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In His Direction

by TheGodfather 

Posted: 21 July 2004
Word Count: 1472
Summary: A slightly experimental piece. Be tough on me.

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"M Y G O D, my God, why have I forsaken you?" I cried as I fell onto the altar at the front of the church. It was dark inside the sanctuary. Rays from the moon only slightly made their way through the drawn blinds. Almost everyday since then, I have relived it. I have seen the oak-stained pews that I passed on my way to the altar, the blue-gold carpet, and the marble walls and rails of New Hope Community Church.
For most of my young life, I wanted to rain my hate down on God. I wanted to scourge heaven for its mistakes by making all the arrows in my quiver of hate drunk with God's blood.
Now I cried out to God, lamenting my life and pleading forgiveness for what I'd done. Tears dropped from my cheek to my shirt. That day I turned my life over to God. It was still branded red in my mind.

A F T E R my stroke, I am no longer able to preach the gospel of God from the pulpit, but my life is not any less full. Every evening, my wife loads me in my wheelchair and takes me down to the boardwalk by the pier to watch the sun set. She leaves to go do whatever it is she does. She takes my chair with her, so it does not get stolen.
Here I sit reading my Bible, the book of Exodus. This wooden bench has curved white armrests and a matching back. An old man with hair a touch whiter than mine walks by with his wife, scattering the sea gulls from the deck that runs the length of the boardwalk and overlooks the water. They used to let people cast their lines along the rail, but that was long ago. Now young couples come, lining the railing with romantic whispers.
My wife and I used to frequent Guilliano's and still do from time to time. It is down at the far corner of the boardwalk, with two sides facing the water. So many times we ate outside under the overhang, at our table, and talked about the preacher. I had seen him for what seemed like all my life and didn't want anything to do with him. We tried for years to find out what his name was, but people just knew him as the preacher. I never told my wife, but I knew more than most people did.
He has affected my life so much. He changed me. I preached for years, trying to live his legacy, the one everybody else saw. I've been around preachers most my life, but none were like him. None had the impact he did.

I H E A R D a car and saw the headlights shine through the living room curtains. Mommy said he wasn't coming home this evening. Daddy leaves for weeks at a time, doesn't call, doesn't stop by, but we don't worry anymore. It's what he does. He sells cars. He tells us that his job is very demanding. That must be why he is gone all the time. But he is always there on Sundays when we get to church. He's the preacher. I always wondered what pastors did. I thought all of them sold cars.
I was hiding on the stairway, crouching behind the white wooden posts. When daddy came through the door, he hung his blue blazer on the rack and dropped his bags to the right of the door by the imitation plant.
"Honey, where are you?" He bellowed. He staggered under the stairs where I was, and into the kitchen. He stunk. I could smell him as he walked under me.
I sat there and listened to him yell at her. She didn't deserve any of it. She never did. I wondered if Daddy had ever loved Mommy.
Daddy walked back under me into sight. I crawled quickly up the stairs through the darkness of the upstairs hallway.
"Is that you boy?" He beckoned. "Are you listening to us again?" I hurried into my room and into the closet. He made so much noise coming up the stairs. Railings must be built for drunken dads, I thought. I tried to hide myself behind my pants and long pajamas that hung in my closet. He didn't look in here last time, but he has before. I pulled my backpack and dirty clothes up next to me to cover my huddled body and legs. Tears raced down my cheeks and neck.
Daddy opened the closet. He kicked the pile of clothes that I had pulled next to me. He hit me in the ribs, and I yelped. He reached through the shirts and grabbed my arm. He pulled his belt from his waist. I remember how his belt would clack when it passed each loop on its way out. He whipped me for what seemed like hours. He didn't care where he hit or how hard, and I always wondered if all children had daddies who smelled and yelled like this.
I should have gone to bed when Mommy told me to. I just wanted to forget that night. He could go to hell. I wanted to forget him.

S I T T I N G here my mind begins to flood with memories. I remember when I first began preaching, my first sermon, in fact. I told my history, of my father's abuses toward me and my mother, my hate for God, and my redemption. “What happens to you is not who you are,” I whispered to myself, thinking back to that sermon that had taken me weeks to compile. “But who you are is what God wants to happen.” That was the most important part of my life, the only part that meant anything, my redemption. Nobody needed to know anything else. All of the rest of me was not the me of today. All of those things were the old man's sin, not the new man's.

T H E P R E A C H E R was standing on his usual bench at the front of the boardwalk. The back of his blue blazer was trembling in the biting, night breeze. I couldn't even hear him, but yet he kept on preaching, mocking and shooting the wind with his message of the gospel.
I can see him using his hands, thrusting into the air his message of salvation I had heard so many times and hated. I hated it with every fiber of my soul. My dad made me hate it. I walked by him toward the boardwalk. I was supposed to meet my friends down at the end. We were going to play the arcade for a couple of hours, like we did every Friday night.
The preacher was at his same spot every Friday, standing on that bench, shooting the wind that blew incessantly off the ocean. I hated him more each week. My friends laughed at him. They threw gum and spat at him.
"I gotta go, Javier. Can you tell the rest of the guys?"
"Yeah, sure kid. No problem," he said.
I walked past a young couple necking between the arcade games on my way out the doors. I headed right, back toward the entrance to the boardwalk. I could see the preacher from here, waving his hands in the wind. The lamp that was usually lit over his bench was burnt out tonight. I could never figure out why he preached. His message wasn't what it appeared to be.
I continued in his direction. I remembered his message, the message of a preacher. My hate welled within me. I reached into my overcoat and held my hand in the inner pocket, caressing the cold metal handle and soothing the trigger. Nobody ever seemed to look at him. People just walked by, so I did the same most nights.
Tonight, I broke the mold. I calmly changed my path and stopped in front of him. His hands stopped waving and pointed to the sky. I gripped and pulled my gun from my overcoat, aimed, and fired. Then he looked down at me, piercing me back with his holy potency. My hands, fingers interlinked, grabbed my abdomen under my ribcage. I looked away, turned, and continued my walk toward the entrance to the boardwalk, removing my hands from my side and checking them for something. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Nobody looked. Nobody seemed to ever notice his corner of the boardwalk.

A S I R O S E slowly from the altar, I noticed the splatter of red on my white t-shirt and with my finger smeared the tears from under my eyes. I walked back down the moonlit aisle, forgiven.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 09:02 on 21 July 2004  Report this post
Hi Godfather. A compelling story, that would have left me wondering what happened to your narrator in the time between that terrible act and the present day if it hadn't been for Nobody looked. Nobody seemed to ever notice his corner of the boardwalk. A great example of 'show' not 'tell'.

A tale of three preachers, which made it slightly confusing for a moment as I wondered if he'd shot his father. Your elderly narrator's voice comes across in the sentence ...making all the arrows in my quiver of hate drunk with God's blood... which struck me at first as being over the top, but which having finished reading makes me wonder if more of the same would push his personality further into the eccentric - someone with a skewed vision. Likewise, "M Y G O D, my God, why have I forsaken you?"

Tears dropped from my cheek to my shirt...seemed over-dramatic, too self-aware, possibly a different way of telling the reader that he was crying might work better.

I think the following sentence could be improved: Rays from the moon only slightly made their way through the drawn blinds...' - made more striking.

In the following the first 'his' could be replaced by 'the'.

I can see him using his hands, thrusting into the air his message of salvation I had heard so many times and hated.

I don't think you need 'go' in the following, it causes a stumble when reading.
She leaves to go do whatever it is she does.

Typo alert:

sea gulls (seagulls)

When daddy came through the door, (Daddy)

These are picky polishy things I know, but they can make all the difference. You have a talent for the understated, the subtle, the 'shown' rather than the 'told' - great storytelling.

Best, Nell.

Jubbly at 20:20 on 21 July 2004  Report this post
Hey Godfather, this is a very powerful story. I'm writing something at the moment that touches on a similar subject so I was fascinated to get another point of view. I found the whole piece rivetting and after reading felt I had really entered the mind of this poor man. I wondered whether or not someone who had made their peace with the Lord would be inclined to confess but the story seems to dictate the opposite. Is the narrator Hispanic? How old was he when he committed the crime? I found the story so enthralling I just wanted to know more.

Well done


TheGodfather at 07:35 on 07 August 2004  Report this post

Thanks for the comments. Always a great help to hear from people. I will take them all to heart on the revision. I've really been trying to work on the "show" not "tell" skill. Glad it works somewhat. Does the three preachers thing work? I wondered that myself, although I thought it did.


TheGodfather at 07:37 on 07 August 2004  Report this post

I appreciate the kind comments, knowing full well I haven't arrived as a writer but glad that the readers are enjoying what I am writing. Thanks.


deblet at 11:39 on 07 August 2004  Report this post
Hi again Godfather

I agree with Jubbly and Nell. A very powerful peice of writing. I was a bit confused by the changing narrators, but I am rather hungover, and a second reading sorted it. Showing not telling is working well


Becca at 06:19 on 11 October 2004  Report this post
It was atmospheric as well. I think Nell has said this, but the jump at the end between his shooting the preacher and him as an old man is gappy somehow. Maybe just one short para in between would fix it.

Oddly my main comment would be about exposition, because I felt you verged on it in the drunken father scene. What I mean is I think some of the asides in that section such as 'Railings must be built for drunken fathers, I thought.' came over a little exposition-like. You set the scene well just in the line 'He staggered under the stairs where I was..' so the reader is already with it by then.

Nell at 08:42 on 11 October 2004  Report this post
Godfather, I somehow missed your earlier question about the three preachers. I've read again though, and I think it does work, although as I said earlier I did on first reading think for a moment that he'd shot his father. I had a sudden thought that if you changed the title to 'Three Preachers' that would make all clear without spoiling the story, but you might not want to do that. Your title is infinitely better, but its subtlety makes the significance easy to miss.


TheGodfather at 14:51 on 11 October 2004  Report this post

Thanks for the reading and suggestions. Through that whole scene, I was trying to make it somewhat timeless for the boy, that this sort of thing happens to him fairly often, so often in fact that he is able to philosophize over his situation in a childlike sort of manner. I wonder if it works. Anyways, I appreciate the read.


You're right about the title. 3 Preachers would be much more forthcoming. And you're right again as I'm not so sure I want to do that. It's a choice I'll have to make before sending it in this year. Thanks


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