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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: The Words of Two Fathers
By Debbie Roome


My world has shrunk to a smudge of darkness. Grey city walls, dingy apartment, scuttling cockroaches, evil-faced rats, faded furniture.

Itís what you deserve, Cassie. My fatherís words echo from the grave. Look at you - no ambition, no brains, nothing to look at.

I haul myself off the couch and peer into a mirror. My skin is sallow, eyes bloodshot and dark hair hangs in oily strings. I look a decade older than my thirty years and I know Dad was right.

Youíll never make it in this world, he said. You need personality and drive to succeed. Youíll end up as a waitress in some greasy cafe.

Six out of seven days a week, I drag myself to the Hazy-Star Diner. My uniform is black, the lighting is dim and customers are sleaze-balls. Insults flow freely and hands grope and touch as I serve fatty steaks and cholesterol-laden fries.

Donít even waste your time applying for college, Dad said. The day you leave high school, youíre out of here and on your own.

I still had dreams at that stage. I wanted to be a photographer who covered top news stories and flew around the world. I wanted to capture emotion through a lens and create colour and drama with my pictures. I wanted to produce photographs that brought joy into peopleís hearts. But now the colour has drained from my life, drop by painful drop, leaving me with the dark shadows of reality.

I slump down on a chair and wonder if I should go to church. Iíve been several times recently and feel welcome there. A sigh eases out. Itís so much effort to go out ... and yet ... The thought of the hot lunch they serve afterwards prods me into action. After a quick shower, I drag a comb through wet hair and apply a slash of lipstick.

The service has started and the pastor is preaching when I get there. I listen half-heartedly to the Bible verses. My dad was religious and used to attend church every Sunday. That was one of the reasons I never went near a church until six months ago. This one is different to his, though. The people are relaxed and kind, and sometimes, just for a moment, I catch a glimpse of hope.

Worthless, thatís what you are. Youíll never marry, never have children, never have a career. I donít know why God gave us a child like you. You certainly didnít inherit anything from my gene pool.

Iím sunk in a pit of memories when the pastorís words penetrate the fog of pain. ďGod has plans for you. Plans to prosper you and give you a hope for your future. Some of you had dreams when you were younger and youíve lost them along the way. God wants to give them back to you today. You are unique, made in His image. His word says that he knit you together in your motherís womb, that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.Ē

I leave after a bowl of beef soup laden with vegetables and served with buttered rolls. It warmed my body as the sermon warmed my soul. On the way home I pray Ė the first time Iíve spoken to God in years. ďIs all that stuff true, God? Do You really have a plan for me?Ē

Itís midnight when I awake and pad over to the window. Sounds ricochet from the street but my attention is drawn to the building opposite. Iíve never noticed before that someone has placed a cross in one of the windows. It glows golden warm, radiating light into the darkness. As I gaze across at it, something ruptures in my soul. The pain and confusion and rejection and hopelessness of the last three decades burst out as I fall to my knees and sob. ďItís not true is it God? Iím not worthless, Iím not stupid, Iím not ugly.Ē The outbreak of emotion is cathartic and as sorrow streams, an incredible sense of joy and hope and acceptance well up. I feel free for the first time in my life and revel in it.

Much later, as I snuggle into bed, I realize I have the words of a different Father filling my mind ... You are fearfully and wonderfully made, Cassie. I have hopes and plans for your future.

A smile crosses my lip as I relax into the arms of a loving Father.

Sermon based on Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Carol Penhorwood 04/15/11
Too many have not heard this message! Good job! May there be an outbreak of hope and dreams!
Joanne Sher 04/18/11
Beautiful descriptions and poignant words. I was absolutely taken into this story.
Ekua Bartlett-Mingle04/21/11
A well deserved place here. This is so touching. A great title too!
Tracy Nunes 04/21/11
Hope and dignity wrapped up in a beautiful piece.