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TITLE: Feast Of The Pauper (Short story)
By Lisa Messier

I grew up on the streets. I've been there for as long as I can recall. I don't remember my parents. The closest thing to a dad I ever had, was this guy who taught me how to steal. I worked with him for a while, then with a local gang. But I wasn't violent enough for any of them. I'd do anything to avoid hurting someone, and that made me weak. So they cut me loose in the end.

I was pretty much on my own after that. I knew the town inside and out; so when I had to steal, it was easy to get away. I've never really liked stealing. I mean, I'm good at it, but I've always felt, I don't know...guilty I guess. So I'd work odd jobs when I could get them. It wasn't often; I mean, who would trust me? I wore rags that looked like they came out of the last century; my hair had never been cut, and the closed I'd come to a bath was probably falling in the river. Come on, you wouldn't have trusted me. Even I wouldn't have trusted me.

So, with not enough jobs to keep me fed, I was stuck with stealing. Been doing it for most of my life. Mostly it's kept me with just enough food, but lately....lately I've been getting worse. See, I'm sick...so bad my hands are shaking. Can't lift someone's wallet if your shakin like youve had 12 pots of coffee in fewer hours.

Being hungry hasn't helped me any either. I'm startin to thing I'm dying. And it scares me, ya know? It may have been to survive, but I still stole, and I still knew it was wrong. I've ALWAYS known it. Sometimes, when I'd be about to steal something, I'd hear this voice, tellin me to stop, that there was a better way.

But I couldn't stop. I had to eat...if only to postpone this very death. So I kept on stealing, kept survivin, but never really livin, ya know? I'm so scared to die! I mean, I know I"m gonna, and probly pretty soon, but...it scares me bad. I don't want to pay for what I've done.

Hang on, I see somethin. Looks like a bunch of gates? seven of 'em? Oh no, no way man. That's Heaven's gates! What do I do now? I can't look...I can't even stand. But I sure can hear...and I hear someone coming. It's...it's gotta be an angel, right? Just an angel. God wouldn't bother to come personal for me? Would He? He'd just send someone else, right? Please, tell me I'm right????

No! No way! Man, it IS God! What am I gonna do now? I didn't thingk I'd done THIS much wrong! I'm so far gone, I'm not getting out of this one. Help! Wait...I feel....calmer? I can feel His hand on my head. I...I...remember this; I remember Him.

It was years ago. I'd met this guy on the street, called himself a preacher. Said he was visiting my city for a week, and offered me a job...he'd feed me and pay me, if I'd show him around. Man, I jumped on that offer! Only thing was, this preacher talked alot...he talked about life, dreams, regrets. We talked about hope, forgiveness, and God. He talked ALOT about God.

And we prayed. I accepted his God and, for a time, I had peace. I felt clean and whole for the first time in my life. Before he left the preacher helped me find a church; but once he was gone, they made it clear they didn't really want me.

Within two weeks, I was starving again. I've never felt that hungry. I honestly thought I was going to die. No one from that church would help...they wouldn't even give me work.par
So, I stole again. I hated myself for it, but I did it anyway. i knew it was wrong, but I felt I had not choice. It's amazing what lenth peaople will go to just to stay alive.par
I felt so horrid after; I couldn't deal with it, so I made myself forget. I forgot the preacher, his God, that church, how I felt, everything. I forgot it all.

But I remember now. God brought it all back. He gave me back my memories. I don't think I've EVER been this scared befoer. I turned my back on Him. I betrayed my God, for life. What what I thinking?!?

There's angels around me now. They seem to want to lead me inside. If I thought I could get away, I'd probably run for it. I'm so in for it now.

But..wait...He's speaking now. I hear His voice, "Come, my child, and eat your need. For you are why I chose to bleed." Wait! What? No way I heard that right! Did He just say what I think He said???? Does this mean I'm NOT in trouble? Not possible! There's no way He could actually be....forgiving me?

The angels are leading me in now, through the gates. I've lifted up my head and I can see now. It's INCREDIBLE! It's lit from everywhere! I can't see a single shadow; it's all gold and silver and jewels and light and colour! There are colours everywhere! Colours I'd never have dreamed of! They're in the very air! It's so beautiful, no words could ever discribe this! It's awesome, lovely, PERFECT!

There's a river here. It's smooth and deep and the purest blue I've ever seen. Suddenly the angels all kind of push me in. The water is cool, but not cold. One of them takes my rags, probably to burn them, and they all help me clean the junk off of me. Once I'm clean, they one who took my rags comes back with robes of purest white. They're so white, they look like they're lit up from within.

Then, laughing, the angels lead me into a castle, right thorugh the front gate. I've never entered through the front of any building before. It's so incredible here, so beautiful. One of the anges is telling me abou thte gardens here, when suddenly, we're in a banquet hall. There's more food in this one room than I've seen in my whole life! There's everything you could possibly imagine! And the smells!!

Wait, someone's running towards me, laughing? It's...Jesus! The Christ? running? towards me??? Suddenly He's throwing His arms around me, and I hear Him say, "Welcome home, Brother! Come on! I've saved you a place, up by me!" He starts leading me to the table, and He's introducing me to everyone as His "brother come home".

Finally we sit down, and God the Father turns towards me, a smile on His face. And I know, with perfect crystal clarity, that I am forgiven, and I am home, when He says "Welcome, my child! Come, now, LET'S FEAST!!"
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