[Editor’s Note: I’m launching a new blog tonight—titled Mark Young: Arresting fiction…one character at time—which will run in tangent with this blog. You’re invited to join us by clicking on the link below. As a legal bribe, I am offering free Off the Grid eBooks to five lucky winners in a giveaway contest. Deadline is January 14, 2012. Just follow the link below, scroll to the bottom of the post on my Mark Young blog, and read the simple steps to register.
Lastly, thank you for faithfully following this blog as 2011 closes out. Let’s continue our journey together in the new year. Hook’em & Book’em will continued to invite selected authors, cops and crime specialists to this blog, while the Mark Young blog will more personal, documenting my writing journey and sharing insights I get from other writers and readers. Please join us on both sites as this 2013 begins. Happy New Year!]
By Mark Young
My nine-year-old daughter excitedly edged through the fair crowd, going from booth to booth collecting free stuff—toys, pens and pencils, candy, free bottles of water, and balloons. She was a walking advertisement for the Republicans and the Democrats, water softeners and water savers, tree huggers and tree cutters. Everyone had their stuff out for the taking—and she took. With a cute smile and a polite “thank you,” she shoveled her loot into free bags collected on the way.
And she wasn’t the only one. There were a string of takers right behind her, of all ages and shapes. But she is a pro. This was her second fair this month, and she quickly learned the best places to grab free stuff. Forget the exhibits, animal barns, and the rodeo show. She was a girl on a mission.
It was almost inspiring how she swooped in to clean house. And no one seemed to mind.
Then she came to a small booth wedged between the carnival lot and a performance stage, where a country western band rocked out. One man in a U.S. Marine uniform stood tall, his knowing smile and friendly eyes greeting all visitors. A small crowd of teenagers—boys and girls—gathered around the Marine and must have caught my daughter’s attention.
As we drew closer, I saw the Marine sergeant holding a leather exercise ball and standing next to a convex sit up bench with a rack bar. One young man lay back on the bench, his head touching dry grass and his feet in the air, wrapped around a dumbbell bar. As the teenager raised himself, the Marine threw the ball at the young man’s midsection. With a straining red face, the teenager caught the ball and threw it back on his way up. I heard the Marine chant “fifteen” and the boy seemed to collapse.
I heard the goal was twenty reps which the boy failed to achieve. He walked away dejected amidst smirks and jeers. Another young man took his place, and this guy reached his goal. He was given a U.S Marine poster, and walked away beaming as if he’d been given a pot of gold. I heard the Marine tell him and his companions something, but I couldn’t make it out.
My daughter stood watching until all the teenagers had sauntered away. Then she bravely walked up to the Marine and asked if she could try. Without wavering, the Marine nodded and smiled. I watched with some trepidation. I knew the exercise ball would be too much for her to handle. Wisely, the uniformed sergeant modified the rules so that she only needed to do a complete sit up, hands clasped across her chest, twenty times or more to reach her goal. Still, this was a daunting task for a young girl.
I watched her sit up, face taut, arms folded, as she grimaced...
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