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A Lesson in Punctuation (standard:drama, 2950 words)
Author: P. Andrew CaseAdded: Nov 22 2005Views/Reads: 3223/1992Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A man serving a life sentence is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and battles with the decision of whether or not to tell his family, who he has not spoken to in years.

A Lesson in Punctuation 

“Look at the leaves,” said Reverend Timmons.  “It's as if God reserved
an entire reservoir of colors just for autumn.”  Allen followed the 
reverend's gaze through the high, chain-linked fence to the towering 
oak tree.  For the past fifteen years, it had provided him with a shady 
spot to read, while the other inmates took part in more athletic 

“They're dying, you know,” said Allen.  “It'll be bare in a month.” 

“All the more reason to enjoy them now.” 

“I just think it's disrespectful to marvel in its death.  Maybe they're
changing colors as one last desperate cry for help.  Maybe they're just 
trying to get our attention.”  Allen subconsciously rolled his eyes at 
the absurdity of his own claim.  Nonetheless, the weekly visits from 
the Reverend Timmons had become more about extending the arguments than 
winning them. 

“Maybe,” Timmons said with a warm smile.  “But maybe we should try
looking at it as a stage between life, a midpoint between summer's life 
and spring's rebirth.” 

“Or maybe we should just stop taking spring for granted,”  said Allen,
knowing this conversation was well overdue for a spiritual reference to 
parallel his situation with the foliage.  Reverend Timmons was good 
with that.  This last statement was more or less a nod of approval for 
him to do so. 

“Well Brother Barnes” 

“Allen.”  He hadn't let Reverend Timmons get away with addressing him
with that title since the last time he walked out of his small, 
Pentecostal church fifteen years ago. 

“Well Allen,” he continued, “you know, as well as anyone, that we only
have so much time before we reach that midpoint.  It's not about 
extending that time, but using it to prepare yourself for the answer to 
the question of whether or not spring will come.” 

“Well what if the answer is that you just wasted your entire life
preparing, just so you could end up as fertilizer, just like everyone 

“I'd rather waste a life than an eternity.” 

God damnit.  Allen knew he had backed himself into a corner.  “Well,
that's a good point, but it's too logical.  If I were to accept Christ 
based on that, would He accept me?” 

“If your logic was accompanied by faith.” 

“...Which it isn't,” Allen said with a sense of pride knowing he had
gotten out of the trap he had walked into.  “I just don't see how I 
could possibly follow a God whose master plan includes all of this.” 

“Allen, God gives us choices.  You made the choice to drink that night,
and it was your hands on the steering wheel.  People always ask why bad 
things happen to good people.  Maybe it's because people's belief in 
God is directly correlated to whether or not there's something to blame 
Him for.” 

“That's complete bullshit.  If you're telling me that a man, his wife,
and two children had to die on their vacation just so I could have some 
last second spiritual awakening, then that alone is reason for me to 
avoid Heaven.  I couldn't bring myself to worship someone like that for 
an eternity.”   Allen knew he had crossed the line by swearing in front 
of the minister, but he also knew he finally had a point. 

“Well if that's not what you're looking for, why do I visit you every

“No one else will.” 

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