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Jason drives down the driveway to park behind his house, and a light coming from the living room stirs butterflies in his stomach. Great. Somebody’s up. Probably Dad.

After parking, he takes a deep breath and considers how the conversation with his dad will go. He knows he’ll be mad at him coming home late, but angrier at not receiving a phone call. He hopes his dad is too tired for a long conversation. Or better yet, asleep.

He finds, to his relief, the back door unlocked, and Jason quietly enters the house. He approaches the entrance to the living room and glances into the dimly lit space. He sees his father slumped down in his easy chair. Good.

Jason tiptoes past, in the direction of his bedroom, but then, out of the silence his father says, “Jason, where are you going?”

“Oh, hi Dad. I didn’t think you were awake.”

“I would’ve been asleep a long time ago. Where have you been and why didn’t you call?”

“There was a party…”

“Come in here where I can see you. And sit down; I want to talk to you.” Jason’s father puts his index finger to his lips. “Your mom’s sleeping, so keep it down.”

Jason sits on the couch, next to his father’s easy chair.

“I’m listening. ‘There was a party…’”

Jason clears his throat. “Yeah, there was a big party out at Miller’s Crossing and I went out there to see what was going on.”

“In your mother’s car?”

Jason forgot that little detail. “Yes, in Mom’s car. I picked up Robbie and we rode around for a while, and then about ten or so we drove out there.”

“You know I don’t approve of you going to those parties.”

The two sit silent for a moment.

Mr. Christiansen says, “Why didn’t you call?”

“If I had called, what would you have said? What would I have said? If I told you what I was doing, you would have told me no. I could’ve called, but I didn’t.”

Jason’s Dad sits upright in his chair. “So, better to make your mom and me worry all night than to risk being told no? You disappoint me Jason. You know better.”

“I’m sorry Dad.” Jason hangs his head and reads the Converse label on the side of his shoe.

“And why did you stay out so late? Your curfew is midnight. Do you realize what time it is?”

“I know what time it is, but…”

His father raises his voice. “It’s four in the morning. We’ve got church in five hours. Why didn’t you call and tell us you’d be late?”

Jason now feels guilty and making excuses won’t change the situation. He figures telling the truth won’t get him into any more trouble. “I had to take care of Robbie.”

“What’s the matter with Robbie?”

“He was drunk.” Jason winces and braces for what’s coming next.

Mr. Christiansen, now at the edge of his chair, leans in close to Jason’s face. “What? Son, I’ve warned you about that. You promised me you wouldn’t get drunk. Have you been drinking?”

“Dad, I didn’t say I was drunk. I won’t lie to you, I’ve had a couple of beers from time to time, but I know my limit. Besides, tonight I had to keep an eye on Robbie. He was wasted and I had to keep him out of trouble.”

“I’ve told you before; I don’t like you hanging around with Robbie. Or Alec. I think they’re both trouble. Why don’t you find some good kids to hang around with?”

Jason now sits on the edge of the couch. “That’s just it Dad. They’re both my good friends. Since seventh grade.”

They both ease back in their seats and sit quietly, neither making eye contact.

Finally, Mr. Christiansen says, “Son, scripture says that ‘bad company corrupts good morals’. Do you understand what that means?”

I’m not an idiot. Of course, I know what it means. Jason knows his dad is right, but doesn’t answer him.

“It means that…”

“I know what it means, Dad. But there’s another scripture that says, ‘there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’”

“Don’t start quoting scriptures to justify your behavior. You know I’m right.”

A noise comes from the kitchen area. They hear water run in the faucet and then the opening and closing of the dishwasher. And then a door eases shut.

Mr. Christiansen says, “Let’s tone it down. We’ll wake your mother.”

“I think we already did.”

“Tell me I’m not right, son.”

“But Dad, you’ve always taught me the most important quality in a friend is loyalty. What kind of friend would I be if I left Robbie alone at his worst time? He doesn’t normally get that way, but I think his parent’s divorce is bumming him out.”

“The Booker’s are getting a divorce?”

“That’s what Robbie told Alec and me. He acted really mad about it, but I think he’s torn up inside. I need to be there for him. I would want him to be there for me. Jesus said, ‘Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.’”

“Son, it’s good to see you’re learning the scriptures, and I can tell your debate class is really making an impact, but I still say you should find some good kids to be friends with. I’ve seen a number of kids your age at church. Have you tried to make friends with them?”

“Dad, I have my friends. If I waited around for only friends that were ‘good kids’”—Jason creates imaginary quote marks in the air with both hands—“I would be pretty lonely. Robbie and Alec aren’t perfect and have plenty of bad points, but so do the kids at church. And so do I. How am I going to make a difference in the world if the only people I hang around with are those from church?”

Mr. Christiansen sits back in his chair and sighs. “Son, I’m proud of you for sticking by your friends. You’re right, loyalty is important. But not calling and letting your mother and me worry all night was wrong. In that I’m disappointed.”

“Dad, I said I was sorry for not calling you. Whatever punishment you have for me, I guess I’ll have to take.”

“Let’s go to bed son. We can get in a few more hours sleep. We’ll talk some more after church.” His dad rises to leave. “I love you, Jason.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

Jason lies in his bed and the events from the past few hours keep running through his mind. He tosses and turns, unable to fall asleep. I’m glad I didn’t tell him about Alec and the drugs. Or about Robbie running around in his underwear. Or about the Winstons and Mom’s car. Mom’s car? Oh, great.

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