*** Title page
Copyright 1987 by Parables
Children are a very important part of several stories and poems in this book: “A Visit to the Holy Land,” “Jerusalem,” “The Selfish Giant,” “The Fringe,” “The Aborted Child,” “The Old Man and His Rest,” “The Birthday Party,” “Act of Faith,” “Breeding Will Out,” “The Meeting,” “The Gift,” “Questions,” “The King’s Heir,” “Eyes of Rain,” etc. The illustration by Nancy-Lou Patterson represents these children, as well as those to whom the book is dedicated.
Dedicated to all children who have been, are, will be and may be.
Especially to Matt, Brigham, Heber, Johnny, David, Isaac, George, Matthew, Wesley, Bruce, Larry, Timmy, Adam, Dustin, Justin, Barret, Sean, Nando, Estefania, Paola, Ursula, Alexander, Jason, Troy, Avi, Erez, Chris, Muhammad, Uri, Jim, Andrea, Todd, Nathaniel, Idrissa, Israel, Daniel, Danny, Roy, Vincent, Mitsu, Richard, Fay Ellen, Kayla, Robbie, Robin, Donny, Joshua, Mitsu, Mark, Song, Chad, Will, Cade, Noah, Benjamin
I think you’ll agree that our present volume is the best yet, not only because it has more stories in it, but because the stories are even more exploratory, experimental, and, in some cases, just plain bizarre. Do we dare suggest that the mere existence of the previous two anthologies in this series may have encouraged greater freedom of thought and daring creativity? Let this be one more attempt to do so.
Foreword: A Literature for a Cosmic Religion,
Science Fiction and Mormonism by Benjamin Urrutia
Introduction: Science Fiction and Mormonism by Sandy and Joe Straubhaar
How It Happened by Isaac Asimov
A Visit to the Holy Land: Being A Sequel to Mr. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” by Benjamin Urrutia
Jerusalem by William Blake
The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
Black Walnut by Eugene England
Poems by Benjamin Urrutia
Professor Tolkien Enters Heaven
In the Beginning
When the Stars Begin to Fall by Will Salmon
The Fringe by Orson Scott Card
Conspiracies by J.N. Williamson
Excerpts From Giudizio Universale (Universal Judgment) by Giovanni Papini, translated by Benjamin Urrutia
The Aborted Child by Nathan Alterman
The Hymn of the Soul - Anonymous
Mozart and the Light of Music by Gary Gillum
The Old Man and His Rest, A Fairy Tale by Bruce Young
The Birthday Party by Sue Cutler
Near-Light by Addie LaCoe
Act of Faith by Addie LaCoe
Breeding Will Out by Addie LaCoe
And Ever the Twain Shall Meet by Scott S. Smith
Deathsong by Michael R. Collings
The Tables Turned
Should Men Be Ordained: A Theological Challenge by Gracia Fay Ellwood
The Gift by Kitty Carr Tilton
Questions by Kitty Carr Tilton
The Umbrella by Frederick A. Israelsen
Curds and Way by Chris Frank Heimerdinger
Poems by Gracia Fay Ellwood
Ask Dr. Goodstate, Your Factory-Trained Quantum Mechanic by Jack Weyland
The King’s Heir by Martine Bates
First Lips by James “The Puff” Wright
The Forbidden Room by Will Salmon
Eyes of Rain by Addie LaCoe
Written in Pencil Inside the Sealed Freight Car by Dan Pagis
The Sinful Solution by Benjamin Urrutia
Limerick by Saki
“How It Happened,” copyright 1986 by Isaac Asimov
“The Fringe,” copyright 1985 by Orson Scott Card
“Breeding Will Out,” reprinted from Fungi Winter 1985
“Eyes of Rain,” copyright 1986 by Fantasy Book Enterprises
“Professor Tolkien Enters Heaven,” reprinted from Mythlore
“Conspiracies,” reprinted from SPWAO Showcase IV
“Kyria Sophia,” reprinted from Mythlore
“The Lady of La Salette,” reprinted from Mythlore
“The World,” reprinted from Mythlore
“Should Men Be Ordained,” reprinted from Daughters of Sarah
“The Tables Turned,” reprinted from Dialogue
“The Meeting,” reprinted from Dialogue
A LITERATURE FOR A COSMIC RELIGION
by Benjamin Urrutia
“This is tobacco, Mr. Scott. It contains noxious chemicals.”
Spock regarded the cigar a moment longer. “I believe I understand. During a time of critical overpopulation, the birth of a child would have required an adult to die. The adults resorted to a sort of lottery to decide who must make way. Your customs…fascinating. Not efficient, but fascinating.”
He then declines to participate in that sort of Russian roulette. Later in the novel he avers that the difference between Terran and Vulcan traditions is that Vulcan traditions make sense.
“They’ve found God…in his starship at the bottom of the sea. He’s asleep, but we can wake him up if we want to. One thing is certain, though. He’s just a man.”
SCIENCE FICTION AND MORMONISM
by Sandy and Joe Straubhaar
MORMONISM IN SCIENCE FICTION
SCIENCE FICTION BY MORMONS
1. Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber (London: Corgi Books, 1974), pp. 98–99.
2. Michael Moorcock, Sojan (Manchester, England: Savoy Books, 1977), p. 135.
3. Dialogue, 13:3 (Autumn 1980), p. 59.
4. Joe Haldeman, Mindbridge (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976), pp. 102–103.
5. Joh Clute, The Urth in All Its Glory” (review of The Citadel of the Autarch, Vol. IV of The Book of the New Sun), Washington Post Book World, Vol. XIII, No. 5, Sunday, 30 January 1983, pp. 1–2.
6. Michael Dirda, “Gene Wolfe Talks About The Book of the New Sun,”
7. Michael Collings, “Refracted Visions and Future Worlds”
8. Robert Heinlein, “If This Goes On—”
Sandy Straubhaar’s Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Works
1. Lord Dunsany—Many short stories, particularly those found in the collections called The Book of Wonder and The Sword of Welleran.
2. Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), Heinrich von Ofterdingen (unfinished novel).
3. E.T. Amadeus Hoffman, Der goldene Topf (novella).
4. George MacDonald, Phantastes (novel).
5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.
6. Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun (tetralogy).
7. C.J. Cherryh, The Faded Sun (trilogy) and the Morgain trilogy (Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, and Fires of Azeroth).
8. Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword.
Michael Moorcock, the Elric novels,
particularly The Weird of the White Wolf
10. Ursula K. LeGuin, the Earthsea trilogy.
11. Tanith Lee, the Karrakaz/Vazkor trilogy (The Birthgrave, Vazkor Son of Vazkor, Quest for the White Witch).
HOW IT HAPPENED
by Isaac Asimov
My brother began to dictate in his best oratorical style, the one which has the tribes hanging on his words.
“In the beginning,” he said, “exactly fifteen point two billion years ago, there was a big bang and the Universe—”
But I had stopped writing. “Fifteen billion years ago?” I said incredulously.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m inspired.”
“I don’t question your inspiration,” I said. (I had better not. He’s three years younger than I am, but I don’t try questioning his inspiration. Neither does anyone else or there’s hell to pay.) “But are you going to tell the story of the creation over a period of fifteen billion years?”
“I have to,” said my brother. “That’s how long it took. I have it all in here,” he tapped his forehead, “and it’s on the very highest authority.”
By now I had put down my stylus. “Do you know the price of papyrus?” I said.
“What?” (He may be inspired but I frequently noticed that the inspiration didn’t include such sordid matters as the price of papyrus.)
I said, “Suppose you describe on million years of events to each roll of papyrus. That means you’ll have to fill fifteen thousand rolls. You’ll have to talk long enough to fill them and you know that you begin to stammer after a while. I’ll have to write enough to fill them and my fingers will fall off. And even if we can afford all that papyrus and you have the voice and I have the strength, who’s going to copy it? We’ve got to have a guarantee of a hundred copies before we can publish and without that where will we get royalties from?”
My brother thought awhile. He said, “You think I ought to cut it down?”
“Way down,” I said, “if you expect to reach the public.”
“How about a hundred years?” he said.
“How about six days?” I said.
He said, horrified, “You can’t squeeze Creation into six days.”
I said, “This is all the papyrus I have. What do you think?”
“Oh, well,” he said, and began to dictate again, “In the beginning— Does it have to be six days, Aaron?”
I said, firmly, “Six days, Moses.”
***picture from p. 20
A VISIT TO THE
BEING A SEQUEL TO MR. CHARLES DICKENS’S
“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”
by Benjamin Urrutia
The day after Christmas, Mr. Ebenezer
Scrooge took Master Timothy Cratchit, son of his new partner in the
House of Scrooge and Cratchit, to the best physician in
“A Mediterranean cruise would be just the thing, what?”
“But Cratchit has not the money for such an enterprise; he has just been made a partner in the firm. Besides, he has other children and a wife also. To take them along would add greatly to the expense; to leave them behind would be painful for all concerned. Only one thing to do: I must take Tiny Tim to the South myself, if Bob grants permission.”
Bob Cratchit granted it, very readily. He
was still in awe of Ebenezer Scrooge (though he need not have been, as
were now equals) and accepted the latter’s kind offer with deep
so, early in January of 1844 AD, the wealthy Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge and
Timothy Cratchit departed for the “cloudless climes” spoken of by the
They visited the sun-drenched vineyards and friendly folk of
From there, they went south to
Tiny Tim throve on the oranges that were
He had lost the pale grey complexion he
had had in
His leg was as lame as ever. What good is all my money? thought Mr. Scrooge. What good is all the money in the world, if it can not make Timmy’s leg better?
While Ebenezer was engaged in these
melancholy reflections, a man was walking up the beach towards him.
American, what’s his name?” But much as he thought, Scrooge could not
the name of the fat man from the colonies who had traveled in the same
“Ah, Scrooge! I find you at last! We are
organizing an expedition to
“You do not need to shout so loud. And why
should I want to go to
“Why, Mr. Scrooge, you have a fame and
reputation as a man who really knows how to keep Christmas, and
“Yes, but that was one thousand, eight hundred forty-eight years ago by scholarly reckoning, and the town has changed considerably. From what I have read, it is no longer worth visiting.”
“Aw, come on, you can’t believe everything you read!”
Little Tim intervened. “Please, Mr.
Scrooge, Sir, do let us go up to
But on the road to the city of
It was April and near the end of the rainy season. It was not raining then, but the road was very muddy. This made for slow going.
When they arrived at
And it happened. That night an old friend appeared—the Spirit of Christmas past.
“Your prayers have been heard, Ebenezer. Arise and come with me, and bring Tiny Tim with you.”
The boy, awakened by the Spirit’s voice, quickly and wordlessly got dressed.
When the three stepped outside, one
thousand, eight hundred forty-nine years of history had fallen away
Besides the animals and the three
visitors, there were three people in the stable: a brown-bearded man, a
beautiful teenage girl, and a baby in her arms. The man did not say a
(perhaps his throat was tired from greeting so many visitors, thought
but he smiled and bowed in greeting. Scrooge did the same in return,
looked in his pockets to see if he had anything he could give as a
gift. All he had was a gold Sovereign, a coin from the British Empire
with the profile of the very young Queen
Tiny Tim engaged Mary in conversation, or at least attempted to. Neither spoke the other’s language, but Mary somehow understood Timmy’s wish to hold the baby.
So Tim put down his crutch, embraced the infant and kissed him. “I love you, Lord Jesus. Bless us, everyone!”
The others regarded the two children in
thoughtful silence. “You must come and visit me in
The babe smiled His agreement.
“Ebenezer and Timothy,” said the Spirit, “we must now return.” So the boy returned Jesus to His mother, and Scrooge exchanged more silent bows with Joseph. The Spirit led the way, with Mr. Scrooge and Tiny Tim following, hand in hand.
“Why are you crying, Mr. Scrooge?” asked Timmy, who had inadvertently left his crutch behind (which was no problem, for he needed it not any more).
“What, I crying? Nonsense, my boy. It’s just that the smoke from those primitive lamps got into my eyes, that is all.” Inwardly he thought: Medical science—Bah, humbug!
Swine were raised in Gentile towns on the
borders of the
by William Blake
And did those feet in ancient time
And was the Holy Lamb of God
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
Among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning Gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire.
Bring me my spear—O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
we have built
THE SELFISH GIANT
by Oscar Wilde
Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden.
It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. “How happy we are here!” they cried to each other.
One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.
“What are you doing here?” he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.
“My own garden is my own garden,” said the Giant; “anyone can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.” So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.
He was a very selfish Giant.
The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high walls when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside. “How happy we were there!” they said to each other.
Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. “Spring has forgotten this garden,” they cried, “so we will live here all the year round.” The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney pots down. “This is a delightful spot,” he said, “we must ask the Hail on a visit.” So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in gray, and his breath was like ice.
“I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,” said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold, white garden; “I hope there will be a change in the weather.”
But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the giant’s garden she gave none. “He is too selfish,” she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind and the Hail, and the Frost, and the snow danced about through the trees.
One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. “I believe the Spring has come at last,” said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.
What did he see?
He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. “Climb up, little boy!” said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny.
And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. “How selfish I have been!” he said; “now I know why the spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.” He was really very sorry for what he had done.
So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. “It is your garden now, little children,” said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were going to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.
All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.
“But where is your little companion?” he said: “the boy I put into the tree.” The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.
“We don’t know,” answered the children: “he has gone away.”
“You must tell him to be sure and come tomorrow,” said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.
Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. “How I would like to see him!” he used to say.
Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge arm-chair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. “I have many beautiful flowers,” he said; “but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.”
One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.
Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvelous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.
Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, “Who had dared to wound thee?” For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.
“Who hath dared to wound thee?” cried the Giant; “tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.”
“Nay!” answered the child: “but these are the wounds of Love.”
“Who art thou?” said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and
said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come
to my garden, which is
And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.
by Eugene England
Fine wood that darkens toward the core
And compound leaves that come late
push dark and high to ease the
The taste of desert in our bones.
Last spring we built a tall old house
On the site of an older fallen homestead,
But crowding footings and walls under the ancient shade
We cut the roots, dropped huge limbs.
By fall the leaves browned branch by branch,
Hung without dropping in crippled grasps.
I watched the dying through the lowering sun and knew
Those fifty feet of life were mine
To bless. My hands upon the trunk,
I called the Holy Spirit rootward,
Pled for each branch the wine of Christ’s florescent love,
And left the tree to winter rest.
Now come the leaves in early May,
Springing in sharp green strings, the high sun
Proving them against retreating death, and I
Will dress the garden with my life.
by Benjamin Urrutia
PROFESSOR TOLKIEN ENTERS HEAVEN
God smiled and said,
“Jack, my son, I put you in charge
Of greeting your friend and showing him around.”
Jack Lewis thanked Him very much
And thought how delighted Tolkien would be
see the mallorn-trees abloom in
Heavenly landscapes expanded and improved
According to the books that he had written.
And if his joy in seeing his wife again
Was like Lewis’, when he saw Joy herself again,
No measure should be found for it anywhere.
is the secret of Heaven:
Walking together beyond the confines of the Earth,
Seeing once more the beloved face you thought lost
For Ever. Eternal is a mighty word,
It is one of God’s names.
you must see her! Then the
And Withywindle. All your rivers are here.
The caverns of Aglarond are as you described them,
Tear-filled wonder for newcomers.
The trees are the best. The white tree of life,
The golden tree of knowledge,
Their places are of honor,
With the ships and stars and stones.
IN THE BEGINNING
Was the logos,
Even the dia-logos,
Deus et Dea logos,
The conversation of God and Goddess:
make man in our
image, in our
WHEN THE STARS BEGIN TO FALL
by Will Salmon
And when the stars begin to fall
And the poet, the nation, time, and truth
all join oblivion,
Actor and action, knowledge and knower
And you and I are God,
Time and Space and force are bent together
And all is rapture
by Orson Scott Card
LaVon’s book report was drivel, of course. Carpenter knew it would be from the moment he called on the boy. After Carpenter’s warning last week, he knew LaVon would have a book report—LaVon’s father would never let the boy be suspended. But LaVon was too stubborn, too cocky, too much the leader of the other sixth-graders’ constant rebellion against authority to let Carpenter have a complete victory.
“I really, truly loved Little Men,” said LaVon. “It just gave me goose bumps.”
The class laughed. Excellent comic timing, Carpenter said silently. But the only place that comedy is useful here in the New Soil country is with the gypsy pageant wagons. That’s what you’re preparing yourself for, LaVon, a career as a wandering parasite who lives by sucking laughter out of weary farmers.
“Everybody nice in this book has a name that starts with D. Demi is a sweet little boy who never does anything wrong. Daisy is so good that she could have seven children and still be a virgin.”
He was pushing the limits now. A lot of people didn’t like mention of sexual matters in the school, and if some pinheaded child decided to report this, the story could be twisted into something that could be used against Carpenter. Out here near the fringe, people were desperate for entertainment. A crusade to drive out a teacher for corrupting the morals of youth would be more fun than a traveling show, because everybody could feel righteous and safe when he was gone. Carpenter had seen it before, not that he was afraid of it, the way most teachers were. He had a career no matter what. The university would take him back, eagerly; they thought he was crazy to go out and teach in the low schools. I’m safe, absolutely safe, he thought. They can’t wreck my career. And I’m not going to get prissy about a perfectly good word like virgin.
“Dan looks like a big bad boy, but he has a heart of gold, even though he does say real bad words like devil sometimes.” LaVon paused, waiting for Carpenter to react. So Carpenter did not react.
“The saddest thing is poor Nat, the street fiddler’s boy. He tries hard to fit in, but he can never amount to anything in the book, because his name doesn’t start with D.”
The end. LaVon put the single paper on Carpenter’s desk, then went back to his seat. He walked with the careful elegance of a spider, each long leg moving as if it were unconnected to the rest of his body, so that even walking did not disturb the perfect calm. The boy rides on his body the way I ride in my wheelchair, thought Carpenter. Smooth, unmoved by his own motion. But he is graceful and beautiful, fifteen years old and already a master at winning the devotion of the weakhearted children around him. He is the enemy, the torturer, the strong and beautiful man who must confirm his beauty by preying on the weak. I am not as weak as you think.
LaVon’s book report was arrogant, far too short, and flagrantly rebellious. That much was deliberate, calculated to annoy Carpenter. Therefore Carpenter would not show the slightest trace of annoyance. The book report had also been clever, ironic, and funny. The boy, for all his mask of languor and stupidity, had brains. He was better than this farming town; he could do something that mattered in the world besides driving a tractor in endless contour patterns around the fields. But the way he always had the Fisher girl hanging on him, he’d no doubt have a baby and a wife and stay here forever. Become a big shot like his father, maybe, but never leave a mark in the world to show he’d been there. Tragic, stupid waste.
But don’t show the anger. The children will misunderstand, they’ll think I’m angry because of LaVon’s rebelliousness, and it will only make this boy more of a hero in their eyes. Children choose their heroes with unerring stupidity. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old, all they know of life is cold and bookless classrooms interrupted now and then by a year or two of wrestling with this stony earth, always hating whatever adult it is who keeps them at their work, always adoring whatever fool gives them the illusion of being free. You children have no practice in surviving among the ruins of your own mistakes. We adults who knew the world before it fell, we feel the weight of the rubble on our backs.
They were waiting for Carpenter’s answer. He reached out to the computer keyboard attached to his wheelchair. His hands struck like paws at the oversized keys. His fingers were too stupid for him to use them individually. They clenched when he tried to work them, tightened into a fist, a little hammer with which to strike, to break, to attack; he could not use them to grasp or even hold. Half the verbs of the world are impossible to me, he thought as he often thought. I learn them the way the blind learn words of seeing—by rote, with no hope of ever knowing truly what they mean.
The speech synthesizer droned out the words he keyed. “Brilliant essay, Mr. Jensen. The irony was powerful, the savagery was refreshing. Unfortunately, it also revealed the poverty of your soul. Alcott’s title was ironic, for she wanted to show that despite their small size, the boys in her book were great-hearted. You, however, despite your large size, are very small of heart indeed.”
LaVon looked at him through heavy-lidded eyes. Hatred? Yes, it was there. Do hate me, child. Loathe me enough to show me that you can do anything I ask you to do. Then I’ll own you, then I can get something decent out of you, and finally give you back to yourself as a human being who is worthy to be alive.
Carpenter pushed outward on both levers,
and his wheelchair backed up. The day was nearly over, and tonight he
something would change, painfully, in the life of the town of
So he pawed at the keys again. “Economics,” said the computer. “Since Mr. Jensen has made an end of literature for the day.” A few more keys, and the lecture began. Carpenter entered all his lectures and stored them in memory, so that he could sit still as ice in his chair, making eye contact with each student in turn, daring them to be inattentive. There were advantages in letting a machine speak for him; he had learned many years ago that it frightened people to have a mechanical voice speak his words while his lips were motionless. It was monstrous, it made him seem dangerous and strange. Which he far preferred to the way he looked: weak as a worm, his skinny, twisted, palsied body rigid in his chair; his body looked strange but pathetic. Only when the synthesizer spoke his acid words did he earn respect from the people who always, always looked downward at him.
“Here in the settlements just behind the fringe,” his voice went, “we do not have the luxury of a free economy. The rains sweep onto this ancient desert and find nothing here but a few plants growing in the sand. Thirty years ago nothing lived here; even the lizards had to stay where there was something for insects to eat, where there was water to drink. Then the fires we lit put a curtain in the sky, and the ice moved south, and the rains that had always passed north of us now raked and scoured the desert. It was opportunity.”
LaVon smirked as Kippie made a great show of dozing off. Carpenter keyed an interruption in the lecture. “Kippie, how well will you sleep if I send you home now for an afternoon nap?”
Kippie sat bold upright, pretending terrible fear. But the pretense was also a pretense; he was afraid, and so to conceal it he pretended to be pretending to be afraid. Very complex, the inner life of children, thought Carpenter.
“Even as the old settlements were slowly
drowned under the rising
“The way I feel about a fringer who succeeds,” said Pope. He was the youngest of the sixth-graders, only thirteen years old, and he sucked up to LaVon disgracefully.
Carpenter punched four codes. “And how is that?” asked Carpenter’s metal voice.
Pope’s courage fled. “Sorry.”
Carpenter did not let go. “What is it you call fringers?” he asked. He looked from one child to the next, and they would not meet his gaze. Except LaVon.
“What do you call them?” he asked again.
“If I say it, I’ll get kicked out of school,” said LaVon. “You want me kicked out of school?”
“You accuse them of fornicating with cattle, yes?”
A few giggles.
“Yes, sir,” said LaVon. “We call them cow-fornicators, sir.”
Carpenter keyed in his response while they
laughed. When the room was silent, he played it back. “The bread you
in the soil they created, and the manure of their cattle is the
your bodies. Without fringers you would be eking out a miserable life
shores of the
Then he resumed his lecture. “After the fringers came your mothers and fathers, planting crops in a scientifically planned order: two rows of apple trees, then six meters of wheat, then six meters of corn, then six meters of cucumbers, and so on; year after year, moving six more meters out, following the fringers, making more land, more food. If you didn’t plant what you were told, and harvest it on the right day, and work shoulder to shoulder in the fields whenever the need came, then the plants would die, the rain would wash them away. What do you think of the farmer who does not do his labor or take his work turn?”
“Scum,” one child said. And another: “He’s a wallow, that’s what he is.”
“If this land is to be truly alive, it must be planted in a careful plan for eighteen years. Only then will your family have the luxury of deciding what crop to plant. Only then will you be able to be lazy if you want to, or work extra hard and profit from it. Then some of you can get rich, and others can become poor. But now, today, we do everything together, equally, and so we share equally in the rewards of our work.”
LaVon murmured something.
“Yes, LaVon?” asked Carpenter. He made the computer speak very loudly. It startled the children.
“Nothing,” said LaVon.
“You said, ‘Except teachers.’”
“What if I did?”
“You are correct,” said Carpenter. “Teachers do not plow and plant in the fields with your parents. Teachers are given much more barren soil to work in, and most of the time the few seeds we plant are washed away with the first spring shower. You are living proof of the futility of our labor. But we try, Mr. Jensen, foolish as the effort is. May we continue?”
LaVon nodded. His face was flushed. Carpenter was satisfied. The boy was not hopeless—he could still feel shame at having attacked a man’s livelihood.
“There are some among us,” said the lecture, “who believe they should benefit more than others from the work of all. These are the ones who steal from the common storehouse and sell the crops that were raised by everyone’s labor. The black market pays high prices for the stolen grain, and the thieves get rich. When they get rich enough, they move away from the fringe, back to the cities of the high valleys. Their wives will wear fine clothing, their sons will have watches, their daughters will own land and marry well. And in the meantime, their friends and neighbors, who trusted them, will have nothing, will stay on the fringe, growing the food that feeds the thieves. Tell me, what do you think of a black marketeer?”
He watched their faces. Yes, they knew. He could see how they glanced surreptitiously at Dick’s new shoes, at Kippie’s wristwatch. At Yutonna’s new city-bought blouse. At LaVon’s jeans. They knew, but out of fear they had said nothing. Or perhaps it wasn’t fear. Perhaps it was the hope that their own fathers would be clever enough to steal from the harvest, so they could move away instead of earning out their eighteen years.
“Some people think these thieves are clever. But I tell you they are exactly like the mobbers of the plains. They are the enemies of civilization.”
“This is civilization?” asked LaVon.
“Yes.” Carpenter keyed an answer. “We live in peace here, and you know that today’s work brings tomorrow’s bread. Out on the prairie they don’t know that. Tomorrow a mobber will be eating their bread, if they haven’t been killed. There’s no trust in the world, except here. And the black marketeers feed on trust. Their neighbors’ trust. When they’ve eaten it all, children, what will you live on then?”
They didn’t understand, of course. When it was story problems about one truck approaching another truck at sixty kleeters and it takes an hour to meet, how far away were they?—the children could handle that, could figure it out laboriously with pencil and paper and prayers and curses. But the questions that mattered sailed past them like little dust devils, noticed but untouched by their feeble, self-centered little minds.
He tormented them with a pop quiz on history and thirty spelling words for their homework, then sent them out the door.
LaVon did not leave. He stood by the door, closed it, spoke. “It was a stupid book,” he said.
Carpenter clicked the keyboard. “That explains why you wrote a stupid book report.”
“It wasn’t stupid. It was funny. I read the damn book, didn’t I?”
“And I gave you a B.”
LaVon was silent a moment, then said, “Do me no favors.”
“I never will.”
“And shut up with that damn machine voice. You can make a voice yourself. My cousin’s got palsy, and she howls at the moon.”
“You may leave now, Mr. Jensen.”
“I’m gonna hear you talk in your natural voice someday, Mr. Machine.”
“You had better go home now, Mr. Jensen.”
LaVon opened the door to leave, then turned abruptly and strode the dozen steps to the head of the class. His legs now were tight and powerful as horses’ legs, and his arms were light and strong. Carpenter watched him and felt the same old fear rise within him. If God was going to let him be born like this, he could at least keep him safe from the torturers.
“What do you want, Mr. Jensen?” But before the computer had finished speaking Carpenter’s words, LaVon reached out and took Carpenter’s wrists, held them tightly. Carpenter did not try to resist; if he did, he might go tight and twist around on the chair like a slug on a hot shovel. That would be more humiliation than he could bear, to have this boy see him writhe. His hands hung limp from LaVon’s powerful fists.
“You just mind your business,” LaVon said. “You only been here two years, you don’t know nothin’, you understand? You don’t see nothin’, you don’t say nothin’, you understand?”
So it wasn’t the book report at all. LaVon had actually understood the lecture about civilization and the black market. And knew that it was LaVon’s own father, more than anyone else in town, who was guilty. Nephi Delos Jensen, big shot foreman of Reefrock Farms. Have the marshals already taken your father? Best get home and see.
“Do you understand me?”
But Carpenter would not speak. Not without his computer. This boy would never hear how Carpenter’s own voice sounded, the whining, baying sound, like a dog trying to curl its tongue into human speech. You’ll never hear my voice, boy.
“Just try to expel me for this, Mr Carpenter. I’ll say it never happened. I’ll say you had it in for me.”
Then he let go of Carpenter’s hands and stalked from the room. Only then did Carpenter’s legs go rigid, lifting him on the chair so that only the computer over his lap kept him from sliding off. His arms twisted, his jaw opened wide. It was what his body did with fear and rage; it was why he did his best never to feel those emotions. Or any others, for that matter. Dispassionate, that’s what he was. He lived the life of the mind, since the life of the body was beyond him. He stretched across his wheelchair like a mocking crucifix, hating his body and pretending that he was merely waiting for it to calm, to relax.
And it did, of course. As soon as he had control of his hands again, he took the computer out of speech mode and called up the data he had sent on to Zarahemla yesterday morning. The crop estimates for three years, and the final weight of harvested wheat and corn, cukes and berries, apples and beans. For the first two years, the estimates were within two percent of the final total. The third year the estimates were higher, but the harvest stayed the same. It was suspicious. Then the Bishop’s accounting records. It was a sick community. When the Bishop was also seduced into this sort of thing, it meant the rottenness touched every corner of village life. Reefrock Farms looked no different from the hundred other villages just this side of the fringe, but it was diseased. Did Kippie know that even his father was in on the black marketeering? If you couldn’t trust the Bishop, who was left?
The words of his own thoughts tasted sour in his mouth. Diseased. They aren’t so sick, Carpenter, he told himself. Civilization has always had its parasites, and survived. but it survived because it rooted them out from time to time, cast them away and cleansed the body. Yet they made heroes out of the thieves and despised those who reported them. There’s no thanks in what I’ve done. It isn’t love I’m earning. It isn’t love I feel. Can I pretend that I’m not just a sick and twisted body taking vengeance on those healthy enough to have families, healthy enough to want to get every possible advantage for them?
He pushed the levers inward, and the chair rolled forward. He skillfully maneuvered between the chairs, but it still took nearly a full minute to get to the door. I’m a snail. A worm living in a metal carapace, a water snail creeping along the edge of the aquarium glass, trying to keep it clean from the filth of the fish. I’m the loathsome one; they’re the golden ones that shine in the sparkling water. They’re the ones whose death is mourned. But without me they’d die. I’m as responsible for their beauty as they are. More, because I work to sustain it, and they simply—are.
It came out this way whenever he tried to
reason out an excuse for his own life. He rolled down the corridor to
door of the school. He knew, intellectually, that his work in crop
timing had been the key to opening up the vast New Soil Lands here in
They had built a concrete ramp for his chair after the second time the students knocked over the wooden ramp and forced him to summon help through the computer airlink network. He remembered sitting on the lip of the porch, looking out toward the cabins of the village. If anyone saw him, then they consented to his imprisonment, because they didn’t come to help him. But Carpenter understood. Fear of the strange, the unknown. It wasn’t comfortable for them, to be near Mr. Carpenter with the mechanical voice and the electric rolling chair. He understood, he really did, he was human, too, wasn’t he? He even agreed with them. Pretend Carpenter isn’t there, and maybe he’ll go away.
The helicopter came as he rolled out onto the asphalt of the street. It landed in the circle, between the storehouse and the chapel. Four marshals came out of the gash in its side and spread out through the town.
It happened that Carpenter was rolling in front of Bishop Anderson’s house when the marshal knocked on the door. He hadn’t expected them to make the arrests while he was still going down the street. His first impulse was to speed up, to get away for the arrest. He didn’t want to see. He liked Bishop Anderson. Used to, anyway. He didn’t wish him ill. If the Bishop had kept his hands out of the harvest, if he hadn’t betrayed his trust, he wouldn’t have been afraid to hear the knock on the door and see the badge in the marshal’s hand.
Carpenter could hear Sister Anderson crying as they led her husband away. Was Kippie there, watching? Did he notice Mr. Carpenter passing by on the road? Carpenter knew what it would cost these families. Not just the shame, though it would be intense. Far worse would be the loss of their father for years, the extra labor for the children. To break up a family was a terrible thing to do, for the innocent would pay as great a cost as their guilty father, and it wasn’t fair, for they had done no wrong. But it was the stern necessity, if civilization were to survive.
Carpenter slowed down his wheelchair, forcing himself to hear the weeping from the Bishop’s house, to let them look at him with hatred if they knew what he had done. And they would know. He had specifically refused to be anonymous. If I can inflict stern necessity on them, then I must not run from the consequences of my own actions. I will bear what I must bear, as well—the grief, the resentment, and the rage of the few families I have harmed for the sake of all the rest.
The helicopter had taken off again before Carpenter’s chair took him home. It sputtered overhead and disappeared into the low clouds. Rain again tomorrow, of course. Three days dry, three days wet; it had been the weather pattern all spring. The rain would come pounding tonight. Four hours till dark. Maybe the rain wouldn’t come until dark.
He looked up from his book. He had heard footsteps outside his house. And whispers. He rolled to the window and looked out. The sky was a little darker. The computer said it was 4:30. The wind was coming up. But the sounds he heard hadn’t been the wind. It had been 3:30 when the marshals came. Four-thirty now, and footsteps and whispers outside his house. He felt the stiffening in his arms and legs. Wait, he told himself. There’s nothing to fear. Relax. Quite. Yes. His body eased. His heart pounded, but it was slowing down.
The door crashed open. He was rigid at once. He couldn’t even bring his hands down to touch the levers so he could turn to see who it was. He just spread there helplessly in his chair as the heavy footfalls came closer.
“There he is.” The voice was Kippie’s.
Hands seized his arms, pulled on him; the chair rocked as they tugged him to one side. He could not relax. “Son of a — is stiff as a statue.” Pope’s voice. Get out of here, little boy, said Carpenter, you’re in something too deep for you. But of course they did not hear him, since his fingers couldn’t reach the keyboard where he kept his voice.
“Maybe this is what he does when he isn’t at school. Just sits here and makes statues at the window.” Kippie laughed.
“He’s scared stiff, that’s what he is.”
“Just bring him out, and fast.” LaVon’s voice carried authority.
They tried to lift him out of the chair, but his body was too rigid; they hurt him, thought, trying, for his thighs pressed up against the computer with cruel force, and they wrung at his arms.
“Just carry the whole chair,” said LaVon.
They picked up the chair and pulled him toward the door. His arms smacked against the corners and the doorframe. “It’s like he’s dead or something,” said Kippie. “He don’t say nothin’.”
He was shouting at them in his mind, however. What are you doing here? Getting some sort of vengeance? Do you think punishing me will bring your fathers back, you fools?
They pulled and pushed the chair into the van they had parked in front. The Bishop’s van—Kippie wouldn’t have the use of that much longer. How much of the stolen grain was carried in here?
“He’s going to roll around back here,” said Kippie.
“Tip him over,” said LaVon.
Carpenter felt the chair fly under him; by chance he landed in such a way that his left arm was not caught behind the chair. It would have broken then. As it was, the impact with the floor bent his arm forcibly against the strength of his spasmed muscles; he felt something tear, and his throat made a sound in spite of his effort to bear it silently.
“Did you hear that?” said Pope. “He’s got a voice.”
“Not for much longer,” said LaVon.
For the first time Carpenter realized that it wasn’t just pain that he had to fear. Now, only an hour after their fathers had been taken, long before time could cool their rage, these boys had murder in their hearts.
The road was smooth enough in town, but soon it became rough and painful. From that, Carpenter knew they were headed toward the fringe. He could feel the cold metal of the van’s corrugated floor against his face; the pain in his arm was settling down to a steady throb. Relax, quiet, calm, he told himself. How many times in your life have you wished to die? Death means nothing to you, fool—you decided that years ago—death is nothing but a release from this corpse. So what are you afraid of? Calm, quiet. His arms bent, his legs relaxed.
“He’s getting soft again,” reported Pope. From the front of the van, Kippie guffawed. “Little and squirmy. Mr. Bug. We always call you that, you hear me, Mr. Bug? There was always two of you. Mr. Machine and Mr. Bug. Mr. Machine was mean and tough and smart, but Mr. Bug was weak and squishy and gross, with wiggly legs. Made us want to puke, looking at Mr. Bug.”
I’ve been tormented by master torturers in my childhood, Pope Griffith. You are only a pathetic echo of their talent. Carpenter’s words were silent, until his hands found the keys. His left hand was almost too weak to use, after the fall, so he coded the words clumsily with his right hand alone. “If I disappear the day of your father’s arrest, Mr. Griffith, don’t you think they’ll guess who took me?”
“Keep his hands away from the keys!” shouted LaVon. “Don’t let him touch the computer.”
Almost immediately the van lurched and took a savage bounce as it left the roadway. Now it was clattering over rough, unfinished ground. Carpenter’s head banged against the metal floor, again and again. The pain of it made him go rigid; fortunately, spasms always carried his head upward to the right, so that his rigidity kept him from having his head beaten to unconsciousness.
Soon the bouncing stopped. The engine died. Carpenter could hear the wind whispering over the open desert land. They were beyond the fields and orchards, out past the grassland of the fringe. The van doors opened. LaVon and Kippie reached in and pulled him out, chair and all. They dragged the chair to the top of a wash. There was no water in it yet.
“Let’s just throw him down,” said Kippie. “Break his spastic little neck.” Carpenter had not guessed that anger could burn so hot in these languid, mocking boys.
But LaVon showed no fire. He was cold and smooth as snow. “I don’t want to kill him yet. I want to hear him talk first.”
Carpenter reached out to code an answer. LaVon slapped his hands away, gripped the computer, braced a foot on the wheelchair, and tore the computer off its mounting. He threw it across the arroyo; it smacked against the far side and tumbled down into the dry wash. Probably it wasn’t damaged, but it wasn’t the computer Carpenter was frightened for. Until now Carpenter had been able to cling to a hope that they just meant to frighten him. But it was unthinkable to treat precious electronic equipment that way, not if civilization still had any hold on LaVon.
“With your voice, Mr. Carpenter. Not the machine, your own voice.”
Not for you, Mr. Jensen. I don’t humiliate myself for you.
“Come on,” said Pope. “You know what we said. We just take him down into the wash and leave him there.”
“We’ll send him down the quick way,” said Kippie. He shoved at the wheelchair, teetering it toward the brink.
“We’ll take him down!” shouted Pope. “We aren’t going to kill him! You promised!”
“We don’t kill him,” insisted Pope.
“Come on,” said LaVon. “Let’s get him down into the wash.”
Carpenter concentrated on not going rigid as they wrestled the chair down the slope. The walls of the wash weren’t sheer, but they were steep enough that the climb down wasn’t easy. Carpenter tried to concentrate on mathematics problems so he wouldn’t panic and writhe for them again. Finally the chair came to rest at the bottom of the wash.
“You think you can come here and decide who’s good and who’s bad, right?” said LaVon. “You think you can sit on your little throne and decide whose father’s going to jail, is that it?”
Carpenter’s hands rested on the twisted mountings that used to hold his computer. He felt naked, defenseless without his stinging, frightening voice to whip them into line. LaVon was smart to take away his voice. LaVon knew what Carpenter could do with words.
“Everybody does it,” said Kippie. “You’re the only one who doesn’t black the harvest, and that’s only because you can’t.”
“It’s easy to be straight when you can’t get anything on the side, anyway,” said Pope.
Nothing’s easy, Mr. Griffith. Not even virtue.
“My father’s a good man!” shouted Kippie. “He’s the Bishop! And you sent him to jail!”
“If he ain’t shot,” said Pope.
“They don’t shoot you for blacking anymore,” said LaVon. “That was in the old days.”
The old days. Only five years ago. but those were the old days for these children. Children are innocent in the eyes of God, Carpenter reminded himself. He tried to believe that these boys didn’t know what they were doing to him.
Kippie and Pope started up the side of the wash. “Come on,” said Pope. “Come on, LaVon.”
“Minute,” said LaVon. He leaned close to Carpenter and spoke softly, intensely, his breath hot and foul, his spittle like sparks from a cookfire on Carpenter’s face. “Just ask me,” he said. “Just open your mouth and beg me, little man, and I’ll carry you back up to the van. They’ll let you live if I tell them to, you know that.”
He knew it. But he also knew that LaVon would never tell them to spare his life.
“Beg me, Mr. Carpenter. Ask me please to let you live, and you’ll live. Look. I’ll even save your little talkbox for you.” He scooped up the computer from the sandy bottom and heaved it up out of the wash. It sailed over Kippie’s head just as he was emerging from the arroyo.
“What the hell was that, you trying to kill me?”
LaVon whispered again. “You know how many times you made me crawl? And now I gotta crawl forever, my father’s a jailbird thanks to you; I got little brothers and sisters—even if you hate me, what’ve you got against them, huh?”
A drop of rain struck Carpenter in the face. There were a few more drops.
“Feel that?” said LaVon. “The rain in the mountains makes this wash flood every time. You crawl for me, Carpenter, and I’ll take you up.”
Carpenter didn’t feel particularly brave as he kept his mouth shut and made no sound. If he actually believed LaVon might keep his promise, he would swallow his pride and beg. But LaVon was lying. He couldn’t afford to save Carpenter’s life now, even if he wanted to. It had gone too far, the consequences would be too great. Carpenter had to die, accidentally drowned, no witnesses, such a sad thing, such a great man, and no one the wiser about the three boys who carried him to his dying place.
If he begged and whined in his hound voice, his cat voice, his bestial monster voice, then LaVon would smirk at him in triumph and whisper, “Sucker.” Carpenter knew the boy too well. Tomorrow LaVon would have second thoughts, of course, but right now there’d be no softening. He only wanted his triumph to be complete, that’s why he held out a hope. He wanted to watch Carpenter twist like a worm and bay like a hound before he died. It was a victory, then, to keep silence. Let him remember me in his nightmares of guilt, let him remember I had courage enough not to whimper.
LaVon spat at him; the spittle struck him in the chest. “I can’t even get it in your ugly little worm face,” he said. Then he shoved the wheelchair and scrambled up the bank of the wash.
For a moment the chair hung in balance; then it tipped over. This time Carpenter relaxed during the fall and rolled out of the chair without further injury. His back was to the side of the wash they had climbed; he couldn’t see if they were watching him or not. So he held still, except for a slight twitching of his hurt left arm. after a while the van drove away. Only then did he begin to reach out his arms and paw at the sand of the arroyo bottom. His legs were completely useless, dragging behind him. But he was not totally helpless without his chair. He could control his arms, and by reaching them out and then pulling his body onto his elbows, he could make good progress across the sand. How did they think he got from his wheelchair to bed, or to the toilet? Hadn’t they seen him use his hands and arms? Of course they saw, but they assumed that because his arms were weak, they were useless.
Then he got to the arroyo wall and realized that they were useless. As soon as there was any slope to climb, his left arm began to hurt badly. And the bank was steep. Without being able to use his fingers to clutch at one of the sagebrushes or tree starts, there was no hope he could climb out.
The lightning was flashing in the distance, and he could hear the thunder. The rain here was a steady plick plick plick on the sand, a tiny slapping sound on the few leaves. It would already be raining heavily in the mountains. Soon the water would be here.
He dragged himself another meter up the slope despite the pain. The sand scraped his elbows as he dug with them to pull himself along. The rain fell steadily now, many large drops, but still not a downpour. It was little comfort to Carpenter. Water was beginning to dribble down the sides of the wash and form puddles in the streambed.
With bitter humor he imagined himself telling Dean Wintz, “On second thought, I don’t want to go out and teach sixth grade. I’ll just go right on teaching them here, when they come off the farm. Just the few who want to learn something beyond sixth grade, who want a university education. The ones who love books and numbers and languages, the ones who understand civilization and want to keep it alive. Give me the children who want to learn, instead of these poor sandscrapers who go to school only because the law commands that six years out of their first fifteen years have to be spent as captives in the prison of learning.”
Why do the fire-eaters go out searching for the old missile sites and risk their lives disarming them? To preserve civilization. Why do the freedom riders leave their safe homes and go out to bring the frightened, lonely refugees in to the safety of the mountains? To preserve civilization.
And why had Timothy Carpenter informed the marshals about the black marketeering he had discovered in Reefrock Farms? Was it, truly, to preserve civilization?
Yes, he insisted to himself.
The water was flowing now along the bottom of the wash. His feet were near the flow. He painfully pulled himself up another meter. He had to keep his body pointed straight toward the side of the wash, or he would not be able to stop himself from rolling to one side or the other. He found that by kicking his legs in his spastic, uncontrolled fashion, he could root the toes of his shoes into the sand just enough that he could take some pressure off his arms, just for a moment.
No, he told himself. It was not just to preserve civilization. It was because of the swaggering way their children walked, in their stolen clothing, with their full bellies and healthy skin and hair, cocky as only security can make a child feel. Enough and to spare, that’s what they had, while the poor suckers around them worried whether there’d be food enough for the winter, and if their mother was getting enough so the nursing baby wouldn’t lack, and whether their shoes could last another summer. The thieves could take a wagon up the long road to Price or even to Zarahemla, the shining city on the Mormon Sea, while the children of honest men never saw anything but the dust and sand and ruddy mountains of the fringe.
Carpenter hated them for that, for all the differences in the world, for the children who had legs and walked nowhere that mattered, for the children who had voices and used them to speak stupidity, who had deft and clever fingers and used them to frighten and compel the weak. For all the inequalities in the world, he hated them and wanted them to pay for it. They couldn’t go to jail for having obedient arms and legs and tongues, but they could damn well go for stealing the hard-earned harvest of trusting men and women. Whatever his own motives might be, that was reason enough to call it justice.
The water was rising many centimeters every minute. The current was tugging at his feet now. He released his elbows to reach them up for another, higher purchase on the bank, but no sooner had he reached out his arms than he slid downward and the current pulled harder at him. It took great effort just to return to where he started, and his left arm was on fire with the tearing muscles. Still, it was life, wasn’t it? His left elbow rooted him in place while he reached with his right arm and climbed higher still, and again higher. He even tried to use his fingers to cling to the soil, to a branch, to a rock, but his fists stayed closed and hammered uselessly against the ground.
Am I vengeful, bitter, spiteful? Maybe I am. But whatever my motive was, they were thieves and had no business remaining among the people they had betrayed. It was hard on the children, of course, cruelly hard on them, to have their fathers stripped away from them by the authorities. But how much worse would it be for the fathers to stay, and the children to learn that trust was for the stupid and honor for the weak? What kind of people would we be then, if the children could do their numbers and letters but couldn’t hold someone else’s plate and leave the food on it untouched?
The water was up to his waist. The current was rocking him slightly, pulling him downstream. His legs were floating behind him now, and water was trickling down the bank, making the earth looser under his elbows. So the children wanted him dead now, in their fury. He would die in a good cause, wouldn’t he?
With the water rising faster, the current swifter, he decided that martyrdom was not all it was cracked up to be. Nor was life, when he came right down to it, something to be given up lightly because of a few inconveniences. He managed to squirm up a few more centimeters, but now a shelf of earth blocked him. Someone with hands could have reached over it easily and grabbed hold of the sagebrush just above it.
He clenched his mouth tight and lifted his arm up onto the shelf of dirt. He tried to scrape some purchase for his forearm, but the soil was slick. When he tried to place some weight on the arm, he slid down again.
This was it, this was his death, he could feel it; and in the sudden rush of fear, his body went rigid. Almost at once his feet caught on the rocky bed of the river and stopped him from sliding farther. Spastic, his legs were of some use to him. He swung his right arm up, scraped his fist on the sagebrush stem, trying to pry his clenched fingers open.
And, with agonizing effort, he did it. All but the smallest finger opened enough to hook the stem. Now the clenching was some help to him. He used his left arm mercilessly, ignoring the pain, to pull him up a little farther, onto the shelf; his feet were still in the water, but his waist wasn’t, and the current wasn’t strong against him now.
It was a victory, but not much of one. The water wasn’t even a meter deep yet, and the current wasn’t yet strong enough to have carried away his wheelchair. But it was enough to kill him, if he hadn’t come this far. Still, what was he really accomplishing? In storms like this, the water came up near the top; he’d have been dead for an hour before the water began to come down again.
He could hear, in the distance, a vehicle approaching on the road. Had they come back to watch him die? They couldn’t be that stupid. How far was this wash from the highway? Not far—they hadn’t driven that long on the rough ground to get here. But it meant nothing. No one would see him, or even the computer that lay among the tumbleweeds and sagebrush at the arroyo’s edge.
They might hear him. It was possible. If their window were open—in a rainstorm? If their engine were quiet—but loud enough that he could hear them? Impossible, impossible. And it might be the boys again, come to hear him scream and whine for life; I’m not going to cry out now, after so many years of silence—
But the will to live, he discovered, was stronger than shame; his voice came unbidden to his throat. His lips and tongue and teeth that in childhood had so painstakingly practiced words that only his family could ever understand now formed a word again: “Help!” It was a difficult word; it almost closed his mouth, it made him too quiet to hear. So at last he simply howled, saying nothing except the terrible sound of his voice.
The brakes squealed, long and loud, and the vehicle rattled to a stop. The engine died. Carpenter howled again. Car doors slammed. “I tell you it’s just a dog somewhere, somebody’s old dog—”
Carpenter howled again.
“Dog or not, it’s alive, isn’t it?”
They ran along the edge of the arroyo, and someone saw him.
“A little kid!”
“What’s he doing down there!”
“Come on, kid, you can climb up from there!”
I nearly killed myself climbing this far, you fool, if I could climb, don’t you think I would have? Help me! He cried out again.
“It’s not a little boy. He’s got a beard—”
”Come on, hold on, we’re coming down!”
“There’s a wheelchair in the water—”
”He must be a cripple.”
There were several voices, some of them women’s, but it was two strong men who reached him, splashing their feet in the water. They hooked him under the arms and carried him to the top.
“Can you stand up? Are you all right? Can you stand?”
Carpenter strained to squeeze out the word: “No.”
The older woman took command. “He’s got palsy, as any fool can see. Go back down there and get his wheelchair, Tom, no sense in making him wait till they can get him another one, go on down! It’s not that bad down there; the flood isn’t here yet!” Her voice was crisp and clear, perfect speech, almost foreign it was so precise. She and the young woman carried him to the truck. It was a big old flatbed truck from the old days, and on its back was a canvas-covered heap of odd shapes. On the canvas Carpenter read the words SWEETWATER’S MIRACLE PAGEANT. Traveling show people, then, racing for town to get out of the rain, and through some miracle they had heard his call.
“Your poor arms,” said the young woman, wiping off grit and sand that had sliced his elbows. “Did you climb that far out of there with just your arms?”
The young men came out of the arroyo muddy and cursing, but they had the wheelchair. They tied it quickly to the back of the truck; one of the men found the computer, too, and took it inside the cab. It was designed to be rugged, and to Carpenter’s relief it still worked.
“Thank you,” said his mechanical voice.
“I told them I heard something, and they said I was crazy,” said the old woman. “You live in Reefrock?”
“Yes,” said his voice.
“Amazing what those old machines can still do, even after being dumped there in the rain,” said the old woman. “Well, you came close to death, there, but you’re all right; it’s the best we can ask for. We’ll take you to the doctor.”
“Just take me home. Please.”
So they did, but insisted on helping him bathe and fixing him dinner.
The rain was coming down in sheets when they were done. “All I have is a floor,” he said, “but you can stay.”
“Better than trying to pitch the tents in this.” So they stayed the night.
Carpenter’s arms ached too badly for him
to sleep, even though he was exhausted. He lay awake thinking of the
pulling him, imagining what would have happened to him, how far he
gone downstream before drowning, where his body might have ended up.
a snag somewhere, dangling on some branch or rock as the water went
left his slack body to dry in the sun. Far out in the desert somewhere,
Or perhaps the floodwater might have carried him all the way to the
and tumbled him head over heels down the rapids, through the canyons,
ruins of the old dams, and finally into the Gulf of California. He’d
through Navaho territory then, and the Hopi Protectorate, and into
I saw more of the world tonight, he thought, than I had ever thought to see. I saw death and how much I feared it.
And he looked into himself, wondering how much he had changed.
Late in the morning, when he finally awoke, the pageant people were gone. They had a show, of course, and had to do some kind of parade to let people know. School would let out early so they could put on the show without having to waste power on lights. There’d be no school this afternoon. But what about his morning classes? There must have been some question when he didn’t show up; someone would have called, and if he didn’t answer the phone, someone would have come by. Maybe the show people had still been here when they came. The word would have spread through school that he was still alive.
He tried to imagine LaVon and Kippie and
Pope hearing that Mr. Machine, Mr. Bug, Mr. Carpenter was still alive.
be afraid, of course. Maybe defiant. Maybe they had even confessed. No,
that. LaVon would keep them quiet. Try to think of a way out. Maybe
an escape, though finding a place to go that wasn’t under
What am I doing? Trying to plan how my enemies can escape retribution? I should call the marshals again and tell them what happened. If someone hasn’t called them already.
His wheelchair waited by his bed. The show people had shined it up for him, got rid of all the muck. Even straightened the computer mounts and tied the computer on; jury-rigged it, but it would do. Would the motor run, after being under water? He saw that they had even changed batteries and had the old one set aside. They were good people. Not at all what the stories said about show gypsies. Though there was no natural law that people who help cripples can’t also seduce all the young girls in the village.
His arms hurt, and his left arm was weak and trembly, but he managed to get into the chair. The pain brought back yesterday. I’m alive today, and yet today doesn’t feel any different from last week, when I was also alive. Being on the brink of death wasn’t enough; the only transformation is to die.
He ate lunch, because it was nearly noon. Eldon Finch came by to see him, along with the sheriff. “I’m the new Bishop,” said Eldon.
“Didn’t waste any time,” said Carpenter.
“I gotta tell you, Brother Carpenter, things are in a tizzy today. Yesterday, too, of course, what with avenging angels dropping out of the sky and taking away people we all trusted. There’s some says you shouldn’t’ve told, and some says you did right, and some ain’t sayin’ nothin’ ‘cause they’re afraid somethin’ll get told on them. Ugly times, ugly times, when folks steal from their neighbors.”
Sheriff Budd finally spoke up. “Almost as ugly as tryin’ to drownd ‘em.”
The Bishop nodded. “Course you know the reason we come, Sheriff Budd and me, we come to find out who done it.”
‘Plunked you down that wash. You ain’t gonna tell me you drove that little wheelie chair of yours out there past the fringe. What, was you speedin’ so fast you lost control and spun out? Give me peace of heart, Brother Carpenter, give me trust.” The Bishop and the sheriff both laughed at that. Quite a joke.
Now’s the time, thought Carpenter. Name the names. The motive will be clear, justice will be done. They put you through the worst hell of your life, they made you cry out for help, they taught you the taste of death. Now even things up.
But he didn’t key their names into the computer. He thought of Kippie’s mother crying at the door. When the crying stopped, there’d be years ahead. They were a long way from proving out their land. Kippie was through with school, he’d never go on, never get out. The adult burden was on those boys now, years too young. Should their families suffer even more, with another generation gone to prison? Carpenter had nothing to gain, and many who were guiltless stood to lose too much.
“Brother Carpenter,” said Sheriff Budd. “Who was it?”
He keyed in his answer. “I didn’t get a look at them.”
“Their voices, didn’t you know them?”
The Bishop looked steadily at him. “They tried to kill you, Brother Carpenter. That’s no joke. You like to died, if those show people hadn’t happened by. And I have my own ideas who it was, seein’ who had reason to hate you unto death yesterday.”
“As you said. A lot of people think an outsider like me should have kept his nose out of Reefrock’s business.”
The Bishop frowned at him. “You scared they’ll try again?”
“Nothin’ I can do,” said the sheriff. “I think you’re a damn fool, Brother Carpenter, but nothin’ I can do if you don’t even care.”
“Thanks for coming by.”
He didn’t go to church Sunday. But on Monday he went to school, same time as usual. And there were LaVon and Kippie and Pope, right in their places. But not the same as usual. The wisecracks were over. When he called on them, they answered if they could and didn’t if they couldn’t. When he looked at them, they looked away.
He didn’t know if it was shame or fear that he might someday tell; he didn’t care. The mark was on them. They would marry someday, go out into even newer lands just behind the ever-advancing fringe, have babies, work until their bodies were exhausted, and then drop into a grave. But they’d remember that one day they had left a cripple to die. He had no idea what it would mean to them, but they would remember.
Within a few weeks LaVon and Kippie were out of school; with their fathers gone, there was too much fieldwork, and school was a luxury their families couldn’t afford for them. Pope had an older brother still at home, so he stayed out the year.
One time Pope almost talked to him. It was a windy day that spattered sand against the classroom window, and the storm coming out of the south looked to be a nasty one. When class was over, most of the kids ducked their heads and rushed outside, hurrying to get home before the downpour began. A few stayed, though, to talk with Carpenter about this and that. When the last one left, Carpenter saw that Pope was still there. His pencil was hovering over a piece of paper. He looked up at Carpenter, then set the pencil down, picked up his books, started for the door. He paused for a moment with his hand on the doorknob. Carpenter waited for him to speak. But the boy only opened the door and went on out.
Carpenter rolled over to the door and watched him as he walked away. The wind caught at his jacket. Like a kite, thought Carpenter, it’s lifting him along.
But it wasn’t true. the boy didn’t rise and fly. And now Carpenter saw the wind like a current down the village street, sweeping Pope away. All the bodies in the world, caught in that same current, that same wind, blown down the same rivers, the same streets, and finally coming to rest on some snag, through some door, in some grave, God knows where or why.
by J. N. Williamson
“You ain’t God.” The man, who’d died the other day, had been granted his request to learn the truth about some matters that had bothered him during life. “Bothered” might be too mild a word, because there’d been moments when, all else he had sought to do falling at his feet, he’d virtually lived for the answers to his fascinating questions.
Since he had wound up dying without getting
any of the answers, the same questions obsessed him now in
The angel regarded the man with eyes that peered calmly from a face that kept shifting out of focus. “And they said you were ignorant,” he replied softly, his features nearly settling into a single, discernible configuration and then slipping out of focus again.
“This is the place, right?” asked the man. “I mean, they told me outside in the hall to pass a bunch of these fancy doors until one of ‘em swung open, that you’d you’d clear up all my mysteries for me.”
The angel sighed. “That is correct.”
“Why don’t you have numbers on your doors, man?” The ex-mortal being raised the shadowy remnant of his eyebrows. “Say, how do you get the doors to swing open that way? Electric eye? They’re computerized, right?”
“Moving right along,” murmured the angel, glancing pointedly at a timepiece.
“Okay, but let’s nail this thing down.” The man edged forward, almost diving into the angel’s lap. In his eagerness to know the truth, he’d forgotten his own insubstantiality. “They told me you’d answer whatever I wanted to know—truthfully.”
“How else?” demanded the semi-divine being, shrugging.
“That’s cool!’ The man folded his arms, stood straight, studied the constantly-changing angelic face with clear suspicion. “What’s the truth about UFOs?”
For reply, the being on the almost-throne slowly shook his head.
“You promised!” exclaimed the former mortal. “I want to know what UFOs are and where they come from! Tell me about the Men in Black—and those three green, little bodies they’ve been keeping at Wright-Patterson all these years. Answer me!”
“I did answer you,” declared the angel. “When I shook my head.”
Again, the angel sighed. “There are no such things as UFOs.” He uttered the words with great clarity of enunciation. “The mystery is now solved for you, because there never were any UFOs.”
The man’s eyes were huge. “The pyramids, then! How’d they make ‘em? Why? What about the whole ancient astronaut theory?”
“They made them,” said the angel, “because they wanted to. They were enabled to make them by a combination of almost unbelievable stupidity, intolerable brutality, and a neat mix of too many people and too much time on their hands.” He paused to blow on his fingernails and polish them briefly against his gauzy garment. “As for the other, no aliens from other planets ever visited Earth. Not one; not a single bug-eyed monster, robot or android, or three-foot high humanoid. No one ever said, ‘Take me to your leader,’ because the planet Earth never had one.”
The glint of suspicion in the late human being’s eyes deepened. “President Kennedy and Dallas! How many people were involved in that killing, that coverup?”
The angel, smiling, raised one index finger.
“But—but the assassin behind the bushes on the grassy knoll, the reports of other shots being fired, the difficulty of Oswald’s shot?” He watched the angel slowly shake his head. “Well, who was Ruby with? Why did he shoot Oswald?”
“He wanted to,” murmured the angel.
For a timeless moment, literally, the newly-arrived male spirit was speechless. Griefstricken, or close to it. At last he looked up, pointed his finger at the semi-divine presence. “Okay, the double for President Roosevelt when he was incapacitated— who was behind the conspiracy? Who was it they made to look like FDR right before the Yalta Conference?”
“No one,” replied the angel.
“Then,” stammered the man, close to sputtering now, “then James Dean! Elvis! John Lennon! None of ‘em died, right? Am I right?” When he saw the angelic head begin turning, he closed his eyes tightly. “Man, don’t do that! Jimmy…Elvis…John— they had to have plastic surgery done, right—and they went to the same fancy surgeon they used for Kennedy and FDR, correct? Huh? They’re still alive on earth, right?” He was crying now. “They got to be!”
“Dead,” the angel said softly, gently, “as doornails. As the tin Lizzy. As the blacksmith trade. As—not to put too fine a point on it—you are.”
The man flung up his arms in despair,
floated to the marble ceiling of the great room, muttered something
that left a
black smudge down one whole corinthian column, and fluttered
beaten, to the floor. “That settles it, then,” he said under his
a terrible disappointment.” He
pointed a shaking finger at the angel. “It’s obvious, perfectly clear!
are conspiracies— coverups—even in
“And they said you were ignorant,” the angel observed for the second time. “You’re absolutely right!” He laughed lightly. “Look, we have to let your kind come here, you know. You’re merely strange, after all—not evil.” He stood, spreading his well-manicured hands. “I thought for a while you’d never catch on.”
The ex-mortal cowered before the impressive figure and, as he dared to look up at the angel, thought for an instant that he saw the being’s features plainly. “I d-don’t understand,” he whispered.
we have conspiracies here!” thundered the angel, helping the humbled
his feet. “How else could it possibly be
EXCERPTS FROM GIUDIZIO UNIVERSALE
by Giovanni Papini
translated by Benjamin Urrutia
We expect from thee, Oliver Cromwell, a
clarifying word on the strange and incredible contradictions of thy
didst remove the head from thy king because he did not respect the
the people, but when thou hadst taken his place, thou didst become an
harsher tyrant than he ever was. Thou didst remove the head from thy
the name of the leaders of Parliament, but twice thou didst expel, by
of soldiers, members of Parliament who were opposed to thee. Thou didst
justice and humanity, but didst have thy king judged and condemned by a
his enemies, and for crimes not mentioned in the laws. Thou didst boast
being a follower and defender of the religion of Christ, but thou didst
massacre, spoil and deport all those who worshipped Christ in a way
from thine. Thou didst present thyself to the world as the protector of
independence of the nation, but thou didst persist in subduing by force
I shall not speak. I shall not say a single word to defend or accuse myself. In all I did and said I followed the inspiration of my conscience, guided by the thought of the Presence of God and of the good of my Nation. If I worked according to Divine Will I shall be saved without my pronouncing a word. If instead I erred, all my eloquence, even were it greater than that of Paul the Apostle, will not be able to change a jot or tittle on the decree of Divine Justice. In life I was always a judge and even sat on the king’s bench. If today I stand accused I will have no other Judge but God Himself.
Rememberest thou, Ki-Ya-Koe, how many men didst thou kill?
I remember, Lord. Four only, Lord. I did not manage to kill any more, to my shame. But think that I was one of a race of poor small men, persecuted and oppressed by the big men, and I had no weapons other than arrows and stones. Many more men could I have killed had I had the beautiful and strong weapons that the outsiders had.
And of these deaths thou didst feel and feelest no remorse?
Yea, I have told thee. I have the remorse of not having been able to kill many more. But the Lord of Heaven must recognize I was plenty courageous and clever in slaughtering four. It was not so easy to kill them: they were cunning and distrustful, and bigger and stronger than I was. Do not believe that all men of my village were as capable as I was. Some did not succeed in killing more than one or two men, and many died without having slain more than one. But I slew four and no one discovered me, no one took revenge, no one succeeded in killing me.
Knowest not about doing evil? Has no one told thee that to take the life of a fellow human is a great sin?
Thy words remind me of those of a white man who came once to our country to tell the story of his God, who had been killed far away from us, a long time ago. This man was taller than us, he was very pale, and he did nothing against us. He talked a lot, however, and one did not always feel like listening to him. One day he said that God had forbidden Men to kill Men but I did not believe him. If God permitted the killing of any animals, why would he forbid the killing of Man, which is often weaker, uglier and more ferocious than the other beasts?
But that white man spoke, I believe, without knowing what he was talking about. He told, in fact, many stories about the Father of his God and read, in a big book, that the old God had ordered his people to massacre their enemies, without saving even the women or the children. How could it be believed, therefore, that the same God could forbid me to slay my enemy? I pointed this out to the white one and he insulted me, telling me that I did not understand anything, and that one day I would be terribly punished. But no one has punished me so far, and no one dared to kill Ki-Ya-Koe, who had taken the lives of four Men. And thou, Lord, who hast a good and sweet face, wilt surely not punish now poor Ki-Ya-Koe. Hast thou, perhaps, brought me from the Land of the dead to make me die a second time?
I have always believed that the God of Heaven must be happy with my bravery and my cunning, as my Mother was happy. But I confess that I could have done even more, if I had had less fear. Four mouths only I filled with earth: they are few, I know, but God must know that few were as clever as I was.
You were a great sinner and perhaps you were not comforted by the persecutions of remorse or by the grace of a punishment. But no matter how monstrous may have been your old sins, have no fear. Speak, tell us, unburden your spirit: remember that your Judge is Love.
Why would you have me confess what I never told to a living soul? Why torment me before the eternal torments? I can not escape from damnation, and my sins are too horrible, such as to discourage even divine mercy. Since I do not ask for pity or pardon or remission, let me at least spare my cancerous soul the horrors of remembering and recounting. Within me I am all a consuming flame but, as you see, I tremble as if I were naked in the fury of the polar wind. My new body is for me an unbearable garment, a weight, a shame, a torture. The tears that I never knew how to shed in the first life are in me like a searing poison that devours me without managing to destroy me.
I should not have been born: if only at least I could be annihilated forever!
If you had the strength and the humility to tell your sin you would feel relieved of this anguished frenzy. The pity of the Judge knows no measure and perhaps your penalty will not be as hard as you expect. Speak, then, confess, free your heart!
I can not and even if I could I would not. God knows everything and knows what was my life and how horrifying was my abomination. No human fantasy could guess it, and not even yours, though angelical. I can not have any hope; let me at least hide the secret of my despair. I ask you for no other charity than to allow me to be silent.
THE ABORTED CHILD
by Nathan Alterman
translated from Hebrew by Benjamin Urrutia
My Mother laid me at the foot of the fence,
All wrinkled my face and so still. On my back.
And I…looked at her from below, like a well.
And so till she fled as one flees from a war.
And I…looked at her from below, like a well,
And the moon over us like a candle was raised.
Before it was dawn, that same night, I got up.
I slowly got up, for the time now had come
For me to return to the house of my Mom,
As footballs return to the feet that kicked them.
And so I returned to the house of my Mom
And embraced Mother’s neck with my shadowish hands.
Almighty God’s eyes beheld what she did:
She tore me away as if I were a leech.
But night came again, and again I returned,
And this unto us did become as a law:
When night came again, then again I returned.
And it was that she bowed to her doom and her yoke.
The gates of her dream are to me open wide:
There’s no one in the dream save for me.
For taut as a bow has remained
The love of our souls from the day of my “birth.”
Yes, taut as a bow it remains,
And for ever it is, not to give nor to take.
And so till the end I was not turned away
By God from the heart of my parent that screamed.
And I…who was taken away and not weaned—
Have not found release and will not pull away.
And I…who was taken away and not weaned—
Go into her house, and I lock up the gate.
She grew old in my jail and grew thin and grew small;
And her face was all wrinkled like mine.
Then my wee little hands dressed her up all in white
As a mother will do for a child that’s alive.
So my wee little hands dressed her up all in white
And I took her away without telling her where.
And I laid down my Mom at the foot of the fence,
So watchful and still. On her back.
And she looked at me laughing as if from a well
And we knew that we ended the war.
So she looked at me laughing as if from a well,
And the moon over us like a candle was raised.
THE HYMN OF THE SOUL
While I was yet but a little child in the House of my Father,
Brought up in luxury, well content with the life of the Palace,
Far from the East, our home, my Parents sent me to travel,
And from the royal Hoard they prepared me a load for the journey;
Precious it was yet light, that alone I carried the burden.
Median gold it contained and silver from Atropatene,
Garnet and ruby from Hindostan and Bactrian agate,
Adamant harness was girded upon me stronger than iron;
But my Robe they took off wherewith their love had adorned me,
And the bright Tunic woven of scarlet and wrought to my stature.
For they decreed, and wrote on my heart that I should not forget it:
thou go down and bring from
“Guarded there in the Sea that envelopes the loud-hissing Serpent,
“Thou shalt be clothed again with thy Robe and the Tunic of scarlet,
“And with thy Brother, the Prince, shalt thou inherit the Kingdom.”
So I quitted the East, two guardians guiding me downwards.
Hard was the way for a child and dangerous journey to travel.
Soon I had passed Maishán, the mart of the Eastern merchants;
the soil of
my companions left me within the borders of
Straight to the Serpent I went, and near him settled my dwelling,
he should slumber and sleep, and the
I was alone, an exile under a foreign dominion;
None in the land did I see of the free-born race of the Easterns,
Save one youth, a son of Maishán, who became my companion.
He was my friend to whom I told the tale of my venture,
Warned him against the Egyptians and all their ways of uncleanness;
Yet in their dress I clothed myself to escape recognition,
Being afraid lest when they saw that I was a stranger
from afar for the
It was from him perchance they learnt I was none of their kindred,
And in their guile they gave me to eat of their unclean dainties;
Thus I forgot my race and I served the King of the country;
I forgot the
While from their poisonous food I sank into slumber unconscious.
All that had chanced my Parents knew, and they grieved for me sorely.
Through the land they proclaimed for all at our Gate to assemble—
Parthian Princes and Kings, and all the Eastern Chieftains—
they devised an escape that I should not perish in
Writing a letter signed in the name of each of the Chieftains.
“From thy Father, the King of Kings,—from the Queen, thy Mother,—
from thy Brother,—to thee, our Son in
“Up and arise from sleep, and hear the words of our Letter!
“Thou art a son of Kings: by whom art thou held in bondage?
“Think of thy shining Robe and remember thy glorious Tunic;
“These thou shalt wear when thy name is enrolled in the list of the hero,
“And with thy Brother Viceroy thou shalt be in the Kingdom.”
This was my Letter, sealed with the King’s own Seal on the cover,
Lest it should fall in the hands of the fierce Babylonian demons.
High it flew as the Eagle, King of the birds of the heaven;
Flew and alighted beside me, and spoke in the speech of my country.
Then at the sound of its tones I started and rose from my slumber;
Taking it up I kissed and broke the Seal that was on it,
And like the words engraved on my heart were the words of the Letter.
So I remembered my Royal race and my free-born nature,
I remembered the
And I began to charm the terrible loud-hissing Serpent:
Down he sank into sleep at the sound of the Name of my Father,
And at my Brother’s Name, and the Name of the Queen, my Mother.
I seized the
the unclean garb I had worn in
Straight for the East I set my course, to the light of the home-land,
And on the way in front I found the Letter that roused me—
Once it awakened me, now it became a Light to my pathway.
For with its silken folds it shone on the road I must travel,
And with its voice and leading cheered my hurrying footsteps,
Drawing me on in love across the perilous passage,
I had left the
And I had reached Maishán, the sea-washed haven of merchants.
What I had worn of old, my Robe with its Tunic of scarlet,
Thither my Parents sent from the far Hyrcanian mountains,
Brought by the hand of the faithful warders who had it in keeping;
I was a child when I left it, nor could its fashion remember,
But when I looked, the Robe had received my form and my likeness.
It was myself that I saw before me as in a mirror;
Two in number we stood, yet only one in appearance,
Not less alike were we than the strange twin guardian figures
Bringing my Robe, each singly marked with the royal Escutcheon,
Servants both of the King whose troth restored me my Treasure.
Truly a royal Treasure appeared my Robe in its glory;
Glorious it shone with beryl and gold, sardonyx and ruby
Over its varied hues there flashed the colour of sapphire;
All its seams with stones of adamant firmly were fastened,
And upon all the King of Kings Himself was depicted.
While I gazed it sprang into life as a sentient creature;
Even as if endowed with speech and hearing I saw it.
Then I heard the tones of its voice as it cried to the keepers.
“He, the Champion, he for whom I was reared by the Father—
“Hast thou not marked me, how my stature grew with his labours?”
All the while with a kingly mien my Robe was advancing,
Flowing towards me as if impatient with those who bore it.
I too longed for it, ran to it, grasped it, put it upon me.
Once again I was clothed in my Robe and adorned with its beauty,
And the bright many-hued Tunic again was gathered about me.
Clad in the Robe I betook me up to the Gate of the Palace,
Bowing my head to the glorious Sign of my Father that sent it.
I had performed His behest, and He had fulfilled what He promised,
So in the Satraps’ Court I joined the throng of the Chieftains—
He with favour received me, and near Him I dwell in the Kingdom.
“Early Eastern Christianity,” pp. 218-223; St. Margaret’s Lectures,
the Syriac-Speaking Church, by F. Crawford Burkitt (Lectures
in Paleography in the University of Cambridge), published
by John Murray, London, 1904. “Such,” says Prof. F.C. Burkitt, “is the Hymn of the Soul, which comes from the Acts
of Thomas (Cf. supra p. 266, nn. 1, 2; and App. 1),
but is not historically
connected either by language or transmission with
MOZART AND THE LIGHT OF MUSIC
by Gary Gillum
The visitor laughed, and the laughter was a marvelous thing to hear. “I was given a very long name when I was a small baby: Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. But my family and friends have always called me Wolfel, and you look like a friend and a kinsman, so you also may call me that.”
“Thank you. I am William.” He was impressed by how these Great Ones—Smercy, Ahavel, Mohandas, Wolfel—though having great long names, insisted on being called by very brief ones, thereby placing themselves on an equal plane with such a one as him, who only had a small, short name. It seems to be a rule in the universe of spirits that the more the power, the greater the humility. He who loudly proclaims, “I am Oz the Great and Terrible,” is probably not so Great and not so Terrible.
“William, you do me too much honor calling me a Wellspring of Music. I am not a source but a channel, transmitting what I receive. The basic reality of the universe is not matter but music. God has granted me the ability to plug into this basic reality— which sets me on fire. Alas, in mortal life there were so many distractions to douse and quench the fire! My Papa feared that I was not long for that sad world, being so out of place in it—and he was right, for I did not live to see my thirty-sixth birthday. Oh, I grew up quickly in matters musical, but always remained a silly child in other matters, which goes to show you, dear William, that time is arbitrary, relative and uneven. Not to mention, a great vexation. A Spirit out of eternity and placed in time is very much like a fish flung out of water onto dry land. Ah, but in this world of spirit no distraction can quench the Fire! So the God-sent subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined, and the whole, no matter how long it may be, stands complete and finished in my mind so that I can survey it at a glance, like a fine picture or stone—or more like floating in outer space and seeing Ardaha’s beauty. Have you done that?”
“Oh, indeed I have, and I was impressed by how alive she looks from out there.”
“Yes, yes. And music is also very much alive. Oh, my language fails to express what a delight it is to hear all the parts at once in my mind!”
“You need not worry about that. I can hear the music flowing from you,” William chuckled.
“Really? Well, it is still all like a dream to me, even after all this time. The best part of the dream is hearing a piece all together. What has been thus produced I did not easily forget, even during my mortal time, and nowadays it is quite impossible for me to forget, and this is the best and greatest gift I have my Divine Maker to thank for.”
Mohandas, who had been listening in silence, smiled. “The Little Wolf is much too modest. The music is considerably improved by being transmitted through him. Many Stars in the heavens now sing their songs as he arranged them.”
“For some reason,” said William, “I am now reminded of something my teacher, Ahavel, was telling me about Sarrastro and the Queen of Night. I forgot to ask him who they were. Do you know, Wolfel?”
The music shifted to an even merrier melody. “Yes, you are asking the right man. I know the story very well. It happened in a parallel universe. The Queen of Night was a beautiful, but chaotic and unpredictable, ruler and magician.”
“Ruler of what?”
“Of all the dark forests of her world, but only at night. Her Amazonian warriors were mighty and brave and could slay even Dragons and other great beasts with their spears, but they lost all their power at the rising of the sun. The Queen had much power over sleepers, but very little over those who are awake.
“Sarrastro was the Prophet and High Priest of a religious community in a beautiful city with three temples. He was attracted to the queen by her beauty, and she to him by his great wisdom. They had a daughter, Pamina, who was both beautiful and wise. But the Queen was ill at ease in the city, and she went back to the forest, taking Pamina with her.”
“Was Sarrastro upset?”
“Rather, since he wanted Pamina to inherit his throne and to marry a prince named Tamino. So he went into the forest by daylight, when the Queen’s powers were at a low point, and persuaded the Princess to return to the city. Not long after this, Prince Tamino himself lost his way in a forest and was chased by a Dragon, from which he was saved by three of the Queen’s mighty huntresses. Her Majesty decided the handsome Prince would be the perfect tool to persuade Pamina to return to her mother. Therefore, she filled the young man’s head with many lies about Sarrastro, the same kind of lies that later, on Earth, were used to slander the Latter-day Saints, but it availed her nothing, since Sarrastro was expecting Tamino’s coming and was easily able to persuade him of the truth. The Prince was initiated into the Prophet’s Sacred Brotherhood, and soon he married Pamina. The young couple became the leaders of the city when Sarrastro abdicated from temporal rule in order to dedicate himself entirely to spiritual matters.”
“I am thinking your life on earth must have been a very virtuous one indeed.”
Wolfel laughed. “It was not! I was a rowdy and riotous child in those few years on Ardaha. Not that I did any great evil to anyone, but I did not do much good either, except with my music—for all of it, even the most trivial little piece, was part of a great hymn of praise to my creator. But I spent too much gold on fine foods and brutifying drinks (which hastened my demise), on fine, costly apparel and all manner of foolish luxuries, instead of using that wealth to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. After I died and realized my folly, I grieved much for a long time over my sins, and my music was dimmed. But I received much comfort from my good sister Julianne de Norwich, who told me of several revelations Aye-Yah gave her, and which she has been sharing with others ever since:
It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain…nonetheless all shall be well…thou shalt see, thyself, that all manner of things shall be well. Accuse not thyself overmuch, deeming that thy tribulation and thy woe is all thy fault; for I desire not that thou be heavy or sorrowful indiscreetly.
“After she conveyed these words from Aye-Yah, she added this:
Then I understood that it was great disobedience to blame or wonder on God for my sin, since he blamed me not for it. And with these words, I saw a marvelous high mystery hid in God, which mystery he shall openly make known to us in Homeworld, where we shall truly see the cause why and wherefore he suffered sin to come. For he made me see that from failure of love on our part is all our travail, and from nothing else. In this same time, Aye-Yah showed me a spiritual sight of his living: a little thing like a hazelnut in the palm of my hand. I thought, What may this be? And he answered me: ‘It lasteth and ever shall, for that God loveth it.’
“After this I saw the hand of God in each and every thing, be it ever so small and humble. Nothing is due to chance or accident. If anything seems to us to be accident or chance, it seems so due solely to our human blindness.”
“Ah, yes, my friend Alyn told me something like that.”
“All truth comes from the Creator.”
Then a Spirit appeared, carrying an impressive array of glittering crystals. “Are you William, Ahavel’s student librarian?”
“You are requested to take these data-crystals with you back to the Homeworld Library.”
“Glad to do it.”
“I shall come with you,” said Wolfel.
“Thank you very much.”
The trip was longer than it had ever been before for William, because of the weight of the crystals, but it was also more pleasant, because, as Mohandas had said, the Music of the Stars and Galaxies, when filtered through Wolfel, became even more beautiful than before.
“It is all a matter of setting order on chaos,” said Wolfel, as if he were reading William’s mind. “The universe is full of music and of intelligence, but most of it is still disorganized. What I do with the music is basically the same sort of thing you will do when asked to put down on a piece of paper all that you know of a given subject. Both the writing of essays and composing of music are, on a smaller scale, the same sort of thing Aye-Yah did when organizing cosmic chaos into new worlds. All spirits are full of knowledge and wisdom, but in most cases they are also full of chaos. Every sheet of music I write or every article or poem you will write is, each of them, a small victory of order over chaos.”
“Why can’t incarnated people on Earth hear the music of the stars?”
“Well, I always could, and I suspect I wasn’t the only one. It’s not something that can be passed on from one person to another. I remember, late in my short life, an even younger person came to me and said, ‘Maestro, I want to write symphonies. Can you give me some advice?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘my first piece of advice to you is that you wait until you are a bit older. You are too young yet to write symphonies.’ ‘But Maestro, you were writing symphonies when you were nine years old!’ ‘Yes, and I was not asking advice, either.’”
“What was your secret?”
“That the Music of the Stars is not perceived by hearing only, but by eighteen different senses. Even in earthly mortality I had nine, and now I have all eighteen. The average unembodied spirit has twelve, but they do not always take full advantage of what they have. As spirits we can use as many as one hundred senses, but most of us use only ten. But even that is twice as many as the average Earthling has. And remember, if anything is possible for another intelligence, it is possible for you as well. You, too, can develop all your senses. I feel that you have the sense for the conception of paradigms. That is a good one to have.”
This is an excerpted chapter from a forthcoming novel by Gary Gillum. The first chapter of the same was included in LDSF, the first volume of our series, with the title “Journey.”
Alyn is the same as Lyn-A in LDSF:31–38.
The suffix -el in Wolfel (“Wolfie” in English) is the modern equivalent of the -ele mentioned in LDSF-2:150, which indicated affection or diminution. In German it is actually written -erl (as in “Wolferl”), but the r is silent and simply serves to soften the e into a schwa, which would happen anyway in English, so its presence is not necessary.
Ardaha is the Earth as a spiritual being.
***illustration from p. 69
THE OLD MAN AND HIS REST
A Fairy Tale by Bruce Young
Once upon a time there was an old man who lived in the midst of a large, dark forest. He lived with his wife; they had no children. They were far too old to have any children, but they wanted children badly. Because they knew that people from the surrounding villages would sometimes abandon newborn babies in the forest, the old man would often search through the forest for such a child.
One day as he was searching he saw a basket covered by a blanket lying under a tree. Hoping it was a child he went to it and was about to take off the blanket when he heard a voice.
“Old man,” it said, “leave the blanket lie!”
“Who are you?” said the old man.
“I am hope, and danger of despair,” said the voice. “But if you will take it, for you I am giver of the basket and what it holds.”
“Of course I will take it,” said the old man. But then he added quickly, “If it be anything lawful.”
“It is as lawful as you will let it be. But you must not lift the blanket until you are at home. There you must take what is in the basket, mix it together, and put it in your oven for nine hours, watching it all the while. And this you must do and finish and remove from the oven before daybreak tomorrow. Otherwise what is life in the basket will be death to you.”
The old man hesitated, but curiosity was stronger in him than fear, and he knew he had five hours before the sun would even set. So he picked up the basket and carried it home.
When he arrived home (it was a two hours’ walk from where he had found the basket), he saw that his wife had just heated up the oven to begin cooking for the evening meal.
“Wife,” he said, “we must use the oven for something other than our supper. Cheese and cold bread must be our supper tonight.”
The old woman was not altogether surprised, for she had known her husband for many years. “By the crooked branch of our apple tree, cold bread and dry, too. We have had naught but cheese and cold bread these seven days. Have ye brought us gold, then, if ye have no food?”
In fact, the old man’s daily searches had a double purpose: to look for an abandoned child and to gather fruits and berries and other food that grew wild in the forest. But today he had got none.
“No, wife. Or if gold, fairy gold.” And he told her of the basket and the voice and of what it had said to him.
“Well,” said the old woman. “Time is short, time is short.” She had a secret fear of what might come of all this, but for her, too, curiosity was stronger.
So the old man lifted the blanket from the basket and saw within a bag and a bottle. He lifted the bag; it seemed to be filled with sand. And the bottle was clear, as was the liquid within.
“Get me a bowl, dear heart,” said the old man to his wife.
And when she had gotten the bowl, he opened the bag and poured out its contents. It was like sand or like salt or sugar, but it was all golden colored except for little specks here and there of red and green and blue.
Then he opened the bottle and poured out the liquid over the golden particles.
“A spoon, a spoon,” he said. And when his wife had brought him a spoon, he stirred and stirred until the liquid and the golden stuff began to be mixed together.
To his surprise, however, they did not mix easily. There were lumps and dry clumps on the bottom and places where the liquid seemed to slip about and run away from the spoon, as if it did not want to join with the dry particles. But finally, after nearly an hour of constant beating, the bowl was filled with smooth moist golden stuff (specked of course with red and green and blue).
By this time, the fire in the oven had begun to burn down, and the old man cried out fearfully to his wife, “We must find some wood and keep the fire high for nine hours!”
He remembered the saying the voice had said, that if he did not finish by break of day, “what was life in the basket would be death to him.”
It was now less than six hours from midnight and perhaps ten hours or less from sunrise the next day.
But his wife, though also afraid, was already scurrying about the room (for she had gathered wood that morning), and soon she had the oven blazing again at its height. She then brought in the larger logs and the axe from outside, for her husband had told her he must watch the stuff even while he chopped logs to fit the oven.
So the old man poured the golden stuff into a large kettle, put it in the oven; and then, in an empty corner of the room, with one eye watching the oven and one watching the logs, he chopped away for an hour until he felt he had enough wood to keep the oven going all night long.
Then, still watching the oven, he finally ate a bit of cheese and bread. His wife, by now exhausted, went to bed, but not before praying secretly that all would be well when she awoke.
The old man sat at the table next to the oven and did nothing but watch and think and light a new candle each time the old one got down to a stub. He counted the hours by the candles and by his inward sense, for he dared not go outside to see the moon or stars, by which he could very well have told the time. And of course he added wood to the fire as it was needed. The weariness and aching of the stirring and woodchopping he had done made him long for sleep, but he remembered the words of the voice, which had told him to watch all night, and he feared too that if he fell asleep he would not wake till after sunrise—if he woke at all.
From time to time, in fact, he would doze off and then wake up with a start of fear. But looking at the candle each time this happened, he could tell he had been asleep only a moment.
Finally, sure that the kettle with the stuff had been inside the oven about nine hours—perhaps a little more—and afraid the horizon would begin to lighten any moment, he opened the oven and took the kettle out. Inside he saw what looked like little shoes and a little hat and, twisted about somehow around and between them, clothes and lumps of something else. He was puzzled for a moment and then saw it begin to move. Frightened, he ran to the corner (where he had chopped wood) and watched as there stood up in the kettle a little man or child (it was hard to tell which), with a dark green hat and brown shoes and a pale blue shirt and rust-colored trousers—though as he saw now the trousers were short ones ending just below the knees. Between them and the shoes were long stockings of nearly the same color.
Amazed, the old man said, “Can you speak?”
“What shall I say?” said the boy (if boy he was).
The old man looked at him for a moment without saying anything. Then he asked, “Are you a child?”
The boy answered, “I am a child, I am a child. Are you a child?”
The old man was about to answer when he suddenly found himself doubting the truth of the boy’s reply. Then he asked another question: “Where did you come from?”
“I came from home,” said the boy. “Am I still at home?”
This left the old man perplexed, and he muttered, mostly to himself, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
The boy looked around the room and then down at the table top, on which the kettle had been placed. Then he jumped lightly over the kettle’s edge and onto the table. After looking around again, he asked, “What shall I do? Where shall I go?”
“Why, I suppose to bed.” Just as soon as he said these words, the old man noticed how tired he was himself and how sore his back and arms and head felt.
But the boy replied, “I don’t want to go to bed. I mustn’t go to bed, must I?”
Just then the old man noticed light coming into the room from behind the curtains and through the cracks around the door. It was morning. The fire had died down in the oven, leaving the room chilly.
“Well,” he said, “if you won’t go to bed, I will.” And he looked cautiously toward the curtain that separated the kitchen from the bedroom.
“But what shall I do?” said the boy. “I must have something to do. Who will watch me?”
The old man was considering the questions, frankly wishing the voice he had heard in the forest would tell him what to do, when he saw the curtain fold back and his wife come from behind it into the kitchen. She was already dressed and looked wide awake. (He never remembered seeing her look sleepy during daylight.)
After eyeing the boy for a moment, she said, “What have we here? Have ye been out already looking for little ones?”
Then the old man explained what had happened—how after nine hours, this was what he had found in the kettle in the oven—and he told her that he was too weary to know what to think and must have some sleep before he could do anything further.
“Well, well,” said his wife, “you go to bed. I’ll take care of this urchin. He needs a bath, without doubt, and some food. And then we shall send him to bed, too.”
The old man thanked his wife and then lifted himself sorely from the chair he was sitting on and dragged himself past the curtain and into bed.
Meanwhile the old woman began to talk to the boy, saying, “Well, we must bathe thee,” and “What shall we give thee to eat?” But the boy gave to her the same sort of perplexing replies he had given to her husband. At first she tried to make some sense of what he said, but then, when he jumped from the table onto the floor, she began to suspect he was avoiding direct answers on purpose.
“Thou’lt not play games with me,” she said. “Sit here, and I’ll feed thee and then bathe thee.”
But the boy had run across the room and was soon through the curtain and into the bedroom. Before she could even get into the room, he was tugging at the bedclothes and crying to the old man, “Wake up! Wake up! I want to see something. I want to do something. Do something with me, won’t you?”
The old man had as yet entered only into a half-slumber and was quickly wakened by the boy’s insistent cry. It was with something like bitterness that he opened his eyes and then, as soon as they were open, closed them again. But even with his eyes closed, he felt an aching in his neck and shoulders that seemed, along with the boy, to be keeping him in a state of vivid wakefulness.
“Let me sleep,” he muttered. But at the same time something in him wanted to see the boy and hear what he had to say. When with some effort he opened his eyes again, he saw his wife in the room, heading for the boy, who had now jumped lightly onto the bed and over it to the other side and who was laughing and saying, “Watch me! Watch me, won’t you?”
“I’ll watch ye,” said the old woman. “I’ll thrash ye!” But the boy was too nimble for her and had now slipped back through the curtain into the other room.
When both had left, the old man rolled over and pulled the covers over his head and tried to fall back asleep. He kept seeing images of the boy jumping and laughing, and it seemed the longest time before he was asleep again.
In the kitchen the old woman and the boy had come to a standing truce: he would hold still if she would not try to run after him. And since he seemed without any really destructive designs, she decided to go about her work and let him scamper around the room at will. At times he seemed simply to be running or jumping for the fun of it, and since he made almost no noise, she decided not to mind. But he would also, as he made the rounds of the room, look into drawers, and under chairs, and in boxes, as if he wanted to see everything the room contained.
Then suddenly, as she turned around from the kneading of dough to see where he was, she saw him going through the curtain again into the bedroom. Again, before she arrived, the boy had wakened the old man and was pestering him with questions and commands.
This time the old woman decided to vent her anger. “Can’t ye see the old man is asleep? Thou’lt be the cause of his death, waking him and nagging him like a beggar boy. Get thee into the kitchen before I whip thee in.”
The boy again laughed and mocked and ran about the room until he had once more escaped through the curtain.
When the old man was alone, he groaned and thought to himself, “I’ll never have peace with that child. We shall have to leave him in the forest for another to find.” Again he found himself unable to sleep, but this time it was not so much visions of the boy as his wife’s voice, still ringing in his ears from the scolding she had given, that kept him awake. But finally, feeling more tired than ever, he fell asleep.
The same thing happened a half dozen times through the day. The boy would slip into the bedroom and wake him; his wife would enter afterwards and scold the boy; and he would be left still nagged into wakefulness by the images and echoes they left behind. It didn’t help either that daylight was creeping from behind the curtains that covered the windows and from behind the curtain that separated the rooms. The whole day seemed to him, as it passed, a tormenting confusion of sounds and sights and dim, shifting shadows.
Finally, as the room began to deepen into darkness and after what seemed the longest stretch of silence of the day, his wife came in and said, “Ye must eat. Ye can’t sleep all day and all night without eating. I’ll feed thee, and then we can all back to bed.”
And so, with a bit of resentment (for his head and his back were still sore), but without much (for he could feel a dull pang or two of hunger), he got up and went into the kitchen. There he smelled the warm stew his wife had made and saw the boy looking at him and sitting on a log still left in the corner.
As he began to eat, he said to his wife, “Won’t we have the boy eat?”
“Ask him yourself.”
And so he said, “Thou’lt have some stew, boy?”
“I’ll have what’s left when it’s gone. You won’t leave me any, will you?”
“Of course, I’ll leave thee some. Come here and thou’lt have some now.”
But the boy just laughed and stared. The old man turned to his wife, who said with a weary look, “It’ll do ye no good. He’ll not be caught.”
After that, the old man finished his stew in silence and then went back to bed, feeling more tired than he had at the beginning of the day.
He did, however, sleep fitfully that night without any interruptions from the boy, until suddenly without any noise or light he found himself wide awake. As he looked from out of the bedclothes he saw nothing but the darkness of the room and a few faint shafts of moonlight through the curtains.
But then he heard a voice, the same voice he had heard in the forest when he first found the basket.
“It’s no good,” said the voice, “sleeping during daylight.”
The old man felt both bewildered and exasperated. “But you’ll not let me sleep at night.” He was eager to learn what the voice had to say, but, hearing what it said, had been unable to control his anger. As he spoke he felt his wife turning under the covers next to him.
“There’s no putting that boy to sleep,” the voice continued, “except by working him.”
“Aye, but he won’t give a straight answer, let alone obey.”
“But you must ask him the right things,” said the voice.
“He’ll be the death of me yet,” the old man sighed.
“Nay,” said the voice. “He’ll live as long as you; and you’ll live as long as he. But you both need rest.”
“Aye, that’s a good word,” said the old man. And then he listened for a reply from the voice, but heard nothing.
After another hour of half-sleep, day broke, and soon the old man and his wife were up. After breakfast (which the boy only watched them eat), the old man was about to go into the forest to gather food, when his wife said, “Ye’ll take the boy with thee, won’t ye? I can’t bear to have him here.”
The old man looked wearily at the boy, who was smiling back at him. “What shall I do?” he thought.
“I can go, can’t I?” said the boy, squirming and nodding his head.
“Oh, I suppose,” said the old man. And so, without discussing the matter any further, they went out and followed one of his usual paths.
The old man was not surprised that the boy kept running off the path and looking into tree hollows and under rocks. He was not surprised that the boy kept pestering him with questions. He was not even surprised that the boy failed to obey any of his commands to pick an apple here or a mushroom there, though he did sigh and wish a boy so nimble would help save an old man work. But he was surprised that at midday, when he sat down beneath a tree to eat, the boy would take nothing.
“You must eat, son. You’ll waste away. Will you have no apple or berries?”
“I feed myself,” said the boy. “Don’t you feed yourself?”
Again, the old man was puzzled. He hadn’t seen the boy eat at all in their two days of acquaintance. But then, of course, he hadn’t been awake to see him most of that time.
As the day wore on, the old man grumbled at the meager supplies he had found and was almost glad the boy didn’t eat, since that would leave more for him and his wife.
Then the boy said, “Why don’t you go there?” pointing to a path that sloped downward to the right.
“It’s a rough path, and we must be turning back.”
But the boy darted down the path and was soon out of sight. The old man, grumbling still, followed after. Within a minute or two, he saw a clearing with trees on the far side that seemed laden with fruit and below them bushes crowded with berries. There were apples—golden, red and green—pears, plums, raspberries, blueberries, wild strawberries. He had seen nothing like it in his years of wandering in the forest.
He made his way to the trees and saw the boy, scampering through bushes and behind the tree trunks. “Will you help me, boy?” he asked.
But the boy said, “I have helped you and will help you more, but I’ll pick no berries.”
And so the old man picked the fruit himself.
The next day, the old man and the boy returned to the same spot, but this time it was almost bare of fruit. He had taken a large basketful the day before, but certainly not so much as that.
“There’s enough for today, isn’t there?” said the boy.
“Aye, but I had thought to set my rest on this orchard and never have to wander more. Where is all the fruit?”
“There must be other folk in the wood, don’t you think, grandfather?”
“Aye, there may be,” the old man answered, remembering signs of other people he had seen before—the ashes of campfires, sticks sharpened at the end, empty bottles.
But as the boy said, there was enough for that day and to spare, and they returned home.
The next day, as they started out, the old man said with an air of discouragement, “Where shall we go today?”
To which the boy replied, “In the hollow beyond the stream.” And to the old man’s amazement the boy led off on a path which after an hour or so came to a stream and then to a small valley beyond. The valley had not so much fruit as the first place the boy had led him to, but it had plenty, and they returned to it for several days.
Thus, a pattern began to develop: the old man would ask the boy where they should go, and the boy would lead him. The boy even seemed to know directions to places the old man had been before, and could get to them from other spots unfamiliar to the old man. The only difficulty with this pattern was that the boy could go much faster than the old man and would run ahead of him and then stop until he caught up. Sometimes the boy would lead the old man through wild and tangled paths the old man almost despaired of getting to the end of. The old man asked on some such occasions, “Will you wait for me? Won’t you take me by the hand? I would fain see you as I go. And feel you, too.” But the boy would always laugh and run ahead.
Life at home had settled down to something of a routine. The old woman was happy with the plenty they now had of food—a supply more steady and abundant than they had had for years. The old man still had not seen the boy eat. Nor had he seen him sleep, for that matter. But he had some suspicions the boy was up at night, since every once in a while he would hear a creaking that would rouse him from sleep. The boy had also fallen into the habit of coming into the room just before daybreak and chattering away, waking the old man, who, never having quite shaken his weariness since the boy’s arrival, wanted another hour or so of sleep in the morning.
The old man could in part attribute his weariness to the boy. During his wanderings in the forest, he had been in the habit of taking a nap after his midday meal. But ever since the boy had come with him, his nap had never been one of really restful sleep. The first time he tried to nap with the boy there, the beginnings of a dream were interrupted by, “Look! Look! Is that a bird or a squirrel?” And the boy had gone on asking questions and running down paths so that the old man feared for him, though he sometimes felt he would have been glad to let him go and never return.
The same thing happened day after day until finally, though he was glad to have the boy help him find food to gather, he wondered if it might not be more peaceful to go alone.
“Dear heart,” he said to his wife, “might you not keep the boy every other day? He’ll give me no peace. And then you might bathe him and see if he’ll eat something warm.”
“He’ll do no such thing. I’ve tried to bathe him an evening sometimes when you’ve gone to bed, and he’ll not sit still or let me handle him. And I’ve never seen him eat!”
Just then, the old man realized (for it had not occurred to him before) that he had never touched the child and never felt the child touch him.
“Have you never handled him?” he asked, and his wife shook her head. “And he’s never been bathed? But he wears the same clothes he wore when we gained him. And he seems no more foul than that day.”
“Aye, he’s a fairy child if you ask me,” said his wife.
As time went by, the peculiar combination of feelings the old man felt that day grew on him—bewilderment, thankfulness, weariness, and just a bit of fear. He began to feel the child might yet be his death, for now, at night, he dreamt of nothing but this little boy, with his hat and trousers and stockings and shoes, running and clambering and chattering and leading him on. He dreamt of reaching out to the boy, but of having the boy retreat from him, as he always did on such occasions outside the world of dreams. The old man dreamt even of pleading with the boy to sit on his knee or hug him or kiss his cheek, but the boy would mockingly refuse again and again, until, giving up hope, the aging dreamer would burst into tears. Even with such dreams, the old man slept steadily enough through the night (though not so long as he should have liked into the morning), but still the sleep seemed less than restful.
By the time fall was coming on, the boy had helped him find several spots in the forest where he could depend on finding food. And they now had nearly a full winter’s supply in storage at the old man’s home. There was less need now of the boy to lead him to new spots, but he continued to bring him along, partly out of habit, partly at his wife’s insistence.
Then one day, a cold one between fall and winter, the old man and the boy were walking down a path on the far side of the forest, when they came to a spot that looked like the spot where the old man had first seen the basket, though he could not be sure. And again under a tree, he saw a basket, this one smaller and not covered, but with a blanket inside.
“What could it be? What could it be?” said the boy.
The old man was more cautious this time than he had been with the first basket. He was not sure he could bear another such gift.
“If there be any here,” he said, directing his voice toward the trees, “whether seen or unseen, let him speak.”
There was nothing but silence.
“Who are you calling?” said the boy.
“Boy,” said the old man, looking down at him, “where did you come from? Why are you here? I know not whether to give thanks or sigh from grief to look at thee.”
“But you’ve known me ever since I knew I was known— haven’t you, grandfather?”
Again the old man sighed, as he had so many times before, from weariness and puzzlement.
“Well, it cannot hurt to look inside,” he said, approaching the basket with hesitation. He thought he saw the faintest ruffling of the blanket inside the basket. Then he knelt down and touched it. It felt warm, alive, whatever it was. Cautiously, he turned back the blanket. Underneath was a child, still raw-skinned, its eyes closed; but now the chilly air seemed to be making its nose itch, and he saw its face twitch once or twice.
“Oh, don’t wake, child. Don’t cry. We’ll see thee to a warm home fire before dark.”
The old man touched the child gently to assure himself this was not another bag of sand. He looked again at the tiny, red face.
“One can never say; sight and touch have been deceived. But I’ll believe thee to be a true child.”
As he was about to put the blanket back over the child, he felt something damp, near the baby’s middle. And indeed the clothes around its waist were wet and warm and smelly.
“Aye, thou’lt need a bath. We’ll be heating water by and by.”
He felt the wetness again and leaned down to smell its pungent odor. It was indeed the smell of a human child. He covered it again with the blanket. Then he looked around him. The thought of the boy had just entered his mind again.
“Boy, boy! Where are you?”
He stood up, frightened. For all the trouble he was, the boy would still be hard to lose.
“Boy, will you come here? Are you in the woods?”
But there was no answer. Then, remembering the boy had been very particular in the questions he had answered, the old man said, “Will you leave me here alone? How am I to get back home? Will you not lead me?”
He thought he heard a laugh and a voice like the boy’s saying, “Follow your nose. Smell your way home.”
The old man shook his head and looked back down at the basket. “Well, we can’t leave you here. I suppose I’ll go home as I used to, before I found the boy—by the guess and the feel of it.”
Then, just to make sure he had not been dreaming, the old man knelt down again, uncovered the child and felt its warm, wet clothes. He sighed, but this time, along with weariness, there was a feeling of life rising in him; and he knew he could have wept, he felt so much come together in that moment—sorrow at all his losses, and joy for all he had found. He lifted the basket, but could still feel the child’s warmth through it.
“Smell my way home!” he said, laughing; but the laughter was mixed with salt water and was very close to love. “Smell,” he said again. “I’ll smell naught but thee, child, these next two years.”
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
by Sue Cutler
One day in Heaven, all the Spirits were standing around talking very excitedly about the birthday party that was being prepared. Everyone was talking about what he should wear, or which flower would look best in her hair and what kind of gift should be given. Suddenly the crowd of Spirits became very quiet. Before them stood Heavenly Father’s messenger. Everyone waited very quietly, because they knew he had brought a message from Heavenly Father.
Then the announcement was made—there was a body available. This news made everyone very happy, because each of them waited for his turn on earth.
One of the Spirits asked, “Who will have the baby?”
And the messenger said, “Ken and Marion Stewart.”
Another asked, “Do they have any other children?”
The messenger replied, “Yes, there’s Benjamin, Myla, Raymond and Melissa.”
“Oh good!” said one Spirit, “a nice big family.”
“Are they righteous?” asked another Spirit.
“Yes, of course,” said the messenger. “They are Latter-day Saints.”
Then they all started jumping up and down, saying to the messenger, “I will go!” “I want to go!” “Surely it must be my turn.” “Send me! Send me!”
Then the messenger said to them, “There’s one problem. This body is not perfect. Whoever takes this body will spend his entire life on earth in pain and suffering.”
Then the Spirits began to mutter among
themselves, “Oh, I don’t think I could stand that!” and “I sure hope he
But ‘way back in the rear of the crowd was one Spirit, standing all alone, jumping as high as he could, waving his arms and shouting, “I’ll go! Send me! Oh PLEASE send me!”
The messenger worked his way through the crowd and walked up to the Spirit who wanted to go and said, “Maybe you didn’t understand what I said about this body.”
The Spirit answered, “Oh yes, I understood. You said I could have a body, live with a righteous family, and have lots of brothers and sisters to love.”
“Yes, but I also said that there would be a lifetime of pain and suffering.”
The Spirit looked at the messenger and said, “We are planning a birthday party for my brother Jesus who suffered more than any of us will ever be required to suffer. Although I don’t want to miss the party, I surely don’t want to miss my turn on earth.”
And so the messenger returned to Heavenly Father to tell Him that a Spirit had been found for the baby that was about to be born in the Stewart family.
Heavenly Father asked, “Which spirit is it?”
The messenger replied, “The one who is always laughing and singing.”
And so the baby was born, and his family called him Jacob. But it was a sad time for Jacob’s family, for he did not stay long on earth.
Jacob searched and searched until he finally found the messenger, standing with Jesus in a beautiful garden.
When Jacob walked up to them, Jesus said, “I am so glad to see you. But why do you look so sad?”
“Well,” said Jacob, “I was told that there would be a lot of pain and suffering, and I didn’t feel any pain at all! So I must have somehow missed my turn on earth.”
Jesus said, “Oh, Jacob! You had already
proven yourself worthy of the
And so the messenger and Jesus and Jacob walked through the garden, making final plans for the big birthday party in Heaven.
by Addie LaCoe
The chase planes were already scrambled. A sonic boom split the muggy air and shook the ground, but Cheryl barely noticed. The heat was oppressive, but worth enduring to get away by herself. She patted back a strand of gray hair, damp with perspiration.
On the observation deck she had felt belted in by the security cordon. Family and friends of the crew, VIPs, liaison officers were all waiting for touchdown. Their excitement and bustle only served to magnify her own doubts.
Worst of all, her son Larry had invited his bishop to join them. Cheryl knew the man from stake functions; he was nice enough, but she felt like she had to put on a smile for him. And the smile ached in her cheeks.
When no one was looking, she had slipped away.
In the world beyond the security desk her own feelings were awash in mixed signals: the boredom of the media, the euphoria of the space groupies, the ghoulish resignation of the rescue team, stationed like vultures at the edge of the runway. But despite the never-to-be-forgotten destruction of Challenger, a possible accident was the very least of Cheryl’s concerns.
How J.G. had wanted to go! Space was his dream. How could it be otherwise? “J.G.” stood for “John Glenn.” He had been on seventeen missions in the early years of their marriage. Then the company had embarked on the first inter-stellar flights. The sheer length of the voyages had forced them to consider only married couples or single applicants.
J.G. would never have asked.
“I want…a divorce,” she told him. “Civil.”
He hugged her tight, and his tears soaked her shoulder. “It’s a lot of years,” he said. “But we have eternity, don’t we?”
She had freed him to try for a spot on the ship, for a tiny footnote in history. She was so proud of him—so very proud. For her, that footnote filled volumes.
Within a four-hundred meter walk Cheryl found a deserted stretch of fence. She leaned against it and kicked off her shoes. The grass felt cool through her stockings. Such a luxury of solitude would have been unheard of as recently as five years ago. Now the crowds were thinner. The press had pooled its resources. Only two of the seven national video networks were shooting footage, and a mere handful of foreign trailers lined the press gate. She hardly knew whether to be disappointed or grateful.
Cheryl had been interviewed dozens of times since J.G. left, but only twice was there any reference to her in the finished piece, and even then it was “Cheryl Price, former wife of the assistant engineer said that…”—never her own words, few as they were. Only “Said that.” Was she so unquotable, so colorless? J.G. hadn’t thought so. But would he have changed his mind?
For a long time there had been no more quotes, not even from someone like Senator Ryan, the brother of the chief biologist. Not that Cheryl could blame the press. J.G.’s forty-year flight was scarcely the first outside the solar system, nor even the fastest or the farthest or the longest. The Expedition was the first, taking forty-five years to explore the Rigel Kentaurus systems, travelling at .2c. It barely made port before the Allegro got back from Sirius, more than twice as far away, travelling at nearly half the speed of light. J.G.’s flight to the o2 triple in the constellation Eridanus was only one among many near-light-speed jaunts these days. And while the Julius had added much to the scientific literature, its discoveries were hardly front page news— especially when that news was already as much as sixteen years old by the time it reached Earth.
The unexpected voice made Cheryl jump.
“Sorry. Did I startle you?” The man was
tall, with a fleshy face and an antiquated cut to his clothes. He bent
a bit from the waist, his hands behind his back like a
“Do I…?” She had purposely removed her name tag. “Should I…?”
“Remember me? No, I don’t think so.” There was a trace of a smile, as if the man were recalling something long ago. “My name’s Farnbach. Max Farnbach. I interviewed you once or twice. There were a lot of us then. There’s no reason you should remember.”
Cheryl didn’t. “Are you still…?” She spied an orange press tag peeking out from under the man’s lapel. She wasn’t sure she could take being interviewed again, not today, of all days.
“Still a reporter? No, I quit years ago. To write the ‘Great American Novel’. Again that smile, half to himself. He touched his badge. “This is just a courtesy.”
“Nostalgia, I guess.” He rolled up onto the balls of his feet. “I’m one of those people that like to watch the shuttles on a Sunday afternoon. Or the planes, or the trains, or even the tall ships.”
Cheryl wasn’t interested in his eccentricities. What did he want? “No. I mean, what…?” She hesitated.
The man waited. When no further words came. He looked away, towards the mountains, more than a dozen miles distant. But it wasn’t the embarrassed looking-away that Cheryl encountered so often as a result of her unfinished sentences. Instead, he seemed lost in his own thoughts. “Didn’t you have a couple of children?” he asked. “Aren’t they with you?”
Her sons, Larry and Ken. “Yes. They’re…“ She motioned towards the compound. “They’re…grown.”
This time the man colored, but at his own failing, not hers. “Of course,” he said. “An old man’s forgetfulness. I still have a reporter’s curiosity, but without having done my homework. Of course they’d be grown.”
Cheryl knew that foolish feeling too well, herself, to let the silence that followed hang overhead like a billowed parachute till it drifted down and smothered them both. “You’re not old, Mr.…”
The man chuckled. “If I’m not so old, call me Max, at least.”
Cheryl didn’t usually talk to strangers. “Max,” she heard herself saying. It was only polite to add, “Please…Cheryl.”
“Cheryl.” He smiled. Broadly this time, showing timeworn teeth.
The sight caught her short. Would J.G. look at her and see worn down teeth, wrinkles, glasses, the thickening around her middle, and overlook the love she still felt?
Her thoughts were shattered by another boom, this time followed by a wail from the con-tower, announcing the shuttle’s imminent arrival. The lights on the rescue trucks made the air throb red. Why hadn’t she sent J.G. a picture three years ago when he came in range? The transmission wasn’t that expensive.
“Shouldn’t you be getting back?” Max prodded. “It’s only a few minutes.”
“Yes.” She wished he would go now. And leave her alone.
“I’ll walk you there,” he said.
Cheryl started to protest. She didn’t want to go back. But she lacked the energy to protest. She didn’t want her sons to see her like this.
The boys always made things worse. She couldn’t help thinking how they had been sealed together. That forty years ago she had thought they loved her, too. And now? Larry seemed ashamed of her. And Ken hardly ever phoned, except for holidays.
But Ken had flown in with his family the day before yesterday. Six of them had piled into her tiny apartment to watch the reports from the moon where J.G.’s ship was dry-docked in orbit. There had been five days of debriefings, a news conference, a commendation from the President, and a reception with the lunar muckity-mucks. And there had been pictures.
“He looks a lot like you, Dad.” One particularly tactless youngster had lacked the grace to keep his thoughts to himself. “Same age too. Forty-eight.”
Ken tried unsuccessfully to explain relativity to the child.
Cheryl sometimes thought she hated Einstein. And on top of that, J.G. looked young for his years. Low gravity did that. He might have been mistaken for thirty-five. Maybe less.
Cheryl’s sagging shape looked every bit of her sixty-eight and a half years. Being a great-grandmother twice over didn’t help.
“This is as far as I can go.” Max held the door open for her.
Cheryl barely remembered the walk. She knew she had to face J.G. sometime. She was grateful for the silence the man had given her. She wanted to tell him. “I’m glad…” She offered him her hand.
He took it, and let go of the door for that instant.
It was then that Cheryl caught a glimpse of herself in the plate glass and quickly turned away. She felt herself blanch. “I…I can’t.”
If she had been twenty years younger, she would have bolted, but all she could manage was a not too dignified whirl.
“Cheryl.” There was dismay in his tone.
She had been apprehensive for weeks. Months. But there had not been this panic. Just one of the family, she had allowed herself to be swept along on the wave of excitement they all exuded. Now that the reality was so close, facing J.G. seemed beyond her.
“I’m…sorry,” Cheryl managed. She couldn’t bring herself to look at him.
It was Larry.
“Where have you been. Everybody’s been asking for you. They’re forming the reception line.” He took her by the shoulder and forced her to face him.
Cheryl had no words. When emotion percolated through her it clogged her throat. Sounds, if they came at all, only dribbled out. J.G. had patience. Her sons hurried her along by supplying their own interpretations.
Cheryl shook her head at Larry.
His eyes were angry. “Mother. They’re waiting.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Max offered
“Who are you?” Larry seemed to be noticing Max for the first time.
“A friend,” he said, “Max Farnbach.”
“The famous novelist?” he scoffed. “Sure, and I’m the Prince of Wales.”
Larry looked to his mother. “A friend?”
Cheryl hated contention. She had promised herself she wouldn’t cry. No matter what. Now she felt the wetness seep up. Through the ripples she could see Max, intent on her. Whoever he was, he was a Samaritan. She let him take her hand again and lay his own on it, like a poultice, drawing out the poison.
Larry’s demands faded. Her own cares were paramount. “What if…” The thought had been banished time and time again. To speak the words, was unthinkable. And yet she could feel them surfacing to her lips. “What if…he doesn’t…recognize me?”
“Mother!” Larry’s derision was typical. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re embarrassing everyone.”
Max didn’t let go. “Would you know him?” was all he said.
She looked askance at him. How could he ask? Of course she would. She already had—on TV.
His raised eyebrow said, Then give him the same credit.
Larry had long since ceased listening to anyone, including his mother. He reached for her. His intent was obvious: to haul her inside by the scruff of her neck if necessary.
Cheryl cringed, dreading being swept up by her son’s perennial bullying.
She was surprised when Max stepped agilely between them.
“Mother!” Larry spat the word as if chastising a badly behaved child.
Cheryl was confused, but she knew one thing. She didn’t want to be dragged back like a wandering puppy. She clung tightly to Max’s reassuring hand.
Slowly Larry’s expression changed from annoyance to something Cheryl would never have expected. He looked at Max with dawning understanding. Years of jumping to conclusions, with little chance of Cheryl’s correcting him, had made Larry quick to impute motives to his mothers actions. “I see,” he said. “A friend.”
“Young man, it’s not what you’re thinking.” Max’s voice was firm, but a little too conciliatory.
Larry’s eyes glared from one to the other.
“Where’s your respect?” Max tried again.
Cheryl could say nothing. She hung her head. The tears she had barely held in check, forced their way through, and she found herself sobbing audibly. She knew her actions would invariably be misunderstood, but she couldn’t help herself.
She felt Max’s body jolt as Larry brushed hard against him in an exiting insult.
“I thought he was going to hit you,” Max said.
When she dared to look up, Larry was gone. J.G. would not let him get away with treating her like this, she thought. Or would Larry have even less respect for a man barely his own age?
There was a bank of TV monitors in the trailer Max took her to. The technicians, anticipating the shuttle’s arrival, ignored them. The director murmured instructions through his mouthpiece to the crew on location. Cheryl scanned the screens over his shoulder as Max handed her a cup of hot chocolate and perched himself, elbows on knees, on the edge of an unoccupied swivel seat. Following her example, he slipped off his loafers.
“Didn’t you write to each other?” he asked.
Cheryl sighed. There had been letters, such as they were. But ever since the scandal sheets had exploded the confessions of the Julius’ geologist, everyone was very guarded in what they sent out over the open air waves. Codes, ciphers, and scrambler devices merely challenged the curious to break their security.
“It’s not the same, I know.” Max took a sip from his own cup.
On the screen, Captain Snowden and his wife were the first crew members to descend from the shuttle, greeted by recorded Sousa and a round of flash bulbs. The Captain’s smile seemed genuine enough until he found some familiar face in the throng. Then his expression blossomed like fireworks.
“J.G.’ll be disappointed if you’re not there,” Max said.
Cheryl shook her head. “The children…”
“You’re his wife.”
“Obviously only a technicality.”
Cheryl recognized the Twomblys, descending the ramp. They had been married on board, and their daughter Cleo’s unplanned birth had put quite a strain on the ship’s resources.
“You’re still a handsome woman,” Max said.
“Mmm.” Handsome hadn’t been a compliment to a woman for over a century. Next he’d be telling her she had personality, charm, a sweet-and-special spirit. Except that he wouldn’t know that expression. What was she doing here? If she were going to confide in someone it should have been her family or at least Larry’s bishop, not a stranger. She wished she were somewhere else, but she couldn’t leave now. She had to see J.G.
On the screen the crew was filtering out more slowly. There was a growing backlog as the official entourage tried to welcome each one individually.
“Why do you think your son was so quick to believe there was something between us?”
Cheryl shook her head. Larry was never long on common sense. And much too quick tempered and unpredictable. She had never understood him.
“Is it so farfetched that someone should find you attractive?”
Cheryl looked directly at Max for the first time since Larry had made his preposterous accusation.
“J.G. will,” he said. “There’s not a reason in this world that he shouldn’t.”
“I…don’t…,” she said. Would he jump into her sentence? No, he was waiting. “Believe you,” she finished.
Max smiled, that faraway smile she had seen earlier. “That’s been my experience,” he said. “Even the most beautiful women— models, actresses, beauty queens—it’s impossible to convince them. They primp and pluck and preen, never quite satisfied.”
However many women Max had known, he didn’t know her. Or J.G. “You’re…wrong.”
“If you say so,” he conceded. “That’s your J.G., isn’t it?”
Cheryl’s heart stopped till she finally found J.G. in the lower left-hand monitor. The director had focused the audience’s attention elsewhere, but the number six cameraman was still bobbling about the shuttle’s open door.
A little gasp escaped Cheryl’s control.
J.G.’s green coveralls were the same as he had worn nearly forty years ago. On the lunar telecasts he had been dressed in the latest fashion, presumably by some network set designer. Now he appeared as she remembered him best, puttering around the house, taking something or other apart, grease under his nails and a socket wrench or screwdriver poking out of every one of his umpteen pockets.
Cheryl’s curiosity was piqued. She couldn’t see his feet. Did he have shoes? How they both hated shoes! He always said, “I don’t feel like myself in shoes.”
She used to tease him about his gnarled toes: she could mistake his face, but his toes—never.
J.G. panned the crowd. At the same time, he was moving out of camera range, down the ramp towards the handshaking gauntlet.
“He looks worried,” Max said.
“No.” J.G. never worried. He would day-dream and puzzle over a problem and set down goals and sometimes plan things to the nth degree, but he never worried, he adapted. Cheryl had reveled in J.G.’s spontaneity, his freedom, his enthusiasm for living every moment as it came along. And it made him an exceptional trouble-shooter and a valuable crew member.
J.G. had undertaken this trip with typical lighthearted confidence that everything would remain the same until he got back. But it hadn’t stayed the same. Cheryl’s love for him was the same. But it seemed that nearly everything else in the world had changed.
If J.G. looked worried, it would mean that he had changed, too. Cheryl searched the monitors for J.G.’s reappearance on one of them.
There he was. Did he look worried? No. Cheryl relaxed into the contours of the chair. What could anyone else know of all this?
“There he is again,” Max said.
J.G. approached the officious phalanx: a White House representative, a spokesman for Interload, Inc., which had financed the flight, an Air Force general, and the four ground control members of the team, followed by a bevy of scientific and diplomatic types and then the families—a protocol officer’s nightmare. Should they be ordered according to their own rank or the rank of the crew members to whom they were related?
The thought made Cheryl smile. J.G. would have delighted in mixing them up.
“I was beginning to think being happy was against your religion.”
Max had caught her secret musings.
“Are you thinking you’d like to be there?”
But he had misread her. He was the same as everyone else— trying to interpret her silences, guessing at her thoughts, and being wrong most of the time. Everyone, that is, except J.G.—the J.G. she had sent off forty years ago.
The broadcast monitor switched from a shot of Captain Snowden with his arm around a young beauty Cheryl recognized from TV, to a three or four year old, asleep against his father’s shoulder, to a toothy commentator ready to pronounce instant history.
Suddenly the director stood up, nearly blocking their view of the screens. “Two! Camera two!” he shouted. The camera was still focusing, but, blurred as it was, Cheryl could make out the forms of Larry and J.G. locked in angry grips, rolling on the ground. Uniformed arms appeared from nowhere and pulled at the pair, trying to pry them apart.
“Hurry! I can’t believe it. That idiot must have told J.G. what he thought he saw.”
“Cher-yl!” J.G.’s cries rang in Cheryl’s head as she raced through the security barricades and check points, onto the reception area of the field. A wave of personal body guards descended on the scene and hustled their various charges away in limousines. Cheryl was heartsick. J.G. was nowhere to be seen.
Yet she could still hear him. Or so it seemed—the two-syllable crescendo and diminuendo. Cher-yl.
The hub of activity appeared to be a pair of ambulances over which a cameraman hovered in a personal lift device. Cheryl fought her way past an outer crust of casual on-lookers through layers of spectators who increasingly resisted her efforts to push in front of them, to the bedrock of a police line. She waggled her name tag at the trooper immediately in her path until its significance sank in.
“This way, lady.” He pulled her roughly by the elbow and deposited her at the rear door of one of the ambulances. He pounded at the last barrier between Cheryl and her husband. It opened.
She fumbled for the step and felt herself hoisted from behind, up into the stuffy interior.
Larry lay unconscious on the cot to Cheryl’s right, an ice pack taped across his jaw, restraining straps crisscrossing his body, a bloody bubble trembling between parted lips. It wasn’t the first time his mouth had gotten him laid out.
On the second cot lay a figure in green denim. His face was blotchy with dried sweat. His mouth moved to a rhythm which pulsed in Cheryl’s brain. Cher-yl. Cher-yl.
She knelt by his side. “I’m…here,” she whispered.
He opened his eyes, struggling to shake off the drug-induced stupor. His muscles strained as they met with opposition to his every move. “Cher-yl.” His voice enveloped her as tangibly as an embrace.
A medic started forward, syringe in hand.
“Wait.” It was the trooper.
J.G.’s hands writhed at the ends of his pinned wrists.
Cheryl placed her hand on top of his. Silently he laced his fingers between her own and pressed her nails into his palm.
She laid her head gently against his chest and looked down the length of his body at bare, gnarled toes. And cried.
Cheryl stepped from the ambulance into a pool of polarized light that filtered through the awning overhead. A police cruiser, a handful of cars, and a mobile press van were jockeying for position in the parking lot. Cheryl scanned the mass of people but didn’t find who she was looking for.
First Larry and then J.G. were lifted out. Among the dozen or so who raced into the hospital after them, Cheryl recognized the Interload man who had coached them earlier that morning. She couldn’t help thinking that J.G. had managed to upset protocol after all.
Larry’s wife glowered at Cheryl as she swept past. Cheryl’s other daughter-in-law tried to coax her inside, but gave up as Ken rushed past without noticing them. Among the last ones to enter was an IBC reporter. He was almost on the threshold when he did a doubletake and turned back, microphone in hand, a question on his open lips.
“I’ll cover this, Jack.” The voice came from behind Cheryl. It was the second time that day she had been startled by it. The IBC man mercifully disappeared.
“What are you waiting for?” Max asked. “You’re not still afraid, are you?”
Cheryl looked at his smile, seeing those timeworn teeth, those wise old creases. She shook her head. She had wanted to thank him, to tell him that everything was going to be fine. Yes, to tell him that it was true: families really could be forever. But he seemed to know already, and the words would never come when she wanted them most.
Instead, she stood on tiptoe, planted a joyous kiss on his cheek, then kicked off her shoes and skipped like a forty-eight year old, following the crowd that was following J. G.
ACT OF FAITH
by Addie LaCoe
Jesse Clarke’s oldest daughter Becky turned fifteen on the trail, but she was delirious with fever most of the day. She lay bundled in three layers of clothing plus a coarse blanket, as much for cushioning against the bone-rattling ride as against the unseasonable cold.
After driving the team all day, Jesse barely tasted the hard biscuits and beans his next oldest daughter offered him. There was more than enough for the six of them, Jesse and his five younger girls. No one felt like eating.
Jesse managed to rouse Becky briefly, long enough to dribble a few spoonfuls of thin gruel past her parched lips. She moaned pitifully between swallows, “Baptize me, Father; promise you’ll baptize me,” before she lapsed again into a fitful sleep.
Jesse’s wife lay beside Becky in the wagon bed. Jesse’s newborn son cried weakly at his mother’s dry breast. Jesse pushed back the sweat-soaked hair from his wife’s forehead, but there was no response.
The wagon smelled of death. Even the pungent smell of chickens hanging in cages from the overhead stays could not overpower the sickening stench of human vomit and stale urine. Jesse replaced the fouled bedding with sweet hay and fresh-cut pine boughs, but it was not enough. There was nothing more to do but wait.
“Any change?” Ephraim Wells lifted the canvas flap at the rear of the wagon.
Jesse shook his head.
Ephraim climbed in, unbidden, and took Becky’s hand in his.
She turned toward him, but no light of recognition was in her eyes.
“We should bless them again,” Ephraim said.
Jesse raised his tired eyes to meet the boy’s determined gaze. Ephraim meant to raise them from their sick beds. Youthful zeal and childlike faith, Jesse thought. He sighed.
The two men clambered gingerly over the nearly lifeless forms on the floor and squatted amid bundles and trunks at the front of the wagon. Ephraim anointed, and Jesse blessed his wife and son. There was no healing in his words, only comfort and a promise of a swift and joyous return to their Father in Heaven. He wished he could give as much to Becky. Poor Becky, so afraid of the water.
Jesse looked at Ephraim. The boy’s eyes were wide with the effort to control his emotions. “If they’re appointed unto death—” Jesse said.
“I know that.”
Did he really? Jesse poured a drop of oil on his daughter’s head and pronounced the preparatory words, then nodded for Ephraim to continue.
The young man laid his hands firmly on Becky’s matted curls and, with all the might of a Moses or an Elijah, called on the powers of heaven and rebuked the disease that was destroying his beloved Becky. He commanded the elements of her body to unite and restore her to her former strength and vigor. He evoked the blessings of the patriarchs upon her. And when he had finished, he sat back on his heels and looked expectantly at Jesse.
Jesse winced inside but patted Ephraim’s shoulder. The boy had a lot to learn. “You have great faith,” he said. “If only Becky had the same.”
“You can condemn the property all you want,” Mark Applebee told the government official. The man had been sent to post notice of the highway department’s intention to widen and straighten the road that would through his property. “But you’ll never lay a shovel to that ground.”
“Is that a threat, Applebee? Because if it is…” The man swung the hammer at his side.
“No threat.” Applebee’s six-foot frame was tense but not with anger or fear. “Just fact,” he said. “In the hundred and twenty-five years my family’s lived here, this spot has never even been plowed. It can’t be plowed. You’re wasting your time and the town’s money trying to pave over it.”
“We all heard your testimony before the zoning board, Applebee.” The government man positioned the stake of his sign atop the offending hillock. “This is the twentieth century,” he said. “This is America. There’s no such thing as curses or ghosts.”
Applebee folded his arms across his chest and waited.
The government man tapped the post twice to seat it, then hauled back for a good wallop that would pound the sign home. But as he brought the hammer down, the head flew off and crashed through the window of his car parked twenty feet away.
Yvonne Russel had gone to college thinking she knew it all and came back not knowing anything—at least so far as spiritual things were concerned—and not knowing whether she even wanted to know anything. Her parents had been sympathetic but not very helpful. She was miserable, and she knew she was making everyone around her miserable. By the end of her second year Yvonne decided she had to know one way or the other. And what if religion was all a farce? Well, then she’d get on with her life as best she could, trying not to hurt her parents’ feelings, but at least she’d be rid of this horrible doubt.
She read the scriptures as never before, prayed constantly, wrote in her journal, paid her tithing, did her visiting teaching, kept the Sabbath day religiously, and never let a cross word pass her lips for three whole weeks. Then she cracked.
“It’s no use. It’s not working,” she told her mother. “I’m not getting any answers.”
Her mother sat on the bed and put a hand on Yvonne’s knee. “You’re trying too hard, dear,” she said.
“First you tell me to become ‘perfect,’ and when I very nearly do, you tell me I’m trying too hard.” She was close to either tears or shouting.
“That’s exactly what I mean,” her mother continued. “It’s like you’re trying to bribe God into answering you: ‘I’ve done everything you wanted, so now you’d better do what I want.’”
“Isn’t that what it means, ‘I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say’?”
“Not hardly.” Yvonne’s mother paused. “Remember, ‘Faith precedes the miracle.’ Faith is what you’re looking for. But you have to ‘ask in faith, nothing wavering,’ in order to get your answer. I know it sounds circular, but somehow you’ve got to take the initial leap: perform an act of pure faith, like the farmer who plants the seed, believing it’ll come to harvest. I was a lot older than you before I learned that.”
Yvonne’s heart fell. “Was it hard for you?”
“It’s hard for everybody.”
Yvonne threw herself into her other’s embrace.
“I have a book I think will help,” her mother said.
Jesse awoke next morning to Becky’s screams.
Becky’s mother and little brother lay dead beside her.
The men of the camp dug a pit along the side of the trail for Jesse’s wife and son and two others who’d died overnight. Jesse curled his wife’s body into an emptied trunk and laid the baby under her arm. The head of the company dedicated the mass grave, praying that it might not be desecrated by wild animals and that those who slept would rest undisturbed until they should be raised to immortality in the morning of the first resurrection.
The five younger Clark girls accepted their loss with varying degrees of stoicism—but not Becky. Jesse couldn’t tell if she was delirious again or hysterical with grief or frightened out of her wits.
Ephraim did what he could to console her, but it was no use.
“I must be baptized,” Becky cried. “Baptize me, Father. Promise you’ll baptize me before I die.”
Jesse had been trying to baptize Becky for three long years, but each time she seemed ready to perform that outward sign of an inward faith, she had run—literally run away—at the last moment. Even the knowledge that she could not be married and sealed to Ephraim in the new and everlasting covenant had not been enough to conquer her irrational fear.
Now that he knew his daughter was about to die, her words fairly broke his weary heart—more than the death of his own wife. “I promise,” he said, but he didn’t know how he could possibly keep his word. Where on this dreary, dry plain was there sufficient water?
Laura Applebee watched her husband tear The Check into pieces and grind it into the mud at the foot of the mailbox. She knew it was The Check. What else could make him so furious? She threw open the door for him, fearing that in his blind rage he might storm right through it.
“My great-great-grandfather homesteaded this place in 1862,” he bellowed. “He plowed every inch of land he could to support fifteen children. And he swore there wasn’t a horse in the county that could be beaten into crossing that spot. If I’m crazy, then so were five generations of Applebees and all their wives and children and grandchildren after them.”
Mark Applebee plopped himself into a chair. Laura knew he wasn’t finished. He had unleashed this same harangue when the children came home from school the day after he testified before the zoning board. What their neighbors wouldn’t say in public, they hadn’t been too careful about saying in front of their children. The taunting words were carried to school and used to scourge the Applebee children unmercifully.
“Why do you think we never talked about that spot all these years? Don’t you think we knew people would say we were crazy?” Mark blustered.
Laura had not known about the hillock by the road until after they’d inherited the land and moved from town into the big house. “I don’t think you’re crazy,” she said.
“My grandfather thought he was finally going to plow that spot the day he bought his first tractor,” Mark said. “It chewed up that bit, like he’d scraped bedrock, and threw the rig over on its side; broke his leg.”
Laura sat down next to her husband, feeling besieged.
“Oh, I tried to outsmart it, too. Seems like every other generation comes up not believing, thinking they know better. I planted corn with a stick one year—cow corn—but you’d’ve thought it was silver queen when it came up. You know how things grow there. I was gloating. But when it was all turned into feed, even the pigs wouldn’t eat it. Clara nearly broke her neck trying to get out of the stall when I tried to give it to her. Dried up her milk, just like that, she was so scared. Tainted eighty acres worth. Cost me a bundle, that lesson. I won’t soon forget it.”
“You did your best,” Laura coaxed. “They’ll have to find out for themselves.”
“They’re starting to talk about demons and witches and unholy rituals, Laura. You know we’re a God-fearing family. We never had no truck with that sort of nonsense.”
“Of course not.” But Laura was thinking to herself how the ladies circle fell silent when she walked in last Thursday.
Yvonne turned a leaf in the sheaf of Xerox pages. Her mother’s “book” was a copy of a penciled journal kept by a young man as he crossed the prairie to the Great Salt Lake Valley. It was very nineteenth-century, very idealistic, and very romantic:
Becky asked to be Baptized today, but she is very Ill. Her father and I Blessed her to regain her Health, but she is Suffering as much from the Anguish of not being Baptized as from the Fever itself. There is no Water here, but even if there were, I’m afraid that the Shock of the Cold would be her Death. Yet, even as I write this, I Wonder at my lack of Faith. Have I not Blessed her that she should Live?
Where did you get this?” Yvonne asked her mother.
“My father’s mother’s mother, Anna Spencer, had it. The boy must have died before reaching the Valley. Those are her scribblings on the back pages, as if somebody gave it to her to play with. She was only seven, and she’d lost everything.”
My Beloved Becky has sunk beyond her father’s Hope, but not Mine. He says he will use the Oxen’s water to Baptize her, but Brother Thane has forbidden it. He says that if Baptizing Becky doesn’t Kill her, it will likely Kill Jesse, and if by some Miracle they both survive, the Animals will die of Thirst, and all of them will be Stranded and die together in the End. He says Becky can be Baptized for the Dead, by proxy, as soon as we reach the safety of the Valley. But I will not Allow myself to entertain the thought that she will not soon be Herself. I think she Recognized me for a moment today.
“Who is his ‘Beloved Becky’?”
“He never tells her last name.”
“Were they married?”
“I always assumed they were, but he never really says so.”
“What’s his name?”
“Nobody knows. The cover was gone when Anna was a girl.”
“Wasn’t anybody ever curious?”
“It’s just a story, Yvonne, a faith-promoting story. That’s why I showed it to you.” Yvonne’s mother sounded annoyed for some reason.
“But they were real—alive.”
“Sure. That’s what makes it faith-promoting. But you’re getting so involved with the personalities that you’re missing the point.”
Yvonne thought about that for a minute.
My Darling Becky still clings to Life for my sake. Her father, who was ill Yesterday, has, today, taken to his Bed along with one of his younger daughters. I Pray for them Both as do all the rest of the Camp, but my prayers are Unceasing for my Becky and for the years of Bliss that lie in store for us in Zion’s Safe Harbour.
“The handwriting is getting shaky.”
“He’s sick, too, I think. He just doesn’t admit it.”
Two of my Sweet Becky’s sisters died Today, and her father is very Low. He could not leave his Bed to see to the Grave. I wanted to Bless him, but he would not Have me. He wanted to speak one more time to Brother Thane. I Fetched him, but now I feel as if I Betrayed whatever Faith I ever had, by Succumbing to Jesse’s Frenzied Pleadings. If I truly Believed in the Power of the Priesthood or even in the Efficacy of Baptism for the Dead, I could not justify resorting to this last Extremity. And yet, what Right do I have to deny either of them their Last Mortal Wish? Jesse begged permission to Baptize Becky, that his Promise might not be broken. Brother Thane said that if the Scout reports Water ahead, he will allow Jesse to “Squander” what Water we are carrying with us.
I hear the talk in Camp. Some wags say my Beloved Becky lives only because of my Prayers. They say she is Suffering for my Selfishness. Is my Faith so Great that I can keep her alive singlehandedly? Or is my Faith so Weak that I will not let her go, Trusting in Almighty God to know what is Best for his Children?
We heated the water on the Fire and poured it in a Hole we dug with great Effort that we could ill Afford. So much of the Water soaked into the dry Ground that I thought we would not have enough for the Ordinance. My Beloved Becky was still Unconscious when we sat her in the shallow pool. Her father, supported by two Elders, raised his hand and Pronounced the Prayer, after which he laid her Gently under the foul Water, while I pressed her feet beneath the Surface. At the confirming nod of the witnesses, Jesse Collapsed and has not come to Himself since. Should he ever Recover, I have not the Heart to tell him that I heard the Death Rattle myself before my Beloved Becky entered the Waters of Baptism. When my Darling emerged Lifeless from the Water which should have been the Source of Eternal Life, it was as if what little Faith I had left was being Sucked from my Body by an Evil Force. We laid My Becky in a Grave by the side of the Trail, still dressed in her Baptismal Clothes. I gave a perfunctory prayer of dedication, but the words have lost their meaning for me. With what strength I had left, I saw to my Becky’s three remaining sisters, Two of whom are sick with more than just grief.
Jesse was laid beside my Becky this morning. His last words were, “I have been brought into the depths of humility and buoyed up again on the shoulders of my Saviour. Our sorrows here are as a passing shadow. The good that God will work from them is hidden from the Unbelieving.” I do not want to know what Good Jesse might have foreseen to come from My Becky’s death. Nothing short of saving the Earth from total Annihilation could possibly be worth it. Today is the Sabbath; we will not travel. I pray I might die by morning, that I may yet be laid to Rest with all that is Dear to me in this World.
Laura Applebee insisted that they walk the half-mile across the fields from the house to the hill, rather than drive the truck around by the road. How could she explain to her husband?
“There’s a peacefulness to the place,” she said. “The land has a goodness to it that you can’t sense bouncing six feet above it on tractor tires. You have to walk the ruts.”
Mark grunted. He had grown more and more taciturn the closer the bulldozers came to their property line, as if all the fight were gone out of him. In a way, Laura was grateful. She could finally get a word in edgewise. Today, she hoped to make him feel what she felt—what she suspected all the Applebee women had felt, but had never been able to communicate to their men.
“Your sister told me your father was born on the hill,” Laura said. “In the dead of winter your grandmother made them put a tent up there for her. They all thought she was addled, but she had already lost three babies, and she swore it would kill her to bear another stillborn child.”
“My sister should mind her own business,” Mark said. “How can we get the town to believe if you don’t?”
“You see how far trying to make them believe has gotten us.”
“She told me the Indians attacked the homestead when your great-great-grandfather was away hunting buffalo. They burned the house and stole the livestock and cornered the family on the hill. They circled but, in the end, rode off.”
Laura was about to set foot on the mysterious plot. “I think its a blessing, not a curse, on the land,” Laura said.
“Either way, it’s not something ordinary folk should be tampering with.” Mark stopped.
Laura pulled at his hand. “You’ve come this far.” She didn’t want to resort to impugning his bravery. That would break the spell. “It’s a wonderful feeling.” She kissed him and drew him after her with her glance.
Mark followed in silence. He sat on the blanket she spread.
Once there, the hill could work its magic.
Yvonne wished her mother wouldn’t ruin the story by trying to pound home the moral.
“Don’t you see?” she was saying. “Every step they took, in spite of the hardships, was an act of faith. You’re crying for the boy, not because he lost his Becky or even his life, but because he lost his faith, which only goes to show that you knew all along what was the most important thing.”
Yvonne shook her head. This wasn’t Romeo and Juliet; this was about flesh-and-blood people. She’d cried because any one of them could have been her, pure and simple.
“You cried for Becky,” her mother continued, “not because she died, but because she wasn’t really baptized.”
“And probably never got rebaptized for the dead either,” Yvonne added.
“I’m sure somebody must have done it. That’s not the point.” Yvonne’s mother seemed intent on her own interpretation.
But it was exactly the point. Yvonne had to know the end of the story.
When school resumed, Yvonne found herself drawn to the Church Historian’s Office. The original of the young man’s journal was there. It was in essentially the same condition as it had been when the copy was made, except that the note “unknown author, approximately 1848–52” had been appended.
Yvonne had her great-great-grandmother’s family history with her. Anna would have been seven years old in 1852. The later date on the journal seemed more likely to be correct.
She searched the indexes and found a reference to an Ebenezer Thane party which arrived in early October of 1852. She requested the related documents. She gasped out loud when she read these words:
September 17: Becky Clarke was baptized by her father, Jesse. The witnesses were Kinchen Minor and Lazarus Holt. Becky Clarke was buried along the trail. Ephraim Wells dedicated the grave.
September 18: Jesse Clarke was buried next to his daughter. Thomas Beebe rededicated the grave.
September 19: Ephraim Wells was buried next to Becky Clarke. I rededicated the grave.
September 20: Lizzie and Sarah Clarke were buried together along the trail. Samuel Little dedicated the grave.
There was more, with references to about forty individuals, but no more on either Clarke or Wells. Yvonne searched for diaries or papers by any of those named. She found only one. Ruth Beebe wrote:
Becky Clarke died today. It was a shame. Her father tried to baptize her just before she died. She was gone before they could confirm her. Megan McSlade said she didn’t hold with deathbed repentance, but everybody that knew the family had to sympathize. I think there won’t be any of them left by the time we get to the Valley.
But Ruth Beebe was wrong. She wrote later:
Brother Brigham provided each family with a plot of land. No one is without a home for the winter. Anna Clarke has found a permanent place with Dorcas and Israel Spencer. Such a sweet child. Three or four different families wanted to keep her.
Yvonne could hardly control her excitement. Armed with proof of her own relationship to Becky Clarke Spencer, her next stop was the genealogical department to determine what work had been officially recorded, followed by an assault on the special services office to plead her case that Becky’s baptism simply must be redone. And she wouldn’t rest until they agreed to seal Becky to Ephraim, as well.
“It’s a grave,” Mark Applebee said. “It has to be.” He pointed to the darker smudge in the Geological Survey’s aerial photograph of their farm.
“After all these years, how could anyone tell?” Laura was skeptical.
“It doesn’t matter how many years,” Mark argued. “That’s how they discovered some missing parts to Stonehenge. I read about it.”
“So what does it mean?”
“It means that we have to dig it up and move it someplace else. Someplace safe, before somebody from town really gets hurt trying to do it. They’ll blame us for sure.”
“I though you said it couldn’t be dug.”
“Not by an uncaring plow or an archaeologist or somebody who was going to put the remains on public display. They’d treat it like it wasn’t really a person or whatever ceremonies were done over it didn’t matter.”
“Because they weren’t like ours,” Laura finished for him. “Weren’t Christian.”
“What if it’s cursed like that Egyptian, King Tut?”
“You said yourself, it was a blessing.”
Laura nodded. “I guess it’s up to us. We might be able to do it if we treat it with—with reverence.”
In the weeks since the initial excitement of discovery, Yvonne had been thinking about what she’d done. She hadn’t lied to get the temple recommend. A testimony is a testimony, even when it’s only an “I can’t be certain-sure it’s false” testimony. She could have simply submitted Becky’s name for just anybody to do, but something inside her said, no, see it through to the end. So here she was, for the first time in three years, dressed in white, listening to the assembly-line splash, splash and the hollow, echoing drone of the baptizer’s voice.
Baptism was one of those “initial leaps” her mother had been talking about, an act of pure faith, but Yvonne’s own baptism was so lost in a jumble of things she’d done because everybody else was doing them, that somehow it didn’t seem like it should count. Sometimes she thought she should be excommunicated for a while, just so she could experience what it was like not to be a member. Maybe it would mean more to her.
Then it was her turn.
The water was warm. It smelled of chlorine.
Why had she come? She thought about the time she was a bridesmaid in Rose Marie Harrison’s wedding. They taught her to genuflect. And she’d done it out of respect for her friend’s beliefs. She knew this was what Becky Clarke would have wanted her to do. But Becky Clarke was dead.
Or was she?
“Don’t be afraid, Sister.” The baptizer had her in his strong hands. She could feel herself trembling, almost uncontrollably.
“I’m—not,” she stammered.
“When I say ‘amen,’ bend your knees and lie back,” he said. “I’ll lift you out again.”
“I’ve never—” She almost said she’d never been baptized before, but that was ridiculous. She’d done this half a dozen times. “I’ve never drowned yet,” she said instead. She wanted to bolt out of the water and run, screaming down the hall. It was all she could do to overpower the primitive fear that welled up in her, making her heart race and her breath come in painful gasps.
The prayer took only seconds, and the ordinance itself, only a slow heartbeat before she was on her feet again, sparkling drops clinging to her eyelashes, distorting her vision, refracting each face in the room into two or three. Was that Becky?
Yvonne shook her head to clear away the water. She had promised herself she wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t look around, trying to see something that wasn’t there; something that even if it were there, she had no right to see. No right.
It was only afterward that Yvonne realized her sudden panic had poured out of her body even as the water poured off her smooth skin. She might have dismissed the entire episode as her own imagination if its familiar aftermath had not descended on her the moment Becky’s name was pronounced in the confirmation ordinance. An earthquake of joy shook Yvonne’s whole insides, followed by a burning in her bosom like lava flowing from the core of her heart.
Yvonne didn’t need to open her eyes and look around this time to know that Becky was there.
And she swore to Ephraim that her own ‘conversion’ would not be the only one attributable to Becky’s testimony.
Mark Applebee had abandoned his spade at first contact with Becky’s make-shift coffin. The wood was worm-eaten, and the rusty latch broke apart at the first tug.
“I don’t think we should open it,” Laura warned.
Mark had imagined feather totems and turquoise beadwork, or even prehistoric potsherds and obsidian points. He was unprepared for a leather-banded trunk. “How could this have gotten here,” he asked.
Together they bound the trunk with rope and pulled it free of the ditch. As it emerged from its long-time resting place, however, the bottom gave way, and a jumble of boards and bones and rotting white linen tumbled into the hole.
Laura caught her breath and stifled an involuntary cry with the back of her hand.
Mark clutched at his wife as they stood amazed at what happened next.
Becky’s remains did not fall still as they settled back into the earth. Instead, they seemed to reassemble themselves into their proper configuration with a spraying sound, like fine sand being blown from every direction to the vortex of the universe. In that hole next to an obscure rural byway, a human shape formed itself, layer upon layer, like papier-mâché. On one side, the vertical wall of the pit gave way, and a second wooden box burst as it fell partway into the open space.
Laura was unable to suppress a startled scream, and Mark instinctively pressed his own body between her and the source of their terror.
Still, neither of them could tear themselves away from the sight as the white-clad man emerged unspotted from the soil around him.
The man paid them no heed but set to work excavating into the other side of the grave. A third figure, a younger man, pulled himself from the crumbling tunnel. He extended his hand toward the first figure, now clearly that of a young woman, dressed in an ankle-length gown of surprising brightness. He spoke to her, and helped her to her feet, drawing her close to himself and seeming to whisper affectionately to her. After a momentary embrace, there was a blinding flash of light.
When Mark and Laura had recovered their sight, the hole was empty, and they were left to look at each other and wonder if what they’d seen could have been an hallucination.
They might have convinced themselves that it was, except for the Book of Mormon they found in what was left of the old trunk. Even so, they didn’t tell anyone else, especially not the naïve young missionaries who came knocking at their door.
Not until much, much later.
BREEDING WILL OUT
by Addie LaCoe
The office was artificially warm: rust rug, sunny yellow chairs, Gauguin prints against busy wallpaper, and a surplus of plants. This was where the news was broken, Nicole thought, good or bad—Yes, you’re pregnant; no, you’re not; there’s nothing we can do. But he was young; he supposedly knew the latest developments.
Dr Schermerhorn leaned back. “There’s not a lot I can do for you, Mrs. Giordano.”
She wanted to shake him, make him somehow understand. She wanted to scream at him like Rachel, “Give me children, or else I die.” Instead she said nothing. Tears overflowed and spilled onto her blouse.
She started to get up. It took all her courage just to keep her appointments, only to be told, “There’s not a lot I can do for you, Mrs. Giordano…not a lot I can do.”
His hand was gentle on her arm. “You should think seriously of other alternatives before you’re much older.”
“We’ve been on an adoption waiting list for years.” She choked. Will’s already too old, she thought. The tears having flowed once, seemed to have carved out gullies that conducted the next flood all the easier.
The doctor was silent for a moment, as if he expected her to continue.
She dabbed at her eyes. “He’s a good husband. He just has these very strong beliefs. You can’t argue with a person’s beliefs,” she said. In her head she could hear Will saying, A person is his beliefs.
“There are no miracles in medicine, Mrs. Giordano,” the doctor was saying.
He was being tactful, but his meaning was the same: There’s not much I can do. She wanted to leave before he could finish. Could a person really die of disappointment?
“I think I’ve known you long enough to be frank.”
“I take it you don’t necessarily agree with your husband’s decision. You’re not as, shall we say, dogmatic?”
What difference did it make. “He’ll never change.”
“But you say that he would accept an adopted child if one were available?”
“Will loves children.” Did he know someone? Could he arrange a private adoption?
“We’ve spoken of artificial insemination before.”
The words cut through her. Hadn’t she made herself plain? Will would never allow it. “No,” she said, fighting hard for control.
His voice was irritatingly rational. “I know how your husband feels.” He leaned across the desk towards her. “But are you opposed? I mean, on religious grounds?” he asked.
She couldn’t find the strength to answer.
“I’m not exactly in league with the devil,” he said. “I’m trying to understand.”
He had supplied her with the time she needed. “As long as Will thinks it’s adultery,” she said, “I just couldn’t do it to him.”
The doctor pushed himself away from the desk and leaned back in the swivel chair. “You’re afraid to hurt him, afraid he’d accuse you.”
“The child wouldn’t look like him; he’d be able to tell.”
“The baby might look a lot like you,” he said.
“I couldn’t take that chance.”
He paused, appeared to be weighing her with his eyes. “True, with a sperm bank you don’t know what you’re getting.” He continued to study her.
“What’s the point,” she said.
“Only that your dark hair, dark eyes, strong cheeks and brow—they’re all dominant. Is your family from Southern Europe on both sides?”
“Yes, but there’s more than just hair and eyes.”
“Certainly, but all those things are controlled by genes. In view of your many dominant characteristics, I think if we found a donor with as many recessive traits, the child would almost have to look like you.”
She could not believe that she had let the conversation go so far. She had never kept anything from Will, much less something like this, knowing how he felt about it. But she heard herself ask, “Do you know someone like that?” As if she were quite deliberately inviting an obscene phone caller to please come over.
“As a matter of fact.” Dr. Schermerhorn consulted his rolex, then stopped. “But you must be absolutely sure you won’t regret it later. There’s no turning back. You’ll have to live with the secret the rest of your life.”
She thought of the rest of her life without a child. It suddenly seemed a small price to pay. “For Will’s sake, I can keep a secret.”
“You might one day become curious about the baby’s father.”
She shook her head.
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you about him. I have an oath to keep.”
She went away, amazed at her own eagerness, bewildered by the ease with which she had been persuaded, but tingling with expectation.
Three tries later Nicole conceived.
“It’s a miracle,” she said.
“Is that what you’ll tell your husband?” Dr. Schermerhorn asked.
“It’s the truth. You saved my life.”
“I’m stretching the rules for you. I hope they don’t snap back in your face.”
Nine months later, Andrew was born. Then there were the inevitable comparisons with old baby photos.
“He looks exactly like your brother when he was that age. Exactly.”
“Amazing how much he looks like you, Nicole, but then boys tend to favor their mothers, you know.”
“You can be proud of that son of yours, Will. He’ll be a lady-killer for sure if he’s only half as good looking as your wife.”
Will soaked it up and beamed. He wanted to believe, so he did. Or so it seemed.
There were times, though. Like when Andrew was five and came home with a black eye. Will looked disappointed.
“No kid of mine would stand still for a licking like that.”
Nicole held her breath. Fathers sometimes said that, didn’t they? But it was over in a moment. Will took the boy out back, and by supper time had him punching and scuffling, bobbing and ducking, his little knuckles red and sore, his wounded pride pretty well healed—both their wounded pride.
Then there was Andrew’s tongue as a youngster, biting and bitter on occasion. More than once Will had wondered aloud. “Where does he get that? Not from my side of the family! If I dared talk back to my father he would’ve beaten me black and blue—still would today. Don’t you teach him any better? Where does it come from?”
“From school, Will,” she said. “He picks it up at school.” But she worried about it all the same. She became much too familiar with the knot that formed every time something new happened and Will would wonder, “where does he get that?”
Nicole had at first thought that her son’s striking resemblance to her would provoke questions. Instead her friends went out of their way to find similarities between Andrew and Will. Nicole had thought Will would expect more children, but he seemed content. What more could she ask? None of her original fears had materialized. Why did she continuously invent new ones?
Now Andrew was thirty. Will didn’t seem bothered by anything. She should have been able to finally relax. Even if he did find out the truth, it was so long ago, he would forgive her. No. Time had compounded the lie. He might have forgiven her years ago, but not now.
Nicole still found herself unable to meet his eyes whenever he referred to Andrew as “our” son.
Will seemed oblivious to everything. He couldn’t have been prouder of Andrew. He even loved his daughter-in-law, in spite of her being Irish. He had even stopped asking when he was going to see some grandchildren—a prospect Nicole had visualized with near panic, knowing that they might have been incriminatingly blonde when they should have been dark. She had spent many a secret hour extolling Cathleen’s exciting career, encouraging her to put off having children, compounding her own guilt.
Perhaps if there had been some grandchildren, Nicole would not have remained so obsessed with her only son—and his appearance.
“Andrew, you’re looking pale. You’ve been working awfully hard lately.”
“It’s the gray hair, Mom. Cathleen’s fault,” he teased.
She had resisted mentioning his hair. It was turning gray. Its inky blackness was flecked with white lines like a negative drawing.
“Don’t look at me like that, Mom. You’ll make me self-conscious. Dad was gray before I was born, wasn’t he?”
She murmured assent.
It was the following May at Will’s retirement party that Nicole saw Andrew in swim trunks at their backyard pool. He stood curling his toes around the edge of the board, making schoolboy noises about cold water, while his cousin Dom urged him to jump.
The sun cast a halo of light around Andrew’s hard, muscular form. His skin seemed to glow magnesium white. His hair, always so thick on arms and chest, shone like glassy filaments.
He sliced the surface with hardly a splash but sprang out again, shivering and dripping. He seized Dom in his powerful grip, shouting, “Not cold, huh?” The two grappled like cubs to the edge where they both tumbled in together and bubbled up laughing. Their wives stood on the side smiling, offering towels.
Nicole was not smiling. She could see only the white growth from Andrew’s belly to his throat. The loss of pigment had spread gradually from his sideburns to his temple. She had hardly noticed.
Now, the sudden revelation of his nearly naked body could not have struck her more brutally if it had been leprous. His dark hair had, from the first, symbolized his place in the family. His deep, dark eyes, his bronzed skin.
“Hey, Mom, snap out of it.” Andrew was at her side.
She was still shaken, but she was not without some presence of mind. “Seeing you like this makes me feel old.”
“Like this?” he said, rubbing his hands over his chest, mussing the matted strands. “It doesn’t bother me. I feel great; I’m in better shape than most twenty-year-olds. Racquetball twice a week, jogging with Cathleen every other day. Believe it, I can bench press 220.”
She was having trouble listening. “You’re so pale,” she said at last.
“Mom, you’re a born worrier. What do you expect the first swim of the season?”
He looked darker now against the white of his towel. No one else seemed to notice, least of all Will, who came up behind them and laid his arm good-naturedly around his son’s shoulder and steered him away. “I need you for boccie.”
Will’s sudden appearance jolted Nicole. Had he heard their conversation? What would he make of it? She reviewed her every word.
So what if her son turned prematurely gray, or even white? It happened. Nicole watched them walk away. Surely she had imagined that ghastly white. She was worrying about everything and nothing.
She shivered, noticing Will’s swarthy hand against her son’s back.
Dr. Schermerhorn was still practicing. Nicole saw him every year without fail. They never spoke about Andrew except for the usual “How’s the family?” He seemed to have no interest in the boy whatsoever—almost an exaggerated disinterest. Or was she imagining it. She had to see him again.
“I have some questions,” she said significantly after the routine exam.
She thought she detected an understanding glance pass between them.
“In my office,” he said. “Take your time getting dressed.”
Of course. She’d feel more at ease there. Or did he realize that they needed to be alone?
He was writing in a folder when she stepped in and took a seat. The room hadn’t changed much: different plants, same prints. She scrutinized the family pictures on his desk. They told her nothing. Andrew didn’t look like any of them. Dr. Schermerhorn’s hair had long since turned white, but she couldn’t pinpoint when it had happened. It was not important at the time.
He pushed the paperwork aside and leaned back the way she remembered him doing so many times. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s a silly thing, really,” she said. “I just wondered if you ever heard of a person’s genes changing as they grew older.” She watched him closely. His answer was just a heartbeat too long in coming, she thought.
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“Well, suppose you had one parent with a long nose and one with a short nose. Is it possible that you might start out with a short nose, but then it grew longer as you got older. Maybe the recessive genes were finally coming out.”
“I’m sure that’s impossible,” he said. “People simply change. Even identical twins become less and less alike.
She waited for him to refer to Andrew, but he didn’t.
“Naturally, it’s Andrew I’m worried about,” she said.
“Nothing’s going to happen at this late date.” He smiled.
He had saved her life by giving her a son. How could he refuse to help her now? “I wish you could see him. His hair is totally white.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” he said, “as long as he’s otherwise healthy.”
“What about albinism?”
“That’s a mutation, a birth defect,” he assured her.
Far from being reassured, she wondered at his positive tone. Doctors were usually so fond of beating around the bush.
In the weeks following, Dr. Schermerhorn’s remarks bothered Nicole more and more. Andrew had the first sunburn of his life.
“I must have fallen asleep at the club. Believe me, I’m off the infrared. I never itched so much.”
Throughout the fall and winter Andrew grew visibly paler. Although only Nicole seemed to notice, the same brand of band-aids that used to look so bright against his skin, now appeared dark.
She spoke to no one about it.
She invited Andrew and Cathleen to dinner more frequently, arranged to stop at Andrew’s office whenever she was in town, and quizzed him continually in a roundabout effort to reassure herself. Until Will put a stop to it.
“Andrew has his own life to lead, Nicole. And so do we.”
They spent the following spring travelling. Nicole was terrified. As long as she could see Andrew every few days, the changes were less noticeable. What might have happened during her two months’ absence?
She phoned immediately upon her return.
Andrew sounded the same. “Why don’t you and Dad come over tomorrow night. We’re having a few couples from work, unless you’re too tired.”
She couldn’t be tired. She had to see him, touch him, know he was still all right.
From the corner of the sofa where she had fallen in semi-controlled shock, Nicole observed her son among his guests. She could actually see pink scalp through his white hair. He was as animated and energetic as ever, but his hands had felt cold to her. Blue veins crisscrossed his translucent cheeks. His eyes were a weak, chocolate brown. Certainly it had to be her imagination, but she was convinced he was wearing makeup. What worse things was he hiding from her?
“So you’re Andrew’s mother,” said a stranger as he sat beside her. “I could have guessed. You look so much alike. I’m Phil Leacock, Teresa’s husband.”
She nodded perfunctorily.
“I’m in advertising myself. I’ve been trying to talk Andrew into modeling for one of our accounts. He’s perfect for the layout with that gray hair of his, but not a wrinkle in his face, and very fit—the perfect mix of maturity and youthfulness. Don’t you think so?”
“Gray hair? You mean white.”
“I suppose we could lighten it even more. That’s an idea.”
“But his skin,” she protested.
“You’re right. The contrast with white hair would be striking. He’s very photogenic, you know.”
“You have pictures of him.”
“No, not exactly. I have some from last year, but the ones I just took were all washed out, if you know what I mean. But I’m no photographer. That sort of thing happens to me a lot.”
“Faded, out of focus?”
“Yes, but I have an eye for a good shot. I know it can work.”
Nicole recalled her own faded snapshots. She thought Andrew must have moved. Again, the clench in her chest.
Photographs didn’t lie. Regardless of what Dr. Schermerhorn said, Andrew was growing fairer, reverting to that other half of his genetic code. Will could not pretend to be blind to it much longer. Perhaps Andrew was not simply fading but her part of him was actually disintegrating.
She had to do something. But what?
Andrew was approaching, punch in one hand, a plate in the other. “Is Phil pressing his case with you too?”
“Why not?” Leacock asked.
“Will you excuse us a moment,” Nicole said. She guided Andrew into the privacy of the kitchen and shut the door.
Andrew offered her a stool next to the counter. “Don’t pay any attention to Leacock, Mom. I don’t.”
She looked at his slender fingers. His nails were like glass, as if his hands had been in water for a very long time. “You look worn out,” she said.
“It’s a party, Mom,” he said. “Can we save it? I know you care. I know you’re concerned. I appreciate it. OK?”
“You don’t understand or you wouldn’t turn me off.”
“I don’t turn you off.” His eyes flashed. For an instant they were mirrors, like glass held beyond the angle of refraction. “What more can I do? I eat healthy, get plenty of rest, fresh air, see my dentist regularly.”
The blankness of his eyes had frightened her. She took his hand. It felt icy. “You’re cold,” she said.
“Is that all, Mom? I’ve got to get back to my guests.”
The silver glare returned to his eyes. This time it was more than a flicker. Nicole moved aside, hoping that it was a trick of the light. But it didn’t go away. Instead, Andrew seemed to take her movement as a signal that he was dismissed.
Nicole felt she had been talking through him.
Andrew never snapped at her that way even as a teen-ager. Was everything she recognized in him disappearing?
More and more, she thought, he seemed concerned only with himself and his own lifestyle, a shallow person, transparent. Yes, transparent.
She watched Andrew from the kitchen door. He was outlined against the bold blue and white wallpaper.
She must have been staring too long. The pattern seemed to merge with the veins in his hands. She blinked, but it didn’t clear. The afterimage was imprinted on his face and hair. She squinted at him in an effort to bring him back into focus, but his features melted steadily into the background.
Suddenly she found herself wandering the upstairs hallway. Will was at her side. “What’s wrong, Nicole?”
“I can’t find Andrew. He’s disappeared.” She wanted to add, it’s all my fault, but she was afraid.
“He sent me to look for you,” Will said. “He thought you acted upset.”
“I have a headache,” she lied. “I want to go home.” She looked for Andrew one last time but couldn’t find him in the crowd.
In the car Will tried to rouse her from her silence. “Andrew says Cathleen’s two weeks late,” he told her. “She hasn’t been to a doctor, of course. It’s too early to tell.”
But Nicole wasn’t listening. She cursed that witch doctor Schermerhorn for saving her life.
AND EVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET
by Scott S. Smith
John Knight hung up the phone in a daze and walked over to the couch, sitting down heavily. Was it possible that he really had a long-lost brother?
The brief discussion had been peculiar in more ways than one: his alleged brother, Jim, had shown unusual interest in and even knowledge of his spiritual state and promised not only a momentous personal meeting within the hour but a special “mission” and message of some sort. He suspected that Jim had utilized the Church’s genealogical service to locate him, and friends in the hierarchy had explained about his inactivity.
Actually, it had only been a few years since he had served as bishop. The pressure had been enormous, his family had been neglected and eventually his wife and he had separated. The questions for which he had no answers, the realities of the ward behind the Sunday pleasantries, the legalistic aspects of the institution which killed the spirit upon which it was founded, the terrible internal conflicts he experienced when doctrine and policy collided with his conscience…he could not say God protected one from a burden too great too bear. He had suffered a nervous breakdown.
In his long convalescence he had read, more than any other time in his life. He read books by Church leaders and critics of the things he had always believed. He read tracts by atheists and yogis, disturbing fiction and uplifting poetry, ancient history and modern physics.
When he had recovered he did not become active again: partly it was embarrassment, partly it was that his view of life had changed. He went on a different road. At first friends in the ward had bothered him to come out but gradually they realized it was no use arguing with him about things they would rather not think about and about which he saw no point in praying.
His inward turning became more exotic and John Knight found paths few had trodden. Yet he did not find happiness and as the years wore on he found no relationship to soothe loneliness. He had no close friends nor family—that he knew of.
All of which made this call and visit so startling, not to say suspicious.
He was jolted from his thoughts by a call from his porch.
“Hello, John! It’s Jim!”
He walked to the door and, after hesitating a moment, flung it open, trying to fix a smile on his face.
It quickly changed to open-mouthed surprise, for there on the front porch was his twin—there could be no mistaking it. After a moment of confused silence he invited Jim in.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
Jim shook his head and smiled in response to his brother’s astonishment over their meeting.
“As you can see, we really are brothers—to say the least.”
“But where have you been? How were we separated? Why did I hear nothing of you until now?”
“John, on the phone I told you I would explain everything and that it had to do with a special spiritual message. You undoubtedly wonder how I know so much about what you have been going through these past few years.”
Jim leaned forward and looked at John with piercing eyes. “We are twins, as you can see, but what you see is what you are meant to see, not a reality as you know it. We are not twins in the normal sense, yet we are in a much deeper way.”
John was getting increasingly confused but remained silent. The hairs on the back of his neck stood erect as he sensed something strange happening.
Jim continued, telling John things John had thought and done and about which no one else should have known. The visit of a heretofore long-lost brother was becoming a nightmare. John began to wonder if maybe the Church were true and this was a messenger from the Lord.
“No, John, though you are not far off,” answered Jim to that thought, causing John to leap out of his seat in shock and fear. “Sit down, because I am now going to explain who I am and why I am here.”
John remained standing, frozen in fright, barely moving. Jim gave him a warm smile and comforting feelings came over John. He gradually relaxed and sat back on the couch.
“You do not, of course, remember the preexistence: indeed, you now doubt that there was such a thing. I can assure you there was. It was there that you and I were spiritually born of the same mother.”
John Knight began to wonder if this were some enormous prank but the thought froze in his mind as he saw that Jim was reading it, shaking his head in answer.
“There was a difference between us, however,” Jim continued. “When it came time to choose, you came here—I chose the path of the Son of Morning.”
John Knight did not dare think. He tried to touch Jim. His hand went through his brother’s sleeve, touching nothing.
“Yes, I went with the one-third. You wonder why I came here now. It is simple. There is a mission to be accomplished and I must do it. It requires a body. Please let me be with you.” He had a gentle, pleading look and John felt compassion, he felt comfort, he felt the burden of responsibility lift.
Most of all, he no longer felt lonely. He nodded slowly.
For the remainder of his natural life he was fiercely active in the Church, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, rising in position and especially influence, looking forward to the day when he expected every knee would bow and every tongue confess the lord of this world.
by Michael R. Collings
A month had passed since we filed beside the closed casket, barely able to touch a finger to the polished walnut top. It had looked more like a closed organ console than a final resting place.
And since then, I had not dared come here to play. The organ had belonged to him; we played on sufferance at best, his presence surrounding us as we did our lessons on the ivory keys. Long, thin fingers would stab out, pointing the proper key, touching the correct stop. We loved him…and feared him.
But now I had to play again. The janitor had left; the chapel sat empty as I unlocked the organ loft, my key clicking against the lock. I brushed my hand on the light switch; a bare bulb glowed antique gold.
And I played. Softly at first—preludes he had loved, quiet balanced harmonies of flutes whispering in counterpoint. I raised one hand to the upper keyboard, and felt gentle tension in two voices sinking deeper and deeper into each other. I almost believed…almost hoped…to see a finger reach toward the manuals, toward that single stop that would make my heart cry and wring echoes from the silence.
I don’t know how long I played. When I feel like that, I enter the organ, become one with it. Time becomes meaningless. But gradually I noticed that my fingers were stiff, my vision beginning to blur. Each note on the page was preceded by a ghostly presence. I stood and stretched. Outside the window above my shoulder, darkness pressed. A wind must have risen. Something scraped against the roof, murmured against the windows in the chapel.
I sat down again. This time, my melodies rang louder, more stridently as I fought a growing weariness. My fingers stumbled on Beethoven, even on Bach. The scrapings outside seemed louder, more insistent.
And then I knew…somehow I knew that I was hearing more than elm branches scratching tiles. I heard something in the chapel —not much…only the faintest suggestion of a sound. But it differed from the others. It sounded like…footsteps, perhaps…or a body sliding across a wooden pew, then lifting itself to stand in the aisle. It sounded…purposeful.
“You idiot,” I said, startled as my voice echoed above the organ’s softness. “There’s nothing there. It’s just wind.”
But I stopped playing, stopped and stood and peered through the opening between organ loft and chapel.
Some shadowy form huddled against the altar. Even as I watched, it shuffled forward, making a soft scraping as of something barely substantial against the carpet.
I jerked back and my foot slipped onto the bass pedals. Through the silence rose a muted roll, a deep unwavering note.
The shadow stopped…or at least I thought it did. I sat down, flipping frantically through my music for just the right piece. I threw off the brash diapasons and pulled out flutes, melodia, dulciana (named for its sweetness) and began fingering chords and soft arpeggios. In the breaths between chords, I listened. I heard nothing. Even the wind had died.
Then I laughed. What a fool! How many times had I played here at night, with the chapel empty and silent. How many times had I thundered Bach toccatas and rumbled marches. “Don’t be silly. There’s nothing there.”
Even as I spoke, though, I felt it again. A shadow darker than blackness, a coldness spilling from the chapel. And I knew that only music could keep it away. I played, softly meditative pieces to diminish the shadow. My mood altered from sadness and loss into fear; I played the organ—but something was playing me, touching stops in me and playing through my soul with deft power.
I threw on louder stops, defying darkness. I pressed the expression pedal, imagining as I did so the louvered doors to the pipe chambers opening wider and wider onto the empty chapel, sounds drowning minute scrapings and scuffings.
I glanced toward the chapel. The splotch of darkness floated down the aisle—a perverse, phantom bridegroom—toward me! sweeping even faster than before.
I stifled a cry and threw off everything except the muted flute and shifted without pause into “Abide With Me.” The shadow stopped. But it didn’t retreat.
It demanded that I play. Silence drew it closer; strident, vibrant, life-filled music drew it closer. Meditative music stopped it—but nothing drove it back.
The night passed, infinitely slowly. I tired. My fingers slipped. Notes blurred, transformed into disharmony. The shadow would deepen, and I would feel coldness washing my spine. Once I thought I felt fingers on my shoulder, when I fumbled a passage he had drilled me on for hours. I felt the anger.
Finally, I could barely keep awake. The music, the incessant quietness of it, controlled me. I wanted to sleep, had to sleep. I dropped my hands.
And the shadow was beside me, blotting out the glowing light, shadowing the keyboard itself. I screamed and crashed fingers onto the manuals, not caring what I played. I grasped the first thing from my memory—the piece we had been polishing the night he died.
With my right hand, I played the intricate sixteenth-note runs, while my left pulled stop after stop, throwing the organ on full, demanding all that it could give. I plunged my left hand through shadows and formed the opening chords of the Widor Toccata. It is fast, loud, exhausting; it makes my fingers ache and my shoulders knot; it stretches my calves to reach the octave-plus chords on the pedals. But it makes me sing.
It grew darker; I could barely see the manuals. I closed my eyes. The cold swirled closer, joining sounds like branches scraping—but inside my head, painful and insistent.
“Damn you!” I screamed, as I thrust out my foot to begin the melody. “Damn you! Leave me alone!”
My toe touched the lowest C—and I almost strangled on the wave of hatred that swept through me. I played, faster and faster until my right hand must have been only a blur—but I didn’t open my eyes to see. I pulled out more stops—bass stops, rumbling giants so low I could almost count their vibrations. But I did so instinctively, without opening my eyes. The cold intensified; my fingers were like ice against the keys. I shuddered in spite of my violence as I pressed myself into the keyboard.
And then I recognized the feeling that surrounded me. Not anger. Not hatred.
Envy. Pure, unalloyed envy. It wrapped my fingers, stiffening them to the forward thrust of the music. It pressed into my mind, blurring memory. It wanted me to stop. The toccata was life, energy, movement—and it…whatever it was…did not want me to have that. Power and motion and vitality threatened it.
The shadow spread. Sound and silence, music and shadow struggled, with me at the center, oblivious and uncaring. Only my music mattered.
For the last crescendo I threw on the 64-foot pedal stop. The final chord—ten fingers, both feet, sounds pulling in every voice from the pipes and spanning four octaves lower than the lowest note to three octaves beyond the highest—at final chord chilled with a coldness beyond the frigid envy that filled the loft. I held the notes, pressed fingers into the ivory until they lost color and bleached as white as the keys. I closed my eyes tighter, shivering under vibrations that rattled windows in the chapel. The building itself shook as I pushed, harder and harder, drawing even more from the exhausted organ, from my exhausted mind. One grand, consummate chord to push back darkness.
When I woke, sunlight had broken through the window behind me. I was slumped against the wall. The chapel was grey. There was no lump of blackness at its center.
But there was a sound…a low rumbling, like the lifenote that opens Zarathustra and 2001. It entered me, not through my ears but through my back and legs and feet where they touched cold stone walls or wooden bench or pedals. The loft vibrated with it; the chapel echoed it.
I stared. All of the stops had been silenced except the 64-foot bass. Its voice sounded as if from the bowels of the earth, so low as to be barely music. It seemed primal, an earthtone itself.
I straightened and turned off the power. My muscles ached; my fingers, knuckles, legs were stiff and bruised. Even my lungs pained me when I breathed.
But underneath the pain swelled a frantic joy that threatened tears and laughter and exultation. I knew what…who I had touched. And I knew what I had to do.
Tonight I will return to the chapel. And tonight, I will play his ghost to rest.
THE TABLES TURNED
(Our play is set in a conventional classroom. It is the first day of the semester. Three students are seated, awaiting their teacher. The two women, Young and Fielding, are dressed somewhat more casually than their lone male classmate, Bell, who is neatly turned out in a tie and jacket, though some might fault his trousers for being a bit tight. Enter Smith, with a stack of books and papers. She goes to the podium.)
Smith: Good morning, good morning, students! Now, this is Humanities 13, the course titled “A Comparative Approach to the Major Figures of the Literature, Language, and Composition of the Western World.” 2 hours credit. If anyone is in the wrong classroom, she can leave now while the getting’s good. Okay? Everyone in the right pew? Well, now, those good sisters that run the huge computer system over there have gotten our rolls to us very quickly this semester, so I’ll just call the names I’ve got down here and see whom we have. Ummm…Phyllis McConkie Young the Third?
Young: Here. Oh, by the way, Professor Smith—my mother asked me to convey her regards to you. Mildred McConkie?
Smith: Oh, yes, yes! Mildred and I served our missions together! A great woman, Mildred. She’s a real spiritual giant. The whole mission field looked up to her, but especially those little gentlemen missionaries, if you know what I mean! (Smith, Young, and Fielding laugh knowingly.) Ummm…Fielding? Karen Kimball Fielding the Fourth?
Smith: Karen Kimball Fielding…hmmm…is your mother Karen Kimball Fielding the third?
Fielding: Yes, that’s right. She mentioned to me that you and she had gone to graduate school together. She asked me to say hello.
Smith: Well, I should say! She and I just about ran the Las Palmas Stake together for about ten years. When we moved, they divided the stake and made three stakes where one had been—it took that many women to do what we had been doing. Well, be sure to give her my warmest best wishes. Now let’s see here: Bell? Lawrence, uh, I can’t make out this second name—Kar—?
KarDonna. My father’s name is Karl and my mother’s name is Donna.
Smith: Well, isn’t that cute! Lawrence KarDonna Bell. Now, do most people call you Larry? Or Lare?
(Not too happy with any of the diminutives, but passive.) Oh, well, whatever you want. Larry, I guess—that’s okay….
Smith: All right, good. Now I’m going to hand out these course outlines here. We’re going to be concentrating on the major British and American figures in literature and language, for the most part, but we will look at some major contributions from the continent—Simone de Beauvoir, of course, and Georges Sand, and a few others. Now we have a rough chronological pattern, as you see—Ann Bradstreet, Phyllis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, of course Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; then quite a bit of time with Emily Dickinson, naturally. The great novelists—Jane Austen, George Eliot, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing…(Raises his hand tentatively.) Yes, Larry?
Umm, well, maybe I’m being picky…. (His voice fades.)
Smith: Oh, no, no, that’s all right. Speak up. What is it?
Well, I just wondered. How come…I mean…why are all the writers women?
Smith: Women? Are they? (Looks at sheet.) Why, I hadn’t noticed. Now, I’m sure I had a poem here by…yes, here it is…a poem by John Whatshisname Whittier. And I think we have a short story by Poe somewhere along the line, too.
But they are all women except for those two….
Smith: Well, I didn’t even notice that! You know, Larry, when I select the readings for a course, I never ask if the writer is a man or a woman; I just pick the best material. For example, whom could I give up here on this short story section? Eudora Welty? Flannery O’Connor? Katherine Mansfield? Carson McCullers? Katherine Anne Porter? I’m sorry, Larry, but these are the major figures in the short story genre, and I can’t justify leaving any of them out just to include some writer merely because he’s a man. But I’ll tell you what! If you want to do your book report on a man writer, or on several men writers, that would be just fine. You could report on a book by, oh, umm, well, Louis L’Amour or Jack London, or anybody. How would that be?
Well, I guess that would be okay…thanks….
Smith: Now, in order to help me get some idea of what focus we should use in the class, I’d like each of you to tell me a little about why you’re taking the class. Phyllis?
Young: Well, my advisers told me that analytic skills and psychological insight are really important in the study of law and international diplomacy, which I plan to go into. Also, familiarity with the great classic writers, like Austen and Eliot, and so forth, is necessary if one is to be accepted as a civilized woman, at least in Europe and South America, where I plan to be working a good deal.
Smith: Very true, Phyllis, very true. I’ve certainly found that to be true in my travels. Both on my mission and during my trip to Europe for the Church last year, I found people very eager to share views on what is happening in the arts. Now, Karen, what about you?
Fielding: Well, my advisers stressed the career advantages too, of course, and also pointed out that experience in a good writing course is important for women who will be leaders in the Church someday—that writing is crucial for the manuals and filmstrips and speeches and articles that the Church needs from us—they said that the women at BYU today will have to be running the Church tomorrow.
Smith: I couldn’t agree more. Any member who doesn’t get all the background she can in writing will regret it. And now, Larry, what about you?
Well…I kind of had a hard time getting in this class, to be honest. I mean, the advisers tried to steer me away from it. They suggested I take a course in Advanced Skills in taking Out Garbage. But I’ve already had Beginning Garbage Skills, and Intermediate, and even a seminar, kind of a practicum. I know how to carry garbage up from the basement, and how to take it out the back door and the front door; how to use the plastic bags, and how to decide between metal garbage cans and plastic cans; and how to make the cans secure against dogs…I really don’t think I need….
Smith: Well, Larry, you know it’s always important for a man to know about these important male responsibilities, no matter what else he does. I don’t know where I’d be if my husband wasn’t just the handiest little fellow with a garbage can. I mean, that just takes a man’s touch. But tell me, Larry, why did the advisers try to discourage you from taking this class?
Well…they said I’d probably just get married before I could use any of the stuff I’d learn…. (Young and Fielding snicker knowingly.)
Smith: Well, of course that may be true. I’m sure a nice-looking boy like you doesn’t plan to remain a bachelor! But I don’t agree that what you learn would be wasted. Fathers need to know all they can, you realize, so they can teach their children. And of course, if you ever need to give a lesson in your priesthood class, or at a P.T.A. meeting, you’ll be very grateful for this background. No, we’re very glad to have you here, Larry. Now, in addition to these readings and our regular class lectures and discussion, we will be having some guest speakers from the college come in and talk to us in their areas of specialization. We’ll be hearing from Dr. Linda Martin, Dr. Mildred Southerland, Brother Ron Snow, and Dick Craig. Of course, you know Dr. Martin is an expert in comparative literature, and particularly the novel—I’m sure you’ve heard some of her lectures in this genre already; and Dr. Southerland is one of the great experts in French phonology—this week she is consulting back at Harvard, giving them some help in their language seminars. And of course you all know Ron Snow—he is always a barrel of laughs and you won’t want to miss him…Dick Craig is a wonderful person, husband of Ann Craig, the violinist, the father of eight daughters—I admire him so much, I just don’t know how he does it all! Well, let’s move on to a discussion of our term projects, which are to be substantial papers on some thematic or philosophic insight. (Young raises her hand.) Yes, Phyllis?
Young: Well, I heard that we had a term paper to do, so I’ve been thinking a little about it. I wonder if it would be all right to do an eschatological analysis of Simone de Beauvoir’s success-avoidance theme, especially as it relates to the work of Diane de Poitiers and Eleanor of Aquitaine, oh, and of course, Maria de Medici?
Smith: That sounds good. You’ll need to focus in tightly and build some solid bibliography in French, Latin and English, of course.
Young: Of course. In fact, I’ve actually started to get some sources together.
Smith: (As Fielding raises her hand.) Yes, Karen?
Fielding: I thought I’d like to look at some archetypal analogues for Hrosthwitha of Gandersine’s fifth canonical psalm collection, tying it in with Elizabeth of Saxony’s middle period. Has that been overdone, do you think?
Smith: No, no; I’m sure you’d bring something fresh to it. Now Larry, have you any ideas?
No, actually…I hadn’t heard that there was a paper….
Smith: Well, look, since you’re interested in men writers, if you like, you can do a study of the contributions of men to the art of the novel in the 18th and 19th centuries. You could even include some of the men writing in the 20th century, if you sort out those who are merely political apologists, of course.
Let’s see: Contributions of male writers to the art of the novel in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Was that it?
Smith: Yes, I think that sounds splendid. And if you have any trouble getting materials in our Library here, we can use Inter-Library Loan facilities with Berkeley—they have large holdings in the works of male writers, I know.
Now another thing. I think you people in the program need to get to know each other, and learn about each other’s accomplishments. When one of you has a success, I think we should all know about this student’s achievement and congratulate her, maybe have her share her insights with us. For example, I have some clippings here—one tells about Phyllis’s work this past summer as a congressional intern to U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Our congratulations, Phyllis. And here’s a notice that Karen has just received a prize for the best undergraduate paper submitted to Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society. We’re very proud of you, Karen. That’s the kind of work we expect from you people. Oh, yes…ummm…I noticed here in Mildred Whatshername’s column in the Provo Herald that Larry won first prize in the Boise-Cascade “Make It Yourself with Plywood” Contest. That’s just great, Larry!
Well, along other lines, I also have had three poems accepted for publication in the Sewanee Review.
You DID! In the Sewanee Review? My goodness, what will you boys do next, I wonder? Well, you women had better be on your toes, I can see that. (Nodding to Young and Fielding.) But you know, Larry, I’m almost prouder of your “Make It With Plywood” prize. I believe in equality —no one more. But there is one thing about all this equal rights business that I do object to: I don’t like to see boys acting like women. I don’t know; it just cheapens them, somehow. I like to keep fellows on a little bit of a pedestal. And remember, you have a role no one else can fill, being supportive to others and doing the cheering for the winners and the losers. Wasn’t it Kingsley who said, “Be sweet, young man, and let who will be clever.” Well, now, one or two more details. This week, the political assembly cuts an hour from our time, so we’ll need to meet another day. What about Friday at 2?
Young: Well, I have a tennis match in Salt Lake that day, and….
Smith: Oh, well, that’s important; we don’t want to interfere with that. What about Thursday?
Fielding: I’m a referee at the Thursday matches….
Smith: Oh, well, we can’t interfere with the conference play-offs. I guess we’ll have to settle on Wednesday.
Professor Smith, my brother’s going into the hospital that day, and I need to take care of his children.
Smith: Well, Larry, we all have to establish our priorities. It’s your decision. Now a final matter. There is a Katherine Anne Porter conference in San Francisco the week of the 18th. Phyllis is president of the campus chapter of the student’s Literary Association, and so her way is being paid to the conference, but there is room for one more. (Larry raises his hand. Fielding does not.) Oh, let’s see, that presents a problem. Larry, I’m afraid we are not allowed to send a woman and a boy alone together in a university car….
Well, my parents live in San Francisco. I could drive to the conference myself.
Smith: Ummm, no, you see, we can’t allow boys to travel by themselves, either. It is a nuisance, isn’t it? Well, Phyllis, I guess you’ll just have to go by yourself this time. Larry, I’m sure some fellows from other classes will be going down to Snow College for the Edgar Guest Festival, and we’ll try to work you in on that. Okay, I guess that does it for today. Everyone should have all her textbooks by next class meeting, and should have done some more thinking on her term paper. (Young and Fielding rise and go off slowly, talking.) Oh, Larry, could I see you a minute?…Larry, I want to commend you on your coat and tie, and your appearance generally. But there is just one thing. Your trousers. Now, I’m sure a sweet boy like you has no idea what goes through a woman’s mind when she sees boys in pants that tight. But just take my word for it. If you’ll just let your pants out a little, then we’ll all be more comfortable, and no one will think you’re the wrong kind of boy. All right? (Bell exits, somewhat puzzled, Young comes up to him, putting an arm casually around his waist.)
Young: Hey, Larry, if you run into any trouble in this course, I’d be glad to help you out, if you want. In fact, I could come over to your apartment this Sunday for dinner, and then maybe we could study a little afterwards. And, umm, maybe I could bring along a few of my blouses, so’s you could give them a once-over with the iron while we’re studying. How does that sound?
Oh, wow! I don’t know why I’m so lucky!
Young: Oh, by the way: do you type?
Scene: Inside a large, conventional meeting house. There is the usual pre-meeting hubbub. Women are busily conferring with one another over agenda and announcements; at the door, two women are shaking hands with members of the congregation as they enter, trying diligently to call each entrant by her name.
Abbot: Sisters and brothers, it’s time to begin. We welcome you all here, members and visitors and friends, and hope your time with us will be pleasant. Now I’m afraid we have a large number of announcements today, but they are all important, so we ask for your attention.
(At this point, the third woman on the stand, whose name is Chaplin, gets up and whispers briefly to the speaker.)
Abbot: Sister Chaplin reminds me that the basketball team will be practicing this week in preparation for the stake play-offs Saturday. Practice will be every afternoon this week from 4 until 6. Coach Tanner has asked that every player get there right at four, or a little before, if she can. Young women, we want you to know how proud we are of you! In the same vein, the boys’ basketball team has also been doing nicely; if I’m not mistaken, they are leading the region and also have a game sometime this next month. Practice for the boys’ team will be over in the old stake house from 5 to 6:30 a.m. this next week. Any boy having a basketball is asked to bring it, since we’re a little short on equipment for the boys’ team.
The Chorister steps to his stand and leads the congregation in the following song:
After the prayer, Abbot returns to the pulpit.
Abbot: I am happy to report that our numbers are growing: we have had six babies born this last month alone! I’ll just mention each one, and you can congratulate the happy parents after the service.
Quartet member: We will sing “O My Mother.”
O my Mother, Thou that dwellest in the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain Thy presence, and again behold Thy face?
In Thy holy habitation, did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood, was I nurtured near Thy side?
For a wise and glorious purpose Thou has placed me here on Earth,
And withheld the recollection of my former friends and birth,
Yet ofttimes a secret something whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
And I felt that I had wandered from a more exalted sphere.
I had learned to call Thee Mother, through Thy Spirit from on high,
But until the key of knowledge was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare.
Truth is reason. Truth eternal tells me I’ve two parents there.
When I leave this frail existence, when I lay this mortal by,
Mother, Father, may I meet You in Your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed all You sent me forth to do,
With Your mutual approbation let me come and dwell with You.
After the song, Abbot returns to the pulpit.
Abbot: Thank you very much, brothers, for that special number. Now our speaker today, sisters and brothers, is a returned missionary from our congregation, Sister Eve Wentworth. Sister Wentworth filled a highly successful mission to Japan, was made a district supervisor after she had been out only twelve months, and in due time became Second Counselor to President Mariko Yashimoto of the Nagoya Japan Mission. I happened to meet President and Brother Yashimoto at conference last month, and she told me there wasn’t a missionary in their mission who had been a finer example of dedication and leadership than Sister Wentworth. We’re happy today to hear from Sister Eve F. Wentworth.
(In the interests of saving space and avoiding repetition, we here give, instead of Sister Wentworth’s complete speech, a copy of the ward clerk’s notes thereon.)
Speaker: Sister Eve F. Wentworth, recently returned missionary.
Summary of remarks: Missionary work—the central calling of House of Israel. Reason Israel was chosen of God. Greatest thing we can do to bless world in anguish. All worthy women to shoulder this responsibility. Mission also the making of character. Boys must help young women prepare for calling. Must never tempt young women or cause them to fall. Tight pants, dangers of. Bare chests an abomination before Lord. Boys don’t understand female nature, how easily ignited. Must set example. Not to be cause for some young woman’s unworthiness to serve mission. Use time when women are on missions to improve selves, prepare for marriage, prepare to be companion to returned missionary, conduit whereby spirits of women are sent to earth. Can be learning skills—gardening, yard work, home repair, etc. Young women to be serious about missions— cosmic in scope. Eternal consequences. Work affects ages yet unborn, fate of nations. Prepare well. Study scriptures in depth; learn languages; social skills. Avoid getting serious abt. boys prior to call. Boys-charming distractions. Then recounted her own experiences from mission—healing sick, rebuking spirits, receiving revelation abt. impending catastrophe, directing district missionaries out of danger. Value of gentlemen missionaries. Did much good, worked right along with sisters. Need more of right kind of brother missionaries in field. Closed with testimony of work.
Closing song: “Come All Ye Daughters of God.”
Closing prayer: Sister Hannah Ruth Williams
SHOULD MEN BE ORDAINED: A
by Gracia Fay Ellwood
by Kitty Carr Tilton
by Kitty Carr Tilton
Dedicated to Arthur C. Clarke
by Frederick Albert Israelsen
CURDS AND WAY
by Chris Frank Heimerdinger
Chapter 1: Genesis
Chapter 2: The Next Part
Chapter 3: The One After That
Chapter 4: Rising Complications
Chapter 5: Elder’s Island
A Wayine Epistle
I, Elder Way, being born of goodly parents, do write now somewhat concerning my brethren the Curdites.
For behold, it came to pass that after the people were converted, Elder Curds’ anger did increase against me, for I reminded him that I was senior companion “and don’t you forget it!” And he did gather together his friends and began to murmur. But no one could understand what he was saying, so he stopped murmuring and began to speak unto them saying: “My senior companion thinks to rule over us. We will not have him to be our ruler, for I am older, and he has only been on a mission two months longer, and besides, I am taller than he.” And after this manner did he turn a goodly part of the people against me. And so we did depart into the wilderness about a half-mile and on the other side of the island we did raise up a mighty people.
But behold, the Curdites became an idle people, full of mischief and loathsomeness; eating medium-rare meat, moussing their hair, and saying “You know” a lot.
And it came to pass that they did perform all manner of practical jokes against us; short sheeting our beds and sprinkling powdered sugar in our clothes. And they did insult our mothers, calling them wearers of military footwear and such like.
And so we now at this time gather our armies together for battle and make an end of my writings. For I speak as one from the dust, but behold, I am preparing to bathe.
by Gracia Fay Ellwood
A Gift for Nancy-Lou Patterson
She is more radiant than the sun…she spans the world in power from end to end…she orders all things well. Wisdom of Solomon
That is how Our Lady took me, absolutely by storm. N.L.P.
Long years I kept behind my castle wall.
My ramparts guarded warily and well.
My neighbours, who conspired toward my fall,
Would find my moat was deep, my towers tall.
My walls were stout and arrowslits were small.
The air was dim and stifling in my hall;
No step, no voice, no song or cup at all,
And only echoes echoing to my call.
But I was y own lord, no thrall.
And then She came!
Fair as the moon, ablaze like the noonday sun,
Terrifying, a many-bannered host.
By tender violence I was unmade.
My longbow clattered down from nerveless hands.
Rafts swarmed my moat, my tall portcullis split,
With roars and billowing dust my walls were breached.
A mightier than I became my Liege.
She ground my fort to dust and digged anew
My fetid moat, back in its ancient bed,
Streams sparkling life; spring flowers of every hue
Begem its soft-grassed banks; and in the stead
Of my stout keep, a Tree, whose windy breadth
Of worldspread branches shelters bird and beast;
Whose fragrant blossoms promise death to death;
And in whose light we neighbours lay a feast.
THE LADY OF LA SALETTE
My Lady wept.
High upon the arid, windswept slope
Those crystal raindrops fell; and deep in earth
A healing spring awoke and flowed.
My Lady wept.
Above my spirit’s burned September hillside
Laden, gold-edged thunderclouds were driven
By the damp and gusty March.
My Lady wept.
The star-blue windows of the heavens opened;
Glory streaming swept my firmament till
I was drowned, and love was born.
My Lady smiled:
And I was set upon a narrow pathway
Crossing worlds of worlds to find Love’s center;
I shall not return as I.
for Christine Ione and Peter Murray
I saw a vision of a world, a grace-
ful figure dancing in a ray of light,
Balanced in blue, above the stars in height
All rest now vanished; I fared forth from my place.
I wandered in wild reach of star and space
A wand my strength, a starlit lamp my sight
But never dancer found I; O world in flight,
My Longed-for, will you come to seek my face?
My Own, the place from which you fared was naught.
Your wand and lamp were nothing, nothing the way.
The gusty darkness through your hair was none
Had not I danced there. Your place the home you sought;
Your wand a rooted tree; your lamp is day;
You dance where I dance, balanced, in the sun.
ASK DR. GOODSTATE, YOUR FACTORY-TRAINED QUANTUM
by Jack Weyland
Dear Dr. Goodstate:
Sometimes I get the feeling that people don’t respect me. Even at a party, someone will notice me standing there all alone at the refreshment table, picking out the almonds and cashews from the tray of assorted nuts. She’ll come up and start bragging about her husband, a former quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, now an internationally acclaimed brain surgeon. Or else some man will walk up and start telling me how well his investments have turned out. (I don’t have any investments. When I need money, I look underneath the cushions of my sofa.)
Well frankly I’m getting a little tired of it. I would like to have something to talk about at a party, too, but to tell you the truth, my life is kind of dull. The most exciting thing I did last summer was to keep a diary of mosquito bites.
So tell me, Dr. Goodstate, what can I talk about to people at a party?
A Quark’s Quirks
The Big Bang
You’re Going to be a Big Star!
There’s Nothing to It
How tall are you?
Many adults are approximately six feet, or two yards tall or two meters tall.
How much do you weigh?
An adult who weighs 160 pounds is approximately 80 kilograms.
How hot was it?
100 degrees Fahrenheit is about 35 degrees Celsius. (100-30)/2
How cold was it?
20 degrees Fahrenheit is about -5 degrees Celsius. (20-30)/2
SUSAN: Did I tell you I fell down my stair yesterday? That’s why I’m at the party tonight in a wheel chair.”
SCI BUFF: How far did you fall in meters?”
SUSAN: In meters? Gosh, I don’t know.”
SCI BUFF: Good grief! You don’t know how long a meter is? Where have you been the last ten years?”
Self-Paced Metric Exercise
Science Buzz Words and Phrases
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
Science Demonstrations You Can Perform at a Party
The Expanding Universe Demonstration
Black Hole Demonstration
The Power of Being a Ten
How to Spot and Avoid Real Science Experts at a Party
Question Number One: “Excuse me, but do you deal much with moles in your work?”
Strategy Number Three: Another ploy to find the scientist is to carry a glass of water around with you and to everyone you meet say, “This is heavy water.”
Dr. Goodstate’s Final Message
THE KING’S HEIR
by Martine Bates
She shall be sought, and yet seeking.
She shall bear a son, and yet not a son.
She shall cross the valleys of pain to
meld the power of the word and
the power of the law,
and shall succor her people in sorrow.
Yea, at the veil of Death shall she comfort
by James “The Puff” Wright
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM
by Will Salmon
EYES OF RAIN
by Addie LaCoe
I’m resting. Leave whatever papers you have and go away. If it’s about the compost pile, I’ll be finished spreading it by tomorrow. Come back then to check.
I’m not dying, came a second note in reply. And I’m not mean.
I’ll take care of whatever it is.
You’re a trespasser.
You can’t make me— he started.
WRITTEN IN PENCIL INSIDE A SEALED FREIGHT CAR
by Dan Pagis
translated from Hebrew by Benjamin Urrutia
THE SINFUL SOLUTION
by Benjamin Urrutia
“Well, come in, Perry. Please sit down in the living room while I go tell him you are here.”
by Saki (H. H. Munro)
(slightly adapted by Benjamin Urrutia)
There was a young girl named O’Brien
Sang Sunday School Hymns to a Lion.
Of that Sister there’s some
In the Lion’s tum-tum,
And the rest is an angel of Zion.
Nathan Alterman is an influential Israeli poet, songwriter, playwright, translator, and author of children’s books.
Isaac Asimov is the most famous science fiction writer now living. His best-known SF work is probably his Foundation series.
Martine Bates, who describes herself as “LDS and a big SF fan,” has published several short stories.
William Blake is an 18th-century British poet, visionary, and artist. He appears as a principal character in Orson Scott Card’s extraordinary (and very LDS) novel Seventh Son.
Orson Scott Card is the author of over a hundred published or performed works and was awarded the 1978 John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. His 1985 novel, Ender’s Game, and its 1986 sequel, Speaker for the Dead, each won both the Hugo and Nebula wawards in consecutive years—an unprecedented feat.
Michael Collings teaches literature and directs the writing program at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, edits Thaumaturge, a magazine of the International Association of the fantastic in the arts, wrote A Reader’s Guide to Piers Anthony, is working on guides to others (including Brian Aldiss), and did a study on Mormons in science fiction in Dialogue.
Sue Ellen Cutler is a member of the Springfield II Ward, Springfield, Massachusetts Stake. She is married, has three sons and one grandson. This story was written after she attended the funeral of an infant.
Gracia Fay Ellwood is a free-lance writer, a healer, the married mother of two children, a member of the Religious Society of Friends, and a vegetarian.
Eugene England teaches literature at Brigham Young University and has published poetry, personal essays, biography, and criticism of American, especially Mormon, literature.
Chris Frank Heimerdinger is a BYU student.
Gary Gillum is a Brigham Young University professor and librarian.
Frederick A. Israelsen was a missionary in the New York City Mission from September 1978 to September 1980.
Addie LaCoe is a pseudonymous author who wishes to avoid contact with what Orson Scott Card called, “the lunatic fringe that believes that a Mormon writer who does not fulfill their personal agenda is somehow corrupt,” in the Summer 1985 issue of Dialogue.
Dan Pagis is a famous Israeli poet.
Giovanni Papini is best remembered as a biogtrapher of Jesus, Dante, and Michelangelo. A very unconventional Roman Catholic, he also wrote works of popular theology (The Devil, Epistles of Pope Celestinus VI) and of avant-garde speculative fiction (Words and Blood, Gog, The Black Book). These three main threads of his writing came together in his magnum opus, Guidizio Universale.
Nancy-Lou Patterson, Professor of Fine Art, University of Waterloo, received her B.A. at the University of Washington in 1951. As a liturgical artist and architectural craftsperson, her works of painting, drawing, calligraphy, stitchery, and stained-glass window designs are in churches and public and private collections in Canada, England, and the United States. Her mythopoeic drawings and illustrations have been exhibited widely and published in a number of books and journals. She is the author of Canadian Native Art (Collier-Macmillan of Canada, 1973), All Green Creation (Poetry: St. Paul’s Press, 1969), Mennonite Traditional Art (The National Museum of Man, 1979), Wreath and Bough (Ontario German Folklife Society, 1983), The Language of Paradise (London Regional Art Gallery, 1985), and Apple Star and Silver Crown (The Porcupine’s Quill, 1985), and of numerous articles on Canadian Native and Ethnic Arts and on fantasy and mythopoeic art and literature. She was the founding Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Waterloo. She and her husband, Professor E.P. Paterson, are coauthors of The Changing People (Collier-Macmillan of Canada, 1971) and Iroquoians of the Eastern Woodland (Grolier, 1985), and the parents of nine children.
Saki is the pseudonym of H.H. Munro, who was a famous British humorist.
Will Salmon is an internationally famous musician and dancer who has performed and been acclaimed as far away as Japan and Indonesia. He wishes to be quoted thus: “The term ‘avant-garde’ implies an armed camp moving together in hostile terrain. I am afraid we are unarmed, and we all walk alone.”
Scott S. Smith was the co-editor of LDSF (volume one).
Joe Straubhaar is an assistant professor of telecommunications at Michigan State University. He formerly worked as a research analyst and foreign service officer for the U.S. Information Agency. He is interested in medieval martial arts and Latin American culture and history. He has two children.
Sandy Straubhaar received a Ph.D. in Old Norse and Humanities from Stanford University and is currently an independent translating contractor working for various government and nongovernment agencies. She is interested in costuming, fiber arts, and folk music and dance. She has the same two children.
Kitty Carr Tilton is an enthusiastic supporter of LDSF.
Benjamin Urrutia is the only LDS Basque Israeli American anthropolgist, linguist, and Science Fiction writer in the Universe.
Jack Weyland is a scientist and a popular LDS writer.
Oscar Wilde is an Irish author (1844-1930), best remembered for his fantasy stories.
J.N. Williamson has published more than twenty novels and two short story collections and is editor of Masques anthology, which was nominated for two World Fantasy Awards, including Best Collection/Anthology.
James “The Puff” Wright is a BYU student.
Bruce Young is a Professor of English at Brigham Young University. He is a husband, father, member of a bishopric, and poet.
FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION PUBLICATIONS
1972 - “Retuurn to Elfland.” Short story. Wye, Spring.
1973 - “Catss.” Translation of poem “Les Chats,” by Baudelaire. Wye.
1975 - “Proffessor Tolkien Enters Heaven.” Poem. Mythlore 10.
1978 - & “The force that can be explained is not the true force.” Review of Star Wars. Dialogue XI:3 (Autumn).
“In the Company of Man” and “The Silmarillion.” Brief reviews, abstracted by Gene Sessions. Dialogue XI:4.
1981 - & “The Western Plain of the Free State of Dorimare.” Pellen-norath No. 3 (15 June).
“Archaeologist as Hero.” Review of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, 147.
1982 - & “The Last Gentile.” Short story. LDSF, edited by Scott and Vicki Smith. (Under pseudonym Frederick Albert Israelsen).
“Azavel’s Monsters.” Short story. LDSF, edited by Scott and Vicki Smith.
“Some Notes to the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.” Mythlore 32 (Summer).
1983 - & “The Triple Sun.” Review of The Dark Crystal. Mythlore 35 (Spring).
“Les Amours de Morgaine.” Review of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Mythlore 36 (Summer).
1984 - & “He that dies but does not perish…” Review of Return of the Jedi. Mythlore 37 (Winter).
1985 - & “Family Conflicts.” Article. Mythlore 41.
“Heroic Parallels.” Review. Mythlore 41.
1986 - & “A Pig and a Pot in Prydain.” Review. Mythlore 46.
“Ratigan Redux.” Review. Mythlore 47.
1987 - & “A Literature for a Cosmic Religion.” Paper delivered at the Sunstone West Symposium, Berkeley, California, 31 January.