This is part three of six from my short story Never An Absolution. In the last two sections, John Hudson found himself homeless, but finally decided to take an offer from an acquaintance to stay with them. However that offer had a catch- John would have to attend church with them on Sunday. Now that dreaded day for John has come… and with unexpected surprises.
Sunday came too quickly for John. He somehow found himself gracing a church for the first time in literal years. He’d not gone to church since he was a small boy; after his mother’s death, he nor his father ever went to one.
But just because he happened to be taking up pew space didn’t mean he listened. In fact, he made certain to do anything but listen. He played with a pencil, then his shoelaces, and finally his keen eyes caught sight of the loose hair ties of the two girls sitting in front of him, and he mischievously tied them together, so that when they’d get up, the girls would be sure to pull their hair and create a scene. Luckily for them, Duncan caught John at this cruel scheme, and put a stop to it.
Just as the service finished, John, who was eager to leave, jumped up. However, as he did so, he caught the eyes of two people, a father and daughter.
“That’s Sarah Standish,” Duncan whispered to him, “And her father, Donald.”
Donald Standish! Instantly, John recalled the name his father had told him, and anger rose in him, as he thought about what that man had done to his family and himself. He wouldn’t be surprised if that man was behind his father losing the farm!
Duncan motioned to them, and they came over to them.
“Hello, Mr. Standish! How are you?” Duncan held out his hand, and the man shook it heartily.
“I am well Duncan, and yourself?” He answered back quietly and couldn’t help but glance behind Duncan at John.
“Faring well myself, Sir.” Duncan smiled. “I see the Missus and the other children aren’t here. Is everything all right with them?”
“Oh yes; Mary’s mother was needing help over the weekend, so they are there, aiding her.”
“Oh, I see.” Duncan replied, then greeted Sarah, and went onto some other topic.
John himself wondered if Mr. Standish knew who he was, as he seemed to be studying him quite a bit, as if trying to place where he’d seen him before. He pursed his lips and tilted his head higher, purposing not to speak to or even look at him.
But then, Duncan turned to John. “Oh, and yes, John, this is Miss Sarah Standish, and her father, Mr. Donald. He’s an elder in our church. Mr. Standish, Sarah, this is-”
“John Hudson, is it not?” Mr. Standish interrupted quietly, finally placing him. “You look like your father.”
“I act like him too!” John snapped back a quick reply. So this God which the Flilips served even forgave murderers and drunks! Well, he wanted none of it. He would never forgive and never forget! There was never an absolution with him.
His sharp response took aback everyone but Mr. Standish. He remembered how hostile the Hudsons had been towards him after he’d hit young Harley. He still could, in fuzzy recollection, recall that day when he’d gotten drunk and had run into the boy. He had been so remorseful, and so angry with himself, that he’d tried to kill himself when he had heard the boy was dead. But a kind lady stopped him, and brought him to a street meeting, where he had heard about the One who forgives all sins, and who laid down His life for sinners. He had tearfully repented and cried out to God to forgive him and take him as His own. And He had. After serving some years in prison, Donald was freed, eventually married the lady who had brought him to Christ, and together they had five children, Sarah being the eldest.
“John,” Duncan spoke quietly, a bit embarrassed at his conduct. “We’ll talk when we get home.”
It seemed like forever to him to be able to break free from the congregation and crowds, but the moment he got that chance, John Hudson was out of the church building, swiftly walking away. He had decided what he would do. Nothing was worth living for now anyway. Duncan’s family would probably kick him out for how he’d acted, and he couldn’t bear living out on the streets again. He knew that if he walked a little ways down the road, he would eventually meet up with a bridge, and thus be able to end his miserable young life.
“John! John Hudson!” John heard the despicable voice of Donald Standish behind him and kept swiftly striding away, keeping his head disdainfully high. He would not, he swore, ever speak with that murderer again.
“John!” Duncan called after him in astonishment. He was really only an acquaintance with John Hudson, yet in all the days they’d spent together, John had never treated someone in such a disgraceful manner.
“I am not talking to him!” John yelled, breaking into a run to get away. “I’m going to end this all now!”
“No, John!” Duncan gave a shout, suddenly realizing what John meant by ‘going to end this’, and charged after him. “You can’t!”
John stopped, panting, after about thirty yards, and he swiftly turned around and threw down his hands. “Says who?! I can’t go living out on the streets again, and I won’t forgive that murderer! Your parents won’t like my influence in the house, especially with the younger kids, and they’ll kick me out. Why wait until then?!”
Duncan panted as well, as he trotted up. “Give me a week, John! Please! I’m sure Mother and Father will let you stay, at least until then! I promise!”
John crossed his arms as he looked at Duncan’s frantic face. “Fine. Till next Sunday,and then I shall do my duty.” He answered coldly.
“Your duty?!” Duncan wanted to cry out, but instead he wisely held his tongue. “Yes, John.”
“I will go back to your place now; I can’t stand it here any longer.” John then took off running the other way, towards the street the Flilips lived on.
Duncan trotted back to the group of people outside the church who had seen the scene. He then explained the situation to his family and the Standishes’, and finally said, “I will need help to stop him. I’ll need Miss Spencer to help, and then Mr. Hargrove, and finally little Charlie.”
“Little Charlie Milker, who lost his parents in that fire set by the Hollis boy?” Sarah Standish asked curiously, wondering what on earth Duncan could be up to.
“Yes.” Was all he said, a thoughtful look on his face.
“Whatever for?” She asked in surprise.
“John’s about to get a piece of what ‘there’s never an absolution’ can really do.”