For this week’s Christian Flash Weekly Challenge, we were given up to 1,000 words and the Scripture prompt below. You’ve just got to love the Book of Job… there is such reality, and such truth, to be found in it!
“How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove?”
A Father’s Truth
Carn’s fingers trembled as he pulled the small brown bottle from his tunic. It was time. Already the fragrant aroma of dandelion tea filled the small kitchen. Already his father could be heard walking down the beaten path, whistling to himself.
“Are you sure it will work?” Carn had asked an old peddler woman a few hours ago. She had given him a crooked smile, revealing brown and rotting teeth.
“Oh yes,” she had hissed, dark eyes gleaming. “No one can resist a Potion of Truth as powerful as this one, my child.”
He had paid the woman handsomely, causing her eyes to bulge. Now he held his breath as he dumped the entire bottle into his father’s steaming mug.
The door slammed open as his father barged inside. The tune he had been whistling died on his lips the moment he saw his son. He didn’t acknowledge Carn, but stomped around the small thatched hut, splashing water on his face and changing into a fresh shirt. Then, as he did every day, he sat by the fire and became lost in a reverie as he stared into the dying flames.
Carn grabbed a barrel of onions and a freshly sharpened knife. As he went to work, he glanced at his father’s back.
“I know why you love dandelion tea,” he said, his voice breaking the golden silence.
As always, his father sat in silence, refusing to answer.
“It’s because dandelions were Mother’s favorite flower, isn’t it?”
Without warning his father rigidly straightened his back, whirling around to face the dark-haired boy with the knife. A curious expression swept over his face, as if he could feel that something had changed – that something was not right. His mouth started to quiver, as if he was fighting desperately to keep it clamped shut. But in the end, it turned out the peddler woman had been right.
“Yes,” the older man croaked, eyes widening as he realized that by some sorcery, he had just been forced to speak against his will.
Carn wasn’t sure what he had expected, but the results of the potion caught him by surprise. He froze for a moment, afraid to breathe, then allowed a smile to creep across his lips.
“I’m going to ask you a few questions, father,” Carn said in a voice as cold as stone. “And this time, you will answer me.”
The man was trembling now, eyeing his son carefully as he took a cloth and began wiping the knife clean. Surely he noticed how sharp it had become.
“Did you love her more than me?” Carn paced towards his father. “Mother, I mean.”
The man caught his breath. “Yes.”
“And how about Abel? Did you love him more than me, too?”
His father’s hands were shaking so violently that the scalding tea splashed onto his wrists. He cursed, and set the mug onto the floor. “Y- yes.”
Carn narrowed his gaze, pressing the knife against his father’s throat. “Tell me why, Father. Why did you love them so much, and why do you hate me so?”
A tear slid down the older man’s sunburned cheek. “B- because…they would never have held a knife to anyone’s throat, demanding answers.”
The words burned deeply, and Carn nearly lost his grip on the knife. He stepped back, cringing. “I have done some terrible things,” he whispered. “Can you not see how you have driven me to them?”
His father leveled his gaze at his son. “My son, I have allowed grief and rage to consume my life, and I have treated you badly. But I have not forced you to commit any crime. Your choices have been your own.”
Tears welled in Carn’s eyes. He didn’t need a Truth Potion to feel the sharp honesty of these words. He slumped against the wall.
“Then it’s just as I feared,” he moaned. “Nobody cares for me, and I am utterly alone.”
His father’s fear had leveled out into a deep, simmering anger. The older man struggled to keep the words within him, but he couldn’t keep them from escaping.
“There is One Who loves you, my son,” the older man gasped. “God continues to love you, as much as it pains me to admit it.”
Carn stopped breathing. Was the potion wearing off so soon? “How dare you talk about God, after all you’ve done?”
The man closed his eyes and nodded. “But it is the truth. God is able to love the unlovable…He loves in a way I will never understand.”
If he ever found that peddler woman again, Carn was going to have words with her. “How could you possibly know that?” he asked, dejected.
“I just know it, deep within me,” his father explained. “And if you listen to your heart, you’ll realize that you know it, too.”
The dark-haired boy laughed. “But you have never professed love for God before. Why the sudden change of heart? Is it because death is staring you in the face that you now turn to cowardice?”
His father let out his breath slowly. The next few words seemed to surprise them both. “Oh, I’ve been a coward already, my son. I refused to accept God’s love, because I didn’t want to be forgiven. I didn’t feel that I deserved anything good. You and I… are more alike than either of us would ever want to admit.”
The knife slipped from Carn’s fingers, clattering to the floor. He had taken on this task looking for retribution, for revenge – but just like always, his father had found a way to ruin everything.
He grabbed his knapsack and turned to his father one last time. “You will never see me again. If anyone asks about me, I want you to tell them that you buried me. Because that, Father, is the truth.”
As he stepped into the sunlight, he heard his father’s voice. “Don’t run, Carn.”
But Carn refused to listen.
Like father, like son.