"" Writer's Wanderings: The Modern Prodigal, A Fictional Short Story

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Modern Prodigal, A Fictional Short Story

[I've been cleaning out files again and found this story I wrote in 1997.}

              I stand across from the old white Victorian house. The porch wraps the house with arms of love. I remember Mom reading her devotions sitting on the swing and Dad assembling the tricycle that I raced back and forth with the floorboards rumbling beneath me. What took me away from that security and love?
              Independence and freedom to do as I pleased had lured me. My parents couldn’t do anything right and complaining about them got sympathy from my friends making me feel justified in wanting to leave.
              I wasn’t a bad kid but I resented parental authority. I resented my required attendance at youth group functions. I had accepted Christ as my savior and was baptized with all the other twelve year olds before we entered the youth group. I knew I was “saved”, so what?
              I turned eighteen. “Now you’re an adult,” friends told me. “You get to do what you want, when you want.” The principle sounded great but the restrictions remained. Resentment grew through my senior year in high school.
              When I was encouraged to choose a college, I saw an opportunity for escape. I chose a Christian college miles away from home knowing my parents would agree to it. “After all,” I told them, “God is calling me to this campus.”
              College life became a bore. I skipped classes and chapel. Homework cut into my social life too much. I found myself in danger of flunking out. I certainly didn’t want to go home. Then the idea struck.
              It was time to begin registration for classes for the next semester. If my father paid for the next semester soon enough, I could withdraw and get a refund. It would be a nice nest egg for starting a whole new life and getting the total freedom I sought.
              It was too easy. The money was refunded to me and I was packed and on my way to a new apartment in the city in my own car that sputtered and choked each time I turned it off. I figured once I got set up and was rolling, I would let my family know I was all right. There wouldn’t be anything they could do about it then. After all, I was an adult.
              Job hunting was distasteful and offered nothing of interest that wouldn’t drain my energy for the nightlife I found. My first taste of alcohol was a bitter surprise but soon I could hold my own with the others in my new group of friends. I refused the drugs. I liked my brain the way it was. I’d seen what it did to friends.
              Before long one of the guys claimed me for his own. I felt special and loved in a way that never happened with the guys in high school. It didn’t take long before we were intimate. Harley didn’t want to wear protection because it would take the fun out of it. I hadn’t planned for intercourse so I was unprepared with birth control. I snickered as I remembered the “purity pledge” I’d taken along with the rest of the church teens. Well, when love came along it didn’t matter, I told myself.
              Well, love came along again—for Harley. He left me for the newest arrival in our group. The same day, my landlord cleaned out my room, changed the lock and put everything I owned at the curb. I couldn’t understand it. I was only two months behind on rent. Undaunted, I decided to rough it out in the car until I made some pocket money and I could get a new place.
              A few weeks went by with no income. The money ran out. I found myself in convenient stores grabbing whatever food I could inconspicuously shove in my pockets. I remembered the lasagna Mom made monthly to feed the homeless. I thought about trying to find a church with a food program but decided I wouldn’t lower myself. I had my pride.
              It got colder. The gas in my car ran out and I couldn’t move it for a few days. One morning I returned to my parking spot after foraging in some trash cans behind a restaurant. I had just lost my meager breakfast and needed to lie down. An empty space instead of my car greeted me. Sitting down on the curb I curled my arms around my knees and cried. Why can’t anything go right anymore?
              After my pity part I headed for a place I had reserved as a last resort. Harley had a friend who would take me in. He promised a warm room and the friendship of other girls my age who lived in the same building. He even said there was a guard at the door for security. I should have taken him up on his offer sooner, I thought.
              I arrived at the rundown apartment house and walked up to the big burly goon that was blocking half the door. “I’m here to see Freddie,” I said, my teeth chattering from the cold.
              “Oh yeah? And just who would you be?” He sneered and snorted.
              “I’m a friend of Harley’s and Freddie said if I needed a place to stay, I could crash here.”
              “Well let’s just see.” He grabbed me by the arm and ushered me inside to a dimly lit room that smell of pot and booze. Freddie sat at the desk counting loose bills.
              “Hey!” he said looking up at me. “Look who’s here. Decide to take me up on my offer? Harley told me you were one great lady. I only take in the best.” I shivered involuntarily as he leered at me. Panic welled in my throat. “You realize you have to pass the test to become one of my girls.”
              I shook my head and backed away. What was this?
              “Come on. Make it nice with us and you’ll pass. Then you can start earning your keep.”
              Before I could react the two men pushed off my coat and pulled my sweatshirt over my head. The smell turned my stomach as their bodies closed in.
              “No!” I screamed and tried to run. The back of Big Burly’s hand sent me flying across the room. He landed a few more blows before I black out. I remember waking, feeling cold and hearing sirens before I blacked out again. The pastor of the little church a few blocks from Freddie’s had found me lying in a snowbank covered in blood.
              My hospital stay was short. A miscarriage had produced more blood than the beating. I had been pregnant. Upon discharge, they handed me test results and a list of clinics. I was HIV positive. The pastor met me at the hospital door. We talked about my options and he offered to buy me a bus ticket home. I hesitated. An old Bible story came into my head from nowhere. The prodigal son from the fifteenth chapter of Luke. I let him buy the ticket.
              Now I stand here. Looking at the beautiful warm home full of love. During the bus trip I turned to my heavenly Father and asked his forgiveness. Would my parents forgive too? The prodigal was met halfway down the road. I will have to cross the street and ring the bell. But wait. . .Mom and Dad are on the porch smiling. Their arms are open wide.

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