File this under the "I can’t believe I haven’t posted this before" category, but here is a story I did a couple of years ago. I am pretty sure I didn’t put it up here because now I have a search engine to check and be sure. It is an extended version of the story of the prodigal son. I tend to think of it as a modern (well, 1940’s anyway) retelling of the story, but there is nothing that sets it in any particular time period.
It does differ from my other stories in one regard. It actually has another person (The Son who doesn’t have any speaking parts) and some legitimate movements and action. It is also a story best told from memory. Check it out after the jump.
THE LOST SON
Setting: A wooden rocking chair sitting center stage. If you would like to add to the effect of a front porch you could add a couple of plants and maybe a small table with a glass of iced tea, but it isn’t necessary.
Characters: Father (he is the one who tells the story)
Son (pantomimes his actions.
This is a retooling of the parable of the lost son. It is made more powerful by adding someone to play the role of the son. (A teenager probably works best) He doesn’t have lines, only actions and they are indicated where appropriate.
Tonight I want to tell you a story about my son. I know all fathers like to brag on their sons, so I will try my best not to bore you with the details, but I think his story is one you might like to hear. Actually it may be one that will change your life.
I have two sons, Gary and Luke. Luke is the youngest and this is his story. Well, stand up Luke and let them get a good look at you. He’s a handsome one isn’t he? He gets that from his momma not me. Anyway, by the time he was 17 years old this place had already grown quite large. We had a large farm complete with hundreds of hired hands and thousands of sheep and cattle. Life at our place was a hard one, but a good one. Each day me and the boys would get up before dawn and start going about the daily chores. We worked side by side enjoying each other in silence mostly bending our back to the work and rejoicing in the new day.
Well at least that’s what I thought we were doing. Turns out Luke was silent because he hated what he was doing and a storm was brewing deep inside of him. Any time we needed something from town Luke would always volunteer to go and get it. As he got older those trips to town began to take longer and longer.
One day Luke got up and went to town early in the morning. We waited as we worked for his return. All day long we shot glances at the road hoping to see him coming back. I was starting to worry that something might have happened. I was sitting here on the porch as twilight was just beginning to come on. The day’s chores were done, and still Luke hadn’t come home. There was an ache in my stomach as I waited. I resolved in my head that if he didn’t come home by nightfall that I was going to look for him.
Just then I saw him walking up the road. (Son enters from the back of the room walking purposefully down the aisle). His step looked purposeful, and resolute in some way. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I got this funny feeling deep inside of me. I should have been relieved to see him, but all I could feel was a sense of building dread. He walked right up to me on the porch. (Son comes up and stands in front of reader) I stayed seated waiting for him to speak. He just looked at me for a long time, I don’t know if he was trying to work up the courage to say what he was going to say, or if he had second thoughts, but his silence lasted only a minute. When he did speak his words cut me to the core. They were words he had been thinking for a long time, and words he had obviously rehearsed.
(this is where it gets a little tricky to not have the son talk. You are more than welcome to give the son this dialog to say, but it will work without it. Be sure if the Son isn’t talking he is gesturing appropriately.)
“Father,” he said, “I am tired of living in this place. It is stifling me, holding me in. I can’t live here in this cage any more. I need to be free, to find somewhere that I can breathe. I guess I am trying to say, I am leaving.”
“So where are you going to go?” I asked him. I didn’t know what else to say.
“I’m heading to the city. I have some friends there.” He said.
“And what will you do there?”
“I don’t know hang out, party, be alive, not worry about the farm or getting up before dawn, just not worry about anything.” He said, his well rehearsed speech was starting to fall apart and I was beginning to hear an old whine creep back into his voice.
“Do you really think that will make you free?” I asked, “A life spent without responsibility isn’t freedom. It is denial. You don’t have to be a farmer, but if you go off and chance after this foolishness you will never be free either. You will be a slave to your own vices. You will be a slave to money. Have you even thought about how you will support yourself?”
And then he said words that cut me to the core. Then he said he said he wanted me dead. (Son walks off stage) Of course he didn’t come right out and say it that way, but I knew what he meant. What he said was, “I am owed an inheritance. Give me that now so I can leave this place. I have worked here all of my life now give me what I am due.”
I didn’t know what to say. How could I have messed up so completely? How could I have failed to teach him? Did he really think that the life he was chasing was freedom? If he did then I had failed. I couldn’t think of any other way to show him. I couldn’t think of any other way to tell him, to help him understand. So I did what I would never have imagined.
The next day I spent walking the south half of my land. It was rich and fertile soil. I had planted countless times on that piece of earth. The harvest from it had fed my family and provided for our lives. My great-grandfather had worked that land, and it had passed down through the generations to me. As I walked along each field I could feel his presence there, feel his sweat and blood in the soil. That land was my heritage, that land was my life,
but Luke was my son.
I sold that south half the next day.
(Son comes back on stage sort of sheepishly and grabs an imaginary wad of cash from his father) When Luke took the money the next morning he didn’t even look me in the eyes. I think what hurt me the most wasn’t that he was leaving, it was that he didn’t even understand the sacrifice it was for me to let him go. Sure it hurt to give up the land, but it hurt even more to see him walk out that door wishing I was dead.
(Son walks down the aisle to the back of the church)
“You can always come home” I told him as he walked down the road.
Life continued after that. Gary and I continued to work the farm and the fields. We still laughed some, but not as much. Gary couldn’t understand why I did what I did, and there were days when I couldn’t understand it either. We would hear pieces of stories from people passing through–stories of Luke and his new lifestyle. It seems he had a lot of friends. Every story involved him in a bar somewhere buying everyone drinks. It seemed like everyone loved him.
Through the first year I kept thinking Luke would wake up and come home. In the second year I stopped hoping for him to come home and just kept hoping for news from him. At the end of the fourth year I stopped hearing about him anymore. I would ask travelers for stories about him, but no one seemed to know where he was anymore. He must have move
d away they said.
Part of me wondered if he had really found the freedom he was searching for. Part of me wondered if he had grown up enough to know that freedom couldn’t be bought with money. Part of me wondered if he was dead. I just didn’t know where he was, and even after 5 years it was still tearing me up inside.
One day a man came to see me. He owned a large farm a few towns over. I had seen him a few times at market and we knew each other enough to say hello. I have to say it was strange to see him at my house. He stood on my porch with his hat in his hand looking kind of sheepish. I didn’t know what could bring him all this way to say to me.
“I know you’ve been looking for your boy.” He said. “Well, I’ve found him,”
Then he began to tell me a story that turned my insides upside down and hurt me far more than selling my land ever could. He told me that Luke had come to his farm thin and starving and looking for work. He started working shoveling manure and feeding the pigs. Some of the other workers had seen him eating out of the pig trough he was so hungry.
“So that’s where he is,” the man said, “do you want me to send him home.”
I looked away so this stranger wouldn’t see the tears running down my face. “He’s knows he can come home,” I said, “Apparently he would rather live with those pigs and live here with me.” The man slowly slipped off my porch and I just sat there and cried.
(through tears) “He would rather live with pigs than with me.”
Work continued as it always does. Oven the next few weeks though I couldn’t stop staring at the road. All day long I found my eye wandering back there, hoping to see Luke there. Every night I would sit here in this chair on the porch and watch and wait. I really didn’t have much hope, but I still couldn’t stop watching. Several times I would see figures on the road and stand up only to have them turn out to be someone else.
Then one day nearly 6 years after Luke had left I saw a figure coming up the road. I stood to look, and had almost convinced myself it was someone else when I saw the way he walked and knew that it was my son.
(Son enters from the back of the church again. Father runs down aisle yelling Luke! Luke! My son has come home, O Luke. Father grabs him in a big bear hug and then leads the Son up towards the stage.)
(speaking to the Son the Father continues) Hush up, of course you are still my son. Hey everyone come quick Luke is home. Go and grab him some clothes, fire up the grill call all the neighbors tonight we are having a party. Luke has finally come home! He has found his freedom.