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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)

TITLE: Vulture Feast
By Gerald Shuler


Sometimes memories can be a cesspool of dark emotions, a swiftly swirling vortex of unwanted feelings in the depths of the soul. Hidden from the world, those emotions tear at the soul in every way possible, trying to break through and capture the very essence of the spirit. It is a process faced by nearly every human that still has life in them.

So, dear reader, are you on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting gory details about my unhappy childhood? I’ll not disappoint you, my vultureous friends. Since your appetite craves to feed on my heartache I will give you your feast. Even though your own memories should offer more than enough pain, I give you, for your reading pleasure, mine as well.

My father was, by outward appearance, a very good man. He didn’t drink, do drugs or cheat on my mother. His only fault was his temper.

My father’s temper was an enigma to me. How could he have such control in public and then vent his anger on the family he loved as soon as we were alone with him? I remember a time when he had been secretly angry for several days about a co-worker that wanted his job. For days our family had suffered in that co-worker’s place. This day was no different.

I had gone for a ride on my bicycle to a nearby fishing hole. There were no fish to catch and I knew it. I just needed to see the pole in the water. I needed to be alone. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized how long I had been alone. It was already past time for me to be home when I heard my father’s voice calling my name. Without thinking, I ducked under the small country road bridge that was beside me. I held my breath, hoping not to be seen. If only I could hear him leave then I would be able to get on my bike and beat him back to the house. I could tell him I had been there all the time. I could tell him…

“Did you think you could hide from me?” My father’s shadow fell across the shallow waters of the creek. He was right above me. I had been found. “Get up here… NOW.”

Nothing would stop him from venting his anger now. All I could do was face what I knew was coming and get it over. I climbed the hill to the top of the bridge. As soon as I was within reach he grabbed my wrist. I braced myself for the “over the knee” whipping I knew was about to happen.

But it didn’t happen, at least not over the knee.

Instead, he held me high in the air and, somehow, grabbed my ankle while letting go of my wrist. I found myself upside down, looking at the creek water below me. Fear gripped me and I screamed.

“Shut up.” My father yelled as he shook me. “I haven’t even started.” Instantly, I felt the palm of his hand strike. Then another and another. How was he able to hold me up that long? What would happen if he dropped me? Dizziness was setting in as I looked at the water below and caught a glimpse of a crawfish making its way under me. Poor crawfish. If I get dropped he’s a goner. One more hand on my rump and the crayfish disappeared in an engulfing cloud of blackness.

That, dear reader, is all I remember. Sorry. More happened, of that I am sure. But I choose not to remember. Vultures will need to feed elsewhere because this story is one of love, not bitterness. The true test of a Christian’s walk is his ability to forgive. Following God’s example, if it isn’t forgotten then it isn’t forgiven. I choose to forget.

Dad, the forgiveness is genuine.

(The remaining 100 words of this challenge is left wordless. I know I could have written all sorts of heart-wrenching details because I had enough room. Instead, why not use those 100 words yourself to write a statement of forgiveness to that person who hurt you. Forgive them, and then forget it.)

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This article has been read 1315 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/17/08
Great lesson here. Thanks for not dwelling on all the glory details—and for forgiving AND choosing to forget.
Debbie Wistrom04/17/08
Poor crawfish. A touch of terro and a sense of humor. Outstanding!
Laury Hubrich 04/20/08
Well now... not sure if I should laugh or cry with you:) Nice job. Very creative.
Jan Ackerson 04/21/08
Oh my, Gerald, this is VERY powerful! Your metaphors are perfect, and the scene with your father painfully and cinematically rendered.

I'm debating the ending...on one hand, I think it'd be really strong to end with your address to your dad. But on the other hand, your exhortation to your readers is wonderful. Still thinking about that one.
Janice Cartwright04/21/08
Gerald, I puposely refrained from reading other comments before giving my own impression. First I want to say I think your story has a superb message and possesses a unique and creative approach to the subject. One thing that bothered me though was the harsh view of your reader. I couldn't quite decide if the voice was tongue in cheek or sincerely crushing. The message of forgiveness and forgetfulness is a positive one and I guess your reference to vulture birds gave the story a slightly macabre slant. I really respect your writing and the skill in this one is not lacking, just a bit different from most of your offerings.
Mandy White04/21/08
I appreciate the honesty in this. Maybe you were a little harsh on the reader, though. This is a good lesson in the difficulty of true forgiveness.
Joanne Sher 04/21/08
Amazingly powerful. You gave me the chills.

I loved the beginning - the voice was PERFECT.

Your descriptions were also very crisp and vivid.

I'm with Jan on the ending - not sure what I think yet.
Sheri Gordon04/21/08
Mmm, I don't know what to say/think.

After your second paragraph, about the "vulterous readers," I basically quit reading. (I did jump to the bottom--looking for what, I don't know.)

You convinced me that I shouldn't and don't want to share in your gory details--I don't get pleasure from seeing other people hurting. And I don't have my own horrible memories--I didn't have to suffer at the hands of a wretched father.

So...I guess I can't comment. Your second paragraph convinced me not to read further.
Sharlyn Guthrie04/21/08
Vivid imagery! Your descriptions are powerful. I don't really see the ending in agreement with the beginning, however. I think it has to do with how you define "forgive and forget." I take that to mean, "don't hold an account against the person." Obviously there is much you still remember. Erasing memories is often impossible, and keeping them can actually be helpful...so that the pattern isn't repeated, so that you can empathize with others, etc. In the ultimate example, Jesus forgave those who crucified him, and yet all the vivid details of their actions are recorded in His Word. I do think that ending with the necessity of forgiveness sends the right message, gives this story another powerful punch, and distinguishes it from the world's approach.
Joanney Uthe04/21/08
Your very powerful imagery evokes strong emotions in the reader. You don't need the insults to do that, although they do make the story more believable because they suggest learned behavior from the father. I like the ending on forgiveness, but I believe there could have been more said to show that forgiveness towards the father.

Overall, a very well-written piece. You do a great job of putting us there.
Betty Castleberry04/21/08
I could "feel your pain", as they say. This is my second reading of this. I didn't comment the first time, because there was just too much to ponder. I don't normally like stories of violence, or abuse of any kind. This one definitely left me wondering, and I'm not sure I want to finish the ending myself. Two thumbs up for your superb writing skills. You did an excellent job getting your point across.
Celeste Duckworth04/21/08
Your writng is very inclusive and detailed, so much so the sudden ending leaves the reader to think the forgiving isn't just over yet. It is painful still in the writing because the pain is still in the words you wrote. If this is what you were trying to do, bravo.
Joshua Janoski04/22/08
The true test of a Christian’s walk is his ability to forgive. Following God’s example, if it isn’t forgotten then it isn’t forgiven. I choose to forget.

Those words are true words of wisdom. I am assuming that this is a true story, and I appreciate you opening up with this, however hard it may have been.

I'll admit that I didn't know what to think at first about a dark entry, but then I realized that the word "Father" does not always equate to happiness for many people.

I know you want red ink, but it's hard for me to find any flaws. Had you not included the lesson on forgiveness at the end, then I might have said that this was lacking, but that wasn't the case. I appreciated the way that you handled this sensitive story.
Joshua Janoski04/22/08
Re-reading this again, I did find one thing that I would have liked to see changed.

I would have liked to see a different title and less assumption that the reader wants to feed on your pain. I think in some cases that might be true, but I know that your audience here at FaithWriters does not enjoy feeding on your suffering.

That is the only flaw I could find, and it is minor in my opinion.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge04/22/08
Your vivid descriptions evoke emotions all too familiar. I heard my father's voice, the snap of his belt, and my racing heart.

However, I've never imagined my audience as vultures. Their tenderness and compassion led me through my healing, letting go, and moving on. Listening people helped me establish a loving relationship with a once harsh father.

Personally, I feel the ending is a cop-out. It's your story, use your words to teach how you forgave. It's unfair to stir up pain then abandon the hurting. Help those still stuck in bitterness find the road to healing, as you say you have.
Holly Westefeld04/22/08
Gerald, I nominate you for the controversy of the week award. :-)
I can only hope that someone who truly needed this smack up side the head has read it.
For me personally, having decided to abandon fiction at the last moment, spending hours with a box of tissues as I tried to distill the most significant moments of Daddy's two-month battle with esophageal cancer, I didn't take being lumped in with the vultures very well.
I don't expect all of these family theme entries to be sweetness and light, but I certainly take no delight, and doubt that other FW members do either, in stories of heartache.
Catrina Bradley 06/11/08
Maybe it was because I read your board post about your intended audience, but I certainly didn't think you were speaking directly to me, or to FW only when referring to "vultures". It's my experience that the majority of people do feed on other's misfortunes. That said, I can totally identify with the feelings behind this superb, macabre, writing.

I don't, however, 100% agree that forgiveness equates forgetting. It means to stop being bitter about the memories, and stop dwelling on them. I for one cannot forget my past, and I don't think we're supposed to. I think we're more to learn from it. And I like your ending AND the admonition to the reader. So I give this two thumbs up. :)