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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:28pm. | | | | | |

Steven G.‭ ‬O'Dell‭ ‬((C)2010

‭ You never truly 'get' life until you give.

‭ I recall the day as if it were just last week. My name is Loren Marks. I have a son, Benjamin. I love him dearly and he's a good young man. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for me, but it wasn't always that way.

‭ A few years ago, Benjamin was always in trouble. He was a very willful child, even in grade school. We never knew why. Nothing changed as he got into high school, nor as he went on to college. In fact, it seemed that he became worse with each passing year. He was even expelled from community college in his first year. Naturally, my husband Jeff and I were disappointed and adamant that he must straighten out his life or be doomed to become a career criminal. He thought this was funny and laughed at us. That was when Jeff asked him to leave the house and fend for himself, to build character and become responsible. It didn't help. It only got worse.

‭ The depth of his troubles came when he decided to go to South America on a summer vacation with some of the ruffians he had met at college. I always suspected they were trouble makers, too, and perhaps involved in illegal drug use. I was right. Not only were they using, but they were intending to go to South America to purchase drugs and arrange for them to be shipped into the States by some clandestine means. Benjamin should have known better, but he liked a thrill and he was too trusting.

‭ One night the phone rang and a man with a heavy accent asked for Jeff. I handed the phone over to him and wondered what it might be about. I knew there was trouble when I saw Jeff's face turn ghostly white as the blood drained from it. I just knew, as only a mother can, that something was wrong with Benjamin. My own heart nearly stopped. I know I didn't breathe for some time. Every second that Jeff listened without telling me was an eternity. Every second that went by tore at my very soul. My child, whom I had carried in my own body for nine months and given birth to, was in trouble. Serious trouble like no other time – perhaps dead or near to death.

‭ Jeff grabbed a pen from the lamp desk between us and began to write furiously on his newspaper, something he would never do unless time were of the essence. When at last he quit and hung up the phone, he was ashen gray in complexion and his mouth hung open as if in shock. I grabbed his shoulders and shook him, demanding he tell me what had happened. I collapsed and fainted as I was told that my Benjamin was in a Colombian prison.

‭ Jeff made arrangements for the earliest flight available. Fortunately, he already had a passport, as he was required to occasionally travel in his line of business. He took a small suitcase and traveled light, grabbing all available cash we had and saying he would get more at a cash machine at the airport and would pay for his ticket with his credit card. He calmed me as much as he could and left quickly when the taxi arrived.

‭ I waited as any mother would, pacing the floor and wringing my hands. Day one and Jeff called to tell me he had arrived in Colombia. Day two to tell me he had located where Benjamin was being held, but was not allowed yet to see him. Day three went by with no word from Jeff and no news on Benjamin's condition. Day four went by and still no word. I called Jeff's cell phone again and again, with no result. I could easily imagine how harsh the environment must be in such a prison. I could imagine how frightened Benjamin must be, not able to speak the language and so far from home, held against his will. I could not fathom what he must have done to deserve such a punishment. And I was scared because I heard nothing from Jeff. Were they having ransom talks? I had heard of such things in corrupt countries and backward nations. Was the fine too high? Surely Jeff could produce enough to make even the most greedy of jailers think twice about keeping Benjamin. And yet no word.

‭ Then the day came that Jeff called to announce that he had arranged for the release of our son. He sounded tired and a bit confused, but he assured me Benjamin would be alright. And then he said he loved me in such a way that gave me chills. I asked if he was okay and he promised me he was and was just tired at the moment. He said Benjamin would be on his way home soon. That's when I broke down and cried with relief. Days of stress and worry crumbled in a heap and I collapsed into bed and wept and gave thanks to God until I fell asleep.

Benjamin called to tell me he was at the airport and I rushed to the car and stretched nearly every traffic law on the books getting to him.‭ ‬When I saw him,‭ ‬I ran and nearly bowled him over with our embrace.‭ ‬My baby,‭ ‬my son was back again and in my arms.‭ ‬We both wept deeply for several long minutes and then I looked about for Jeff.‭

“Where is your father‭? ‬Is he getting the bags‭?”

Benjamin stared at me with a genuinely puzzled look upon his face.‭ “‬Isn't he at home‭? ‬I thought maybe he was too angry to meet me this time.‭”

The panicky feeling was coming back now.‭ ‬Gone was the peace I had felt and replacing it was deep dread that something was again entirely and desperately wrong.‭ ‬I explained to Benjamin that his father had gone to Colombia to arrange for his release,‭ ‬whatever it took and that his father was as worried as I had been.‭ ‬There was nothing his father would not do to have him home again and safe in his own bed.

‭ Now Benjamin was the one to worry. He told me how he had been informed in broken English that if his family did not ransom him, he would be executed. There would be no excuses given and no regrets offered. It was quite literally a case of 'your money or your life' and there appeared no alternative, so Benjamin had said he was stunned when he was suddenly told he could leave and he must go quickly. The guard had even appeared almost a decent human being as he had told him this. Benjamin thought that maybe his mother and father had called their bluff and vowed there would be no ransom, so his captors had decided to release him in order to avoid an international incident. Now he was not so sure. If his father had gone into an arena of that sort, there was no telling what would happen now.

‭ After repeated calls over the next several weeks to Jeff's phone and every department of government that we could think of, word finally came. Officially Jeff was pronounced dead by murder, apparently robbed and shot at close range, execution style. The State Department said there was nothing they could do, but they were looking into it and would let me know if anything changed.

I do not believe the official story,‭ ‬nor does Benjamin.‭ ‬We believe his father negotiated himself as a trade for his son when offers of money failed to be enough.‭ ‬Perhaps the jailers felt there was more to be had and Jeff led them to believe they would get more if the trade was made.‭ ‬At any rate,‭ ‬we feel he bought Benjamin's life and freedom with his own.‭

Since that day,‭ ‬Benjamin is a new man.‭ ‬He no longer gets into trouble.‭ ‬He no‭ ‬longer hangs out with those who would lead him into dangers and then abandon him.‭ ‬He has a new sense of his own worth now,‭ ‬a worth that his father saw all too clearly and paid dearly for.‭ ‬Benjamin Marks would never betray his father's memory,‭ ‬nor would he disappoint his mother.‭ ‬He knows the value of a life now‭ –‬his,‭ ‬mine,‭ ‬his father's,‭ ‬anyone's‭ – ‬and they are all too precious to squander.

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