Cry Uncle

“Just say it!”

The scruffy boys clustered around the little towhead couldn’t bear to watch the little guy writhing in pain, so they urged him to take the only way out.  Just one word and it would all be over.

He bit his lip and stubbornly shook his head.


It was a stalemate.  The dark haired aggressor clearly had the upper hand, since he had the smaller boy’s arm twisted behind his back in what is known as a hammerlock.  The higher the arm was pushed toward the shoulder, the more the level of pain intensified.  The stronger of the two, he was certain that the scuffle would soon be over.  Domination was certain.  Victory was his!

But no.  The obvious loser refused to submit.  The word would never cross his lips.  He prepared for one last, desperate move.

As I relive the event in my memory, it occurs to me that the reader might wonder why a man of advancing years (I will readily admit to it) is concerned at all with a common school yard tussle which happened nearly fifty years ago.  I almost wonder myself.

I have mentioned before that my mind doesn’t always heed its master.  It goes where it wants with increasing frequency these days.  Perhaps my admission in my most recent post, of giving up control, is to blame.  I do tend to mull things over a bit, after the words have been written in black and white for the world to see.

I think though, that it was more likely the conversation I had with an old acquaintance this morning.  I’ve known the man for thirty years, having done business with him and his father too, when the old gentleman was living.  My friend is retired now, although he is not many years older than I.  His words are tumbling around in my head, along with my own from earlier.

“When I left the workplace, I guess I withdrew from life.  I don’t have much to get excited about anymore.  It’s just me and my wife and we’ve got nothing to talk about, since we do the same things together from daylight to dark.”

As he went out the door to go home, he assured me that his discussion with me would be the high point of this day for him.  Poor fellow.

For all the words he said, I really hear just one.  The little towhead refused to say the word, but this sixty-year old man is living it everyday.  

As I headed out for a run tonight, my thoughts ran along with me.

photo: Nicholas A Tonelli

The stars shone brightly up in the sky above me as I left the house, their brilliance shining through even the annoying glare of the streetlights that I moved under and past.  I looked at them up in the sky and  suddenly realized that those were the very stars which were shining when I was a boy.

The very ones.  Fifty years is nothing to them.  Fifty years of being stared at.  Fifty years of having projectiles flung from this little sphere of dirt and water up into what we call outer space.  Not one of those projectiles has ever come close to touching a single one of those stars.  Not one has dimmed their brilliance a single lumen.  Since I was a boy–since my father was a boy–since my father’s father was a boy…

The very same stars are shining brightly in the sky.

I will admit to talking to myself frequently, but tonight I talked to the stars for a minute.  Just for a minute.

They were brightest as I ran through the cemetery.  Looking up, I actually said the words out loud.

“Are you still there?”

There was mute silence, but their brilliance shouted in the quiet.  I didn’t hear an answer, but I had it anyway.  I wasn’t done quite yet.  Two words.  That’s all it took to finish my conversation.

“Me too.”

The little towhead had seen the luchadores, the Mexican wrestlers, on the black and white television set at his neighbor’s house.  He remembered seeing them caught in the hold that his opponent now had on him.  It was a submission hold that few escaped.  But once–just once, he had seen it done.

Reaching back to grab the other kid’s head for support, he lifted both his legs and, holding his weight with the hand on the boy’s head, he shoved against the tree that was just in front of his body.  When the luchadore had done it, he had flipped up and over the other wrestler’s back, pulling him into the same hammerlock.  Of course, the wrestling moves on television depended on the cooperation of both wrestlers, one helping the other as they performed their spectacular gymnastics, but the boy didn’t know that.

What actually ensued is that the boy who appeared beaten simply knocked the other boy down backwards, landing with his full weight on top of him.  The tables were turned as the surprised boy on the bottom of the heap, bruised and in pain, begged to be allowed up.

The towhead, himself surprised by the turn of events, shouted out instantly, “Say it!”

The other little boy, all the fight knocked out of him along with his breath, gasped out the word that his conqueror had refused to utter only moments before.


I know too many who have already said the word.  I’ve seen them waiting for time to pass.  The things that life has thrown at them have dimmed their brilliance.  The submission hold that trials have put them in has them on the ropes, and the towel of surrender has been thrown over those ropes into the ring.

I wonder, if we fall–no, when we fall–I wonder… Could we just roll over and look up?  They’re still up there, aren’t they?  The same stars that shone brightly way back when–back when nothing was going to stand in our way.  Those very stars that shone as we made plans and laid the groundwork for conquering our world.

Our Creator put them up in the sky, along with the other lights.  I’m wondering if we’ve forgotten that He also made us to shine like stars in the universe.

They’re still shining, aren’t they?

Me too.

And, I still won’t say that word.

“…So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
(Philippians 2:15 ~ NIV)

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition.  Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
(Marilyn vos Savant ~ American magazine columnist)

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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