Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday Fiction for August 15th, 2008

This week’s Friday Fiction is another original written specifically for this blog. The story is one of those that takes place “out of sight” in another story I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2006. In “The Daedalus Child”, the main character is left with his grandmother when his parents flee the country. Later in the story, we learn his parents have been doing mission work in Brazil, and this narrative reveals how this came about.

In order to help avoid any possible spoilers to the main story, I decided to tell this one from the point-of-view of another missionary. If the reader thinks this has a similar theme to “Pleasant Deeds, Pleasant Dreams”, it’s because I’ve found in my experience that God often calls people when we’ve hit bottom from the consequences of our actions.

Let me clarify that a bit; God could be calling us all along, but quite often, we aren’t receptive to His calling until we feel we have nowhere else to go. When we realize we can no longer rely on our own strength, or our own wisdom, or our own resources, we’re willing to hear the invitation to rely instead on His strength, His wisdom, and His resources. When we finally resign ourselves to the fact that we cannot do it ourselves, He sends along someone to tell us that He has already done it.
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Friday Fiction Central

Penance
By Rick Higginson


The old Land Cruiser rattled and creaked with every bump and rut in the primitive road, though the noise didn’t register on the occupants of the well-worn vehicle. Shifting gears, the driver took his hand from the lever just long enough to venture a touch on the passenger’s leg, and received an encouraging smile for the effort.

The air was heavy and damp, alive with the sounds of the rainforest canopy all around them, but even that cacophony was so familiar as to be tuned out until something changed it. Splashing through a puddle from the previous night’s rainfall, it was hard to imagine that they’d once rolled smoothly down well-maintained streets, passed manicured trees in the shadows of concrete mountains. The great cities stood as testament to man’s ability to hold back nature, while the ruins of old cities proved that nature could wait; in time, it would reclaim its own.

Rounding a curve, they emerged into a small village that existed in a tenuous stand-off with the natural forest. Without the constant effort of the residents, the clearing would vanish within a few years, swallowed up by eager new growth exploiting the open sky above.

He stopped in front of one of the modest buildings, and shut off the engine. Village residents, and especially the children, were already gathering around to welcome them. Exchanging pleasantries all around, he told the adults they would set up the clinic shortly, and then asked the question he’d asked in so many other towns and villages they’d stopped at recently. “Está o americano aqui?” Is the American here?

One of the older boys answered. “Sim. Devo eu tomar-lheo?” Yes. Shall I take you to him?

“Sim, por favor.” Yes, please.

He followed the boy between the simple structures until they stood outside the door of one. “Está dentro aqui, senhor.” He’s in here, sir.

“Obrigado,” he said. Thank you. He entered what served as the local bar and found the man seated at one of the rickety tables, so engrossed in the paper he was scribbling on that he seemed to not notice the new arrival. “Are you senhor Daryl that I have heard so much about?” he asked, when he grown tired of waiting to be acknowledged.

The man stopped writing, and after a moment, laid the pen down across the paper. With a sigh, he turned and looked up at him. “I suppose asking why you want to know would be enough to forestall denying it,” he said.

Offering his hand, he smiled. “I’m Dr. Samuel Demorey with Healing Word Missions. My wife and I travel around to towns and villages too small to have a resident physician and offer free medical care. Mind if I sit down?”

He nodded and gestured towards the opposite chair. “Missionary, huh? Why would a missionary be looking for me, Dr. Demorey?”

“The local people usually just call me Doutor Sam,” he said, taking the chair and accepting his regular beverage from their hostess. “Americans aren’t that common this deep in the Amazon, and especially not ones traveling from town to town and working on various problems without being affiliated with some social or mission organization.”

“We’re not doing anything wrong, are we?”

“No,” he said with a chuckle. “But you need to be careful. Are you with the U.S. Government, or some other type of organization, senhor Daryl?”

“Not in the least bit. Are you?”

“No, but the people we work with already know who we’re with. You, on the other hand, are the subject of quite a bit of speculation. I’ve heard more than a few that suspect you of being with the C.I.A. or other such covert operation.”

“Why? Because we help out without expecting people to listen to a sermon afterwards?”

“Frankly, yes.” He took a drink of his beverage. “Whether it’s founded or not, there is still a strong perception that the American government likes to meddle in the affairs of other countries, and it’s been suggested you’re trying to ingratiate yourself to the people around here in order to set up some kind of network.”

“Nothing of the sort,” he said, shaking his head.

“I’m only going to ask this because I keep getting asked it; why are you here, doing this kind of work, then?”

He folded his hands together in front of him and stared back down at the paper again. His voice was quiet as he answered. “Have you ever done something that you felt so ashamed of, you had to do good things to make up for it?”

“Are you performing some kind of penance, then?”

Closing his eyes, he swallowed hard. “My wife is pregnant, doctor, and I lie awake every night, afraid that maybe God is going to punish us by doing something to the baby. I think, perhaps He’ll look at all the good things we’ve been doing for people down here, and take that into account.” He rubbed his face. “And then I think about what we’ve done, and that we will never be able to undo it, and I get more afraid.”

“Are you trying to buy God’s forgiveness? I’ll tell you right now, you’re never going to be able to afford it. None of us can. You can’t earn it, because the only way to do so is to live in such a way that you never need it in the first place. You can only get forgiveness from God by accepting it as a free gift from Him.” He reached his hand across the table and rested it on Daryl’s arm. “No matter what you’ve done, God is waiting to give you that forgiveness, if you only ask.”

“What if I’d killed my son? Could He forgive that?”

“He forgave us for killing His Son.”

“How about if what I did was worse than killing him? How about if I condemned my son to life as a freak?” His eyes showed he was dead serious as he looked across the table. “That’s what I did; what we did, doctor. We made our son a freak – intentionally – and then left him with my mother so we could escape here. Can God forgive that?”

“What do you mean? How could you make your son a freak intentionally?”

“My wife, Gen, and I are research scientists, specializing in genetic engineering. We altered his genetics at conception, and made him into something different.”

Sam hesitated, trying to digest what he’d been told. He’d read plenty of news reports of plants and animals being manipulated into something slightly different, but not humans.

“Can God forgive that, doctor?” The voice had a pleading tone, even as tears spilled from the man’s eyes.

He’d seen criminals and soldiers that had raped, tortured, and murdered, find forgiveness. His Bible said that God was faithful to forgive sins, and to cleanse all unrighteousness, if one was to just confess those sins. But this, Father? he thought. This is a form of the worst sort of blasphemy. This man has set himself in the place of God.

If God is not able to cleanse all unrighteousness, even the worst sort, then what is the point of believing at all? He considered the counter-point to his own objection. He has, after all, confessed that he has sinned.

“Yes,” Sam said, a confidence in his voice he hadn’t felt a moment earlier. “God can and will forgive you, if you only confess your sin and ask for that free gift He wants to give you.” He smiled encouragement. “Do you want to ask Him, senhor Daryl?”

He opened his mouth, but no words escaped. Instead, he nodded only slightly at first, and then definitively.

***

Doutor Sam took a seat at the table and smiled. “Mother and daughter are both doing just fine,” he said. “The midwife says you did an excellent job on the delivery. From what I can tell, I don’t think I could have done a better job if I’d been here.”

“I guess those years of working as a paramedic while getting my degree paid off,” Daryl said.

“Have you and Gen given any more thought to our proposal?”

He smiled. “We have. We talked it over, and it makes sense. If we’re going to be here doing the work anyway, we might as well do so for an organization that helps us get where we’re needed, and gets the supplies to us. We both have the impression that working with you and Healing Word is what God wants us to do.”

“I’m glad to hear that. It’s a lot of hard work, but I guarantee you, there is a tremendous blessing when we’re serving God.”

“Serving,” Daryl said with a satisfied chuckle. “I like the sound of that.” He accepted the handshake across the table. “I think it’s a better response than penance.”

“I’m inclined to agree.” Sam leaned back in the chair and laced his fingers behind his head. “Much better than penance.”

4 comments:

Scarlet Carter(S.Harricharan) said...

Wow! You are so good with descriptions, I was right there the whole time and watching this story unfold. It's like a teaser, just barely enough to get me hooked and wanting to know what else is going on in this wonderfully mysterious world you've created. Excellent job!

LauraLee Shaw said...

What a gift you have. I was sitting on the edge of my patio rocker the whole story. I love the way your dialogue flows and helps with characterization. Your ending was the perfect touch.

Joanne Sher said...

Wonderfully descriptive and vivid. You had me engaged for sure.

Patty Wysong said...

I loved the emotion in this, but even more than that, I love the message. This is fantastic.