The Mud on the Bottom of the River,

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(short story)

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Although his parents were proud that he was pursuing an advanced degree, there was a little bit of a letdown that their son, who'd spent so long, and graduated from such a fine technical school. This was the kid who could was bright enough to do anything, and he was choosing to become clergy. In a way they might not have understood, that nurturing others was in his nature, seeing them succeed in life was what motivated him. So indeed it was fitting that he was now pursuing a seminary degree to be a minister.

But he was committed to this, and committed to his passion. At seminary he thrived as well. He found all the readings, and languages intriguing. The nature of the program suited his analytical mind. For a while he'd even gone to seminary and still managed to be part of the fellowship back at MIT. And then he met Sarah. Sarah and him seemingly had a good match, she was quiet, yet friendly, and provided a compliment to James eternal confidence. She had a heart for children and shared his vision for the world. He had even nurtured her into her own spiritual faith. She'd come with him on a missions trip they'd made to Central America over a summer. She seemed to compliment and to fill out his personality quite completely. He thought God had intended them to be together.

He loved the way she sung. Simply watching her, standing behind the worship leader, with a driving guitar rhythm, James could simply imagine the angelic tremolo of her voice as she sang the praise songs. "As the dear panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after you... You alone more than any other, how I long to be with you." James would think indeed she was the one. That was when he seemingly fell in love with her. Sure they'd had their So in the summer before his final year at seminary, he filled the walkway to her apartment with Hershey's kisses, put dozens of roses in the bathtub, and said simply "I kiss the ground you walk on, I shower you with roses, please marry me." And she accepted.

He was slated to be married, less than a month after he graduated from seminary. But then somehow in the engagement, before the marriage they realized that there was a fundamental flaw. A week after he'd graduated, in what was supposed to be the most joyful month of his life. She said she couldn't go through with it, He was devastated. Even though the wedding invitations were already out, and two weeks before, they'd had a conversation where she expressed her anxieties about it the marriage. He'd thought he'd consoled her, and that they'd worked through their issues. This was just another fight, and it was simply pre marriage anxieties. Yet the marriage was called off. She said for all his theology, and for all his empathy and counseling skills, that he's still failed her. He betrayed her, he the eternal optomist, the man who always could see things through, she simply said “You've failed me.” He said they should pray together about it, she said that wasn't the point, spiritually he'd always been the one who prayed, a situation she now felt intimidated by him.

In a way James could have seen this coming. It'd been a very hard year for him. When she said, "How could you fail me so badly, you were supposed to be the one taking care of me?" He knew immediately what she was referring to. And the pain still hurt.

Her younger brother had come out to go to school, and he'd tried to mentor the kid. But he was not an A+ student like James, or any of the people he'd seemed to mentor at MIT. He was a kid who didn't know much about being on his own, and had failed to grasp the importance of academics. He didn't know how to study; he didn't know how to go to class. He was unmotivated. It became a personal mission to James to improve this kids self worth and values wrong, and to make this kid succeed. After all this was his younger brother. James spent time with the kid, made sure he went to class. He tried to make the kid study. For James, academics had always come easy. He'd taken calculus in high school and excelled, yet Sarah's brother was taking it in college and failing miserably. James had survived, if not thrived in the culture of MIT. Yet his brother-in-law to be, wasn't attending MIT, he was in a second tier school, which his in-laws had chosen for him more for the proximity to James than any thing else. James couldn't understand how someone couldn't do well in a school whose standards were so far below his beloved MIT. Yet his brother-in-law to be was failing.

Just as James was graduating from seminary the news came that this kid, after a year, had been asked not to come back to the college for the next term. And the family was blaming him, saying that he'd helped so many other kids succeed and here was a youngster who he should have treated like family. James blamed himself for failing, he'd failed the kid. This is what he'd done all his life. He thrived off other people succeeding. And now someone who should have been so close to him had failed. They trusted him to be the man of the household, to nurture their son. In a sense it wasn't the kid's fault, it was James's fault.

She only come in and said a few sentences. She didn't need to say too much, the decision was already made, and somehow even before she'd even come over, the decision was already made. And that was it, with that his fiancé took the ring off her finger, set it on the table, and quietly left his apartment. Her parents and younger brother were standing and waiting outside, and they drove away into the fading dusk. James sat there for an hour not stunned, but somehow failing to realize that it was really over, he stared at the ring, at least his fiancé was kind enough even to give him back the engagement ring. Although he wasn't a wealthy man, his family had decided that he should have a diamond suitable for his wife. Thus he'd spent what he'd thought a fortune on a diamond ring. According to DeBeers, it was the symbol of his love for her. And now he didn't know what to do with it. He had failed, and in a way, he could understand that she had rejected him. Now there it was, the symbol, sitting cold on his table in front of him. The whole thing was called off, and really over.

For a week he couldn't do anything. He sat in the apartment all by himself. His housemates had already moved out, in anticipation of he and his wife's life together. And now for the first time ever he was living by himself. He wandered around the huge apartment. It was as if transition that was supposed to happen suddenly was aborted, It was a surreal experience he became anti-social. It was the same place he'd always lived but somehow the emptiness seemed more prevalent. The size of the place made it seem even more empty.

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