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Short Story: The Faithful Student
This Excerpt is from the book Short Stories by L.R. Drake and reprinted with permission from the author. Copyright (c) 2010 by L.R. Drake
“Without God, we would not have our morals. Do you have morals?” I pointed at Samuel.
“Yes, of course,” was the obvious answer.
“And we can only have moral guidance from God, as our inferior human brains cannot conceive such a divine matter,” I paused, “therefore, God exists.”
“But humans can and so have a moral compass, regardless if they have any idea of God or any god.”
“And who is to say what is morally good and morally bad?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Well, um … it comes from our parents in everything they teach us. That’s where I get mine.”
“And where did your parents get theirs?”
“From their parents,” answered Samuel, irritation filling his voice. It was difficult to keep emotion separate from beliefs.
“And theirs from theirs and so on. But where did they all come from? From God, that’s where. The human mind can understand morality, and that causes great effort from some. Indeed, we witness many examples of humans not being able to understand or follow laws of morality. To create and design morality would be a feat far out of the reach of human capacity.”
Samuel’s face reddened and his cheeks puffed with his breathing. I could see the hatred and defeat glaring at me from behind his brown eyes.
Applause roared from the observers in the auditorium. They cheered as if they had won the debate; the intensity of their clapping matched their intensity of their faith in God. I was simply a vehicle carrying the message that so important to them.
There was no announced winner at the end of our debates. It was usually understood that whoever had the last word with no rebuttal was the winner. It was a private club’s debate that was allowed to take place at the public university’s auditorium when it was unoccupied. I had worked so hard on research and preparing for this particular debate with such high stakes that I was exhausted.
“You were amazing!” Mary pounced on me while I was leaving the stage. This was just salt to Samuel’s wound, I could tell. A beautiful girl like Mary being with me was enough to make any man jealous.
“Thanks. Hey, I’m a little tired and hungry, I’m just going to go home—”
“Let’s go get something to eat! I’m hungry too,” Mary smiled, glowing with the pride that her man won such an important debate.
We walked holding hands to the nearest place we could eat. I was starving and judging by the speed she ate at, so was she.
“I can’t wait to tell my dad, he’s going to be so proud!”
“Glad I can make Father Frank proud,” I said with a smirk. I didn’t really care what he thought of me. I had his daughter and that was good enough for me.
“It’s amazing that humans would be so lost without God, don’t you think?” Mary eagerly posed.
I quickly finished my food with renewed hurry after hearing her ask that question. “Yeah,” I said with a full mouth, nodding to compensate for my brevity. Swallowing my food, I added, “Look, I’m really tired and just want to go home. I’ll call you later, OK?”
She smiled in kind understanding. “OK,” she said as she kissed me on the cheek, letting me know it really was OK, “but you have to come with me to bible study after school tomorrow. I’d love to share your victory with the other believers.”
I smiled and nodded then hugged her tightly, breathing in her sweet scent. It wasn’t her perfume, but her skin. It could drive any young man wild—especially me.
At home, I came home and expected more congratulating for the victory but it was completely empty. Both my mother and father were gone, and I figured they must have gone out together.
I ate whatever I could find, some bread and peanut butter along with water for drinking. I rinsed my face because all the adrenaline and sweat really had an effect on my expression. It seemed tired and dragging, almost aged. After washing, it felt tight and young again.
I lay in my bed for a few minutes and wanted to fall asleep right away but couldn’t. It was ironic; my body was begging for merciful rest, but my mind was determined to think. I laid there for what felt like an eternity, keeping my eyes closed so as to trick myself into letting me sleep.
Finally, I got up and sat at my desk. I looked at all my books on the shelf—what fantastic adventures and discoveries I had in them. I was a pirate, a noble knight in the crusades, even a witness to the creation of a monster using parts of corpses. My mind was more energized after thinking about all my books.
I pulled my journal from underneath my desk; I kept it hidden lest my parents would find it and really know me. I opened it to my last entry—a short description of a fight between Mary and myself.
I can’t stand this anymore! I want to show my love for her in a different way, but she never even listens to me! All because her father is a damn priest—like he never had the urge to do this. Hell! I’m sure he did and that’s why I have Mary. Sometimes she is too “good” to be true and that’s not a compliment. I wish I could make her see that it’s not a bad thing—we are made to want to. It’s in our blood as humans. But she could never understand, I know she can’t.
Re-reading this, I got that emotion of frustration back in my throat. I felt angry at the situation—at Mary. We had “made up” since then but I still felt the same way, just hiding it better. I am a man, I thought to myself. I shouldn’t feel bad, it’s natural.
I sat there motionless as my mind was speeding. I was truly grateful that I had my journal to write into—I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this. I can just imagine how my parents would handle it. They see me as a son, not a person, or even a man—just their son.
The pages of the book felt so welcoming to my fingers; caressing them between my thumb and finger I felt how impressive the quality of the paper was. Only the finest ink would touch this paper, I thought to myself when I bought that journal. Many times since then, I had settled for some of the poorer inks in the urgency to write was I was feeling.
I found the first empty page available in my journal and let my heart and pen do the rest.
Today was a good day. I single-handedly defeated Samuel’s team (but actually just Samuel) in a debate on the existence of God. It was a savory victory. But I can’t keep it in me anymore. I want impure things from this world, from Mary. I have enemies that I would kill if they ever forced me to. I cannot fully believe this lie, anymore than a snake can refrain from biting when provoked. I am full of anguish and deceit, which only fuels my opposition to my “belief”. I cannot imagine the consequences of announcing my lack of faith in something that I fought so hard to prove. Mary is wonderful, though not as clever as I, and I care for her. The priest would never let us be together if he knew what I knew. I can’t tell anyone! My parents could never understand and if they could, they would never try. I am alone in this conviction. What irony! Something I defended so fiercely today, with the ardor of a true clergyman, is something I myself cannot convince myself to believe. Man is a walking contradiction, and I am but a man.
I didn’t have anything more to say. My hands seemed to scream the words onto the paper; the paper, being as good a friend as any, calmly listened to it. I closed the book and caressed it while I ran my eyes over it. That book held my single, deepest and darkest secrets. No human soul could ever come close to what that book meant to me. It fit so well inside my other books, ensuring that no one would ever see it, much less see what was in it.
I was still angry, although writing it down did help me. I rubbed my face and felt my eyes getting heavier—funny I didn’t feel tired while writing only moments ago.
As I lay down, I thought about Mary and her being so proud of me when I “won” the debate. She was such a good person; if only she knew.
“Hey!” Mary stopped me on my way to class. She looked as beautiful as she ever had. I wanted her.
“Hey, Mary, I missed you.” I really had and had even been considering showing her my journal as a symbol of my trust. She would feel so special and it would’ve made me feel happy having someone to confide in finally. I reached into my bag and felt the binding of the journal on my fingertips. I pulled it out and casually held it between my hip and hand, along with other papers so as not to draw attention to it. That second, I swiftly put it over my right shoulder and let it slide down my neck toward my opened bag. I could have made the mistake of actually showing her! I was caught up in the moment with Mary and almost forgot that she was an individual person too. She couldn’t understand—she wouldn’t want to understand.
“I told my dad about your victory yesterday and he said he knew he could expect great things from you,” Mary shared with me.
“Really? That’s nice,” I had to try very hard to hide my disgust both from myself and from her comment.
We kissed goodbye and went our separate ways. The day wore on and took its toll on my energy. Debating was an extra activity that I didn’t need but nonetheless enjoyed doing.
It suddenly dawned on me that after debate I had told Mary that I would join her bible study as a guest of honor. She probably wants me to come regularly with her, as if my victory would be a credit to the group. I would do it for her.
Debate was simple; probably the instructor’s decision to keep it light on account of the utter massacre that had occurred there the day before. Samuel was sitting in his seat, perfectly erect and taking notes. His fingers were busy at work with scribbling something down on his paper. Both he and I were taking it easy and I assumed that there was no animosity towards one another.
As the other members shared their thoughts on the topic at hand—democracy and its place in the world—Samuel and I exchanged mixed stares. I didn’t hold him in any less respect than I did before that debate session. Should I tell him that? I wondered. But if I do and he hadn’t thought about it then I would sound like a pompous fool. I was worrying myself over something that wasn’t of any significant importance and finally decided to read over some of my journal writings to see what else I had written about.
I reached into my bag but didn’t feel any spiraled binding. I felt around more with my hand and became increasingly more frantic in my search for it. Samuel and I continued to share glances, but his remained calm and collected as mine gradually elevated from worry to panic. Seeing this, Samuel almost started to smile, not moving his eyes an inch away from mine. It was as if he were trying to tell me something with his eyes.
I finally bent down and began emptying out my bag; books, pencils, papers, sketchpads, pens—no journal! I was sure this time. I tried to appear calm as I moved all the bag’s contents from one side of the table to another, looking for it. A casual glance at Samuel on occasion reassured me that he had not lost interest in my predicament. Where the hell was it?!
I left debate a few minutes early and backtracked all the places I had been before: the restroom, the library, and the cafeteria. No success. I quickly glanced at the clock on the wall as I ran down the stairs. “Mary’s bible study!” I told myself, relieved that I remembered.
Running down the hall and into the last room on the left, I saw Mary smile when she saw that I didn’t forget.
“What’s the matter?” She asked, able to read the look of panic on my face.
“Uh, uh … I lost something very important,” I stammered as I began to empty my bag for the second time. As I was desperately looking for my journal, I noticed Samuel was in the bible study group as well. I didn’t pay much attention to him; having my secret beliefs known was my first priority.
It was at this time that Samuel stood up, without disconnecting eyes, and proceeded to seek revenge for the battle won. He was now claiming the next battle.
“Friends, I would like to say that my fair and intelligent adversary from yesterday’s debate has something else he would like to share. Don’t you, John?” He looked over at me with a cocky look, his lips curling into a twisted smile of revenge.
I felt my heart stop. Could it be? My Journal!
Samuel had been taking notes on my journal all along! He was probably preparing his verbal artillery to destroy my credibility as the champion of debate.
“I will now read an excerpt from John Jesson’s own personal journal: ‘I cannot hide it any longer, I am not as faithful to God or to any person as I seem. I cannot convince myself to believe the lie that my family, Mary, and countless people all over the world hold so close to their hearts—I do not and cannot believe in God. God may punish me for not believing in him, but I am willing to take that chance. How can I fear what is not … real?’”
I could feel their eyes burning me, exiling me before I had formally joined their group! Mary stood up and looked at me like she expected me to deny it. I couldn’t—not anymore. Mary gathered her things and left swiftly through the door, down the hallway, and out of the school. I could hear the door swing to its soft close since there was no one around but us.
“Is it true?” asked a small, skinny fellow in the bible group.
I couldn’t answer—at least not something they were ready to hear. My eyes stayed fixed on the floor.
“You renewed my faith in the Lord, John … and now I find that it was just a sham!” His glasses amplified the sorrow and guilt he felt as they began to water.
My eyes kept steady as he stormed out, following Mary. How many more people could I let down?
Samuel didn’t say anything—he didn’t have to say anything. His goal had been accomplished. His twisted smile seemed to offer a sincere consolation for a second, but then showed to be nothing but a boast.
My legs wouldn’t move me, and I prolonged moving as much as I could. I knew what was waiting for me. ‘You embarrass this family like that and show no remorse? We raised you better than that!’ Anything and everything would be said to me when I got home.
A scratch sheet of paper stared at me from the table where Samuel devised his destructive plan. It was remarkably white! I thought for a second then reached for it, I couldn’t help it. I pulled out my pen …
This Excerpt is from the book Short Stories by L.R. Drake and reprinted with permission from the author. Copyright (c) 2010 by L.R. Drake Here is the link for the book http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/20587