Son of God
Yawning, Pete tottered into the kitchen, to see Stella, his wife, busily packing his lunch. They’d agreed when they married that she’d finish her employment in a job she didn’t enjoy to concentrate on sorting out the house and getting her arty crafty hobby up and running -
“Morning, bright eyes,” she greeted him sarcastically.
“Hello,” he grunted.
“I was just going to come and wake you up with a nice cup of Alka Seltza.”
“You won, then?”
“The clothes strewn across the floor had a celebratory air of abandon about them, I thought.”
“Hope I didn’t disturb you,” he muttered, sitting at the table for breakfast.
She put the toast rack on the table, containing the perfectly toasted bread from their expensive new toaster. “Oh no! I’m used to things going bump in the night after darts matches. It’s a pity Barry fell over the dustbin, though!”
“Silly idiot! I told him to watch out.”
“Might have been better to have told him before he did it!”
“Ah well! As long as we didn’t wake you,” Pete replied absentmindedly as he disappeared behind his morning newspaper.
Closing Pete’s lunch box after inserting the sandwiches she’d just finished, Stella said, “Look; I’ve done you tuna and mayonnaise today.”
Pete, engrossed in his paper, emitted something between a groan and a grunt.
“Is that ok? And do you want an apple to take?”
“No thanks – too noisy!”
“You did have a good time, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, it was great! Bit of a shambles at first, though. Their board fell off the wall and we had to wait while they fixed it with string.”
“The best part was when their first man on – you know, Bill -
“Did it break?”
“Yes, but only as he was pulling the dart out. It snapped clean in two and the board fell right on his foot.”
“Star player, was he?”
“They had to take him to hospital,” Pete chuckled, “they sent a text later – turned out he’d broken his little toe!”
“Oh! Poor bloke! What about the match?”
Well, that leg had to be abandoned…”
“Which one – his right, or his left?”
“No… you are on form this morning, aren’t you? Very perky! I was referring to the match, actually. But it meant there was an even number of games and by the end the scores were equal, so I had to play the decider with their captain.” Pete paused dramatically.
“Well, go on. Who won?”
It was a close one, but I beat him in the end, of course.”
“Oh, of course! Who was their captain?”
Since Bristow had been professional world champion five times, for a moment Stella was thunderstruck. Then disbelief spread over her face.
“Well, we can all dream, can’t we?” Pete grinned.
“You haven’t eaten anything,” Stella observed, looking at the unused cereal bowl and now cold toast.
“I think I’ll wait until my stomach’s finished the assault course. Just coffee’s fine.” He disappeared behind the newspaper again.
“I had a good evening too,” Stella said. “I went out.”
“Actually, I took up Jane’s invitation to go to that thing at Christchurch.”
“Really?” Pete became absorbed in the sport’s page, wondering how close his local team, Bournemouth, were getting to promotion – chance would be a fine thing, but you can always hope!
“Well, Jane had been on at me for some time to go and see what it was like, so I thought last night was as good a time as any… it wasn’t at all how I expected… not a normal service like you see on telly.”
“To be honest, I thought I’d be bored; but she’s been a good friend to us so I thought I should go along.” Silence from Pete, so she ploughed on. “Actually, I wasn’t bored at all. Quite the opposite: I really enjoyed it… well more than that… are you listening, Pete?” raising her voice slightly.
“What?” coming briefly from behind his paper and then going straight back to it.
“I said, would you prefer salt in your coffee this morning?”
“Oh, er… two please.”
“Pete!” she yelled. “I’m trying to tell you something.”
“O.K.,” he said, putting the paper down. “What have I done?”
“You’ve not done anything!”
“Right; well let me read my paper in peace, then,” starting to pick up the paper again.
“It’s what I’ve done… but it’s difficult to put into words… I’ve… become… a Christian.”
In the long pause, Pete slowly lowered his paper to the table. “Become a Christian? You always were one weren’t you?”
“Well, I thought so too, until last night.”
“I mean, aren’t we all? We live in a Christian country, don’t we? I mean, I’m not exactly a heathen, am I?”
“For the first time it started to mean something to me. I believed it! The difference is, it’s become personal. I asked God to make Himself real to me, and He has. I’m different, Pete. I want Him to run my life now. He’s changed me!”
“Well, you look the same to me; and that’s pretty good from where I’m sitting, so come here and give us a kiss,” he said, starting to become amorous. “You’ll be making me jealous with that kind of talk.”
“Don’t change the subject,” giggled Stella, evading his clutches.
“You’re avoiding the issue!”
“So are you,” complained Pete, his amorosity starting to wane.
“Can’t you be serious for one minute?” said Stella, becoming frustrated at her inability to describe something she barely understood herself.
“I was being,” said Pete, disgruntled and pouring more coffee into his cup.
“This is important to me, Pete. It’s not about religion; it’s something that’s real. Something that really happened in history.”
“What are you on about?”
“That it’s true. Jesus really did come to this planet so that the likes of us could know God.”
“Know God?” asked Pete incredulously.
“I only realised last night we owe Him an apology.”
“Owe Him an apology?” Pete was beginning to sound like an echo chamber.
“I don’t mean just us: I mean all of us… everyone… the whole human race. ‘Jesus died for us’ isn’t just a cliché, it’s true! He did. And it’s the most important thing that’s happened in the whole history of the world.”
“Have you been hanging around that Jane Reynolds again?” asked Pete scathingly.
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“You sound just like her!”
“Well, it’s true it was her who got me thinking. Do you remember she tried to tell us ages ago about our not being able to get to God except through Jesus – and we just took the Mickey? Well, it’s suddenly clicked. I know now what she’s been talking about.”
“I’m glad somebody does!”
“I thought you liked Jane?”
“She’s all right; but you said it yourself – she’s over the top when it comes to religion.”
“Yes, but now I see that it’s a relationship she’s excited about, not a philosophy.”
“How can you have a relationship with God? You can’t even see Him! I’d much rather have the flesh and blood sort any day – given half the chance,” replied Pete pointedly, still feeling frustrated at his advances being repelled.
“Look. They’re having a mid-
“How can you say you are logical and reasonable if you’re not even prepared listen?” Stella’s voice was starting to rise in her frustration. Then realising this wasn’t helping, said with a calmness she didn’t feel, “Surely you’ve got to accept God on His own terms?”
“Don’t tell me what I’ve got to do, Stella!” Pete was starting to lose his patience. They been perfectly united in their outlook until now, and this different side to his wife was unsettling him.
“The Bible calls it…,” struggling to repeat something she’d heard last night, “being… reconciled to God… through His Son.”
“And I call it ‘Cobblers’, so let’s forget it. O.K.?”
“What are you scared of?”
“Look,” he said, trying to keep his patience. “I’ve heard all about these ‘Billy Graham’ type meetings. It’s dangerous. Perfectly ordinary, reasonable people get carried away in the heat of the moment, and start flocking out, falling on their knees and making a spectacle of themselves.”
Stella looked down, guiltily, her face starting to redden.
“You didn’t, did you?”
She nodded, slowly and shyly.
“Oh streuth! How are we going to live that one down?” Pete burst out.
“I don’t want to live it down,” Stella protested. “I want everyone to know about it.”
“Well, you could at least have had a bit of consideration for me. What would the blokes at work think?”
“I don’t think any of them were there.”
“Yeah? Well, that’s one good thing about it. Most people have something better to do with their Sundays.”
“Actually, the Church was quite full.”
“Look. If you want to join a bunch of old fogies and misfits, that’s up to you; but leave me out of it.” Pete got up and went to the door.
“Pete, please. It’s not like that.”
“For the last time, Stella, religion is for losers!” and he went out to get his coat and briefcase.
“Who’ll be the losers when Jesus comes back?” asked Stella, rather more loudly than she intended, since the question was more to herself than to Pete.
“What’s that?” asked Pete loudly.
“What could be more important than being ready for the next life, Pete?”
“Oh! That’s how they do it, is it? Scare you to death with talk of hellfire and brimstone, and ‘Hey Presto’, another convert to help pour money into their coffers.”
“Pete! That’s just cynical!”
“Yes, well! I’m sorry,” he shouted, “but I’ve had enough and I’ve got work to do.” The last word was lost in the crash as he slammed the door behind him.
“Oh! Your sandwiches,” cried Stella, picking them up but getting to the door too late to give them to him as he hurried down the road to catch his bus into town. He preferred the bus to driving, because it meant he could check through his paperwork on the way and didn’t have to worry about parking spaces. In any case, he didn’t want to risk getting his new ‘Beemer’ scratched by the careless oafs in town.
Pete stewed about the argument most of the way to the office. He couldn't believe that someone could change so radically and stupidly overnight. However, as he neared the end of his journey, he forced his mind back to reality. A promotion had been up for grabs for some weeks, and he was expecting that today the final draft of his project he'd handed in would finally swing it for him.
He'd heard rumours that, just before the weekend, a rival firm had put in a hostile takeover bid for Simkins, where he had worked hard for the past five years; but he had discounted this as being rather farfetched. Even so, he needed to have all his facts at his fingertips for the interview about his project with Harry Benson, his superior, which he expected later that morning.
So after he had seated himself at his desk, consoled himself with the coffee his long-
As Pete knocked on the door, he could hear Harry on the phone.
"Yes. Indonesia sounds great, dear… Oh, there's someone to see me now, so I must go darling. We'll sort it out when I come home. Bye."
Pete nervously opened the door and walked up to the large mahogany desk, which typically was clear of any paperwork with nothing more than the large computer screen slightly to one side and its keyboard in front of Harry. He stood up as Pete approached and offered his hand. His grip was like holding a wet fish, but Pete knew the weakness of Harry's fingers was in sharp contrast to the steely will and ruthless disposition that ensured Harry always got what he wanted.
"Ah! Peter! Good of you to come. Have you caught up with the news of what has been happening over the weekend?"
"I've not heard anything official, sir."
"No! I don't suppose you will have done. Everyone's been told to keep it under wraps until I've been able to speak to various people."
‘It must be my promotion,' thought Pete. 'Why else would he bring me up here like this?'
"Well, er… Peter. Do sit down, by the way… makes the place look untidy, you know?" Laughs with an uncharacteristic nervousness. Then, with a cough to clear his throat, "It's like this. I know you've been expecting promotion to the new executive position we were going to create, and to be fair the job should be yours. However, I'm sure you're aware that the company has been under some considerable financial pressure recently, and things finally came to a head at the end of last week."
"I knew that things were getting a little tight while we were in the development stages of…"
"Yes, quite! But we reached the point that, last Saturday, the shareholders were forced by our creditors into accepting the takeover bid that had been made some time ago."
"They've not sold out to them?" Pete gasped.
"I'm afraid they had no choice."
"I see," said Pete weakly.
"It's bad news for you, I'm afraid. The deal is expected to be completed by this afternoon, and as the new owners obviously will not want to double up on staff they already have, I have to issue the redundancy notices before five o'clock tonight." Another cough. "I'm sorry to have to tell you that you are one of the men surplus to their requirements."
"You're sacking ME?" cried Pete, aghast.
"Not my decision, Peter; but they have little choice. They already have sufficient personnel in your department, and one of the conditions of the deal is that their people get preference over ours."
"How long have I got?"
"They have agreed to very generous redundancy settlements for those affected, so you should have plenty of time to decide what to do for the future."
"I see," Pete replied, seeing nothing at all.
"Look. I'm sorry we haven't had the chance to talk about this before; but they are giving three month's pay in lieu of notice. Your desk must be cleared before you leave this afternoon, I'm afraid. I really am sorry, Peter. You've done a good job for us, and I know it doesn't seem fair. But you know how these things work."
Pete stood up, for once in his life completely speechless. Harry held out his hand to shake once more.
"Goodbye, Peter. Hope you don't have to wait too long to find something else."
Pete, unable to speak, turned and slowly walked to the door. Harry turned back to his computer and was tapping on the keys as Pete slowly, gently, closed the door behind him and went back to his desk. He'd heard of a friend who had been made redundant by another firm and was immediately escorted out of the building by the security guard without even having the chance to collect his things; so Pete supposed having the rest of the day to sort his things out was comparatively generous. Even so, his fall from the expectation of promotion one minute to redundancy the next was almost more than he could take in.
Pete’s final hours in the building seemed to take forever to pass; while at the same time, the moment he picked up the cardboard box containing his personal possessions, his final day seemed to have flashed by in a second. As he walked through the corridors and out of the entrance, he took a last, lingering look at the place that had been his home, but where he would never again be welcome. Pete wasn't one for shedding tears, but holding his emotions as he walked away to his bus stop was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. He stood at the stop, morosely staring at the ground.
"Hello, Pete! How are you?" It was Bill, walking past as Pete waited for his bus.
"Hello, Bill! Nice to see you. How's the family? I didn't get the chance to ask last night." Pete struggled to conduct a normal conversation without the turmoil showing on his face.
"Fine thanks! Good news about the takeover, isn't it?"
"Well," said Pete, "I could see it coming a mile off."
"Marvellous for me, of course. My department's doubling in size and even though I will be second-
"Best thing that's happened for years," bluffed Pete.
"Will it affect you much?"
"They've offered me a big promotion, but I'm not sure if I'll take it."
"You won't take it?"
"No. I've been thinking for some time I could do with a change, and this is the perfect time to do it."
"Are you sure everything's ok, Pete?" asked Bill, sensing things were not quite as they seemed.
"Of course! Why shouldn't they be?"
Just thought you looked a bit pale, that's all."
"Well, I'm fine," said Pete, more sharply than he intended.
"Alright; I'm sorry. Didn't mean to pry."
"There's nothing to pry into," Pete was losing it and he knew it.
"O.K. Well, I must go or I'll miss my train. Congrats on last night, by the way!"
"The darts match!"
"Oh! That. Yes, thanks!"
"Cheers," said Bill, limping off on the newly acquired crutches, and trying to prevent the foot with the broken toe from touching the ground. He could have stayed off work, having only had his accident yesterday, but with the takeover, he couldn't afford to stay away and risk losing his promotion!