Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Astonishment (02/02/12)
TITLE: The soup kitchen.
By Geoffrey johnstone
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“Dear God,” I prayed. “Please give me the strength to go through with this.”
Eventually he reached the soup kitchen and waited in line with the city’s homeless. This was as good a place as any.
“May I sit with you, Tony?”
At first he looked confused. Then suddenly a flicker of recognition crossed his face.
“What are you doing here?” The young man leapt to his feet.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” My leg throbbed with pain as I lowered myself into the chair. “Will you please sit down?”
“What do you want?” Anthony Bassett looked like a trapped animal.
“I just want to talk.”
A sudden calm seemed to fill the space between us.
“How did you find me?”
“I hired a private investigator.” I said matter-of-factly. “We have unfinished business, Tony.”
“I spent a year in prison because of you!” His anger was palpable. There was also a hint of contempt in his voice.
“You spent a year in prison because you killed my husband with your car,” I replied a little too loudly.
My bible study had promised to pray for me. Suddenly I could feel their presence in the room.
The five envelopes were bound by a red ribbon. I pushed the first one across the table.
“This is a key to a small flat,” I said. “The first month’s rent has been paid and you can move in tonight.”
“I don’t understand.” Anthony Bassett looked bewildered.
“You live in a bus shelter, Tony. What is there to understand?”
I pushed the second envelope toward him before he could interject.
“This coupon is worth a hundred dollars. I have already stocked the fridge with food. So use it for personal stuff like soap and toothpaste.”
“Now just a moment,” he held up his hand in vain as I pushed the third envelope across the table.
“This letter is from a clothing store. They are willing to give you a new wardrobe.”
I hesitated with the fourth envelope.
“I went to see your parents.” The young man opened his mouth as if to say something. “They told me you love motorbikes and that you want to be a mechanic.”
I placed the envelope on top of the others.
“Your father went to see your boss and he got you your old job back.”
“Why are you doing this?”
I took a deep breath which gave me time to think. I had asked the same question a thousand times. “We can’t let hatred win,” I whispered. “We can’t.”
There was more I wanted to say. They had buried my soul mate while I lay in a chemically induced coma. And for two years I had lived with constant pain.
Instead I offered him my final envelope.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s from me. It says I forgive you.”
Suddenly I needed to leave.
“This doesn’t change what happened,” he called after me.
I turned to see Anthony’s face contorted with agony. He was holding my letter in his hand.
“No it doesn’t.” I struggled to speak clearly. “But it changes the future,” I paused, “for both of us.”
The air outside felt crisp and clean as a gentle rain began to fall. From two doors away I watched Anthony John Robert Bassett read each letter. His lips moved as he struggled to understand the words. Finally he picked up the letter from his parents and read it a second time. When he finished he placed it on the table and bowed his head. Even from this distance I could tell he was crying.
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