At the end of Monday’s piece on The Prodigal Son, I said the story leaves us wanting more and ended with “…maybe that’s on purpose. Maybe it’s up to us to fill in those blanks and keep it alive. And, maybe I’ll do just that in a couple of days.” Well, it’s a couple of days later, so let’s see what I can do with this.
The party for the younger son (let’s call him Fred, I like that name) lasted almost a week and it was a doozy. But, like all parties, it came to an end and life settled back into its normal, everyday rhythms. And, Fred welcomed the comfort of that domestic mundanity…., at first. After a couple of months, though, he began to feel the old, familiar itch. At first, all it took was the memory of the hunger and humiliation he felt while working for that damn Gentile farmer to quell any desire to go back to his old life. But, as it always does, the memory of the bad times began to fade while that of the good times seemed to grow.
Things weren’t made any easier by his brother (Lloyd) who was a total shit about everything, as older brothers usually are. Oh, it was nothing overt; just Lloyd playing “the good son” and making sure the old man saw it. It didn’t help that Lloyd was a natural at this farming thing and Fred had a brown thumb. And, Lloyd’s easy competence made Fred’s ineptitude stand out in stark relief. The situation was slowly becoming unbearable.
One day, his father sent him to a nearby city with a load of produce from the farm. A deal had already been brokered with a trader and all Fred had to do was turn over the goods, pick up the cash and get home safe. Simple, easy and well within his capabilities. Or, so his father thought. Unfortunately, the old man didn’t realize this was the very same city where Fred had done his “riotous living”. Needless to say, it was a recipe for disaster.
Things were fine on the trip to town. In fact, Fred didn’t feel the itch all the way there. Even as he made his way past many of his old haunts, he didn’t really have the urge to stray. It wasn’t until the deal was done and he had his father’s money in hand that things went south.
It was a long trip and he didn’t get to town until the middle of the afternoon.The roads being what they were, traveling after dark was not a good idea. So, the plan was that he would spend the night in a local inn and head back first thing in the morning. After he’d found a room, he ran into a friend from his wild days and they began to reminisce. One thing led to another and the two went on a terrific bender; financed once again by Fred’s father.
When he woke up and realized what had happened, he thought, “Shit, I’ve done it again.” To ashamed to go home and let everyone know he’d lived up (down?) to their incredibly low expectations, he found a buyer for the pack animals, paid the innkeeper and went off in search of work. He thought it would be easier this time since he wasn’t in the middle of a famine, but he was wrong. He didn’t know many people in the area and the ones he did know either weren’t what you’d call business people or they remembered him as an abhorrent wastrel and wouldn’t have anything to do with him. It wasn’t long before his meager funds were gone and he was reduced to panhandling and sleeping wherever he could find a bit of shelter. It was bad, but at least he wasn’t feeding pigs.
One day, he was sitting in his preferred spot with his cup set out for alms. He was dirty, he smelled awful and he was still bloody from the beating he received a couple of days earlier when some youths robbed him. A familiar mantra ran through his head: “My life is shit and I deserve it. My father took me in after I disrespected him and wasted his money. He trusted me with the littlest bit of responsibility and what do I do? Fuck it up. Royally. There’s no way he’ll take me back again. I’m stuck in this mess and it’s all my fault.”
He was so busy beating himself up, he didn’t notice anyone was there until some coins rattled in his cup. He looked up to say thank you and saw his father standing there with tears running down his face. The old man didn’t say a word, he just reached down, gathered his son into his arms and embraced him. It caught Fred off guard and for a minute, he reveled in the love of his father. Then, he came to his senses and pulled away saying, “No, I don’t deserve this. I did it again, Dad.” His father shook his head and said “I don’t care about that. All that matters is that I found you and you’re safe. You’re coming home with us.” He looked over his father’s shoulder and saw his brother standing there, his face also wet with tears. Overwhelmed by the knowledge that they’d been looking for him all this time, he asked “But, I stole from you. How can you still love me?” His father smiled through his tears and replied “You are my child. How can I not love you?”