appreciating the thorns

I’m trying my hand at fiction today.   I’ve not written fiction before, except for a couple of assignments for a college class a million years ago.    I hope you will enjoy it.   

When Earnest was a small child, age five or maybe six, he was caught with his pants down. Literally.  With two little girls from across the street, they were playing a “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” between the rose bushes and the side of the house.  Mrs Dahl,  at that moment,  suddenly appeared. All Earnest remembers was her garden bonnet, and rose fertilizer spilling in all directions.  “WHAT ARE YOU KIDS DOING!,” she screeched.   

His parents were appropriately mortified.   This completely shocked their careful world.  They were emotionally very reserved and showed very little affection either to each other, or to Earnest.  They apparently had been raised in the same manner, in a very spartan home,  and the only expectation was to be seen and not heard.  Correction?  Do what was expected of you, or spend time in the closet.   Earnest doesn’t remember much fondly  of those early years, but he was always embarrassed and timid around girls at school after that.   The boys in Grade 5 would call him “four-eyes” and “weiner-dick”.  He  never responded.  The girls would whisper to themselves, and one would run up behind Earnest and give him a peck on the cheek.  Just to watch him turn purple-red with embarrassment.  They giggled.  In high school, the bullying continued until one afternoon,  a week before the summer break in his Junior year.  Apparently, two bullies ganged up on him behind the gym.  He broke one fellows jaw in two places and dislocated his shoulder.  The other bully suffered three broken ribs and was in a coma for two days.  When the principal found Earnest he was sharing an apple with a girl from his English class.  He was calm.  He spent the next couple years, until age nineteen, in a “state school” ( a juvenile detention center).  He was able to apply to college which at the time had a tuition-waiver for formerly incarcerated.   It was one of the state’s least used opportunities (most applicants re-offended within their first months of freedom).

It was different for Earnest.  Twenty years old and being stalked by a strong-willed, sexually-demanding, raven-haired Sophomore in college.   All because Earnest had too much to drink one Friday night at a fraternity party, and woke up in bed  with her – Colleen.   When Earnest met Sandi at a French club social- it was extra credit for the  students – not that he wanted to meet other girls.   But it was Sandi who gave Earnest the excuse to “break it off” from Colleen.   You see, Earnest was gifted physically.   It was one of those whispers that had followed him ever since that day next door to Mrs Dahl and her damn roses.

For the next fifteen years Earnest wandered from small jobs in Phoenix, working in a small restaurant, to the Seattle area – working for the ferry company as a janitor.  Across the country and down the East Coast.  He planned to settle in the panhandle of Florida. renting kayaks and small sailboats to sailors and tourists.  He didn’t like to drink anymore because he often woke up in uncomfortable surroundings.   In each of the “stops” in his travels,  Earnest became somewhat of a celebrity to college sorority sisters, lonely older women and bored waitresses.   

It was during his last year in Florida that he had a dream for several nights.  Not one of those schizophrenic voices, but the tugging at his heart and conscience was God, he thought, prodding him.  He tried ignoring the feeling.  Yet it was hurricane Ivan,  smashing his old Toyota to bits, along with much of Pensacola in 2004, that got him moving west again.   

It was in San Diego, some years later that he found healing for his soul.  He was working on the Boardwalk at Mission Beach, when a couple of Navy sailors and their wives talked to him about coming to a church service.  He said thanks but no.   He’d been hassled before by white shirted, bicycle-riding Mormons, a Pentecostal that wanted him to come to meet women,  a Buddhist who looked every bit the part of Buddha right down to size 50 waist.  Some guy in New Mexico that wanted him to drink green tea and eat some mushrooms.   A Mexican indian shaman that cast demons from him. Church people.  He read their pamphlets.  A guy in the park that said the world was going to end.  Apparently the 3 times this was predicted during his lifetime were all warnings.  “Just kidding!” their god said.   And yet he found a well-thumbed Bible on a park bench that he packed with him everywhere.

One Friday evening enjoying coffee in a little cafe that looked a cross between a Goodwill store and a grandmother’s attic, he was engaged in conversation by a bored woman and her date.  Sure, he agreed.  He’ll come to their church.  That must have been God prodding him still.  He was sober.  He apparently did not hit on the girl.  And her date was walking out, all body parts intact and undamaged.

 Five years to that particular day,  Earnest has been married for three years.  To that gal from the meeting in the coffee shop. Rosie.  He puts his old life in perspective.  His new life is definitely a miracle.   The suffering, the drinking, and the embarrassment are done.  Buried with Christ in that ocean baptismal.  He looks through eyes that see clearly now.
And his “gifts” are a blessing.  So his wife tells him every night.


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