At long last, I’ve done a bit of fiction writing again! This scene is the beginning of a story idea that’s been in my head for a while. I want to say it’s a bit like a modern-day The Brothers Karamazov, except that I unfortunately have never read the whole book (yet). But like the excerpts and summaries I’ve read from TBK, this story focuses on three brothers with three different outlooks on life and faith. Maybe one day I’ll flesh this out into a full story or novel, but this is what we’ve got for now. Also, this is a fairly rough/rushed draft, so constructive criticism is welcome. Enjoy!
Scott shoved another bite of pancake into his mouth and chewed, wasting little time on savoring its sweetness as he went.
“You gonna be ready to go soon?” asked his father, glancing at the clock.
“In like ten minutes,” said Scott. “I just need to finish eating and then brush my teeth.”
“I’m almost ready!” Scott’s mother called, from the other room but quickly advancing in his direction. “Just need to find where I set my glasses down.” She stopped at the kitchen table. “How are the pancakes?”
“We have another thing of syrup, if you want it. I think we just ran out of the other one.”
“No, thanks. I’m good. I got some already.”
“You sure? I don’t mind getting it for you.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Oh, I’ve got to check on the other boys,” his mother said to no one in particular. She moved from the kitchen and knocked on an adjacent door.
“Hmm?” came a voice from inside. Scott kept chewing his pancakes, and tapped his fork sporadically as he listened.
“You almost ready for church, James?”
The voice was flat and unenthusiastic. “Yeah. I’ve been ready for a while.”
“Oh, but I haven’t seen you much. You’ve just been in your room the whole time.”
“I’ve been reading my Bible.”
“Kay.” A pause. “You want a quick breakfast before church?”
“Sure. I’ll come out in a minute.”
Scott heard the door close, followed by quick footsteps. “I’m a little worried about James,” his mother said in a harsh whisper as she grabbed the full container of syrup and set it on the table next to Scott. Scott scowled slightly.
“Why?” Scott asked.
“He spends all his time reading his Bible. I mean, I know it’s a good thing, but he’s not doing fun things that boys his age do. He doesn’t really play sports or video games or anything. And he doesn’t talk to us as much, either.”
“I don’t know,” said Scott. “I mean, it’s good that he’s reading his Bible.” As Scott said this, he was acutely aware that it was a good thing to read the Bible, because somewhere in the back of his mind he felt the sinking weight of knowing that he wasn’t doing it enough. He hadn’t read his own Bible in three days. Or was it four? Or more?
“I guess,” whispered his mother. “But he’s only fourteen, and he’s so serious! I’m just worried that he’s not having any fun.”
A brief patter of rapid footsteps was heard, and then the basement door swung open. “Oh, there’s Howard,” said the mother.
Howard sauntered to the table, grabbed a couple pieces of bacon, and began to ingest them quickly. He did not sit down.
“Morning, Howard,” said his mother. Howard nodded, his mouth full.
“You almost ready for church?” their mother asked. James quietly stepped out of his room and made his way toward the kitchen table. His father paced through the adjacent living room, adjusting his tie and gathering his things.
“I’m not going,” Howard uttered nonchalantly.
His mother scowled. “Not going?”
“What do you mean you’re not going?”
Howard looked up at her. “I’m not going. We talked about this.”
Scott still sat at the table, finishing his pancakes and listening in uncomfortably. James was seated at the table too and had begun wolfing down a quick Pop Tart.
“I know we talked,” said their mother with a sigh. “I guess I was hoping you’d come to your senses by now.”
“I did,” said Howard. “I decided I’m not going to your stupid church anymore.”
“Howard.” His father stepped closer. “Respect your mother.”
“What? It’s true!”
“You’re just mad because I’m not a Christian anymore.”
“I’m not mad,” said his father. “I never said I was mad.”
“We’re not mad,” said the mother, her voice rising. “We just don’t understand why you say you’re not a Christian anymore.”
“Because there’s no evidence for Christianity,” said Howard. “It doesn’t make logical sense.”
“That’s not true,” Scott spoke up.
“Truth is subjective,” Howard answered.
“No it’s not,” said Scott. “That doesn’t make sense. Facts are facts, whether people believe them or not. And there’s plenty of factual evidence for Christianity.”
“No there’s not. Faith is blind.”
James sighed quietly.
Scott spoke up again. “You’re wrong. It’s the truth. Just look at all the fulfilled prophecies, the historical evidence, the news today and everything—”
“Scott,” their father interrupted. “That’s enough fighting. Both of you.”
“I just don’t get it,” the mother interjected, her words pointed toward Howard. “Do you really think walking away from God is going to help you?”
“I didn’t do it to be helped,” said Howard. “I’m just following the evidence.”
“But, if you would just let God help you, I really don’t think you’d be so depressed all the time.”
“Mom, that’s not how it works.”
“Yeah,” Scott agreed. “Depression is psychological. I mean, I’m sure spiritual factors can coincide with it—”
“Scott,” said the father.
“What? I was agreeing with him this time. It’s a known scientific fact. Depression is psychological.”
“It’s just that we had to pay the hospital bills,” their mother continued loudly. “And drive out there to check on you every day, and everything. I don’t think you understand that this isn’t easy for the rest of us, either. And I don’t think you’d have all these problems if you would just come back to God again!”
“Whatever,” Howard said, grabbing the rest of his breakfast and marching away from the table back toward the basement. “I’m out of here.”
“Howard,” said his father.
“Fine. You don’t have to,” his father said calmly. “But don’t go too far. I want to talk to you when I get home.”
“Am I grounded?” Howard asked sarcastically.
“No. I just want to talk.”
“Whatever. I’m gonna do what I want. Soon I’ll be out of here for good anyway.”
His mother sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t say that.”
“I’m nineteen!” Howard protested. “I’ve gonna move out sooner or later, once I can get the money!”
Scott took a deep breath. He was almost twenty-three, and also eager to move out, but so far his Bachelor’s Degree had been little help in finding him a stable job.
“Good luck with that,” said the mother. “You haven’t even been able to hold down a job.”
She was talking to Howard. Scott knew that she was talking to Howard. But he still drew another deep breath.
Howard rushed down the stairs without saying anything else.
The sound of Scott chewing his last bite of pancake was not enough to drown out the silence.
James spoke up. “I guess we should pray for him,” he offered feebly.
“We should get ready for church,” said his mother. “I just need to go find my glasses.” Her voice wavered and she walked off.
“I’ll go get my Bible,” said James, retreating back into his room.
Wordlessly, Scott got up to put his plate in the sink.
He felt his father’s hand on his shoulder.
“Scott, I do want to thank you for your steadfastness,” said his father. “Whatever is going on with Howard has been…trying. But I do appreciate you staying true to what we’ve taught you and not going down that path.”
Scott froze for a minute, unsure of what to say.
He wanted to say, “Steadfastness? That’s not me. I haven’t been steadfast. I’m too selfish. I’m too prideful. I know God is there, but I’ve got to admit He feels distant sometimes. Sometimes the logical arguments seem more real to me than God as an actual person. And I can only blame my own sin and selfishness for that. I haven’t lost my faith, but I’ve lost my youthful idealism. I don’t have the same hope and joy and enthusiasm that I did when I was James’s age. Yes, I still believe in God, but I don’t have much hope in this world or in people anymore. Half the time I don’t even believe in myself. At least, not like everyone else does. Not like you do, Dad.”
Instead he said, “Uh, sure. Of course. You’re welcome.”