Pigeon Park was a tiny speck in the rearview mirror of Charlie’s life. He’d had his last drink exactly fifteen years before and he strolled by his old stomping grounds to celebrate the victory. He counted seven rumpled heaps of human rags passed out in the small triangle set aside to honour World War Two veterans.
Four bearded specimens slumped over chess boards at picnic tables. Two hunched over at the base of the statue loudly arguing over the identity of the unknown soldier frozen in place above them. Three short-skirted teens strolled through the group looking for customers for their trade.
Charlie was watching them, thanking God that his daughter wasn't among them. His prayer was interrupted when he collided with someone. The profanity that erupted into his ears froze him.
His backpedaling only served to increase his regret. The scraggly brunette was scantily clad and was more than tipsy. Her mascara was poorly applied to sleep-deprived eyes and sallow cheeks. She was hardly more than a skeleton in patches of cloth.
He felt sickened under her suggestive assessment, uttered an apology and turned to go.
“Wait!” she called.
He kept walking.
“Wait! Do you even know who I am?”
He didn’t want to know. He kept walking.
She persisted. “Glenda. Glenda Summers. Remember me? It was your son that got me pregnant.”
Charlie turned and tried to discern her identity in her eyes. He saw the mix of hope and anger.
“Do you remember how I came to you at the church and asked for help? Do you remember how you told me to get lost? How you never wanted to see me again?”
Charlie fought for words. “I’m sorry. I was having a hard time. My wife had cancer. I couldn’t handle it.”
“Do you think I could handle it? I was fifteen. My dad was the pastor. You were my youth sponsor. Where else was I supposed to go?”
“You had your parents.”
“Yeah, right! Parents who kicked me out of the house because you told them I needed some tough love."
“But you were going to get an abortion.”
“Yes, of your grandchild. What did you think it would be like to have no family, no home, and no one to talk to? How did you picture this would all end up?”
“All that sin was so confusing.”
“So, is that why you ended up soused out of your mind in the park down here? Everyone knows your story.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“That’s what you think. You and your holy huddle of deacons kick me off your righteous island, try to pretend I never existed, con my parents into turning their back on me, and then go back to preaching your rules to the survivors. How many of those kids do you think are still in church and how many do you think are out here with me?”
“I’m really sorry. I’m trying to make it up to everyone.”
“Then you better make it up with your daughter. Oh, we know. We know who you were with. We know how you tried to pay her off to keep it all quiet. To make it go away.”
“My wife died. I was drunk. It was a mistake.”
“That’s exactly the message your daughter got loud and clear. She’s a mistake. You not only voted me and your grandson off the island – you voted your own daughter off that sacred piece of real estate. Now who do you have in your life?”
“I’ve got Greg.”
“You mean the father of my baby? Your son? The millionaire businessman who won’t even return your calls or acknowledge you? Or me! That Greg?”
“Did you keep the baby?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I just need to know.”
“Yes. I needed someone to love.”
“Where is he? Can I see him?”
“Your daughter is looking after him while I’m working - trying to feed them both.”
Charlie knelt on the ground and wept. Glenda patted his back and tried to comfort him.
And that’s how it was when the head deacon drove by. Charlie being held by a prostitute.
Charlie had just filled his fridge with groceries and rearranged his little bungalow to fit in a lost grandson, daughter and daughter-in-law when the letter arrived in the mail.
The request for his resignation from membership surprised him for a moment. But not for long. He had a new island to take care of. He almost laughed.
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