The Last Shall Be…

The gospel reading today was Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the generous vineyard owner. As I listened to the Lector reading the parable, another story came to life in my head.

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What does it take for a person to change? Do you ever wonder what happened to those workers, the lucky ones who worked one hour and were paid a full day’s wages…

I wake late, as usual, and with a splitting headache, a dry mouth, a foggy memory of the night before. How many beers? How many shooters? Did I drive home? How late was it?

Damn all that noise – Joy and the kids clattering and squabbling through breakfast. Just a little while and Joy will be off to work, the kids to school and the world will stop bothering me.

She will be mad again. Please God, let her just leave without a lecture. I am so goddam sick and tired of her lectures, so tired of making promises I know I won’t keep. Goddammit, why can’t she understand that I need to relax after work, I need to be with the guys and the guys want to be at the bar. Does she expect me to be a hermit? A man needs friends. I bet George’s wife doesn’t ride him about his drinking.

Footsteps come down the hall. I pull the covers up, turn on my side, close my eyes. I don’t respond as she opens the door and calls my name…don’t respond to her loud sigh…don’t respond as she shuts the bedroom door, almost slamming it.

When I wake again, much later, I pull on my boxers and lurch to the kitchen to grab a can of beer, some bread and baloney from the fridge, and head to the family room to find that game show with the long-legged blonde.

Early afternoon, I get dressed. Why shower when I am going out to try to get work? I’ll just get dirty; I can shower tonight.

George and Joe are already at the work center when I get there. We stand around, smoking, talking a bit, exchanging nods and a few words with the other men. Then, just as I am about to head back home, grateful and ashamed to have spent another day not working, already rehearsing my story for Joy, some guy pulls up in a big van and hires me, George, Joe and a bunch of others to work in his vineyard for that last hour of the work day.

Lots of men are already working, practically sweating grape juice and dirt; some have been in those fields all day. We work just one hour then, at the end of the day, everyone gets paid the same. Joe, George and I couldn’t help grinning at each other; we made out like bandits! But, man, were those who had been working all day pissed off!

“What kind of shit is this? We busted our balls in your vineyard all day and you give these jerks, these one-hour wonders, the same pay?”

The guy who hired us didn’t give a shit about their complaining.

“Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”*

First thing I do is call Joy, tell her I’m taking her and the kids to Mickey Ds for dinner. But with all that money, much more than I counted on, I realize I have enough for a few drinks. I put $20 for drinks in my right pocket and the rest, for Joy and the family, in my left. Then I head for the bar with Joe and George. We need to celebrate our good luck.

I wake late, as usual, and with a splitting headache, a dry mouth, a foggy memory of the night before. How many beers? How many shooters? Did I drive home? How late was it?

There was no money for Joy and the family. There was no family – just a note on the kitchen table. Joy had left and taken the kids.

Damn that man. If he had hired us at the beginning of the day, I would have been too tired to go to the bar. If he had just paid us for an hour’s work, I would have been too broke. This is all his fault.

Now that the family has stopped bothering me, now that I don’t have to make excuses or feel guilty…What the hell am I supposed to do now?


*Matthew 20:13-15

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