Review - "The Christmas Throwaway" by RJ Scott
Beautiful, haunting, hopeful
Very Highly Recommended
So I guess a couple of things you should know about me are that I was CFO for a residential treatment center for abused adolescents for the past ten years, and that I am a gay man. Some of the kids were gay, some not. All had suffered some level of abuse - mental, physical, sexual. These were 12 - 17 year old kids, most of whom were abandoned or neglected, beaten, raped, prostituted out. We were one step down from psychiatric hospitalization, and some of the stories I could tell you...you cannot imagine. Really.
And I loved so many of these kids. The boys and the girls. But there were a few special kids, and one in particular, who was a throwaway, a young person tossed out of their homes for being gay, or for getting on a parent's nerves, or whatever, but tossed out with nowhere to go and usually no money. Mom and dad not in the picture anymore, thank God, but he and his sister were...thrown away... like some of us would throw away garbage. This particular young man had a lot of issues, and his life was hard, but he and I bonded over my dog (we could bring our pets in and he learned empathy from working with pets, and he loved my lab Samantha). He was 15 or 16, and just opening up about his sexuality, and just a beautiful and kind and sweet young man and if I could have adopted him I would have in a freakin minute.
Anyway, that is my background.
So, in this fantastic, stunningly crafted tale of humanity and hope, Zachary is a 17 year old throwaway. A young man tossed out of his home for being gay, beaten and broken, a little over a week before he turned 18, with just a few dollars in his pocket and the clothes on his back. The week before Christmas, Zachary's dad drives him out from home at gunpoint.
Ben is a police officer, working back in his hometown, fresh out of college, coming back home to work to make a difference and to keep the people in his town safe. And he chances upon Zachary, asleep on a bench in front of the local church, exhausted and tired, on Christmas Eve. When he sees this fragile young man, something in him makes him take the young man home for a meal, a shower and a warm bed, rather than rousting or arresting him.
When Ben takes him to his mother's home, Zachary sees what family can be - loving, fun, sharing, looking out for one another rather than being afraid, beaten and controlled. Will Zachary find the strength to take a stand for himself and what he wants in life? And will the budding attraction between Ben and Zachary bloom into something special?
RJ Scott has written a touching, heartbreaking and heartwarming story of hope, giving and receiving, and Christmas miracles. I was so deeply touched by the delicate, sentiment here - pure Christmas spirit without the glitter or schmaltz, tenderness without overkill. I read this novella last year, and loved it. When I brought it back up from my archive this year, I was reminded how truly special this story is.
And, to finish my story from earlier, this beautiful young man who I began to love, like a son, ran away right before Christmas from our facility, and I only saw him one more time. He was prostituting himself, living with an older man who was his pimp. When I approached him, he was strung out, looking for a fix, and recognized me. His come on stuttered to a stop, and he took off before I could get the words, "Let me help" out of my mouth.
Not all throwaways find a home.
If you can, spare a prayer for him this Christmas.