Our assignment was to rewrite a Bible story and set it modern times. I won’t tell you which one I chose, because you are supposed to figure that out. 😉 Sorry it is a little long. I tried to keep it visually interesting… Oh — and on my attempt at writing out a New York accent — I had a difficult time figuring out what letters to combine to some of the sounds, so please pardon me if it looks weird. (And if you have a suggestion on how to improve it, please share.) Don’t forget to comment!
As he shoveled a forkful of waffle into his mouth, David glanced around at his father and older brother Steven, also eating their waffles. ‘It’s the same every day,’ he thought to himself. ‘Dad, Steve, and me, breakfast, farm work, lunch, more farm work, supper, then bedtime, and we wake up to repeat the cycle. I wish life was more exciting… I think it’s time to finally tell Dad what I’ve been thinking about.’
“Yes, Dave?” His father wiped a bit of syrup out of his graying mustache.
“Dad, I’ve been thinking, and I’m tired of farm life and of Ohio. I want to go do something, to meet people, to make my mark in the world.” David paused.
“Okay,” his father said, slowly.
David went on, “Dad, I was thinking. I know when you die, I’ll get half of all you own – all the farm, the bank savings – all that stuff. So, do you think I could have that right now? Then I could take that money and actually do something with it instead of having it sit around and gain a few cents in interest and a few more pounds of corn.”
Steven looked up sharply. David’s father put his elbow on the table and rested his forehead on the back of his calloused hand. There was silence for what seemed like an hour instead of merely thirty seconds. David began to wonder if he should have told his plans so frankly.
Finally, his Dad raised his head from his hand.
David thought the man looked he might cry. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t do this,’ he thought, his resolve quavering. ‘No,’ he reminded himself. ‘I must go. I can never be great doing this same old same old day in and day out. The great dictators of Rome left their fields behind,’ he flattered himself with the images of great generals of history.
“Very well, David. Very well,” came his father’s low voice.
There was a split second of astonished silence, then, “Really, Dad? You mean I can? Oh boy! Thanks, Dad! Thanks a lot!”
Steven stood up abruptly and walked out of the kitchen. David heard the screen door slam.
“Well,” said David, enthusiastically, “I’d better get looking up some plane tickets to New York! Wall Street, here I come!” He put the last bite of syrupy waffle in his mouth, grabbed his plate and fork, put them in the sink, and bounded out of the room.
His father, alone at the table, leaned his head on his hand again.
Three weeks later, David looked out the plane window at the two small figures looking out the window of the small airport: Steven, in his button down and khakis, and his Dad in his button down and overalls. He waved good-bye. He was starting a new life!
The next six months were a blur. He found an apartment to rent, some roommates to hang out with, and interviewed for a job as a sales clerk. He tried to invest in some stock, but did not have much luck with that. He hung out with his new pals, learned how to play their games, and made more off that than from Wall Street. There were some pretty girls, some late nights that became early mornings, some new beverages, some new cool. One day, the New York Times headline read: ‘Bottom Falls Out of Market: Thousands Left Penniless as a Result’. All David knew was that he was suddenly had no cash, no job, no apartment, and no ‘friends’ – and no food.
David hugged his flannel shirt tighter around him as the sharp, November breeze seemed to be trying as hard as it could to chill his soul. The hole in the knee of his jeans gave the wind an advantage. ‘Keep moving,’ he reminded himself. One foot in front of the other, David trudged down the sidewalk of the sorry excuse for a suburb. He didn’t bother to look up. What was there to see?
The next night, after what walking what seemed like half-way across the U.S., David reached some obscure little town outside of the metropolis. He curled up in a dingy corner between a couple of buildings. He glanced up in hopes of seeing a star or two. The harsh bars of the fire escape on the side of the brick structure barred the cloudy sky, ominously reminding David of a prison.
The next morning, David found a bit of cardboard behind a restaurant and managed to make a sign, with the succinct message, ‘WILL WORK FOR FOOD.’ ‘But will anyone really help me?’ he wondered, thinking regretfully of the times he had ignored such people back home. ‘Home. Perhaps – but no. I could never go back – not after what I’ve done,’ he thought with an ashamed grimace.
He sat on the street corner from until sometime in the afternoon. Today’s gusts were chillier than yesterday’s. One hour seemed to run into the next, and his stomach felt like dry and hollow log. Finally, a bearded man in a rusty pickup pulled over by David.
“Ya willin’a wuhk, son?” The man had a heavy New York accent.
“Yessir,” David managed, trying to get his jaws, stiff with the cold, to obey him.
“Well,” said the man. “I need some stauwlls mucked out. I’ll pay ya five dauwlers ta do it.”
David knew the man was driving a bargain, but he was desperate. “I’ll do it,” he answered, forcing his stiff legs to stand up.
“Climb auwn in, then,” the man returned. “Oh, and my name’s Dauwson.”
“I’m Dave,” David returned, climbing in the passenger’s side.
Dawson drove about ten minutes, until they reached a long gravel driveway, a long-grassed acre on a hillside, and a shed with a rusty, corrugated metal roof that was apparently the barn. Dawson parked the truck in the barn, and the two men got out. Dawson led him to the three stalls. “There’s the cows. There’s the stauwlls. There’s the pitchfohk. There’s the wheelbarrow. Ya know what ya doin’, right?”
“Yessir,” David nodded. “I’ve been mucking stalls since I was about seven years old.”
“Good,” Dawson answered. “I’ll be in the house if ya need me.”
Again, David nodded. “Sounds good.”
Dawson left, and David started raking and shoveling the piles of manure into the wheelbarrow. He glanced over at the feed trough in the corner. ‘Grain?’ He looked closer. ‘It is grain!’ David hastily leaned his pitchfork against the wall and ran over. He knew it was absurdly barbaric, but he was starving. Burying his hands in the kernels, David brought a handful of the dusty feed up to his mouth, and ate it.
He was about to repeat the action, when he suddenly stopped in mid-handful. “What am I doing?” he asked out loud. “I’m eating cow feed,” he answered himself. “How many of Dad’s hired hands have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” He paused a moment, trying to make up his mind. “I will. I will go back to Ohio, go back to Dad and tell him: ‘Dad, I’ve made a mess of things. I’ve disobeyed God, and I’ve wronged you. I’m not worthy to be your son. But please, just make me like one of your hired men.’
“I’d rather muck Dad’s stalls any day,” he added.
Three days later, after miles and miles of walking and hitchhiking, David was walking down the lane towards his Dad’s farm. Well, the part of it that was left after he’d taken his share, he remembered ashamedly.
Dread grew in his mind. The truth of what he had done grew more awful and more horrifying as he thought about it. At the crest of the hill, David stopped. He looked down, and saw the house and barns and tractors of his father. A lump rose to his throat. ‘I can’t go back,’ his mind screamed in fear. ‘I have to – at least to apologize to Dad.’
As he watched, a figure emerged from one of the barns, shaded his eyes, and looked up at the top of the hill. For a moment, the figure froze. David could not tell who he was, but he knew he had been spotted. Suddenly, the figure started running towards him. A second later, David recognized the overalls. It was his Dad.
The next minute was as blurry as the six months he’d frittered in New York. Dad was running up the hill. ‘I can’t think when I’ve last seen him run,’ David was noting. Dad was throwing his arms around him and hugging him so hard David thought he might break his ribs. David’s eyes, too were blurry. Dad was kissing him – actually kissing him.
“Dad,” David began. “I – I’ve made a mess of things. I’ve disobeyed God, and I’ve wronged you. I’m not worthy to be your son –”
“Tom!” his Dad cut him off, calling to one of the hands who had by this point come up to see the commotion. “Bring Dave some a new shirt and pair of jeans. And get some new socks and a pair of my boots.”
“Yessir,” answered Tom, turning to go carry out the commands.
“And Tom,” his Dad added.
Tom turned back.
“Get out the beef steaks we were saving for Christmas and send someone out to the store for some pop. Dave’s back, and we’re gonna celebrate! Just like the son in the Bible, ‘He was dead is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
That night, Steven came back from a long day in the outermost field. He was just about to check his phone, since there had been no signal way out there in the field, when he noticed the house lit up and seemingly full of people. “Dad must be having a party or something!” he exclaimed, then laughed at the notion. John, one of the hands, came out on the porch. “What’s up?” Steven asked, nodding towards the house.
“Dave is here,” John answered, “and your Dad is breaking out the Christmas steaks because he’s back safe and sound. Come on in and join the fun!”
“’The fun’?! What?!” Steven retorted. He turned away before John could say anything else and went into one of the barns.
A few minutes later, Steven heard the barn door open and shut, and he recognized his father’s tread on the concrete floor.
“Steve?” his Dad spoke into the darkness. “Are you gonna come inside?”
“No,” Steven answered flatly. “Why should I?”
“Dave is back. And we’re having dinner.”
“So I heard.”
“Why won’t you come in, Steve?” Again, his father’s voice pleaded.
Steven suddenly turned around. “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. But you never even gave me a few burgers to have fun with my friends. Now, Dave shows back up, after wasting half your property – likely on beer and prostitutes – and you blow a couple hundred dollars of steak on him! It’s just wrong!” Steven flared.
He felt his Dad lay his hand on his shoulder. “Steve,” he said quietly, “Everything I have is free for you to use, and you’ll get all that I own now when I die. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because Dave was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”