Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: A MIGHTY FORTRESS (don't write about the song) (04/23/15)
TITLE: King Nicolas and Prince Andrew
By Leola Ogle
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Sounds of boyish laughter and whispered fears echoed in his spirit. Images filled his mind of him and Nick hiding behind their self-made fortress of a blanket draped from the top bunk as they huddled together on the bottom bunk. Nick was always King Nicolas and he, Prince Andrew. Andrew never got to be king, but that was okay. Nick was four years older and Andrew idolized him. It was Nick who made a rickety tree house fortress from wood scraps so they would have somewhere to hide during the day.
Andrew let the tears fall as scenes from his childhood washed over him. He wept for the young Nick and Andrew who built imaginary fortresses to protect them against the rages of their father. He wept for their mother who found Jesus, a true fortress, but endured more rage because she attended church. He wept for the times they joined their father in mocking their mother’s faith.
The anguish that brought the most tears was the loss fifty years ago of Nick who died in Viet Nam. Nick’s death left him a grieving teenage who hid behind a fortress of bitterness, anger, and defiance.
It was the last letter he got from Nick – the letter he shredded after Nick’s death – that urged him to forgive their father. Dad’s filled with pain from his own childhood. Why did we fear him? He’s a blustering bully who never laid a hand on us or Mama. Go to church with Mama. I’ve found her faith in God comforting in the horror of war.
His childhood bedroom was filled with ghosts from the past. Andrew ran his trembling fingers over the letters in the wood. He remembered when they had carved their names into the bed frame. He sighed. Mama’s presence had been gone for two months now. Dad was a shell without her, ambling around the house like a lost puppy.
This house always stirred memories in Andrew. He hoped Nick would be proud of the man he had become. The turning point for him was when he was twenty-one and Mama introduced him to beautiful Sarah from her church. He fell in love immediately, but Sarah wanted nothing to do with him. “You’re full of hate and bitterness, and I won’t go out with you, so quit asking me,” she told him.
Andrew started as a voice pulled him from his nostalgic thoughts. “Andrew, can we go now?”
His dad stood in the doorway on thin, trembling legs. Wisps of silver hair fell over his forehead. Love and compassion filled Andrew. He stood and embraced his dad. “You’re as excited as a kid, Dad.”
“I miss her, Andrew.”
“I know. Where’s Sarah?”
“In here, honey,” his wife called from his parents’ bedroom. “I’m almost done cleaning. Give me a few more minutes.”
Contentment and peace settled like a soft, warm blanket. Andrew smiled. Life had been good to him. Nick would be pleased. Andrew began attending church to win Sarah. But Sarah wasn’t won over until God became more important to him than winning her heart.
That’s when the healing began. Nick was right. Their dad lashed out at them because he battled his own childhood wounds. They all hid behind fallible fortresses, when the only fortress they needed was God. His dad came to know that and so did Andrew. He became a pastor so he could lead others to know that.
Sarah came into the living room. She kissed his cheek before hugging his dad.
“Can we go now?” Dad asked again.
Sarah and Andrew laughed. “Yes,” they said in unison.
Mama had fallen, broke her hip and been in a care facility for physical therapy for two months. Andrew and Sarah had come to help Dad transport Mama back home. What they really wanted was to move his parents in with them, but Dad and Mama were determined to stay in their home as long as possible.
Andrew’s childhood home – the home where King Nicolas and Prince Andrew once built fortresses because of fear – was now filled with a quiet, comfortable love between his parents.
“King Nicolas, you were my hero,” Andrew whispered.
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