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Short Story Number Two: "Is It Mine?"
A Few Words About This Story
I wrote this story for a class that I took with the hope of learning to be a better writer. The writing prompt was :"You are a soldier who has gone away from his station without permission or leave. You have found a cathedral, and you ask for sanctuary."
Writing prompts are such fun! I love creating them, and I love to use them as well.
Please read my story and comment on it. I would love to know how you would have handled this prompt. I also would love to know what you think of my surprise ending.
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Short Story Number Two: "Is It Mine?"
Six years in the U. S. Marine Corps can teach you many things, but it can’t always teach you to feel comfortable when you’re alone in the dark.
I ducked in here to hide from a couple of policemen that I saw in the street. I don’t know if they’re aware of my secret, but I feel like they were watching me. I can’t take any chances. I have to get home to Jessie. I have to find out if her baby is mine.
There is no light in here. I can’t see a thing. This room was created to promote introspection, and it works amazingly well. I am wrapped in total darkness. I am engulfed in the unburdening of a hundred years of sinners. In this dark room, all I can do is listen. I am listening for the footsteps outside of the door; I don’t hear anything.
There is a tremendous weight on my chest. It’s getting hard for me to breathe. At six foot five and 250 lbs., I am a very large man. I’ve never been comfortable in places so small that I can’t stretch my arms out to their full length. But I also don’t want to come out until I can be sure that I am alone.
I am flicking the trigger of my M-16. The feel of the cold steel is comforting. The click, click, click helps me focus. In spite of the darkness, I close my eyes. I have to control my thoughts. I have to control my breath. I need to decide what to do next.
I am thinking of Jessie. I remember the day we met. We were at a bar named Fat Jack’s. It was a Saturday night six years ago. I went there with some of the guys in my unit. We were about to leave for our first tour in Iraq, and we went out to have a few drinks, burn off some steam, and just generally say goodbye.
The music was loud, the beer was cold, and there at the bar stood Jessie. She was tall and thin. She had curves in all the right places. Her long black hair complemented ruby lips and violet eyes. She looked at me and smiled. Every part of me was instantly at attention.
I had to be smooth. I was leaving on Monday, and this might be my only chance to get to know her. I was still in uniform after the day’s exercises. I checked the safety on my gun, more out of habit than anything else. I took a few deep breaths and wandered over to the bar. As she turned toward me, she lifted the cherry that was in her drink, circled it with her lips and bit down.
I felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach. My knees went so weak I almost fell over. I walked up to her and looked deep in her eyes.
“Will you marry me?” I asked her.
Immediately, in my mind I was berating myself. But I couldn’t help it. I was in trouble.
I looked at her helplessly. Her eyes showed amusement. She smiled at me. She grabbed me by my tie and pulled me down to her height. In my ear she gently whispered the word, “Yes!”
I have been her slave ever since.
That night we made love in my car in the parking lot. We did it again on the porch in front of her house and one more time in her bed.
We couldn’t arrange a wedding before I left, but we kept the promises we made to each other. We remained faithful to each other and were married as soon as I got home. We got a place together and built our life around each other.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Three months, to the day, Jessie emailed me a copy of the ultrasonic picture of a baby boy. We were planning on having a family after this tour, but I didn’t know she might be pregnant when I left. She claims that she conceived the last time we made love. But how do I know? It has been six months since she told me and nine months since I’ve been home. How do I know that the baby is mine? If not, will I be able to love him?
I asked for leave so that I could be home when the baby is born. The answer was no. I am stationed in a war zone. There are a lot of men and women there who have similar problems. I only have three months left to my tour. They turned me down flat.
First chance I saw, I stowed away on a cargo plane that took me back to California. I managed to slip by the guardsmen that unloaded the equipment on board even though I was still in my uniform. I was looking for a change of clothes and a place to stow my guns when I ran into the cops. That’s how I got here.
And now, what am I going to do?
I open the door to the confessional and walk slowly into the body of the church. I am alone. It must be close to noon. The sun is high in the sky, and the stained glass windows are making strange shapes on the floor.
I notice the nativity scene. At once it comes to me. Mary was already pregnant when Joseph married her. Jesus was not his biological son, yet he raised him and loved him just the same. If Saint Joseph can do it, so can I. And there is still a chance that Jessie is telling the truth. Were it not for the timing, I wouldn’t feel that there was any reason for doubt.
What if he has her eyes? How could I not be a father to a beautiful baby boy that looked like her?
I feel relieved. I still love Jessie with all my heart. I will love her son. In this spiritual place, I feel my hope restored.
What I don’t realize is that in my haste I didn’t check the safety on my rifle. Suddenly I hear a loud bang. A sharp pain pierces the back of my head. I fall face down on the floor in front of the sanctuary. In my excitement, I squeezed the trigger too hard, and a bullet entered my skull just behind my left ear.
I can’t move. I am losing consciousness. In those last few seconds, I can see the tabernacle just above the altar, and I pray:
“Dear God, please send someone to help me. I have to get home to my son….”