On this page I will be putting short stories, essays, and other pennings that I wrote for you all to read.
Faith Like a Pearl
(Based on John Newton’s Dream)
The wind whipped through Ryan’s reddish-gold curls that were peeking out from under his black tri-corn, pulling them over his stormy blue eyes. Brushing his hair aside, he pulled hard on the rope he was attempting to tie into a knot. Ryan grunted as he heaved the stiff cord over the rail of the ship, scraping his knuckles on the hard, dry wood. His effort paid off, and the knot slid into place. He bent over the railing to get his breath and closed his eyes.
As he rested, he thought about the question that had been plaguing him for the past few weeks. “Can your faith be taken away from you?” He wasn’t sure, and the thought that perhaps his faith in Christ could be taken away or lost made him frightened and insecure in his Christian walk. Straightening up, he took off his tri-corn to wipe the sweat off his brow, and noticed someone coming up the gangplank of the HMS Margery. Replacing his hat, Ryan hurried across the deck to where the stranger was stepping onto the ship. The stranger, tall, dark, and wearing a long coat, smiled at Ryan and held out his hand.
“Señor Ryan Kendall, I believe I am addressing?”
Ryan took the proffered hand as he tried to force his mind to focus on the present. “Yes, sir; although I am not sure whom I am addressing?”
The other man laughed. “Forgive me; I am Señor Guillermo. I was told by Captain Abrams where you were. I have something for you.” As he said this, he pulled an envelope out of his coat pocket and handed it to Ryan, who nodded his thanks as he turned it over and broke the seal.
Ryan couldn’t believe his eyes when he dumped a perfectly formed, exquisitely golden pearl-one of the rarest ones he had ever seen-out of the envelope. It sparkled and glistened in the sunlight. He looked at the Señor and stammered. “T-thank you very much, but why did you give this to me?”
The Spaniard shrugged. “You will know in time.” Suddenly he turned to go, calling over his shoulder, “Keep the pearl at all costs. This is the answer to all your questions.” Then he turned and walked down the gangplank.
“Wait! What is that supposed to mean?” cried Ryan, but it was too late. The Spaniard was already gone. Ryan held the pearl up to the light and examined it. It shone with a pure, golden light. Señor Guillermo must be quite wealthy to have such a rare pearl as this. With great care, he placed it back in the envelope and then into his satchel in a pocket where he kept his father’s old family Bible. His finger lingered a moment on the envelope’s cover, then he abruptly fastened his bag shut. There was work to be done, and this mystery would have to wait.
That night, Ryan couldn’t sleep; he was tossing and turning all night. At the first sign of daylight, he was up out of bed, dressing with great speed. He pondered what Señor Guillermo had meant by giving him the pearl; his thoughts as tangled as the unruly curls that he was attempting to run a comb through. Just then a voice startled him out of his reverie.
“Morning, Ryan. Up early, are we?”
Ryan grinned up at his shipmate. “Yes, Caedmon. Couldn’t sleep well last night; something happened yesterday that kept bothering me.”
Caedmon tilted his head. “Tell me.”
“I, I… well, a man gave me something yesterday. He said it would help me with all my questions.” Ryan felt his face grow warm.
Caedmon raised his eyebrow. “Did you know this man?”
“Then how did he know about your questions?” Caedmon’s voice betrayed his disbelief. When Ryan didn’t answer, he shrugged. “Let’s see it, then.”
Ryan hesitated. “Here,” he said at last, pulling the pearl carefully out of his satchel. He handed it to Caedmon.
Caedmon’s eyes grew wide as he examined the gorgeous pearl. “This is what he gave you? It’s quite lovely.”
Ryan smiled. “What do you make of it?”
Caedmon frowned in concentration. Holding the pearl up to the light, he squinted at it critically, then weighed it in his hand. “Hmmm, interesting.” He turned it over and over in his hands, then, shaking his head with a disappointed expression on his face, he gave it back to Ryan.
“Sorry, old fellow, but you got duped. That’s a fake.”
Ryan couldn’t believe his ears. “A fake?”
Caedmon nodded. “Fake, fraud, hoax; call it what you will.”
Ryan was in disbelief. “But, but…” He shook his head. A fake? Was Señor Guillermo a defrauder? He mentally kicked himself for trusting a complete stranger. “You’re sure?”
“Sure as I can be.”
Ryan took back the pearl. Weighing it in his hand, he looked up at Caedmon. “What should I do with it? Should I find the Señor and give it back to him?”
Caedmon snorted. “If I were you, I’d just toss it over the side of the ship and forget about it. The man’s just pulling your leg.”
Ryan hopped up. “Thanks, Caedmon. I’ll do that.” He ran up the stairs to the top deck.
Caedmon smirked. “Glad to help.”
Ryan ran to the side of the vessel and held out the pearl in his hand, ready to drop it, and hesitated. The pearl looked so attractive in the late summer afternoon sun, and the Señor had said specifically to keep it at all costs; but Ryan was angry at being duped by a complete stranger. He dropped the pearl.
A cry rang out from behind Ryan. Turning his head in surprise, he saw a glimpse of a dark man in a coat running at him. Before Ryan could recover the presence of mind to dodge out of the way, the man jumped over the side of the boat, creating a large splash as he hit the water. Ryan leaned over the side, looking for the man. He waited in agony for the man to reappear on the surface.
Just when Ryan was beginning to contemplate calling out for help, the man broke through the surface of the water. Ryan grabbed a rope, throwing it over the side. “Here,” he called out. “Catch!”
As he grabbed the man’s hand to pull him over the side, he almost dropped him again in surprise. “Señor Guillermo!”
Guillermo scowled. “Sí, Señor. It is I.” Scrambling over the rail to the deck of the ship, he tossed back his dark hair, and held the pearl out in front of Ryan. “Did I not tell you, young Señor, to keep this at all costs?”
Ryan fidgeted. “You did.”
The Señor sighed. “Then why did you not?”
Ryan took a deep breath, then told his story. After he had finished, the Señor looked long and hard at him. Ryan bore his gaze without flinching.
The Señor held the pearl up to the light. “I am no fool, Ryan; and neither are you. If this was fake, it would be lighter in weight, and not have any flaws in the shape, sí?”
Guillermo continued. “Did you ask your friend how he knew it was fake?”
“No.” Ryan hesitated. Then, unable to make eye contact with Guillermo, he asked; “May I have the pearl back, Sir?”
Guillermo shook his head. “I can’t trust you with it.”
Ryan’s face fell, and he turned away, unable to hide the tears that were spilling down his face. The Señor lifted Ryan’s chin, and he could see kindness sparkling in his eyes.
“Do not worry, Ryan. The pearl is still yours.”
Ryan looked up, confused. “Sir?”
Guillermo smiled. “If I give it back to you, you will only be convinced to throw it away, or you will forget it and lose it. Therefore, I will keep it for you, and whenever you need it, I will produce it.”
Ryan stood there open mouthed. “What?”
Guillermo laughed. “Now, maybe, you will see the answer to your question?”
Ryan shook his head, bewildered. “What do you mean?”
Guillermo smiled. “You had questions about your faith, no?”
Ryan was astonished. “How did you know that?”
“Your pastor told me.”
Guillermo continued. “You were concerned you would lose it.”
Ryan nodded. “Yes. Do you think you can? Is it possible?” He wanted so desperately to know, but at the same time, he was terrified lest the answer be yes.
Señor Guillermo smiled. “Think of what I showed you with the pearl. I would not let you keep the pearl, for fear you would throw it away again. Just so, God keeps our faith in the palm of his hand. He will never let our faith be lost. If you believe in him, God will keep your faith secure. Even when others say your faith is folly, that it is a fake.”
Ryan felt weight lift off his chest, relieved at the answer. He smiled, then flung his arms around Guillermo. “Thank you!”
Guillermo laughed, then patted Ryan on the back. “My ship leaves soon; I must be going. God be with you, Ryan.”
“God be with you, Señor.” Ryan watched Guillermo walk away down the gangplank. At the last moment, he remembered something. “Wait,” Ryan called out. “Who are you, really?”
Guillermo turned. “A friend.” He winked and waved, then continued on his way.
Ryan followed Guillermo with his eyes until he was out of sight. Then he looked into the horizon. A storm was approaching from the east, the clouds racing along at an alarming speed. As Ryan turned to go below deck, he felt something crinkle in his pocket. He felt around, and pulled out a pearl encased in a note. He turned over the note and read the following;
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11”
He looked up at the sky. “Thank you, Father.”
~MiddleEarthMusician, March of 2017
Andrea Carter and the Last Job
(Most of the characters in this story are not my own; it was written for a short story competition based on a book series I read. You can purchase the book this story was published in at this link:
I highly recommend Susan K. Marlow’s books!)
“What!” Andrea banged the test papers onto the desk of her brother, Justin.
He sighed and picked up the papers. “It’s true Andi. You got an F on this test.”
“But I studied hard! You saw me! I even gave up riding over the weekend to study. All this for an F! I’ll be the laughingstock of the school. I won’t be able to lift my head after this.” Her lip quivered slightly.
Justin pushed back some documents and rested his elbows on the top of his desk. “Sis, you need to accept the facts. You failed the test.”
Andi felt the tears welling up in her eyes. “Failed?” she whispered, swallowing hard.
Justin stood up. “Andi, you know we will have to tell Mother about this…”
“No!” Andi hit the desk so hard it jarred her teeth. She turned and ran out of the office.
“Andrea Carter! Come back here this inst…”
She slammed the door and crashed into Tim O’Neil, Justin’s clerical assistant. “Miss Carter, this is an important law office, not some children’s school yard.”
Andi scowled at him as she pushed past him, flung the door open, and clattered down the steps onto the hot, dusty streets of Fresno County.
Rosa, her best friend, was waiting outside, braiding her long, thick, black hair. “¿Qué pasa? What’s wrong?” She tied the end of her braid as Andi flew down the street, ignoring the inquisitive glances of curious bystanders. “¡Espera! Wait!” Rosa called out after her. “Come back!”
Andi paid no attention to Rosa’s frantic calls. Tears poured down her face as she turned down a dark alleyway. Flinging herself down on a stoop of steps, she let out a sob. How did she get an F after studying so hard? Andi’s shoulders heaved up and down. She buried her face in her hands and let the sobs flow. All that work, for nothing?
Just then, Andi heard footsteps coming down the alley. Rosa’s concerned face peered over the side of the building. “¿Estás bien? Are you okay?” She knelt beside Andi and dug into her pocket for a handkerchief. Andi rubbed her swollen eyes and accepted the wrinkled fabric. Rosa tilted her head and squinted at Andi. “Was it about last week’s test, amiga?” She asked sympathetically.
Andi nodded. “I got an F. An F! No one’s grades are that low. I also made myself look like a fool, by tearing through Justin’s office. Tim’s probably fit to be tied.” She groaned inwardly.
Rosa smiled “I could hear you, running loco in there. Don’t worry, Mr. O’Neil probably will be too busy to rant at you.”
Andi shook her head. “Tim’s never too busy to give me a piece of his mind.” She got up, brushed her clothes off, and wiped her face with the sleeve of her light cotton blouse. Squaring her shoulders, she set her jaw and prepared to go back to Justin’s office and apologize. She felt the blood rush from her neck to her face. Andi shook her head, visualizing how stupid she must have looked, crashing into Tim like that.
Suddenly, the stairs vibrated and the sound of galloping horses pulling a stagecoach caught her attention.
Rosa’s eyes opened wide. “¿Qué es eso? What is that?” She breathed.
Andi shrugged. “Probably just a coach. It sounded like it had a strong team of horses. Come on, let’s go see.”
They ran to the entrance of the alley and peered out to see people tying up their horses. Andi caught her breath as she gazed at the most beautiful horses she had ever seen. Black, with white manes and tails, the glossy steeds tossed their sleek heads and whinnied gaily. Andi had to tear her gaze away from the beauties to even glance at the family. It looked like the parents had gone into Justin’s office, and only the children were left in the coach.
A boy with shaggy, brown hair was clapping hands with his younger sister, a little brunette beauty with a laugh like silver bells. Andi walked closer to the carriage. Rosa pulled at her arm.
“Por favor, amiga. Please, Andi. Don’t get into any more trouble today.”
Andi turned and grinned at Rosa. “Don’t worry, Rosa. They’re just kids.” Rosa still looked suspicious. Andi smiled “Why don’t you do tell Justin where I am, so he’s not worried when he can’t find us.”
Rosa nodded, and after one more doubtful glance at the strange children, she took off in the direction of Justin’s law office. Andi stepped towards the stagecoach.
The strange boy turned around and grinned at Andi.
“Howdy,” he said, glancing at her slightly disheveled appearance.
“Hi,” answered Andi. “You must be new here. I’m Andrea Carter. What’re your names?”
“I’m Mike Parker,” answered the boy. “This is my sister, Danny.” The little girl nodded at Andi, and then glared at her brother. “My name is Danielle,” she snapped. “Not Danny.” Turning to look at Andi, she pleaded, “Please call me Danielle.”
Andi raised an eyebrow at Mike, who shrugged. “It’s what she likes. Say,” He said, “that your brother calling you?”
Andi turned and saw a blonde haired boy running towards them, waving his arms and shouting. “Goodness, no.” She said laughing. “That’s my friend, Cory Blake. Cory!” she said, turning to wave him over.
“Andi, so glad I found you!” Cory said, bending over to catch his breath. “There’s a new headline in the paper, something’s up in Silverton…”
“Silverton?” Mike interrupted him. “We’re from there.”
“Really?” Cory asked, his eyes growing big. “Then maybe you know about the theft of the County Bank?” Danny gasped.
“The County Bank? How much was taken?” Mike asked.
Cory scanned the paper he carried. “Thousands,” he answered. “Mostly money from Judge Thompson’s account.”
“Not Judge Thompson! He’s such a nice man.” Danny cried out.
“Who do you think did it?” Andi asked her new friends.
Mike shrugged. “Who else?”
Cory cocked his head in curiosity. “Who?”
Mike balled his fists. “The town bully, Jason Lyles. He’s always getting into trouble. Once, he even brought a gun to school and threatened to shoot all the first graders.” Danny shivered.
“Was he still there when you left?” Cory asked.
Danny answered, “No. His cousin, Jake- who’s a friend of mine- told me that Jason left Silverton in a hurry.”
Andi snapped her fingers, making all the others jump. “Jason Lyles! I thought I recognized that name! Cory, he goes to school, remember? He’s only been here for a few weeks, but he took the test with everyone else.” In her excitement, she almost forgot her grade on the test.
Cory scratched his head. “Yeah, now I remember. He just arrived in Fresno. Tall, shaggy black hair, blue eyes?”
Mike groaned. “That’s him. Great, I thought we had escaped him when we left Silverton.”
Andi heard Justin call her name. She smacked her forehead. “Justin, Rosa, I forgot them! She turned to look at them. “Parkers, where are you going to live? Can I talk to you tomorrow?”
Mike shrugged. “Sure, we’re going to live over there, in a small…”
Andi’s brother’s voice grew more insistent. “Great, I’ll ask Cory’s dad. See ya! Bye, Cory!”
Andi walked down the hall of the boardinghouse where Mr. Blake, Cory’s father and the owner of the livery, had informed her that the Parkers lived. She carried the latest edition of the Fresno Weekly Expositor under her arm. She couldn’t wait to show her new friends the headline on the front of the paper. Andi had bought the paper after Justin had dropped her off in town. Andi’s mother, Elizabeth, had included not going into town alone as part of her punishment for running off in a rage from the office. Andi grimaced. The other part of her punishment was mucking out the dirty horse stalls for a week. During vacation time! Plus, she had to re-study her lessons and take the test again. At that moment Andi despised everything she studied, and everything related to her studies. She probably would have added more to her dark thoughts, but a strong hand suddenly rested on her shoulder, and an unpleasant voice interrupted her reveries.
“Look where you’re goin’, Carter girl. Almost ran me over.” Andi found herself looking at a tall, black haired boy with piercing blue eyes.
“Jason!” she gasped.
“Yeah, not too happy to see me are ya?”
“It’s not that, I just…” Andi gulped.
“Just what?” Jason asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Excuse me.” Andi tried to walk sedately past the boy, but he held out his hand in front of her.
“Nothin’ doin’, girl. What’s that under your arm?”
Andi held it out, face down. “Just a paper.” Her hands were shaking. If Jason saw what was on the front…
He stared at it. “A paper? What’s a pretty girl like you doin’ with a newspaper, in this place, of all places? Are you here to visit somebody?”
Andi stamped her foot. Who did he think he was to call her pretty, and say such insulting things about her reading, and dig his nose into her business? Andi drew herself up to her full height. “Jason Lyles, whether I go to visit someone, or not; it is none of your concern. Now, let me pass.”
Jason smirked. “Think you’re real high-and-mighty, now, don’t ya, Andrea Carter?”
Andi tightened her lips. She was just about to say something she would probably regret, but Jason’s eyes went over her head, and he stiffened, grabbed her arm and pulled her close to the wall, covering her mouth with his strong, calloused hand. She dropped the paper and struggled, but his grip was firm.
He whispered in her ear, “Stop fightin’, now.” Andi stopped, but still she remained tense. She heard footsteps coming down the hall, but they stopped. The two remained still.
A nasty voice resounded in the passageway. “Jason, where are you? Blast, he’s late again.”
Andi looked up at Jason. He gave a quick nod of reassurance. “Stay right here, don’t move and you’ll be safe.” Releasing his grip on her mouth and arm, he stepped out into the open. “Here, dad.”
Andi’s mouth fell open. Dad?
“About time, kid. Got the money?”
“Here.” There was a shuffling noise Andi recognized as money passed from hand to hand.
“Great work, boy.”
“Dad, you said when I’m done with this job you’d let me be.”
Andi furrowed her brow. Done with what?
“That’s true, boy. I did.” The man’s voice sounded sad. Too sad. “And I aim to keep my promise. I’ll let you go,” he paused. “With a one-way ticket to jail.”
Andi heard shouts outside. Too late, she realized Jason had walked into a trap. Andi peered out of her little nook, and saw the man as he sprang past Jason, hitting him on the stomach, and winding him. He turned to run down the hall. She shrunk back into her hiding place, but it was too late.
Jason’s father grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him, kicking and biting. He slapped her face. “Be quiet, girl.”
Andi glared at him. “Let me go!”
Jason got up. “Dad, let her go. Please. Don’t hurt her.”
“I told ya to come alone, kid.” the man was furious. He held her tightly.
“Dad, it was an accident. I found her in the hall. I was trying to make her run off. Honest!” The sound of trampling feet was getting nearer.
“Jason,” Andi gasped “Get out of here! The Sheriff’s here. Let me go!” she kicked the man.
Jason frowned. “I can’t.” He ran at his father and grabbed Andi, pulling her towards him. The man stuck Jason on his cheek.
Andi bit his hand, and screamed to Jason. “If you stay, they’ll arrest you!”
Jason ducked a blow from his father. “I won’t leave you with him!” The pounding of feet got louder. The man franticly shook Jason off and yanked Andi towards the door. The door burst open. Mike and Cory stood there! The man hesitated, and turned towards the other door. It was flung open, revealing the sheriff, and…
“Chad!” Andi yelled to her bossy older brother. “Help!” Chad’s eyes opened wide. He started towards her, then stopped. She wondered why, then saw a gun in her captor’s hand. Andi felt a blow to her head. She was vaguely aware of a shout. Then all went black.
Andi woke up. She heard low voices speaking. Shaking her head side to side, she tried to clear the confusion out of her mind. “Ouch.” It hurt to open her eyes. She was in the sheriff’s office, lying on a small cot. Several men were gathered in one corner.
She sat up and called “Justin? Chad?” One of the men turned towards her and came to her side. “Hi, honey, you had a rough time, I heard.” Andi smiled, relaxed in Justin’s embrace, and nodded. Then she gave a start. “Jason? Cory? Where…”
Mitch, Andi’s third oldest brother, came to her side. “They’re fine. Jason gave a full account of what happened, and Cory and Mike verified it. All’s fine little sis. But next time you think you might have a lead on a criminal…”
Andi nodded “I tell you, first.” She made a face at Mitch. “But what happened? I don’t remember much.” Sheriff Tate came over and sat beside Andi’s bedside.
Justin cleared his throat. “Jason Lyles, the boy you met in the hallway, is a wanted criminal in Silverton. However, with what we’ve discovered today, it was actually his father who committed the crimes, and then framed his son for them. As for the money, Kirk Lyles, Jason’s father gave it to Jason to bring here, to Fresno, where Kirk would set Jason up, get him arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, then skedaddle out of California with the money and no one looking for him. Thankfully, you stopped Lyles, and we got him. He tried to hurt you, but Chad can be like a wild beast when he’s angry.” Justin chuckled.
Andi smiled, then asked “What will happen to Jason now? After all, his dad’s in jail. Will he have to be put somewhere, like a school?”
Sheriff Tate laughed. “No, Andi, Jason’s staying here. He’ll be working, of course, to help clear his name, but I think you’ll see him at school.”
Just then, Jason walked through the door. Seeing Andi, he walked over and held out his hand. “How’re ya feeling, Miss Carter?”
Andi took his hand. “Much better, Jason.” she smiled “Heard you’re coming to school.”
Jason rubbed his neck, “Yeah…, I tried to get out of that one. Never was much one for learnin’.” He and Andi shared a grin. Then he turned to answer a question posed to him by Chad.
Justin leaned over to Andi. “Speaking of school… you’ve got studying to do.”
~MiddleEarthMusician, March of 2016
The Forbidden Book
The bleak, wintry countryside flashed by the windows as I paced the floor of a cold boxcar train in the year 1968. My teeth chattered. This train was on its way to Budapest, Hungary, from Vienne, Austria. I was waiting for my commanding officer to make his way to me. We were responsible to make sure that no Christians were transporting any of their so-called “treasonous” literature into Hungary on this train. I, for one, couldn’t understand why it was so important that the Christian’s literature did not make its way into Hungary, but it was. Very important. It was also important that soldiers-such as myself-did not ask questions, especially about Christians. Besides, why did it matter? I worked without question. It was my duty. But sometimes…
I heard footsteps coming. Turning around, I snapped to attention as my commanding officer appeared in the hallway. “Private Patrik, we are ready to commence search.” He barked. His usually red face seemed to have taken on an even ruddier complexion than normal.
I saluted “Yes, sir!” Falling into step behind Commander Tóth I trudged along the hallway of the first car. As we walked on, I stole a glance at his neck and realized that his muscles were taut, incredibly so. Something’s up, I thought to myself. Tóth is never this tense. Out loud I said “Commander, Sir?”
He turned and gave a sharp glance, irritation filled his voice as he answered me. “Yes, soldier?”
A little put off by his brusqueness, I faltered. “Sir, I…I…”
More gently, he said “What is it, soldier?”
Feeling bolder, I spoke what was troubling me. “Sir, do we arrest any we find with this material? Even if they are not Hungarian citizens?”
The Commander turned and regarded me curiously. He shrugged. “It depends on who we find in possession of the literature.” He turned and hurried down the hall.
I followed him. It was still confusing, but soldiers were supposed to do things that were strange. And without question.
We reached the first door, and Tóth and I burst in. A woman screamed. Looking around, we saw a small family inside: a husband, wife, and two children. They had few possessions, only a carpet bag and a handbag. Commander Tóth walked towards the father and said harshly “Passports.” The father held out some paper, and the Commander took it, and scrutinized it. He nodded and motioned me towards the baggage. The children looked up at us with fear as I searched their belongings. I heard Tóth asking the father if he had any Christian literature. The man shook his head violently.
After finding only some dirty, ragged clothing and some food, I spoke to Tóth. “Nothing, sir.” He gave me a curt nod, and peered into the bag I was holding. Seeing a sausage, he grabbed it, took a bite, and turned to the family. “Safe travels, citizens.” We left the family staring mutely at us with fear, and something else. Was it anger? I shrugged it off. We were only doing our job.
After searching several rooms and finding nothing, I began to wonder why we even bothered to scare these people. There was probably not a Bible-for so I heard the Christian’s Book called-in the whole train.
As we came to the last car, I ventured to speak my thoughts aloud. “Commander, sir?”
He glanced back at me. “What is it, soldier?”
I swallowed. “Sir, why do we have to search this train for a book? Is it dangerous?”
Tóth stopped, looked around, and pulled me aside. “Are you questioning the order, soldier?”
I shook my head. “No sir.”
He nodded, giving an audible sigh of relief. “The Book itself is not dangerous, but what it does to people can be… and is.”
He saw my confusion at his answer, because he continued; “I’ll tell you why. A number of years ago-when I was only a child-my family was Christian. That is, my father and mother were. I wasn’t.”
His eyes took on a faraway look as he relived his childhood. I was a little surprised that Tóth was being so open to a subordinate such as I, but did not interrupt as he continued. “I could never reconcile myself to the idea that if there was such a loving God as it said in the Bible, why He would allow all the bad things that happened every day. When I began to go to school, I was presented with new evidence that showed the Bible to be only a bunch of fairy tales, and that there was no ultimate right or wrong. When my parents were sent to prison when I was about fifteen, I couldn’t understand why if there was a God He would let His servants-my parents-be thrown into jail and not help them. Ever since then, I rejected the idea that there was a God in heaven. Later, I grew to realize that if people were dedicated to this God and His Book, they would not be as devoted and loyal to the government as they should. That is chiefly what makes this Book so dangerous.”
He ceased talking. I sat, staring into space. What Tóth said made everything fall into place, like pieces on a puzzle. That explained why he was so violently against Christians, and why their Book was so dangerous.
Tóth stood up, and motioned to me to as well. Whatever came over him before was now gone, and he was the same old Commander as before. “Attention, soldier,” he said.
I came to attention and saluted.
“We have one more compartment to search before this train reaches its destination. Let’s move.” We walked down the hall and opened the door to the last compartment. We burst in, and found two American tourist girls and one European girl. There was also an old Hungarian woman in black sitting in the farthest seat. The Commander motioned me towards the bags of the girls as he tried to speak with them. Unfortunately, the girls could not understand a word he was saying.
I stifled a chuckle as I watched his antics. First he pretended to read, and said “Bible” in Hungarian. They stared at him and shook their heads, whispering to each other. He made his mime more elaborate by taking a piece of paper out of his pocket and reading it, saying “Bible”, and making the sign of the cross. Then, I saw the face of one of the girls light up. She reached into her pocket and took out a paper, handing it to Tóth. He took it, and I saw his face harden as he looked at it. Turning to me, he took one of the bags out of my hand and began to look through them. I stood to the side, watching him rifle through the bag. Out tumbled toothbrushes, soap, clothing, food, and…books! Three books lay on the ground amid the mess. One of the girls- an American, with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes-made a small sound that sounded like a muffled scream, and dove towards the books. Commander Tóth motioned to me, and I grabbed her, spun her around, and forcibly led her back to her seat. She was quivering. Was it with fear?
The Commander picked up one of the books and brushed it off. I recognized the name of the author, Yevtushenko, a Russian writer who criticized the Soviet Union’s régime. A satisfied smile crossed Tóth’s face as he handed me the book. “Yevtushenko,” he spat out. “Traitor. He defies our great Soviet Union with his poems.” Bending back over the pile of belongings, he picked up the other books. One was a green paperback that he, after paging through it for two seconds, tossed back into the pile. The other was a black leather-bound volume that had golden letters emblazoned on the front.
I walked a little closer to see the title of the book. My eyes widened. On the front, in Hungarian, the letters spelled out “B-I-B-L-E”.
Tóth snorted. He tossed the book to me, and turning back to the girls, he demanded “Passports”. Whether they understood him, or not, they rummaged through their coat pockets, and handed him their passports. Together we marched out of the cubicle. Before the Commander shut the door, I chanced a glance back. One of the girls, the one that had tried to grab the books, had folded her hands and closed her eyes. Her lips were moving as she mouthed something silently. The door slammed shut, hiding her from view.
We walked down the hall silently, both contemplating what we had seen and found. The Commander looked through the passports pensively. Then he spoke.
“These passports and the book give us the evidence we need to arrest them.” He said slowly.
I swallowed, then spoke. “Sir, they’re just girls. Do we have to…” Tóth turned and grabbed me, knocking the breath out of me.
He pushed me into an empty cubicle, and slammed me down onto a seat. As I gasped for breath, he folded his arms and stood in front of me. His voice had a dangerous edge to it as he spoke, his face was as hard as stone. “Private Patrik, this is the second time you’ve questioned an order today. I could turn you into the authorities at the next station with those words you just spoke to me.”
I hung my head, but looking up out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Commander’s face soften slightly. He sat on the bench next to me. Clearing his throat, he said quietly “I think the same way.”
I looked up, surprised.
He nodded. “Yes,” he said “I made it seem like I hated them in that car so I wouldn’t arouse any suspicions. I really want to read this book,” he said, indicating the Bible. “I want to find out why my parents and others like them would rather die than forget or deny the words of this Book. I waited to tell you until I was certain we were on the same page.” He looked at me.
I stood up and offered him my hand. Shaking it, he motioned to the passports. “Better give those back to the girls,” he said.
“Yes, sir.” I said. As I walked out of the door, I glanced back. Commander Tóth had already opened the book. I smiled, wondering what lay ahead for him…and I.
~MiddleEarthMusician, April of 2016