Innocent Bystander

Joined: July 27th, 2016, 1:51 am

December 28th, 2016, 4:13 am #1

"Ben! Come down from there!"

James Lichter was looking up at the branches of the ash tree that stood in his back garden, his hands on his hips. Only by looking closer could an eight year old boy be seen, sitting on the branches two thirds up, hiding in the leaves. A casual observer would have missed him, but as it happened, James had had a fair bit of practice. He didn't even look worried that his son was sitting rather precariously 14 feet off the ground. He knew Ben wouldn't fall, though he did try to keep him on the ground if he could, to placate the fears of his wife. But that wasn't the reason he was calling him down. The reason was simply that they were late. Or almost late, which amounted to the same thing.

"Ben! Come down now or we'll be late!"

"I'm coming!", replied Ben, though he stayed put. In most cases he wouldn't have ignored his father like this, but it was a fine day, and the gentle breeze made sitting in his favorite perch that day all the more nicer.

At that moment Melissa, his mother, walked out of the house. "Is he up there again?", she asked James, sounding just a bit exasperated. He nodded, frowning. "Ben, you come down there now! You know I don't like you being up there!", she called. Ben sighed. It was done. The fun, that is. He started to climb back along the branch to the trunk. Then he made his way down the tree, branch for branch. At the bottom one he hung from the branch, flashed his parents a smile, then dropped into a crouch. It was as easy as breathing.

He hurried over to his parents, smiling good-naturedly. Against her better judgement Melissa felt she couldn't stay angry at the grinning little boy in front of her. She bent down to hug him, then sighed. "I really wish you wouldn't do that, Ben.", she chided. Ben had the decency to look guilty. "Sorry," he mumbled into her blouse, and meaning it, though he knew he would most likely be up there again in the evening. Some things were just too nice to pass up.

James looked a bit awkward, and waited for the hug to finish to interject: "We really need to hurry. Ben still needs to change, and we need to be out the door in ten minutes." "Right.", intoned Melissa and, taking Ben's hand, hurried him into the house to get changed. James followed, at a slower pace. He was dressed in a suit and tie, and they were going to church. It was Saturday, the Sabbath, and like every week he and Ben were going to the church service, though Ben went to a Sabbath School Lesson beforehand.

James wandered into Ben's room while Melissa was dressing him. Melissa looked up while she was helping Ben out of his shirt, and noticed something she hadn't before. "Why the suit? It's been ages since you wore that thing.", she quipped. "I... I don't know," replied James, looking away uneasily, "I just felt like it today." He started pacing the room. "Did you get an answer from the nursing home yet?" Ben, who had been wriggling into his white Saturday blouse, stopped, then continued more slowly and with less hopping about. He knew the tension that appeared whenever his parents talked about his mother's work. Or lack of it. There was almost never a fight, per se, but everybody always got so serious and quiet that he felt he should too. "Yeah." answered his mom, straightening and turning to face her husband, though he was not facing her: "They said they needed someone with experience, or a degree in nursing." His father bowed his head and sighed, and, if he had been any other person, he would have sworn. Yet, after a minute, he turned and said, "It doesn't matter. We'll find something else. Or else I'll ask my boss if I can get a raise. I think I'm due one, at any rate." He looked at Ben. "You done?", he asked. "Almost, dad.", said Ben, as he was tying his second shoelace. "Done!", he exclaimed the moment the second knot caught, and he stood up. "Good, Ben: That was quick.", exclaimed James encouragingly. "Come now.", he said, and turned to the door. Ben followed, a little proud his dad had seen how fast he had tied his shoelaces. They left the house quickly and went to the car, James giving Melissa a quick peck on the cheek as goodbye. He pulled out of the driveway in their Audi A3, with Ben in the back seat. The church was a good 3/4s of an hour away, in nearby Gilbert, and they had to get there before 10 o'clock.

The Sabbath School Lesson that Ben had that day was nothing special. The were learning about the parable of Jesus where he talked about the farmer who threw seeds on the ground and different things happened to the seeds depending on where he threw them. Ben wasn't really paying attention, but he did learn that he was one of the seeds that grew healthy and strong, which made him feel glad. After the lesson he went to find his father, who usually sat with the other adults discussing things that were even more complicated than the things he had to learn, but he wasn't with them this time. Ben asked one of the other men, a kind-faced man who his father sometimes talked to after service, where he was, but the man didn't know. He hadn't seen him that day. Ben almost started crying then and there, as if he were a younger boy, when his father came into the church. He apologized to the other members of the group and said he had had an urgent appointment. There were some disapproving looks from the other adults, but nobody said anything.

Ben didn't notice anything during service, which he always looked forward to, since he liked listening to the pastor's booming voice, but after it he found it strange that his father headed straight to the car, instead of talking to other church-goers as he usually did. Ben didn't mind though, as he was often bored during those times and wished that they would go home. In the car he busied himself with counting trees, and later, that he was hopping from tree to tree beside the car. When that got boring he pondered the pastor's sermon. That day's topic had been about the law. Specifically, the law of God. It had seemed simple enough. Only one had confused him. So he asked his dad: "Dad, what does 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any grave image.' mean? Can't people have pictures on their graves?" His father, who had been driving somewhat distractedly, looked up, and laughed gently: "No Ben, it's not 'grave' image, it's 'graven' image. It means we're not supposed to make pictures of God." "Oh.", said Ben, still confused. "Why not?" "Because we can never make a picture of Him that even comes close to how He really looks.", answered his father. "So if we make one, we worship that instead of Him. That would break the first commandment, and is wrong."

Ben thought about this, and thought he understood. Then he had another question. "Dad, are all the commandments equal?" He had found this to be a bit of a problem, seeing as how stealing seemed bad, but not as bad as killing someone, something he disliked to think about. His father paused, but answered: "No. But it's not for me or anybody to decide which is more important. That's God's business." This wasn't really the answer Ben had been looking for. "But dad, which ones are more important?"

He didn't get an answer for some time. Not even when he cautiously asked "Dad...?". But then his father spoke: "The most important commandment is the fourth. Then six. Then eight.... or seven." Ben counted them in his mind, satisfied with the answer. He didn't see how his father slowly slumped in his seat, as if some great weight bore down on him.
V6 Character:
Benjamin "Squirrel" Lichter [ ~ / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / + / > ] - You'll find him in the clouds.
V7 Characters:
Chloe Bruges [ - ] - You'll find her doing math.
Joseph "Joey" Quintero - You'll find him writing speaches.
Keith Rogers - You'll find him out with his gang.
[+] Spoiler
Putting this here, so people know, if it ever becomes relevant (unlikely, but still): If you want to use my characters for anything non-profit, you may, without contacting me even (though it would be nice regardless). All I want is a small mention that gives me credit for first concieving of them. If you want to use my characters for something for-profit, if it's just a cameo or similar, you also may, under the same terms; if it's a more substantial role, I don't want to chain myself to any statement - then contact me.