This story was written for a Vision Form contest. I didn't win anything, but it was published in a magazine a year or two ago.
Fight Hard & Hold Fast
By Hope Schmidt
“What’s the password?”
“Fight hard & hold fast,” Stephen laughed as his father blocked the entrance of the recently pitched tent.
“And what does that mean?” Father questioned playfully as he made way for his son.
“We are to fight hard against the devil while holding fast to God and trusting Him for the victory.”
Stephen laid the sleeping-bag he was carrying in a corner of the tent. “Camping trips are so fun,” he sighed happily.
“You didn’t think it was fun ten years ago when I first took you and Anna out.”
“I was only six,” Stephen protested. “Besides, it was raining, Anna was crying, and we had to eat a cold supper because you couldn’t get a fire started.”
“Can Anna and I go and take some pictures before supper?” Stephen asked after a pause.
“Sure,” Father headed for the entrance. “Just tell me before you leave.”
“Yes, sir.” Stephen followed his father out of the tent. A light breeze blew down from the mountains carrying the tangy scent of pines. Behind him a wide valley spread out to a clear blue lake that reflected the hills and trees beyond. Ahead of him a trail wound into the mountains.
A fourteen-year-old girl stuck her head out of the other tent in the small hollow.
“Dad said we could go take some pictures in the mountains before supper.” Stephen relayed the good news.
“Just a minute, I’m almost done unpacking.”
Stephen leaned against a tree and scuffed the ground with his boot while he waited. Fight hard & hold fast. He liked Father’s newest password, but he wasn’t sure he really understood it. There was the fight against temptation of course, but what about physical fights?
Just then Anna came back out of her tent carrying her camera.
“You both ready?” Father asked.
“Alright, just stay near the path. I will come get you when it’s time to eat. And,” Father winked, “don’t let Old Scar get Anna.”
Stephen laughed. “That old mountain lion wouldn’t stand a chance.” He patted his revolver and knife.
“Is Old Scar still around?” Anna asked they started up the path.
“Nobody has seen him for years,” Stephen turned his camera on, “and if Dad thought Old Terror was still around he wouldn’t have let us go out alone.”
Fifteen minutes later the campsite had dropped out of sight. The path led steadily upward. A little way to the right the grass stopped and the mountain dropped down into steep cliffs. Stephen moved along. He was absorbed in photographing a small butterfly resting on a wisp of grass when Anna called him.
“Stephen, look at this.”
Glancing up Stephen saw Anna at the edge of the cliff. She was holding onto a tree branch and leaning over the precipice.
“Anna, what are you doing?” Stephen gasped.
“Don’t worry. I’m holding on tight.” Anna looked back over her shoulder. “Come look at this.”
Pushing aside some coarse grass, Stephen flopped onto his belly and looked down.
He caught his breath. Down between looming cliffs lay a narrow, but beautiful valley. A clear steam rushed over and around mossy stones. Small trees grew near the water and lush green grass, intermingled with flowers, covered the ground.
“Look at that ledge right below us,” Anna said after a minute. “If we climbed down there we could get some really good pictures.”
Stephen considered the proposition. The ledge was wide and quite long. Father wouldn’t mind, and they were fair rock climbers; besides, Anna was right.
Stephen knotted his handkerchief to a branch so Father could see where they were then unrolled his rope. “Let’s go.”
A minute later they were safe on the ledge. Stephen watched Anna eagerly snap some pictures then reached for his own camera. Just then he heard a low growl. Turning hurriedly, Stephen saw a huge mountain lion spring to the top of a rock. The blood seemed to rush out of his head and sink into his feet and hands, holding them motionless. The long scar on the tawny shoulder of the beast was something he’d hoped he’d never see.
A small scream from Anna, as she too recognized Old Scar, cleared Stephen’s head. He had to protect her.
Another low growl came from the lion.
Fight hard and trust God for the victory. The unbidden words were comforting somehow. Fight hard & hold fast.
Stephen pulled his revolver out of his belt.
The lion crouched ready to spring.
Old Scar stumbled as the bullet struck him.
“Trust in the Lord,” Stephen whispered under his breath.
Old Scar leapt forward.
It was too late to shoot the lion again. Stephen dropped his gun and yanked out his knife. There was no time to be afraid.
Holding the blade upward Stephen stepped forward and drove the knife deep into the chest of the oncoming beast.
The lion’s body struck and something tore at the side of his face. Stephen staggered back.
He braced himself for another attack.
The lion struggled to its feet, blood staining the ground below. It lurched forward with a growl, then collapsed to the ground at Stephen’s feet, dead.
“Oh, Stephen,” Anna threw her arms around her brother, then dabbed at the blood trickling down his cheek where one of Old Scar’s claws had struck. Stephen leaned against the cliff face. Trust in the Lord for the victory.
Stephen looked up as Father slid down the rope next to them.
“Old Scar,” Father looked at the lion then turned to Stephen and looked at his hands. Stephen glanced down and saw he was still grasping his knife.
“Well done, Stephen.” Father’s voice was husky as he wrapped his strong arms around Stephen and Anna.
Fight hard & hold fast. Stephen smiled at Anna. He’d never forget this day. Today he had fought with all his strength and God had given him the victory.