Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

True Grits 3: In which I bleed and consider quitting

[box] This is part three of a seven part story on Grit called True Grits’ Guide to a Grittier and More Successful Life. I suggest you read part one and part two before continuing on. Make sure you join the discussion in the comments below.[/box]

A bullet hit the mirror behind the bar and shards of glass showered down on my shoulders.

“Time to get outta here,” True Grits whispered calmly.

Good idea, I thought, heart thumping in my eyes.

“Follow me.”

Photo by Jehane (Creative Commons)

Photo by Jehane (Creative Commons)

In the dark I could feel True Grits crawling towards the back of the bar. As I followed, sharp edges dug into my knees and palms. In the corner of the room, we slipped through a door and into a separate room. I heard True Grits stand up then throw back a rug. In the floor was a trap door. I followed him down the steps and closed the door behind me.

A light pierced the darkness and True Grits’ face glowed by match light. He quickly lit a lantern and took off along the underground passageway. A few minutes later he stopped. We were in what looked like a storeroom, walls lined with empty supply shelves. Only a few bags of grain remained. True Grits sat down on one.

“What was that?” I half-yelled, half-whispered. “We were nearly killed!”

True Grits chuckled, “Good thing he can’t hit a house with a horse.”

“Who? Who can’t? And he sure came close.”

“An ole friend of mine.”

“Well if you have friends like that . . .”

“He’s the kinda friend who dedicates his life to destroying ev’rything you hold dear. He hates ev’rything I stand for.”

“But why is he trying to kill you?”

“He’s not after me, we have an agreement. He’s after you.” True Grits eyes were warm but firm as he held my gaze.

“Why is he trying to kill me? What have I done?”

“It’s not what you’ve done, it’s what you’ll do.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what you’ll do with the secrets I am givin’ you.”

I stood silent, my mind struggling to comprehend this otherworldly situation. “This is about Grit?”

“You could say that. But this is ‘bout more than Grit. It’s ‘bout what someone with Grit can do.”

I had heard enough. My knees ached and my palms continued to bleed no matter how many times I wiped them on my leg.

“I need to get to my car. How do I get out of here?”

“You wanna leave? Just a few moments ago you were beggin’ me for what I had to say.”

I exploded, “That was before a piece of bottle lodged itself in my arm! That was before the room started raining shards of glass! That was before my pants were covered with my own blood!”

True Grits didn’t move. “So you wanna quit?” He waited but I did not respond. “There’s a passage that leads to the edge of the parking lot. But before you go, you have to ask yourself one question: How much will it cost?”

“What in the world do you mean?”

“How much will it cost you to quit?”

“Quit? Cost me to quit?” I was fuming now, the whisper replaced with a roar. “I know what it will cost me to stay—MY LIFE!”

“Okay,” True Grits replied calmly, “you’re right. It might cost your life if you stay. But what will it cost if you go?”

I saw he wasn’t going to show me how to leave if I didn’t answer his question. “I don’t know. I won’t discover your Grit secret.”

“That all?”

“I guess. What are you getting at?” My feet shifted on the dirty plank floor.

“You wanna quit ‘cause you think you will lose more if you stay. You’re afraid to lose your life but you aren’t considerin’ how much you’ll lose if you go. What if I told you leavin’ would cost you your life?”

“Now you’re not making sense. Today is the first time I’ve been shot at. If I can get to my car, I will save my life, not lose it.”

“In a way, you’re right.” True Grits calm voice and patient demeanor was starting to bring my blood pressure down. “But every time you quit somethin’ a little bit of your life dies. Not your life now but your life tomorrow—the life you would have born had you persevered. Quit today, your future life dies.”

All at once, I knew he was right. An abandoned project is life stillborn. How many times had I set goals, made promises, started transformations only to give up when the initial adrenaline wore off? Who would I be today had I endured? What life would I have?

A shiver of sadness and regret came over me. I was mourning that stillborn life—the life that could have been. In the midst of the grieving I knew I would stay. I would not quit even if it cost my life. There was too much at stake.

I sat down on a bench across from True Grits. “You’re right. I will stay. Quitting costs too much.”


“So, what is the second secret to a grittier life?”

“You just learned it.”

[box] Questions for Discussion: What has quitting cost you? Do you think True Grits is right?

Read the next chapter here.[/box]

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