Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Conversion Tale

Dave Long, over at Faithinfiction has been posting the entries in his last contest. They are all conversion stories. I didn't have the time to enter the contest, but I did write a conversion story a few years ago that was published in FellowScript, the magazine/newsletter for Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship It won their contest, which, if my memory serves, was to write a story about a character named Shorty that included a volkswagon Beetle called Bee and a woman named Myrtle. It was fun to write.

So - I thought I'd post it here, for the fun. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know. :)M

I Remember Shorty
By M. Lee Laycock

We leap-frogged across the country, Shorty and I. He was driving a patchwork quilt of a pickup and I was in my hum-along-the-road Beetle. I first noticed him somewhere west of Regina, when I ran out of gas. Old "Bee" would run forever on a tank, but her gas gauge had jammed about four owners previous. I’d often chug to a stop, trying to remember how far back the last gas station was. Shorty pulled over, hopped out with a jerry can in his hand and a grin on his lined face. I could tell he’d seen better days, but when his grin widened and he pulled off his cowboy hat, I relaxed. A wide band of white started about half way down his forehead. I had a weakness for cowboys and Shorty was definitely the real deal.

"Out o’ gas, ma’am?"

As I studied Shorty, I figured he was the kind who’d call every female that.

"I’d be glad to pay you..."

He waved his hat as he poured the gas. "No need." He lifted his chin at the car. "What is this, anyway?"

My turn to grin. "It’s a Volkswagen Beetle. I call her Bee."

"Bee, eh? Good name fer it. Looks like it could get squashed out here."

I peered out at the flat landscape, squinting along the highway as a semi roared by, and was tempted to agree. "Sure is hot."

"Uh huh. Storm brewin, you can feel it." He finished pouring the gas, wiped his two-toned brow with his sleeve and put his hat on his head. "That’ll get ya to the next station."

"Thanks. You sure I can’t...

"Nope. Good Lord blesses me, I do what I can when I see a chance."

He peered into the back window of Bee & frowned. "You goin’ far?"

I nodded. "To the Yukon. Just me and my dog." Klondike gave a low growl for effect.

Shorty took a step back. "Huh. Lookin’ fer gold, eh?"

"Well, sort of."

He slipped a crooked finger across the rim of his hat and gave a quick jerk of his head. "Journey mercies to ye, then."

That night, I tried to write Shorty into my journal, but the storm he’d predicted boomed out of a low black cloud that left only a thin line of light where it met the ground. Klondike shivered beside me and the walls of my pup tent flapped like sails. Just as the hail hit it collapsed around us. I tried to set it up again but the hail battered me till I gave up, stuffed it and the dog into old Bee and tried to sleep sitting up. As the hail turned to rain I decided to drive around to the laundry I’d seen at the middle of the campground. Bee’s windshield wipers were threatening to fly off due to centrifugal force, so the wide dark patch beside it was a blur. Bee hummed right onto it and held her ground for about five seconds. Then she started to sink. It was a battle to get the door open and by the time Klondike and I got into the laundry, we were drenched and covered in mud. Shorty was sitting on top of one of the driers, his short legs forming a perfect curve to the tip of his warn boots dangling about a foot off the floor.

He peered through the window. "Looks like you’ll be needin a tow once this lets up."

"I thought it was a driveway."

"Garden patch, more like."

Klondike shook himself and fell over. Shorty let out a cackle, then turned a deep red under his burnished skin, and apologized. "Sorry, ma’am. Just ain’t seen many tripods like that."

I smoothed the fur on Klondike’s wet head. "He got caught in a trap. They had to amputate."

Shorty nodded. "Know what that’s all about. Been there."

I pushed my wet sleeping bag into the washer. "You’ve been caught in a trap?"

"Yup. One of my own makin’, though the Devil did his part."

I waited, knowing he’d go on.

"Left home when I was about your age. Hooked up with a raw bunch and almost followed them to hell. Then I met Myrtle. She was workin’ as a teller in the bank we tried to rob. One o’ my partners pretended he had a gun in his pocket. Myrtle didn’t scare easy - grabbed his arm and pulled his hand out. Shoulda seen the look on that boy’s face when Myrtle started laughin’. Those boys ran like chickens from a fox and left me standin there."

"Were you arrested?"

Shorty grinned. "Nope. But you might say I got a life sentence. Myrtle told me what I needed was a meal and the Lord Jesus. Married her six months later. On my way home to her now."

Shorty stretched himself down from the drier. "Kinda looks to me like you could use a dose of Myrtle’s medicine yerself. There’s a diner down the road. How ‘bout some breakfast?"

My stomach chose that moment to growl, so I grinned back at him and agreed. The breakfast was huge and Shorty talked his way through it. It was then I realized his eyes were the kind that really saw what they were looking at, and he kept them trained on me.

Yes, I remember Shorty well, but I remember the joy more. The joy when I prayed with him after that big breakfast, the joy when I waved good-bye after he’d pulled Bee out of the mud. The joy that stayed with me when I turned around and headed home.

There was no need to go on. I’d already struck gold.

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