Dead Dog Like Me


By Max Davis

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Nick Gregory regains consciousness after a horrific car accident to find he’s been transported back in time and that he has become Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son and King Saul’s grandson. Aware that he’s experiencing another man’s life, he has to learn fast.



The emotional pain had morphed into physical symptoms. I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the hurting to stop. Gasping for breath, I felt my heartbeat quicken and my chest squeeze as if trapped in a wrenching vise. Sweat oozed from my pores, trickling down my body and causing the sheets to stick. After tossing and turning, I finally kicked free of them and lay still, trying to cool down. The breeze from the ceiling fan blew over my damp torso, creating a chill. I jerked the sheet back over me and twisted but couldn’t get comfortable so I just sat up in the bed.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the green glow from the digital clock, but I didn’t need to look. I knew the time. They always came between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. when I’m the most vulnerable—the voices in my head ambushing me like a gang of merciless thugs with clubs and chains, beating me down.

“Philip would still be here if it weren’t for you, Nick,” one of the voices taunted. “You know it’s true. Abbi would still be here too. It’s all your fault. Can’t let anything ruin your precious little vision. But it’s always been about you, hasn’t it? Always about you. You’re pathetic.”

“I hate you!” I yelled back at the voice, clutching my hair, yanking. After letting my torso drop back down on the bed, I stared up into the darkness and whispered, “God, where are you? Why aren’t you helping me?”

Seriously, Nick?” the voice mocked. “You don’t still actually believe God is listening, do you? If he is, he sure has a habit of not showing up when you need him the most. You prayed so hard. You were so sincere. When are you going to get it through your thick skull? God let you down, Nick . . . again. He couldn’t care less about you, if he even exists at all. You’re insane to believe he does. You’ve wasted your whole life believing this brainless nonsense. That’s all it is, Nick, and you know it, brainless nonsense—pure drivel, a sham for the weak-minded. And you fell for it! Think, Nick, think. God’s not there. If he was he would have intervened.”

Rocking back and forth in the fetal position, I shook as heaving sobs burst from deep within my core.

“Oh, quit your sniveling, Nick. You’re disgusting. Just look at you. You should hate yourself. Lots of people hate you. If God existed he’d probably hate you too. He’d surely be disappointed in you. How could he not be? You’ve let him down so many times . . . so many, many times. You’re a fake, and you know it. God’s punishing you. You deserve it.”

With snot smeared across my face and a black cloud of depression suffocating me, I reached over to where Abbi normally lay, where I’d often turned for comfort through the years. My hand stroked the sheets as treasured memories flooded my mind. I longed to feel the warmth that told me she was there. We loved to cuddle. I’d lie on my side, scoot up against her, and gently caress her. With my face buried in the crook of her neck, I would breathe in her sweet aroma—a mixture of bath oil, lavender shampoo, and lotion. Her intoxicating scent always released my stress and calmness would follow. Abbi would chuckle and say, “I’m soothing your soul, Nick.”

Now I reached for her pillow instead, pulling it to my face, inhaling the fragrant aroma. I’d instructed Maria not to wash the sheets or pillowcases for nearly two weeks now, knowing that when she did Abbi’s scent would fade. It was already fading.

The pain of loneliness jabbed me again, a twisted knife to the gut.

“There is a way out, Nick,” the voice purred, now velvety and seductive as if offering me a gift. “Abbi keeps it loaded in the bedside table. You know where it is. You bought it for her. It’s right there, in the drawer. It would be quick and painless. No more pressure. No more hurt. You’d be doing everyone a favor.”

Clinging to Abbi’s pillow, I turned my head toward her bedside table. The glowing green 2:41 on the clock was the only light. “Go ahead, Nick. They’ll be better off without you.” The voice was relentless. I continued to stare, contemplating.

Time slowed to a crawl—still 2:41. “You heard what Abbi said. She doesn’t trust you. She doesn’t respect you anymore. How could she? You’re such a fake.”

I sat on the edge of Abbi’s side of the bed. 2:42. My eyes were becoming acclimated and I let them drift around the room. Her favorite silk pajamas were still flung over a chair and a cluster of her necklaces hung from a hook on the dresser mirror, the green glow from the clock reflecting off of them. I was drawn particularly to the gold one with pearls running around it. Simple and classic, it had been a gift for our twentieth anniversary, from me. Abbi loved it.

She doesn’t love you now, Nick. It’s over.”


Slowly, I slid open the drawer and fumbled around for the gun, a compact Smith & Wesson five-round revolver. Before getting my hands on it, I paused for a moment, considering.

“Come on, you coward! Get on with it! You know what you have to do. Put the gun in your mouth and pull the trigger! At least Philip had the guts to put an end to his misery.”

Forcing sentiment out of my mind, I let out a numb sigh, closed my eyes, and pressed onward. Sight wasn’t necessary for what was next. But just as my fingers brushed the leather case, hysterical barking in the hallway jarred me out of my trance. Deuce clawed frantically on the bedroom door. I popped up from the bed and yanked the pistol out of the case, knocking over a framed picture of Abbi, me, and the kids. The glass cracked into a web when it hit the floor.

“That’s you, Nick. Always breaking things.”

I jerked open the door, wielding the pistol in front of me. “Deuce!” I shouted, flipping on the hall light, irritated. “What is it, boy? Geez, you’re so hyper!”

Our family dog pushed against my legs and circled around me, his barking intensifying as if he wanted me to follow him.

“Calm down. I’m right here!” Deuce rarely barked and usually slept through the night. Something had definitely stirred him. We had put up a six-foot-high, wrought-iron fence with electric gates and installed a top-of-the-line security system. When you’re a high-profile figure like me, privacy and protection become issues. It would take an act of God for any unwelcome guests to break into the Gregory compound. Still, I wasn’t taking any chances and figured I’d better check it out.

“What, boy? Show me.”

Still barking, Deuce started down the hall, glancing back at me to make sure I was coming. Shirtless, in my boxers, with the pistol leading the way, I followed, turning on lights as we went. The dog made a beeline to the double French doors that opened directly to the backyard patio and pool. At the door, he continued to bark frantically at something outside. I turned on the patio and pool lights, eased my finger on the revolver’s trigger, and slowly stepped through the doors with Deuce on my heels and now growling. “Shh,” I said, listening for anything out of the ordinary. I searched the patio and swimming pool, then peered behind the stone waterfall fountain on the pool’s far end. Nothing was out of the ordinary, so I continued scanning our serene, well-landscaped backyard. Again, nothing was moving except the bugs flying around the yard lamps. I stood still for a moment. The sounds of crickets blended with the hum of the air-conditioning unit. Deuce immediately calmed down, so I figured whoever or whatever it was had run off.

“I guess you saw a ghost, boy,” I said in nervous jest, knowing full well he’d sensed something. The whole ordeal was bizarre. I’d never known him to act that way. I tried to reason it was probably a raccoon or armadillo that had come out from the woods backing up to our property. We’d had problems with them. The security system had a motion detector that overlooked animals up to a certain weight. I’m sure that was it, I mused.

I bent over and stroked the rust-and-white furball of energy with one hand, holding the pistol in the other. “It’s okay now,” I said to the dog, trying to reassure myself as well.

“You can still do it, Nick.” The voice in my mind returned, poking me. “It’s not too late. Just put the pistol in your mouth.”

Suddenly, I held the revolver away from my body as if it were a rattlesnake coiled to strike. The fog was lifting from my brain and I was mortified at what had almost happened in the bedroom, what was still going through my head. Things had gone too far this time, much too far. Opening the gun’s cylinder, I let the bullets fall into my hand. Then I pitched the gun and the bullets into the pool, watching them sink to the bottom like lead bricks.

Realizing Deuce’s interruption had quite possibly saved my life, I bent back down and buried my face into the top of his cute little head. “Good boy,” I said, giving him a firm squeeze. “Good boy. How ’bout a treat?” His ears perked up, and we both shuffled inside toward the kitchen. Out of the refrigerator, I pulled Deuce’s favorite—fresh deli-sliced honey turkey. It was the special treat Abbi always gave him. I held up a piece but he only looked up at me with his sad black-button eyes, then lumbered off, curled up in his doggy pallet, and let out a sigh. I tossed the meat on the floor close to him.

“I miss her, too, buddy,” I said. “I miss her too.”


Giving up hope of any sleep, I headed to my study to try to get some work done. One thing was for sure: I didn’t want to get back in that bed. Walking from the kitchen and down the long hallway to my study, I did a quick mental inventory of the upcoming day. I desperately needed to finish the revisions to my latest manuscript. The deadline was less than a week away. The publisher had forked out some major bucks for my advance and was getting anxious about meeting the press date. In addition, my appointment book was chock-full of people with serious issues looking to me for answers.

You have no business counseling anyone, Nick.” The voice in my head was back, poking, harassing. “You’re the one with serious issues.”

“Yep, you’re right,” I said out loud, clenching my fists so tightly my fingernails dug into my palms. “I’m a basket case. I’m not just hearing voices, but now I’m talking back!”

“That’s funny, Nick. You know what else is funny? If people knew what was really going on and your secrets, they wouldn’t be coming to you for guidance. They certainly wouldn’t be reading your books or going to your fancy church! You’re just the blind leading the blind. It’s all coming down, Nikky boy—‘Mr. Spiritual, got-it-all-together man of God.’ Everything you’ve ever worked for is all coming down.”

“Give it a rest already!” I screamed, punching the hallway wall in frustration. Instead of hitting only Sheetrock, my fist connected seriously with a solid wall joist underneath. I heard something crack and it wasn’t the wood. Pain seared through my hand as I hopped around, cradling my throbbing fist.

“That wasn’t smart, Nick. But that’s you, always reacting first, thinking after it’s too late.”

I swear I heard the sound of shrieking laughter. Now I was positive I was losing it. By the time I finally made it to the study my energy was depleted and my hand swelling.

Plopping into the chair, I rolled up to my desk and let out a deep sigh. My favorite Bible was lying there, its cover faded, pages worn. A gift for seminary graduation, it was like an old friend that had comforted and consoled me over the years. I ran my left hand over the leather and opened the book to read the inscription. The handwriting was meticulous and artistic, like calligraphy.

Congratulations, Nick! You’ve studied so hard and God is going to reward your faithfulness to his call. I’m honored to be your partner in life and ministry. We’re a team and I can’t wait to see all that God is going to do through us. Thank you for loving Jesus and me the way you do. Remember, “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). That’s a promise!

Love for life, Abbi

I closed the Bible and looked at it intently, pondering. My whole life had been built around that book. I’d preached thousands of sermons, officiated countless weddings and funerals, and counseled scores of people—all from that book. Leaning back, I surveyed the shelves lining the walls, filled with hundreds of theological and inspirational books I’d collected over the years. All the studying and obsessive reading, where had it gotten me? Did I believe a word of it anymore? I turned back to the Bible. I’d studied it for years, learning the Greek and Hebrew. I knew the promises. I’d stood on them, claimed them, and declared them from the pulpit. I knew in my mind why I believed. Yet I’d seen so much pain and suffering—had caused so much pain and suffering. Was it worth it? Despite all my success, after nearly three decades of ministry here I was in a broken pile, not wanting to live. Like the voice in my head suggested, had I wasted my life believing this nonsense?

I flipped on my Mac and gazed out the window. Outside, our long driveway wound through an umbrella of oaks down to the main gate that opened onto a quiet, tree-lined road in an upscale, garden-district neighborhood. Though we’d tried to keep our residential location as low-key as possible, I knew when some people drove by and slowed down, they were saying, “That’s where Nick Gregory lives.” At first it was exciting, but things change. It’s fun when everybody loves you, when you can do no wrong, but make a few mistakes—or a string of them—and you wish they’d never heard your name.

Suddenly I had the eerie sensation that someone or something was watching me. I spun the chair around cautiously and found Deuce, standing in the doorway, head tilted with a confused look that I interpreted as saying, Why are you in your office at 3 a.m.? Why did you break the wall? When is Abbi coming home?

Seeing his innocent, spry expression softened me—no pretense, no ego, just, Here I am. This is me. If you don’t love me, I’ll still love you. Can we play now? If only humans were more like dogs. If only I had been more like Deuce, then maybe Philip would still be here.

“You need some company, buddy?” I said, patting my left thigh and motioning for him to come.

At that, he jumped up in my lap. Stroking him with my good hand, letting his presence calm me, I thought again of my counseling schedule. Many of the big names came to see me: CEOs, professional athletes, head coaches, senators, congressmen, movie stars, and other high-profile ministers. You know, the important people. But they all had big problems and big secrets to go with their big names. With the pressure to be politically correct and the media sniffing around 24/7 like bloodhounds, no one in the public eye could afford to have cracks in their facades, especially in this town. That didn’t mean the cracks weren’t there—it was just as a matter of survival they’d become experts at covering them. And if the bigwigs couldn’t reveal their cracks, then I certainly couldn’t reveal mine. The problem was, I didn’t know how much longer I could last. Keeping up facades and hiding secrets is hard, stressful work. There’s a saying in the counseling world: “We’re as sick as our secrets.” It’s true.

On top of that, I was dog-tired of the pressure to perform, to smile, to always say the right words and do the right things. I was tired of being under the religious microscope. I wanted to be rebellious, to cuss somebody out and flip off idiot drivers. I wanted to tell a few of the people I counseled the truth: they were spoiled, rich brats who just needed to suck it up and do the right thing! I wanted to grow my hair into a ponytail, get a monster tattoo, then hop on a Harley and ride as far as the open road would take me. But that wasn’t going to happen. I was Nick Gregory, New York Times Best-Selling author and pastor of Grace Life Church, the largest evangelical church in Washington, D.C., and the fourth largest in the United States.

What I really wanted more than anything was to hold my wife, Abbi, in my arms again. I wanted to turn back the clock for our son, Philip, too, to tell him I loved him unconditionally, that he didn’t need to be or do anything to gain my love and acceptance. Maybe if we had simply hung out more he’d still be here. But I was too busy writing important books, building my ministry, and counseling the important people. I’d resign the church, give back all my book royalties, and live in a cardboard box if it would bring my son back.

Deuce wiggled out of my lap and trotted into the foyer, then back toward the kitchen. Just like a little kid, I thought. Can’t stay still for long.

Instead of opening my manuscript file as I had intended, I reached into my desk drawer again with my good hand and fished out the letter Philip had left a little over a year earlier. I’d read it dozens, if not hundreds of times, nearly every day since then. It’d become a ritual for me, a way of torturing myself. A private suicide note written just to me, Philip had hidden it where he knew only I would find it. There was no other note. That way when they found his body, they could not conclude suicide. I’d shared this letter with no one, not even with Abbi. That’s one reason, the main reason she left. When she found what was written there, some of the reasons Philip did what he did, she was beyond furious. She felt betrayed . . . angry . . . devastated. Something snapped inside her. I knew it would. That’s why I’d hidden the letter, apparently not well enough, though. Maybe subconsciously I wanted her to find it. Maybe I knew this was what I deserved. I remembered our conversation that night:

“I did it for your protection,” I had told her, “and for the church’s . . . it would tarnish our reputation, God’s reputation. You know what people would think.”

Abbi didn’t buy it for a second. “To protect me?” she’d screamed. “You did it to protect yourself, Nick! Your precious reputation!”

I had moved closer to embrace her, to try to console her. That was a mistake.

“Don’t touch me!” she’d said, recoiling away. “You’re a liar! You’ve been lying to me this whole time! I trusted you!”

“I didn’t lie to you,” I had said.

“Oh, okay then, you only kept the truth from me! You all did! How many knew, Nick? The whole staff?” She’d jerked off her silk pajamas, flung them over the chair, and began pulling on her jeans. “Philip loved you so much! He was your son, Nick! Your son! And you betrayed him too! You betrayed all of us!”

“Abbi . . . I . . . I—”

“Just shut up!” she’d said through broken sobs. “Nick, what happened? You used to be our guy. Remember? We all depended on you. You were the one who fixed things and came through for us. There was a time when your family took priority over everything. Church, counseling, books—it didn’t matter what it was, everything got put on hold if the kids or I needed you.”

Her words had stung. I’m still that guy, I’d thought. “Abbi, it’s only been a year. None of us are thinking straight. We’re still grieving.”

“You mean I’m still grieving,” she’d retorted. “Apparently you’ve moved on!”

“That was low, Abbi.” I had stood there, stunned, as she threw some of her things in a suitcase and walked out.

That was two weeks ago.

With quivering lips, I fumbled open my son’s letter and began to read. Self-hatred and shame consumed me as I agonized over every word. My eyes fell on one particular line in the middle of the page, a line that had haunted me:

I’m sorry I disappointed you and God so much, Dad. I really

Squeaking from down the hall grabbed my attention.

Deuce was heading back my way with a red squeaky ball in his mouth. He trotted into the study, dropped the ball at my feet, and looked up at me expectantly. How could he communicate so effectively without saying a word? If only I possessed such a gift.

“You do know what time it is, right?” I asked. The time on my computer screen read 3:37.

He just tilted his head like he always did, wagging his tail at lightning speed. I looked down at my right hand, which was still throbbing and sore, so I picked up the ball with my left, aimed as best I could, and tossed it awkwardly at an angle so it went through the doorway and down the hall. Deuce split after it like a greyhound out of the gates and then pranced back to me proudly. For me, the exercise was a brief reprieve from the heartache, almost as if Deuce knew I needed the distraction.

After the next toss, still avoiding doing any work, I slid the letter back in the desk drawer and clicked on my iPhoto program, bringing up a slideshow—snapshots of my family life all bunched together in a compressed computer file. I’d seen them hundreds of times, yet they never got old. Twenty-five years of images on a single megabyte. Abbi had scanned albums of pictures that had been taken before the digital age. They weren’t in any particular order, and I let ’em roll. With each image that scrolled across the screen, a menagerie of emotions wrestled for supremacy in my mind. Why was I doing this to myself? I could easily click off the program. But . . . I couldn’t stop looking. If could have grabbed a single one of those moments and gone back in time, I would have.

I paused on a picture of Abbi, me, and the kids. Carlee was eleven and Philip eight. We were in Hawaii on the beach. A happy memory. It was right after my first book was published and I had been invited to speak at a conference in Honolulu. The organization put the whole family up for six days. I’d speak once a day and the rest of the time was ours. Abbi looked amazing in her multicolored Hawaiian sarong. After thirteen years of marriage and two kids, she was still the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. Her wavy auburn hair, fair skin, and radiant emerald green eyes could melt me. I touched the screen, brushing my finger across her face, remembering that day as if it occurred last week.

Clicking the mouse, the slideshow continued—pictures of the kids, T-ball, school plays, Christmases, birthdays, graduations—each image tugging on my heartstrings. Then a picture popped up of me appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Even though I’m evangelical, Oprah was responsible for my breakout success as an author. After she endorsed my first book, it shot to number one on the New York Times Best-Seller list and remained there for over a year. My next three books followed suit—over ten million copies sold. It was crazy! Virtually overnight, Nick Gregory became a household name, a Christian celebrity. Offers and opportunities flooded in. The church exploded in growth. Our lives would never be the same. It was an exciting time, yet as I viewed the images of me with Oprah, what had seemed so important then was now hollow and empty. Yes, the money was nice—or was it? All that wealth and fame, what most people only dream about, couldn’t keep our family together and our son here.

Next, one of my favorite pictures of Philip rolled across the screen. I pressed Pause again and carefully tossed the red ball out the door. Deuce took off. In the past it was just another picture of Philip, but over the last year it had become one of my favorites . . . and most agonizing. It was taken at his thirteenth birthday party. He was finally a teenager, and we’d made it a big deal. He wanted a paintball party so we reserved a paintball field and invited his friends. They had so much fun. Even the dads got into the action—all the dads except me, that is. Philip begged me to come, but I couldn’t be there because I was off doing God’s work somewhere. In the picture his buddies are huddled together with their arms slouched over each other, holding paintball guns, colored splotches of paint plastered all over their clothes. Philip was in the middle, helmet cocked up on his head, all smiles. It was the last picture of that Philip. Just a few months later he started smiling less and less, the innocent spark in his eyes turning distant and gray. As time passed, Philip spiraled downward, becoming withdrawn, angry, and defiant toward us, God, the church, everybody. We chalked it up to puberty and attitude. There I was, this great pastor and counselor, and I couldn’t even pick up on my own son’s desperate signals. We were the perfect Christian family. We had to be. Behind the scenes there were the scolding matches and threats, but come Sunday we were experts at putting on our masks, Philip included. He knew his role.

I was such an idiot.

“Yes, you were, Nick. And you put so much pressure on him. His whole life was about pleasing his amazing daddy. But you just had to push, didn’t you? Remember right after he graduated, when you insisted that he preach in front of the whole church? You had those great plans for him. He wasn’t ready. Yet you wanted him to get exposure—twenty thousand people plus the television audience. Well, he got exposed all right! And for what? So he could be just like you! That was too much on him. You should have known better. For crying out loud, Nick, he was only a kid! But he couldn’t be a kid. He was carrying a deep, dark secret, and he was Nick Gregory’s son!”

“Shut up!” I shouted at the voice. Anger boiled up from my gut, erupting, self-hatred and grief consuming me. Deuce returned, dropping the red ball at my feet. Instead of throwing it, I grabbed my treasured Bible and in a fit of rage hurled it across the room. The leather book smashed into a two-foot-high, hand-carved crystal statue of an eagle with its wings spread. Underneath on a bronze label were the words, “They will soar on wings like eagles—Isaiah 40:31.”


On Sale
Jun 23, 2015
Page Count
320 pages
Worthy Books

Max Davis

About the Author

Max Davis holds degrees in Journalism and Biblical Studies. He is the author of sixteen books and has been featured on the Today Show, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly. In addition to his own works, he’s collaborated on books with George Foreman and QVC Host Rick Domeier. Max is a sought-after speaker for organizations worldwide. He and his wife, Alanna, live in Greenwell Springs, LA .

Learn more about this author