unedited version
THE TRACKS

Jim Gosson grabs his camera bag and his tripod. The rage inside is building and he has to get out of the house. His wife walks away from him and goes upstairs to their bedroom. He opens the front door, and then slams it shut as hard as he can when he steps outside. Jim hears the picture hanging by the front door fall and the glass shatter. The print read "Home sweet Home". He laughs to himself inside, and then yells out with a loud voice.
"That picture's a joke, just like our freaking marriage."
He jumps into his ford truck and squeals in reverse down the drive into the street. Good thing no one was in the street, he would have plowed right into them. Jim has to clear his mind and get his thinking straight. Will the fighting ever end? Jim drives through town and heads for the country side roads. He has wanted to get out here with his camera for a long time. Today is the perfect time to get away for awhile. He loves his wife Cindy, but he can't take the constant fighting and the anger that builds. Jim sees the railroad tracks ahead in the distance. He's taken pictures of the tracks and the trains before, but not out in the country. He pulls the truck over about a hundred yards from the tracks. It's a hot summer day and Jim throws his water bottle into his camera bag.
Jim prays that God would give him strength not to blow up at his wife. Jim wonders how many times he will pray this prayer in his life. How many times will I drop the ball and God will pick it up and hand it back to me? For awhile Jim just sits in the truck. He stares out the windshield like a man in a trance. His mind wanders back to when he was in High School. He remembers all too well the screaming and fighting his parents did. They always fought behind the close door of their bedroom. But Jim and his younger brother would always hear them. Then one morning I came down for breakfast before school and my mom was in the kitchen as usual. But this morning she kept her back toward me and told me to get my own breakfast. When she pickup her coffee I saw her hand shaking.
"Mom what's the matter?"
"Nothing Jim, just eat your breakfast and get ready for school."
That morning I walked over and gently turned my mother around to face me. She would not look me in the eye. The drying tear streaks were on her checks. Her right eye was black and blue and almost swollen shut. My senior High School heart was shattered that morning. In an instant I hated my father for what he had done to my mother.
That same day my father came back while we were in school and gathered all he could, and moved out. Why did he hit her? I needed him in my life at that time. Now I hate him for leaving us. Now the big house is to quiet, my dad had the booming voice and the jokes. That's gone with all the fighting. After time I finally talked to my dad on the phone. I wept on the phone to my father and asked him why he hurt mom and left us?
After a long silence, he said he was so sorry, and he had no choice but to leave. My dad and I faded. A couple years pass and I get a phone call from my mother in college.
"Jim, I just talked to your father, he has cancer."
The doctors said he had six to eight months left. He died after four months of finding out. On his death bed in the hospital my dad told me to pull a chair close to him, he needed to talk to me about mom. He reached over and held my hand. I saw the tears in his eyes start to swell as he began to talk.
"I know how much you have hated for what I have done to your mother."
His booming voice is gone now, my father coughs and I see the pain in his face.
"I had to leave after that night I hit your mother. After I did it, a part of me died and a part of our marriage died too." My father's grip tightened as he talked.
"Jim I had to make sure I never hurt your mother again. I had to make sure she didn't have to worry when the next black eye was coming her way." "I love her so much Jim, but remember only cowards like me hit their wives."
Six days later my father dies. When the coffin is lowered into the ground Jim makes a promise to himself. "I will never physically hurt the woman I fall in love with."
I watched that day as my mother wept for the only man she ever loved.

The timeless thought fades and Jim's mind snaps back to the present time. He gets out of the truck with he's camera and tripod. Jim has kept his promise to himself, he has never hit his wife or even laid a finger on her. But with great sadness and sorrow he is just as bad as his own father. Jim has beaten Cindy to a pulp with words, words that rip through the soul and tear the heart to shreds.
Now the tears swell in Jim's eyes and he wipes them away. He loves his wife so much. Jim looks around and no one's in sight for miles. He is in the middle of nowhere. The country scene and the farm fields run for miles. Jim squints his eyes as he looks up into the summer sky. He cannot hold it back any longer and screams at the top of his lungs.
"WHY"
Over and over Jim yells "why" until he falls to his knees by the railroad tracks. Why does he treat the woman he loves so much like trash? Then over and over he asks God to forgive him. God heard Jim the first time.

Cindy listens upstairs as Jim slams the front door. He yells something then gets into his truck and speeds away. She goes into their bathroom and looks at the lady in the mirror. She sees the lady looking back with the tearstains on her face. Cindy gets a kleenex and wipes the running mascara off. Their marriage is a roller coaster ride with no slow down or stop buttons. She feels like a two faced Sunday morning Christian. Sundays they go to church together and things feel good. Then some weeks are turned into a battlefield of screaming and fighting. This is when love is thrown to last place and not put first where it belongs. Cindy knows her marriage is hurting, but she will not give up on Jim. She believes they can get their love back to the way it used to be. Cindy picks up her cell phone and calls her best friend Sue. The two small talk for a while, but Sue can tell Cindy is upset.
"Cindy, come over for some coffee and we'll talk."
"Thanks Sue, see you in about five minutes."
Cindy puts the cell phone back down on the nightstand. She goes back into the bathroom to make sure she looks all right. Then she leaves the bedroom and goes into the kitchen and grabs her car keys. She sees the picture in the foyer fallen and broken. She tells herself she'll clean it later when she gets home. Cindy walks out of the front door and forgets her cell phone on the bedroom nightstand.

Jim gets up and wipes the dirt from his knees. He wipes the wet from his eyes again and picks up the camera and the tripod. Jim's burden starts to lift off his shoulders as he begins walking down the railroad tracks. He should call Cindy and tell her how sorry he is and how much he loves her. Jim pulls his cellphone out of his pocket and flips it open. He stops walking and just looks at the phone. Jim knows he needs to tell her face to face. He puts the cellphone back into his pocket and keeps walking. He thinks of their marriage and all the blessings they have from God. But they are always at each other's throat for the kill. Why do some of us always lash out at the ones we love the most? A lot of questions run through Jim's mind as he walks down the empty tracks. But the bottom line is he knows the answer to all his questions is love. He has learned it from reading God's word. He has found a new love in believing in Jesus the Son of God. From Jesus, Jim now knows that love and forgiveness walk hand in hand. One is useless without the other. Today on the tracks Jim asks Jesus to help him to love and forgive. Jim sits on the edge of the tracks and pulls his cell phone out again. He has to tell Cindy how sorry he is and how much he loves her. He cannot wait until he gets home. Cindy's cell phone rings and rings, she does not answer. He doesn't blame her for not answering. He leaves Cindy a message after the beep. For the first time in his marriage Jim talks to Cindy as a husband with no selfish walls up. For ten minutes Jim talks into the phone. He opens his broken heart up to his wife. Jim tells Cindy how much he loves her and he'll be home soon. He closes the phone and looks up into the sky. "Thank you God!"

Sue opens the front door and looks at her dear friend. Cindy steps into the house and the two women hug. No words need to be said for Sue to know Cindy is a mess inside. Sue goes into the kitchen and pours two ice teas and brings them to the sunroom where Cindy is sitting. The faucets of her emotions open and the tears slowly swell in Cindy's eyes. She tells Sue the fighting at home is getting worse between them.

Jim looks up at the sky. He'll be shooting with the sun and not against it. The idea of this shot is get a cool perspective angle of the tracks. But this time he brought his wide-angle lens to get more of the open country in his pictures. Jim walks down the track until he finds the spot that feels good to him. He puts the wide-angle lens on and gets the shots he wanted. Jims switches back to his standard lens and starts to leave when he sees the dog in the distance. It came up out of the thicket and up onto the tracks. Jim feels sorry for the dog, it's probably a stray. Now the dog is coming down the tracks toward him. Jim pulls the camera up to his eye and zooms in on the dog. His finger freezes on the shutter button. Jim has never seen a wild dog before, but he knows this is one. He pushes down and the camera clicks the pictures of the dog. Jim decides it's time to go, he wants nothing to do with this dog, he reaches down and collects his stuff. He turns and a chill runs up his spin. Two more dogs from the other direction are coming up the tracks. Now he hears something in the brush on his left side. Fear settles into Jim's bones, he knows he's in serious trouble.

The sweat starts to run down his forehead now, the dogs are closing in. Now Jim hears movement in the brush to his right. He puts his camera bag and tripod down. Jim picks up some good size rocks from the tracks. Now he can hear the growls and see the whites of the dog's fangs as they get closer. Jim prays out loud "Help me God!" Then without really thinking, Jim yells at the top of his lungs. The dogs stop, but not for long.
Now Jim just goes on human instinct, he starts throwing the rocks at the dogs. He never was any good at sports, the rock sail over the dogs or bounce by them. Jim throws his camera bag over into the weeds and holds on to his tripod. Jim stays in the middle of the tracks. He extends his tripod out and collapses the legs. It's his only means for a weapon. The dogs run at him now from all angles and leap at him. The noise is deafening now with growling and Jim's own screaming. Jim swings the tripod and knocks the dog in front of him to the left. At the same time Jim turns and the dog behind him slams into his shoulder. Jim feels out of body as he fights for his life. Now more dogs come out of the thicket and run to their new prey. One dog clamps onto his arm and starts to pull. Jim drops the tripod and punches the dog as hard as he can. The pain shoots up his arm and down his side. He shattered three of his knuckles on the dog's forehead. But the fight has only begun. He turns into a wild animal himself and fights for his life. Jim holds his ground as long as he can, but the dogs are relentless and the attack grows stronger. Another dog comes from behind and lands on his back and sinks its teeth into his shoulder. Jim reaches back and grabs the dog by the fur and slams it to the tracks. Then one dog bites down on Jim's Achilles tendon and he screams in agony. Now they pounce all over Jim and knock him to his knees. He tries to fight back but there's too many now. He feels the fangs sink into legs, arm and everywhere. The pain fades as he starts to pass out. Jim sees the blood on the tracks, he thinks of his Jesus hanging on the cross. "Help me Jesus!" Then Jim hears a growl he will never forget. The pressure leaves, the dogs have left. The world blackens and Jim collapses in his own blood on the tracks.

The coyotes watch as the man on the tracks breaths in and out. They could rip the man to shreds and have their own feast on this day. But today they were sent from above to help and protect. The dominant male with the growl walks up and sniffs Jim. He is twice the size as the other coyotes in the pack. With his powerful jaws he bites down on the back of Jim's collar. The other coyotes gently bite down on Jim's arms and legs. With the kindness and love a mother would have with her baby the pack slowly pulls Jim from the tracks down into the brush. They form a protective circle around the bloody man. The coyotes guard Jim like he is one of their own. With their sharp canine teeth they rip open Jim's clothes where the open wounds are. The pack licks the wounds until the bleeding stops. The hours pass and the sun slowly sets in the west. A cool breeze starts to pick up from the North, it makes its way to where Jim and the coyotes lay. The coyotes move in closer to block the wind and to keep Jim warm in the darkness. Their ears perk up every time they hear the noise coming from Jim's pocket. Cindy calls and calls Jim's cell, but there is no answer. The coyotes wait for the man to come out of his deep sleep.

Lee Fischer runs the Northwestern train down the tracks in the dead of night. For thirty- five years the train has been his life, he knows this country and route by heart. After all these years Lee still loves the sound of the big locomotive clanking down the tracks. Lee reaches over and pulls his pop out of its holder and takes a big drink. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, in the far distance he sees the coyotes in the brush by the tracks. Lee pulls down on the line and the train whistle screams in the distance. Any animal usually runs and scampers from the loud whistle. Lee is shocked when the coyote pack doesn't even move or get up. Lee goes to pull the line again but stops. Lee sees the dead wild dogs now scattered by the tracks. The blood is everywhere. Now Lee looks down to his left and sees the coyotes are covering something up. But with the darkness Lee cannot see what it was. It's probably one of their own. Lee toots the whistle lightly to say good-bye to the coyotes. He shacks his head, now Lee has seen it all. The train doesn't miss a beat, there is a schedule to keep.
The big locomotive clatters past the coyotes and the wind from the train pushes through their fur. The train passes, and then in the distance the whistle sounds again at the crossing. Then slowly the train fades into the nothing. The lead male coyote growls softly and slowly gets up on all four. He is looking eye to eye with the man on the ground. The other coyotes get up and look down at Jim. The moon light is just bright enough for Jim to see the coyote's eyes and their outlines. Jim is paralyzed with fear, he wants to scream for help but stops any sound from coming from his lips. He knows to scream or to kick at the coyotes will only bring his own death. The train and the whistle brought Jim out of the blackness he was in for four hours. He is sore from head to toe, his head throbs with unbelievable pain, but he is alive. Jim's mind starts to clear and he remembers the wild dogs and the attack. Now he has a pack of coyotes looking down at him. Jim starts to shake from the fear of what's going to happen next. Could it get any worse than this? Then his cell phone starts to ring in his pocket. Jim looks up at the coyotes, and the sweat starts to run down his forehead. Jim knows he will be dead soon, standing in front of God.

Then something happens and Jim is really confused now. The coyotes sit on their hind quarters with their ears perked up listening to the strange sound. Then Jim remembers the growl he heard right before he passed out. Jim looks at the monster coyote in front of him and knows he's the one with the unearthly growl. Jim wants to answer the phone and yell for help, but after time the phone turns quiet and Jim stays quiet. So in the dark of the night Jim just lies there and doesn't move. But after time the coyotes never make a sound or move. Jim prays and asks God to give him strength and courage to just get up and move. Jim knows he needs to get to the hospital and have his wounds looked at. Jim can feel the back of his right foot throbbing and knows his Achilles tendon is torn up. But fear is a state of the human mind, it is not from above. God has no fear. Does God put fear into the hearts of man? Jim knows the answer, God does not. But the longer Jim just stays here and does nothing he realizes the coyotes are doing the same. Why are they just lying around him and not tearing him to shreds? Now Jims' mind is trying to bring everything into a basic meaning. For the first time Jim looks past the coyotes' and out by the tracks. In the darkness Jim can see the silhouettes' of the dead dogs that attacked him. Jim' eyes shift back over to the big coyote, the coyote looks Jim straight in the eyes. Jim doesn't see hatred or death in the coyote's eyes, he sees compassion and love. Why compassion and love? He understands what's going on now but doesn't understand how it's happening.
The coyotes saved his life and now they are protecting him. Then the cell phone rings in his pocket again. Jim looks at the big coyote and slowly pulls the cell phone out of his pocket. He knows its Cindy and she's going to be real upset with him. But Jim does not give her time to speak when he connects to her, he does all the talking.
"Cindy I love you very much and I am so sorry that I have treated you so bad all these years. I have always wanted you to be the way I thought you should be as a Christian wife. I have been a fool for so very long honey, please forgive me. But right now I am in trouble."
Cindy was mad and frustrated with Jim, she has been calling him for hours and he never answered. But all that faded when Jim said he was in trouble, the man she loves with all her heart. Cindy fights the tears and the fear back when she talks.
"Jim what happened, where are you?"
"You're not going to believe what happened and where I'm at. I have a pack of coyotes around me and I believe their protecting me. I was attacked by a pack of wild dogs."
"What?"
"I know it sounds totally insane Cindy, but it's true." Jim tells her where he's at and how bad his wounds are and what happened. "Cindy I'm going to get up now and go to my truck." Now Cindy is freaking out and wants to call an ambulance. "Let me try to get up, the coyotes are not going to hurt me." Jim slowly sits up. His head spins a little then clears. "I'm sitting up now honey, I'm going to set the phone down for a second and get up." He can hear her protesting as he lays the phone down in the grass. Jim's legs a mess but he knows he can hobble down to his truck.
The coyotes step back and watch the man struggle and finally get to his feet. Jim's head feels like a football and a bunch of kids used it in school for punt, pass and kick. Jim looks at the coyotes and they start to spin left to right. A bright light explode in his brain and the darkness takes over. Jim passes out and tumbles to the ground.
Cindy can hear the racket on the phone and starts calling Jim's name. The coyotes sit back down and listen to the voice on the phone.
"Jim, are you alright? Pick up the phone Jim, Jim, Jim. After time her words turn into desperate sobs.

Jim falls deep into unconscious and utter blackness. Everything around him is now only in black and white. He is alone. He holds his camera in his right hand and walks up onto the tracks. He looks down the tracks and brings the camera to his right eye and looks through it. He smiles because through the camera lens everything has a vibrant color. Colors that he has never seen are before are all around him. He lowers the camera from his eye and everything turns to black and white again. Jim brings the camera back up and looks down the tracks again. The color and the beauty is breath taking. Then way down in the distance Jim sees movement. He turns the lens out to get a closer look. His heart stops and he tries to holds his camera still as he starts to shake. Fear crawls up his spin. Jim sees the smoke rolling into the sky as it escapes from the stack. It makes its way around the bend and Jim can hear the clanking now. The whistle screams as the black train speeds down the tracks toward Jim. The train is moving way to fast, Jim tries to jump from the tracks to safety. He is stuck and the only things he can move are his arms.
Jim pulls the camera from his eyes and he looks down the black and white tracks and there is no train is sight. Jim brings the camera to his eye again and the train is right on top of him. Right before the train is going to splatter Jim all over the tracks he pulls the camera down. The tracks are empty in front of him again. He knows better than to bring the camera back up to his eye. But he has to. Jim smiles again and looks at all the beautiful color all around him. The train is gone. Jim sighs in relief.
But the smile fades quickly when Jim looks down the tracks again. They are coming fast, a whole pack of them. Wild dogs are coming. Jim zooms in to get a closer look. This time it goes past fear and Jim asks God to take his life. Because what he sees is beyond his grasp. Jim pulls the camera away and looks in black and white. But unlike the train the wild dogs are still coming full run. They must be from the depths of hell, he has never seen any animal as hideous as these.
The blood still drips from their mouths from their last prey. Jim wants to look away and scream for help, but he cannot. Jim strains to move but his legs are useless. The dogs get closer and closer. Jim drops the camera and curls his hands into fists. The dogs leap and pounce on Jim and he swings his fists with all his might. His arms feel like lead weights, like fist fighting underwater. Jim doesn't have a chance and the dogs start tearing him apart. The dogs knock Jim to his knees and bite in to his flesh. Jim ignores the pain and starts to pray. Then the dogs screech and scatter into the trees and thicket. Jim slowly looks up when he feels someone pulling him by the arms to his feet. The robe is of a heavenly brilliant white. The man had scare holes on each hand. Jim tries to look upon the face of the man helping him up, but the brightness blinds his eyes. Shame overwhelms Jim and the tears roll down his face. The man in the robe brings Jim into his arms and holds him with the purest of love. Without a word spoken Jim knows the man in white loves him very much. Jim knows the man is Jesus.
Jim looks at the ground and struggles to get the words out.
"I am not worthy that you suffered so much and died for me, I am such a sinful man!"
When the man in white speaks, the words rip into Jim's heart.
"I suffered much for the world and for you. The Father and I love you, we have from the beginning. You are a child of God."
The man in white kisses the top of Jim's head, then turns and starts to walk back down the tracks. Jim now can look upon the man in white. The beauty and the power is too much to look at for long, Jim looks away and speaks with a pure heart. "Please do not leave me!"
The man in white answers Jim and the words bring peace and reassurance to Jim's heart. The heavy burden of doubt lifts off his shoulders. "I will never leave you." Jim turns and looks at the man in white again. He is farther down the tracks. Jim brings the camera to his eye to get a closer look. What he sees through the lens in full color sucks the air from his lungs. Jim holds his breath and his own shame eats at his soul. The crimson blood is everywhere on the tracks. The lash marks from the wipes are all over his body. The crown of thorns is pierced into his head. The man was beaten beyond recognition. The cross is big and heavy as it weighs onto his back and shoulder. The man struggles with heavy cross and falls to the tracks. Jim can't look anymore and pulls the camera down. Now there is no more black and white, now there is only the blackest kind of darkness around him. His legs can move now and Jim sits down and feels around. Jim's hand finds the cold steel of the track. Afraid to move Jim puts his camera down and looks for some kind of light in the pitch black.

Cindy pulls up and slams the car in park. She is right behind Jim's truck. She has beaten the ambulance here but she is not going to wait for them. Cindy gets out and runs up to the railroad crossing. She gets on the tracks and starts yelling for Jim. The sun is just starting to crest over the horizon. Cindy keeps saying Jim's name but there is no answer. She slows her pace down and steps over one of the dead dogs. Her heart starts to pound heavy in her chest. Panic sets in and she starts to yell Jim's name again. Then Cindy looks to the right down in the thicket, she stops and brings her hand up and covers her mouth from screaming. She sees her husband laying on the ground not moving and the coyote's all around him. Her beloved Jim is torn up everywhere but there is hardly any blood. The tears start to run down her cheeks when she can see Jim's chest rise up and down. He is still alive. The biggest coyote gets up on all four and looks Cindy straight in the eyes. Cindy will look back on this time in the future and will be amazed and never fully understand it. She looks at the coyote and for some reason starts to talk.
"He is my husband please let me help him!"
Cindy is shocked at herself for talking to the coyote as if it were human. The other coyotes get up and stand over Jim. The big coyote bends down and sniffs Jim's face and then looks up at Cindy. The dominate coyote turns and walks into the green thicket and brush, the other coyotes follow their leader. When the coyotes are out of sight Cindy hurries down to Jim's side. She can hear the paramedics calling out down the tracks.
"Down here and please hurry my husband is unconscious!"
Cindy gets down with Jim and puts his heads in her lap. She runs her fingers through his hair and kisses his lips. The tears fall from her checks onto Jim's. The love is in her voice and in her words. "I am so sorry Jim, I love you so much."

The hospital room is partially lit from the monitor machines around Jim's bed. It is late into the night and the only human sound is breathing. Jim opens his eyes slowly and lets them adjust to the room. He looks over and sees Cindy asleep in a chair. Her beauty has always taken his breath away, and tonight is no different as he looks at her.
Jim does not wake her, he lets her sleep. She has to be exhausted. After a few minutes Jim's eyes grow heavy and he fights to stay awake. He falls back into the realistic dreams of wild dogs and coyotes.

Six months later Jim pulls the truck to the side and parks and looks down the road to the tracks. He has not been out here since the attack. Jim is glad it happened, it has brought him closer to the true God he loves. He steps out of the truck slowly and grabs his cane. Jim slams the truck door and head for the tracks. He is alone now, Cindy moved out about three weeks ago. Two days ago he was handed the divorce papers. He really thought everything would be better when he left the hospital. Then all the bad things started again between them. How many times has he read about divorce in God's word?
There are too many to keep track of. How many times will he ask God to forgive him?
Probably till his last breath. Jim makes his way up onto the tracks and starts down them.
In the distance Jim sees it come out of the tall thicket. The dominate coyote steps out of the brush and onto the tracks. Jim is so glad to see the coyote. He knows the coyote will not hurt him. Jim raises his hand in thanks to the coyote. For a few seconds the two just look at one another. Then the coyote raises his head to heaven and howls. Jim feels the Holy Spirit flow through his body and he falls to his knees. The peace Jim feels is beyond human words. The coyote howls one last time and jumps from the tracks back into the thicket. Jim gets back to his feet and wants to go where the coyote went. A part of him wants to go where the troubles of this world are few. Jim is to wise to wishful think for too long. He turns and with his cane and heads down the tracks back to the truck. Jim looks up at the sky and thanks God for his awesome creation and his forgiving love. Jim smiles and wipes the tears from his eyes. Today is a new beginning.


Wayne Roe
7-14-09

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