.  “She’s occupied at the moment.”
“I meant…you know…she kind of likes you.”
“Oh!”  He was taken back that Sarah would be concerned for her roommate’s relationships, but not for her reputation.
“I definitely wouldn’t concern yourself with that.  I have no romantic interests in Chrystal.”
            “Who talks like that anymore?” Sarah asked.  “I know this is none of my business, but I am a journalist after all.  How old are you, really?”
            “Forty-seven,” he said with a straight face.
            “Yeah, right,” she said.  “I meant chronologically.”
“I’m a whole lot older than I look,” he said with a smile.
“Okay, so don’t tell me.”  She put the red oven bag under her arm and turned for the door.  “You sure it’s okay if I stop by later?”
            “Of course,” Isaiah said.  It would be nice to have company, especially intelligent, nice company.  The years had left him feeling incredibly lonely.  “My door is always open to you.”  Sarah left and he secured the door behind her.  Once she was out of sight, Isaiah took the gloves from his hands and started to take a bite of the pizza, but stopped.  They never believe me, he thought.  Isaiah looked in the mirror.  Why should they?  He’d stopped aging right after his sixteenth birthday…right after his dad…
            Isaiah’s cell phone rang.  “Hello.”  He listened to the aged voice quivering on the other end of the phone.  “Hey sis,” he finally said.  “What’s up?”
            There was a long pause.  “Isaiah, I know I swore I’d never ask this of you again, but he’s really bad.”  Isaiah took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  He really didn’t want to go through this another time.  “If you could just come back home…just for the day…just long enough to…”
            “Marcie, you know I can’t.  Some things are just meant to be.”
            “Just one more time, Isaiah?  Please, for me?  Henry’s in a lot of pain.  His heart isn’t strong enough to go through another attack.”  He didn’t answer.  The silence was deafening.  “Just once more?  I promise I won’t ask again.”
            Isaiah wiped the tear from his eye and covered the phone as he sniffled.  “I’m sorry, Marcie.  As much as I hate to say it, 'no.'  It’s his time.  It’s been his time for the last five years.”
            Suddenly her demeanor and attitude did a one-eighty.  She turned angry and violent.  “Don’t you be a selfish little twit, Isaiah Carpenter!  Don’t you dare turn me away this time…”  She never got to finish the thought for Isaiah hit the red button marked, “end.”  He pushed the pizza box away and sat down.  He put his head in his hands.
            Two hours later the knock woke him.  “What?  Coming.”  He opened the door and there stood Sarah. 
            “You look awful,” she said.  “Should I come back another time?”  He waved her in.  She noticed the untouched box of pizza.  “What happened?”
            “I got a call,” he started, but choked up.  “My brother in law…he passed.”
            She put her hand tenderly on his shoulder.  “I’m so sorry.”  She followed him to the small table and sat down.  The apartment was tiny with only a small kitchenette, a bed and a bathroom.  “Would it be better if I left you alone, or do you need company?”
“If you don’t mind, I’d prefer you stay,” he said.  It had been so long since he had someone to talk with…someone who wanted to give…not just take from him.  He asked her to stay, and she did; they talked for hours.  After the first half hour, Sarah stopped her journalistic probing and just chatted casually with Isaiah.  They had more in common than either realized.  The two talked and laughed until Sarah received an emergency text and had to excuse herself.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
            “It’s Chrystal,” she said with a sigh.  “She’s gotten into a little trouble again.  I’m going to go get her.”
            “Do you need any help?” he asked.  She nodded with a smile.  He was cute, even with the broken nose and blackening eye.  It was too much of a shame he was so young.  Even though he had to be in his mid to late teens, he acted more maturely than all of the other college guys, even those twice his age.  They got into Sarah’s car and drove to the frat house across campus.  When they pulled up, they found Chrystal lying sprawled out on the lawn.  Her skirt was torn up the middle; her lip and cheek bloody.
            Sarah and Isaiah helped her up and put her into the back seat of Sarah’s car.  “Let’s get her to the hospital,” Sarah said.
            Isaiah took a slow deep breath and said, “That won’t be necessary.”
            “Of course it’s necessary,” Sarah scolded.  “Look at her.  Who knows what else they did to her.”
            “Just bring her to my apartment,” Isaiah said.  “I can fix her up.” 
Sarah objected, but Isaiah finally persuaded her to do as he said.  All the way there, Chrystal mumbled Joe’s name and the words “stop…please stop.”
“I’ll kill him!” Sarah said.
As much as he understood the feeling and wanted to hurt Joe himself, Isaiah asked, “And what would that accomplish?”  They put Chrystal’s arms over their shoulders and helped her into Isaiah’s second story apartment.  Once they lay her on the bed, he turned to Sarah and asked, “Can you keep a secret?”
“Yeah, of course, why?”
“I’m serious,” he said.  “I know as a journalist it’s not in your blood, but I need you to swear secrecy.”
“Fine, I swear,” she said.  “Off the record.”  Sarah crossed her heart with her hand.  As soon as she did, Isaiah removed his gloves and touched Chrystal’s lip and cheek.  Both wounds healed immediately.  She couldn’t believe her eyes.  As she started to ask something, she looked up and noticed Isaiah was bleeding from his lip and cheek.  “Oh, my god!”
“Not even close, but thanks for the compliment,” he said with a smile.  Isaiah cleaned himself up in the bathroom, returning with bandages over his lip and cheek.  “It’s the price I pay for the gift.”
Suddenly, everything came clear to Sarah.  “The limp?  You took her broken ankle?”  He nodded.  “But your ankle’s fine now.”
“It takes about three days, minor wounds quicker, but I heal completely.”  Sarah crumbled to the floor, her hand over her lips.  “It’s kind of like I’m a hybrid of Wolverine and Rogue,” he said in an attempt to explain.
“You know…the X-men?  One who takes the other person’s power and one who heals quickly.”
Sarah had no clue what he was saying.  She turned to face Isaiah.  His wounds were fresh.  “Does it hurt?”
“For a while,” he said.  He could see the wheels turning in her head.  “You promised.”
“What?  No…I won’t tell a soul.”  She looked at his hands.  He had put the gloves back on.  “Why the gloves?”
“I can’t always control the transfer,” he said.
“The little girl?” she asked, thinking of Chrystal’s tale the other day.
“Yeah, that really hurt.”
Then Sarah returned to his previous comment.  “Transfer?  What transfer?”
Isaiah sat on the floor next to her and leaned against the bed.  “I can take someone’s wounds, but I can also pass them on.”  He held the gloves up and touched her face.  “Without these, you’d be sitting here with a bloody lip and cheek.”
Sarah suddenly had a disturbing thought.  “You mean we could go back to the frat house and…”
“No, Sarah.  We can’t.”  He got up and stared out the window.  The thought had crossed his mind many times before.  In fact he had given into the temptation once long ago.  So many others deserved the pain even more than Joe did.  But he had promised his father.  He would never again use the gift for harm, only for good.  “There’s also a possibility I could transfer the gift by accident.”  Isaiah had taken it as a curse.  His father called it a gift and did his best to convince Isaiah of that truth.  His mind returned to Sarah and her desire to inflict pain where pain was given.  “I can’t do that.  Even if I could control it, I can’t play God and exact judgment.”
“Well if anyone deserves a little payback, it’s Joe Harrison.” 
“I’m not going to argue that point,” Isaiah said coldly.  He turned to face her.  “It’s not my calling to inflict the pain, just take it away.”
“What a crappy gift,” she said.  “Sorry, that came out wrong.”
“It’s okay.”
“I just meant it’s crappy for you.  Everyone else gets healed and you have to suffer their pain.  How long does it last?”
“About three days.  I just told you that.  Remember?”
“I’m sorry.  This is a lot to digest in one day.”
“Believe me, I understand.  It took me a long time to accept it and I live it.”
Sarah felt so badly for him.  “Were you kidding about your age?”
“Yes,” he said and blushed. 
“So you’re not forty-seven?”
“Right numbers, wrong order.  I’m actually seventy-four years old.”
“No way!”  She laughed.  He didn’t.  “Seriously?”
“Swear to God,” he said.
“So why do you look so young?”
“I stopped aging when I received the gift.  I didn’t even realize my father had passed it on to me until shortly after my sixteenth birthday.”  Isaiah stood and turned, displaying the marvel of his ageless body.  “I was helping a friend who had fallen off of her bicycle when we both noticed the transfer of her wound to my body.”
“Wow!  Can you die?”
“I don’t know,” he said with a chuckle.  Of course his father had, and he had the gift before Isaiah.  Then he added, “I’ve never tried.” 
They both laughed at the ridiculousness of it.  How would you even investigate that concept?  Chrystal stirred and mumbled something.  Sarah got up to check on her.  “Hey, girl, I’m here.”  As Chrystal opened her eyes, she could tell she wasn’t in her own bed.  She suddenly panicked.  Her mind was still blurry.  Although Isaiah had healed her wounds, he had not cleared her intoxication.  Chrystal closed her eyes and drifted back asleep.  Sarah crawled up next to her and gently stroked her hair.  Isaiah made himself a pallet on the floor. 
He woke to the sound of running water.  Sarah was cuddled next to him on the floor and Chrystal was gone.  The shower.  That must be Chrystal in the shower.  Isaiah eased Sarah’s arm from his stomach and set it on her hip.  He rolled away and stood.  What time is it?  He looked at the clock.  It was only seven in the morning.  He still had plenty of time to make it to church.
“Hey,” she said, coming out of the bathroom wrapped loosely in a towel.  “You and Sarah getting cozy?”
“Sarah?”  Isaiah looked back at the pallet.  It did look as though they had slept together.  They probably had, but not the way Chrystal was implying.  “Friends…we’re friends.”
“Since when?” Chrystal asked, drying her hair with a small hand towel.  As she rubbed her hair with the small towel, the other began to loosen from its wrap around her body.  The slightly larger towel barely covered her and was never meant to be a body wrap.  Isaiah was afraid she might spill out and shyly motioned for her to return to the bathroom.  He turned away.  “There’s a robe on the back of the door.”
“I know.  I saw it.”
“Please use it,” he said.  As soon as he turned back to see if she had complied, she winked at him.  “Don’t worry, I won’t jump you,” she joked.  By that time Sarah woke and was gathering her things as well.  “I don’t mean to be rude,” Isaiah said, “but I would like to get ready for church.”
“Me too,” Sarah said.  “Don’t worry; we’ll be out of here in a jiffy.”  She leaned in and whispered, “And your secret is safe with me.”
“Thanks,” he whispered back.  He actually believed her.  It had been a difficult burden to bear.  The secret of his gift only served to increase his loneliness.
After church Isaiah grabbed some drive-thru for lunch.  He pulled into the parking space designated for his apartment.  He saw a woman sitting there and secretly hoped it was Sarah; it wasn’t.  He was disappointed to discover it was Chrystal instead.  “Now that I know where you live,” she started, “we don’t have to be strangers.”
Great. Just what I wanted.  Isaiah forced a smile and got out.  “I don’t know what you want from me, Chrystal, but I’m really not interested.”
“I just want the truth.”  She followed Isaiah up the steps to his apartment.  “Are you mad at me?”
“Just disappointed.”
“She didn’t seem to care.  Are you and Sarah in love?”
He laughed out loud.  “Wow.  Is that all you think about?  Can’t a man and a woman be friends without it having to be more?”  Isaiah unlocked the door and walked inside.  Without being invited, Chrystal followed.  “Help yourself,” he said with heavy sarcasm.
“I know you don’t like me,” she said.  “You think I’m a drunken whore, and Sarah’s a goody-goody church girl.” 
“She’s the first person to befriend me in a long time,” he said, setting the bag on the table.  “I don’t think you appreciate the value of that.”
“Oh, I like Sarah, but that’s not why I’m here.”  Chrystal sat at the table.  “Why did you help me?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
She stood and reached for his injured lip.  Isaiah pulled away.  “I may have been drunk last night, but I remember that.”  She pointed to his cheek.  “That too.”  Chrystal took her seat again at the table.  “I don’t know how you do it, but you healed my ankle, my head, the little girl’s arm, my lip and my cheek.”
“That all sounds pretty amazing,” he said, trying to laugh it off.
“It is,” she said.  “I don’t care how you do it.  All I want to know is why?”
Why not?  “That’s funny because most people want to know how.”
She smiled and stood, pointing her finger in his face.  “I knew it!”  She realized it sounded accusatory, so she quickly apologized.  She settled down.  “But why me?”
It was a good question.  He normally didn’t get involved unless the person deserved a second chance.  Did Chrystal deserve a second chance?  “I don’t know,” he admitted.  “You just looked like you needed help.”  He looked up.  “You still do.”
“Still?” she asked.  “I’m not hurting anywhere.”  She looked over her body.
“Of course you are,” he said.  He pointed to her heart.  “But I can’t take that kind of pain from you.”  He had watched her for months.  He had wanted to help her, to tell her she had value greater than her physical appearance…far greater than her body.  He wanted to sit her down and help her see life as he did now.  If he could only give her that gift, it would all be worth the pain in the world.  But he couldn’t.  Whatever gift or curse he had been given many years ago only healed physical wounds.  Emotional pain…spiritual pain…they were beyond his gift…beyond his power.
She began to cry.  Before long her body was shaking with the heavy sobs.  “I’m so ashamed,” she said.  “I’m so sorry.”  He didn’t know what to do.  He wanted to take her in his arms and hold her tight, to assure her as a father would his own daughter that everything was going to be okay.  She needed to hear she was loved as a person and not just a body, but she wasn’t ready to hear it from him.  It would only confuse her more.  She still couldn’t separate the two.  “I just wanted to belong…”
Isaiah couldn’t stand it any longer.  “Chrystal, you do belong, but not to that life...not to that group.”  He searched for the words that could make everything clear.  He had never been good with words…especially with women.  “You’re more valuable and have a much greater purpose in this life than…than…”
“Than being a drunken whore?” she asked.
“I didn’t say that.”   He knew he should have kept his mouth shut.  His life had been so much better when he had learned to keep to himself.
“You didn’t have to.  It’s true.”  She wiped her nose with her sleeve.  “I’m the easy girl on campus, I know.  It’s just like Joe said, I’m ‘used merchandise.’”
“You don’t have to be,” he said.  “You have the power to change all of that, and you’re the only one who can change it.”  That’s what he had wanted to say.  That’s what she needed to hear.  She needed to stop being the victim and start taking control of her own life.  He wanted to tell her about the pastor’s sermon this morning, the story in the Bible about the woman caught in adultery.  She’d messed up.  She’d chosen the wrong kind of life, but she’d also been forgiven…she started over…she changed.
“Yeah, I’ve tried.”
“Then try again.”
“Why?  No one would want me now anyway.” she said.  “You don’t.”  Chrystal wiped her runny nose again.  “All I wanted to do was get out of that crappy little town and…I just wanted to fit in.  Is there anything wrong with that?”  She’d opened the door, so he told her about the woman and about Jesus.  If Jesus could forgive that woman, He could forgive Chrystal.  “That sounds a little too simple,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s the beauty of it,” Isaiah began.  “The forgiveness is there; the love is there.  All you have to do is accept it.”  He stopped suddenly at the sound of screeching car tires and a loud thump.  Isaiah and Chrystal both rushed out the door.  A woman with short brown hair lay face down in the street down beneath his apartment.  The man shouting obscenities from his car, hitting his steering wheel with his head, looked familiar. 
“Oh, no!” Chrystal cried.  “Sarah!”  She ran down the steps and into the street.  “Sarah, are you okay?  Please be okay.”
“I didn’t see her,” the man said, stumbling out of his red Camaro.
“Joe!”  Chrystal knelt beside the limp body of her friend.  “How could you?”
“I can’t handle this,” Joe said, stumbling back to his car.  It was obvious he was still drunk.  He slipped and fell to the pavement.
“Don’t you dare run away, Joe Harrison.  For once in your miserable life, stay and make this right!” she screamed.
Isaiah knelt beside Chrystal and pulled the hair from Sarah’s face.  Blood began to puddle around her head.  She wasn’t breathing.  “Sarah?” he whispered.
“Oh, God, she can’t leave me.”  This time it wasn’t an explicative…or a curse…or even a flippant word.  This time she was calling out.  “Sarah,” Chrystal cried.  She looked up.  “Not this; Not now, please.”
Isaiah looked over at Joe, who sat on the street, leaning back against his car.  His hand reached up for the door handle, but his body didn’t have the wherewithal to follow.  Isaiah wished so desperately it had been Joe lying here and not Sarah.  Isaiah dismissed the thought that plagued him and resolved to do what he was gifted to do.  “Chrystal, I want you to remember you have value and purpose.”
“What?” she asked.
“I need you to remember something.”  He took his hand, grabbed her chin and turned her head.  “Look at me!”  She did.  “When you lose perspective, think of others.  Love them more than you love yourself.  And please, love yourself too.”
“What are you saying?” Chrystal said.  “Sarah’s dying; help her.”
“I will, but first I need you to promise you’ll remember what I said.”  She nodded.  “Okay, take Sarah’s hand,” he said as he pulled the gloves from his hands.  Chrystal slid to the side and made room for Isaiah.  He put one hand on Sarah’s forehead and the other on Chrystal’s hand.  “You may feel strange for the next day or so, but don’t worry.”  Oh, God, please let this work.  He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  As he did, his head began to bleed and his body slumped over Sarah’s.
Sarah suddenly gasped for air.  Pushing herself from the pavement, she rolled the limp lifeless body from her back.  As soon as she saw the blood seeping from Isaiah’s cracked skull, she cried, “No!”  But it was too late.  His body lay still beside her.  She took his hands and put them up to her face.  She pleaded with him to come back to her.  She touched his wounds and prayed that she could take his pain.  But it was futile.  Isaiah Carpenter died in the middle of the street.  He gave more than one gift that day.  It’s hard to say which was greater.
Chrystal knelt beside her best friend who was dead but now alive, and she finally understood why the strange boy had come into their lives.  He came to teach and to heal.  He came to give hope and to give life…even if it cost his.  And at that moment, Chrystal understood her newly found purpose.  She felt surprisingly alive and strangely powerful.  She pulled Sarah close to her chest and held her tight.  “It’s okay, Sarah.  It’s going to be okay.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Isaiah's Gift" - part 2 of 3

Here's part two of "Isaiah's Gift."  Thanks for the comments on part one.  Sorry it was torturing you to stop where I did.  I guess you all never watched a series or a soap opera.

Oh well, hope you enjoy the second installment.

...“It’s okay,” he said softly.  “I’m in pre-med.”  He gingerly felt the break in her ankle, and as he did, the pain left.  He touched her forehead, where the collision with the brick wall had left a two inch gash.  “You’re going to be fine,” he assured her.  “Can you make it home okay?”  Suddenly she felt fine.  Her ankle and head were no longer on fire, and as she felt for the cut, it was strangely gone.  Chrystal held her hand into the light from the library.  It was covered in blood.
            “Wait,” she said.  “How did you?”  As Chrystal looked back to her savior, he was gone.  She sat up and scanned the courtyard.  Off in the distance she could see the dark hooded figure limping away.  “Hey, wait up,” she cried.  But it was too late.  He ducked into the darkness of the woods.
            By the time Chrystal arrived at her dorm, she realized she had left her satchel of books back on the courtyard steps.  Screw the books.  She wasn’t going back there until daylight.  Sarah, her roommate, gasped when Chrystal opened the dorm room door.  “What happened?  Are you alright?  Should I call campus security?”
            Chrystal held up her hand and went straight to the bathroom.  Her hair and face were covered in blood.  She turned on the shower, pulled off her clothes and got in.  After soaking for a few moments and rubbing the chill bumps from her arms, Chrystal washed the blood from her hair and face.  She watched as the tub water became pink, a mixture of the red blood and foam of the shampoo.  She dried off and examined herself in the mirror.  How could this be?  So much blood and not a single cut?  She put her foot on the sink and looked at her ankle.  There was no doubt she had broken it in the fall.  So where was the injury?  The ankle wasn’t even swollen.
            Finally, Sarah burst through the bathroom door.  “Would you please tell me what in heaven’s name happened to you tonight?”  Chrystal shook her head and examined once more the cut free forehead.  She told Sarah about the dark figure and the other man who knocked her down.  She explained the fall, the broken ankle and the cut on her head.
            “I don’t know, Sarah.  I just don’t know.”  They both saw the blood, but neither could find a wound.  “Would you go with me tomorrow to look for my books?”
            “Sure.”  Sarah helped Chrystal change into her pajamas and tucked her in bed.  “Are you sure you don’t want me to call security?”
            “And tell them what?” Chrystal asked.
            The next morning Chrystal and Sarah left early to search for her books.  They found them exactly where Chrystal had lost them.  And at the bottom of the courtyard steps, where Chrystal had fallen…they found bloodstains.  “We got to find this hoodie guy,” Sarah said with determination.  “Pre-med, huh?  That shouldn’t be too hard to find.  It’s a small school.”  Sarah turned to her roommate.  “Did you see his face at all?”  Chrystal shook her head.  “Any distinguishing marks or characteristics?”
            Chrystal thought for a moment and reran the images of last night through her head.  “Yeah, he had a limp.”
            “Good,” Sarah added with her best Sherlock Holmes accent.  “A pre-med student with a profound limp.  Elementary, my dear Chrystal.  We’ll solve this riddle in no time…”
            “Time!” Chrystal screamed as she grabbed the satchel.  “What time is it?”
            “Six, twenty-two.  Why?”
            “Oh god, I only have an hour and a half.”  Chrystal ran off with the book bag banging against her side.
            While Chrystal went home to write a good history paper, Sarah set out to discover the mystery man who magically healed Chrystal’s wounds.  There were only two sections of pre-med students, so the process should be relatively easy.  She pulled out her I-phone and checked the university’s website for class schedules.  One section would be in the Fulbright lecture hall, and the other divided into five labs at eight, ten and two.  No one would care if she dropped in on the lecture, so Sarah climbed the balcony steps and looked for someone in a gray hoodie.  There were only sixty-five students in this section, so it didn’t take long.  Sarah descended the steps of the balcony and ran down the hall to the labs.  Finding a reason to interrupt class would be difficult.  She might get away with it once, but five times? 
            By the end of the day, Sarah’s search proved futile.  No male student in a gray hoodie, and no one with a limp.  Maybe he was absent?  Sarah called in a favor and had an office worker check class attendance.  “Aha!”  Three missing students, and two of them were male.  One was in the B lab and the other in D.  She would check back on Monday.
            That following Sunday night, a young man in a gray hoodie walked across the campus with a slight limp.  He headed over to the pizza parlor wearing black gloves.  Before he got there, he ran into a little trouble.  He wasn’t watching where he was going and accidentally bumped into a group of students on their way back from a pick-up game of basketball.  “Dude!  Watch where you’re going.”
            “Huh, oh, sorry,” the hooded figure offered.  As he walked on, one of the guys grabbed his hood and pulled him back.  “Hey, I said I was sorry.”
            “What’s with the gloves?” he asked.  “It’s not even cold outside.”  The boy tried to free his hood from the man’s grasp.  “What’s your hurry, Dude?  I asked you a question.”
            He pulled again, but the man’s grip was too tight.  “What do you care?” he asked.
            “I care.”  The man jerked the hood and yanked him over to the others.  They jumped right in and began pushing him back and forth in a circle.  “So, freak, what’s with the gloves?”  They pushed and teased and pushed him some more.  “Take his gloves,” the man instructed the others.
            “No, don’t!”
            “Why not?”
            “Please,” he begged.  “Just leave me alone.”  They didn’t. After taking his gloves and stripping him of his jacket too, they kicked him, hit him, spit on him, and left him crying in the bushes.  He never made it to the pizza parlor.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Isaiah's Gift" - Part 1 of 4: Short Story for Feedback

Hey Everyone, I have another short story for your entertainment and feedback.  I would love to know what you think, what you like and what you don't.  I will share this short story in 3 installments; it is rather long.

Isaiah’s Gift
Mitchell S Karnes

            Chrystal Jennings gathered the research books into her khaki bag and secured the flap’s button before throwing the strap over her shoulder.  It was well past closing time, and the assistant librarian had asked her repeatedly to leave.  Why did she always fell into the pattern of procrastination?  Here she was rushing frantically the last night to gather all of her sources and do another all-nighter for her history class.  Nothing had changed.  College wasn’t exactly what she had expected.  Well, it was what she had hoped, but her lack of academic discipline and her love of the social life, made studying a chore.  Her freshman year was relatively easy, and she was able to juggle the party life and the grades.  But this year things were different.  This semester, she was falling desperately behind in all of her classes and history was the worst.  If Chrystal didn’t get a solid “B” on this term paper, she would fail the class and Daddy would cut his funding of her “experiment” as he put it.
            Chrystal had the opportunity to be the first female in her family to graduate from college…to leave Misty Hollow and do something other than marry a farm boy and have lots of babies.  She wanted something different.  She got it.  What she got, however, was about to return her for good to Misty Hollow and the eager arms of Jeb Holt.  “Jeb’s a good, solid boy,” Daddy had said.  “He’s got two hundred acres of the most promising farm land in the county.  What more could you want, Sweetie?” he’d ask.  Chrystal said she wanted an education, a chance to make a difference in the world.  But college was just an excuse to get her out of town.  The temptations were just too strong for her.  There were too many things to do, even at this time of night. 
            Chrystal stood at the door and waited for the assistant librarian to unlock the door and let her out.  He made it perfectly clear he was greatly annoyed at her dawdling.  He had let her look up one more book and make just two more copies.  It had taken her almost another hour to do so.  It wasn’t that Chrystal was eager to learn.  She just didn’t want to leave the library.  Once she headed out those doors, life was waiting.  Unfortunately for her, as he closed and locked the door behind her, a dark figure was waiting as well. 
            She turned and looked through the glass library doors, but the assistant had already put his ear buds in and was walking briskly away.  She slipped her left hand into her purse and felt for the small can of mace.  Once it was securely in her hand, she turned.  He was gone!  She looked to the left and right of the courtyard and could not find the dark figure in the gray hoodie and black gloves.  Where was he?  The campus was just too big and her dorm so far away.  Chrystal held the can tightly and made her way down the concrete steps of the library.  It was times like these that she cursed her newly acquire sense of fashion.  Her stiletto heels were less than conducive to a brisk walk, let alone an attempt to job home.  But the hairs on her neck were standing on edge and she knew something was about to happen…something bad.
            Just as she started to jog toward the courtyard steps, he hit her from behind.  Her right ankle turned and she heard and felt the sickening pop simultaneously.  The pain shot through her ankle and she tumbled down the short flight of aggregate steps, banging her shoulder and head against the brick divider.  Chrystal lost the bag, and with it the can of mace.  Finally, her body fell flat on the five by eight landing.  Her head throbbed, her ankle was on fire, and the fall had knocked the wind right out of her lungs.  She panicked.  As much as she tried, her lungs wouldn’t suck any air.  She gasped and gasped.  Chrystal couldn’t breathe, and she couldn’t move.
            The man jumped over her body, straddling her chest.  He grabbed her jacket and tore it open, busting the zipper.  But as he grabbed for her shirt, he stopped cold.  “Hey!” a shout came from the other side of the courtyard.  “Leave her alone.”  The man mumbled an obscenity and bolted off into the darkness of  Everbright’s campus woods.  “You okay?” the voice asked.

            Chrystal looked up, but couldn’t say anything.  Could it be?  The dark figure with the hoodie bent over her body.  He slipped the gloves from his hands and reached for her leg.  “No!” she screamed as the air finally filled her lungs.   (to be continued)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Last Thought on Bullies from Our Past

I wanted to share one last thought on bullies from our past before I go on to another topic.  Again thanks to those who risked sharing your past painful experiences.  They truly touched my heart.

I am the youngest of three children.  My brother is four years older and my sister two years older.  Yes, that makes me the baby of the family.  I am 50 now and still the baby.  Oh well, what can I say?  Anyway, I too have a few bully stories to share, and I have used pieces of each in my new book The Pact.  Here's where I came up with my top three antagonists:  Joe Jennings, Sammy Smith, and Mark Hollister (yes, the names were changed even though the boys were not innocent).

When I moved from the city to the country, I was enrolled in a K-8 school called Giant City.  I was no giant.  In fact, I happened to be the second shortest person in our class (thanks Julie for not making me the shortest).  Anyway, growing up the brother of a block bully of sorts, I was a little tougher than normal...especially for my size.  My brother made sure I was able to defend myself.

Three boys from my new school tormented me.  One boy at least had a smidgen of integrity.  Every day at recess (yes, we still had recess in 6th-8th grade) he would try to beat me up.  I had learned to wrestle, so I would avoid his first punches and wrestle the larger boy to the ground.  Finally, having scissored my legs around his arms and chest, I would make him promise not to beat me up again.  He wouldn't agree to that, but believe it or not, he agreed not to beat me up until tomorrow.  On it went for about eight months.  He would try to punch me and I would wrestle him to the ground.  He would promise again for another day.  I guess he finally got tired of trying, because that face to face attempt stopped.

Then it started happening more subtly.  He and his two friends would start destroying my things.  They ruined my lunch, my gym bag, and my clothes. They also started coming at me three at a time.  Thanks to another set of three boys who stood up for me, the bullies finally left me alone.  This is where I get the saying, "No one should ever have to stand alone."  One thing I have learned about bullies.  They rarely if ever attack by themselves.  They usually need both the support and the audience.  Deny them and they go on for other prey.

I guess bullies and their toadies are a little like the beasts of the wild.  They too look for the straggler...the weaker animal that can no longer keep up with the herd...the isolated easy prey.  Well, let's make an effort to make sure no one falls behind.  Let's stand together and make sure no child or adult becomes easy prey to bullies and their like.

Thanks for listening.  I promise, I'll change the subject on my next post.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Pain from the Past

I just posted a comment on my Facebook that I thought I would flesh out a little more here.  I want to start by thanking those who have made comments about the bullies of your past (publicly and privately).  When I chose to bring bullying into the theme of my new book, I knew I was risking the reopening of old wounds...not just to pride, but to pain and a sense of loss.  But as a pastor and a counselor, I also knew suppressing memories and pain is not dealing with them and giving myself an opportunity to heal from them.

Please continue sharing your stories of past bullying pain, and we'll get through them together.  I hope my book can begin a healthy discovery and dialogue about the pain and fear bullying causes children.  I also hope it inspires us to say, "No one should ever have to stand alone."  Well friends, I have to go.  In the meantime, "Be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:9).


PS - If you haven't seen the movie Captain America, do it soon.  He understood the pain and used it for good.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Conversations on Bullying

My new book is out and deals with the topic of bullying.  I was wondering if any of you had experiences with bullies growing up or as a parent are dealing with it for your child.  If you ever faced the horrors of bullying, were a victim of controlling abuse, or witnessed something of the like, let me know.  I would love to dialogue with you...listen to your stories...share your journey.

I look forward to your comments...your stories...your innerside.