Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)
By Margaret Gass
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It would be three weeks before Tony was cold enough to darken the door of the Mission again. He had learned to ignore his hunger, but the cold made the pain in his feet unbearable. Tony’s feet were a mess. They bled every day, and as he walked, blood and pus oozed through his worn socks, staining them both brick red and a brackish-brown as the blood mixed with the dirt that he could not wash away. Now, in mid-November, the socks froze to his swollen feet. He would listen to the speakers and the counselors at the Mission to get warm and perhaps a new pair of socks, but he had no intention of listening to God. Where was God when he lost his family? Why had He taken Frances and Douglas away from him? Angry now, he screamed and knocked his plate to the floor. Great, he thought, as he saw Ted, the Mission Director, coming toward him. He’s going to tell me how bad I am and how good God is again. Why can’t he just leave me alone?
Frances sighed as Douglas slammed his bedroom door. She went into the bathroom to run a bath and burst into tears as soon as the water began to flow. The tears soon became sobs, and then her cover was blown. Douglas heard her crying and came to the bathroom door. “Mommy, are you okay? I’m sorry I slammed the door. I won’t do it again.” Guilt washed over Frances like a tidal wave. She quickly told Douglas that he was forgiven and that Mom needed some time alone. Her words were tinged with irony: though Frances needed time alone to process her feelings, she was alone all the time—that was the problem. Since her husband Tony had decided he didn’t want a family anymore, she was alone all the time. She alone paid the bills. She alone made sure that Douglas did his chores and homework. She slept alone at night in a bed made for two. She was alone when Douglas began to struggle academically and socially. And she was alone when his struggles and fears came face to face with his hurt over his dad’s leaving, causing him to lash out at her, as Douglas had done that very afternoon.
Frances was towel-drying her hair when the phone rang. When she picked up the phone, she heard an unfamiliar voice asking if she was Mrs. Frances Thompson. “I was,” she replied, “but my husband and I have been divorced for over a year. Why do you ask?” She was stunned at the woman’s response. The woman was calling from a homeless shelter in another state and wanted to know if Frances would let Tony live with her, so that he wouldn’t have to be in the shelter. Frances suddenly felt angry. “No,” she said, “he can’t come here. He isn’t well, and he has threatened us. If he wants to go home badly enough to seek help, his mom will let him stay. Is he willing to take his meds?” Frances hung up the phone.
Four days later, her phone rang again. The caller this time identified himself as Ted, the director of the local Mission. Tony was there. He was lucid enough to remember her name, and that of her son, Douglas. Would they be willing to visit him at the Mission? “It’s Christmas day, Ma’am. Will you please make a short visit? Maybe I can get him home if he remembers what he’s lost. Please? It’s Christmas.”
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