Her husband looks sharply at her.
Poor boy? According to what I heard he was quite a little devil in life, dear!
His wife nods sadly.
Yes, that’s true. But you must admit he might be deeply shattered by the realization that his own father sold his house and dumped his stuff outside for people to pillage, dear.
Frankly, I don’t give two hoots about him. Come, we’re running late for the programme. Let’s get out of here.
GOLGOTHA HEIGHTS INTERNATIONAL CHURCH
The Central Auditorium of the Golgotha Heights International Church is filled to capacity, as usual.
It is a huge church, a sprawling three-storey edifice that rises majestically into the air.
It also has an underground pool area for baptismal occasions.
Main church activities take place on the ground floor. The second floor is an equipped conference centre, whilst the topmost floor are the offices and administration.
A high wall divides it from the other half of the plot where another beautiful building is.
That one is the home of the much revered REVEREND BRAND BAWA.
The church compound has a recreational area a little distance from the church, and this area has a restaurant, an Internet hub, research library and a beautiful garden.
The car park is a well-demarcated area which is also two-storey.
It is Sunday, and the church auditorium is crammed as the congregation listen, enthralled, to the powerful message of the man of God.
He is sixty-four years old, medium-built, with a broad shoulder crammed into an excellent grey suit and white shirt.
His tie is a grey designed luxury with dots that match his suit to perfection.
He is standing on a raised platform, the background wall decorated to depict Jesus Christ’s ascension to heaven.
The beautiful deep sofas behind him are taken up by some elders of his church and his wife, MRS. LOIS BAWA.
In the congregation are Effe Kedem and Junior. Steve Hollison is present, and so is Elaine Boateng and her husband, JONATHAN AFFUL, who is a Director at FINE GOJU, the current best GojuFist promoting company in the country.
They have all been long time members of the church.
Effe’s parents are also present.
Also present are Reverend Brand’s two older children, STAN BAWA, who is married, and DIANA BAWA, the oldest, also married.
Sitting behind Effe is EYRAM KEDEM, Effe’s twin sister who is a doctor.
Reverend Bawa is nearing the climax of his sermon.
That Sunday, either by a freak of manipulation of nature by forces unknown, or by the most stupendous of all coincidences, he is preaching about one of Jesus’ parables, THE PRODIGAL SON, and he is telling them about the power of loving one another in a pure way that enables the heart to forgive wrongs totally.
His choice of message has at first surprised Effe, but then she reasoned that maybe Chris had gone home to his parents, and by some twist in divine intervention, father and son had made up the bad blood that had for a long time characterised their relationship.
It is unusual for people to get up and walk around when the man of God is preaching, and so the auditorium is charged with emotions as the hearts of the people receive the message.
Hands are raised to the expensive ceiling, and hands are clutching hearts in total obeisance to God. The cries of ‘amen’ and ‘hallelujah’ are paramount.
There are even tears in the eyes of most of the listeners.
And then the huge glass doors open, and a tall, muscled, handsome mean-faced man is suddenly standing in the doorway.
He is still wearing the pair of black jeans, checked shirt and loafers he has brought out of prison.
The auditorium is such that there is an upper terrace assessed by stairs, and the ground interior.
When he enters he begins to walk down the aisle towards the glass pulpit where his father is preaching.
The man of God, holding a microphone, has raised a Bible and is just screaming out the divine blessings of forgiveness when he sees his youngest son walking towards him.
He chokes on the word, and he remains frozen, his eyes almost bulging out of their sockets with total shock and disbelief.
For a moment people begin to murmur with concern, sure that the man is having some sort of attack.
Then heads slowly begin to turn as it becomes evident that the man of God is rather being affected by the entrance of the new man.
The people on the upper terrace facing the door are standing up, some craning their necks.
There is a sudden murmur as the new man is recognized as the pastor’s prodigal son, the jailbird who has brought so much disgrace to his family.
Those who know him begin to point him out to others.
Effe, who has been whispering to a sleepy and tired Junior, telling him that they will go home soon, is the last to experience the intense and charged atmosphere in the room, but she hears Eyram’s quick intake of breath behind her, and a moment later Eyram speaks.
Good grief! Is that Chris? Goodness me!
Effe looks up instantly and turns, and sees Chris halfway to the pulpit.
Jonathan Afful, a powerful compact man with close-cropped hair, has been rubbing Elaine’s inner thigh secretly, and she has been glaring at him fiercely to stop, and when he hears Eyram’s voice he also turns, and quickly drops his hand from Elaine’s thigh.
Hey! This is gonna be damn interesting, what the fuck! Gaddemn!
Jon! You’re in church! Stop spewing your profane drivel!
Steve also turns, and his face instantly flares into lines of stunned incredulity and intense dislike.
This guy never learns, does he?
Junior, intrigued by the turning of heads, climbs onto his seat, sees his father, and shouts.
Daddyyyyyyyy! Mom, it’s Daddy! Daddyyyyyyyy!
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He struggles to get down but Effe, suddenly uncomfortable with the sudden stares, holds him tightly.
Up on the platform Mrs. Lois Bawa suddenly stands up and her trembling fingers touch her lips.
She is trembling badly, and her throat goes dry all of a sudden.
Chris? Oh, dear Lord!
In the front row Stan Bawa has been sitting with his wife and daughter, and far to his right is Diana and her husband.
Stan also turns, and then with a little curse he gets to his feet.
His wife tries to hold him back, but he shrugs free and moves to meet his brother.
Reverend Bawa quickly puts down his Bible, overcoming his shock, and he speaks sharply.
Stan Bawa, also of medium-built and powerful, pauses and turns round.
He looks exactly like his father. He is so different from his brother Chris, who has always been tall and extremely handsome because he looks like his mother.
He is the only one who took after his mother.
Sit down, son. Let him come.
Stan glowers at his brother hotly, and then he reluctantly turns back and sits down.
Chris’ expression doesn’t change.
He walks forward until he reaches the platform, and then he turns to the stairs and climbs up onto the platform.
He walks towards his father, and the older man turns to face his son.
His mother, tall and elegant, walks forward until she is standing by her husband’s side. Her eyes are furious now as she glares at her son.
Chris, Chris, Chris! Always a rotten apple! How can you do this to your father, Chris? Couldn’t you have waited? When I heard from Mrs. Bediako that you went to their house I was sure you would come over, but did you have to do it like this, at service, with the whole congregation present?
Chris looks at his mother, and his eyes are sad.
Yes, mother. Here! I was also pretty sure that you would also take your husband’s side, as usual, and support him for selling my house.
That seems to hurt the woman, and suddenly the angry glint in her eyes dulls.
Unfortunately, the man of God’s microphone is still turned on, and what the two of them said is heard by the whole congregation, and suddenly the whole place goes silent.
The man of God looks at his son with a calculated look in his eyes. Suddenly he holds out his arms towards Chris.
Come into my arms, my dearest son! I was informed that you were released from prison on a presidential pardon. Come, son, embrace your father who has missed you so!
Chris does not move.
Instead a steely look comes into his eyes as he appraises his father.
Cut the bullshit, father.
There is a collective gasp of shock and horror in the auditorium.
Chris! Are you out of your mind?
He looks at his mother and fixes her with the coldest stare from his soul.
You really think if I had come to your house your husband would’ve welcomed me back with open arms?
His mother is trembling, and her hands are tight angry fists at her sides, but she does not reply.
She is horrified inside at the sight of her son. He had been fleshy before going to prison, but he has changed so completely.
He is all brawn and sheer muscle now, a perfect image of the perfect man, more handsome than ever, but a certain emotion is touched within her, a mother’s love that never completely dies, and her heart bleeds at the kind of hard life he has had in prison to turn him into what he is now.
If that is the way it is, Chris, then there’s nothing to say. Why are you here? Is it your house?
Yes, sir. My house. You sold it. Why?
The silence is so thick that a pin dropping would have sounded like a bomb.
The man of God looks at his son, and he shakes his head sadly.
Well, you hurt a girl when your car crashed into her, because you were high on cocaine, my son, and also very drunk when you were driving. Secondly, you beat up your uncle, your own mother’s brother, very badly, and he was also in the hospital. You refused to render an apology, even when you were advised by the judge that doing so would reduce your prison sentence. You didn’t say sorry for any of these acts!
There is loud murmuring in the church. Accusing and angry fingers are pointed at this sinful prodigal son who can come to church and mess up the life of their revered prophet.
Cruel tongues wag, and as Effe listens, her heart bleeds with a mixture of humiliation and anger at Chris.
Chris takes a step towards his father, and the auditorium is suddenly hushed again.
Everybody can see that he is very angry, and very hurt, and for a moment it looks as if he is going to attack his father.
(in a soft whisper under her breath)
Please, Chris. Please no, don’t do it!
And what has that got to do with you selling my house?
The reverend throws his arms in the air in angry exasperation.
What has it got to do with it? Is that what you asked? I sold your house to get money to meet the medical bills of these two persons you hurt! Do you know that poor girl is still in a wheelchair? Do you know she’ll never walk again? I give her money every month, Chris my son! That is the responsibility you left me. And I’m a responsible man! I sold your house to take care of the mess you left behind!
Once again there are murmurs of approval from the congregation again.
Is that the reason why you also threw my things out of the house? My clothes and everything that belonged to me? You threw them out, my possessions, everything I ever owned, and people took them away. Was that also to pay for medical bills, reverend?
The room is hushed again.