Derek stumbled and fell backwards onto the arm of his couch. If he had been sober he might have felt it more.
Instead he just grunted and adjusted his body along the length of the lounge suite. He kicked off his shoes, and then lay still, gazing blearily at his holey socks. After a few minutes he reached underneath himself and pulled out his bulging wallet.
“That’s better,” he said to himself.
He was about to toss the wallet on the floor, but then he flipped it open to count what cash was left after his night out. Not much. He sighed deeply, throwing his head back and looking up at the ceiling as if trying to recall where all his pay had gone.
He suddenly sat up and pulled out a large wad of receipts from the wallet, shuffling through them despairingly and then letting the thin paper slips drop to the ground. This couldn’t keep going on. He was getting further into debt. Poker machines and bars were gobbling up his savings. Where would it end? ‘What a loser!’ he thought.
* * *
Sheree flicked off the bedside light and snuggled deeper into the sheets. She was so weary she had skipped her normal nightly routine of reading from her Bible and spending some time in prayer.
“God,” she said, “I’m just too tired tonight. I need to sleep.”
When the phone rang two hours later she took a while to register what the noise was. She peered at the clock, sighed and scrambled around on the nightstand for her glasses. Fumbling them on to her face she saw that it was 11pm.
“Oh, no,” she groaned. Inwardly she knew that there would be only one person that would ring her at that hour. Margaret.
Ordinarily she could handle Margaret’s late night, one-sided conversations. She understood that the older woman was lonely and had a number of health issues that made it hard for her to sleep. Sheree looked upon the calls as a ministry. She was a good listener, and if it brought Margaret some comfort, then with God’s grace she’d withstand the repetitious and self-centred talk. But not tonight.
The phone was in the kitchen. The cold kitchen with the hard chairs.
“God, I’m just too tired. Just this once I want to do what I want to do. And what I want to do now, is to sleep. In a warm bed.”
The phone rang five more times and then, it seemed to Sheree, it stopped abruptly. The silence made her feel guilty, but she drew the sheet up to her chin and wriggled back down into the bed. Soon she’d be asleep, and when Margaret rang tomorrow, as she undoubtedly would, Sheree determined she’d be doubly gracious.
* * *
Part way through the bunch of slips, Derek came across a business card. It was from a budgeting service he had visited under pressure from his boss a few weeks ago. He flipped the card over. On the back there was a name and phone number scrawled in blue pen.
He remembered now. The woman on the budget office’s reception desk had recognised him when he came in, said they’d been at the same high school. It took a while, but Derek finally had a vague recollection of her. Not that he would’ve taken much notice of her at the time, or even now. She was one of those thick-legged, big-hipped types. And she wore glasses.
But as he had talked to her while waiting for his appointment, there was something about her that seemed different. He still struggled to find a word for it. ‘Shining’ was the closest he’d come.
She said she could see he was going through a hard time and was happy to talk to him anytime if he wanted to know how Jesus could make a difference in his life. She had written her name and phone number on the card for him.
Suddenly, Derek paused in his thoughts, as if shocked. She probably didn’t really want to talk to someone like him, but what was there to lose? Maybe there was something in this Jesus stuff.
He pulled out his cell phone from his pocket and dialled Sheree’s number. He let the phone ring ten times and then hung up.
“Told you that was a bad idea, loser,” he said contemptuously, tossing the card on the pile of receipts on the floor.
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