Welcome, Friends and New Subscribers! Let’s remember those who suffer for their faith—visit PrisonerAlert.com. Also, learn how you can write to a prisoner suffering for their faith here.
Today, David Telbat has a standalone fiction short story with a faith focus for you called, “The Maintenance Man.” (Be sure to read our update news after the story.) Enjoy!
The Maintenance Man
by D.I. Telbat
Ralph Huber threw an empty beer can at the high school maintenance man behind the school. His friends, recently graduated, laughed as the can bounced off the man’s head. The name tag on the man’s stained coveralls read, “Jeff.”
“Don’t you collect cans, Mr.?” Ralph drooled on his shirt as he stumbled sideways and his friends pushed him back. He’d never been so drunk. Boy, was he glad the school year was over. “We left a few more cans over by the bleachers for you. Maybe you can buy yourself some new coveralls.”
His friends roared as Jeff the maintenance man glared at them. Jeff had a deformed nose and long, stringy hair. His thick, gnarly hands were clenched into fists.
“Careful, Ralph!” One of the boys slapped Ralph on the back. “This grounds keeper may have eaten the last grounds keeper! Whatever happened to Mr. Hutchins, anyway?”
“He died,” another boy said. “I heard he had cancer.”
“This guy is harmless, see?” Ralph rushed at Jeff and shoved him on the shoulder. Instead of giving ground, the man hardly budged, and Ralph felt those gnarled fingers grip the muscle between his shoulder and neck. The boy felt paralyzed—from pain and fear. “Let me go!”
“Come here!” the man yelled at the other boys, but they scrambled over one another as they fled, leaving Ralph behind.
Jeff picked up Ralph and tossed him into a row of garbage bins. On the ground, Ralph shook his head, wishing for his senses to return from the effects of the booze. When he looked around, he realized he was in a corner with walls on two sides, and the maintenance man had blocked his escape.
“Ralph Huber,” the stringy-haired man said, shaking his head. Ralph stared at him, wondering if he’d heard the crazy man correctly. He knew his name? “So, this is what became of the boy who raked the leaves in my front lawn for two bucks a week.”
Sitting up, Ralph felt the beer’s effects starting to wear off as his shame and confusion prevailed.
“I know you?”
“Sure.” Jeff crouched in front of Ralph, and Ralph flinched away from the man. “What? You think I’m going to hurt you? Or don’t you like my face?”
“Let me go, mister. I’m not Ralph Huber.”
“Yeah, you are. Your family used to sit in the second row from the front in church. For years, I watched you fidget and squirm all service long. I used to pray God would get hold of your wild heart. Guess you’re just too determined to go to hell. At least, that’s the track you seem to be on.”
“You don’t know me.” Ralph swung a fist at the man. “Get away from me!”
“What, you don’t want to be around me? Am I too ugly for you?” Jeff tilted his face so Ralph could see him better. “See this scar across my nose? That was from a crowbar in Malaysia. I saved fifteen young women from flesh traffickers that night. Messed up my nostrils so I have to breathe through my mouth now.
“Mr., you’re crazy!”
“How about this one?” Jeff pulled back his stringy hair and showed a long white mark along the base of his thick neck. “A machete in Vietnam did that. Brought three families through the jungle. They’d been kicked out of their village because they were Christians. It bled for a week. Your beer can means nothing to me after those injuries. I have a dozen more scars for you to see, too.”
“You don’t scare me!”
“Yes, I do. Look at this one.” The maintenance man pulled up his sleeve and showed a dark groove in his forearm where the muscle had ceased to function. “A rifle bullet in Myanmar. Brought a bunch of school kids across a field after some army guys burned down their school. Yep, I could keep going, but I can see this is definitely creeping you out. Know why?”
“Because the way you’re living your life, in ten years, you’ll look worse than me. You’ll be stabbed, shot, stoned, and scarred up. Maybe tattooed all over. Prison will come next, then the grave. I guarantee, you’ll think back to this night when you threw a beer can at the maintenance man.”
“And you’ll wish you’d changed this day, but you’re too selfish. God is the farthest thought from your mind right now. But one day, you’ll be standing before Him.”
“No, you’re wrong about me.”
“You’ll wish your body got all banged up serving Jesus, but instead, you’ll just be another victim of Satan’s traps. Looks like you’re well on your way—running with the wrong crowd, loving the world. Go on, now, tell me I’m wrong again.”
“Who are you?” Ralph sat up straighter. “Tell me who you are.”
“I guess you were about twelve when the church sent me first to Malaysia, then later, to other places. When I was in town, I taught children’s church a few times. All you boys wanted to hear were my war stories, though—stories from before I gave my life to Christ.”
“Wait. You’re Mr. Kratka?” Ralph wiped his eyes, realizing he’d been crying. He’d never been so embarrassed! “Jeff Kratka? Oh, man. This is either the best day of my life, or the worst, meeting you like this. I didn’t know you were working here, now.”
“How about you let God stop your life from going bad to worse, and get some coffee in you? You kinda smell like the trash I’ve been picking up all day.”
“Yeah, I . . . threw up.”
“We’ve got some hard things to talk about now, even if it takes us until dawn.”
Jeff Kratka held out his hand. Even with more tears blurring his vision, Ralph took the maintenance man’s hand and let him pull him to his feet.
“I’m real sorry about the beer cans, Mr. Kratka.”
“Don’t worry about those. After we’re done talking, you’ll help me pick them up.”
The End of The Maintenance Man
UPDATE NEWS: Some of you may have read the FREE collection of short stories in our eBook called COIL Extractions. It has now BEEN UPDATED! Click the title link to find where it’s NOW available! We’ve added three more stories to the eBook plus updated the cover. Enjoy this free gift from David! (You’ll know it’s the updated version by the banner across the upper right corner of the cover.)
COMING UP: Join us next time for, “The Christian’s Rope Course: A Challenge for Action.” And in the following post, David brings us a new short story called “Tomorrow You Die! – Story of Persecution and Faith.”