The Lame Shall Enter First
Genre: Short Story
- Aull, Felice
- Date of entry: May-19-2003
- Last revised: Dec-07-2006
This disturbing story is told from the view point of Sheppard, widowed for more than a year, and left to raise his ten year old son, Norton. Both are struggling to cope with the grief of this loss, but Sheppard seems incapable of recognizing and responding to his son’s feelings and believes they should both occupy themselves by doing good deeds for others. Sheppard is a volunteer counselor at the local reformatory and prides himself on "helping boys no one else cared about."
He is impatient and insensitive toward his own son, however, and instead has become fixated on one of the reformatory boys, Rufus, an impoverished, fatherless teenager whose mother is in prison. Rufus was born with a club foot and has been brought up roughly by a fanatically religious grandfather. Convinced that Rufus can be salvaged because he has a high I.Q., Sheppard makes Rufus his pet project, devoting to him all of his attention and energy, in spite of the fact that Rufus wants no part of it. Indeed, the boy is a defiant conniver who fends for himself by stealing. He has worked out a complex ethic in which he is convinced that he is under "Satan’s" power to do evil but "the lame shall enter [heaven] first" and all sins will ultimately be forgiven. Sheppard’s do-gooder social atheism infuriates Rufus.
A telescope becomes the vehicle for the tragic culmination of Sheppard’s self-deception, Rufus’s vindictive scorn, and Norton’s severe depression. Rejecting the gift of this telescope which Sheppard bought for Rufus so that he could "see the universe" and be "enlightened," Rufus persuades the impressionable Norton that he will find his mother in the heavens with the scope and could join her there were he to die young. Too late, Sheppard realizes how misdirected his love and concern have been: Norton has hanged himself.
Everything that Rises Must Converge
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux