Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Coming OF AGE short story (11/20/14)
TITLE: A Son To Be Proud Of
By JK Stenger
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Was it so obvious that he didn’t have a place to stay? The stranger’s voice was warm, but Jake trusted no one. That was father’s fault. Father would always fly into a rage for no apparent reason.
“You good-for-nothing punk!”
Then came the beatings, the crying, the screaming. It had gotten worse since mother had died.
That last Sunday’s beating had been the last straw. Father had wanted him to go to church to be confirmed. “You’re already fourteen. People wonder.”
“I’m not going.”
He hated church. Every Sunday he had to sit through Reverend Cumberstone’s behave-and-be-good sermons. Christians were hypocrites, like his father. They couldn’t be trusted.
The bashing had only made him more determined. That night he ran away, together with Jock; his black Labrador.
Three days with little to eat. Jake stared at the stranger with bloodshot eyes.
“What’s your dog’s name?” the man asked.
The man leaned down to pat Jock, who nuzzled his hand.
“Hi Jock, are you taking care of your master?”
Jake smiled. “You like dogs?”
“Yes, I do. I have two Retrievers.”
Jake’s stomach growled.
“Why would you offer me food and a bed? What’s the catch?
“No catch. You are hurting. Just want to help.”
Jake sighed and brushed a strand of his unkempt hair from of his face.
The stranger extended his hand.
“I’m James MacFarland.”
“I’m Jake. Jake Benson.”
“How old are you, Jake?”
“We’ll take care of you. I have a spare room in the church basement.”
“Are you religious?” Jake’s voice quivered
“I am a pastor,” MacFarland spoke.
Just a meal and some sleep. That’s it.
After a short ways, MacFarland stopped and pointed to a little church on a hill surrounded by lovely trees and magnolias. Two Retrievers ran up barking, wagging their tails .
MacFarland and his wife offered to take Jake on as a helper. They discussed matters with his father, who was only too glad to get rid of the boy, especially since the pastor would pay for his keep.
Jake felt quickly at home and through the gentle coaching of the MacFarlands, he came to believe in God, although his past still haunted him.
“You need to let go Jake,” MacFarland often said, and offered to pray for him. “Bitterness is like a cancer, but forgiveness brings life. Jesus can heal.”
Jake would shake his head.
“I hate that man.”
But one day, he announced cheerfully: “I have forgiven him. I’m turning over a new leaf. In fact I want to become a minister and serve God. I can’t very well do that with hate in my heart.”
“A minister? And you have forgiven your father?” MacFarland smiled. “That’s wonderful.”
One afternoon when they were sipping ice-tea, there was a knock on the door.
“I’ll open it.” Jake jumped up.
But when he saw who it was, he froze. There was his father. His clothes torn; his breath reeking of whisky.
“Well, Son, aren’t you going to invite your father in?
Jake just stared. Anger welled up. The bitterness was back.
“You’re not my real father.”
“What? That preacher man’s not your father.”
“I don’t mean the preacher man. I mean God.”
“God? I don’t understand. You never wanted God.”
Hit him. Do it.
Jake struggled. He clenched his fists–
A hand was on his shoulder. “It’s allright, Jake,”
MacFarland stepped forward. “What can I do for you Mr. Benson?”
Benson’s face crumpled. “I...I am dying; cancer. Doctor says I got a month. I just wanted to see my son one last time.”
Dying? He’s dying?
Jake stared at his father. Had he always been that small?
MacFarland extended his hand. “Come in, Mr. Benson.”
His father stepped through the door. Jake started sweating. Why did he feel this way? Had he not forgiven this man already?
Jesus, help me.
A verse of scripture came to him.
Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners.
For a moment it seemed as if time stood still, and Jake could see right into his father’s soul.
So unhappy. So lost.
Then peace flooded his heart. Jake didn’t understand it, but his rage was gone. In a wave of emotion he stepped forward, hugged his father and cried.
“I forgive you, father. I forgive you.”
“That boy will make a fine minister someday. A son to be proud of.”
Romans 5:8 (KJV)
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