Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)
TITLE: Surprised by Grace (ii)
By Pamela Kliewer
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I ran away at sixteen. My parents, while they did provide everything I needed, were strait-laced and out of touch with reality, if you know what I mean. Living life under their scrutiny was wearisome. My parents were away on some ‘do-good’ mission one weekend. I saw my opportunity. I knew where they had a wad of cash stashed, so I took that with me, figuring they owed it to me. Maybe I hadn’t been the best kid, but I usually did what they asked. I grumbled some, but what kid doesn’t?
I had always been a free spirit, so to be out on my own was like a butterfly being free of its cocoon. I’m tellin’ ya, having the money was great! It brought me friends, instantly. We hung out and I always paid for everything.
Now everything is gone. The money. The friends. The good times. You’re probably wondering how I get booze since all my money is gone. I work for it. Yeah. I work in a saloon, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, sweeping, whatever they need me to do... and for my pay I get all the booze I want. Not much of a living. In fact, it’s not living at all. Washed up at twenty-one. I wonder if my folks would take me back. I’m not worthy to be called their child. I have to try. Winter will be setting in and I can’t live like this any more. I’ll catch my death for sure, not to mention the misery. That’s worse than being so cold my bones hurt. How did I let myself sink so low?
It was a long journey. A lot of rides hitched. Nights sleeping wherever I could find shelter. One night I even slept in a pigpen with the pigs, so hungry I ate their slop before falling asleep.
Home. I have tears in my eyes. I didn’t expect it to effect me this way. Am I here, or is this a delusion from too many nights of drinking myself to sleep? That driveway sure looks long. I’d forgotten about the beautiful oak trees that lined it. I begin walking, the tears flowing freely. How could I have squandered my life in exchange for this? The rolling hills covered with lush green grass, the stream I used to wade in so cool and inviting. Home cooked meals. A warm place to sleep and parents who love me. I didn’t want to acknowledge it at sixteen.
I’m at the door. I knock; a bit timidly... the door opens, as if I’m anticipated. The look on my father’s face is one of total shock, but immediately he wraps his arms around my thin frame. I must smell awful, look even worse, what with days of grime and dust caking my clothes. He holds me, not caring. “Jesse,” he says, “you’re home. Home at last.” He pulls back and looks at me with tender love.
“Daddy. I don’t deserve to be called your child.” I wail. “I’ll work in the vineyards.”
“No, child. You’re home. That’s all that matters. Martha! Come here!”
My mother appears, a single tear coursing down her cheek when she sees me. She hugs me, long and tight. Drawing back, just looking at me for a moment, she finally says, “I’ll start making your favorite foods.”
I stand stunned. All the way home I couldn’t help but think I would be shunned and told to leave again. I am instead surprised... surprised by grace. Humbled, I drop to my knees. Tears stream down my face as I truly repent, lead to it by my parents’ kindness. I turn my face upward, a smile playing at the corners of my mouth, then turning to laughter as I let the full weight of my surprise dance across my lips, spilling out in a waterfall of unsuppressed joy.
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