a short story
For months I watched you, you with your warm clothes and big smiles. You always stopped me on the street to say, “Hello! How are you, today?” And I’d duck my head and mumble something back, standing on one foot, trying to keep the other one warm.
You always looked so happy. You told me I’d be happy, too, if I’d come to your church and be saved like you. Figured you knew what you were talking about, you were always so happy. You had warm clothes and you never looked hungry. I wanted that, too, so I went to your meeting. I sat with you and all your friends. I tried to sing your songs. I liked that one about all of us being one in the spirit. And you and your friends sat down with me and asked, would I like to be saved, too? I couldn’t get my voice to work, so I just nodded. But when you said, “Pray after me,” I got the words out, all of them. I said them right, right after you.
I started to cry. You all smiled and nodded and left me alone, up there in the church. I waited and waited for something to happen. I waited for anything to happen. I didn’t know how long it was supposed to take to be saved, so I just sat and listened to my stomach grumbling. And you left me there, still waiting for something to happen. I was feeling awfully hollow inside.
When the light in the church went out, I tried to find someone, but the room we sang in was all locked up, and I didn’t hear anyone laughing or singing anywhere, anymore. You had all gone.
It’s cold outside. It’s a long way home from your church. My cheeks still burn where the tears sort of froze on them. And, I’m still hungry. I guess that doesn’t matter so much as the aching, hollow feeling inside me. I didn’t really mind walking home, either. I just wish somebody’d tell me what went wrong.
Didn’t I wait long enough? I know I don’t sing too good, but I said the prayer right, and I can learn the songs. I’d practice … and I’d go to the meetings and to church. I promise! Come back, someone! I’m all alone. Somebody, please come back and tell me why He didn’t want to save me.
I’m waiting . .
Copyright © 1975/1996, by Elizabeth W. Bennefeld.
Obligatory Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any any resemblance to actual people or situations, current or past, is coincidental.
This story was originally published in the mid-1970s in a Christian ministry newsletter; more recently, it appeared in Reflections & Visions (November 20, 1996), a chapbook of W.H.E.E.L. (Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League) of Seattle, Washington USA.