I thought I would share with you a short story I wrote a while back. This is different than what I normally post…I hope you enjoy this.
Sweat ran down the back of Clyde’s neck as he stared at the package. It had been over twenty years since he had seen that handwriting. Clyde began to pull the clear tape away from the brown paper. He could barely hold onto the box as his hands were damp and slippery.
How did he find me?
His heart raced. Clyde looked over his shoulder as he hurried into the house and raced into his office.
I certainly can’t finish opening this until after Peg’s asleep. But where can I hide it?
“Is that you dear?” Clyde heard his wife call out from the kitchen.
Clyde could barely control his breathing, much less speak. He grunted a hello as he slid the mystery package into the bottom drawer of his oak desk. As soon as he closed the drawer, he opened it.
“No, this won’t do, I must find a better hiding place,” he muttered out loud.
Frantically he looked around the room. Fearing he would soon hear his wife’s footsteps coming down the hallway, Clyde opened the closet and quickly hid the box behind a stack of old magazines.
“Dinner’s just about ready,” Peg called out as she walked into Clyde’s office. “Go take off your jacket and come into the kitchen while I finish up dinner.”
Clyde ran his hand through his thinning hair and sighed.
“Are you okay, honey? You look pale.”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Clyde lied. “I’ll be there in a minute.” Clyde opened the closet as soon as Peg headed off to the kitchen.
What is in this package?
Fear gripped his gut. Picking up the box, he ran his index finger over the paper where his name was written.
He’d been a teenager when he had last seen this handwriting. He was a junior in high school and had invited Emily to the prom. He had stood her up. Her brothers were livid and had let him know that with their fists. Clyde ended up in the Emergency Room. He needed stitches over his right eye. The following Monday he was razzed by all when they saw the patch he had to wear over his eye. He looked like a pirate. And then it got worse, much worse. That’s when…
“Honey, are you coming?” Peg called out as she winked at the man sitting at the glass kitchen table.
Just get through dinner and then retreat back to the office. I just can’t imagine what he wants!
Clyde replied, “Coming, honey.”
Clyde drank in the smell of the spaghetti sauce and garlic bread as he walked toward Peg’s voice.
At least my meal will be enjoyable.
He stepped into the kitchen. Immediately his knees weakened, his mouth went dry and his heart rate doubled. The sender of the package was sitting at his kitchen table! He wondered if anyone ever died from fear…if so, he would surely drop dead any moment.
“Clyde,” said the visitor as he stood with his hand outstretched, “good to see you again.”
Clyde stared at the extended hand like it was a rattlesnake.
“Clyde! Clyde!” shouted his wife. “Don’t you recognize your old friend, Emmett?”
“Emmett. Emmett, what a surprise?” Clyde mumbled as he went directly to the dining room table.
Deep breath. Think. Stay calm.
Peg cleared her throat to signal Clyde, as she said through her teeth, “What’s wrong with you?”
Clyde felt like he was in a play. Dinner conversation was difficult; every line stilted and agonizingly pulled from the depths of his mind. All the while he wondered why Emmett had come to his house.
How did he find my house?
As they retreated to the living room for coffee, Clyde was certain he saw a gun hidden under Emmett’s jacket. Now Clyde feared for Peg’s and his safety.
Should I signal Peg to call 911?
“…our children…now,” Emmett was saying something.
“Nice,” replied Clyde having no clue what Emmett just said. “Any grandchildren?”
“He told us about his grandchildren over dinner, Clyde,” Peg said as she walked into the room with cake for all. “What is wrong with you? Did you have a bad day at work today?”
“Yes, yes. That’s it. Bad day.”
Oh, I sound like I’m a two year old!
“You must be wondering why I stopped by,” said Emmett as he stood and slid his hand toward his waist.
He is going to draw that gun!
Clyde jumped up and considered rushing Emmett, but the look on Emmett’s face stopped him.
“I came by to talk to you about that day they convicted me.”
Confused, Clyde just stood there.
“Your husband had me sent to prison,” Emmett said to Peg. “I was sentenced to twenty-five years.”
Peg tried to keep a calm look on her face, but Clyde knew that was a facade.
Peg, I am so sorry. Please, please stay calm. I have no idea were this is going.
“I nearly killed a man,” Emmett said.
It was almost indiscernible, but Clyde noticed a slight tremor in Peg’s lower lip. It was only there for a moment, but Clyde saw it, as did Emmett.
Oh, Lord, please keep Peg safe. This was not of her doing.
“I see I have frightened you, Peg. Don’t be scared.”
“Emmett, if you would sit, perhaps Peg would feel more comfortable.”
“Don’t talk like I am not here,” Peg said. Turning toward Emmett she said with as much confidence she could muster, “Mr. Coleman, I would appreciate you telling your story quickly before you have to leave. You were saying Clyde put you in prison. Explain. Quickly.”
Clyde had to smile. Peg you have the strength of a legion of angels.
“Your husband and I were once friends. Then he invited my sister, Emily, to the prom and he stood her up. My brothers and I beat the living daylights out of him.”
Peg looked at Clyde.
“My sister was taunted at school after that. She became very depressed and I decided I was going to make your husband pay. Really pay. I beat him up again and nearly killed him. He was hospitalized for over a month. At that time I was so proud of myself.” Emmett voice cracked as he said, “I hated him and wanted him dead.”
Clyde was not sure where this was going and he almost asked Emmett, why he was going down memory lane tonight. But he knew this might provoke Emmett and there was no telling what he would do.
Does he have a gun? How can I get to my gun in my office?
“Clyde, did you receive a package from me today?”
“Yes. It’s in my office.”
Perfect. I’ll pretend to go to get the box and really get my gun!
“I’ll go get it.” Clyde told Emmett as he stood.
“No! Not yet. Sit”
Clyde looked at his wife. She was now visibly shaken.
“Listen, Emmett, this is between you and me, not my wife. Please do not hurt her, let her go.”
Emmett smiled, “Clyde, dear Clyde. I’m so sorry. Please I didn’t mean to scare you or Peg. Forgive me.”
“Emmett, you need to explain yourself now,” said Clyde.
“Peg, I was convicted of attempted murder. They said I tried to kill your husband.”
Emmett paused and looked at Clyde. “They were right.”
Clyde was astonished. Emmett had adamantly denied his guilt during the trial. He threatened to kill Clyde after he was sentenced.
“Clyde, go get the package I sent. I wanted to return what you gave me the day I was convicted.”
Walking toward the office, Clyde knew what he had to do. Reaching into the closet, he grabbed it and slowly walked out to the living room.
Tears in his eyes Emmett asked Clyde to open the box.
“You kept it? All those years while you were in there?” asked Clyde.
“Clyde, it saved my life. You saved my life.”
Peg stood. “Open it up! What is it?”
Clyde pulled at the already torn paper. Inside was a well worn black Bible. Tucked inside was a folded piece of paper that had holes in its creases. It was obvious both the letter and the Bible had been read and re-read many times.
“Your husband gave me this Bible along with that letter the day I was carted off to prison. I did not touch either one for over a year, but I kept them with me.”
“Then one day we were on lockdown. Some guys on the other block had caused a fight and we were all being punished. My cellmate was in sickbay, so I had nothing to do. I pulled out the letter. In it Clyde told me why he stood up my sister and that he forgave me for putting him in the hospital. He said he would pray for me every day I was in there.” Turning to Clyde, “I know you did.”
Peg turned to Clyde and asked, “Why did you stand Emily up?”
“That was the night my sister was attacked. Back then you didn’t talk about those things. So I couldn’t tell Emily or her brothers. Our family was trying to protect my sister.”
“My heart broke when I read your note. You never said a thing all the while we beat the starch out of you. The note told me to start reading the Bible…to begin with the book of John. I did like you said. Peg, throughout the Bible, Clyde had written me little notes…words of encouragement…as I read I wrote notes intended for you, Clyde. I accepted Christ as my Savior a few months later. Clyde, you saved my life by introducing me to Christ. I came here tonight to thank you. At first I was just going to send you the Bible…but after I mailed it, I felt I needed to thank you in person. Mailing it just did not seem enough.”
Clyde was speechless. Peg had tears in her eyes.
Just then Emmett’s cell phone rang.
A cell phone! Not a gun! What an imagination I have!
Looking at the phone, Emmett said, “It’s Emily. I’ll answer it later. She’ll want to know how this went.”
“Answer her. Tell her it went well, my friend. Tell her it went well.”
Susan Werthem is a Bible study leader, speaker and author.
She takes the Word of God and shares His truth in a humorous, unique and insightful way.
To contact Susan to plan a retreat or seminar Click here.