Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FRESH START (01/05/17)
- TITLE: The Catalyst
By Dannie Hawley
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
Dad knocked. No time to extinguish the cigarette. Holding the Marlborough Light behind my back, I opened the door.
“Hi, Punkin! Thought you might like these.” Dad held out a slim vase with two pink roses. “They’re silk. Look real, don’t they?”
The lump in my throat choked my response. “They’re beautiful, Daddy.”
As soon as my right hand grasped the vase, my father turned to leave. “Can’t stay. Got some for Mom, too.”
Closing the door, tears of shame streaked my cheeks. I snuffed out the cigarette as I passed the ashtray.
After downing the liquor, I clenched Dad’s flowers and sobbed. What in the world am I doing?
Five years earlier, I’d committed my life to the Lord. The previous spring, I’d completed a graduate course in Christian Studies. I’d never been a smoker or drinker.
However, for almost seven months, I’d been living the truth of First Corinthians 15:33. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” Though not a Christian, my roommate loved people, and everyone loved her. How could a good person be bad company?
Suddenly, Barb* bounded through the door. “Hey, get your boots on, Cowgirl. Guys are waiting for us at the Old Wrangler*!”
Country music exploded into the night, as we crossed the threshold. My lack of proficiency with the Texas Two-Step didn’t hinder my fun. Most of the young guys who asked me to dance had little rhythm anyway.
Two hours later, a half-drunk, fifty-something man pulled back the chair next to me. “How ‘bout I buy you a drink, Darlin’?”
I raised my half-full glass. “No thanks.”
Before I knew it, the unwanted visitor pulled me out of my chair. “Okay. Let’s dance.”
“Don’t think so, Bucko. You’re older than my father.”
His arms engulfed me. Swaying to the music, the stranger weaved our locked bodies onto the dance floor. Just give up. It’s only one dance.
Before the music stopped, the drunkard pressed his body hard against mine, his desire apparent. Yanking my hands from his grasp, I placed them on his chest and shoved with all my strength. “Not gonna happen, cowboy. Find someone else.”
The rest of the night, I nursed one drink after another but never left the table. The encounter frightened me more than I’d admit.
Sometime after one o’clock, we made our way home. Gingerly, I crawled to the center of my double bed, clinging hard to the mattress edge on both sides. I’d discovered the position kept my spinning head from tossing me to the floor.
“Lord, help me. I hate what I’m doing.” The image of my father handing me the roses popped into my mind, unleashing a torrent of tears. “My parents would die if they could see me now. Some Christian witness, huh?
“God, I’m so ashamed. I want to change, but… . Please, help me!”
Two days later, my supervisor interrupted my transcribing. “Phone call at the main desk. Make it short.”
Pleasantries exchanged, my old university friend, a county attorney, got to the point. “I’m Vice-Chairman of the hospital board in the town of Jordan. When can you meet with us to discuss becoming our hospital administrator?”
“You’ve got to be kidding, Doug! What do I know about running a hospital?”
“I recommended you because I know you’re a hard worker. You’ve been around hospitals and medical stuff your entire working life, right? We’ll send you to the course to get licensed. Besides, God will help you.”
His last words sent a chill down my spine. He has no idea how my life has changed. Will God still help me? “I’ll come for the interview but no promises. It’ll be great to see you and Cathy again.”
Returning to my desk, I struggled to focus on the dictation my fingers banged out. The last time I’d been with Cathy and Doug, Jesus meant everything to me. Beads of sweat moistened my upper lip. Was this God’s answer? Hope filled my heart.
Three weeks later, with everything I owned packed into my car, I turned onto the Interstate. “Thank you, Father God!” I shouted. “I’m crossing over to Jordan and beginning again.”
For several decades, the silk roses stood as a beautiful reminder of the powerful love of two fathers.
A true story
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