Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lent Later

Lent Later

My hands were raised, ready to shoot a basket, when she appeared.
“So...what are you guys doing for Lent?”

I lowered my arms and frowned at my little sister. “We’re in the middle of a game here!”

Neela turned to my friend Austin. She’s always trying to talk to him. “Tomorrow's Ash Wednesday. Are you giving something up for Lent?”

“Yes,” he said. “Video games.”

“That’s a tough one,” she said. “I’m giving up gum.”

“Gum!” I cried. “You can’t have gum anyway with your braces.”

She pouted. “Which is really hard for me, Chris.”

“But it’s not a sacrifice just for Lent.”

“Well, what are you giving up?” she demanded.

I wanted a better goal than Neela’s so I said, “Pop.”

“But you love pop,” said Austin.

“Yeah," I said, "but a person should really sacrifice something for Lent – not just pretend.”

Neela rolled her eyes and headed back inside.

The next afternoon when I got home from school, I headed to the kitchen like usual for a bottle of pop. I was taking a big swig when Neela shrieked, "You're drinking pop!"

I almost dropped the bottle! "So? What’s...oh! I forgot about Lent.” Which was true. I looked at the already-open bottle. “Well...I might as well finish this and start my sacrifice tomorrow.”

Nina folded her arms. “Some of us started today like you’re supposed to.”

I snorted. “Are you still pretending that gum thing is some kind of sacrifice?”

“I’m not pretending.”

 “Right,” I said. “Keep telling yourself that.”

The next day the weather got surprisingly hot. I was dying of thirst by the time I got home after school. I remembered about Lent this time, but it didn’t seem fair to have to give up pop when I could be dangerously dehydrated.

It won’t hurt to begin Lent later, I told myself, grabbing a pop and taking it to my room.

When Neela came to tell me supper was ready, she spotted the empty bottle. “Gee, Chris. Did you ‘forget’ about Lent again?”

“No! I’m just getting started a little late,” I said. “At least I’m making a real sacrifice.”

“It’s killing me to give up gum,” Neela whined.

“It still doesn’t count for Lent,” I told her.

The next morning, Austin plopped beside me on the bus. “It's hard to live without my games.”

"They don't call it a sacrifice for nothing," I said.

"I know! So how's the no-pop thing going?"

My late start would be hard to explain so I just said, “Good.” Which would be true today, right?
But that afternoon, after baseball practice, I had to put things off again. The coach rewarded the team’s hard work with a cooler of pop. Refusing to drink one would have been rude.

On Saturday, I rushed through my chores because Austin was coming over. After I finished, I figured I deserved a treat so I had a few swallows of pop. The last ones before I really started Lent, I told myself. When I saw Austin coming down the walk, I put the bottle back in the fridge and hurried outside with the basketball.

Neela followed right behind me and said, “Hi, Austin!” Then she launched into this big story about how she was suffering over her phony Lenten goal.

“Sheesh, Neela!” I interrupted. “Why don’t you stop pretending you’re actually doing something for Lent? You're nothing but a fake.”

“I’m a fake?” Neela shouted. “You’ve been drinking pop every day!”

“Not much,” I said. “And anyway...I had to do it. And...and I’m not doing it anymore.”

“Right," she said. "You drank some today then put the bottle back in the fridge for later.”

“I did not!" I yelled. "I mean…I’m not going to drink it!”

“You are, too!” she yelled back.

We went on like that until we noticed Austin was stomping off down the road!

“Great,” I said. “You made Austin mad.”

“And you embarrassed me!” Neela burst into tears and ran inside.

I told myself I didn’t care Neela was upset. Hey, she embarrassed herself with her bogus sacrifice.
I shot baskets awhile then went inside for something to drink. I thought about getting some water, but why waste the pop I already opened?

After I got out the bottle and closed the refrigerator door, Neela was standing right there. She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t have to. I was doing just what she said I would! And I called her phony?

“Busted!” I said with a puny laugh. Neela frowned so I got serious. “Okay. You were right. I’ve been faking my way through Lent so far. But I’m not making any more excuses to put things off.” I emptied the bottle into the sink then put it in the recycling bin. “There! I mean it this time. I’m starting my sacrifice for real.”

“Me, too,” she said. “Giving up gum is hard, but I want to do something more. I’m not sure what...but something.”

Neela left the room then, and I got a glass of water which actually tasted pretty good. I was glad I wasn’t putting off my Lenten goal any longer, but I still didn’t feel quite right. When I finally realized what was bothering me, I gulped the rest of the water and hurried off to take care of things with Neela and Austin.

Apologizing was something else that couldn’t wait until later!

1 comment:

  1. Good story! Giving up things for Lent sure is hard!


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