He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.'
But his father ordered his servants,
That word - quickly - that's what I remember about that day. And his crooked smile. My brother later told me it was a stroke, the day after I left.
It undid me, to see him hobbling toward me. I just stood there, frozen on the ridge I'd played on as a boy. The old man fell twice, like some child learning to walk, the last fall only steps from me. He began to crawl, scooping at the ground, willing himself forward. It was then my body released me to move to him. As I knelt he raised his eyes to mine. That's when I clearly saw his face, half-right, half-wrong, as if something had torn him.
He frantically began to climb my frame until he reached my face. He kissed my cheeks, over and over, and stroked my hair. I'd had whores do that and more countless times. Money will buy almost anything. But then he began to mumble my name through his broken smile. No one had spoken my name in what seemed like a long, long time.
I shook to myself and knew I had to say the words. Were they honest, sincere, heartfelt? I doubt it, I really do. You see, I'd come to my senses earlier, primarily the sense I was starving. I was still so young. I held the old man by the shoulders: 'Father, I have si-' His eyes filled with a fury I'd known as a boy, his hands covered my mouth, he would not let me speak. And then he began to wrestle with that word - Quik-klee! Quik-klee! By then the servants had made their way down the ridge. He turned and clawed them in - Quik-klee! The next few seconds were filled with the old man's commands, half-spoken, fully understood.
Then, quickly, the celebration began.
My father lived long enough to see his sons work beside one another once more in the fields, like we'd done as boys. My brother and I both came to live again under the mercy of our father's roof. We awoke one autumn night to shouts of that word - Quik-klee! Quik-klee! By the time we reached his bedside the angels had taken him. My brother stayed at his side, close, until the dawn. Meanwhile I wandered down a familiar ridge and squandered my tears.