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Instead of Making me Better

For fans of my blog, an exclusive Samuel Elijah Johnson story from Sam’s time as a teenager.

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A Samuel Elijah Johnson Story

Run just as fast as I can

To the middle of nowhere

To the middle of my frustrated fears

And I swear you’re just like a pill

Instead of makin’ me better,

You keep makin’ me ill

-Pink

“I’m leaving.”

“Sam, you can’t.” The youth pastor blocked the door.

“I can, and I will.” Sam was larger than the man trying to stop him, but he also knew the pastor was a black belt. Still, what was he going to do? Drop him right here?

At the first church he remembered attending with his mother Mary, the pastor might have. Violence was often the answer there, seen as appropriate punishment for sin. After his father died, they stayed for a couple years, but his mother told him it was too painful for her to go back.

He didn’t believe her. He saw the looks. Watched the men ask her out. In a final confrontation, the High Priest grabbed her arm. Dragged her into a confessional booth, even though mom made it clear they were “definitely not Catholic.” He’d seen the tears when she exited. Even then, only seven, he knew something was horribly wrong.

This was church number three since then. Methodist, Lutheran, and finally Baptist. It seemed when his mother got comfortable, and Sam started to know at least a few kids by name, something would happen, and they would leave.

“Arrogant prick,” his mom declared their last Sunday at the Lutheran church. “Reverend thinks he knows his scripture so well. A man of little faith, that’s what he is.”

Their choices were rapidly narrowing in this small Idaho town. There were only so many churches, and the pastors talked to each other, at least to share information about single mothers and little boys who might be “trouble.”

Except the First Fundamental Baptists. Not only did they separate themselves from the world, but from other churches too, the ones who watered down the word of God and didn’t take every word literally. The Baptists frowned on divorce, so there were few single mothers, most widows due to the dangerous work at the nuclear plant nearby.

Sam hated the Baptists. Not a little. A lot.

Pastor Ken was another “arrogant prick” to use his mother’s words. Sam was in his office was because he dared say so.

“I’m going, one way or another,” he declared. “You can’t stop me.”

“I could, but I won’t,” the pastor replied.

“Don’t threaten me with that martial arts bullshit.”

“Think of your mother. You’ll disappoint her.”

Before he knew it, he had Pastor Ken up against the wall, his tie twisted in his fist. “You don’t talk about my mom, or even mention her. You have no right.”

“Easy,” the pastor said. “Let me down, and we’ll talk.”

“Fuck you.”

“What did you say?” A white face coloring with anger stared at him.

“I said fuck you. Fuck your church. I’m out of here.”

A moment later Sam found himself against a couch, his head ringing.

“You might be able to talk like that at home, but you don’t talk like that here.”

“Here?”

“In the house of the Lord. Show some respect.”

Sam stood, and looked around the office. “If this is the house of the Lord, I think he’s been off at a summer house for quite a while. I haven’t seen him around.”

“Get out,” the words were said quietly, but with menace. The pastor stood beside the now open door.

“Thanks,” Sam stated. “Just what I wanted.”

His mom would be disappointed. But it was time for him to be his own man, stop living in her shadow, and that of his dead father.

Head down, he stormed out. He didn’t see the first punch coming. It glanced off his well-muscled shoulder, developed during hours of working out his frustrations in the gym. The second came toward his face, but he blocked it.

Sam had never studied the martial arts, but he could scrap. A natural fighter. He looked up to discover he was surrounded.

“We heard what you said to Pastor Ken.” The speaker was a student who went to the basement dojo after school every day, and thought he was much tougher than he actually was.

“And?” Sam said, facing those around him. He’d never get them all, but he could cause some damage. If he got the first down, the rest might back off.

“We want you to apologize,” the kid stated.

“I won’t. And I won’t be back. So do yourselves a favor, and let me go.”

“Not a chance. You can’t act like a heathen and get away with it. Not without asking forgiveness.”

“So this is what Jesus would do?”

He didn’t wait for an answer. He dove for the knees of the kid to his left. As he struck his thighs in a tackle, he head butted his victim in the groin. He heard a rush of breath.

Sam felt a punch to his kidneys. Fuck this noise, the thought. His favorite exercise in the gym was squats, so he stood, still holding the kid around the knees and spun around.

He felt a thud.

“Ow, Jesus!” he heard, and grinned. Blasphemer. These guys were far from the perfect they pretended.

The body over his shoulder went limp.

“Look at him. You broke his nose Jimmy.”

One of the remaining trio turned and ran.

“Put him down. He’s gonna bleed to death.”

“Are we done?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, man, geez, just put him down.”

Sam let the kid’s legs go, and the body fell from his shoulder. A crack sounded as its head struck the sidewalk. Ignoring it, he walked away.

He looked back once, and saw them kneeling beside their friend. Blood pooled on the sidewalk. The kid’s eyes were open but glassy.

“Wake up! Wake up!” he heard yelling, the slap of hands on skin, and frantic calls for help. Facing ahead, he walked out of the parking lot, turned right, and walked away. A few minutes later, an ambulance passed, sirens wailing, headed back the way he’d come.

Sam barely looked up. He was counting his steps, taking deep breaths, a little sick to his stomach.

Published inAdvice for Authors