Hi! Here is another and the ultimate episode of my short story, Adopting Love. It picks up right where the last left off.
I was just merging onto 99, melding with the nightly traffic when my phone rang. The sound startled me and I sat there a second, wondering who would be calling me. It could have been anyone. I know hundreds of people who might have decided to call me, but I somehow, viscerally, knew it was something important.
I glanced down and saw, in the blue light, Sean’s name on the screen.
“Sean?” I asked, wondering what I could have forgotten at his house.
“Hey, man. So… I just got this call from a friend, and I know this is a lot to ask. Of course, no one would blame you if you turned it down… but there’s this boy down in San Antonio—like one of our kids. He needs help—a home.”
“Are you going to take him in?” I asked.
“Why not?” I asked, not out of prevarication but curiosity.
“We already have the maximum number of non-biological dependents that we’re allowed. I’ve tried to find a way, but the State won’t allow it.”
“What are you asking?” I said, with a pretty good idea of just what he was asking but desiring to hear it straight.
“Can you consider taking this kid in and making a home for him?”
“I… I…” I stuttered. My mind raced with the pros and cons… there were few pros. Except that big one. Love.
“Uh…” The very idea was preposterous.
“Can I call you back?” I asked. “Like, ten minutes from now.”
He agreed. “Owen, this is just an offer… almost an unfair offer. To trap you between your life and a random kid… you know what? This is insane… I really shouldn’t have asked you. It’s not fair.”
I told him it was all right and that I didn’t mind and all that—then hung up. I pulled over at a gas station with a built-in Whataburger and walked mechanically inside.
I needed to think and think hard.
As always when I walk into a Whataburger, I heard eighties rock and roll playing on the ceiling speakers, saw the sticky, black and white checkered tile floor and smelt the heavy odor of cooking grease. But this time, I didn’t feel anything.
I walked up to the counter and ordered a drink. Taking a Styrofoam cup, I filled it with unsweet tea, and sat down in a plushy black booth.
I’d asked for an anchor. Was this it?
The bitter taste of tea on my tongue, I stared at the various pictures that adorned the walls.
Where would I live? What would I do? How would I make money after spending the money I’d made?
I turned my face to the large picture windows out in the front, distantly watching the cars on the highway zipped by, flashes of red and white light on the dark canvas of the night. A man finished filling up with gas at the pumps and returned to the cab of his Dodge to rejoin the flow. Cars moved in and out. People came and went.
Swarms of bugs kamikazed the lights. A cricket hopped along the sidewalk outside the windows.
I still sat there, thinking about what it would cost me to become a dad to a heathen child who probably didn’t want a dad.
Another figure entered the silent stage of my observation. With all the lankiness of youth, he sauntered along the sidewalk outside the Whataburger. He wore a hoodie that cast a deep shadow in its hood.
He pulled out a cigarette and a lighter and turned to shield the little blaze from the wind, and in doing so, turned, to my horror, to me.
His eyes, tinged orange by the flame, met the eyes of a successful but confused and loveless journalist, that is, he met my eyes.
In that millisecond of time, I fell into his soul and into his memories.
I was there in middle school with him when he’d been bullied, there when he’d tried to stab his best friend, there when he learned to hate from his father. I was there when he fell into the vices he’s in now. I was even there when he’d pulled on his black hoodie. There two minutes before, when he paid for his cigarettes with the stolen change in his pocket.
I saw his life like I was him. I was in him. Part and parcel of his soul.
And I had no hope. I was straining like a wolf on a chain, starving for something that would give me lasting pleasure. And for a moment, all I knew was despair.
Suddenly, I was back in myself, sitting in the booth, staring at the young man.
When the butt of his cigarette was smoldering, he turned and strolled along the sidewalk until he disappeared from my vision a moment later.
Part of me screamed to follow him. To help him. Or, to help God save him.
But I couldn’t move. I didn’t move. And if I could go back, I would change that. I would run after him and change his life.
But I just sat there. And it felt like God was shaking a finger at me. If I could hear the feelings from God that coursed through me, they would sound like this.
“Owen. You think you’re the only one in the world. You’ve been thinking about yourself and what you will lose. Have you ever thought about this child and his soul? This kid needs love. You have that to give. Without My influence through you, this kid will end up being just like him.”
It was an ‘ouch’ moment for me, for sure. But it worked.
I pulled out my phone and dialed up Sean.
“Sean. I’ve been thinking about this and really do think that God is calling me to take in this kid. I’ll see if this is possible, then I’m going to buy a home here and settle down.”
And I did.
It was a long and hard path for me to go from world traveler to Texan, but I made it through it. I guess it was a good indication that my heart was in the wrong place, but it got rough when I had to quit my job, especially with so many good interviews that seemed promised.
But Derek made it all worth it. While he doesn’t look human to most people, he brought out the human in me.
He was so ready to be loved and to love someone. Sure, it was scary for me and for him when we started, but we got over that.
He’s a great kid. He goes off to school in the morning and I work on my writing (God has blessed me with a new position that’s even better than the last but completely sedentary) until I pick him up. We play video games, eat pizza and ice cream, and go to the movies together. We go camping and fishing. He even started writing a book, which we’re co-authoring. We had a blast, just me and him, on all our outings. He was a little put out when I got engaged to Shelly (who I met at church) because we wouldn’t go camping as often but considering that this made us into a real family with a mom and a dad, he judged it a wash (though he wouldn’t have if he had known how much of the pizza would be taken out of our diets). Shelly and I were married just a couple months ago, and my heart is so full of joy now.
We still see the Worth’s whenever we can. Derek and Gabe are best friends now and consider each other cousins. I don’t know why they bother because they might as well consider themselves brothers.
I don’t know why I waited for my life to begin. Who do I have to thank for it? All those poor adopted children with facial anomalies, that guy at Whataburger, and, of course, God. I guess I just had to adopt love.
And that’s the end!
I hope you enjoyed this short story!! Thank you for reading it!