This is part two of six from an older short story of mine. In the first installment, John Hudson was told by his father that he is to never forget, and never forgive what people do to him; there is never an absolution. Now in part two he is confronted with a bit of the Gospel, and must deal with his conscience.
Days later, Friday had come, and John lost the farm. But he lost not only the farm; he lost his father as well. Losing the farm had come hard for Mr. Hudson, and he could not accept the fact that he had lost everything. Everything. Everything he’d ever worked for- everything he’d ever dreamed of! And thus, George Hudson had died of a massive heart attack- not only from shock but also from years and years of unforgiving and bitterness.
So now young Hudson was alone, with nowhere to go, and nobody to go to. His own pride kept him from accepting the offers of many kind friends, but as the days wore on, he started to regret his choices. He was rather hungry, and after sleeping outside for a few days, he could feel it was taking a toll on him.
As a last resort, the want for food forced John to go to the nearby church soup kitchen, which was giving out food that night. But when he reached it, his pride flared up again. He couldn’t enter the line. He’d never stoop so low as to take charity.
He turned right around and went the way he came, back through the woods. Angrily, he decided to do something much lower than even going to the soup kitchen, though at the time it didn’t seem so low. He would steal food. At least then he could provide for himself.
As he walked along on the dark woodland path, kicking rocks and creating a plan on how he would steal the food, he bumped into someone rather hard, and with a surprised shout, went sprawling onto the ground.
“Oh! Oh I’m sorry!” Came the cry from the other person, as he lit a lamp, and quickly went over to John and held out his hand to help him up.
John looked up to see an old acquaintance of his, Duncan Flilips. “Duncan?”
“John Hudson! Dear me, I didn’t recognize you for a moment!” The young man exclaimed cheerily, then furrowed his brows. “What are you doing out here?”
John narrowed his eyes. “I could ask you the same.”
Duncan laughed. “I’m looking for a marble my little brother dropped out here earlier today, but I reckon it’s gotten too late to find it now. Poor kid’s real distressed over it though. Guess I must look tomorrow.”
John gave a little smirk. “And why didn’t you have your lantern lit?”
“Oh! I did! But for some reason or another it went out just as I was rounding this corner, so I stopped to pull another match out and re-light it, when… well, you know how we collided.” Duncan ran his hands through his hair with a sheepish laugh. “Now tell me what on earth you’re doing out this late, and without a light at all!”
John shrugged. “I dunno, really. I guess just hangin’ out.”
Duncan looked skeptical. “Just hanging out, huh? Isn’t your father worried about you?”
John sighed and crossed his arms as he adverted his gaze. “Father died a few days ago.”
Duncan’s eyes widened. “Oh! I’m so sorry!”
“Don’t be.” John snapped back angrily. He needed no one’s pity, and he certainly didn’t want it. Then he sighed again, seeing his friend’s hurt expression. “I didn’t mean it that way. I’m—” he was about to say he was sorry, but he remembered what his father had said. ‘A Hudson never forgives and never forgets! There’s never an absolution!’. “Never mind.” He suddenly spoke.
Duncan sighed as well. “Don’t you think you should head on home though? Don’t you have work at the farm in the morning?”
John’s face remained in a firm frown. “No. They evicted us before Father died.”
“Oh!” Duncan’s eyes widened as he realized exactly why John was out. “Where are you going to stay then? You can’t sleep out here… can you?”
“I do sleep out here.” Was John’s curt answer.
John replied in a caustic tone. “I’ve been eating a steak dinner every night, a feast of pancakes in the morning, and a whole variety of foods for lunch!”
Duncan sighed, sensing the sarcasm. “John… why don’t you stay with a friend or something? Haven’t any of them offered you a place to stay?”
“Yes.” John answered with an empty tone.
“But why haven’t you taken their offers?” Duncan exclaimed in surprise. “You’d rather stay on the streets?! Really?”
John stiffened. “Look here, Duncan. I don’t take charity. Plus, almost all of them have wronged me!” John spoke passionately. “And a Hudson never forgives and never forgets! There’s never an absolution!”
Duncan sighed. “Well, won’t you come with me? I’m certain my parents will take you in, until you’re back on your own two feet! And we haven’t wronged you have we?”
“No… but I don’t take charity.” John answered stubbornly back.
“It’s not charity. It’s doing us a favor.”
“What?” John raised his brows, confused.
Duncan shrugged. “Well, it’s giving us a chance to help someone, like Jesus said to do.”
“Jesus? Isn’t He the Man who said people have to forgive others?” John narrowed his eyes.
“Then I don’t wanna hear about Him. We Hudsons don’t forgive. Ever.” John scowled.
Duncan exhaled. “Well, then—” A sound of distant thunder interrupted him, and he glanced at John. “Looks like a storm is coming. You shouldn’t be out in it.”
John sighed, as he glanced at the sky. “All right, I’ll go to your place… but you gotta let me pay you back sometime.”
“All right,” Duncan shrugged. “I’m sure that’ll be fine. There is one catch, though.” Duncan looked slightly worried.
John rolled his eyes. “Typical. What is it?”
“Everyone who stays at our place abides by our rules. One of them is that everyone goes to church on Sunday. Got that?”
John gave an annoyed sigh. “Yeah, I guess I’ll go, but I shan’t conform to your religion.”
As the two walked along the path Duncan gave a small laugh.
“What?” John turned to face him defensively.
“I was just thinking- you say you never forgive, and never forget, right?”
John nodded. “And there’s never an absolution.”
“You know, you’re right. There is never an absolution. Not for the one you refuse to forgive, but for yourself.”
John jerked his head to face Duncan with surprise and anger in his eyes. “What on earth do you mean?”
“By never forgiving, you carry your bitterness around like a bag of rocks! It weighs you down, and you won’t be released from it until you forgive! So yes, you are right! There is never an absolution for one who does not forgive.”
John gave a haughty ‘humph!’ and kept on walking, but throughout the night, those words echoed through his head.
When they arrived at the Flilips household, Mr and Mrs. Flilips were more than glad to open their home up to John, and thus for the time being, he had a roof over his head, and food in front of him.