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Christian Fiction

He was a man the age of eighteen with hair down to his elbows, and he wore clothes torn by dogs. 

Of course, he had forgiven the dogs. They were hungry and he was a meal to them. James could never fault a creature for its hunger. He knew what hunger did to even the civilized among men, how it stole humanity and turned elders into fools and warriors into monsters. That is why he felt no anger or bitterness at the state of his clothes.

Rips went down the legs of his pants, and he had patched them with scraps from the seamstress’ house. The seamstress, Mrs. Vangard, had provided them with a sigh heaved and eyes rolled. She beckoned him into her home with a hand that spoke to the carelessness and disdain that she regarded him with.

James was a blight upon the town. 

The boy without a home. The boy without a family.

“Come, fool,” Mrs. Vangard had rasped. 

He had shuffled his feet into the warmth of her home, and he held his arms around himself as he glanced at the furnishings on the walls and the various finery that littered every space. While he gazed at the walls, Mrs. Vangard left for some other room in the house and grumbles fell from her lips like scraps from a table.

She returned and handed him scraps from her projects and pushed him out the door again without more words. 

With a needle that he had found in an alleyway and from the strings fraying from the bottom of his pants, James had sewn patches on his clothes where the dogs had clawed through the fabric. 

James stood at the corner of the church in his clothes and he shivered in the chill of the month of January. 

It was a Sunday, and soon the bells would ring, and the organ would sound and the people would pour out of the doors with a feeling of guilt settled upon their diaphragms. They would come to his corner. He would hold out his tankard, and coins would tink tink tink against the bottom of the cup.

“My cup overfloweth,” James muttered.

He remembered hearing those words sung in the church, and they had somehow escaped the confines of the building, and they had run all the way to James’ ears. 

“My cup overfloweth,” James muttered again. 

“It does not,” a voice from his left said. “Not in this life, James.”

He turned to see who had spoken, but there was no person standing there. He glanced around trying to see where the voice had come from but found again that he was alone on the stones outside the church. 

James frowned, and clutched his tankard close to his chest. His fingers shook, and a passerby would notice the tinge of black running from the tips all the way up to the knuckles. 

“My cup overfloweth,” James said.

“Your cup is empty,” a voice said again.

James looked up and down, to his right and to his left. No person spoke. 

“My cup overfloweth,” James said. 

“I will prepare a table for you, James,” a voice said. “In the presence of your enemies. I will wash you, anoint you, and your cup will overflow.”

James could see no one, and he perhaps suspected that the voice came from in his own head. The devil was speaking to him again. 

“My cup overfloweth,” James said, and he swallowed the fear. 

“They won’t even let you in the doors, James,” the devil said. “God doesn’t want you.”

“My cup overfloweth,” James repeated.

The devil sighed, and the breath of his mouth brushed against James’ ear, blowing his hair.

“Wouldn’t it be better if you were dead?” The devil said. “No anguish, no hunger, no dogs. Just nothingness.”

James had thought of an emptiness, a darkness that never ended. He had wished for it too. 

“My cup overfloweth,” James repeated. 

“You are stubborn, aren’t you?”

James looked down at the cobblestones under his bare feet. Those feet tingled with numbness, and he feared what would happen to them. 

“I can give you a home James,” the devil’s voice promised. “I can give you wealth, I can give you a family, James. Just tell me, tell me that your cup is empty. Tell me the truth.”

James stared down into his tankard, and he could see the bottom of his cup. He took a shaking breath and his stomach boiled in anguish. It gurgled. Rebelled. His arms felt weak and his head hurt, pounded against his skull like the waves of the lake did against their shores. 

“My cup is empty,” the devil said. “Say it.”

But, James looked down at his cup. 

“My cup overfloweth,” James said. 

The bells rang then, and James sighed, clutching his tankard outwards with his hands, and he waited for them. The tankard shook and rattled in his hand.

The people came by and his cup went tink tink tink

“My cup overfloweth,” James said. 

“It surely does,” a new voice said. 

His eyes, which had remained bowed to look at his toes, wandered to see who had spoken. 

It was Mrs. Vangard, who stood in her lace and satin. On her face, he saw coldness, and lips that didn’t ever twitch upwards. 

She studied him with her eyes for a moment, then her head tilted to the side. 

“Come, fool,” she said, beckoning him with a hand encased in a glove.

“Where?” James asked. 

She raised her eyebrow at him. 

“Those stitches are quite good,” Mrs. Vangard said, glancing down at his patches. “And my old apprentice left me. I am too angry and bitter for young girls.”

“Apprentice?” James said.

“Room and board are included,” Mrs. Vangard said, and she walked over the cobblestones, turning her back on him. 

James followed, and with him, he took his tankard. As it shook with each step, it made that same tink, tink, tink as the coins rattled around within.

June 30, 2022 16:14

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3 comments

Ashley Ulery
01:26 Jul 06, 2022

Beautiful story. The repetitive dialogue had a nice effect while reading in my head. I think your personal challenge successful. The absence of adjectives and adverbs moved the story forward and kept focus on the characters.

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Carl Tengstrom
14:47 Jul 04, 2022

This is aqute little story of an orphant boy, who has no place to go shivering from cold and fame. His clothes in a misery state. The language is in some places too strange. It takes the impression of the story down. I liked the ending, where the boy gets a home and a job. In fact a brighter future.

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Aldrich Cooper
01:02 Jul 05, 2022

Thank you for your comment! If the language seemed a little strange, it was because I was doing a personal challenge to use zero adverbs and adjectives. I may not have succeeded, but that might explain the strangeness of the language. Thanks again!

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