Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: START (02/25/16)
- TITLE: HOUSE OF HEALING
By Ruth Walker
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Give or take a family member, it was always the same. The same worry-worn faces, the same hurting, hunted demeanor of a fearful man. Rarely was there a wife or partner, that relationship long since having burnt out. And friends let go pretty readily too. Most of them were just co-users.
Carmen introduced herself warmly and invited the two to make themselves comfortable in her homely front room while she went for drinks.
“So you’ve made it here!” she enthused, “Well done. That’s often the hardest part.” She chose a seat where she could best speak to him.
“So. Do you go by Anthony or Tony?”
“We call him Anthony but his friends call him Tony,” was the quick reply offered from the side.
“Yes, it’s been a terrible day. Anthony was out all night, though he knew we had to leave by eight this morning, and then it was like waking the dead. We had to have his prescriptions filled, and get him a fan because he can’t sleep without one…”
Carmen interrupted the stream of words that was gathering momentum. She looked directly at him.
“And what would you like us to call you?” she said, her tone firm but kind.
“Yeah, Tony’ll do,” he said, glancing in her direction and then again at the floor.
She allowed a moment, and then spoke.
“Do you want this?”
He shifted uncomfortably. There was a pause, and mum offered,
“Well he’s not coming home, and I’ve told him that. We’re done. We love him, but we can’t take it anymore. I’m on anti-depressants, his father doesn’t want to see him after what happened to the car, and everybody’s fighting.”
The front door opened and a gentle giant entered.
“Tony!” he said with a smile, “Welcome mate! You made it!”
Tony stood, relieved at the entrance of the new player.
“Yeah,” he mumbled, “can I have a smoke?”
“Nah mate, that all stopped when you crossed that threshold.” He indicated to the front door.
“How about we give mum and you the Cook’s tour and then let her get on her way.”
“I’m James,” he said, thrusting a weathered hand in mum’s direction. “You must be Verona. We’ve talked on the phone."
Carmen saw the three to the door and excused herself. This part didn’t need her. James returned an hour later.
“Well, what are his chances?” she quizzed as he jiggled a teabag and checked his phone.
“I’ve put Kevin with him, so he should be right for now…”
“Nice bloke though,” he added,
“He’s nervy and I’d say he’s coming down off something more than he’s telling.”
“Do you think he’s really ready?”
“Dunno. He had an encounter with the Lord three years ago. Says he was full-on, dropped the alcohol and drugs for twelve months, then met a woman, they shacked up and it all started again from there. Gold, girls and glory. Always the same…but right now, today, I’d like him to be chasing harder, to be honest. Looks a lot like he’s just been cornered.”
He reached into his pocket. “Meds: Anti-depressants, sleepers, pain-killers for the leg. Got time to book him in to Dr Wu? We’re g’na have to reduce these – and the sleepers are out,” he said.
“And can you put the phone and wallet in the safe for me?”
Dinner was upbeat that night. The first night often was, some men trawling for a new mate, the newer men still glowing with fresh hope, the seasoned ones keen to encourage.
“What’s your Praise Point?” James sought, first from Kevin and then around the table at the end of the meal.
“For my new roomie, that he’s got here safe, and he’s had the guts to leave all that behind,” Kevin beamed.
“And that I’m three months clean, and it’s phonecall night tonight.”
“Mine’s for Tony too, and for devotions this morning, and for Liam getting his first weekend off,” offered the singlet-clad fella beside him, sweat beading on his forehead from the pre-dinner workout.
Beside him, Tony looked up with a shy grin, the gaps in his mouth now clearly visible.
“Yeah, thank God James let me in. Oh, and for dinner – and DESSERT!”
He dropped his head and there was silence, his lower jaw working as he held back tears.
“Aaaaaah…” he breathed at last,
“…And I s’pose it’s for the fresh start.”
"God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don't throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from grey exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home." Psalm 51:10-13 MSG
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