Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: End Times (02/27/14)
TITLE: The Coffee Shop Lights
By Graham Insley
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Spinning around, John headed for the door. He knew he needed to clean up before his wife came home, but right now he had to be somewhere else; anywhere but here, boiling over.
He crashed through the front door and stumbled in his haste to reach the car. Yanking the door he half fell into the driver's seat. He pumped the gas pedal twice and turned the key. His reward was lots of whirling noises but no bang. Slamming his fist into the steering wheel, he tried again. Still the engine did not fire. Continual use with no money on maintenance was demanding its own price. By the time John got the car started, his anger was on nuclear overload.
He drove fast and aimlessly, his attention inward -- he was an accident waiting to happen. Reaching the city limits, he headed up to a local lookout. He now had a destination. He had an appointment with an argument and he was going to have it.
It was isolated with no buildings in ear shot. That was good; he didn't want people to hear when he started screaming. There would only be one human present tonight -- and one God. That was also good; because his fight was with God.
John raged at the sky. He lifted his arms and shook his fists. He sobbed uncontrollably and his shoulders shook. His heart pleaded, his emotions blamed and his intellect reasoned. But no answer came. The end result of his outrage was exhaustion -- a sad, defeated, worn out collapse into hopelessness. He'd presented his case only to find the jury wasn't listening -- the judge was absent.
The exhaustion however had a silver lining; he was now too tired to care about anything other than the mess waiting at home.
The car started first time.
As he drove through the city he was amazed at just how many shops were boarded up. He knew of entire factories that had closed their doors. This was a city in the dying throes of a global financial crisis.
John sadly thought about reports he'd heard on the radio. Whole suburbs had emptied as residents abandoned all they had and tried to find greener pastures. Unable to afford a moving truck, or even a 'haul it yourself' trailer, they had simply walked out and closed the doors. Repossession companies weren't bothering to pick the stuff up -- no point repossessing something you couldn't do anything with.
John knew that his city was in its last days and it showed everywhere you looked. Street lights were turned off, garbage collections had been reduced, city maintenance staff had been made redundant and the libraries closed down.
All of a sudden, in the middle of all this darkness, John saw bright, cheerful lights. One local coffee shop was still alive. He pulled into the kerb before he saw the sign:
"Free coffee - Tonight only"
His serendipity moment was made better when he found he was the only one there, other than the barista. Coffee and a chance to get himself together -- at least this night had one opportunity in it.
"Cappuccino please, bud."
"One cappuccino coming right up. And a word of thanks for the accident that didn't happen."
"Come on, John. You were in no fit state to drive. It was only God's hand that protected you tonight."
"How do you know my name? Who are you? What's going on here?"
"I know a lot more than your name. I'm the answer to your prayer."
"Are you on drugs or something?"
"Here's your coffee. Sit, we need to talk."
For an hour John heard things too wonderful to believe; about a God who loved him and a wife who prayed for him every day. He learned about trust and faith; strength in trials and holding on in the hard times. He didn't get the pat answers he wanted but, in the presence of such a miracle, he had no choice but to believe.
Pulling from the kerb, he knew he wouldn't have time to clean up the mess at home. But somehow he knew an even bigger mess had been cleaned up -- and his wife would be happy.
He glanced in his rear vision mirror and saw only darkness. The coffee shop lights were gone.
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