Mel sat in the cab of his pickup and tapped the steering wheel. The evergreen air freshener swayed back and forth as he drummed the pattern to Wipeout. His wife had always hated that song, but years ago when Jacob brought the new vinyl home, Mel had secretly applauded the choice. Every time the record blared through the walls of his son’s bedroom, Mel would grin and make a drum roll sound with his tongue.
It was warm for September, and without air conditioning, the old cab swelled with the heat. A fat fly buzzed in a corner of the windshield, accompanying Mel as he progressed through the movements of the song.
Today, Mel had almost been late to the station. A three-car pile-up had impeded traffic for miles, causing him to cast furtive glances at the dashboard clock. He always left work at 4:30 so that he would arrive no later than 4:55, just in case the 5:02 happened to be early. It never was. He made it in plenty of time to see the Greyhound pull into the station and deposit a bus full of sweaty passengers.
First to disembark was a skinny thing wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket. Couldn’t be more than sixteen. That backpack was hiked over her shoulder like she was escaping the world. After the girl, a mother with two small children scrambled down, then an elderly woman, a smitten couple who insisted on exiting the narrow door together. Then came a man in checked trousers, a woman attempting to recreate the Jackie-O look. Passenger after passenger exited into the muggy evening.
Bringing up the rear was a young man with black hair. He caused Mel to look twice, but in the end, the kid had been too short, too muscular. Jacob had always been tall and wiry. Mel hadn’t seen him since he left home in ’64, but five years couldn’t have changed that much.
“Hey, Mel, how you doin’, buddy?” Bill’s voice startled him. The station manager pounded his fist on the glass window and made the “roll-down” sign. Mel reluctantly diverted his eyes from the bus. The window creaked and stuttered, creaked and stuttered again.
“Hardly working, I see,” Mel said and pointed to the crossword puzzle book lodged in Bill’s back pocket.
“Can’t work too hard. They’ll think I’m stealing from the company.” Pause. Mel managed to give his friend a laugh. “No sign of Jacob?” Bill nodded at the recent arrival from Nashville.
“Not today,” Mel said, taking one last glance at the bus doors where the driver, a portly man from Boston, lumbered off. He lifted his cap and looked in the direction of the pickup. He gave Mel a reluctant shake of the head, and a wave of sadness filled the cab.
While Mel maneuvered his disappointment, Bill rambled about his plans for the weekend. Something about seeing Butch Cassidy at the drive-in. Mel only half-listened. Years of waiting for Jacob had facilitated a friendship between the two. When he first started coming, Mel would get out of his truck and wait on the bench. Nowadays he watched from the truck.
“I don’t know how you do it, Mel. There’s no way I’d still be coming down here. Always knew you were crazy.” Now Bill was using his serious tone. This usually happened every few weeks, as if it was his duty to give Mel a reality check. Five years had passed since Jacob had phoned, telling Mel he was coming home on the 5:02 from Nashville. Every day since then, Mel had driven to the station and waited.
“Yeah, I know,” Mel agreed. “Guess I am a little crazy. Cindy thinks so.” His wife had made no efforts to conceal her opinion. In the beginning she’d been supportive, even came with him sometimes, but those days had passed. These days she didn’t like to talk about Jacob at all, especially not in front of other people.
With his daily pilgrimage completed, Mel felt the hunger pains arrest his belly. He mumbled something to Bill about having a good weekend and drove home in silence. He kissed Cindy on the cheek and ignored her daily reminder that this bus station business was a waste of time. They ate pot roast for dinner. Halfway through the meal, he asked if she’d like to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
“Is it a Western?” Her voice was skeptical. She usually hated anything involving war or cowboys or murder.
“Robert Redford’s in it,” Mel said and winked.
“Is he Butch or the Sundance Kid?” Mel said he didn’t know. Cindy said she would think about it.
While his wife cleaned up the dishes, Mel went into his son’s bedroom. He played Wipeout on the old record player and grooved along, hitting his hands against his knees.
“Great every time,” he said when the song finished. He made himself refrain from playing it all over again. Mel slowly moved the needle back to its resting place, but he let the record stay on the player. It was the last song Jacob had played before leaving home, and Mel wanted it to be there when his son finally came home.
And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of thy substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. But when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his [f]servants, Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called to him one of the servants, and inquired what these things might be. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. But he was angry, and would not go in: and his father came out, and entreated him. But he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but when this thy son came, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou killedst for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine. But it was meet to make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.Luke 15:11-32 (ASV)
Question to Ponder: Who has waited for you?
Song Recommendation: Prodigal Son, performed by Melanie Mason
-Read Previous Sunday Psalms from Season Two: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5,Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12, Episode 13, Episode 14, Episode 15, Episode 16, Episode 17, Episode 18, Episode 19, Episode 20, Episode 21, Episode 22, Episode 23, Episode 24, Episode 25, Episode 26, Episode 27, Episode 28, Episode 29, Episode 30, Episode 31, Episode 32, Episode 33
Written by Heidi Beth Sadler, Inspired by Luke 15. Copyright © 2017 Benjamin & Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.