The Forgotten Path | A Short Story by Allison Graham
This story was submitted for the 2015 Winter Quarter Short Story Contest. While it wasn’t a finalist entry, the judges enjoyed it, and felt it merited being shared with the community. Congratulations, Allison!
When I was a boy, I lived with my parents, as all children do. They taught me right from wrong, and how I should treat others. Most importantly, they taught me about God. They instructed me in his commandments and warned me against evils.
Then, when I had become a man, I set out in the world to make my way. Determined to make a name for myself and make my parents proud, I set out for the city.
When I had arrived in the city, I immediately applied for a small job at a large business firm. It was small, but paid well, and I was happy and made many friends.
As time passed and I slowly rose throughout the company, I began to make more and more money.
I also began to shun my old friends, instead consorting with those with somewhat lower morals but much more power, in the hopes that they could make me more prosperous. Instead of being happy, I began to think only of how I could make myself richer and gain more power, instead of helping others as I had done before.
Finally, the day came when I achieved something that had somehow become the biggest, most important thing in my life.
I became the owner of the company, holding much power in my hands. However, I had sunk far below the morals my parents had once instilled in me, but I was too foolish to realize what a tragedy this was.
One day, and this is when the story begins, started like all the others. I was working in my office when my secretary told me a distressed employee had demanded to see me.
Wearily, I agreed to meet with him, recognizing the name as one of the people I had informed that very morning of the fact that they were going to be fired, with the next day being their last.
As the employee walked in, I prepared myself for the fuss that the man would surely make as I wondered to myself why he could not understand that this was for the welfare of the company.
As I had expected, the man had begun to make a scene, even going as far as telling me that he had children, and he needed this job to support them.
I firmly told him that there was no place for him here, that money would be saved by firing him.
He pleaded with me, begging me for any job that I could find, not caring what it was. After I had had enough of his whining, I told him to get out of my office and my building. After he finally left, I felt something. Was it guilt? In my foolishness, I believed not.
In any case, a quick peek at the money I had accumulated so far this week was enough to stifle the strange feeling. Later that same day I received a call from my parents. While the phone rang, I thought of them. I hadn’t talked to them in a long time, since I had started rising through the ranks, to be honest.
I knew they were ill, but if I answered them now, they would beg for a visit, would they not? I sighed to myself as I ignored the ringing and wondered irritably why they could not see that to take a day off to visit them would be detrimental to my company.
During the afternoon of that day, I received another visitor to my office. It was someone who used to be a close friend of mine, but who had become estranged after I began to pursue power and money more than honest companionship.
They seemed to have been crying, but I coldly ignored their red-rimmed eyes and asked what they needed. After all, I told myself, I was a busy man, and I couldn’t possibly be expected to worry about everyone. As they tearfully informed me that one of their siblings had recently died, they asked that I allow them two weeks leave so that they could help plan and then attend the funeral.
Inwardly seething at the ignorance of the people that kept pestering me with such pleas that day, but carefully keeping a blank face, I informed them that they would not be allowed the leave, as we were in our busiest time of the season, and not one person could be spared. After all, there was money that could be made!
After a trying day at work (or so it seemed to me), I left the office and made my way home. It was somewhat dark out, but I refused to spend the money that was required for a bus fare when my apartment was only three blocks away, as I had termed that a waste of money a long time ago.
As I was walking down a street, I saw a beggar walking towards me. My upper lip curling in disgust, I averted my eyes in the hope that the vagabond would take the hint.
Much to my then-apparent misfortune, the vagrant approached me and asked for whatever I could spare, be it money or food. In disgust, I shook off the beggar and told him to go away. At that, the beggar seemed to stand a little taller and waraned me that I would soon regret my actions.
Shaking it off as the crazy mumblings of a deranged old man, I quickly finished making my way to my apartment.
Once I had reached the penthouse of a prestigious hotel, the apartment that I lived in, I did my best to forget about the inane mutterings of the beggar.
I poured myself a glass of the finest wine and settled down to read the latest in a series of novels in which I had grown interested. As the night slowly progressed, I found myself unable to enjoy my book.
I could not for the life of me put the day’s events out of mind. Deciding that perhaps I was worried about work, I decided to abandon my attempts at an enjoyable evening and go to bed. After completing my nighttime rituals, I did just that.
No sooner had I fallen asleep, however, than I heard a great noise, as if the wind was howling in pain. I jolted awake, the sound startling me badly.
As I stood from my bed, I saw someone in my room. Somewhat scared, but mostly indignant, I approached the visitor boldly. As I neared, the visitor stepped forward, into the light, and I gasped at what I saw.
It seemed to be a man in appearance, but as he neared, I could feel something different about him. He approached me, and trying to be brave; I spoke. “Who are you? Why are you here?”
He replied, “I am your guardian angel, given permission by God to show you the error of your ways.” Scoffing, I looked at him, about to make a disbelieving reply, when he suddenly seemed to glow with an unearthly radiance, and his face took on the expression of one who had been blessed with the privilege of having experienced the greatest joy ever to exist. I harbored no further doubt in my mind and weakly nodded.
He came even closer to me, his face solemn, and took hold of my arm. I blinked in astonishment, but when I opened my eyes, I found myself in an unfamiliar city. Astounded, I peered at my surroundings and was shocked by what I saw. At first glance, the eye was drawn to the skyscrapers, the beautiful buildings that surrounded them, and the streets that crossed the city that were filled with people and cars.
I turned to the angel and said, “This is a beautiful city, but why have you brought me here?”
The angel, his countenance both stern and sorrowful at the same time, commanded me to look again at the city. As I did, something changed in my sight, allowing me to see everything in the city, not just the outward appearances, and what I saw shocked me. I saw people starving in the alleyways, cast out by those who had more than them.
I saw people driven to stealing and other, worse things, by desperation. I saw corruption and people killing others for the sake of power and money. I saw lonely and sad people, grieving and alone, falling slowly into despair.
As I looked upon all these things, it seemed to me that the beauty of the city was greatly diminished, for although the outward appearance remained the same, all I could think of was the horror and evil that lay within. I turned to the angel, about to beg him to take me away from this stricken city, when I heard a Voice that seemed to come from all around me, and I listened in both fear and awe. “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”
Power seemed to emanate from the Voice, and I knew without a doubt Who was speaking. Unable to reply, I merely nodded, my eyes shut tight in fear. When I dared to open them again, I saw that I was back in my bedroom. I looked up and saw that the angel was still with me, and listened as he spoke.
“The prayers of your parents have granted you this second chance. Take it, and heed the warning you have been given.”
With that, he disappeared, and I was again left alone. I collapsed into bed, my mind still racing from the experience, and went to sleep.
When I awoke the next morning, the events of the previous night were still as clear as they had been just hours before, and as I prepared for work I thought over what had happened. I was, for a few moments inclined to dismiss the entire experience as a dream- a vivid dream, to be sure, but still just a dream.
However, when I remembered the Voice that had spoken to me, I realized that there was no way that the experience could not have been real. I left for work and arrived there with no incidents, but as I sat at my desk I remembered the man from the day before who had desperately needed a job, the man to whom I had offered no assistance whatsoever.
I wondered for a moment why this particular person had suddenly sprung to my mind, but then recalled the words that had been spoken to me the previous night. I asked my secretary to send the man in, and as I waited, I pondered what to say to the man.
A moment later, I was shaken from my thoughts by the sound of someone clearing their throat. I looked up to the man I had called in standing in the doorway of my office, watching me warily. I waved him in and told him to sit, and then broached the subject about which I wished to speak to him.
I told him why he was being fired, but I did not do it in so callous a manner as I had the day before, and I offered to give him letters of recommendation to help in his search for another job.
Furthermore, I informed him of several companies I knew of that were hiring people in his position. After he had left, thanking me profusely, I realized that I was feeling something that I hadn’t felt for a long time before. It was as if there was a strange, but not unpleasant, warmth that had started in my chest and spread throughout my body.
After pondering this strange phenomenon for a few more minutes, I asked my secretary to send in the rest of the people being fired, resolving to do for them the same thing I had done for the man that had just left.
At the end of the day, as I was preparing to leave the office, I remembered the person that had asked me for a couple of weeks off to attend their sibling’s funeral. I had refused, but, in keeping with my new look on life, I decided to send them a notice informing them that they could have their break, as well as expressing my condolences. Feeling very fulfilled, I left the office and began my walk home.
When I had reached my apartment, I immediately reached for the telephone and called my parents, waiting with bated breath for them to answer. As soon as I heard the kind “Hello?” from the other end of the line, I broke down in tears, begging for their forgiveness for my failings towards them. They soon came to the realization that I had had a change of heart, and informed me that they forgave me for everything- after all, is that not what a parent’s love provides for, they asked?
After I had asked for their permission to visit them that very weekend and they had agreed, I regretfully hung up and prepared myself for bed. As I did, I marveled at the fact that so much could change in the span of less than a day.
When I lay down to sleep that night, I did so feeling that I had done something good that day, something that truly helped others and not just myself.
And so, I lived out the rest of my life following the words that had been spoken to me, allowing my change of heart to last, and my days were filled with joy. I became known for my kindness, and all who knew who I was knew that I would help them if they needed it.
And, when I died and heard the Voice once again, I felt not fear but joy as I heard Him tell me, “You have been a good and faithful servant. Come, enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
About Allison Graham
As a fifteen-year-old cradle Catholic that’s been homeschooled from the start, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, swimming, reading, writing, listening to music, and assisting at the Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the local parish. I am the second oldest child in my family, with an older brother, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters, the youngest of which shares a birthday with me. My favorite subjects are Biology and English, and I hope to pursue a career in nursing. One of my favorite book series at the moment is the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. In true swimmer fashion, I am a bit of a klutz on dry land, and tend to not be the epitome of grace.
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