Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)
By Gini Branch
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“Had a paper to finish. Due tomorrow in person or no grade. Can I sleep now?” Doug said to his roommate. Doug turned toward the wall, hoping to end the conversation.
“Thought church people were supposed to act all nice, smiley….no women, no drugs.” Ted needled Doug and grinned in the dark recalling their most recent exploits and adventures.
“It was just a class. Three easy credits and I had to go for the grade. I still have to get up early. And that’s three hours away from now.” Ted’s remarks had stung Doug.
“Awful quiet. Not getting all holy on me, are you? We’ve got a reputation to uphold. Can’t let the frat down.” Ted taunted Doug with a few more comments before he got quiet.
Doug thought about his reputation as he pulled his blanket up around his shoulders. An eerie glow enveloped him. “You’ve got a reputation to uphold. Don’t forget it.” the voice spoke from behind the light. Doug shuddered and pulled the blanket up further. Soon another light surrounded him, brighter than the one before. “You’ve got a reputation to uphold. You are the light of the world.” This voice spoke more gently, but with an authority unlike the other.
“Turn off that alarm! Not everybody’s got to get up early around here.” Ted shouted.
Doug flailed at the alarm. Classes, off to work, and then the party tonight with Paulette. A reputation to uphold. I only have another semester. Need the frat for networking into the firm.
The semester ended; Doug graduated, and the firm chose him as their fellow. That meant his post graduate work was paid for and he could continue toward his dream job. A reputation to uphold.
“Doug.” Ted loped toward him. “There’s a mixer at the firm this afternoon. They’re toasting their new junior partner. Meet you there?”
“I promised my folks dinner. Owe them that much, at least. Make my excuses for me.”
“They don’t like it if you say no too often. Don’t forget that.”
“Right. I’ll make the next one.”
After dinner Doug returned home with his parents. He hadn’t spent more than a week there over the last few months. Too busy with school. That’s what he’d told them, anyway.
“How about church in the morning?” his father asked in a private moment. “School’s rubbing off on you too much. I can see it in your eyes. And the way you looked at that girl that stopped at our table. Acquainted with her?”
Doug knew what his father meant. He started to refuse and stopped. . “Maybe I should.”
Doug stared at the enormous stained glass window behind the pulpit. The risen Christ coming on a cloud. The sun shone through it and it seemed to Doug that the eyes of the Christ looked directly into him. Doug moved down the pew a couple of places. The feeling persisted. The gaze streamed into him, through him. He felt a sadness. A reputation to uphold. He heard only snatches of the choir medley.
He felt a vibration. His cell phone. He’d forgotten to turn it off. He looked at the screen. It was Ted with a text message. A reputation to uphold. Don’t forget tonite. He tried to concentrate, but his thoughts flitted between the window and Ted’s message.
“You are the light of the world. Let your light shine. To the praise and glory of the Father. Will you let your light shine for the Lord? Today, tonight and tomorrow?” the preacher asked. “Or will you put it under a bushel? Hide it from the world? The world that so desperately needs light?”
Doug looked up toward the pulpit. The light no longer streamed through the window as before. An hour had past. It had moved on. A reputation to uphold. Doug stood as the choir sang the closing benediction and looked toward his parents; he saw tears in his father’s eyes.
“Any plans for this evening?” his father asked. He’d seen the message on the Doug’s phone. “We could grill something and just visit for a while.”
“Sorry, Dad. I can’t. The firm’s having a picnic and I have to be there. Have to build some reputation with them, you know.”
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