I crept up the winding gravel driveway in the fading light of summer dusk, cautious of neglected potholes. Memories swirled through my head. Like the one of me and my brother working shirtless with Dad every July, refilling the same waterless mud puddles with gravel.
Robert Callahan would lounge around to watch and chat. Never mind that his family shared the same gravel road with us. Dad taught me how to work hard. Robert’s dad taught him how to drink.
Dad, the son of a preacher man, never made it to full-time ministry. Rumor had, it he got my mom pregnant before the wedding night, but preachin’ still happened in our home; church every Sunday morning and back again on Sunday night. Not to mention the midweek programs.
Around thirteen-years-old, I started seeing my dad through not-so-innocent eyes. I walked into his garage and found him enjoying a scandalous magazine. Mom would have died if she knew. That’s when I realized he messed with my sister, too. Every Sunday in his suit and tie, but I knew better. I still remember the cold stare when I came home from the army plastered with tattoos and announced my girlfriend was pregnant. Hypocrite. Religion is a farce.
I parked in front of the jumbo rock embedded deep into the earth that bordered our property from the Callahan’s land. Our dilapidated house still stood…barely. How long had it been empty…ten years? Robert’s house burned down. Dumb druggie tenants. Stupid meth lab ruined the neighborhood. All two houses.
Before Mom and Dad died, we promised not to sell until the Callahan kids were ready. “You’ll get more for the land jointly,” Mom insisted.
Apparently Robert found a developer anxious to buy our joint four acres. He’ll probably put a million houses on it, but what do I care? Good riddance, I say. So long and hand me the cash.
I plopped on the cold granite and cracked open a beer; one last drunken binge on the rock. About halfway through the third can, headlights wound their way up the driveway.
“Robert, that you?” I hollered to the shadowy figure coming towards me.
“Jimmy? I thought I’d find you out here.”
“Yeah…well,” I handed Robert a semi-cold one.
My dad was a religious perverted hypocrite, and Robert’s an abusive alcoholic. Both of our childhood’s sucked.
“No thanks,” Robert waved off my offering. “I don’t drink anymore.”
I laughed. “Did you get caught or religious?”
“I got healed.”
“No, Jimmy. There’s a difference.”
“Whatever,” I guzzled number three and reached for number four.
Robert stared off towards the faint light on the horizon. He resembled his daddy; crow’s feet eyes and silver streaks in his hair. His arms covered in ink from his ruckus rebellion, just like me. It was Robert who introduced me to this life. Now he’s healed?
“Last time I checked, you were same as me,” I took a long swig. “I can’t believe you fell for that bunch of…”
“Okay, Jimmy. I’m feelin’ you here. Trust me. I know you detested your daddy’s version of Christianity, but what about our Mama’s? Can you look me square in the eye and tell me they were hypocrites?”
“Saints,” I belched. “They were saints.”
“Now what’s your line? Christianity is for women, children, and sissies?”
“Sure, sounds about right. So, Jesus healed you of the demon alcohol?”
“Yeah…and a bitter heart. Your daddy had issues, but doggone-it, you can’t deny he loved you. Shoot, he taught you how to work and provide for your family. My dad taught me to abuse drugs and alcohol, disrespect authority, and mooch off the government.”
“Okay, Dad did love me.”
“And you can’t blame him for the choices you make regarding your spiritual life.” Robert stared at me with fire in his eyes. “Follow me.”
He climbed down the back side of the rock. Like always, I clumsily followed. He pulled out his cell phone and shone a light on words chiseled into the craggy surface.
Forget the former things. Don’t dwell on the past. Is. 43:18
“I carved that verse here the last time I came and did exactly what you’re doing.”
“Having a drunken pity party.”
“You gotta quit blaming your old man’s sin for your choices. It’s hard to forget our childhood, but I’ve learned to not dwell on what’s behind me.”
“You go ahead and forget with Jesus, I’ll forget with Bud,” I cracked open Mr. Light. At least for tonight.
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