Essay by Stephen J. Key


This was an essay I wrote for a writing contest. I misunderstood the rules and wrote 2000 words instead of the required 2000 characters. There was no reply and I buried the submission in my archives until now. I have presented it here in the hope of providing inspiration for those of you who are facing, or  have faced extreme trials in your own life.

Alone On The Seashore

The lake was peaceful and serene in the evening sunset as he stood and stared at the calm waters on the breakwater by the long bridge that disappeared over the horizon. It was quiet time at the end of a long day as he wrestled with his future knowing full well that he had finished his tenure in a city ravaged by the great hurricane. Coming here to help rebuild in the midst of all the destruction, opportunities for future projects were drying up and it was time to move on.

He wasn’t one for much prayer and he used convenient times to do so while driving or trying to fall asleep or out of frustration with some project that threatened to defeat him. But this time was different. He now felt totally alone, quite helpless, and did “not know where to go”. So he decided that this was his  chance for some quality time alone with his Savior and a steadfast reflection on the past years gone by that got him to this point in his life.

The Start of the Journey

He grew up in a Catholic family in this Old City of the South before moving west to California where his Hollywood Dad took his mom, brother, and sisters. An aspiring actor, his father took bit parts in some well known movies, but had little time for his kids, especially this oldest son in the scheme of things.

Years passed with many conflicts between himself and the man who should have been his hero, so he eventually broke away and searched for answers on his own. The ritualistic and non Biblical religion he knew most of his young life was incredibly unfulfilling, so he drifted into a sort of heathen mindset that no room for spiritual insights.

It seems that God was not happy with this decision, but crazy obsessions were allowed and they were taken advantage of. And all of that started way back in time.

Allowed to drive legally at the age of 15, he was given the keys to his parents car many times, only to occasionally  damage the vehicle right in front of them. He liked to drive fast, and one time pulled into a driveway at speed and hit a tree while his dad was watching. This scenario served as the setting for his first flirt with death, but not his last one by a long shot. A medical representative once used the term “daredevil” as a descriptive reference to him after hearing about the life-threatening exploits he seemed to be drawn to.

The Explosive Shell Game

“Can you go check my boat”, she asked? His aunt had a cabin cruiser  that was made of wood and it had the tendency to leak. The solution? Make timely checks on it and turn on the bilge pump which pumped the water out and kept it from sinking. “Take my car over to the boathouse and take care of it please”!

This 15 year old teenager loved the chance to get behind the wheel of her big ol’ 60 Oldsmobile and jumped at the chance. He grabbed her youngest son and a friend and took off.

The boathouse was on a river off of a large bay on the Mississippi coast. The roads leading to it were paved with small white shells dredged from river bottoms and local waterways. His desire for speed, two adventurous companions, and a slippery and winding thoroughfare were a recipe for disaster.

Driving at, what he thought to be, a normal rate of travel, his cousin and the tag-along  friend were egging him to go faster while shouting with squeals of delight. The slippery shells were not meant to hold a big heavy car on course, and before he knew it, the over-sized behemoth slid off that country back road and decided to play tag with a fair sized pine tree.

Guess who lost!

His face smashed into the steering wheel, the friend’s head piled against the windshield, and his cousin received lacerations from disintegrating glass bottles flying around and breaking apart in the back seat.

Two men in a truck passing by stopped to see what happened and called for help. An emergency vehicle arrived to the grisly scene in short order and all three boys were hauled off to the hospital. He, being the driver, hit the steering wheel so hard, the force of the impact tore open his face and bent the steering wheel in half.

With a severely broken jaw in pieces, missing teeth, and lots of swallowed blood, he should have died right there on the spot. But he didn’t. God said no.

End of round one.

Flying Low

Six years later, he decided that he wanted to fly. Since he was somewhat adventurous and had little money for expensive hobbies, he made the choice to take “sailplane” lessons at a remote airstrip  near San Diego, California. This type of plane has no power but gets towed to 1800 to 2000 feet by a powered aircraft. It is then released, thereby giving the glider a chance to find currents of circling air pockets (like dust devils) which help create lift and ‘sail’ said aircraft higher up into the sky above.

You only get one chance to land the thing, and the day he was scheduled to solo (his first flight alone), the aging instructor in the back seat of a 2 person cockpit, first required his student to do 10 supervised take-offs and landings. It proved to be a bad decision on the wrong day.

About the third try, the wind in this high desert location kicked up to a dangerous level. At that point, all future attempts should have been aborted. With the hand of fate in his hands, the instructor decided otherwise.

On the next attempt to land, the sailplane was being forced up by the wind gusts and the instructor took over the controls from his student. The old man then tried to circle around for a second attempt. It proved to be a disastrous decision!

The plane flipped over at about 600 feet off the ground, stalled out, and plummeted straight down into the rocky dirt below. His passenger, being the student in the front of the cockpit, received the full impact of the crash and was knocked out. The damage was a compressional fracture to one of the vertebrae of his lower spine. He should have been killed.

The irony of this incident is that the instructor fell to his death 3 months later when the wing broke off of another glider he was piloting at high altitude. In a separate incident, a parachute jumper at the same airfield died the day our student crashed.

God again said no to this possible life-ending event.

End of round two.

Dead Man’s Curve

The day he crashed in that sailplane, he was fortunate enough (or blessed by God) to be able to drive home some 90 miles in his car, an older Porsche model, vintage 1956.

This car was a source of speed fests, crazy driving episodes on twisted mountain roads, and endless repairs in the wee hours of the night. It was painted red so the cops took notice also. “Cat and mouse games” he called it.

He had a friend who was also a speed jockey. One night the friend, who was suffering from the debilitating effects of alcohol, came over to the gas station our “daredevil” was working at. He wanted a test drive in this Porsche, which had  just been souped-up.

Request granted!

Let’s see. For intrigue, how about choosing a mountain road used by other sports car drivers for their own hair-raising events, late at night, with a drunk friend, no stignal lights, and smooth rear tires? Sounds insane, right?

After driving fast for a mile or so, he entered a large sweeping curve at high speed. It bordered a 300 foot steep  sloping  embankment that went down into a ravine. Lots of loose sand on the road stood ready to impede his progress.

The Porsche never got a grip when it hit that curve and slid sideways into a small concrete curb. It then went over the embankment and into the air at the edge of the cliff before touching done on the steep slope that headed into a ravine. The stricken vehicle then rolled end over end all the way down to the bottom of a gully that contained the remains of other cars that met a similar fate.

He hated wearing a seat belt, but this was one of the few times he chose to do so. That choice dictated his resultant outcome that horrid night.

When he undid his retaining strap, he fell to the “roof” of the car. When he gathered his wits about him, he realized he had only received small cut to his ear. His friend, who was adamant about wearing seat belts in his own car, failed to do so this particular night. As a result, he got thrown out of the vehicle and received a broken leg.

Our protagonist left his friend where he lay, crawled back up to the roadway, got to a roadside pay phone, and called for help. An irritated fire department chief arrived with his crew to untangle the mess and haul the two speed demons to the ER.  

Later, at the hospital, he overheard a police officer tell his friend’s parents that this was the first time that anyone has been pulled out of that canyon alive.

Again he should have tasted death and again God said no. Someone he knew later told him “The Lord must want to keep you alive for some reason“. An omen for the future, perhaps.

Round 3 is in the books.

What Next You Heathen?

A few years later, he got married to a beautiful girl who’s father happened to be a former minister at several churches in the north eastern part of the U.S. Eventually,  trying to gain favor with the God who, through divine grace, spared his life more than once, he began to change.

He started to shed his heathen persona, and went on to encompass some sort of spiritual enlightenment. With very little knowledge of the bible, he had been handicapped the nonproductive restrictive teaching of his former religion. So, not much happened for awhile. Still God’s “Heavy Hand” was working within his soul. After all, why keep a young man alive through multiple disasters for nothing, he thought.

A rough start to his marriage, endless financial trials, no viable relationship with his father, and a long distance family to deal with, there was nowhere to go but up! Not understanding the salvation process yet with the Lord Jesus Christ, he was in spiritual limbo. As it turned out, God saw fit to hand him another life threatening trial, and He pulled out all the stops on this one!

The Tumor

His one and only biological daughter came into the world about 4 years later. After being coerced into witnessing the birth first hand, problems reared their ugly head right from the start and he was told he could not be in the operating room. A Caesarian section produced a daughter that could hardly breath.

She had a tumor growing at the base of her skull blocking her air passage and it had to be removed. Some time before the surgery, the surgeon told him she may not survive. Wow! What else can God do to me, he thought. Why not just throw in the towel and give up!

He and his wife were allowed to take the baby home for 2 weeks before the surgery, being that she had been in the hospital for so long. During a pre-op meeting, she told the consulting surgeon that if the baby did not survive, they would be thankful to at least have had some time with her.

That moment broke his heart and he started to feel emotions creep in that he didn’t even know he had. With his stubborn pride manifesting itself, he felt that he did not want anyone to see him like that.

The day of the surgery was strewn with tension. The hospital provided a representative  to sit with his wife, but he was alone. Alone with the God that had been trying to reach him. So he stared out the hospital waiting room window …and prayed. He prayed like never before, the best he knew how. The wait seemed like an eternity. The leaves were falling, the air was still, and God said to his angels “WE NOW HAVE CONTACT AND WE ARE GOING TO START REELING HIM IN!

Hours later, the surgeon, a skeptical sort of man who had many doubts going in, emerged from the operating room with a magnificent smile on his face.

“I think we got it all and your daughter is doing fine”, he shouted.   The day of salvation was hitching up and riding into town. Our boy was locked into the fact that God does answer prayer. Finally, an incredible life-changing event had grabbed his full attention. Something important and good was happening.


The journey was not a straight one to the end. A religious cult happened to enter the mix for a short period of time, but his wife, already a Christian through her upbringing, inspired him to read the bible. She showed him passages that contradicted false teachings and he was able to work his way on to the right path of truth. Time was closing in on him and God was in control.

In time, he thought he could please God By allowing the Sunday school bus to pick up their kids and take them to the church down the street. It was not the best of intentions. He figured this decision would give him and his wife the chance to be free of kids for a couple of hours.

A few weeks later, the church pastor and his assistant showed up and were walking towards the front door when his wife yelled “It’s the Pastor”! He thought that he was going to be lectured about the kids and tried to escape through the back door. That was a faulty decision because there was no back door.

This was the moment God had pushed him to and he was trapped. The pastor knew a little background about him and his quest for spiritual truth through his kids. He introduced himself and his associate, and after a little conversation, got right to the point! The pastor asked him “Would you like to be saved”?

He, not knowing what that meant, and fearing the wrath of God, agreed to recite the prayer of salvation. But it was just to get the men out of his house and the whole thing over with. However, he did promise to at least go to church the following Sunday.

About the second church visit this thing called salvation started to take hold. He began to understand. Now, he embraced the concept of being saved and became a new person in Christ. Slowly, he turned his life around.

When this daughter became old enough to understand, she also accepted Jesus Christ as her savior. He had adopted his wife’s children who were the product of a previous marriage years before, and although those early years together were very stressful, he began to develop a much better relationship with them as time went on.

The Rest of the Journey

So, in this spiritual quest to seek answers from God, he began to realize that life itself is a strange journey filled with lots of ups and downs. While standing and staring out at the expanse of water before him, some birds flew by as he once again prayed hard for one more answer.

He had plowed his way through life many times without money, buried in debt, an up and down construction business, and family disasters. He lived in homes all over America, bore a failed relationship with his father, experienced the near death of his daughter, and everything in between. Yet, he, nor his family, ever went hungry, had a disaster ruin their home, suffered without some type of income, or dwelt in substandard conditions. God had always provided.

And now he was alone with his creator asking the hard question one more time:

“What Do I Do Next Lord?  What is your will? Do I head back to where I came from before coming here to my home town to give a helping hand? The projects here are ending, the money is is running thin, we sold our home back there thinking we would stay here, and I am running out of options. It has been a good, albeit eventful life, but I need one more answer. Just this time, don’t respond to my plea with such a ‘Heavy Hand’!



I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!


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