Authors: Jack Cavanaugh
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Special thanks to Clinton E. Arnold and Greg Boyd for your excellent studies on principalities and powers and the nature of spiritual conflict as portrayed in the Bible. Your books have been a source of enlightenment and inspiration for this work.
Special thanks to Alton Gansky, a constant friend and sounding board for all things theological.
Thanks to Brett Burner for valuable suggestions that developed the story during rewrite.
Thanks to Steve Laube, agent, cheerleader, and friend.
Thanks to the people at Howard Books. This is our fifth book together. Your professionalism and encouragement are refreshing.
And thanks to my wife, Marni, and children, who bring such joy and laughter into my life.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms.
For how shall I relate
To human sense th' invisible exploits
Of warring Spirits?
Let us suppose that this everyday world were,
at some point, invaded by the marvelous.
Let us, in fact, suppose a violation of frontierÂ .Â .Â .
~C. S. LEWIS
Before the clock of cosmic time was wound,
In heaven, fresh made, there dwelt a holy race.
Conceived in light for worship we were cast
To walk in luster and eternal grace.
Until a fatal wickedness was found
Hidden, a cancer deep within a soul.
Thus Lucifer turned thought to plan and deed,
With dragon's breath set heaven's fields aflame
With war. He scorched the Father's pristine realm,
Laid waste unblemished joy.
Defeated, he and all the host who loved him,
Cast down to worlds new born. Archenemy now,
Confined in time, a cosmic spectacle.
The rage that ravished heaven's brotherhood,
Now terrorizes earth with lies and strife.
Its borders breached, the warring hoard descends,
And what began in heaven now scourges man.
âABDIEL, SERAPH OF HEAVEN
ifty little talk, Mr. Austin.”
The kid's eyes mocked me from the recesses of a hooded gray sweatshirt.
“Speech. It was a speech,” I corrected him. He was playing to his buddies a few feet away.
The kid smirked. “And that prize thingÂ .Â .Â . like, wow!”
“It's the Pulitzer, son, not some whistle ring you pull out of a box of Cracker Jacks.”
“YeahÂ .Â .Â . whateverÂ .Â .Â .”
I walked the open hallway. Ten years separated me from my graduation. This wasn't my high school anymore. The buildings were the same but the occupants had changed. Everywhere I looked there were hooded sweatshirts. Since when had my alma mater become a school for Unabomber wannabes?
Swept along in a river of adolescent angstâan endless stream of tattoos, piercings, colorful swatches of hair, studded leather chokers, and black lipstickâI tracked the smart-mouthed kid as he passed. He joined a pod of his friends, casting
himself as the hero who'd gotten under the skin of some old geezer. They looked my way and laughed.
What is it about high school that brings out the worst in the human species? All my teenage insecurities, like faithful old dogs, were waiting for me when I stepped on campus, and had been nipping at my heels all morning.
I had an overwhelming urge to grab the kid by the scruff of his neck and take him on, to teach him a thing or two about respect.
Instead, I told myself I wasn't going to sink to his level. What difference did it make if some identity-challenged adolescent didn't appreciate the magnitude of my literary achievement? I told myself to let it go. I was the mature one here.
Breaking eye contact with him, I turned forward and walked smack into a metal pole.
A pair of coeds, one plump and one rail thin, gasped. Their hands flew to their mouths, at first in shock, but then to hide their giggles.
A wiry-haired boy with serious acne problems laughed openly. “Ouch! That's gotta hurt!”
He was just glad it wasn't him. This time.
“Are you all right, sir?” the plump coed asked.
“Do you want us to help you to the nurse's station?”
I cringed as the image flashed in my mind. Me, with a coed under each arm, being helped out of the fast lane.
I assured the girls I was fine. I struck a fine poseâmore than fine, robust, virileâand hurried on my way, eager to put them, the pole, and the incident behind me.
A buzzer sounded. The corridor rapidly cleared as students disappeared into every open doorway like water pouring down drains.
With the corridor to myself, I rubbed my forehead and wondered if the pole had left a mark. A familiar spring breeze swirled past me. My thoughts turned nostalgic.
The outdoor stucco walls were the same mud-brown color I remembered, the doors aqua-blue. The open central corridor still stretched the length of the campus, with alternating rows of classrooms and grassy areas on each side.
Approaching one of my former classrooms, I peered inside. A small, redheaded woman with a hairstyle that predated my lifetime stood in front of the classroom. She wielded a wooden pointer like it was a broadsword. Behind her was a map of Gettysburg with red and blue arrows indicating troop movements.
I turned toward the voice behind me to find a smiling, horseshoe-bald Hispanic man with a thick, black mustache. He held a sheaf of papers in one hand. Extending his other hand, he introduced himself. “Carlos Ruiz Mendoza.” His smile widened, revealing a gold tooth.
“Austin. Yeah, I know. The assembly. Congratulations, by the way. The Pulitzer. Quite an achievement.”
I shrugged modestly, but didn't disagree. “Are you a teacher?” I asked.
“Remedial reading.” He said it like he was apologizing. “The way I see it, if I do my job, by the time my students complete the course they'll actually be able to read your bookÂ .Â .Â . They won't, of course.”
We both laughed.
“It's not exactly Stephen King,” I admitted.
Mendoza motioned toward the classroom. “Do you know Rose?”
Inside the classroom the teacher, Rose, had leveled her broadsword at a sandy-haired student who slumped in his chair and stared at her defiantly.
“I haven't had the pleasure,” I said. “This was Coach Walker's room when I was here.”
“WalkerÂ .Â .Â . quite a character from what I hear,” Mendoza said. “He passed on two years before I arrived. Stories still circulate, though.”
I laughed. “Believe them. Walker knew only one way of doing thingsâas a football lineman coach. History, football, it was all the same to him.”
“Were you on the team?”
“Football? No. Tennis was my sport. But Walker coached it too. The man didn't know a foot fault from a double fault, but he had us in great shape. We were the only team in the district doing bear crawls on the courts.”
“But I learned some valuable life lessons from him,” I added. “If nothing else, Coach taught us to hustle. I learned that hustle can beat superior talent; not always, but often enough.”
“Got me where I am today.”
By silent agreement, we continued down the corridor.
“I didn't have the smarts for scholarships,” I explained. “Worked my way through college throwing baggage around at the local airport and pinching pennies.”
“Ah, the Cup o' Noodles degree,” Mendoza said.
I grinned. “You too?”
“Midnight shift at a twenty-four-hour convenience store.”