It had been a long day, and Ken just wanted to sink into his favorite chair with his coffee and the TV remote. Sally was at the “Y” teaching water aerobics, and John and Katie were at school working on the latest musical production. Ken stretched and pushed back the chair. His eyes had just closed when he was jarred upright, the remote flying. The loud fog horn on the local fire engine had sounded and red flashing lights filled the living room. What in the world was going on?!
Ken rushed out of the house to find Sue Davis screaming at the firemen. By now the police were coming around the corner onto their cul-de-sac. The fire chief tried to calm Sue. “Ma’am, we aren’t going to try to hurt anyone, but we need to get inside the house.”
“But you don’t understand. Tony isn’t a bad kid. He’s not.”
Ken got to Sue and asked her what was going on. “I don’t know. He’s just not right. I called him for dinner and when he didn’t come, I went into his room. He just went ballistic, told me to get out and threw something at me. I closed the door before it could hit me, but I smelled something putrid and saw smoke, so I called the fire department.”
Lately, Tony had gotten mixed up with some rough boys who always seemed to be in trouble. He hadn’t come to terms with his father’s suicide a year ago, so Ken had tried to talk with him. For a while it seemed to be working, but then Tony just quit coming to church and didn’t want anything to do with his youth group friends. Ken called, but Tony was always too busy, so they had lost touch.
The fire chief got into Tony’s room and confiscated the makings of an explosive. The policeman took him into custody. What a lifeless expression he had on his face as they pushed his head down and put him into the police cruiser. How had it gone so far? What was he planning to do with an explosive? The possibilities swirled in Ken’s head. Tony went to the same high school as John and Katie. He shuddered.
Ken walked back to his house and found his chair. He didn’t care about the TV remote anymore, or his coffee. He wasn’t likely to drift off to sleep anytime soon either. His mind was trying to take it all in. Did Tony’s mom know how far he had drifted? Was she in denial, or did it really just get this dreadful today? The phone rang and he jumped to get it.
“Yes, this is Ken Bennett. Yes, I know Tony. Sure, I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.” Ken hung up the phone and jotted a quick note to Sally.
Officer Catlett was waiting for him. Once he showed some ID, he was taken back to see Tony. “You want to talk, son?” he asked him. Tony raised his chin to find Ken’s eyes.
“I had them call you, wasn’t sure you’d come. Why’d you come anyway? I’m nothing but trouble—just like my dad, right?”
“You are IN trouble, Tony; but let’s try to figure this out. Do you remember our last talk?”
“You asked me why I was blaming myself for Dad’s…you know…death. I couldn’t answer you then, but maybe I know now. He was working so hard so me and Mom could have all the best things. He wasn’t making it, and then he lost his job. Didn’t he know I didn’t need all that stuff?” Tears began to smear the soot and ash on his face.
“Tony, I’m afraid your dad fell into a trap of Satan. He wanted to be like his corporate friends. It wasn’t just about you and your mom. We’ve talked about peer pressure in youth group, but adults are subject to that in their world, too. Have you heard that old saying, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’? Well, your dad wanted to be one of them, so he had to keep up. Only he couldn’t. Now you’re trying to keep up with the guys you’ve been hangin’ with lately, and I think you see where that’s headed.”
Tony looked down again. “Can you help me get back?”
“Are you ready to turn around?”
As Tony nodded, Ken began to pray.
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