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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I'm so hungry! he thought to himself.

He had lost his job; he had lost his friends; he had lost the respect of his family, and, now, they were making him fast.

“Should I sneak out? No. Bad idea. I could tell them the truth. No. I'm going out to look for a job again. Yeah.”

They had him looking for work every day since he had lost his job. Every day, walking in the hot sun. That burning yellow orb, in the painfully-bright, blue sky, that fell through the atmosphere like the world's largest laser. It was endless, burning down through the hot, humid air to the harsh, white sidewalks, making them seethe with heat and light. Down this hard, hot concrete he traversed; he could feel it hitting his foot with every step, the shock going up to his knees rhythmically. He went down to the mall, or the grocery store, or the bank, filling out applications, talking to managers. There was no rest, not for a second, all day long; it was endless.

“Hey, I'm going to the mall again to look for more jobs.” He was going to the mall, but he wasn't looking for work that day.

“Well, that's good,” his mom said. “Did you read your Bible and do your prayers”


His mother wore pajamas and curlers. The look on her face was that of perpetual fear, and her poor eyes looked dim enough to be Leah's.

“I'm glad you're finally taking some initiative and looking for work. If you're not going to be praying you need to look for a job; your situation will never change if you aren't diligent. You have to keep knocking down those doors until you get a job. You have to keep in prayer. And you have to repent, or things will never get better. 'Seek and ye shall find.'”
How long is she going to take? “Yup,” he said.

He was Ben. Ben lived with his parents, and, although he was twenty-two years old, they treated him like he was two. Ben was tall and lean. His hair was slicked back with too much gel, which, along with his chiseled features, and the extreme gauntness of his clean-shaven face, gave him an eroded look. Ben's crisp, brown eyes looked hollow, recessed deep into his head; when one looked into them, it was like looking straight through to the other side. His bony hands were pale and ugly (perhaps from wringing them in prayer). His wrinkly, red shirt always looked like he had slept in it. His blue jeans were the only thing that made him look normal. Overall, Ben looked like a skin-covered skeleton, except without so much fat, like an unused raincoat hanging on an otherwise empty coat rack.

When Ben got to the mall, his girlfriend, Anne, and her father, Ray, were there. Anne was short, “petite” they say. Her hair fell down her shoulders like a waterfall, cascading down in locks of bronze. Her green eyes looked so bright that they might have belonged to Rachel. Though her clothes were plain, her rosy cheeks held between them a wide smile that seemed never to diminish as she spoke.

“Hello, Ben.”

“Hello,”replied Ben. “And hello, Mr. Hope”

Ray's smile was as wide as Anne's, but it fit better on his large frame. His brown hair was just down past his ears on the sides and was balding in front.

“Let's get something to eat,” said Anne.

I'm supposed to be fasting. “OK,” said Ben.

Ben and Anne held hands as they walked through the mall, which was to help hold up the listing Ben as much as anything else; her soft skin made him feel warm. As they walked through the food court, the smells of the restaurants hit Ben's nose like a slamming door and went straight to his stomach. Beef, chicken, bread, pasta, grease, seasonings, spices, cheese, vegetables, all the smells hit him at once; he staggered under the strain.

“What do y'all want to get?” asked Ray.

“I dunno; what do you want Ben?” asked Anne.

“I don't think I'll have anything right now,” Ben said.

“But you look so hungry,” said Anne. “Are you still fasting?”

“Uh...yeah,” he replied.

“It's been a week now; shouldn't you eat something?” asked Anne.

“Actually, it's been two weeks, but I'm fine.”

“Did your parents compel you to do this?” asked Anne.

“I'm doing this of my own volition.”

“Did your parents come up with the idea?” asked Ray.

“They did think it would be a good idea,” replied Ben.

“Well, I won't tell you what to do, but you do look like you need to eat,” said Ray.

“You're going to eat,” said Anne firmly.

I guess Mom and Dad won't know. “OK.”
They went up to the counter and ordered their food from the young men and women in crisp, maroon uniforms and sat down. Unfortunately, the only table available was the short one by the mall play area. Ben's tall, gaunt body looked particularly odd at the small table, as did Ray's large, football-player build, but Anne looked not quite as far out of place.

“How's your chicken?” asked Ray.

“Good,” said Ben.

“Don't eat too quickly,” said Anne.
Just then, Ben threw up on the table. His vomit tasted sour in his mouth, the flavor lingering for several minutes. It smelled foul and looked worse.

“Oh! I told you to be careful,” said Anne.

“Guess I deserve that for lying; God sure is having fun with me,” Ben said under his breath.

“Are you OK?” asked Ray.

“I'm fine.”

“You're not fine!” said Anne. “Your parents are making you starve yourself. You're acting crazy! I'm afraid you're going to kill yourself.”

“I'm not going to kill myself; I'll be fine if God doesn't kill me.” Ben's face looked weak even though he affected an expression of calming strength. He touched Anne's seemingly fat hands with his cold ones.

“Well, when are you going to stop fasting?” asked Anne.

“Maybe when I get a job.”

“What if that doesn't happen?” asked Anne.

“I can go a long while, a month or more. We'll see.”
Anne was clutching Ben's bony hand like a roller coaster handle. Then Ray interjected, “Do you think God wants you to starve yourself?”

“I'm just trying to find God's will for my life; I need to get serious.”

“Do you think you have to fast to get a job?” Ray asked.

“It's more than that; I have a lot of problems. I've been really stupid, and I need to get back on track with God. I'm trying to repent, but I haven't heard from Him yet. I need direction!” Ben was shivering from cold and hunger and fear and passion.

“Last I heard, all you have to do is turn back to Him, and He'll forgive you, no strings attached,” said Ray.

“We love you,” said Anne as she looked into Ben's eyes. It seemed as if she would give him the warm glimmer in her eyes to fill his hollow sockets.

“Why are you so nice to me?” said Ben as tears welled up in his eyes.

“The God I worship is loving,” said Ray.

“I know, but I need answers,” said Ben looking up at Ray.

“What more do you need?”

One of the mall janitors, a small, happy-looking woman, came to clean the table. There was silence for a few seconds as she cleaned the table.
Then, Ben's phone rang, and he jolted. Shit! “It's my mom,” he said picking up the phone. “Hello?”

“Where are you?” The muffled voice could be heard around the table.

“Chick-fil-A.” He paused. “I'm filling out an application.”

“Make sure you're home by a decent hour; I don't want you out late.”

“Yes ma'am.” The sick look was returning to Ben's face.

“I'm glad you're looking for work, but don't forget to come home and do your prayers. Are you still fasting?”

“Yes ma'am.” Ben was looking progressively sicker.

“You need to get serious if you want results. God won't forgive you until you change your heart.”

“I have.” The expression on Ben's face was that of a guilty little boy.

“Oh? What did He tell you?”

“About what?” He looked vexed.

“About your situation!” came the distorted answer.

“I mean, uh, I know I'm supposed to look for work.” Ben looked as if he would drop the phone right there from sheer exhaustion.

“Is that all?”

“No; I don't know.” Ben looked confused.

“When you get some real answers to your problems, then I'll believe you've changed.” Her words persuaded Ben like sly Laban. “You need to get on your knees, young man. Well, I'll see you when you get home. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Ben looked like he might throw up again and was almost crying.

“How's your mom?” asked Ray.

“OK,” said Ben, closing the phone.

“That's good; how are you?” asked Anne.

“I'm so sorry,” Ben said as he put his head on the table.

“Look, we all make mistakes, and we all have bad circumstances come up in our lives, but you just have to keep getting up.” said Ray.

“We still love you,” said Anne. Her wide smile was as big as ever.

“God loves you, too,” said Ray, “anyone who treats you otherwise is...a damned fool! You're not the problem, and starving isn't the solution.”

“You have to learn to accept yourself,” said Anne, tears welling up in her eyes.

“I'm tired of my mom treating me like this!” Ben looked as upset as Jacob the morning after his wedding.

“I'm sure she loves you and just wants what's best for you,” said Ray, his smile almost as big as Anne's.

“But why does she do this to me?” Ben asked in an anguished tone.

“You have to let go,” said Ray, touching Ben's cold hand.

With a reassuring smile, Anne finally looked into Ben's eyes and said, “'God isn't angry with you; you are angry with God'”

“Are you going to eat those fries?” asked Ben.

Copyright © 2011 David S. Robinson. Any part of this work may be transmitted, preformed or otherwise used in any form, so long as 1) I am clearly identified as the author, 2) a link or URL to this site is included, and 3) no changes are made without my prior written consent.

p.s. Feel free to comment on anything you liked or didn't like. :)

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