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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)

TITLE: After the Fatted Calf
By Rachel Phelps


The donkey balked at the stable door. Abidan planted his left foot and pulled on the rope, dragging the unwilling beast into the cool dim of the stall.

“I never thought to see old Nahor so easily overcome, brother,” came a laughing voice nearby.

Abidan gave another yank, eliciting an irritated bray from his prisoner. “Not everyone gives up as easily as you do, brother.”

The venom in his words was sour on his tongue, but he had given up trying to sweeten it. His father doled out enough honey to Jeriah; Abidan saw no need for false sweetness. A full cycle of seasons since Jeriah came back, and their father had yet to stop marveling.

“Uriel and I have harvested the south fields.” Jeriah reported, laughter banished from his voice. He stepped to Nahor’s other side, scratching the animal’s ears.

“We’ll be ready for threshing before next Sabbath.”

“Father will be pleased. Shall I invite the neighbors?”

The anticipatory grin on Jeriah’s face was like chaff against Abidan’s skin. As the largest land-owners, it was their responsibility to provide for the neighbors who came to share the work. “We cannot.”

“Surely you can’t expect to thresh all this with only old Uriel to help.” Jeriah laughed. “Even as hard a worker as you are –“

“We cannot because we have nothing to prepare for the threshing feast.”

He’d been hoping the words would bring his younger brother to his senses. Instead, he laughed again. Abidan tightened his grip on the rope. Yes, Jeriah could laugh at such things. He’d not been here for the worst of the famine. He’d not lived through harvests of doling out barley as if it were gold. He’d not seen the cold stares, heard the whispers of disgrace and ruin because of a younger son’s arrogance.

“Come, Abidan, we’ve enough to keep body and soul together – what more do hungry men need?”

“Not all of us are accustomed to pig slop, brother.”

That had the desired effect. A grimace tightened Jeriah’s face. Satisfied, Abidan turned to go. Let him consider that it was his own foolishness that had brought the family so low.

Jeriah was at his elbow. “Are there no sheep left in our fields? Are there no goats in our pens?”

“One does not feast on goats, Jeriah,” Abidan hissed. “You should know this. Did Father slaughter goats last harvest when you returned?”

Another grimace. Jeriah knew of the argument between Abidan and their father that night.

Abidan shook his head and pressed his advantage. “There is no fatted calf this year. There are few goats and fewer sheep. I will not shame our family by hosting our neighbors without a proper feast.”

“You disgrace them if you think they care more about the feast than our family,” Jeriah retorted, his voice firm though his face was pale. “They’ve welcomed me back even as Father did.”

“Don’t speak to me of disgrace –“

“Must I spend the rest of my days atoning for my mistake? I’ve begged Father’s forgiveness and received it. I’ve worked as hard this harvest as ever you did –“

“One year means nothing, Jeriah!” Abidan roared. Nahor let out a startled bray. “Do you believe that in one year you can undo all the injury you’ve done? That your tearful return and Father’s joy that you aren’t dead simply wipe out all the suffering and hardship your departure caused?”

Jeriah was trembling. Abidan waited for him to bolt as he had since his childhood. Walking away and leaving his older brother to clean up his mess was a trait well ingrained after so many years.

He didn’t walk away. Despite himself, Abidan felt a twinge of respect. Jeriah spread his hands palm up in a gesture of supplication.

“Will you never forgive me, brother?”

The tone wasn’t the plaintive whine of his little brother wheedling out of trouble. It was a man’s honest petition. It required a man’s honest response. The knot in Abidan’s chest loosened ever so slightly, but remained intact - for the moment.

“Ask me again after next harvest.”

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This article has been read 759 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane01/27/11
A clever talk on the well known story, full of believable tension
Sarah Elisabeth 01/28/11
Excellent writing and message. Perfect on the title!
Virgil Youngblood 01/31/11
You brought a familiar story to like with skillful writing. I enjoyed every word.
Dee Yoder 01/31/11
The relationship between the brothers has always been the one of the fascinating parts of the Prodigal story to me. I really like this interaction between the borthers and the last line is perfect.
Laury Hubrich 02/01/11
I love how you gave us more to the story of the prodigal son. Excellent job, especially since you said it was your first draft:)

By the way, I had to look up bovine to figure out your hint. lol
Shelley Ledfors 02/01/11
I wish my first drafts were as good as this...then I wouldn't spend a ridiculous number of hours editing (and re-editing) them! ;-) Great depiction of the interaction between the brothers in the "story after the story". I enjoyed this!
Kimberly Russell02/01/11
Great title and I really enjoyed the interaction with the brothers. Plus the fact that it wasn't all sweetness at the end--made it very real as it could have actually went down that way. As always, great job (even for a 'rough draft').
Cheryl Harrison02/02/11
Wow - I love your spin on the prodigal son. You made the characters 3-D. First draft? I can't wait to see it after you polish it up. I think you did a great job. One of my favorites.
Eliza Evans 02/02/11
I hate that this is your first draft. Yes. That's me being super jealous. :)

I really got involved in this story. You conveyed the time period through your words. Nice. Very well done!

One thing I would suggest is drop the dialogue tages "reported" "hissed" "retorted"

Also, I would have ended the sentence at "loosened ever so slightly."

2 cents opinion.

Awesome writer you!

Mona Purvis02/02/11
We 'slap' each other so much even in the best of Christian circles. The line "not all of us are accustomed to pig slop" reveals so much of a hardened heart.
Do I look askance at my fellow brothers and sisters and judge them for their past? I wish I could say no. I love the heart of the father who is still rejoicing.
Great lesson here. Excellent writing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/02/11
I really enjoyed this rendition of the Prodigal Son. You made the Characters so real and the bickering really showed the tension between the boys.

As for the red ink, the only thing I Puzzled over was the first insult from the younger brother. I know he was referring to the donkey, but I had to stop and reread it several times and I still didn't understand what he meant, but that could be just me.

The rest was perfectly clear and a pleasure to read.
Ann Grover02/02/11
You've offered a very realistic rendition of the two brothers' lives . . . after the prodigal's return. I particularly enjoy the zest and joy SHOWN by the character Jeriah . . . his gratitude and willingness to work. Wonderful work, as always.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/03/11
Congratulations on placing in EC with this wonderful story of "the rest of the story in the Bible." Your characters were real, and the situation very believable.
Henry Clemmons02/03/11
An EC for Rachel!!! Great job and superb writing. Congrats.
Margaret Kearley 03/17/11
A few weeks late, I have just read this! It's wonderful, beautifully written, every line of it, and particularly the ending. Just excellent.