Claim Your Winnings

“Hello, and thank you for calling Super-Eight. Please listen to the following selections, as the options have recently changed.”

When the power had gone out in the building, Jordan had sprinted back upstairs. John locked the door and slid a chair under the door knob, because that’s what they did in the movies.

“What’s going on?” he hissed at Macy.

“Shh!” she said, putting her hand over her ear, listening to the options. She also peered out the window, searching for Penelope.

“If you are a winner, please press 828 and follow the instructions. Please understand that the consequences of making a false claim, even at this stage, are serious. Please also understand that once  you report a winning ticket, the process is irreversible.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Macy asked John.

He nodded.

She pressed the numbers on the phone. 8-2-8. Immediately a voice spoke to her.

“Who is this?” it asked urgently.

“Uh, actually, there are two of us. We both won.” She gave them her name and, after asking John, gave them his name as well.

“Where are you?”

Macy told them the name of the streets at the intersection outside the apartment building.

“Someone will pick you up in approximately eight minutes driving a gray van. Do not speak to the driver. Do not speak to one another. The driver will only allow two people to enter the van. Do not try to bring anyone else with you.”


* * * * *

“I don’t see anyone in the hall,” muttered John, opening the door an inch and peeking out. “We can either go out the front entrance, or we can try the alley.”

Macy shook her head. “I don’t like either option.”

“Yeah, well neither do I. But now we’re down to five minutes. What do you think?”

Silence. The rain picked up, thudding against the glass like a thousand tapping fingers. Macy stared at the hundreds of miniature rivers racing down the windows. She wondered if they still waited out there for her.

“Let’s do the alley. It will only take us 30 seconds to get out that way. We wait another few minutes, then make a dash for it.”

John nodded.

The next three minutes passed in the form of years. The power in the building was still out, so she stared at the minutes as they changed on her cell phone. Soon John eased over to the door that led out into the alley way. Macy followed him.

“Ready?” he asked.

Just then the power in the building came on.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Macy hissed. “Let’s go!”

They pushed open the door and plunged into the alley, immediately soaked by the rain. A voice, not far behind them, shouted.

“Hey, there they go!”

As if on cue, a gray van slid up and parked along the sidewalk, its headlights bright, its windshield wipers flopping back and forth. John opened the door and jumped in. Macy followed close behind, but just before she closed the door, she heard someone shout her name.

“Macy!” She looked up the street. It was Penelope.

“Don’t go! Don’t do it! Those people, the ones who’ve been trying to talk to you, they’re good people! If you go in that van, you’re dead! Those other people want to help you!”

“I have to go,” Macy shouted. “I’m sorry!”

Penelope shouted one last thing before Macy closed the door and the van pulled away.

“What did she shout, there at the end?” John Dran asked her in a whisper.

“I don’t know,” Macy said. “I couldn’t hear her.”

The van driver shouted in a gruff voice.

“This is your one and only warning. No talking!”

But Macy had heard Penelope. She had shouted, “Don’t trust John Dran!”

Suddenly the van slammed on its brakes, the side door opened, and someone came flying in.

* * * * *

The question this week is, who else enters the van?

1 – A woman who was also a lottery winner

2 – A man pretending to be a lottery winner

3 – A child, clutching a lottery ticket

To catch up on the story and read it from the beginning, click HERE (you’ll need to come back to this page to vote)

The Power of $11.30

We have drained the life out of all our flashlights and cannot find suitable replacements for their dead batteries. So my son Cade lays by his open bedroom door. The muted light from the hall falls into his room, cuts a shadow that keeps his sleeping little brother in the dark. Cade is in the light, looking at a book.

He reads “The Magician’s Nephew,” the first (or, depending on how you look at it, the seventh) book in CS Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia.” It’s a book about magic rings and witches from other worlds and children leaping from one enchanted pool to the next, making sure they don’t lose their way. It’s about Aslan and healing trees and beginnings.

How I wish I could read it again, for the first time.

* * * * *

Twenty-eight years ago, a small boy dragged his parents into his church’s tiny bookstore. He showed them the boxed set of a series of books he wanted to read. They looked at each other, uncertain: they had grown up among the Amish, and this book of witches and lions and wardrobes seemed a bit, well, worldly. But they gave in. They bought the boy his books.

On top of the box, in pen, someone had written “$11.30 for the set.” Not a princely sum, but the little boy’s father probably made about $15,000 that year – to spend that much money was something like a birthday. When the boy got home he wrote his name underneath the price in wavering print, as if he were now part of the package.

He burned through the books, reading by way of flashlight under his blankets at night until everyone else was asleep. He perched his favorite Christmas gift (an alarm clock) on his dresser and woke up early, before school, so that he could read about the Pevensies and the professor and Scrub and Prince Caspian and the voyage of the Dawn Treader. He quite fancied the name Lucy.

How could stories be so glorious? he wondered. How could someone make something up that felt more real than life?

* * * * *

I peek down the short hallway toward Cade’s bedroom. He has fallen asleep on the floor, both his mouth and his book wide open. I wonder if he’s gotten to the part where the two children come upon a crumbled city, and a small bell with the inscription:

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

* * * * *

Sometimes, when we are young, we must strike the bell just to see what will happen.

And the Nominees Are…

It’s kind of becoming a monthly tradition around here, and one I look forward to.

“What’s that?” you ask, with a worried expression on your face.

Why, the opportunity for you bloggers out there to share with us your  most-read blog post of last month. I’ll read through them, and then on Friday I’ll provide you with the best of March: all the blog highlights and lowlights that you may have missed.

So in the comments section below, give us a link to your most-read blog post in March. Or, if you don’t blog, give us the link to a post by someone else that you just couldn’t stop thinking about.

Or both.

The Art is in the Work

Perhaps the greatest temptation in life is to revisit themes or ideas or subjects that brought us some small piece of success, or comfort. In other words, we want to walk along paths already cleared. We approach the great forest and wander about its edges, searching for inroads already made, by us or by others.

Business people doing what everyone else does.

Writers insistent on exploring the same characters, the same topics.

But this kind of path-stealing only delivers us to the same dead ends, the same conclusions. Walking these paths too often, on paths too often walked, we become comfortable. We put away the tools necessary for forging new trails, and when we reach the same dead end we reached before, we turn back, wondering why the same things always go wrong.

* * * * *

Today, take a different approach. Don’t look for an existing path – search for a place that looks like it marks a good course.

The art is in the work, not the smoothness of the terrain.

When I Was a Child, I Always Wondered Why We Were Poor

“When I was just a child, I always wondered why we were poor.” Take a few moments and listen to Philip’s story.

Philip’s Question from Nuru International on Vimeo.

From now until Easter, I’m joining together with six other bloggers to raise $7,000 for Nuru International. To find out more about Nuru International, you can check it out HERE.

How can you help? Easy – if you have any money to spare, go HERE and donate (put “24/7 Project” in the subject line so that we can track our progress). If you are a blogger or on Facebook, consider sending your readers and friends to this post, or to any of the bloggers listed below. If you are on Twitter, spread the word using the #247Project hash tag.

Thanks in advance for all your help. Most of us have so much – why not take a little bit of that and give it to someone who needs it?

The following are the bloggers who are participating:

Seeking Pastor (Matt Cannon)
Randomly Chad (Chad Jones)
From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell (Sarah Bost Askins)
Off the Cuff (K.C. Proctor)
Shawn Smucker (Shawn Smucker)
Jennifer Luitweiler (Jen Luitweiler)
Alise…Write! (Alise Wright)