This is a story I wrote a little while ago based on one of Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast. I thought I’d share it, see what folks thought. Fair warning, it’s a little longer than I normally write.
Henry Latecomer knocked on the door. On the other side he could hear the laughter and music and was eager to get inside out of the dark and the cold. He knocked again, banging with both fists to be heard. The door unlocked and a doorman looked out. Glorious light shone around him and the joy of the wedding feast spilled over Henry.
“Yes?” asked the doorman.
“I’m here for the party.”
“Latecomer. Henry Latecomer.”
The doorman took out a massive book and began to turn the pages. Henry was astonished that the guest list could be so huge. He counted himself to have a wide circle of friends, but they would barely fill half a page of this enormous book. Who could know so many people? The doorman searched for some time, his finger running up and down the list of guests, flicking pages back and forth.
“I’m sorry,” the doorman said at last. “Your name’s not on the list.”
“But I was invited,” Henry insisted. “Several times!”
The doorman looked at him for a moment.
“Invited?” The doorman flicked to a different section of the book, towards the back. His hand traced quickly down the page.
“Ah yes, here it is.”
Henry smiled, ready to be let into the party, but was stopped by a hard look from the doorman.
“You never accepted the invitation.”
Henry fumbled for an explanation under the doorman’s glare.
“Well, no, but…I was very busy.”
“Everyone was busy,” said the doorman. “Life is one day each and it’s always a very busy day!”
Henry was quite taken aback. He thought busy-ness was a quite reasonable excuse. He would have accepted the invite, but he had so much to do. Born at dawn and with only one day to live, just like everyone else, Henry had rushed to get in as much living as he could. He’d even made up a list in the afternoon, carried it around in a bucket, so that he wouldn’t forget to do everything before sunset. He still had the bucket with him but, even though it was full of all the experiences he’d worked so hard to collect, it just felt like a heavy, dead weight now.
He lifted up the bucket to show the doorman, so he could explain how busy he had been, but as he did so he realised something. The bucket had been important to him, it was true, but it wasn’t why he’d never accepted the invitation. Truthfully, the busy day had always just been a convenient excuse.
“Can I be honest?” he said to the doorman. “The truth is, I was never really sure there was going to be a party tonight.”
“But you were invited!” said the doorman.
“Well sure,” Henry agreed. “But what if it turned out to be wrong, a fake invite? A fraud? And some of those people with the invites; they were some seriously dull people. Many of them were actually pretty horrible!”
The doorman looked thoughtful. “So you didn’t answer the invitation because you didn’t believe there would be a party and even if there was, you didn’t really want to go to a party where there’d be those kind of people?”
“Exactly!” said Henry, feeling like he might be getting through to the doorman, making a real connection. “I even said that exact thing once or twice! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rejecting all of them, just the really weird ones.”
“Yes,” nodded the doorman. “Towards the end of the day the Master of the feast was getting a little desperate to fill the guest list. He was eager to get the word out.”
“Right, so can I come in?”
“I thought you said you did not wish to go to a party with ‘those’ kind of people?” The doorman raised an arched eyebrow.
“Well not today, sure. The sun was bright and things were happening, you know what I’m saying! But now…” Henry looked about himself at the utter darkness away from the door. Everywhere but where the light shone out was utterly black. A cold wind blew past, carrying a sound that was like weeping. A wail sounded out somewhere far away and Henry shivered. “You can see that you’re pretty much the only show in town.”
“Indeed,” said the doorman. He looked Henry straight in the eye. “This is the Master’s wedding, Mr Latecomer, not a local nightclub where you can hang out when you have nothing better to do on a Friday night.” He began to close the door, but Henry called after him desperately.
“He loves me!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“He loves me,” Henry repeated, his mind racing. He remembered that he’d heard this at times throughout his whole life, not that he’d given it much credence. “The master, he loves me!”
“I didn’t realise you knew the Master.”
“Well, we’ve never actually met, but I know he loves me!”
“How do you know?”
“People told me; all those folks with the invites, they told me! And it turns out they were right, so now I know.”
The doorman was thoughtful for a moment and Henry felt convinced he must have hit the winning argument. The Master loved him, surely he’d make room for Henry now. The doorman asked another question.
“Do you love the Master?”
Henry hadn’t even thought about that idea, but he couldn’t give up now that he was so close.
“Yeah, sure, whatever…” he began, but something in the doorman’s eyes forced him into truthfulness. “Look, I don’t know him. But maybe I could like him or grow to like him.”
“I’m sure the Master will be thrilled to hear your enthusiasm,” the doorman said sarcastically. The man’s attitude rubbed Henry the wrong way and he began to lose his temper.
“Listen pal, this is a wedding and I was invited, so there’s a place for me in there! I had a seat booked for me! We both know there’s space to fit me, so stop being an ass and let me in!”
The doorman blinked.
“There was a space, that is true. But as I said, the day drew on and the Master was eager to see that none of his preparations went to waste. He literally shed blood putting this feast together, you know. Once it became clear that there were going to be empty seats he sent some of his people out, just before sunset, to find anyone at all who might be willing to get to know him and come to his wedding. I’m afraid your seat has been given away.”
“Given away?” Henry could scarcely believe what he was hearing. “Who to?”
The doorman consulted the book.
“To a Mister Penitent.”
“Penitent?” Henry almost screamed. “That monster? I read about him in the paper! He was a thief, a rapist and a murderer!”
“Apparently so,” said the doorman, still reading from the list. “Nonetheless he was willing to accept the Master’s invitation.”
Henry was beside himself with rage now.
“Oh, so he gets to have a wonderful day in the sun, do all those evil things, and then party all night!”
“Mr Penitent’s day was far from wonderful. He spent much of it in a small concrete room!”
“He deserved it!”
“Yes he did; and he reached sundown a good deal quicker than you did.”
“There’s no way, after all he did, that that lowlife, that dog, could be dressed for this party!”
“You’re quite right,” agreed the doorman. “But then neither are you.” He looked pointedly at Henry’s clothes.
Henry looked down at his own attire and realised that the doorman was completely correct. Henry had seen quite a bit about Penitent in the papers and knew that the guy had worn a filthy suit all of his short life. Henry had always assumed that his own clothes were much nicer and cleaner, though now that he looked at them they were pretty shabby. He’d never given them much thought during the day, unless they’d gotten a big, obvious stain on them, then he sort of scrubbed at the stain a bit, blurred the edges, to make it less obvious. Most people never even noticed and he remembered they almost all wore the same sorts of shabby clothes. It was a short day and there was so much to do. Even those masochists who spent their whole time trying to wash their clothes still ended up as dirty as everyone else. Why waste a short day worrying about dirt you couldn’t wash off? Everyone was dirty so…
Henry looked up with a certainty that he had a clinching point to make, but the doorman already knew what he was going to say.
“You’re right, of course, Mr Latecomer, no one had suitable clothes for this party. But for those who accepted the invitation, the Master made available a suit of his own clothes, so that his wedding would have only the finest. After accepting his invite, the guests spent the rest of their day being fitted with their new garments. A good fit is so important and now everyone just looks glorious.”
Henry’s shoulders slumped. There was no time to fit a new suit of clothes now and no light out here to work by. Even if he could scam an invite into the party, it would be obvious he didn’t belong and the Bridegroom would wonder who the stranger was that was gatecrashing the wedding. The doorman closed the door and the light was abruptly cut off, leaving Henry alone in the dark with his heavy bucket and his shabby clothes. He shivered again and not knowing what else to do shuffled away. The wail sounded again in the distance.
Bucket image By YVSREDDY (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
All other images free for commercial use, no attribution required.