"The Lost Son" -- a shorter short story

by AlmostAtheist 4 Replies latest jw friends

  • AlmostAtheist

    "The Lost Son"

    A solemn figure entered the tavern. He stood, looking at nothing.

    "Hey Joe." It was almost a question.

    The uneasy silence was broken. The regulars felt it from the moment Joseph entered the tavern. What could be said? Now that a brave soul had opened the breach, others ventured in.

    "Sorry about your boy."

    "Wasn't my boy," came the even reply, as he took his regular seat and accepted a drink from the barkeep. "On the house," he whispered, pressing the cup into Joe's hand, and grasping his forearm for a moment. The rumor had circulated for decades, of course, though it had never been confirmed. How could it? Until now. No one dared ask for clarification.

    Out of respect for the man, not fear. Well-built, muscular, the son of the son of a master carpenter, he was renowned for his skills. But equal to his skill was his kindness, mildness. In earlier years, the son was seen as the successor to the family business. His father's equal at his age and growing in skill, there was no doubt that he was the one to take over when his father's hands grew weak. But in recent years, the son's interest in the work dropped suddenly, leaving the father with his less-skilled sons to see to business.

    "Next one's on me, Joe," said James of Behur, a blacksmith. James and Joseph had shared referrals for years, both admiring the other's work. "Thanks."

    No further words came, and no more were offered. Joseph drank in silence.

    "For what it's worth," said James, putting his arm around Joseph, now on his third round, "I don't think they had anything on that boy. I think it was all political. And I think it was wrong." More awkward silence followed, then Joseph began his monologue.

    "Boys, let me tell you something. When my young lady told me she was pregnant, and I knew I wasn't the father, I was beside myself. I decided then and there it was off. I thought I knew her, ya know?" He took another swallow. "But I thought about it. She was pretty as the day is long. She really owned my heart, only my head was upset by what I'd heard. And why should it be? Because she lied about it? Because I didn't believe her? Yeah, I guess that's why." He trailed off for a moment, then added, "But it wasn't enough. I couldn't let her go for that."

    The barkeep replaced Joe's cup. He took a small sip and continued, "So we married. He was born barely eight months later. I heard a few whispers, but nobody challenged me. I raised him as my own, and he never questioned my authority, or my love. I loved that boy like my own son. I have five other children, and I never considered him as anything but mine. Apparently I was wrong."

    Heads nodded, more in support of their friend than with any knowledge that he was right. He thought he was right, that was good enough for them. The air in the tavern was such that only the regulars remained. Those that had simply dropped in for a quick drink had since taken their leave. The barkeep didn't seem to mind, a charitable attitude for a businessman. This was Joseph, and he needed to be among friends now -- not strangers.

    "Wouldn't he just have to get religion? Didn't we already go to the damn temple? Didn't we already sacrifice when we were supposed to, stop work when we were supposed to, make our contributions? We weren't good enough, I guess. Or at least that's what my nephew told him. 'You're special,' he told him, 'You're meant to be more than a carpenter.' 'More than a carpenter,' like being a carpenter isn't honorable enough. Like doing good work with your hands that brings people pleasure, that makes their life better and easier, and work they pay you for doing, isn't godly enough. Does the scripture not say, 'A skilled man will take his place before the king?' That's not good enough, I guess." The last words were directed into his cup.

    The bitterness of the man's soul was coming out, a four year wound that was only now being exposed to the air. They didn't want to hear the details of his wife's tryst or the motivations of the son that abandoned his father's trade. But neither did they want to stifle the catharsis of the words and the wine.

    "You raised him to choose his own path, that's something to be proud of."

    "Is it? If your boy became a preacher, instead of following in your trade, would you be proud?"

    "I don't know, Joe. I don't know."

    At least the silence was warmer now. Joe hadn't bought a round yet, his friends saw to that. After a time, James again spoke. "Joseph, he was a good man. You raised him right. He made his decision, good or bad. He died doing what he thought was right. Whether you agree or not, you raised him well enough to stand by his convictions. If he were my boy, I'd be proud of him. And because he's your boy, I raise my cup to him and his memory." His cup was joined in the air by that of the others, including the barkeep.

    Slowly, painfully, Joseph raised his as well. "To Jesus, son of Joseph, of Nazareth," he said, tears now coming to his eyes, "Go in peace, son. God be with you."

    They downed their cups. Joseph placed his on the bar on its side. He was finished. With a final look at their faces, he rose and left.

  • TheListener

    That was really neat Dave.


  • tetrapod.sapien

    that is really well written! it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up at the end.

    so this is a possible scenario, in a creative sense, of what might have transpired at a jewish tavern close to nazareth about 4 years after the so called "ransom sacrifice"?

  • Mystery

    I am sitting here trying to think of a "reply". It really made me stop for a minute and think.

    For those that believe the bible is the word of God; have any thoughts been given to the man that raised the Son of God?

    For those that believe the bible is a myth or fiction; have any thoughts been given to the man that raised the son of God?

    If you were in this situation, real or myth, does AlmostAtheist words make you stop and think?

    What about the ones that are behind the scenes? The ones left out of the limelight? Who of us, Christian or not, have thought of the father or the brothers and sisters of those that "something happens to that is out of the ordinary"? What was it like for them?

    Thank you for making me remember the ones that are "behind the scenes" when "things" arise.

    I need to make a phone call now; not to the patient or to the one that is sitting at the bedside constantly, but to the one that is sitting patiently waiting to catch the one that is watching. Thank you Dave.

  • AlmostAtheist
    so this is a possible scenario, in a creative sense, of what might have transpired at a jewish tavern close to nazareth about 4 years after the so called "ransom sacrifice"?

    Thanks for your comments. The four years in the story is meant to count from the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, when he would have walked away from the carpentry trade. So this scene is meant to be happening shortly after Jesus' death, maybe the same week. The assumption I always heard was that Joseph died, this based on the fact that he isn't mentioned that much in the Gospels. The story assumes that he lived, he just didn't buy the whole Messiah thing seeing it more of losing a son than gaining a savior.


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