Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PRESENT (07/16/20)
- TITLE: Budapest Bagatelle
By Virgil Youngblood
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That mouse was a dreamer, mentally living in a land beyond the rainbow. I didn’t like the guy. I doubt he had any cronies.
First, a confession; Charlie’s not his real name. He wouldn’t want you to know his sorry past. Back in the day we lived in the same town, attended the same school, and passed frequently in each other’s shadow. But, guilt by association is still practiced by those with long memories quick to judge. I’ll never out him.
He left a scar in our little country town. Charlie was not a football player, or an athlete of any kind. He wasn’t in the band, or a member of any group, not even the stamp club. He was so quiet, so bland, that slumped on a back desk his muted “here” when teacher called roll was frequently missed and he was logged absent.
Charlie wasn’t illiterate. I now know he accepted the unspoken challenge accorded all bagatelles (I looked the word up) to become significant. But, without attracting attention to him, Charlie schemed to gain recognition.
Though I can’t be sure, the spontaneous combustion fire in the teacher’s lounge may have been his first venture on the dark side. He was absent that day. The firemen are still scratching their heads over that one.
The football team’s bus died on the road to a playoff game: sugar in the gas tank. Talk about stirring up a hornet’s nest of parents and fans! The Picayune sold out for weeks. I may have been the only one that didn’t think the rival team did it. Charlie exuded an inner-glow I hadn’t noticed before.
Shortly afterward, if I remember correctly, Charlie invited me to join the club he was forming. Why he thought I might escapes me. He was a loner. I thought it odd he was coming out of his shell.
Over the next two years leading up to graduation, many mysterious shenanigans occurred, some downright threatening to the community, like the sewer plant’s turbine blades shattering. Some were humorous, none were solved. The mayor and powers that be were catching flak bursts from irate citizens. Something had to give.
What gave was Charlie’s mother dying way too young with pneumonia, leaving him alone with no support other than her church family occasionally dropping off a meal. Charlie joined the Army and disappeared.
Though never attributed to him, the pranks stopped. I kept my lips zipped. I had no proof.
Years later, making hospital visits for my church we reconnected. He was floundering with a debilitating illness and had come home to die. Over a period of weeks, I learned that he had done remarkably well after his army days, having perfected a patent having something to do with satellite imagery. He had never married and he carried a heavy burden. He asked if I remembered the Budapest Bagatelle’s.
I shied away from that topic, daily steering our conversation back to the Lord and his magnificent love. Charlie, finally grasping faith to believe Jesus had paid his sin debt on the cross, was gloriously saved. Peace came flooding into his soul like the Jordan River on a rise after a summer cloud burst.
About a week later Charlie wanted to confess to me the atrocities he committed in our community and overseas. I told him the Lord had put his sins away as far as the east is from the west and forgotten them. Marveling at the grace of God, and that this is the day the Lord has made, some verses came to mind.
I suggested he claim Psalm 92: 13-15, believe it, and share God’s love with the next person that came through his door.
“Live for today, every day, old and bold with a smile, my friend.” Until he died weeks later, Charlie did.
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