“Tasha” — Episode 7

chapter eighteen: believe

“Hey!” Cassius greeted Tasha when she opened the front door. “Are you busy doing something?”

“Not really. Do you want to go somewhere?”

Cassius motioned down the street. “Got to go talk to Joshy about Jesus. Thought you might want to come,” he said.

“Sure,” Tasha agreed. After letting Eric know where she was going, they left her driveway and started down the sidewalk. “I didn’t even know Joshy lived on this street,” Tasha said.

“He’s four blocks down from you,” Cassius informed her.

In a few minutes, they reached a two-story house that looked similar to Tasha’s. Cassius rang the doorbell. Joshy’s nineteen year old brother opened the door. “If you’re selling something, we don’t want it,” he said. “If not, how can I help you?”

“We’re classmates of Joshy,” Cassius said. “I called and told him I was coming by. I have something important to talk to him about.”

“Oh, come in.” Joshy’s brother opened the door wider and closed it again behind them. “Joshy!” he yelled up the stairs. “Your friends are here.” When there was no response, he turned back to Cassius and Tasha. “He might have his headphones on. You can go up. Third door on the left.”

Tasha and Cassius found Joshy sitting on the floor in front of his bed. His back was turned to them, and silver headphones covered his ears. The skittish figure of Captain Jack Sparrow was running across his television screen. Joshy’s bedroom walls were covered with posters of LA Kings and LA Lakers players. Spotting the remote control, Tasha picked it up and clicked the screen off.

“Wha-?” Joshy jumped up in a spray of Chex Mix bits and pieces. He yanked off his headphones. “What are you doing? This is my favorite part.”

“I called,” Cassius reminded him. “We’ve come to tell you about Jesus.”

“That figures, preacher boy,” Joshy smirked. He stuffed the fistful of Chex Mix he was still holding into his mouth. “Make it quick. I have a movie to finish.”

Cassius pulled out his iPhone. He clicked on a bookmarked Bible passage. “Look,” he said, pointing at a verse. “This is Romans 3:23. Why don’t you read it?”

Joshy looked down at the screen. “‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’,” he read quietly.

“That means everyone in the entire world has sinned,” Tasha explained. “We’ve all done bad things — me, you, and Cassius, too. None of us are perfect.” She looked over at Cassius, who switched to a second screen.

“This is Romans 3:10 and this is Romans 3:12,” Cassius said pointing at the verses. “Would you read them for us?”

Joshy looked down at the screen again and started reading, “‘As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one’; and the second one says: ‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.’”

“That’s right,” Cassius said. “Since we all have sinned, no one is good in God’s sight. We’re constantly messing things up. Even when we do our best, our best is still not enough. Because of our sins, we have to die. Let’s see.” He switched to another verse, “This is Romans 6:23.”

“‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’,” Joshy read.

“Our sin has to be punished,” Tasha said.

“That punishment is death,” Cassius added. “Not just death in this life which is physical death, but eternal death.”

“What’s that?” Joshy asked.

Tasha and Cassius both looked at each other. “That’s hell,” Cassius said.

“Like Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia with the ghosts and demons and hags?” Joshy asked.

“Yeah,” Tasha answered. “Except it’s much, much worse.”

Joshy sighed. He swallowed hard. “But I don’t want to go with the bad guys when I die.”

Cassius tapped the Romans 6:23 verse on his screen. “Read the last part of this verse again, Joshy.”

“‘But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’,” Joshy read.

“That is what saves us from having to go to hell,” Cassius said. “The bad news is that we all have sinned, and our punishment is death. The good news is that Jesus the Christ died for us and our sins.” Cassius swiped to Romans 5:8.

Joshy knew what to do. He read, “‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’.”

“God loves you,” Cassius said.

“So much, Joshy,” Tasha added. “That’s why He sent Jesus to die for you. He didn’t want you to spend eternity with the bad guys. Do you have another verse?”

Cassius turned to Romans 10:9 and 13. Joshy’s face was serious as he read, “‘That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’ ‘For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’.”

“Since Jesus died for us, all we have to do is believe in Him, and we will be saved,” Cassius said. “Now, let me ask you a question. Do you believe that you are a sinner, Joshy?”

Joshy nodded. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I’ve done some pretty bad stuff. Everyone knows that.”

“And do you believe Jesus died for your sins — the bad stuff you’ve done?” Cassius asked.

Joshy nodded again. “Yeah.” Tasha silently prayed for him to make the right decision.

Cassius had another question. “Do you want to ask Jesus into your heart? Would you like to be saved right now?”

Joshy nodded. He looked at Cassius in his eyes. “Yes,” he said.

Tasha put an arm around Joshy’s shoulders. “All you have to do is believe,” she told him. “You can let God know you want to be saved by praying to Him.”

“That’s it? But I’ve never prayed before.”

“We’ll help you,” Cassius said. “I’ll say a part out loud. If you agree with it and believe it, you can pray it out loud to God. He’ll hear you.”

The three kids knelt down on the floor beside Joshy’s bed. “Dear God,” Cassius started.

“Dear God,” Joshy repeated. His voice sounded shaky. Tasha opened her eyes and peeked over at him. Tears ran down his cheeks. She patted his shoulder softly.

“I realize that I am a sinner,” Cassius continued.

“I realize that I am a sinner,” Joshy repeated.

“I believe that Jesus died for my sins,” Cassius said.

“I believe Jesus died for my sins,” Joshy prayed.

“I believe He was buried and rose again.”

“I believe with all my heart that He was buried and rose again,” Joshy prayed.

“Please forgive me of all of my sins.”

“Please forgive me of all of my sins.”

“Please come into my heart and save my soul,” Cassius said.

“Please come into my heart and save my soul,” Joshy repeated.

“I want you to change my life.”

“I want you to change my life,” Joshy prayed sincerely.

“I believe you heard my prayer, and I am now saved,” Cassius said.

“I believe you heard my prayer, God,” Joshy repeated confidently. “I am now saved. Thank you.”

“Amen,” Cassius finished.

“Amen,” Joshy and Tasha said together.

The sun had disappeared, and stars were beginning to twinkle in the dusky evening sky when Tasha and Cassius left Joshy’s house. Cassius had promised to get Joshy a Bible and give it to him on Monday at school. Joshy had agreed to start going to church with Cassius. When Cassius and Tasha got to the end of the block, Tasha gave a fist pump. “Yes!” she exclaimed.

“Yes!” Cassius grinned. He looked around like he was in a dream. “I can hardly believe it.” The next second he was running down the sidewalk rivaling the birds in their noise. “Joshy got saved!” he shouted. “Joshy got saved!”

chapter nineteen: white tiger prophecy

With one hand, Tasha yanked a brush through her hair while pulling out of her shoe closet a pair of buckled cutout booties with the other. She mentally went over the trigonometry problems she thought would be on the weekly pop quiz that her math teacher gave every Monday at Hacienda High. The weekend had been so unexpectedly busy that she hadn’t had time to study properly, but Tasha was sure she would still do well. She dropped both the shoes and brush as her phone rang and went to answer it.

“Hello?” Tasha said. A cacophony of Chinese flooded her ear from the other end. She recognized the voice. “Kwong!” Tasha said loudly. “English only, please.”

“Oh, my apologies,” Kwong replied. “Let me start again. On yesterday, after we departed the airport, I spent all night researching the prophecy. It has been so long that I wanted to make sure I had the facts right before telling you anything. But Tasha Lu, it is all just as I remember.”

“So my brother is still alive?” Tasha asked.

“If nothing has happened, then yes,” Kwong said. “Now, listen, because if we’re thinking about trying to find him, I’m afraid we don’t have much time. When the ancestors of the Ming sect that is still in existence today fled the invading Manchus, one of the items they made sure to take with them was the jade ewer of the first emperor, Hongwu. This ewer was made to ensure that if the Ming Dynasty were to fail, there would be a chance it would one-day rise again.

“When the jade ewer is filled with the blood of the white tiger and poured into the Yellow River all that the water touches will be made gold. When the white tiger is killed on a jade altar, the Mings will be restored to glory. And this white tiger is no ordinary one. It must be fourteen moons. It must be born of man.”

Tasha thought of Raju’s note. “But what does it have to do with my brother?” she asked. “And how in the world can a human give birth to an animal?”

“Tasha Lu, don’t you understand?” Kwong sighed. “Your brother is the tiger.”

chapter twenty: austin

Collette was waiting on the front steps of Hacienda High when Al Grace dropped Tasha off. “That all sounds too freaky to be true,” he had said after she told him what Kwong had told her. “But with all that he said on Sunday, I’m inclined to believe him.”

“We’re going to be late for class if we don’t hurry,” Collette said, following Tasha into the main hall. “You know how Drac is about late students. He’ll make us clean the entire classroom instead of going to lunch.”

Drac, short for Dracula, was the nickname they had given to their math teacher. Once, he told the class he drank piranha’s blood while on a trip to the Amazon and found it tasty. For good luck, he kept three drops of his dead mother’s blood in a tiny vial around his neck. “I know,” Tasha said. She fumbled with the combination on her locker before placing her book bag inside and pulling out a red notebook.

“Are you still a part of that new club?” Collette asked as they started down the hall.

“Yeah, we meet on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It’s pretty cool,” Tasha answered. “Do you want to join?”

“Not yet,” Collette said. She bit down on her bottom lip. “Do you guys pray in there?”

“Yeah, sure,” Tasha answered. “Why?”

“Can you pray for my brother? He ran away last night.”

Tasha stopped walking. She remembered Collette’s fraternal twin brother, Austin. He had stopped attending school with them in elementary when his CU behavior reached erratic levels. Ever since he was three, Austin’s periodic rages had baffled his parents, sister, teachers, and psychologists alike. Frustrated doctors had labeled him ADHD, extremely depressed, OCD and several other disorders. But none of them really knew for certain what made Austin fly into sudden fits of anger, punch holes in walls, lie screaming on the floor for hours, tear out his hair, and repeatedly open and slam doors until the knobs broke off. His parents had pulled him out of school and now kept him home while seeking the best treatment for him.

“Do you have any idea where he went?” Tasha asked.

Collette shook her head. “He was at home last night. When we woke up, he was gone,” she explained. “I’m just so worried he’ll end up hurting himself. Or even worse, someone else. My dad did alert the police, however. I hope they find him soon.”

Tasha reached out and gave her friend a tight hug. “They will,” she said in her most hopeful voice. “Hold a sec.” Tasha turned and ran back the way they had just come to her locker. She unzipped her book bag and pulled a 3D paper bracelet out. “Here,” she offered joining Collette again. “I meant to give it to you earlier. I coded it myself.”

“Jesus loves you,” Collette read taking the bracelet. She slipped it on her left wrist and smiled at Tasha. “Thanks! That’s good to know; I think.”

Drac greeted them with pure delight when they entered the classroom. His mouth was curved into a wide smile, and his narrow nose twitched. “Young ladies, you’re late!” he said. “I trust you’ll be ready to wipe the marker boards, clean out desk bubblegum, and re-stack the books while your on time classmates are at lunch.”

Tasha and Collette both groaned as they quickly found their desks.

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