This was a response or midrash that I wrote as part of an exercise in live lectio / flash fiction during my church’s 10th anniversary retreat in 2011. I recommend clicking through to read the passage from the Bible to which I’m responding, but if you’re familiar of the story of the first Passover – that’s the one.


It was only an hour before the appointed time, when the Lord would send his angel of death – the angel with the flaming sword that would cut out the heart of each Egyptian family. Rachel snuck out while her father was bundling their few possessions, and her mother was cleaning the remains of the tiny leg of lamb they’d been given by their next door neighbor.

She moved quickly down the street, careful not to slosh the blood in the bowl she carried. At each Egyptian home she reached, Rachel dipped her rag into the bowl, and hastily dribbled blood on the doorframe.

She kept on running into the dark, painting hope on as many doors as she could reach, until the dawn broke, and Rachel heard the first wails of anguish from the homes further on down the street.


This was an exercise I did for the fiction writing class I took last fall. It’s really short; just the beginning of a story (or perhaps a chapter of a story). There’s a gimmick to the way it’s written. See if you can spot it.


One second after Laura’s bare feet hit the sidewalk on the far side of the wall, she felt calm. She crouched there for a moment, took two deep breaths, and then rose fluidly and began moving swiftly to the north, toward the stream valley park. Then it would be just three miles along the course of the creek until she reached the edge of the the city, and the woods. Laura knew that if she could make it that far, she’d have a chance of eluding pursuit…and finding the other four, if they were still out there.

Five minutes later, Laura was running along the asphalt path beside the stream. She met a gaggle of six teenage girls, but as she’d hoped, they appeared to take her for a jogger. Even if they noticed her lack of shoes, barefoot running was a bit of a fad ever since that seven-time marathon champion from Haiti had made it cool. From the fading light, Laura judged that it was half past eight. If she could make it to the woods before nine – and the curfew patrols – she’d be home-free…at least for now. Easy…but now was not the time to get cocky, when only ten minutes ago she’d been a so-called “guest” inside the Academy itself.

The Boy Who Mentioned Flow: A Fable

Once there was a small village by a river. Most of the villagers were shepherds, making their living in the hills surrounding the town, but one young lad lived as a fisherman, spending his days by the river and supplying fish to the townsfolk. This boy was well-liked in the village. He was trustworthy and competent and thus earned their trust. He was friendly and thus earned their friendship. He valued harmony, and had harmonious relations with everyone. This was a boy who liked to get along and to see others get along, to “go with the flow,” so to speak, and everyone felt that anything left in his hands was bound to go smoothly, with little muss or fuss.

One day, at a town meeting, the townsfolk spent quite some time complaining about another young man, a shepherd, who had recently amused himself by leading the whole village on a wild goose chase to fend off nonexistent wolves who were supposedly threatening the young man’s flock. The fisher boy didn’t think much of either the prankster or the town’s reaction to him–just let it pass and move on, he thought. When they were finished venting, he mentioned casually, “By the way, the flow of the river is up this month. What with all the rain this spring, and the runoff from last winter, the water level’s pretty high.” The townsfolk greeted this news amiably, because they liked the fisher boy, and, as usual, he spoke as if everything was well and under control. “That’s nice!” they said. “Hope it’s good for the fish!” The fisher boy actually was a bit concerned about the increased flow, but he felt good that he had alerted the town, and since they didn’t seem too worried, he supposed he shouldn’t be, either.

A month later, at the town meeting, the villagers were once again stewing about the shepherd boy, who had pulled the same prank again. This time, they were contemplating some kind of reprisal, but the fisher boy suggested that the other lad had probably learned his lesson, and that they should let bygones be bygones. He also mentioned that the river’s flow had increased even more, since the rains had continued, and that he’d never seen it so high. “Wow, how about that?” replied the townsfolk. Coming from the fisher boy, this didn’t sound like anything to be alarmed about. Remarkable, maybe, but not alarming. The fisher boy himself had been more concerned than ever about it, but, well, he’d done his duty and informed them. Apparently they saw no reason for agitation, and he sure wasn’t going to rock the boat.

The next month, the town met in the middle of a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions. Despite the weather, the townsfolk’s spirits were up, because that joking shepherd had finally gotten what was coming to him, in their view: real wolves had attacked and, when the cynical villagers refused to come to his aid, had decimated his flock. The fisher boy again mentioned that the river was really, really high now. As they came out of the meeting hall, they were greeted, to their horror, by water rushing through the streets of the village! As a sheep floated by, baaing in terror, and the townsfolk began to run around shouting “Flood, flood!” and desperately attempting to salvage their possessions, the mayor grabbed the fisher boy by the arm. “Fisher boy, you work by the river every day! Didn’t you see this coming? Why didn’t you cry ‘flood’ and warn us?”

“But I did warn you!” replied the tearful fisher boy. “I’ve been warning you for months! You just didn’t listen!”

The Tale of Big Bunny and Morty Mouse

Big Bunny sat on a tree stump and looked out over the forest floor. He was happy. All of the animals of the forest knew him. They knew he was big and tough. They knew that they should stay out of his way, or he’d chase them and kick them with his strong hind feet.

Sally Squirrel ran by, carrying a nut to her home.

“Hey, Sally!” called Big Bunny, “give me that nut.” Big Bunny wasn’t really that fond of nuts, but he very much liked being Big. Sally took one look at Big Bunny and ran off as fast as she could, carrying her nut. Her family was hungry!

“Hey!” shouted Big Bunny, “you come back here!” Big leapt off the tree stump and hopped after Sally as fast as he could. Sally ran fast, but Big Bunny was faster. He knocked Sally over, and he started to kick at her with his big hind feet. “Here, you big bully!” Sally said, and ran away.

Big took the nut and tossed it into a stream. He didn’t really want it. He just liked being Big. Big Bunny hopped off down the woodland trail, humming a tune.

A little later, Big came upon Morty Mouse, nestled up in a cozy little nest he’d made and taking a nap. Big cuffed Morty in the side of the head. “Wake up, you!” said Big Bunny. “That’s a nice little nest you’ve got there. I’d like to have it for myself.”

“My little nest isn’t big enough for you, Big Bunny!” squeaked Morty Mouse. “I don’t care,” said Big Bunny. “I want it anyway.” “No!” said Morty. Big Bunny kicked Morty with his big hind foot, knocking him out of the nest. Morty went running off.

Big Bunny decided that Morty Mouse needed to be tought a lesson. And there was no point in staying here. He couldn’t fit in Morty’s little nest, anyway. So Big went hopping off after Morty at top speed.

Morty was a fast little mouse. He led Big Bunny on a wild chase! He led Big Bunny over hill and over Dale and over Chip. (“Hey! Watch it!” shouted Chip.) Morty led Big Bunny to a different part of the forest, where the trees were bigger.

Morty Mouse led Big Bunny right to the home of Wilma Wolf. Wilma heard the noise of the animals running quickly toward her home, and came outside to see what was the matter. Morty saw Wilma, and ran straight between her feet. Big Bunny was so excited by the chase that he didn’t see Wilma at first. When he did, he was too big to run between her feet like Morty did. Big Bunny ran “smack!” into Wilma Wolf.

“My, my!” said Wilma. “What a plump, juicy, Big Bunny we have here!” With that, Wilma Wolf ate Big Bunny right up.

Morty Mouse laughed and laughed.

Without Sam

– 1 –

By the time Robbie looked up from his phone, it was already too late. Sam had never been an excitable or impetuous dog, but the dash of the insane squirrel, straight across the sidewalk in front of them and then hell-bent for the other side of the street, was too much even for Sam’s laid-back personality. The things that happened next seemed to occur all at once. Robbie was jerked off his feet toward the street. His phone flew out of his hand and smashed against the sidewalk. And the speeding bus turned his best friend into a lifeless, contorted sack of broken bones.

– 2 –

“Robbie!” The voice of his boss was an unwelcome intrusion into the solitude of his work. “Robbie, what time did you get to your desk this morning?”

Robbie took off his headset and blinked at his supervisor. “Uh. I’m not sure.”

“Well, Robbie, I am sure. We keep track of these things in a call center. This was the third time this week that you’ve been late, and today it was over 45 minutes! We can’t staff a tech support center if we can’t plan for coverage. You know that.”

“Oh. Uh. Sorry, Mark. I’m used to my dog waking me up to walk him, but he died…”

“Look, Robbie, I’m sorry, but I don’t want excuses. Attendance and punctuality are absolute job requirements. You know that. If this keeps up, we’ll have to let you go.”

“Oh. OK, Mark. I’m sorry. I’ll be on time.”

“You’d better.”

– 3 –

“Robbie,” said Patricia, after finishing her slice of cheap delivery pizza, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s going to work out between us.”

Robbie looked up. “What? Why?”

“You used to do stuff, Robbie! Go for walks in the city. Go for hikes in the woods.”

“Well, I used to go with Sam….”

“But now all you do is sit around here and eat pizza. Do you ever go anywhere these days except here and work?”

“Um, well, about work….”

“Have you even noticed how much weight you’ve gained in the past few weeks? I’m not shallow, Robbie – it’s about being a healthy person.”

Robbie looked at her sadly.

“I’m gonna go, Robbie. I’m sorry.”

Robbie’s apartment door closed behind her.

– 4 –


The sound of his landlord shouting and pounding on the door jerked Robbie awake. He stumbled over an empty pizza box as he rose from his sofa and opened his door.

“Robbie, what the hell is wrong with you? I sent you a letter three weeks ago informing you that if you didn’t make some arrangements to start paying your back rent, I was gonna have no choice but to evict you. And what do I hear from you? Nothing!

“Oh, uh, sorry, Mal. I used to get the mail every day with my dog, Sam. Since he died I sometimes forget to check it.”

“For three weeks?? You know what, I don’t care any more. You had your chance. This” – he handed Robbie a yellow envelope – “is legal. Get yourself and your shit out of here by Monday morning, or you’ll be removed by the cops. This is the end, Robbie.”

Robbie took the envelope, and Malcolm turned and walked away.

– 5 –

Robbie looked up from his breakfast at the shelter. He’d been hoping to stay unnoticed in the corner of the cafeteria a bit longer, nursing his warm coffee before they turned him out on the street for another day. But the attractive young woman with the clipboard, being guided around by the shelter director, was an unusual sight. As it turned out, they were headed his way.

“What about this guy?” asked the woman with the clipboard. He looks young. Do you think he’d be a good candidate?”

Now that they were near, Robbie could read the large words on the back of her clipboard. “Wags of Hope: Dogs for the Homeless”.

“Oh, Robbie?” responded the shelter director, “No. I really don’t think Robbie could take care of a dog. I hope you’ll forgive the expression, but the poor guy really just doesn’t have his shit together.”


The following is a very short prequel to this story, which I wrote as a response to the photo above.



“I’m a good boy,” thought Sam.

Sam was a humble dog. But the fact that he was a good boy was just the truth. His human, Robbie, told him so almost every day. How could he doubt it?

Despite his humility, Sam had a very deep sense that Robbie needed him. Really, really needed him. And Sam loved Robbie more than anything in the world.

“I’ll always be a good boy,” thought Sam. “So I’ll always be here for Robbie.”