What is it that truly drives a man, is it his faith or the lack there of?
|Written for the WdC's "What A Character" contest:March 2016 Word count 1,290 excluding this note
Prompt for March 2016: Write a story that explains your character's particular views on faith. Is he or she an atheist? Agnostic? Theist? Deist? Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.? Whatever your character's faith may be, show and/or tell us about a formative experience that led to those beliefs.
“Why—tell me why I should have Faith in you or anyone else?”
His weary face turned upward as his hazel, blood-shot eyes focused on the image of a scantily clad figure nailed to an oaken cross, the icon barely visible in the dim light of candles and the few bare electric bulbs in the open beamed ceiling.
"Why do you not see? Are you blind? Their pain is there before us all—gaunt and clad in nothing but despair. Bones covered with dirty, sore-worn skin, legs twisted and frail. Why will you not see their unmasked faces withdrawn below sunken, pleading eyes?”
"How do you miss the swollen bellies, their emaciated frames? Why do you not hear their soft, mournful cries? Oh, the wind blows, but it carries no songs, no message of hope. Their whispers hidden, too weak to hear over the buzzing of flies. Speak not is their mantra—doing so is a waste of already numbered breaths. They do not question, for the answers are only more lies.”
His bleeding soiled hands clasped the short rail before him, and he let his forehead lower onto them. His eyes closed, and he let out a long exhale. A chilling quake moved through his core as he slowly took in a breath.
"Why can’t we touch them? They are broken I asked again, and again, but you remain silent. Their diseases caused by hunger and water from dirt-filled holes. Why is there no protest? I had a gift for him, a shirt, and some shoes. He was not worthless, not some pest that shouldn't be seen. What did he do, are you so vain that you’d reject him, begrudge him the slightest chance to survive, you would punish him because he is too hungry to give you praises, and why should he—what have you done for him?”
He pushed back from the rail resting his weight on his heels. Tears ran beside his nose over his lips, the back of Jake’s hand slid over them smearing their salty flavor into their broken, peeling, skin before his dirt-covered appendage fell limply into his lap.
“What am I supposed to do? They wouldn’t let us feed them anymore. They take away the clothes and the blankets that we give them, kick them, beat them, and call them names. Are we supposed to act, is it we who assume the risk? Why do you do nothing?”
His voice echoed off the walls covering the sound of leather sandals that scuffed at the rough wooden floorboards and a man dressed in a brown cassock moved behind the penitent figure before the small altar, and he placed a wrinkled hand on the kneeling man’s shoulder.
“Jake, forgive me, my son. But this is a time for prayer; for quiet reflection, your voice, your anger it carries to everyone. If you need guidance, I am here for you. We can use the confessionals if you prefer.”
“To do what father, provide more worthless words, empty promises, and meaningless rhetoric. No, I think I have had enough. Your God has no mercy, no love for the innocent; it doesn’t matter what his name. Call him Iamb, Jehovah, Allah, Jesus, or any other sacred moniker you want. None of it helps those children.”
“You are wrong Jake; Jesus said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me.” He speaks as though the infants were ready and eager to come to him, and they must not be prevented from seeking him. He thus intimates the truth that, though incompetent to understand God's blessing, children are competent to receive it. He does not forsake the children"
“You waste your breath father. I know all the drills, within the Mosaic dispensation, they receive their place in the Synagogue by the rite of circumcision; in Christ's kingdom, the supposed analogous mercies are extended by baptism, and I am sure that Allah's Prophet Mohammad spelled out a path of indoctrination and enlightenment for the children of Ishmael as well. But tell me, what do they get in return—No, I’ll tell you, nothing!”
The priest let his hand extend out to Jake in a gesture to help him get up.
“It is through our faith, my son, that we receive hope and our Lord’s gift of eternal love. There is nothing in this world that may equal its worth. Please, son, come, light a candle for this lost child. Give thanks to the Lord that he no longer suffers. The light will illuminate our hearts and minds, so that they may always reflect the splendor of Christ, who is Lord, forever and ever. Amen.”
Jake rose to his feet and walked to the candle-covered table beside the Alter. He took a long grass stalk from the vase on the left, held the match to the large candle in the center of the table, and transferred its flame to one of the smaller unlit candles on a lower row of twenty or more glass cups filled with white wax and wicks.
“Now, what Padre? How does this help him? How does it put a single mouthful of food in any swollen belly? It does nothing to remove my nightmares of his frail body lying in that dry ditch. I still see plainly his sunken face, his twisted limbs, his body chewed by the wilds. How does this candle cleanse the stink of his death from my soul or even my hands? Tell me, please, Father, how will it make it easier for me to bury the next one in some unmarked grave?”
“The candle is not for them Jake, It is for you, it symbolizes your faith in God, your gratitude for his love and sacrifices for us.”
Jake picked up one of the lit candles; he twisted his slowly rolled the small candle in a circle as he watched the molten wax flow around the edges of its cup. His sacrifices—oh yeah, it is plain to see how much he cares. How much he gives of himself. They get more from the dirt in their tears. He leveled the candle too quickly and the wax smothered the flame, and a small wisp of smoke floated up with a spiraling twist.
“You know what Father; you are right about one thing. This candle has helped. It has given me the answer I was looking for. I am not going to sit by doing nothing, any longer. It's time to splash the wax in their bowls. I am going to find them, the ones the guards took away, and I am going to save them.”
Jake reached out, replaced the candle back in its holder and relit it. He picked up several unlit cups and handed them to the priest.
“Here, you best hold on to these; you’re going to need them.”
Jake stepped past the man into the center aisle of the small chapel, and he headed for the door.
“You know, Jake, I will be very pleased to light a candle for you, anytime.”
Jake stopped at the doorway and looked up to the starlit sky. Susan, please forgive me if I do not return as I promised. But if I don’t try, I will be worthless to you. He turned back to face the priest now standing in the middle of the room.
“My dear Father Pritchard, you don’t need to burn any sacraments for me."
Jake pointed to the candles in the priest's hands.
"No, those are for the ones who are going to try to stop me from doing what your God will not. Yes, light a candle for each of them, and I will pray that your God is as protective of them as he is of the orphans they have made.”