Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: At Wit’s End (02/13/14)
By Steve McClure
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Joey looked up. Across the aisle, holding a small grocery basket, stood a college roommate from years past. Same ol’ Carl, Joey thought. Dressed to the “T,” smiling as always, hair neatly cut and in place – though it looks to be thinning and graying, now – and addressing me as if I’m the only one in the world.
“How’ve you been, Man? What are you up to?”
“Been OK,” Joey responded, unconsciously running his hand through his equally graying, uncut hair. “Not up to much.”
“So, where you living? How’s that lovely wife of yours?”
Joey looked away and hung his head. “She died last month. Cancer.”
“Oh, Joey. I am sorry. What a shock. How you holding up?” Carl put his hand on Joey’s shoulder.
“OK. You know.”
“Was she ill long?”
“Long enough. Stretched the finances a little. But I’m making it.”
“You have kids?”
“Naw. We never got around to it. Always on the move. You know.”
“Yeah, I do know. Well, I am sorry, Joey. Laura will be sorry, too.”
“Thanks, Carl. How is Laura?”
“She’s great. We have two boys. Say, why don’t you come to dinner?”
“Oh, I don’t know…”
“Sure. Come. Laura would love to see you. And she wouldn’t hear of me letting you get away – especially given the circumstances.”
Before Joey could respond, Carl had his cell phone out, notifying Laura of a dinner guest.
Same ol’ Carl.
“Joey!” Laura bubbled, greeting him at the door. Like Carl, Laura always dressed as if she was heading out for an evening, long auburn hair neatly arranged. The two were a matched pair. She gave Joey a long, firm hug. “I’m so sorry to hear about Ann. What a shock.”
Carl and Laura introduced Joey to their two little boys, then Laura took them upstairs to bed.
“Sit down, Joey,” Carl invited. “Now tell me, how are you really holding up?” He looked at Joey directly, patiently awaiting a response.
Joey paused. He really didn’t feel like discussing it. But Carl had a way of drawing people out.
“Not good,” said Joey, hesitantly.
Carl sat silently, continuing to prod Joey with his gentle, blue eyes.
“It’s just hard, you know.”
“I can only imagine,” Carl offered.
“It’s just that I’m….” Joey hesitated. Carl waited patiently.
“I’m alone,” Joey blurted out. “Now that Ann’s gone, I realize she was all I had. The grief is bad enough, but I’m just beside myself with this…with this aloneness.
“What about family?”
“They’re far away. We talk. But Ann’s family is dealing with their own grief. And mine…. Well, mine is just not all that comforting. You remember.
“Hmm. What about church family?”
“You know me, Carl. Not my thing. In fact, when we were in school, it wasn’t yours either.”
“Yeah.” Carl paused. “I guess I discovered…we discovered – Laura and I – this aloneness some time ago.”
“What do you mean? You guys are still happily together.”
“Wasn’t enough. I’m a can-do guy, as you know. But it got so that after I got something done, the satisfaction wasn’t there anymore. Something was missing.”
“Yeah. I began to wonder whether this was all there was. Sort of like what you’re feeling, now.”
Laura bounced down the stairs and declared, “Dinner time.”
They gathered at the impeccably set dining-room table, and Laura brought in the feast. Joey was busy eyeing what he would dig into first when Carl announced, “We give thanks before meals.”
Carl and Laura joined hands. Laura extended a hand to Joey. He took it.
Carl gave thanks for family, food, and fellowship with an old friend. And he prayed that Joey be comforted in his grief. But he continued: He prayed that Joey might find the solution to the aloneness…that he would find that the Lord – the great Comforter – is the thing missing in Joey’s life.
Joey was a little taken aback by Carl’s prayer, but he let it go.
They ate heartily, laughed, and reminisced about college days. Joey hadn’t enjoyed himself this much in some time.
“You know, Joey, this has been fun,” Carl said, sitting back in his chair. “We should do this more.”
“Actually, we should get together again this Sunday. Laura and I will pick you up – we’ll attend church and come over here for another feast.”
Surprised, Joey looked at Carl.
“Well, that’s settled, then,” Carl concluded.
Same ol’ Carl.
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