Parables Logo

Other Projects: Speculative/Science Fiction

LDSF-3

cover of LDSF-3







    LDSF-3

*** Title page


 

Copyright 1987 by Parables

ISBN 0-96114960-0-2

 

 

DEDICATION

 

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

 

 

PUBLISHER’S DISCLAIMER

 

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.

 

 

CONTENTS

 

 

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

The Meeting

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

Biographical Notes

Bibliography

 

“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


 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

A LITERATURE FOR A COSMIC RELIGION

 

by Benjamin Urrutia

 

 


Speaking of Science Fiction, C. S. Lewis said, “If you have a religion it must be cosmic; therefore it seems to me odd that this genre was so late in arriving.” I share his astonishment, all the more because I am a Latter-day Saint, and our religion is even more cosmic than others. Joseph Smith said something that sounds like a strong restatement of what Lewis said: “Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heaven and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanse of eternity.” Unfortunately, most Latter-day Saints have completely ignored these words of Brother Joseph. They prefer, in Literature as in everything else, to stay with the comfortable and the familiar. Like Medieval Monks, or like Hobbits, they prefer to read books that tell them only what they already know. Any work, fiction or nonfiction, that dares to explore the unknown must be heretical or anti-Gospel, a terrible threat that must be avoided.


The irony of it all is that this fear of too many Saints against speculative fiction (or Science Fiction, as we call it) has the same roots as the fear and hatred that anti-Mormons feel towards the Restored Gospel. They also want to read only what they have read before, to be told only the same stories they have been hearing for two thousand years. The notion that there could be other inspired books, besides the sixty-six that they are already well familiar with, is one that fills them with horror.


Timidity, however, is only one obstacle that stands in the way towards the development of a cosmic literature. There is also the danger of superficiality. The obvious example is found in many episodes of Battlestar Galactica. The creator of this TV series, a Latter-day Saint, peppered the scripts with references to the Council of the Twelve, the planet Kobol (a variant of Kolob), and to eternal marriage. These references constitute only window dressing and not an exploration of the cosmic potentialities of the Gospel. Only in one episode that I saw was there an attempt to go to a deeper level. An angel named John (either John the Baptist or John the Beloved) persuades the crew of the Battlestar to use its superior weaponry to destroy all the intercontinental ballistic missiles that have been launched on the planet Terra (a near-identical twin of our own world in its near future). In other words, God has intervened (in a manner so subtle that divine intervention won’t even be suspected by most people) to prevent humanity from destroying itself on one of God’s worlds. This episode of Battlestar Galactica can be held up as a good example of LDS Science Fiction.


It is not necessary, I should point out, for a writer to be LDS in order to deal with elements of the Gospel, since these are shared with many other religions and philosophies, to some extent. For an example, let us look at what we call the Word of Wisdom, and other people would call abstinence from tobacco, alcohol and other attractive but deadly poisons.


The matter is dealt with briefly and humorously, in a quite delightful manner, by Vonda McIntyre in her excellent Star Trek novel, Enterprise—The First Adventure. On page 25 we see Mr. Scott rejoicing in the birth of his niece, handing out cigars to his fellow officers. Mr. Spock does not see the logical connection between the birth of a baby and the distribution of poisonous, potentially deadly inhalable objects.

 





 
“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.


Now all this is only a tiny fraction of a long and complex novel—one which, by the way, I strongly recommend. The Word of Wisdom occupies a far more central position in a very short, but marvelous story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson is most famous for writing Treasure Island (one of the joys of my boyhood, and not only for me but for many readers) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both these works are firmly and forever part of our common consciousness, our folklore, our culture, our civilization—which shows what a great writer we are talking about here. But he also wrote many other good things, most of them now quite undeservedly forgotten, including a little gem that is called “Something in It.” This story was reprinted in LDSF-2. It is the story of a missionary in the South Seas—not necessarily an LDS missionary—who is saved because he chooses, in spite of everything, to keep the Word of Wisdom faithfully.


Now I must talk about Science Fiction writers who are both LDS and profound—which means, of course, talking about Orson Scott Card. He is an excellent writer, even a great writer, and one of the secrets of his greatness is that he knows how to write about the pain of the human heart. I have heard him say that when you begin to write, one of the first questions you ask yourself is: Who is in pain? It seems to me that another question he asks—and perhaps he answers— is: Why? Why, as the popular phrase has it, do such evil things happen to good people? The atheist has an easy answer. For those of us who believe, the problem is far more difficult.


In Ender’s Game, a great classic by Orson Scott Card, we have the story of a young boy named Andrew but nicknamed Ender. He has super intelligence and a sweet, gentle soul. He is sent to a military academy in outer space where he is subjected to hideous pressures, amounting to torture. Why? Because he is being trained to become Mankind’s military leader, the greatest since Alexander. The people who put him through torment do not hate him—on the contrary, they love him—and they are not sadists, either. But they believe that the only way he can fulfill his destiny is to go through this horrible pressure that will either destroy him or force him to fulfill his potential to become the greatest soldier of all and Mankind’s best hope against its enemies.


From an LDS viewpoint, Ender stands for Everyman. The reason he suffers is the reason we all suffer: we are being prepared for a great destiny, and we can only reach this potential by being put through much affliction: “All these things shall give you experience.” (Doctrine and Covenants, section 122, verse 7.)


Unfortunately, this message in Ender’s Game is rather spoiled by the fact that it turns out after all that it was not really necessary to develop Ender into such a great soldier, because the enemy was not really evil and ruthless. The war is nothing but a horrible misunderstanding, and it would have been much better to use Ender’s talents to communicate with the aliens, not to destroy them. But then, this is also a Gospel message.


So now we come to what I consider the Great LDS Novel: The Worthing Chronicle by Orson Scott Card. Let me quote you this paragraph from page 254:

 





 
“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.”

 


The God in question is named Jason Worthing. I think the initials J.W. are significant, as they seem to hint of the name Yahweh or Jehovah. That may or may not be the case, but it is perfectly clear that Jason has become a God by enduring an education very similar to Ender’s—one, that is, that consists largely of horrible suffering inflicted on him not out of hatred or sadism, but by somebody who loves him and wants him to reach his full potential. He learns this lesson well and eventually decides it applies to humanity in general as well as it applies to him. But he goes to sleep (after having peopled a whole world with inhabitants, some of them his descendants in the flesh) and while he sleeps his children develop powers even greater than his own and use these powers to protect all human beings throughout the galaxy from all pain and suffering. When he is awakened, Jason rebukes his children for “stealing from them [from mankind] all that makes them human.” (page 258.)


These are profoundly LDS themes—the potential of a human being to achieve Godhood, the temptation to take away free agency from mankind in order to spare them pain and suffering. Such questions could not even be asked, let alone answered, in a novel that took place on Earth in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries.


Of course, there are many other things that could be said about The Worthing Chronicle. One chapter is obviously based on A. E. Van Vogt’s Slan, but vastly improving upon it. It is many times better. A book, as it happens, can deal with deep cosmic questions and still be poorly written. I am not sure whether that is better or worse than a book that is crafted with great skill but deals with matters of no importance. However—and this is great good news—we do not need to choose either. We have seen that there can be, and there is, a Cosmic Literature that is great both in its content and form. We need not be satisfied with anything less.


 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

SCIENCE FICTION AND MORMONISM

 

by Sandy and Joe Straubhaar

 

 


Much has happened in the mood of the science fiction writer/fan subculture since we first (in 1981) wrote the article which follows, but the most notable trend as far as we are concerned has been a much greater tolerance displayed by science fiction writers and readers towards religious topics. The phenomenal success of Gene Wolfe in the last few years, for instance, is presumably not an aberration but an accurate indication that frankly religious writing (of a relatively traditional kind, not just vague metaphysics) no longer embarrasses the hypothetical “average” science fiction reader today. We have altered and added to our article to accommodate this trend as we see it—as of early 1984. (Who knows what may have come along by the time this book sees publication?)


The second major alteration in the article has been to pare down considerably our remarks on the works of fellow Saint Orson Scott Card. They have made us some unexpected friends and enemies and have stirred up passions of surprising intensity and endurance. Perhaps our best move here would be to advise our readers to read his books and judge for themselves. We, for our part, are uncomfortable with the fact that we seem to have (in Alma’s words) harrowed up the souls of others; but our reactions, as printed, were valid and genuine for us. Perhaps at that unspecified future time when we will no longer see through a glass darkly, but face to face, we can all come to an understanding on this. (It would be nicer if it could be sooner than that, though.)

 


Science fiction covers a log of cultural turf in contemporary society, including pop science, pop sociology, and even pop theology. Science fiction provides a myriad of visions of what humans may become and achieve: it deals with technological gimmickry, social turnabouts, the development of men into gods, creative mythology, thinly veiled religion, and thinly veiled sex and violence. Popular reactions to Mormons and Mormonism crop up surprisingly often in the pages of science fiction novels. Mormons can read it, react to it, get insight from it, be provoked by it. Mormons have been known to write it—of which we will speak again below.


In 1980, we became acquainted with two manuscripts. The first one, by Michael Collings, cleverly titled “Strangers in Estranged Lands” [published in the Autumn 1984 issue of Dialogue as “Refracted Visions and Future Worlds: Mormonism and Science Fiction”], maintains that since Mormon theology and science fiction extrapolate different specific futures for the universe, there can be no truce between the believers in the two doctrines; and this is why Mormons in science fiction novels are often caricatured as dogma-ridden cultists. The second manuscript, a review by Gary Gillum of several of Orson Scott Card’s books, maintains that Card, a Mormon writer who has had some success in the science fiction field, imbues his works with a profound gospel-centered moral sense which may have missionary effects on the Gentile readership. Our reactions to these articles resulted in a series of lively dinner-table conversations and eventually to the paragraphs which follow.


We focus on three interrelated subjects: the overlap, as we see it, between science fiction and traditional religious concepts; Mormons as caricatured in science fiction; and the accomplishments of Mormons in science fiction writing and related endeavors.


Hugh Nibley has remarked that science fiction is today’s popular eschatology, because it concerns itself with what is to come. This is certainly true but doesn’t go far enough. Science fiction has become today’s popular-culture theology in general. Science fiction fans who might be embarrassed to ponder or discuss the time-honored metaphysical questions which religion (with a capital R) traditionally attempts to answer, can be fascinated by the same questions when they are presented in science fiction form. Popular audiences have felt religious awe watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind or suspended their possible disbelief in God long enough to believe in the Force while watching Star Wars. In fact the most insistent and common themes in science fiction have been unashamedly religious ones, albeit in modified or technological guise. Here are just a few of these themes:


First Theme: Who are we, we human beings, and where are we headed? What are the possibilities of human progression and development? These questions are dealt with in Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History series, i Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 and The Last and First Men and Odd John, in A.E. Van Vogt’s Slan, in Poul Anderson’s Polesotechnic League and Flandry books, in Spider Robinson’s Stardance, and in scores of other books. In fact, human progression or advancement to some kind of new evolutionary level seems to be a kind of Article of Faith for prominent science fiction wirters, particularly the “classic” authors of the thirties, forties, and fifties.


Second Theme: Who, specifically, am I, the individual? Do I have free will, or is someone or something else running the show? One of the most common science fiction and fantasy plots involves a heroic quest on the part of a single individual to recover or remember his or her true heritage and destiny, to seek out what ultimate truths can be found, to find whether one has free will. Two of these questers, Michael Moorcock’s Elric (male) and Tanith Lee’s Karrakaz (female), hope to find their ultimate truths in sacred books for which they quest. Unfortunately, Elric’s book, once found, dissolves into dust, and Karrakaz’ book turns out to be completely blank. The messages of the gods are ambiguous; but the ultimate truth for the individual soul can be found, at least in a sense.


Third Theme, related to the Second: The emotion which C.S. Lewis has called “Christian joy,” the homesickness of the exiled soul for its country of true origin and ultimate destination, is certainly a common feature of science fiction. Nowhere does it manifest itself more clearly than in Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. The exiled and amnesiac Prince Corwin suddenly remembers his homeland with these words, which we believe are deliberately intended to remind the reader of Psalm 137: “Amber…I remember thee. I shall never forget thee again. I guess, deep inside me, I never really did, through all those centuries I wandered the Shadow Earth, for often at night my dreams were troubled by images of thy green and golden spires and thy sweeping terraces…Amber, immortal city from which every other city has taken its shape. I cannot forget thee, even now…”1


Fourth Theme: Are there gods? If so, do they deserve our worship? What happens if we leave our place of birth and find that not all people worship as we do or that our new knowledge of the universe outside seems to contradict or invalidate our beliefs? These are the themes of Michael Moorcock in virtually all of his works, of Poul Anderson in The High Crusade and The Merman’s Children, of Joan D. Vinge in Mother and Child, and of Ursula K. LeGuin in The Tombs of Atuan.


Fifth Theme: To what degree are we responsible for our actions? How can atonement be made for our misdeeds, particularly those which have affected others adversely? This is the theme of Tanith Lee’s Vazkor (“Birthgrave”) books, of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Wizard of Earthsea, and of Joe Haldeman’s futuristic espionage novel, All My Sins Remembered, as well as of many more.


Sixth Theme: Who is our brother? How should society be structured? How should we treat our fellow beings? This theme is well-nigh universal, but John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar and its sequel The Sheep Look Up come to mind as excellent examples.


Science fiction is the perfect milieu for new explorations of these ancient philosophical and religious questions, precisely because the canvas is blank when the author begins. There are no givens of time or culture or location; the only givens are those which the author chooses to provide. He or she is free to fabricate worlds which reflect his or her philosophical hangups or sensibilities entirely, without the excess baggage of the familiar univers as we know it. Michael Moorcock, a prolific author whose works are racked with a peculiarly agonized search for the transcendental, has explained his creative urges in this manner: “The landscapes of my stories are metaphysical, not physical. As a faltering athiest with a deep irradicable religious sense (I was brought up on an offbeat brand of Christian mysticism), I tended, particularly in the early stories…, to work out my own problems throug Elric’s adventures…I was writing not particularly well, but from the soul. I wasn’t just telling a story, I was telling my story.”2


Science fiction, then, has the capacity to reflect virtually any concept in traditional religious thought, even though that concept may not be couched in familiar Mormon Sunday School terminolgy. In this context, it is interesting to watch some of the science fiction writers and editors protest that they will have nothing to do with religion. Michael Collings informs us that George Scithers, former editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, has been known to ask would-be contributors in a form letter to please omit gods and angels from their stories. And indeed, though they may entertain religious ideas, many science fiction writers tend to be uneasy with God (with a capital G) or other traditional religious names and labels. Our own Orson Scott Card has at one time maintained that “God cannot exist in science fiction,” prompting Bruce Jorgensen’s apt remark, “Of course, it has never been easy to get God into realistic fiction, either.”3 At any rate, it is this sort of uncomfortable interface between traditional religion and science fiction which has let Michael Collings to conclude in his article that the two cannot, indeed, coexist.


However, George Scithers and others notwithstanding, there have been many popular works of science fiction in which God, gods, and angels do exist and do play parts. Poul Anderson constantly makes use of Christian, Nordic, Celtic, Greek and other deity figures, not only in his fantasies but also in his hard-core science fiction (The Avatar, for instance). In Stephen Donaldson’s first Thomas Covenant trilogy (we must confess we haven’t managed to slog our way through the second one), God himself, presumably the traditional Judaeo-Christian God, has a bit part at the beginning and end. An omnipotent God can even be thrown in as a “why not?” element of detail, inessential to the plot, as in Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge. An anthropologist investigates a planet formerly inhabited by an extinct race who had worshipped a god who dwelt in the center of that planet. She finds “the place where God lived. What she and other investigators had taken as myth and metaphor was actual fact: their God was an immortal, ominipotent creature who had descended from heaven to live under the earth and rule their lives and destinies. It was a representative of a race that had once ruled this corner of the galaxy with benign, but absolute, authority.”4 In C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy,” on the other hand, Gods, heavenly messengers, and archangels are central to the plot and also recognizable as the figures of traditional Christian worship. However, Lewis’ work is an exception. Didactic in nature, it is widely read by Christians who have rarely read other science fiction and only randomly read by mainstream science fiction fans. At any rate, we have been able to make note of some authors who have not been embarrassed to apply frankly religious labels when they write about religious concepts; and some of them continue to be popular with the hard-core science fiction fans.


Since we first wrote this article, we have been happy to note numerous new authors on the scene who have dealt sensitively with religious concepts. Some of these authors have maintained sufficient ambiguity in their author/narrator role that it remains unclear how the teller of the story feels about religion, but the characters are left free to express and feel their religious thoughts without restraint or mockery; many of C.J. Cherryh’s books are like this, as is M.K. Wren’s Phoenix Legacy trilogy. One newish author stands out, though, as having imbued much of his writing with what seems to be such a heartfelt religious sensibility that it is hard not to take it as genuine in the man himself, authorial persona aside. We are talking about Gene Wolfe, particularly his Book of the New Sun tetralogy.


When the fourth volume of Wolfe’s tetralogy hit the bookstores early in 1983, the Washington Post’s reviewer hailed him as a “new Dante,” describing the series this way: “With great urgency, layer upon layer, he has created a world radiant with meaning, a novel that makes sense in the end only if it is read as an attempt to represent the Word of God. How intimate—how dizzyingly remote—how comforting or alienating that Word can be, each reader will of course discover.”5 Wolfe himself, in more modest vein, when asked about the religious tone of the series, answered an interviewer this way: “I put religion into The Book of the New Sun because I tried to put in just about everything I though important in human life. You know the story about Leo Tolstoy the night after he sent the manuscript of War and Peace to his publisher? He is supposed to have sat up in bed, clapped himself on the forehead and said: ‘My God, I forgot the yacht race.’ I don’t have a yacht race in The Book of the New Sun, but I tried to talk about children, war, love and death, God, heaven and hell, and all those things that are really pivotal to the human condition.”6


The Book of the New Sun has many roots. It reminded one of us of the nineteenth-century romance Phantastes, by George MacDonald, that seminal book that C.S. Lewis said “baptized his imagination” as a young man. But it is much more complex and baroque than MacDonald, almost, at first, unbearably so. Not a page goes by without ironic, subtle and almost throwaway references to Kipling, Joyce, Kafka, the Bible, numerous mythic traditions, doubtless numerous authors of whom we are ignorant. No character is given a name but that it has some symbolic significance. No event happens tht is not mirrored elsewhere in the text, that does not become a “type” of something else.


The story is a first-person account of a young man—Severian of Nessus, a journeyman of the “Order of the seekers for truth and Penitence”—who is from so far in the future tht it beggars imagination, and who tells you, at a leisurely pace, all about his education, his path to enlightenment. (We won’t tell you his original occupation, because it [being part of the first book’s title], plus the odious cover art, kept us from buying the books for some time.) There are gems in Severian’s story to be found for anyone who reads it, but there are numerous things which will strike particular sympathy in Mormon readers. There is an evocative description of what lengthy prayer is like; there are visions coming out of bushes in desert places; there is a ritual drama into which our hero falls unwittingly, playing the part of Adam/the Messiah; there are heavenly creatures “full of eyes” such as you might meet in Ezekiel’s visions; there are dramatic healings, and equally dramatic instances where the power of healing is inscrutably withdrawn. Lest you think that the tone sounds too ponderous for words, we hasten to add that all the staples of ordinary adventure fiction are there, too: giants to battle, mountains to climb, a throne to claim, horses (well, sort of) to ride, an heirloom sword, capes to swish and bucklers to swash, alien beings, ships that sail the stars, lurking horrors, quests, friends, lovers.

 

MORMONISM IN SCIENCE FICTION

 


Suffice it to say, then, that science fiction authors are predisposed to be interested in religious or philosophical concepts, although their attitudes toward organized religions may vary from hostile to sympathetic. But although science fiction writers are interested in issues that have traditionally been the domain of religion, they aften treat the adherents of particular traditional religions as merely interesting social beings, ignoring their theology and preferring to reinvent a new, secular debate of religious issues.


Michael Collings has examined a number of science fiction novels wiich mention particular religions and which use adherents of these particular religions as characters.7 He found, as we have found in our own observations, that Mormons and Mormonism are mentioned surprisingly often in comparison with other religions. Nevertheless, Collings finds, to his great displeasure, that Mormonism is treated most often as an interesting social phenomenon, not as a source of interesting theology or worthwhile ideas.


Collings notes that when particular religions are named in science fiction, most prominent are Catholicism, Judaism and Mormonism—although we feel he underestimates the attention given to fundamentalist Protestantism. Collings is certainly correct, however, in pointing out that mentions of Mormonism in science fiction are out of proportion to our rather small share of the population.


Collings feels that Mormons are popular as literary “straight men,” mainstream foils for a science fiction dogmatism that wants to take over the turf of philosophical discussion and normative prescription. We demur somewhat from this conclusion. Although we agree that Mormons often play the role of all-American, upright straight men in science fiction and that the Church is sometimes viewed patronizingly as nothing more than an interesting social institution, we also find some interest in Mormon theological innovation.


Mormons as straight men do pop up in a lot of places where, statistically, one might expect Baptists, Methodists, or Episcopalians. As Collings notes, Ian Watson’s novel The Embedding makes numerous comparisons regarding external appearances between two clean-cut young villains and Mormon missionaries; in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Michael Valentine Smith is compared to Joseph Smith because both Smiths have founded bizarre religions which contradict contemporary sexual mores. John Varley’s Wizard contains a random reference to Mormons in which we are coupled with the Catholics and Scientologists as “rich” religions, “rich” meaning well off monetarily.


Two lengthy, primarily negative, references to Mormons are also cited by Collings. The first occurs in Philip José Farmer’s Flesh. Nephi Sarvant, a member of a schismatic Mormon group of the future, is portrayed as a prudish, sex-starved evangelistic fanatic, whose church ironically disappears from the earth while he is still proselytizing for it out in space, and who is finally hanged for rape near the end of the book. In the second example, from Piers Anthony’s Planet of Tarot trilogy, a descendant of John D. Lee is redeemed through a long process in which he becomes convinced that the church of his childhood is based on fasehoods. Neither of these books has exactly made it to the science fiction Hall of Fame (as it were), however, perhaps because they are so polemical. In any case, we don’t think they are substantial enough to keep us Mormons awake at night.


Collings seems to have missed, however, perhaps the most favorable references to Mormons in all of science fiction. In Robert A. Heinlein’s early story, “If This Goes On—” in which a corrupt fundamentalist Protestant prophet rules what used to be the United States, the Mormons are depicted as a considerable element of the underground which overthrows the false prophet. The awaited revolution finally occurs, and the narrator, in the middle of a paragraph about the various uniforms of the revolutionary troops, comments: “The Mormon Battalions had their own togs and they were all growing beards as well—they went into action singing the long-forbidden ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints!’ Utah was one state we didn’t have to worry about, now that the Saints had their beloved Temple back.”8 Heinlein’s favorable attitude towards Mormons has stayed with him up to the present; his recent novel, The Mark of the Beast, has two of its main characters living in Logan, Utah, not because they are clean-cut Mormon types themselves, but because they like the kind of folks who live there.


Michael Collings gets quite miffed because science fiction authors, when they do mention Mormonism, most often focus on externals—polygamy, the Black issue, the young missionaries, strict sex standards, the Church’s wealth—rather than on any deeper theological elements. But since these externals are exactly what popular audiences are going to know about us, we contend that it is hardly surprising that they are emphasized in fiction.


We were not surprised, then, when some time after the first edition of this article, a friend called our attention to Systemic Shock by Dean Ing, a newish science fiction novel of the “after-the-nuclear-holocaust” genre, in which so much of the American continent has been blown away that most of what is left over and still viable ends up in the Intermountain West. Since the Church is the most organized power structure in that area, the Church is basically in charge. As might be expected, in addition to most of the abovenamed externals, Ing also points up a new topic which the Church has recently had controversial press coverage about: the women’s movement and the Church’s attitudes about it—supposedly the attitudes of A.D. 2000 or so, but actually the fairly well-reflected attitudes of 1979 or so. Ing has done a lot of homework on us, and there are some ingenious surprises—a schismatic sect in the desert based on a numerological reading of the Book of Mormon, for instance. We found the book short on metaphysical speculation, but definitely worth checking out.

 

SCIENCE FICTION BY MORMONS

 


The culture of Mormonism is rich in possible material to offer its member writers who turn to science fiction. Mormon ideas about the perfection and evolution of humans to godhood, Mormon ideas of agency and responsibility, Mormon views of mankind’s origins, and Mormon experience as a peculiar people in social experiments in early Utah all offer grist for speculative fiction. We are aware, however, of only a handful of Mormons who actually are active in science fiction production.


We are perhaps not the best people to comment on him, since our consumption of network TV is minimal, but the name of Glen A. Larson, who is a Mormon, has been significant in the production of science fiction for television, including Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Centure, and now Knight Rider and other shows more tenuously connected with science fiction. What we have seen of these shows has been fairly innocuous, with occasional rewards: Battlestar Galactica had some in-crowd terms incorporated into its futuristic society (like Council of Elders and Quorum of the Twelve, for instance), and Buck Rogers was occasionally heard to say things like “God made man for a purpose” (or something like that—we are thinking of the episode in which the alien Hawk was subjected to a court trial), which folks don’t say on network TV every day.


You are holding in your hand a result of the second Mormon science fiction production project which comes to mind, namely, Scott S. Smith and Benjamin Urrutia’s ldsf project, which has given a showcase to a number of Mormon writers. Most of the stories in Volume I (we don’t have access to volume II at this moment) were fun to read; most importantly, they exist, and perhaps will inspire future writers.


The third example is, of course, Orson Scott Card, the only Mormon we know of who has broken into the mainstream science fiction market with some success. As of this date, he has published five or so novels in the genre, one short story collection, and some stories in the magazines. (There was a time, a couple of years ago, when almost every copy of OMNI featured a short story by him.) Success is not born in a vacuum, so someone out there, and probably numerous someones, enjoys his work considerably. Our reactions were otherwise—at least as far as Card’s choice of themes and plots went. We found no particular fault in his narrative skill. Try him for yourself.


One of us has heard it yearningly said several times among the Mormon fiction-writing aficionados that what we really need is a Mormon Flannery O’Connor, if we want our people’s hopes and agonies and strivings to be granted an articulate voice in fiction. The science fiction corollary would be, as far as we are concerned: What we really need is a Mormon Gene Wolf.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 


In conclusion we’d like to echo the sentiments of Dr. L. Marlene Payne, who, at the Mormon Letters meeting where the original version of this article was given, spoke feelingly of the spiritual strength she has derived from the ancient myths. Science fiction, which is modern myth, can provide the same. At the very least, it has afforded us a good many hours of harmless entertainment, sometimes mindstretching, sometimes not. At the most, it has offered us some moments of transcendent spiritual joy—as well more concrete food for thought in the transcendental vein. One of us remembers an Institute freshman seminar field trip with Gene England at Stanford to go see the film 2001 and reflect on the possibilities for human progression in the Mormon sense. Times may have changed a bit since then—it was, after all, the eclectic sixties—but we still contend that most of us could use some of that romantic eclecticism. We personally turn to science fiction not only for escape (though that is certainly part of it, we have to admit), but also for inspiration.

 

NOTES

 

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,Washington Post Book World, 30 January 1983, p. 11.

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.

9.   Michael Moorcock, the Elric novels, particularly The Weird of the White Wolf and The Vanishing Tower.

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 HOLY LAND

 

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 Counting House of Scrooge and Cratchit, to the best physician in London. The doctor conducted extensive and intensive examinations. “There is nothing we can do for his leg,” he told Mr. Scrooge. “As far as his lungs are concerned, the best thing would be to remove the child from the cold and damp air of London, and of England in general, to a warm and dry climate.”

“A Mediterranean cruise would be just the thing, what?”

“Indeed.”

“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 they were now equals) and accepted the latter’s kind offer with deep gratitude. And so, early in January of 1844 AD, the wealthy Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge and little Timothy Cratchit departed for the “cloudless climes” spoken of by the poet. They visited the sun-drenched vineyards and friendly folk of Portugal, the great and splendid Mosques-turned-Cathedrals of Spain, and the greatness that was and is Rome.

From there, they went south to Naples, Capri and Sicily. Then across the Mediterranean to the ancient land of Egypt, home of the Pyramids and the Sphynx. From there, they moved on to the Holy Land, then a part of the Turkish Empire.

Tiny Tim throve on the oranges that were grown around Jaffa, that famous city from which Jonah sailed in a vain attempt to escape the Lord’s commission to prophesy, and where the Greek hero Perseus delivered the beautiful Princess Cassiopeia, who had been tied to a rock to be devoured by a sea monster. Neither the great fish who swallowed Jonah nor the dragon slain by Perseus infest Jaffa’s waters today, nor could any such fearsome creature be found in that placid sea as far back as 1844, as Mr. Scrooge sat on the beach, not looking at the sea but at his little friend, who was ecstatically consuming oranges. Timmy was at the height of happiness, believing that there was nothing this side of Heaven as good as fresh Jaffa oranges.

He had lost the pale grey complexion he had had in London and was now almost as brown as an Arab child but with cheeks red as apples. His eyes, which had always been bright with hope, were now even brighter with joy.

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. “’Tis that American, what’s his name?” But much as he thought, Scrooge could not recall the name of the fat man from the colonies who had traveled in the same ship from Alexandria to Jaffa as had brought the old Londoner and his young friend.

“Ah, Scrooge! I find you at last! We are organizing an expedition to Bethlehem; would you like to be in it?”

“You do not need to shout so loud. And why should I want to go to Bethlehem?”

“Why, Mr. Scrooge, you have a fame and reputation as a man who really knows how to keep Christmas, and Bethlehem is where it all began, ain’t it?”

“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 Bethlehem.” And Ebenezer melted. He could deny nothing to the boy.

But on the road to the city of David, he regretted having given in so easily. He was riding a mule and finding it most uncomfortable.

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 Bethlehem, it was a great disappointment for everyone except for Mr. Scrooge, who indeed had not been expecting much. The “city” was at that time no bigger than a small English village but had as much filth and squalor as London, concentrated in a much smaller package. The Church of the Nativity was occupied by greedy priests of several different denominations contending with each other for baksheesh from the tourists. Scrooge would have been very happy to say, “I told you so” to the American, were it not for Tiny Tim’s crestfallen face. Ebenezer prayed several times that something might happen to relieve the child’s disappointment.

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 from Bethlehem. Instead of being in an Arab village of the Turkish Empire, they found themselves in a Jewish village of the Roman Empire. A bright new star shed a silver radiance on the streets, and by this light they walked to an inn outside the city walls. The inn had spacious stables where camels, horses, mules, and donkeys were kept for just the price of their feed. In addition to these, which one could expect to find ordinarily in an inn’s stable, there were a great number of sheep, lambs, pigeons, geese, turtledoves, and various birds and small animals that had been brought as gifts for the newborn child. The only beast that was notorious for its absence was the pig. Swine were not raised in the Land of Israel. However, all the animals that were present were sufficient to fill the stable with a great many strong and distinctive smells.

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 word (perhaps his throat was tired from greeting so many visitors, thought Scrooge), but he smiled and bowed in greeting. Scrooge did the same in return, and he looked in his pockets to see if he had anything he could give as a suitable gift. All he had was a gold Sovereign, a coin from the British Empire stamped with the profile of the very young Queen Victoria. This he gave to Joseph, who again smiled and bowed and still said no word. (He later cut up the coin, which was too valuable to spend in one place, into several small pieces—which, re-used in other coins or melted down for various purposes, eventually ended up in various parts of the world.)

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 England,” said Tim.

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!

EDITORIAL AFTERWORD

 

Swine were raised in Gentile towns on the borders of the Land of Israel, such as “the country of the Gergesenes” (Matthew 8:28-32), but not in a town located, like Bethlehem, in the Judean heartland.


 

 

JERUSALEM

 

 

by William Blake

 

 

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the Holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

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,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant Land.


 

 

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.

 

TRESPASSERS

WILL BE

PROSECUTED

 

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 with me to my garden, which is Paradise.

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.


 

 

BLACK WALNUT

 

 

by Eugene England

 

 

Fine wood that darkens toward the core

And compound leaves that come late

But push dark and high to ease the Utah summer,

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.


 

 

POEMS

 

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

To see the mallorn-trees abloom in Paradise,

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.

This is the secret of Heaven: Paradise is reunion,

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.

First you must see her! Then the Brandywine

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.

Be welcome!

 

 

IN THE BEGINNING

 

Was the logos,
     Even the dia-logos,
Deus et Dea logos,
     The conversation of God and Goddess:
“Let us
     make man in our
                 image, in our
                           likeness: male
                                       and female…”

 


 

 

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

are one

And you and I are God,

Time and Space and force are bent together

And all is rapture

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

THE FRINGE

 

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 knew something would change, painfully, in the life of the town of Reefrock. And because in a way the arrests would be his fault, and because the imprisonment of a father would cause upheaval in some of these children’s families, he felt it his duty to prepare them as best he could to understand why it had to happen, why, in the larger view, it was good. It was too much to expect that they would actually understand, today; but they might remember, might forgive him someday for what they would soon find out he had done to them.

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 Great Salt Lake, your fathers and mothers began to move out into the desert, to reclaim it. But not alone. We can do nothing alone here. The fringers plant their grass. The grass feeds the herds and puts roots into the sand. The roots become humus, rich in nitrogen. In three years the fringe has a thin lace of soil across it. If at any point a fringer fails to plant, if at any point the soil is broken, then the rains eat channels under it, and tear away the fringe on either side, and eat back into farmland behind it. So every fringer is responsible to every other fringer, and to us. How would you feel about a fringer who failed?”

“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 eat grows in the soil they created, and the manure of their cattle is the strength of your bodies. Without fringers you would be eking out a miserable life on the shores of the Mormon Sea, eating fish and drinking sage tea, and don’t forget it.” He set the volume of the synthesizer steadily lower during the speech, so that at the end they were straining to hear.

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 the front door of the school. He knew, intellectually, that his work in crop rotation and timing had been the key to opening up the vast New Soil Lands here in the eastern Utah desert. Hadn’t they invented a civilian medal for him, and then, for good measure, given him the same medal they gave to the freedom riders who went out and brought immigrant trains safely into the mountains? I was a hero, they said, this worm in his wheelchair house. But Governor Monson had looked at him with those distant, pitying eyes. He, too, saw the worm; Carpenter might be a hero, but he was still Carpenter.

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!”

Lot of difference it makes,” said Kippie. “As soon as it rains in the mountains, this sucker’s gonna fill up with water and give him the swim of his life.”

“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 current pulling him, imagining what would have happened to him, how far he might have gone downstream before drowning, where his body might have ended up. Caught in a snag somewhere, dangling on some branch or rock as the water went down and left his slack body to dry in the sun. Far out in the desert somewhere, maybe. Or perhaps the floodwater might have carried him all the way to the Colorado and tumbled him head over heels down the rapids, through the canyons, past the ruins of the old dams, and finally into the Gulf of California. He’d pass through Navaho territory then, and the Hopi Protectorate, and into areas that the Chihuahua claimed and threatened to go to war to keep. He’d see more of the world than he had seen in his life.

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. They’d be afraid, of course. Maybe defiant. Maybe they had even confessed. No, not that. LaVon would keep them quiet. Try to think of a way out. Maybe even plan an escape, though finding a place to go that wasn’t under Utah authority would be a problem.

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.”

“Done what?”

‘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?”

“No.”

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?”

“No.”

“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.


 

 

CONSPIRACIES

 

 

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 Paradise.

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.”

“Say what?”

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 helplessly, beaten, to the floor. “That settles it, then,” he said under his breath. “What a terrible disappointment.” He pointed a shaking finger at the angel. “It’s obvious, perfectly clear! There are conspiracies— coverups—even in Paradise.

“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.

“Of course, we have conspiracies here!” thundered the angel, helping the humbled spirit to his feet. “How else could it possibly be Paradise, for you?

 


 

 

EXCERPTS FROM GIUDIZIO UNIVERSALE

 

 

by Giovanni Papini

translated by Benjamin Urrutia

 

 

OLIVER CROMWELL

 

Angel

We expect from thee, Oliver Cromwell, a clarifying word on the strange and incredible contradictions of thy life. Thou didst remove the head from thy king because he did not respect the freedom of the people, but when thou hadst taken his place, thou didst become an even harsher tyrant than he ever was. Thou didst remove the head from thy king in the name of the leaders of Parliament, but twice thou didst expel, by the hand of soldiers, members of Parliament who were opposed to thee. Thou didst preach justice and humanity, but didst have thy king judged and condemned by a jury of his enemies, and for crimes not mentioned in the laws. Thou didst boast of 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 different from thine. Thou didst present thyself to the world as the protector of the independence of the nation, but thou didst persist in subduing by force of arms Scotland and Ireland, which did not want to fall under thy dominion. Thou wast, in brief, a Christian who persecuted Christians, a Republican who ended up as a bloody despot, a soldier who became a butcher. This is the true summary of thy life; we ask thee to give the reasons for these contrasts and these enigmas.

Cromwell

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.

 

KI-YA-KOE

 

Angel

Rememberest thou, Ki-Ya-Koe, how many men didst thou kill?

 

Ki-Ya-Koe

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.

 

Angel

And of these deaths thou didst feel and feelest no remorse?

 

Ki-Ya-Koe

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.

Angel

Knowest not about doing evil? Has no one told thee that to take the life of a fellow human is a great sin?

 

Ki-Ya-Koe

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.

 

 

 

ANNIE HOPELAND

 

Angel

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.

 

Annie Hopeland

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!

 

Angel

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!

 

Annie Hopeland

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

 

 

Anonymous

 

 

I

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.

 

II

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.

 

III

For they decreed, and wrote on my heart that I should not forget it:

“If thou go down and bring from Egypt the Pearl, the unique one,

“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.”

 

IV

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;

Over the soil of Babylon then I hurried my footsteps,

And my companions left me within the borders of Egypt.

 

V

Straight to the Serpent I went, and near him settled my dwelling,

Till he should slumber and sleep, and the Pearl I could snatch from his keeping.

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.

 

VI

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

Come from afar for the Pearl, they would rouse the Serpent against me.

 

VII

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;

Nay, I forgot the Pearl for which my parents had sent me,

While from their poisonous food I sank into slumber unconscious.

 

VIII

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—

There they devised an escape that I should not perish in Egypt,

Writing a letter signed in the name of each of the Chieftains.

 

IX

“From thy Father, the King of Kings,—from the Queen, thy Mother,—

“And from thy Brother,—to thee, our Son in Egypt, be greeting!

“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 the Pearl for which thou wast sent to sojourn in Egypt.

 

X

“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.

 

XI

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.

 

XII

So I remembered my Royal race and my free-born nature,

So I remembered the Pearl, for which they had sent me to Egypt,

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.

 

XIII

Then I seized the Pearl and homewards started to journey,

Leaving the unclean garb I had worn in Egypt behind me;

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.

 

 

XIV

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,

Till I had left the land of Babylon safely behind me

And I had reached Maishán, the sea-washed haven of merchants.

 

XV

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.

 

XVI

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.

 

XVII

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.

 

XVIII

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?”

XIX

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.

 

XX

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From “Early Eastern Christianity,” pp. 218-223; St. Margaret’s Lectures, 1904, on 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 India, but is an original Syriac work, and the Hymn therein has been preserved as a Christian poem in a Syriac and Christian work.”


 

 

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?”

“I am.”

“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.”

 

 

EDITORIAL AFTERWORD

 

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 doesn’t pick me.” and “Oh, how sad! Maybe it will be my turn the next time.”

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 Celestial Kingdom by being willing to take that body. So our Father decided to bring you straight home again. Besides, you are the one who is to sit at my right hand at my birthday party.”

And so the messenger and Jesus and Jacob walked through the garden, making final plans for the big birthday party in Heaven.


 

 

NEAR-LIGHT

 

 

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.

“Mrs. Price?”

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 forward a bit from the waist, his hands behind his back like a New England parson. But his eyes were kind.

“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.”

“Then why…?”

“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.

“Mom.”

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.”

Max shrugged.

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.”

“Ex.”

“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.

“I…have to…”

“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.”

“Exactly.”

“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.”

She nodded.

“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.”

John nodded.

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.


 

 

DEATHSONG

 

 

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.

I fainted.

 

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

 

 

Anonymous

 

 

(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?

Fielding:    Here.

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—?

Bell:

   
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?

Bell:

   
(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?

Bell:

   
Umm, well, maybe I’m being picky…. (His voice fades.)

Smith:   Oh, no, no, that’s all right. Speak up. What is it?

Bell:

   
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.

Bell:

   
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?

Bell:

   
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?

Bell:

   
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?

Bell:

   
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?

Bell:

   
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.

Bell:

   
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!

Bell:

    Well, along other lines, I also have had three poems accepted for publication in the Sewanee Review.

Smith:

 
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.

Bell:

   
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….

Bell:

   
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?

Bell:

   
Oh, wow! I don’t know why I’m so lucky!

Young:      Oh, by the way: do you type?

 

EXIT


 

 

THE MEETING

 

 

Anonymous

 

 

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.


The men are hurriedly urging children into pews, settling quarrels and trying to arrange seating so that the least mayhem will ensue. Some of the men do a better job than others at juggling their paraphernalia: in addition to diaper bags and bottles of apple juice or milk, most have “quiet books,” small toys, and some have rather large and cumbersome Primary materials to hang onto and keep track of.


Three or four younger men are radiantly absorbed in small bundles wrapped in fancy crocheted afghans; their fuzzy-headed infants are all dressed in special finery for the occasion, and the seats immediately around them are filled with smiling, wet-eyed grandfathers, uncles, brothers; and over the heads of the crowds, we can see visiting teachers nodding their assurance that they will be ready when the moment presents itself.


Presently, a confident, comfortable-looking woman in her late forties takes her seat on the stand. She is almost immediately flanked by two others: a slender, dark-suited woman of about thirty who keeps whispering last-minute information to the woman in the center; and a woman of perhaps sixty who appears totally unflappable, as if, having engineered reconstruction after the Flood and supervised logistics during the Exodus, she is scarcely about to be intimidated by anything the present moment might demand of her.


Behind them, on the second row, sit four men of varying ages, each in black trousers, white shirt, and black tie.


The youngest of the three women, whose name is Abbot, steps to the pulpit. She smiles silently at the buzzing congregation for a few moments, and as the crowd quietens, we hear a tiny voice call out boldly, “That’s MOMMY!” Abbot smiles benignly at the child, while the father, seated in the second pew, blushes, puts a hand gently over the child’s mouth, and shakes his head hopelessly at his neighbor.

 

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.


To begin with, Brother Hales of the elders group has asked me to tell you that our lovely brethren are collecting empty one-quart oil cans, to be used by the group in making special Christmas projects. They are going to construct Christmas tree stands, candle molds and toys from these used oil cans, I’m told. Elder Hales has placed a large carton outside the south entrance and would appreciate it if you’d all deposit your empty oil cans there, and in so doing contribute to this worthwhile project.


Next, we want to remind you of the Education Week program early next month. Four of our members will be participating, and I’m sure we’ll all want to attend and take advantage of this special opportunity. Sister Lorraine Larson will be giving a lecture on “Eschatology and Ether in the Perspective of the Book of Revelation.” Sister Ellen Hemming is speaking on “The Gnostic Scrolls and Our Concept of Spirit Translation.” Brother LeRuth Davis will have a workshop titled “Twenty Tips for Keeping a Tidy Garage,” and Brother Terry Joe Jones will repeat last year’s popular series on “Being a More Masculine You.”


Brother Allen informs me that the quorum is having a special fireside this next Sunday evening with two important guest speakers. Sister Amanda Ridgely Knight will discuss “The Role of Man: Where Does He Fit in the Eternal Plan?” and Sister Alice Young Taylor will lecture on “Three Important Men from Church History.”


Next weekend is a big one for the younger teens in our congregation: the Beehive class is going to kayak down the Green River, under the direction of Sister Lynn Harrison. And as I understand it, the deacons will be here at home, helping to fold and stamp the ward newsletter.


In the Young Men’s meeting tonight, the boys will have something special to look forward to—a panel of Laurels from the stake will discuss “What We Look for in Boys We Date.” Here’s your big chance, boys!


Now finally, clipped to your program you see a proposal—and I stress that that is all it is so far—for a method of handling our financial commitments for this next year. This is of vital importance to every member. I stress that. We want every one of you to go home, gather your husbands and children around you, examine this proposal, and decide if you can give us your sustaining vote on it.

 

(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.


Well, I think that’s all of the announcements. We will open the meeting by singing on page 102, after which Brother Donny Dee Williams will give the invocation.

 

The Chorister steps to his stand and leads the congregation in the following song:

 


We are cooking, daily cooking


Food that strengthens, food that fills,


Casseroles that feed the starving,


Wheat from ever-turning mills.


Wheat that’s grown and ground and garnished,


Wheat that’s fiber-rich and pure,


Wheat for woman, to sustain her,


As she labors strong and sure.

 

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.


Sister Jean Hammond and her husband Dale have a new little girl, to be named Rachel Sariah Hammond. Sister and Brother Ellen Taylor, a girl to be named Ellen Fielding Taylor, Jr. Sister and Brother Margaret Jones, a girl to be named Elizabeth Eleanor Jones. As you know, this baby is Sister and Brother Jones’ sixth, but the very first girl they’ve managed to have, and I just want to share with you what Margaret said this past week. Someone who didn’t know the family asked her how many children she had. “Six,” she said, “and they’re all girls but five!”


Now in case you think we’ve forgotten the opposite sex, Sister and Brother Anne Henderson are welcoming a little boy to their home; he’s to be named LeWinky Henderson. Gale and Jimmy Jenson also have a new boy, to be named Tippy Tom Jenson; and Meredith and Billy Joe Gordon have a son whom they have named Fortitude Oak Gordon.


Well, our congratulations to all the families and their new members.


Right now, it’s time for a special number from our Singing Fathers. They will announce their own selection.

 


(The four men dressed in black trousers come to the front of the stand, cluster together, place their arms on each other’s shoulders, and set themselves for singing. At this point, one man whispers to another, who steps forward.)

 

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 THEOLOGICAL CHALLENGE

 

 

by Gracia Fay Ellwood

 

 


Spurred by the sight of various oppressed groups calling for liberation and equality, men are now demanding admission to the ordained ministries on an equal footing with women. While their claims are not totally without merit, I hope to show on the basis of Scripture and traditional Christian practice why their admission would not be appropriate at present.


Any Christian knows why men have not been ordained to the ministry. They belong to the Ruling Club. Men represent secular power; nearly all societies and governments have been and are presently patriarchal. Any Christian can observe that men run things—or if they don’t, they get credit for it.


Which is exactly why a man makes a poor representative to a Christian sacramental or preaching ministry. The Scriptures proclaim an entirely different understanding of power. The theme of Exodus pervades both old and new testaments. Our God is one who hears the cries of the oppressed and leads them to freedom, while overlords are reduced to insignificance. Jesus incarnated this theme in his life and teachings, especially in regard to women. In his time women were expected to be silent stays-at-home. But he commissioned women to be the first apostles—that is, witnesses of his resurrection.


When a woman preaches, she is herself a living testimony to a God who turns Nobody into Somebody. God spoke, and out of “dust” created persons, who could themselves speak. Jesus spoke to the nonpersons, and those who were silent became bearers of Good News. Outside the church women are still struggling with inferior jobs, low pay, trivialization, wastage of their talent. But within the church women are proclaiming a God who put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the humble and meek.


This is even more clearly seen in the administration of the sacraments. The woman who ministers at the font and at the Holy Table is a living symbol of the act of grace she is celebrating. Consider baptism, direct and powerful in its appeal, which draws upon ancient womb imagery. Noah’s family was reborn from the ark and the floodwaters, into a newly reborn world. Jonah was reborn from the sea and the fish’s belly, making possible a new birth for Nineveh. Both point toward Easter morning, when Jesus was reborn from death and from the earth. Thus the initiate comes forth from the baptismal waters, from the divine Womb, as a new person, ready to be nourished by the pure Milk of the Word.


The point is more than obvious. How can the sacrament of second birth be administered by one whose body cannot give first birth? This would sadly impoverish our imagery. The next thing would probably be an alteration of baptismal liturgies to represent the rebirth-giving God as hermaphroditic. Eventually the idea of being born again would become a meaningless puzzle.


Honesty compels me to admit that there is other symbolism implicit in the sacrament which may be compatible with a male ministry. Among one or two minor Christian sects, baptism is performed by sprinkling a few drops of water on the initiate. There is an analogy to the fructification of the earth by rain, and to the male contribution in human procreation.


However, before we abandon the mode of immersion in a rush to the mode of sprinkling so that men will not feel left out, I must point out that this way of baptizing conveys little of the drama implicit in the reality underlying the symbols. I have attended such baptism, and observed covert yawning and watch-glancing among those not immediately related to the initiates. Children and adults alike, deprived of a satisfying liturgical enactment of the great adventure of regressus ad uterum Dei [return to the Divine womb] and rebirth, are wont to seek expression of it in the scenarios of popular secular drams, from Star Trek and Star Wars to Superman. Such things have a valid place. They are largely harmless, no doubt, and often delightful, but they do not tend to a transformation of life.


Then consider the sacrament of Communion, in which the imagery of birth finds further development. The celebrant enacts the drama of Christ’s self-emptying in death. Those present are aware, however dimly, that her body is one that (potentially or actually) gives life by sacrifice. In the pain and indignity and bloodletting of childbirth a woman is in effect saying to her child, “This is my body…this is my blood, which is shed for you.” What the celebrant is mirrors that which she presents. And the body that gives itself to bring another to birth also nourishes that new life, both in the rite and in the reality of physical motherhood. The newborn babes long for the drink of life, and receive it.


The association of woman and nurturance is deep and ancient, and it will be difficult for the masses of people to accept the disruption of its imagery as male hands attempt to offer the sacred food and drink. Of course, insofar as it is a matter of habit based on psychological patterns, it can be changed. Men do occasionally cook and serve food, as at our own church suppers. Planting and harvesting, exclusively female activities in many primitive societies, have become male activities in our own. There is even no reason why a man cannot feed an infant with a bottle of animal’s milk, appropriately doctored to resemble the real thing. But quite likely the food-giving man will never be as deeply resonating a symbol.


Having shown something of how deeply rooted in the nature of God the Church’s tradition of a female ministry is, it may seem I have slammed the door once and for all in the face of young men aspiring to the ministry. I want to stop short of doing so. It would ill befit a woman, raised up by God from nonperson status to the Divine image, thus to imply: “You may think you have a calling by God to the ordained ministry. But I know God better than you do; I know my female being is more deeply akin to God’s nature than your male being. God would never call you.” Though the maternity of God is a major theme in Scripture and Christian thought, anchored in the pivotal reality of resurrection and rebirth, occasional passages, undeveloped images may yet be explicated and drawn together to give undreamed-of insights, and deep self-affirmation to men. God loves men, too.


We must not lay down to God the conditions under which we will agree to receive our life. If we trust in God, God will provide—far beyond anything eye has seen, ear has heard, or that has entered into the heart of woman….


Nevertheless, we need to proceed with great caution in considering males for the ordained Christian ministry. Subtly, unconsciously, we may absorb worldly standards of male dominance and thus forsake the very nature of the upsidedown Gospel itself.


 

 

THE GIFT

 

 

by Kitty Carr Tilton

 

 


She didn’t know when she finally became sure there would never be another child. After the miscarriage everyone said things like, “It’s a shame, but these things happen. After all, you were only nine weeks along, and you do have a three-year-old, so you know you can have more kids.” The doctor said there was no reason not to try again in a few months. At first she faithfully recorded her temperature every morning, tried to seduce her husband on the appropriate days, even slept with a pillow under her hips after they made love. She would watch the march of days across the calendar, her anxiety growing with every day past thirty. Sometimes, nervewrackingly and heartbreakingly, the numbers would be up to thirty-five or even forty before the cramps would start. It became agony to go to church and have mothers of five or six or more ask with innocent cruelty, “When are you going to have another one? Timmy needs a baby brother.” Finally she started replying, “Evidently God doesn’t agree with you.”


Again and again her mind would return to the scene in the hospital outpatient facility where she had gone for treatment after the doctor confirmed she had lost the baby. It was filled with young women. One of them, a girl of about eighteen, asked her rudely, “What are you here for?” “I just had a miscarriage,” she managed to say with relative calm. The girl turned away. There was no mistaking what the rest of them were there for. She never forgave the doctor for sending her to a place where abortions were performed. Why? she asked over and over. How can God stand by and watch them kill their babies while I long for one so much?


After eight years the pain was still there. She had had some tests but nothing conclusive was found, and more extensive diagnosis was out of the question because of finances and also the reluctance of her husband. She couldn’t blame him. The child they did have gave them little more than frustration, grief and guilt, in spite of tears, prayers, and psychotherapy. The failure she felt when she thought of her son and the failure she experienced every month mounted and mounted until she felt like part of her soul had quietly died. It did no good to hear about the Millennium and beyond. There were attitudes she had and choices she had made that took care of that.


She got on with her life as best she could: cherishing a stray cat, becoming competent and respected at work, trying to maintain familial ties with her good-hearted but emotionally distant husband and her brilliant, impossible son. Reading had always absorbed her, and she threw herself into stories of other times, other worlds, other ways. Sometimes she dreamed of the beauty of the reaches of space as seen from far across the galaxy, of strange beings, of things she could almost remember but could never explain. There were dreams that were complete works—scripts or novels—that would evaporate maddeningly as soon as she woke. Occasionally she would wake just enough in the middle of one of these to scribble something on a piece of paper from her bedside table in an attempt to capture what her subconscious refused to share with her waking mind. Invariably she could make nothing comprehensible out of the notes.


One night something was subtly different in her dreams. Eclipsing the space-suited figures in freefall was a wavering feeling of presence. Gradually it grew stronger until it coalesced into an image. It was somehow both familiar and alien, but not in any way repulsive. The planes of the face and other little details were naggingly different. She could feel something in her mind as the image held out a nearly normal looking hand. His expression was intense for a moment, then relaxed as he spoke. The words were like nothing she had ever heard, but she understood their meaning. “Carla. You are Carla. You are the mind that resonates most nearly with mine. You have dreams of the stars, and dreams of a small girl in your arms. Help me, Carla, and I will try to help you.” She didn’t say anything; wilder things than this had visited her in sleep. But the being continued. “If you will try to hold your mind open when you awake, I will talk to you then, so you will know this is real.” Sure, she thought. It sounds like fun. Too bad you’re going to fade away like all the rest. I might have gotten at least a short story out of this. She jerked suddenly and blinked blurry eyes. Yawning, she reached out to find her pencil and scratch paper before she completely forgot the strange dream. She froze, astonished, as she heard someone call her name—heard it with her mind, not her ears. “Carla!” it came again. Her heart started to pound and her throat tightened. “Just form words in your mind directed at me and I will understand you. Please. There is not much time.”


“I always knew I was mentally unstable but I never thought I was schizophrenic. Isn’t it schizophrenia that causes hallucinations like this?”


“I know it is difficult for you to understand, but I am real, and I urgently need your help.”


“You want me to take you to my leader, right? You’ve come in a big silver saucer and your traveling companion is a giant suit of armor named Gort.” Instantly she was overcome with the deepest frustration, desperation and despair she had ever known. It took her a moment to realize the emotions were not hers but came from outside her mind. She groaned at the intensity of the feelings and her husband stirred in his sleep and flung his arm across her pillow. “I don’t know if I’ve finally cracked up or not but I’m going to proceed on the assumption you’re real. But please, turn down the volume. I won’t be any good to either of us paralyzed with despair.”


The flood of emotion ebbed. “I am sorry. It was unforgivable of me to assault you in that manner. But please, I contacted you because you were the best match I could find. If I cannot communicate successfully with you, the others are even less likely to listen. I have said it before—there is little time. Will you come to me? My othersoul is fading with every moment, and the life she carries will be lost as well.”


Carla wasn’t sure at first she knew what he meant. then it hit her. “Your…othersoul? Carries life? Oh God,” she breathed. It was not a curse. “What can I do? Would our doctors know what to do with her? Where are you?”


“You are the only one who can help. I am far away but if I must I can bring you to where I am, thought I can do such a thing only once. You will have to get back by yourself. There is danger to both of us and I would not have you come unwarned.”


“I will do what I can, even at the risk of my life.” She knew it sounded ridiculous, but she didn’t care. If she had a chance to save a child after her body had betrayed her by destroying her own child there was nothing on earth, in hell, or the rest of the universe that would stop her.


She quietly got out of bed. The room was twilit from the street lights. Luckily she always laid her clothes out the night before to save time. She grabbed them and padded to the bathroom. Making sure the door was closed, she snapped on the night-light. As she dressed in its faint ivory glow she tried to decide whether to wake her husband. She had better not, she decided. What in the world would I say? But I have to leave him some sort of word. He’d call the police. I’ll write a note and tell him I had to go off by myself for a while, not to worry—ha!—and that I haven’t run away with the milkman. I’ll tell him I love him and ask him just to trust me. And tell my boss I’m sick! I wish I had more cash on me. Hope they take Visa wherever I’m going. She used the toilet. She splashed water over her hands and face, dragged a towel over them, and swirled Listerine through her mouth. Grabbing her note paper she scrawled a message and stuck it in the bathroom mirror. She caught up her coat and purse, said a hurried but fervent prayer, and addressed the…being? alien? whatever he was. “I’m ready. I don’t even know your name, much less where you come from, and here I am putting myself completely in your hands. If you even have hands. For all I know I’m putting myself in your tentacles.”


The voice in her mind carried a faint tang of amusement. “The form you saw was my true one. I am from a star you cannot see on this planet, in the direction of the one you call Vega. My name is Miren, and I am grateful for your trust, but I will tell you again this may put you in danger, although I will do my best to see you come out in safety.”


“I understand and consent. Please, you’ve said time is running out. What do I do?”


“Just open your mind as fully as you can, and direct your thoughts toward going where I am. I have seen that you have some untrained ability, which is one of the reasons I was able to contact you, and that will make things somewhat easier.”


She scrunched her eyes closed and concentrated as hard as she could on moving to join Miren. For a few seconds nothing happened, then she had a powerful feeling of deja vu. She knew she had done something like this before, but not where or when. There was an instant of total stillness—even her heart stopped beating, she felt—and then she collapsed on prickly, dew-laden weeds and grass. Her breathing was the loudest sound in the world and she was more exhausted than ever before in her life. With a major effort, she opened her eyes and saw a figure sprawled not far away. Dragging herself up on one elbow, she looked at it carefully, although it was hard to focus. It was Miren, of course. She was almost too weak to be curious, but after having read Science Fiction for more than two-thirds of her life she would have to have been in a coma before she’d miss out on this chance for a look at a bona fide alien. In the lambent moonlight she could see little, except that he looked as worn out as she felt. Gradually his breathing slowed and he was able to speak. “You really do have ability. This was much easier than I expected.”


Easier?” she croaked.


“We are both conscious and will be able to move shortly. Part of my urgency was because I expected both of us to be incapacitated for at least two or three hours. You have already given me more time to spend with Phoren, and for that I thank you. Can you get up now? My craft is just over there.”


She looked in the direction he tilted his head. “Where? I don’t see any—” A moment ago all she had seen were straggly bushes. Now there was a dome sitting on the ground, an overgrown cousin of the kind in playgrounds, with spaces between the argent bars filled in with what looked like iridescent glass. The moonlight turned the “glass” into hundreds of pastel snowflakes.


“The material can bend light, under command from my mind,” Miren said, anticipating her question. “Please, if you are sufficiently recovered, let us go in.” They lumbered to their feet and naturally moved to help each other stay upright. Miren’s scent was reminiscent of both sea air and turned earth, and Carla found his touch slightly cool and somehow comforting. It seemed like a mile to the craft although it was only about twenty yards away. They were both panting again when they reached it. Miren touched his forehead to one of the bars. A high tone sounded—Carla thought it was an A or A flat—and several sections slid away, allowing them to enter. They stepped through the opening and carefully sat on a padded bench nearby. The light inside was slightly bluer than she was used to. Instead of making everything seem colder, the effect was one of profound calm. Carla saw a form lying on a giant cushion, covered to the neck with something resembling amber sea-foam.


Miren looked at the still figure. “There was an accident, and Phoren was mortally injured. Her soul has gone on but I have managed to keep the shell functioning, after a fashion, enough so that our daughter has not been lost. I can’t keep it going much longer, and Kahrinae cannot live unaided.”


Carla’s eyes blurred and she hugged her purse to her chest. “Miren, what can I do? I don’t understand how you think I can help.”


Miren reached over and took her hand. His jade green eyes looked at her so closely she felt as if he could see clear through her body to her soul. “Will you take our baby? Will you bear our Kahrinae?”


She choked on the sudden sob coming up from her throat. “I can’t, Miren. Even if you could somehow transfer her, I lost my own baby before; I won’t take a chance on losing yours.”


“Carla, she has no other chance. I can only maintain Phoren for a few more hours, and yours is the closest mind I’ve found to ours. I fear that anyone else who carried her would drive her hopelessly insane with the conflict of resonances. You desperately want to give life, you have a questing spirit and a loving heart. Please, Carla. Phoren and I spent many years alone before Kahrinae was sent to us. I know my life would mean nothing if I lost them both. You said you would be willing to risk your life, and this would be a risk, because although I can manipulate your hormone patterns and immune system there may be factors I don’t know about.”


“That doesn’t matter. Every woman risks her life to give birth. But what will I do if I fail this time, too?”


Miren’s cool fingers pressed harder against her warm ones. “Would it be better not to try? Every day you can carry her gives her a better chance.”


Carla gnawed her lip. She knew she’d have to do it. But how would she live with herself if anything went wrong? She didn’t worry about the pain of giving Kahrinae up after nurturing her for months. She could deal with that when the time came, if it came.


“All right, Miren. I guess I really committed myself when I agreed to do what I could. We’ll worry about that later, along with other minor details, like how I’m going to explain all this to my husband.”


Miren closed his eyes and his lips moved silently. “Thank you, Carla. Please, come lie beside Phoren. It will take me a few moments to become familiar with your chemical balances and body systems.” He led her to the cushion, and she stretched out next to the foam-covered body. It felt as if she were lying on leather-covered Jello. Phoren’s hair was almost the same amber color as her sea-foam covering. Carla wondered what color it would be in Earth’s sunlight. They seemed to be about the same size and shape. Phoren wasn’t beautiful by Earthly standards, even allowing for the slightly skewed facial geometry, but if their two peoples were at all similar she had been a kind and comfortable person. Carla knew instinctively that the same sorts of things left their mark on people everywhere.


She felt a sort of generalized tingle that faded gradually. Miren spoke. “We are very similar; there should be no large adjustments necessary, only several minor ones. I shall give you a list of minerals you’ll need to take and foods to avoid. If all goes well Kahrinae will choose to be born about six Earth months from now, but if there is danger to either of you I can try to take her as early as three or four months from now. Are you ready? The sooner it is done the better.”


“Yes, I’m ready.” Carla felt the tingling again, stronger this time. She saw Miren reach up to touch Phoren’s cheek before he placed one hand lightly on each woman’s abdomen. There were tears in his eyes. Suddenly she felt warmth spreading under Miren’s hand and traveling upwards toward her breasts. It faded, as did the tingling, but left behind a sort of afterglow and a slight feeling of heaviness. Gradually, she became aware of a sort of hum, barely sensed. Her vision shimmered briefly, then settled back to normal.


Miren had covered his face with his hands. Now he rubbed his eyes, then asked tiredly, “How do you feel? Do you hear anything?”


“I don’t exactly hear it, but there’s something…it’s kind of a vibration, but it isn’t really. It’s more of a…Oh, I don’t know! Am I supposed to?”


Miren smiled for the first time. “Yes. That is Kahrinae’s mind. She is all right. As she grows you will be able to hear her better, though not perfectly, and she should be able to hear you as well. Carla, I am so grateful to you. We have much to discuss, many things to work out, but now I must finally say goodbye to Phoren. There is a resting area behind the partition. You should be able to sleep for a while, and you will need to. Please, lie down. I will be with you soon, after I have done what is left to do. One thing you may want to think upon, though. Our children come to us knowing their names, and they have only one. But I have seen that here parents choose their babies’ names, and usually more than one. Would you like to give Kahrinae a…middle name? If you would, you should choose it soon so that she may get used to it.”


“I don’t have to think about it at all.” Carla swallowed, then whispered. “It’s Elizabeth. Gift of God.”


 

 

QUESTIONS

 

 

by Kitty Carr Tilton

 

 


Taree walked swiftly past the colony’s converter plant. How often had she traveled past without a thought as to what was happening inside! Today, though, it was different. Today her mother was being broken down into minerals, salts, and fertilizer. She had heard and unquestioningly accepted the reason they disposed of their dead this way ever since she could remember—their foothold on Brown’s World was precarious, and every precious bit of terrestrial biochemistry had to be husbanded. Once a person was dead, his body was no more than a carcass, to be used in any way possible to benefit the colony. When someone died, if you felt strongly enough about him, you could have a party in his honor and drink to his achievements in life. But the next day he would be—not forgotten so much as irrelevant. After all, life is for the living; the dead are as if they had never been.


She knew it made sense that her mother’s body advance the colony. But there was something…Oh, she didn’t know! Almost as if something were missing, but she didn’t know what it was.


Her feet took her to the info center without her mind bothering to direct them. She spent so much time here the info specialists had let her know they’d look favorably on her if she decided to apply for an apprenticeship. Only a few people could be spared from day to day jobs for purely intellectual pursuits—but fortunately or unfortunately, the number both qualified and interested was even fewer. Today, even though the infoists suggested several banks to her, she was restless and unsettled. She flipped fitfully through the menus, then reached out and turned the console off. Excusing herself to the nearest infoist—who barely swung his eyes away from the screen enough to acknowledge her—she pushed her chair back, stood, and swiftly began to braid her hair. As she walked she searched through the pockets of her dull gray coverall for rubber bands. She knew it was silly to keep her hair so long, but she’d begged her mother not to cut the mahogany mass, and Mother had laughed and indulged her. By the time it was bound up, she had reached the edge of the settlement. Signing out at the guard post, she wondered again at the pitifully small size of the colony. Even with the birthrate so low they should have been able to accomplish more than this.


It was nearing second sunset as she stepped out upon the beach. She stopped a moment, looking at the endless undulating surface of the sea, then shook herself. Sparing scant time for warm-ups, she began to run, blocking out her thoughts—her mother, her life, the constant echoing “WHY?”


She ran until her body was as exhausted as her mind, then collapsed panting on the fine blond sand. Night had outpaced her, and it was nearly full dark. She rolled over onto her back, pulled her braids onto her chest, and pillowed her head on her arms. She looked idly at the summer stars. Slowly, imperceptibly at first, a feeling grew. She had no words to describe it—it was a powerful knowledge that she was not alone, and something more. The stars seemed to grow and glow so much bigger and brighter she was afraid she would be consumed. Alarmed and awed by the glory, she cried out “Mother!” The feeling ebbed and the stars were as before, but not everything was the same. There was a new question in her mind, one that as far as she knew had never been asked on Brown’s World before—What if…what if whatever it is that makes us who we are, what if that part doesn’t…what if it still…. Taree struggled to form concepts her vocabulary had no words to express. Life had begun on Earth through random chance, and evolved from one cell to primate in the same way. The info banks held fossil holos, speculation on the recipe for primordial soup, debates on Big Bang versus Steady State. There were almost endless bytes on astronomy, geology, medicine, botany, oceanography, physics. Few people cared, but if you wanted you could choose to hear one of close to a hundred musical pieces, see a couple dozen paintings, or read any of ten novels. Nowhere was there any hint that the march from egg to prime of life to oblivion was any different for a man than for a trout. What if…. She thought of what she knew of Earth. She could give its astronomical address, discourse on its weather, describe its landmasses, but how little she knew of its people! What were they like? Did they have answers while she could hardly ask the questions? Who am I? Where am I going? Why am I here? As soon as she had fully formed the thoughts, she felt RIGHT, more right than she ever had before. She had a strong urge—no, a need—to go to the info center, even though nobody would be there at this hour. Springing to her feet, she swatted purposefully at her coverall, shook the sand out of her hair, and ran back toward the guardhouse. Within minutes she was at the info center. There was no problem getting inside—Taree had read about locks but there weren’t any here. Everything belonged to the colony as a whole. She wasn’t sure why they hadn’t tried that on Earth. The center looked strange with no one sitting at any of the consoles. The chair creaked as she sat. Now that she was here she wasn’t quite sure what she expected to find. Flipping the console on and going to query mode, she hesitated, then, feeling silly, she tapped out, “Who am I?” A flash, a beep, then—” You are Taree Suda, age 14 standard, residence 102-A, schooling level 11.” Well, what did she expect? Knowing it was useless, she tapped, “Where am I going?” Flash, beep, “Aside from planetary rotation and revolution, and stellar motion relative to the galaxy, you are stationary.” This is it, she thought, sighing. I don’t know why I’m bothering with this. “Why am I here?” Flash, beep— silence and darkness from the screen. Then a figure appeared. Taree stared. She’d never seen the man before in any of the banks, and yet there was something almost familiar about him. He smiled, and his eyes were the kindest and most knowing Taree had ever seen. He spoke. “I will never know if anyone sees these recordings. Possibly they will be found and purged, although I’ve safeguarded them as well as I know how, and I’ve been called one of the best. If you have found this, you are most likely troubled and searching and alone. I know because one of the safeguards I attached refuses access to anyone whose question input and alpha waves don’t jive. You’ll be wondering who I am. I’m not important, but my message is. You’ve been denied so much of your heritage—Michelangelo’s Pieta, Fauré’s Requiem, Da Vinci’s Last Supper. But the most important thing the launchers of this colony ship deliberately denied you is your birthright—the answers to your questions. I will tell you who you are, were you are going, and why you are here. Lacking all background, you will have many more questions. I have recorded answers to everything I can think of that you would want to know. All you have to do is ask. But now I want to share something with you.” The man vanished, and a black book appeared on the screen. It opened, and from the gold-edged pages Taree began to read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”

 

Dedicated to Arthur C. Clarke


 

 

THE UMBRELLA

 

 

by Frederick Albert Israelsen

 

 


“Let’s take our umbrellas so it won’t rain” was a common joke among New York city missionaries. Or was it only a joke? An incident that took place near the end of my mission suggests otherwise.


One day in Corona, Queens (a portion of Babylon the Great made famous by a Paul Simon song, “Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard”) my companion, Elder Armstrong, and I stepped out of our apartment and found ourselves under “dark clouds of trouble” that did “threaten our peace to destroy.” A heavy downpour seemed inevitable, so we ducked back into our burrow for our umbrellas.


I stepped forth a second time, brandishing in my right hand my black rainshield, which I waved at the clouds while I pointed at them with my left hand.


At once, the clouds parted like the waters of the Red Sea before the rod of Moses, dispersing and scattering. The sun shone through, and the threat of rain never materialized.


 

 

CURDS AND WAY

 

 

by Chris Frank Heimerdinger

 

 

Chapter 1: Genesis

 


The moon was waning over the Earth. Its cooling light gave animation to all the lonely shadows, while city lights flickered and glistened like a weed-eater chopping grass and scattering the sunlit dew in all directions. The weary Gulf winds blew in an ever so steady fashion across the sleepy Southern town, while an owl sang a peaceful solo in C-sharp.


On a street across from a graveyard, around a corner and second door on the left, an alarm went off. A Mormon missionary lay in his sweat and focused his eyes on the ceiling. He waited for the alarm to die naturally and thought about the dreams he had had that night. They were normal dreams. His dreams were always normal. For that reason he never spoke of them outside his immediate family.


The alarm wound down and Elder Way peered across the room to the bed of Elder Curds, his new junior companion from Heber City. Through the misty light he perceived a mass of stirred blankets and a pillow leaning on the far side against the wall. Elder Way gasped and leaped to his feet. The bed was empty. Elder Curds was gone. A thousand brutal punishments raced through Way’s mind. He would be transferred to Hell, or worse, and without driving privileges. And it seemed so strange that only hours ago, Elder Curds had gone to sleep with an expression of mortal fear blanketing his face….

 

 

Chapter 2: The Next Part

 


Elder Way stood silently in the dark and panted. Where could Curds be? What had happened to him? Elder Way disliked being responsible for another human being. “Oh, to be a Sunbeam, again,” he thought. He recalled his simple youth on a quiet farm in Kansas. “There’s no place like home.” Remembering he was actually from a California suburb only seemed distracting.


Suddenly from outside came the muffled scream of his companion. Quickly, Elder Way put on a tie (as he was not allowed to leave the apartment without one) and ran outside in time to see Elder Curds being dragged off in a black van by crazed religious fanatics wearing Druid gowns and top hats. It was then that Elder Way realized why Elder Curds had gone to sleep with an expression of mortal fear. He had had a prophetic dream of what was to befall him on the morrow.


Elder Way leaped upon his bike and followed a carefully strewn trail of “Article of Faith” Cards that Curds had thoughtfully left. He pedaled fiercely through the town, across wide and raging rivers, over high and rugged mountains. It was raining and the cards were harder to see. He dismounted and led his bike by the reins and soon found himself standing in front of a den of iniquity entitled “Alfonzo’s Beer and Mush.” There the trail ended. Elder Way donned a pair of dark glasses with blinders and entered the evil pit.


Cards, women, whiskey, and tasteless interior decoration surrounded him.


He approached the bartender.


“Hey, bub,” he whispered, “seen a lanky Elder being brutally dragged by a band of religious fanatics wearing druid gowns and top hats?”


The bartender rubbed his chin and squinted to remember. “Wasn’t no elder. Just a kid your age. They went in back.”


“Thanks.”


The bartender watched as Elder Way went inside and closed the door. He then released a dismal laugh. One of those really dramatic ones that tell you he’s not very nice.

 

 

Chapter 3: The One After That

 


The room was totally dark. Elder Way heard a noise. There was a knock on his head and everything went black.


Elder Way saw his life flash before his eyes. Patiently, he viewed the ensuing saga. After the final credits ended, Elder Way came to consciousness. His vision was blurry at first, then he realized it was only Elder Curds and that big familiar grin that revealed his I.Q.


“Where am I?” asked Way.


“Imprisoned in a backwoods colony of anti-Mormon religious fanatics. Lousy way to start the day, huh?”


Elder Way dragged himself to his feet and wandered to the barred window. Outside, the little vaudevillian Druids were building a guillotine. The handle dropped and the head of a cabbage patch doll dropped into a bucket.


“That’ll be us at sunrise,” moaned Elder Curds.


The night in the jail was long and cold. The Elders could not sleep. They stared at the jailer on the other side of the inner bars. He looked like a cross between Adolf Hitler and Willie Nelson and snored peacefully, muttering obscenities and other lascivious material between snores.


Finally, Elder Way could take no more. He rose like a lion and roared, “Silence, you fiend of the Infernal Pit! Cease such talk or you or I die this instant!”


Curds had seen emperors playing host to mighty nations, kings riding gallantly from glorious conquests, dictators raising their hands to silence riotous masses. (At least he thought he’d seen these things. The bus was moving awfully quickly at the time.) But true majesty he saw for the first time in a dismal cell in a humble Elder with a Mickey Mouse tie tack. The jailer remained fast asleep through the incident, but now muttered virtuosities.


At last the unwelcome sign of sunlight broke itself on the eastern horizon. Outside the barred window a mob of angry hecklers had gathered to taunt. Curds went to the window and made faces at them. The jailer arose and came forward.


“Well, boys,” he said with pursed lips, “it’s time.”


With awesome courage the Elders marched from the cell and into the square where the end so certainly awaited them. The angry crowd jeered and threw tomatoes. The Elders were thrown at the feet of the leader of the cult. He wore no top hat, but he was bald except for a pink tuft on top.


“Any last words,” he offered.


“Yes,” declared Elder Way as he slapped the dust from his Mr. Mac.


He began to utter the first missionary discussion. Curds followed suit by presenting the second concept. They proceeded to give all the discussions with a flawless delivery—except for the Fifth Discussion, second concept, which Curds blew totally but Way chastised him and he began it again.


The mob listened in awe as Elder Way began to prophesy concerning this people. He said they would bite the dust real bad if they didn’t repent. And many other things did he say which cannot be written at this time. (Don’t worry, it’s not that interesting anyway.)


“I offer you a choice,” Way announced. “Spare us and be spared or condemn us and be condemned!”


The cult leader was visibly moved. He sighed and turned to his people. “Indeed it is a just choice! Let’s condemn them.”


The crowd screamed approval and dragged the Elders toward the guillotine where two white horses waited to draw and quarter their bodies after the ghastly deed was accomplished. Elder Curds bit several members of the mob, but to no avail. All seemed hopeless, until a voice whispered into the ear of Elder Way. “I believe your words. Have no fear.”


Way looked up. It was the jailer who looked like a Hitler-Nelson crossbreed. He gave Curds a wink and whistled “I Was Walking through the Park One Day” to appear casual.


They reached the steps of the guillotine—and just as the wicked task was about to be carried out…a sweet sound filled the air—It was singing. The crowd silenced and immediately gave way around the jailer. He sang “On the Road Again” in a German accent, and the mob, like clockwork, commenced clapping hands and stomping feet. Elders Curds and Way leaped upon the two white horses. The stallions reared like “Hi Ho Silver” and bounded into the woods with the Saturday warriors.

 

Chapter 4: Rising Complications

 


On through the dreary swampland rode the tireless Elders. In the near distance could be heard the cries of bloodthirsty tracking hounds and their mobster masters. The dogs had picked up Elder Curds’ Heber City scent and were quickly gaining ground. Thinking fast, the Elders disguised themselves as Mexican peasants and disguised the horses as donkeys. They sat as the mob came upon them. Politely they asked if the two Senores had seen two Elders ride by on white horses. Way pulled one hand out from under his Sombrero and pointed thataway. The mob continued on.


Way, realizing the hounds would soon pick up Curds’ smell again, yanked off his companion’s clip-on tie and hung it on a limb to confuse them. The Elders rode on through the day and into the night. Thus passed the second day and the third day also, and when the third night had passed away, they arrived at the Mission President’s mansion.


He came out to greet them. Standing there in his high boots and baggy knickers; a monocle in one eye, and a horse whip under one arm, and a grimace like General Patton’s, he proceeded to rebuke Curds for not wearing a tie. With no time to hear explanations he charged that Elders Curds and Way be sent to the Russian Front. Quietly, Elder Way whispered to the president that this was not an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes” but a chapter in “Curds and Way.” After noticeable embarrassment the president changed his punishment.


“I transfer you to spend the rest of your mission in Greenland!”


It was early the next morning that Elders Curds and Way reverently boarded the 727 on its course for the wastes of northern Greenland. The stewardess smiled. Way asked her if she knew anything about the Mormon Church. She slapped him. It must have been the way he asked.


Inside, Way sat next to a Southern Evangelist and asked him if he’d ever heard of the Osmonds. He hadn’t.


The gentleman Curds sat next to looked quite odd. His white hair stood straight up and his eyes glistened like a cobra’s. He was very nervous. Sweat rolled off his face. As the plane left ground and began to climb, Curds tried to start a gospel conversation.


“Did you know Johnny Miller is a Mormon?” he asked.


The sweat rolled even faster and Curds was forced to ask for some napkins to build a dam between the man’s seat and his. Suddenly (always suddenly), the man reached into his briefcase and grabbed a sawed-off plexiglass shotgun.


“Would you believe Gordon Jump’s a Mormon, too?” Curds asked.


“Shut up!” the man exclaimed. He pounced into the aisle with the gun and turned to the passengers with a grimacing scowl. “Nobody move, pilgrims!”


“That’s pretty good!” complimented Way.


“Thanks,” said the man. “I’ve been working on it since I saw ‘Red River’.”


The passengers screamed, as all good passengers should in an intense situation. It amused the hijacker to see everyone frozen with fear. He drooled slightly to scare the smaller children.


“We’re taking this plane to Cuba!” he announced.


A wave of disappointment hit the passengers.


“How cliché!” heckled a man in back.


“Why can’t we do something original?” a woman scoffed.


The hijacker blushed and frowned. “Well…I’m open for suggestions.”


“Monte Carlo!” a lady shouted.


“How about Venice?” another suggested.


“Ain’t seen my brother in Topeka for a spell,” an old man muttered.


A bitter argument erupted. The hijacker had almost decided to go ahead and continue on to Greenland when a man stood and offered Beirut as a possible neutral point. The plane changed course across the Atlantic.


As time passed the people began to tell jokes and sing “One Hundred Bottles of Beer” but Curds and Way protested stubbornly until it was revised to “One Hundred Pitchers of Milk.”


Finally, the passengers grew sleepy. Curds and Way had also joined in the slumber and were dreaming tranquil dreams. Little did they know, the plane had just flown into the heart of a massive oceanic storm! The turbulence was building. Slowly the passengers began to awaken as the sound of stewardesses bouncing between floor and ceiling filled the cabin.


Suddenly, a blot of lightning struck the outboard engine. This greatly perplexed the pilots since they were in a plane and not a boat. Nevertheless the plane lost control. A panic filled the aircraft.


“We’re all going to die!” shouted an optimist.


“I can’t swim!” cried an ignoramus.


“Oh no! Help, help!” screamed someone uncreative.


“We’re going to be rammed!” yelled a “Ben Hur” fan.


Thinking quickly, Elder Way stood and gripped the seat in front of him. He began to teach a “Plan of Salvation” discussion. The evangelist next to him rose and offered an alternative “Plan of Salvation” at half-price. But the majority remained attentive to Way and many promised in their hearts that if they lived they’d become Mormon and grow a garden.


The plane was now in a nose dive for the deep blue Atlantic. Curds and Way tried to calm the passengers in their final moments with a song and dance routine.


There was a big kaploii-splash. The wings broke off and the plane dove under the surface. When it rose, again, it flew out of the sea like a porpoise and came gliding across the waves to a stop. The hijacker aimed his sawed-off shotgun at the emergency exit and blew a hole in the side of the plane. A frenzy ensued as the passengers grabbed one another’s hair to evacuate into the cold ocean. The plane exploded on cue as the last soul leaped out.


The people shouted praises of gratitude at having survived the tragic ordeal.


“What do we do now?” asked a man as he trod water.


“I guess we drown,” another man suggested.


“Land! Land!” someone cried.


On the horizon an island jutted above the waves. Everyone began to swim for the island. Elders Curds and Way walked most of the way as missionaries are often prone to do.

 

Chapter 5: Elder’s Island

 


All survived the grueling swim to the beach. Upon arrival there was much rejoicing among the yum-yum trees and brik-a-brik bushes and other tropical foliage. Way stood before the crowd and announced this was not a time of rejoicing, but a time of recommitment. He challenged them all right there to be baptized in the ocean. The people, as they had no tar and feathers, wrapped the missionaries in seaweed and threw sand on them.


Incensed, Curds and Way climbed to the highest spot on the island where all could hear their words.


“Repent all ye ends of the island!” they cried. “How soon do ye forget the promises ye made on the airplane. Ye stiff-necked people anyway!”


The people began to see themselves as filthy and wretched creatures. They immediately repented and asked for baptism. The Elders were shocked. “This is better than Jonah at Nineveh!” Curds commented.


And so the people were baptized and there were no contentions among them for the space of thirty-eight minutes. And now many were lifted up in pride such as the wearing of fancy grass skirts and ornate coconut caps. When forty-two minutes had passed away there began to be divisions among the people. Those who followed Elder Curds began to be known as the Curdites, and those who followed Way began to be known as the Wayites. And forty-five minutes had passed away since the people had repented.


Elder Way kept a record of the proceedings of the people in his day:

 

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.

 


With hatred in their veins, the magnificent Wayite and mighty Curdite armies marched from their separate ends of the island to do battle at the island’s center hill. From the ranks of each was heard weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Soon many began to lose fillings and break off incisors, so the majority were content merely to weep and wail.


“Truth, justice, and Elder Way!” chanted the Wayites.


“Waste the slimeballs!” chanted the Curdites.


They reached the top and met each other’s vile stare. The musical sound track faded to a low and ominous drum beat.


Suddenly, Elder Curds screamed and led his army in the ferocious charge. Elder Way joined in the scream and raised his sword in final defiance.


Swords slashed and blood flew in all directions as the massive armies met. Carnage was everywhere. Mothers crying for their children. Wives crying for their husbands. Children crying for their parents. Husbands crying for their children and wives. Single people crying for those that didn’t get cried for.


Elder Curds and Elder Way spied one another from afar off and stalked one another. When their swords clashed, the echo was heard all across the island. It was only a matter of time and Elder Way had knocked the sword from Curds’ hands and stood over him like a vulture and watched him gasp and pant.


Then Elder Way smote off the head of Elder Curds.


“No I didn’t,” said Way.


He smote it with one clean smote.


“I refuse. It’s not consistent with my character to kill my own companion.”


It was a smote long remembered in song and legend.


“You’re not listening. I said ‘no’. It’s a stupid action. In fact this whole violent and tasteless ending has degraded the entire story into cheap sensationalism.”


A smote to end all smotes.


“Ok, I’ll prove it. Elder Curds, stand up and show the Author that your head and neck are still well intact.”


“He’s right. I’m still alive. Rewrite the ending and make it positive and uplifting. Throw in a sunset.”


The Author reminded his characters that he still possessed the ultimate power. The power to end the story.


“Oh, that’s a good one. You think that just—”


 

 

POEMS

 

 

by Gracia Fay Ellwood

 

 

KYRIA SOPHIA

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.


 

 

THE WORLD

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 MECHANIC

 

 

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?














 
(Signed, C.W.)

 

Dear C.W.:


Talk science of course!


Many adults, when they were in junior high school, had to take science courses. Some still bear the emotional scars from trying to memorize the Periodic Table, or finding out what x and y are. For these unfortunate few the fear of science is a terrifying monster. But for you, it will be the key to helping you gain back some of the limelight you’ve been losing all these years.


So here are some things you can talk about at your next party.

 

A Quark’s Quirks


Remember in school being told that matter was made from protons, neutrons, and electrons?


Forget it. (In science we leave the questions the same but change the answers.) Scientists now believe protons and neutrons are themselves made of smaller particles called quarks.


Quarks come in six FLAVORS. (Of course we don’t mean FLAVOR here in the usual sense.)


There’s UP quarks, and DOWN quarks, and STRANGE quarks, and CHARM quarks, and BEAUTY quarks, and TRUTH quarks. (Of course we don’t mean any of these in the usual sense either.)


The particle keeping the quarks together is the GLUON. (We don’t mean glue-on in the usual sense either. Actually nobody knows in what sense we do mean it.)


A simple mnemonic for remembering the six quark flavors is:

 


DOGS UNLIKE CHICKENS SURELY BARK AT TRUCKS.

 


D=DOWN, U=UP, C=CHARM, S=STRANGE, B=BEAUTY, T=TRUTH. (In this case we do mean dog and truck in the usual sense.)


Protons are made of two UP quarks and one DOWN quark. A neutron is made of two DOWN quarks and one UP quark. Electrons are not made of quarks. They are quarkless. Scientists call them leptons—not to be confused with leprechauns.


With these building blocks: quarks, gluons, electrons, you could build an entire universe. (Although you might have trouble finding a buyer.)


If you probe deep enough into anything, eventually you’ll find quarks. Quarks in quarts, quagmires, queens, and quarterbacks.

Self-Paced Review


At the next party, ask people if they’ve ever heard of quarks. If they say no, react as if you’re deeply offended. “Of course you realize Russian grade school children know about quarks. I think this is indicative of the seriousness of the problem in American education today.”

 

The Big Bang


Long ago the entire universe was crammed into a grape. As you might imagine, things were crowded and the whole thing exploded. Ever since then we’ve all been growing apart.


This is the Big Bang Theory.


Just after the BIG BANG, there were no atoms, not even protons and neutrons—just quarks and electrons and a whole lot of light.


Think of it—for a brief instant we were all together, all of us, in our most fundamental quark parts, a quark soup at the center of the universe.

Self-Paced Review


Imagine yourself decomposed into quarks along with the rest of the matter in the universe just before the BIG BANG. Explain how this helps you have warm and friendly thoughts toward the Bering Strait.

 

You’re Going to be a Big Star!


Since the BIG BANG, everything has been getting farther and farther apart, as galaxies continue the same motion which began with the explosion.


How long will this go on?


Maybe forever. But then again, maybe not. If the universe is massive enough, it might slow down, stop, and start collapsing.


Then everything would be going back together again, heading for what we might call THE BIG CRUNCH.


Some scientists (one, actually) call this the ACCORDION UNIVERSE.


If it’s happened before, then we’re all made of recycled materials. In a former universe, parts of you might have been a star, or a rock, or a rock star, or a garbage scow on the RXYSTYREUN River.


Think of it: Billions and billions of stars made up of billions and billions of quarks, all mixed together time and time again into QUARK SOUP and then BANG.

Self-Paced Review


1. If you know someone who wants to be an actress, tell her you definitely think she’s star material.


2. Practice saying “billions and billions of stars” like Carl













Sagan.

 

There’s Nothing to It


Do you remember in school being told that most of matter was empty space?


Not so.


The reason people said it is that most of the weight of any atom is concentrated at its center, a place called the nucleus. The nucleus is ten thousand times smaller in size than the atom itself.


Electrons don’t take up any space. They are truly point particles. So the only thing to give a dimension to matter is the nucleus. That’s why we were told in school that most of matter is empty space.


But now we know that the nucleus itself is made up of protons and neutrons, which themselves are made of quarks and gluons.


Quarks and gluons are also point particles.


Ready for a summary? Electrons don’t take up any space. Quarks, the building blocks of the nucleus, don’t take up any space, either.


We therefore conclude: All matter is empty space.

Self-Paced Review


How could you use this information to rationalize breaking your diet by eating a hot fudge sundae?

 

 

Metric Madness


Forget any complex conversions. Just remember that a meter is about as long as a yard; a kilogram is equivalent to two pounds. To convert from degrees Fahrenheit to degrees celsius, subtract thirty and divide by two. That’s close enough for a conversation at a party.


For example:





 
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

 


Now that you’ve mastered metric, how can you use it at a party?


Consider the following examples from actual conversation.

 

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


Phone your local high school coach and suggest the football field be switched to the metric system before the next home game. If he objects, tell him that Russian football is metric.

 

Science Buzz Words and Phrases

Standard Deviation


The Bureau of Standards at Washington, D.C., is a storehouse of measurement standards. There is a standard kilogram stored there, and people come from all over the world to get their kilograms standardized.


Upon first hearing the term standard deviation, you might suppose that the Bureau of Standards has some crazy locked up in a cell, and that people from all over the world bring their deviations to Washington to get them standardized.


But, alas, such is not the case. It’s true, of course, that among politicians in Washington there are plenty of deviations. However, none of them are standard.


Actually the term standard deviation is a measure of how bad the results are from an experiment. For example, if the standard deviation value is as big as the experimental result, then we have what is called, in the experimental world, garbage.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle


Heisenberg became famous by stating, “I don’t know—I won’t ever know, and neither will anybody else.” This is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.


If you want more detail, Heisenberg said that when you make a measurement, you’ll end up messing up the thing you’re trying to measure—it’s like taking the temperature of your bath water using an 800 pound thermometer. Putting the thermometer in the bathtub will lower the temperature of the bathwater.


Just as we always hurt the one we love, we always mess up the system we measure. We can live with that for large systems, but for small atomic systems, the measurement alters the system unpredictably.


So what you ask?


In high school you were taught that electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom in the same way planets orbit the sun.


Forget it.


We don’t know that for sure, and according to Heisenberg, we won’t ever know.


If we wanted to see if electrons orbit the nucleus we’d first have to see an electron. In order to do that, we’d have to bounce some light off it. But doing that will kick the electron out of any orbit it might have been in before we did the measurement.


That’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Self-Paced Review


1. Discuss the following statement: “Heisenberg slept here— possibly.”


2. What do people mean when they use the term “exact science?” Hint: Other people are uncertain about things, but scientists are certain about their uncertainty.

 

Entropy


Entropy measures the degree of disorder and chaos. The more entropy the more disorder.


With a little practice you’ll soon be able to spot occasions in which entropy has increased.


Taking a bag of peanuts and a bag of cashews and pouring them into one bowl and stirring them increases entropy.


Tornadoes increase entropy.


Putting ice in a drink increases entropy.


Spreading fertilizer on your lawn increases entropy.


Throwing a dish at someone during an argument increases entropy.

Self-Paced Review


Visit a friend’s apartment and if it’s messy, tell him/her that he/she must be running an entropy factory.

 

Science Demonstrations You Can Perform at a Party

The Expanding Universe Demonstration


First of all, always carry an empty balloon around with you in a pocket or purse. When you first purchase the balloon, take a black felt-tip pen and make two or three dozen small circles on the balloon, about the size of a dime.


Then at a party, when a sudden lull occurs when everyone seems to be having a good time, stand on the refreshment table so that all the guests will get a good view of your demonstration. Simply take the balloon and blow it up a little, then stop to show it to everyone.


“Now as I blow it up even further, watch what happens to the distance between the black dots on the balloon.”


Blow it up more.


“What did you observe?”


There will be silence, except for a few chuckles because some low-life clowns always make fun when they notice someone standing on the punch table with his foot in the liver paté.


Finally someone will say, “The dots got farther apart.”


“Good, Hal! All the dots got farther apart from one another, although no one spot can be picked out as the “center” of the expansion. That’s the way science views the expansion of the universe. Every observer in the universe views the expansion in the same manner.”


That is the end of the demonstration. Be sure to clean the liver paté off your shoes.

Black Hole Demonstration


Always carry a small, single sheet of rubber, formed into a circle of radius big enough to fit snugly over a standard size punch bowl. This rubber sheet should have a grid drawn in so it looks like a checkerboard.


Fit the rubber sheet snugly over the top of the punch bowl, then announce, “Hey, everybody, come here!”


Soon everyone will be gathered at your side.


Simply take a small steel marble from your pocket and set it on top of the rubber sheet fitted over the punch bowl.


“Now what do you see?” you ask.


“The marble sunk down a little and the lines on the rubber are distorted,” the response will be.


“That’s right. Now watch this.” Withdraw from your pocket a heavy lead ball and place it on the rubber sheet. It will sink down even further.


“Hal, tell me what you observed.”


“It’s sunk down more, and the lines are even more distorted.”


“That’s right. A large object like a star distorts the space-time continuum around it. Now let’s see what happens if the star is very heavy. This will simulate a black hole.”


At this point, look around for something very heavy. A bowling ball is ideal. Place the bowling ball onto the rubber sheet. Be sure and step aside in case the ball breaks the rubber sheet and falls into the punch bowl and cracks it, spilling punch all over the floor. With a little practice you’ll soon be able to do this demonstration and not get a drop on you.


Now ask, “Did you see what happened?”


At this point, the hostess may get hysterical just because you broke her precious punch bowl. Tell her you’re sorry, but then also remind her that in Russia people don’t have to apologize for having a healthy interest in science.

Self-Paced Review


List a potential use for a Black Hole. (ANSWER: Trash Compacter [“Hal, don’t put your hand in the compacter…Hal?”])

 

The Power of Being a Ten


It’s very simple really, and yet, once you master scientific notation, you can sound very convincing as a science expert.


It’s all based on powers of ten.

 


101 = 10 (one zero after the 1.)


102 = 100 (two zeros after the 1. Say it “ten to the second.”)


1023 (23 zeros after the 1. Say it “ten to the twenty-third.)

 

 


Scientific notation can be used to talk about very big numbers. For example, a gram-mole of any element contains exactly 6.02 x 1023 atoms.


It can also be used to talk about very small numbers. For example

 


10-1 = 1/10 (pronounced ten to the minus one)


10-2 = 1/100 (pronounced ten to the minus two)

 


For example, the amount of charge on a proton is 1/6 x 10-19 Coulombs. (“Ten to the minus nineteen.”)

Self-Paced Quiz


Memorize: “So we got this electron, see, with a charge of one point six times ten to the minus nineteen Coulombs, and it’s moving with a velocity of two point four times ten to the sixth meters per second in the presence of a uniform magnetic field of field intensity four point seven times ten to the minus three Tesla. And what we want to know is the radius of the circular path it follows. You following this okay so far, Hal?…”

 

How to Spot and Avoid Real Science Experts at a Party


The last thing in the world you want is to walk up to a real scientist and start talking science. And so you need a way of picking out the scientists in the crowd.


It used to be relatively easy to pick out scientists. In ancient times the scientist was the one with the hunchbacked assistant named Igor.


Even a few years ago it was easier to spot them. It used to be that the scientist was the one who smelled like a beach blanket on the last day of a three-day holiday.


But nowadays scientists are hard to pick out. For one thing, increasing numbers of them are women. So now, for the most part, scientists look just like regular people.


How can you find out if a person at a party is a scientist or not?


Easy, just ask a disguised question.





 
Question Number One
: “Excuse me, but do you deal much with moles in your work?”


A scientist will immediately think of a gram-mole used in chemistry, which is the amount of an element which contains 6/02 x 1023 atoms.


If you ask a scientist this question, he/she will answer, “Well, sure, whenever I’m doing research…”


The non-scientist may be insulted because you think they live underground with moles. Oh well, all strategies have some drawback or another.


Question Number Two: “Can you tell me the name of a superconductor?”


The non-scientist will name a train conductor or else someone like Leonard Bernstein.


The scientist will mention indium or tin.





 
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.”


The scientist will say, “I doubt it. Heavy water occurs only 0.25 percent in natural water.”


The non-scientist will say, “So? Set it down if it’s so heavy.”

 

Dr. Goodstate’s Final Message


So the next time you’re at a party, remember to talk science. You’ll find that once you begin, it’s hard to stop. And you may even begin to notice things you’ve never noticed before.


For example, if putting the cashews and almonds in with the peanuts increases the entropy of the universe, does picking them out again decrease the entropy of the universe? Well, maybe so.


But on the other hand, having the energy to pick out the cashews and almonds came from eating, and once ingested, the food you eat will never be food again, and so in a way, there’s an entropy increase in eating, and so perhaps the increase is larger than the decrease.


It’s something to think about, right?

 


 

 

THE KING’S HEIR

 

 

by Martine Bates

 

 


The moonlight made the pale gray-blue of Clytie’s eyes seem almost transparent.


“The spirit of a man-child troubles my dreams, Clytie,” King Camlach said as he lay in the dark, staring at the high stone ceiling. Seven moons cast a white light on his face and bare chest and arms.


Clytie could see a film of sweat on his forehead, though the room was cold. She pulled the linen up to cover her bare shoulders as she turned onto her side to face him. Fear struggled with love.


“This burden grows too large for you, my lord prince. I would share it.” Her voice was soft, almost childlike, but she knew King Camlach recognized her strength.


“You cannot,” was all he said.


She was quiet, unnaturally still.


Camlach put up a hand to rub the sweat from his eyes, but midway his large, square hand froze, fixed. Then a strange, grating sound began to escape from between his clenched teeth and became a deep cry, as if a great pain had clutched him. He sat up and his raised hand came down upon Clytie’s shoulder, pushing her hard onto her back.


“No, Clytie. I command you—I am your king! Obey!”


Though her eyes were open, they saw naught.


Then he was on his knees, and with both hands he shook her. “I am your king, Clytie. I forbid it! I command you to…”

 


Clytie leaned on the white marble casing of the window and looked out upon her beloved country, Verduma. Though the Dawn-Month had only just begun, there was enough reddish light to allow her to see the land as it reached far and flat to the horizon, with only an occasional gentle swell. All through the Months of Darkness the yellow-green alograss and the darker green pampagrass had grown lush in the cool, long night. But now the flowers would begin to bloom once more. Already little goldencups and violet sundewsies had begun to sparkle like tiny jewels in the dark sea of grass. Soon irisleaf would flower in great blankets of deep blue, and the lace-lillies, as high as Clytie’s knee, and the tallest plant in Verduma, would show their rare white glory.


The Verdumates, since the taming of the wingwands, had long since ceased to live in cities, and their simple, low-built dwellings, all made of the white stone that was quarried so abundantly, dotted the countryside as far as the eye could see.


Clytie’s servant, Soffea, bustled into the chamber that was bare but for the ermine-strewn bed, a great chest of bronze, and the leathern stool upon which Clytie sat at the open window. A glowfly chrystal shed gentle light into the centre of the room.


“You shall grow fat and wearisome with all your gazing, Mistress,” Soffea said, as she knelt to comb her mistress’s heavy white hair that brushed the floor.


Clytie laughed, but the sweetness of that sound had a bitter ring to it. “You are half right, Soffea, and that makes you half a wit, which I have always suspected you to be, though I have loved you just the same.”


Soffea, though simple and untutored, had the wisdom of hard work and years, and knew enough to realize when she was being teased. She pulled the comb through with a little tug.


“Aye, aye, so you say. But I’ll soon be thinking you’ve been bewitched, what with your gazing for hour on end, and refusing his majesty’s calls, and now answering in riddles.”


Clytie winced and put a restraining hand on Soffea’s arm. A gentle wind touched Clytie’s face and with it came the scent of freshly cut brome-clover through the window. A wingwand must be feeding nearby, she thought. She turned towards Soffea and picked up her servant’s wrinkled hands in her smooth, white ones. Her voice was quiet now.


“No, Soffea, not bewitched. You see, I—I’m saying goodbye.”


Soffea’s hands were still, and Clytie thought she felt them grow cooler.


Clytie laughed faintly and said, “I shall get fat, Soffea—I’m pregnant. I must go to the Templara of Women.”


There was a sparkle of joy in Soffea’s eyes, and then the strong, freckled hands covered Clytie’s own.


But even as Soffea opened her mouth to speak her happiness, Clytie stilled her with a gesture of her head. “I carry the prince,” she said, “the King’s heir.”


Clytie could not bear to look upon her beloved servant who had cared for her since she had been brought to the Templar of Kings as a young girl. She felt the hands grow cold as ice around her own, but her maidservant’s grip did not lessen.


When she spoke, Soffea’s voice was crackly. “If he has done this…”


“Nay, woman, do not say it and risk blasphemy against our lord the King. Do you not think that I have the power to conceive at will and choose the sex of the child, as even the most common-born woman of Verduma? I take this upon myself, willingly.” Clytie’s gray-blue eyes shone through long, ash-colored lashes, and her back was very straight.


Soffea crumpled to the floor, though her watery eyes still searched the girl’s face. “You do not know what you have done, mistress,” she said weakly, as though there was little breath in her.


“Do I not, Soffea?” Clytie replied, her voice edged with pain. “I knew the Chant of the dead Queens almost as soon as I could speak. I know that Verdumate Kings, in bringing a male child into the world, however lusty and lively the child may be, will kill the woman that bears the child. It is not in any known writings of a king who has produced an heir in his youth, waiting until gathering years force him to petition the Populace for a fit receptacle. Always there has been a young woman that was willing, whether for wealth, or title (however briefly she may hold it) or to escape her own drear life in honor and fame. But I, Soffea, I have wealth and title already, and my life is filled with joy and love.” Clytie turned back to the window. “But therein lies my reason—for living and for dying.” Clytie’s eyes were fixed on the horizon as the redness of the wound between earth and sky deepened. “This will be the first time that ever a prince was sired by a woman of noble blood, and by her own consent. But you must be strong for me, Soffea. Though something within takes me upon this road, yet I cannot help being afraid.”


Then Soffea’s strong arms were around the girl, and the clean scent of acanthus flower and cottongrass filled Clytie with momentary peace.


“Sing me the Song of the One Mother, Soffea,” Clytie whispered.


And just as softly Soffea began:

 

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

them…

 


Soffea’s voice closed over the words abruptly, and she bowed deeply, keeping her eyes cast to the floor.


Without looking, Clytie knew the King had entered her chamber. She did not speak, but turned back to the window. In her mind’s eye she could see him, his red-gold curls seeming to flame in his suppressed anger, the deep chest filling with air like a bellows.


“You do not answer my summons. Must I come to you now?” he said angrily.


“I am the queen,” she said.


He walked slowly and deliberately to her side at the window. “Well, Clytie, while you have been idling your hours in song…”


“The Song of the One Mother is prophecy, my lord prince,” Clytie interrupted.


He bowed mockingly. “Well have you learned the privileges of a queen, it seems, my love. Many harvests have come and gone while you alone have shared my bed, but never have you spoken to me so.” He turned back to the window. “But, as I was saying, in the days since you have become queen, I have made preparations for our departure. My messengers have sought diligently for the Wizard Nimroth and now bring me word that he will not come to us. He repays me well for my disrespect of his art in the past, though he knows that none besides himself has the energy to change your fate.”


Clytie looked up. “Do you think he can?”


Camlach cast her a long look and then said, “No. But a man desperate will search in unlikely places.”


“I have heard that the Lady Lamia has great powers in the matters of women,” she said.


Camlach was silent for a moment, and then he said slowly, “I have heard strange things recently of what she does with her powers within the walls of the Templara of Women. But one thing I know of a certainty, she in her great age has witnessed the birth of two kings and did not once save the life of the queen.” Then he turned to leave the room. “Prepare yourself. We leave at the hour of Low Wind.”

 


Clytie learned that King Camlach had personally chosen the wingwands for their journey from his full stable of arthropods. The king’s mount was called Nightshade, and he was still almost wild. His long insect-body was black, and he chafed muscularly at the saddle which was also black. His membranous wings were midnight blue—so deep a blue that the markings of black could hardly be seen. The wingspan, almost three times the height of a man, was spectacular. He was a noble wingwand and worthy of a royal rider.


Clytie’s wingwand had also been chosen carefully. Called Floating Flower, its long, slender body was of opalescent white, and its wings, though strong, were of the most delicate coral shade and almost sheer. Clytie patted her, and the softness of her outer shell told Clytie that she had only recently emerged from her cocoon. On the antennae and along the edge of the wings an encrusting of tiny chrystal-like growths glittered in the soft light of the stable.


Clytie and Camlach, along with Soffea and the king’s retinue flew for some hours in the half-darkness until Clytie saw an unusual, high-built house in the distance, and it was there that the wingwands landed. As the servants placed thick, black stockings over the antennae of the wingwands, Clytie and Camlach walked to the door of the dwelling.


A small, wizened man opened the door, his eyes over-bold from long years of service to a lenient master. He bowed and silently gestured to them to enter. Making little noises, he hurried the group into a dark, close room, shuffling them along as an old woman would her dear herd of acalpas. Only Camlach and Clytie stayed in the hall. Finally the old man led the King and Queen to a stairway that was constructed of a substance Clytie had never seen before.


“What is this, beneath my feet?” Camlach asked with suspicion in his eyes.


“My master says it is a substance called ‘tree’ that he brought from another world where the plants grow many times as high as a man, and yet the wingwands are small enough to fit in the palm of the hand.”


Camlach laughed and shook his head. “See how you drive me to seek counsel from a conjurer who has lost reality, Clytie.”


At the top of the stair, the servant opened a door, and Clytie beheld another elderly man, bent over a book-stacked podium. He looked up, and she noticed a certain translucency in his pale, wrinkled skin.


He stepped forward and bowed deeply. “Your majesty, King Camlach, and Clytie, Queen Mother. Rarely do we receive visitors— rarer still such illustrious ones.”


Camlach answered impatiently. “It seems you know much already, Nimroth. You know Clytie has conceived a male child, for you address her as Queen Mother. Your spies have served you well.”


“No, your majesty, not spies. But then you and the people of Verduma have always underestimated my powers. I am sorry I could not answer your summons, but I have been using all my time and strength to solve a problem of my own,” the wizard said calmly.


“Ah. But you must use all your arts to help me, now, Wizard. If you do not find a way to bend this dread fate of the Queen Mothers, Clytie will die. She is my lady, and I would have her live!”


Suddenly the wizard whirled round, his eyes burning. He lifted one arm so that the cloak fell from it. Clytie started, for she had heard many tales of the power in a wizard’s hands. But he only stood still, holding his arm straight up, the hand fisted. “Do you see this, Camlach?”


Clytie looked harder at the arm the wizard had bared and realized it had the consistency of very dense, flesh-colored glass.


“A lifetime of magic has begun to take its toll. My body is fading, so to speak.” There was great bitterness in his voice, and he lowered his arm. “Fading—do you see? I do not have much time left in this world, and still I have no apprentice. Do not trouble me with your poor lovelorn tears when I must spend every bit of my power to keep the Old Power from disappearing from Verduma forever!”


Unused to being spoken to in this manner, King Camlach seemed too swallowed up in his own pain to understand. “So you cannot help? It is as I expected. Come, Clytie,” he said and reached out his hand to her.


“I am sorry, Nimroth,” she said. Then Clytie saw pity in his old, shining eyes.


“Wait,” Nimroth said. “Perhaps there is something I can give you, though it may be of no use to you.” He turned and opened a small silver chest, half buried beneath dusty books and yellowed papyri.


From it, Clytie saw him draw forth a dagger: small it was and of curious workmanship.


The wizard held it almost reverently. “It has a spirit,” he said, “and will travel with a wanderer into other worlds, where its blade can pierce even the shadows of men. It is called Shebril. May it serve you well, Clytie.” Then he turned back to the podium to leaf through a large, ancient-looking book.


After they came out of the house, Clytie and Camlach walked into a glade on the far side of a clover-covered knoll to say their parting words. Like all women in Verduma Clytie would go to the Templara of Women to give birth to her son, but, because of her position, she would spend her entire confinement within its walls.


Soon they were in flight, Soffea leading the way and Clytie glancing backwards at Camlach and his entourage as they flew in the opposite direction. The wind that had risen again dried Clytie’s tears before they could fall. In that moment her love conquered once again her fear and sorrow for her own life, and she rejoiced at the son she would give Camlach.

 


The Templara lay in a shallow ravine, an unassuming building surrounded by an abundance of ghostflower and blood-petal. Although she was treated royally, Clytie never saw the Lady Lamia, but Clytie was much too preoccupied with her own thoughts and feelings to care overmuch. The seed of fear, which had found no growth in the white heat of her love for Camlach, now flourished in the quiet, placid solitude of the templara. The trumpet skies of lavender and pink during the Dawn-Month had passed, and then a crescent of golden sun peeked over the horizon. Almost every day during the Months of the Risen Sun, Clytie wandered the uninhabited fields for miles, searching for little beds of stempellows and making chains for her hair out of shiny bee-gems.


Then one day as she rose from her bed, she felt a dull ache grip her abdomen and then release her.


“Soffea, summon the Lady Lamia,” Clytie commanded, as she lay back down on her bed. Through her tears, Clytie saw Soffea run from the room. “Oh, Camlach, I don’t want to die,” Clytie whispered.


But in a short time Soffea flitted back into the room, and there was confusion and terror in her face. “My lady, what shall we do? As I came to the door of the Lady Lamia’s chambers I overheard her speaking to one of her servants. ‘It must appear to be an unfortunate accident,’ she said, ‘but the child must die. Then with Camlach having lost his chance for an heir, the reign of Kings will end with his own untimely death. There will be nothing stopping me from taking the throne of the kingdom.’”


For a moment Clytie could not speak. Finally she rose, and her gray-blue eyes were as pale as a rain cloud. “Then there is no hope,” she said. She walked to the chest in her room and drew from it Shebril. “Come, Soffea. We must flee.”


But Soffea only gasped, for in the doorway stood two of Lamia’s white-robed servants.


“Your hour is upon you,” one of them said. “Why did you not call?”


“I would leave this place of death, now!” Clytie said, but at that moment the two hooded servants drew daggers from the folds of their gowns and came toward her. Clytie stabbed out at the one on the left, and, with a shower of blinding blue and white sparks, the dagger pierced the body of her assailant, who fell with a short scream.


“Mistress, mistress,” Soffea cried.


Clytie turned to see the other servant crumpled on the floor, penned under Soffea’s apron and struggling wildly. Clytie brought Shebril down into the trapped woman, and she was still.


Together, Clytie and Soffea stepped into the hallway. No one was to be seen, and they stumbled and ran to the doors of the Templara. As they stopped to open the doors, Clytie felt a hand of great strength suddenly grab her braided hair from behind.


Soffea screamed and froze. “The Lady Lamia!”


An evil voice hissed in Clytie’s ear, “Fool, fool!” Lamia wound Clytie’s hair around her powerful hand. “I can help you to live, Clytie. It is so easy to kill the babe within your body—so easy. Then you needn’t die. Let me help you.”


As Clytie struggled, the tears came to her eyes. Then, “Shebril!” she cried, and in one supple movement she twisted around and wielded the fay blade. Like steel slashing through cascading water, the dagger lopped off her hair.


Into the courtyard they ran, and then, jumping onto two wingwands grazing there, they flew. Then Clytie knew no more.

 


When she awoke she was lying on the ground and a number of fair, young people stood staring down at her. Clytie felt no pain and she sat up.


“Where am I?” she said, but before she had said it, she knew the people had sensed her thought, and, though no one replied, she knew the answer at once.


“This is Elysia, the land of the Pre-Mortals. You are a stranger here.”


Then Clytie noticed the sweetness of their faces and the lack of judgment in their eyes.


“Who is it that you seek?” they seemed to ask.


“The Prince,” she replied.


They looked up, and one pointed to two tall young men standing a way off, one ruddy and one dark.


Shebril lay beside her, and, picking it up, she ran to them.


They paid her no heed until she stood before them.


“Prince,” she said, “I am come to bring you to your mortality.”


They looked at her, and the one with red-gold curls spoke.


“My time is not yet. I will not come.”


“Life still burns in my body, prince,” Clytie said, “but the longer I tarry, the lower that fire ebbs. Come now!”


“I am destined for royalty. Can you prove you are she who brings me to my rightful place?”


Across the pale fields a white-robed figure approached them, and then stopped near them, peering as though he could not see them plainly. Now he cried, “Kedmir, hear your mother and follow!”


Clytie turned toward the figure. “Nimroth!” she exclaimed.


“Yes. I cannot return the way you must, Clytie, for I am an intruder here by my magic. In crossing the Valleys of Pain, you have reached this place, but your mortal body is kept alive only by my arts. Go quickly.” With that, he turned back to the wide fields, but not before he and the dark young man had exchanged a warm and pain-filled glance.


Then Nimroth was gone, and for the first time the dark man spoke. “The Gate-Keeper is there,” he said, pointing. “I will take you.”


At last, Clytie and the two young men arrived before a great figure of black, bearing a large metal ring upon which hung two keys. He stood by two arches of silver, in which were doors of white, smoky glass. Without a word, he opened a door, and through it the man with the red-gold curls disappeared. Clytie stared at the door and then at the Gate-Keeper.


“You may enter, Favored One,” said a hollow voice, “but go quickly, or the door will be closed forever.”


Clytie’s heart, though fearful, was now swollen with joy. She knew that as Kedmir had gone through the door, her child had been born and that Nimroth, by some art of his magic, had kept her body alive. “Please, only wait a little longer, still,” she pleaded and turned back to face the dark young man who was with her.


“I do not know why, but it is hard for me to leave you behind. I would bring you with me if I could,” she said. And then, taking Shebril, she lay the dagger at his feet, and he smiled at her. Then she ran, ran as fast as thought toward the door that the Gate-Keeper was opening for her.


Suddenly a voice behind her cried, “No! Not that door! It leads to the land of the dead.”


She stopped and turned to see the young man raise his hand, and from it a white light beamed, causing the other door to burst open. Wielding Shebril, he slew the Gate-Keeper, and together they ran through the door.


Clytie fell into darkness.

 


She awoke to the scent of acanthus flower and cottongrass and the feel of a wet cloth on her face as Soffea ministered to her. As her eyes flickered open, Soffea dropped to her knees and, casting her glance to the floor, cried softly, “My lady, Queen, One Mother of Verduma!”


At her words, Clytie saw Nimroth enter the room, and he, too, bowed deeply. “Twins, Your Majesty. Twin sons! One as like as Camlach as could be and one like Camlach’s father.”


“And yet not like him,” whispered Clytie. “He is your apprentice you have been seeking, Nimroth. It was his power that brought me—and yours.”


Nimroth laughed, a merry laugh that filled the room. “All those hours pouring over the lore-books for an answer, and it lay in the song of the One Mother, ‘She shall bear a son, and yet not a son…to meld the power of the word and the power of the law…’ A child’s nursery song!” He shook his head and then said soberly, “I thank you, Queen Clytie, and fear it is none too soon. And now, there is one who waits like a caged animal to speak to you. Shall I send him?”


Clytie smiled wanly and lifted a hand to touch the shining white hair that was now cut to her shoulders by the dagger. “Lamia…,” she whispered.


“Her position is no longer needed, now that the One Mother lives. Camlach’s men rout her even now as we speak.”


Clytie only touched her hair. “Camlach loved my hair…”


But then the King was kneeling at her bedside, and in the pure yellow sunshine of the long Morning Month, they embraced.


 

 

FIRST LIPS

 

 

by James “The Puff” Wright

 

 


Within the walls of the Provo Home for the Terminally Bummed was a small, plain room where Puff Jimbo sat listlessly flipping the channels on his Cable TV. He found an old Stallone movie about a Vietnam Vet who changes history with his shirt off, but after a few moments grew bored. He flipped over to the President’s State of the Union Workout Show. “Richard Simmons, President! What’s this place coming to?” he thought, disgustedly wrenching the controls on the television to “off.”


He heard a knock on the door. “Who is it?” he yelled. He groaned softly as he heard a familiar voice. “We wanna party with You!!”


He sighed and opened the door. Filling the entryway was a striking figure wearing a Big Boy suit, complete with styrofoam cheeseburger. The figure smiled; “How ya doing, Puff?”


“As opposed to what?” Jimbo answered as he shut the door behind the unwelcome intruder.


“Ah, cheer up,” said the figure, whose nametag read “Bob.” “You’ve been moping around in here for months. Ain’t it time you picked up where you left off?” He found and started leafing through a stray copy of Hugger’s World.


“Pick what up?” snapped Jimbo. “And put that magazine down. That stuff’s ancient history.”


“Looks pretty well-read to me. ‘Puff Jimbo—Hugger of the Year’,” he read. “You’re still the best there is, ya know. The Olympic Committee decided to strip the Gold from that Soviet hugger for using sensory enhancement devices; you deserved the Gold, and now it’s really yours. That’s one reason why I came here today.”


Jimbo smiled listlessly for a moment, recalling the summer Games and the months preceding them; it had been several months since then, all of which he had spent here in the Home. “Yeah. The World’s Greatest Hugger. Sensory enhancement or no, I should’ve beaten her. Big Brenda Bukowski made me look like an idiot in front of most of the planet. I don’t deserve that Gold. Let her keep it.”


“Look,” Bob countered. “She had the enhancers turned up so high she could’ve melted the Washington Monument. Anyone but you would’ve died from the shock; that you’re still alive proves how good you are. You’re the best there is, but you’re still human.”


“Big deal. You’ve seen the tapes; I didn’t just lose to her; Big Brenda made me look like a blathering slob. I don’t care how she did it, because she did, and others could too; I just don’t plan on subjecting myself to that again.”


Bob was silent for a moment before speaking again. “There’s another reason why I came here. I have a job for you.

 


“Do you remember much about the layout of Deseret Towers, at BYU?”


“Yeah, I used to live there,” Jimbo said. “So what?”


“A group of international terrorists are holding the U.S. Men’s Hugging team hostage in one of the halls. We want you to rescue them.”


“Who’s ‘we’?” Jimbo asked.


“The President, the Frat, and Tiger Beat magazine. This is a serious situation, Puff. If they aren’t given twenty billion dollars they’re going to unleash the C-bomb on the world.”


“C-bomb, what’s that? Cobalt? Chlorine? Cesium?” asked Jimbo, more interested.


“Cholesterol. And you know how the President hates the stuff. They want to render the entire world a mass of Twinkie addicts. The estimated strength of the bomb is equivalent to the inventory of every 7-11, McDonald’s and Dairy Queen in the Free World.”


Jimbo shuddered. “What a bunch of savages! Someone should do something.”


“That’s why I’m here, Puff. You’re gonna do something. And we’re all counting on you. Let’s see how your combat skills have fared these last few months.


Bob let out a loud whistle, and a stunningly beautiful blonde in a tan jumpsuit entered the room. “Meet Ingrid.”


“My pleasure,” said Jimbo, smiling brighter than he intended.


Ingrid said nothing; she stared straight ahead, blankly, as if in a trance.


“Ingrid is an android,” Bob explained. “She is the latest in sparring partners for huggers in training. Go ahead, hug her.”


Jimbo hesitated, but stepped up and embraced Ingrid. She felt real enough, but responded weakly. He stepped away and noticed she was smiling slightly.


“Look at her eyes,” Bob instructed. Jimbo did so and noticed the pupils of her eyes had been replaced with two LCD digits 0 and 8. “You got an eight, Puff. Ingrid’s adjusted to the IHF scoring system, with 99 the highest. She also gives hugs corresponding to the hugs you give, and the smile is an indication of how you did.” He checked a small booklet and frowned. “Eight corresponds to ‘inanimate object’. I’m going to lunch. Keep practicing, and see if you can hit 60 before I get back.”


Jimbo watched Bob leave and murmured to himself. He looked at Ingrid with her sickly smile and realized he was looking at himself. He gritted his teeth and gave his next hug a little more effort.

 


“How’s it coming?” asked Bob, wiping a bit of Bleu Cheese from his mouth.


“Check for yourself. It ain’t my best, but I’m improving.”


Bob looked into Ingrid’s eyes and noticed the smile on her face. “Seventy-two isn’t bad. What’s your high? You kiss her to get the high score, by the way.”


“Kiss? Forget it. I’m a hug man, remember?”


Bob sighed and gave Ingrid a peck. “Wow! An 86!” He checked his booklet. “Olympic qualifying is 74; you’re almost back to your prime.”


Jimbo smiled, and his eyes gleamed as much as Ingrid’s. “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! Can I go now?”


“Not yet.” Bob clapped his hands, and several women, equally as beautiful as Ingrid, yet evidently human, entered. “This isn’t competition, this is war. Stage II is hug-to-hug combat. If you can get out of the room in twenty minutes, you’ll be ready. Girls, do your worst,” he said, shutting the door behind him.


Fourteen minutes later Puff Jimbo emerged, a wicked grin on his face. “Come here.” Bob followed him into the room, where twenty-four women lay sprawled on the ground, and only one was standing—Ingrid. Jimbo went over to where the android stood and embraced her as only he could, and within moments she, too, lay sprawled on the ground, smoke pouring from her ears, and her eyes flashing two red zeros.


Bob looked at his friend and noticed something he had not seen since the Olympic debacle—the glint in his eyes reporters had termed “The Eye of the Teddy.” He looked at his booklet and gasped. Besides 00 flashed the word, “Invincible.” He looked at Jimbo and nodded. “You’re ready.”

 


After a brief briefing, Jimbo dressed in his trademark Snuggles Deluxe jumpsuit, then donned inconspicuous University togs, before heading towards the BYU campus. He decided to go on foot, preferring to gather his thoughts and plan a strategy with the few extra moments the walk would take. As he strolled along the streets, he was aware of the multicolored sweatsuits that had become popular since the inauguration of President Simmons. Even the lawyers seemed to catch on; the Gucci people had made a killing on three-piece Oxford warm-ups.


Within an hour Puff Jimbo arrived on campus. He went to the cougareat, unchanged over the years, and tried to learn what the students knew of the Hugnappers. He finally caught wind of something useful after three hours of tedious philosophical discussion, letters to the editor, and Snugglebunnies; there was a small disturbance at U-Hall, Deseret Towers. Apparently a bunch of “upperclassmen” had taken over the top floor and wouldn’t let anyone up, not even for Open House. Jimbo took note and, finishing his Rocky Roach ice cream, left the cafeteria.

 


“Excuse me, is Darla Woodward here?” Jimbo, wearking his best sheepish smile, asked the elderly lady at the front desk of U-Hall. He decided that “lady” was used liberally; she looked like Sergeant Rock.


“Hmmmphh.” The woman pulled out a list of the Hall’s residents. Jimbo noticed a tattoo on the woman’s arm; it read MAIM. He shuddered.


“I think she lives on the seventh floor,” he offered and was met with a glare of molten steel. “I was supposed to meet her here,” he said, a little more softly.


“What’s yer name, kid?” she barked, looking up sharply from her list.


“Uh, Thompson. Scott Thompson, sir—er, ma’am.”


“There ain’t no Woodward here, especially not on the seventh floor.”


“Could you please check for me again? It’s really important.” Jimbo noticed her name on the top of a letterhead; “From the desk of—‘Crush’ Murdock.” He gulped.


“Crush” mumbled something about “Wimps” but checked the list again. “Like I said, no Darla Woodward here,” she said icily.


Jimbo expected this. “Darla Woodward” didn’t attend BYU; he had checked beforehand. But he acted surprised.


“I should have guessed,” he said softly, but loud enough for the woman behind the desk to hear. “Stood up again. That’s the fifth time this month.” He bowed his head and forced his lips to quiver. He turned to the woman at the desk. “Is there something wrong with me?” he asked, his voice tremulous.


She looked at him with her steely eyes, but some of the fire had left them. “Not that I can see.”


“Then why doesn’t anyone want to go out with me? I try to be nice, to be a gentleman, and what happens? I get turned down or stood up.” He covered his face with his hands and shook, almost uncontrollably.


After a moment of quiet sobbing, “Crush” Murdock’s eyes went soft. she reached into her purse and pulled out a khaki handkerchief and offered it to him. “Here. Things can’t be all that bad.”


Jimbo took the handkerchief and dried the excess moisture from his eyes. “Thank you very much. I’m sorry about this; I’ve been this way since my mother—” He broke into heavy sobs again.


Apparently that was enough to crush the last vestiges of strength the crusty old lady could muster; she, too, broke out in heavy sobs. The windows shook as she took out another handkerchief and blew her nose. She rose from her desk, came around, and let her motherly instincts take over. “There, there, it’s alright,” she said through her tears, embracing him.


“Thank you, you’re such a nice lady,” Jimbo replied, hugging back softly at first, then executing a maneuver he had learned in Combat hugging, he gave her a hug that knocked her unconscious. He dragged her back to her desk, propped her up comfortably, then rushed to the elevator. He looked at the floor indicator and noticed that number seven had been taped over. The door slid open; he entered. The seventh floor button had been removed. He opened the control panel above the buttons, crossed a few wires, and the door slid shut. As the elevator rose, he heard a soft but urgent voice repeating, “Warning: Security breach. All units to Main Elevator Two. Warning….”

 


Jimbo knew he had to work fast. He quickly stripped his outer clothing, revealing his Snuggles Deluxe jumpsuit, the most effective natural uniform for freestyle and combat hugging. He had used it in college, in Lebanon, at Spring Break, and most recently at the Olympics. His use of the uniform, and “The Eye of the Teddy,” had earned him the International Hugging Federation’s highest title of respect, “Pookie: Hugs of Fury.” He thought back to past contests and the various means by which he had disabled his opponents. He had been undefeated, until…Big Brenda Bukowski.


He tried to think about Bob’s final words to him before he left: “If all else fails, get lip.” He had told Bob he would rather be eaten alive in a vat of Caffeinated colas. As a hugging purist, the thought of “getting lip” repulsed him; he would win with his talent, or not at all.


The door finally slid open, and he was rushed by three of the most stunning women he had ever seen, dressed in less than BYU standard. He gritted his teeth and entered the battle.

 


It was soon over. Puff Jimbo stepped over the unconscious, smiling enemy. One had been an android; she lay in the corner, her eyes blinking zeros and smoke pouring from her ears.


He stepped into the hall. He saw another android off to the left, obviously a guard. He gave a Blitzkrieg hug, and the guard met the same fate as her friend in the elevator. He looked around and, seeing nobody, walked around the corner into a mob of at least fifty Venus incarnates, all dressed for a Miss Universe swimsuit competition. Jimbo gulped and smiled. “Hi girls! Guess who.”


By the time the last of his opponents fell, Jimbo had used every trick in the book and then some. He was exhausted; some of the androids he had contested were set for 1-500 sparring. He had been double-teamed by two such androids, and it was only with a combination of maneuvers that he was able to drop them. He got a drink of water, took a few deep breaths, and started checking individual rooms.


Most of the dorms were empty; he had met the main assault force full-on and didn’t expect to find too many stray huggers. When he reached room 716, however, he found something he hadn’t expected.


Big Brenda Bukowski.


She was built like a brick Dolly Parton. Her smile was devastating by itself; she was wearing purple Dolphin shorts and a “University of Moscow” sweat shirt that was obviously meant for a ten year-old. Her hair, strawberry-blonde and flowing well past her shoulders, shone like a halo of fire. And dangling from her neck was a shiny gold medal.

 


“Puff! What a pleasant surprise. Gimme a hug.” She grabbed him, and Jimbo’s life flashed before him; it was the Summer games all over again. He felt shock waves of emotion pummel his senses, numbing him and sending his mind racing down into an endless void. He tried desperately, using every maneuver he had ever learned, considered or dreamed of, to no effect. He tried to resist, but felt his strength dwindle. He tried to break the embrace, but she was like a vice. He screamed inside.


He saw the events of the past two days: the mindless perusal of Cable TV, the rueful recollection of past glories shot to St. George, the breath of hope given him by Bob and Ingrid, the importance of the mission, to rescue the Hugging Team and capture the terrorists before the dreaded C-bomb was unleashed. And Bob’s final injunction, “If all else fails….”


With strength given him from raw courage, he fought back. The sudden surge overloaded something; he heard a fizzle and saw smoke pour from her tiny sweat shirt. Big Brenda, angry, threw caution to the wind and squeezed with all her might, intending to crush the very life out of him.


Jimbo saw his chance. By sheer force of will he puckered up and planted Big Brenda Bukowski smack on the lips. Her eyes grew wide; she turned to the defensive, struggling to break the embrace, but every inch she gave, Jimbo used to reel her in. She panicked, but Jimbo was like a Pit Bull, lips and arms united in a battle for freedom and good nutrition. And revenge. After a long moment of struggle, she slumped. Smoke poured from her ears, nostrils and mouth. Jimbo looked into her eyes; they alternated between “000-000" and “TILT-PLAY AGAIN?” He let her down, then took the medal from around her neck and placed it on his own chest. He had lived for this moment; he stood tall, held his head high, and sang his national anthem: “Party-Party/Whoa-oh!/We gotta go/And Party Hearty!….”


He entered Room 716 and found the six-member Hugging team on several lounge chairs, watching reruns of Soviet Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clarkovski. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.


He had been warned of possible propaganda brainwashing, so he had come prepared. He found a stereo and inserted a modified copy of The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer album. The team jumped to rigid attention as the opening chords to “California Girls” blared over the quad speakers, and Jimbo even glimpsed a tear falling from one bleached-blond man on his left.


After a moment of introduction, Jimbo heard Bob’s voice pipe in as the music faded into the background. “Men, please meet Puff Jimbo; he has risked everything to rescue you, including a trip to Standards for going into the Girls’ dorms outside of Open House. He is the legendary ‘Pookie: Hugs of Fury’, the only man capable of delivering to you this message.” There was a song change, and “I Get Around” was allowed to reach a crescendo before he continued. “The message is this: DUDES! FULLERTON DORM WANTS TO PARTY WITH US! COME ON DOWN!”


It was as if someone had fired a starting gun. The six young men looked at each other, screamed “Yosh!” in unison, and bolted out the door.


Jimbo stayed behind; the tape switched moods again, and a Huey Lewis medley played as Bob’s voice piped in again. “Good work, Puff. We knew you could do it. Oh, by the way, the Olympic Committee just discovered that Big Brenda is actually a Plutonium-powered Sparring Android, capable of handling anything short of a Million score. No wonder you lost! Nothing could have withstood anything of that magnitude….”


Jimbo took the tape out of the machine, stuck it in his pocket, and fingered his newly-acquired Gold medal. He left the room, spotted the flashing eyes of Big Brenda Bukowski, and paused. He considered the query in her eyes and, after a moment’s thought, picked her up gently and headed toward the elevator.


 

 

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

 

 

by Will Salmon

 

 


Once upon a time there lived, in a great Palace, a King, a Queen, and their daughter, a beautiful little Princess. When the little girl turned eight years old, her parents showed her the locked door of a certain room and told her: “Into any room of the Palace you can freely go, except for this one. Never open this door, because terrible things would happen if you did.”


Years passed, and the Princess grew up.  She went into many rooms of the Castle and did many things, but she never went into the forbidden room.


So nothing terrible happened and they all lived happily ever after.


 

 

EYES OF RAIN

 

 

by Addie LaCoe

 

 


Clare had more on her mind than Health Department business as she strode up to the front door. She felt queazy, but she only had three more days to go before her probationary period would be over and she’d be made permanent, with medical benefits. She couldn’t afford to take a day off.


She clapped the clipboard to her side and summoned a knock she hoped would resound with the appropriate authority.


Instead, the thick hardwood door swallowed up her pounding and changed it to a feeble, bird-like rapping.


This was her first trip to the fabled Landon homestead. The pressed dirt building Old Roy Landon had erected recalled stereotypical memories of sod houses and log cabins on the western frontier. Landon’s place was small, but it was no hovel, and Landon was no squatter. He and his Korean war bride had bought five virgin acres in the depths of the Massachusetts Berkshires long before the “back to the earth” movement in the late 60s. It was kind of romantic. As he repeatedly wrote to remind the department, he paid his taxes. And, much as his new “country kitchen” neighbors might wish otherwise, he held clear title, and there was nothing they could do to force him out.


Nobody at the town much enjoyed being the emissary of a bunch of latecomers who only cared about their property values. But it was part of the job, and because Clare was the last hired, it was dumped on her.


She wanted to go back to the car. There were some dry crackers and some warm soda in the glove compartment. She forced herself to make at least one more attempt. A second knock brought no more response than the first. Clare had been warned that it wouldn’t. No more than a handful of people had seen the old man in the last seven years—not since his stroke. Gossip had it that he had left the hospital, against his doctors’ advice, before he could even speak again. He wrote that he wanted out, and somewhere he found a lawyer to back up his rights. They said he wouldn’t last another month alone in that house. But he had. He was tough.


Now the neighbors were getting tougher.


Clare spied a face in one of the windows beyond the tree line. She decided she’d better go around back and at least pretend to investigate their complaint.


The low house seemed almost a part of its wooded surroundings—the bulk of the living space being below ground. It had a charm the neighbors’ sprawling ranchers couldn’t touch. Its earthen walls were like an outcropping of the soil itself. Jalousie windows were open but mirrored on their upper sides.


There was indeed a compost heap in the back yard. It was exposed and gave off a pungent smell of methane. It turned Clare’s stomach (almost anything out of the ordinary could, these days), but the stench was hardly strong enough to carry as far as the doorsteps of either of Landon’s leisure-class neighbors. She circled round a tiny greenhouse, fairly bursting with flats of new plants. Beyond the stream which sliced through the property was a trio of hives. She thought of the honey made from the nectar of apple, pear and cherry trees in the surrounding orchard. To the east of the house was a serene oriental garden. She had heard about it—a shrine to Landon’s wife and stillborn child. And next to the strawberry mounds was a brightly painted birdhouse and a door leading into an low bank, probably a root cellar.


Perhaps the old man was in there. Her sturdy knock bounced the flimsy door on its hinges as it lay against its frame, held shut by gravity. She opened it. The sweet smell of moldering earth, mixed with the tang of apples and the sharpness of turnips poured forth from the blackness. She stood in the doorway, tensed, waiting for her body’s reaction to the scent, but pleasantly reminded of her own home, when a swift chill passed through her body.


She dropped the door with a clatter.


The inexplicable smell of ginger lingered.


Clare had been prepared to face a shotgun-toting recluse with drool marks on his bib overalls. She was unnerved by what could only be described as the touch of something “otherworldly.” She might even have described it as “healing.” She did feel better. But as her rational self gained control, she felt foolish.


What had actually happened? A subterranean draft. A cloud shadowing the sun. If the thought of a ghost had actually crossed her mind, she was sure they didn’t rush, startled, out of the darkness into broad daylight.


The complaint papers were still in her hand. She would simply have get control of her imagination and deliver the notice.


She approached Landon’s front door a second time, chastising herself for her ridiculous behavior. She was surprised to find a note taped up where there had been none before.





 
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.


How rude!


Irritated by Landon’s curt dismissal, she would have liked to throw the complaint at him. But she supposed his note would serve as sufficient acknowledgment. If she didn’t want to spend the rest of the day uselessly pounding on the door, she’d have to comply.


She looked around for something to weigh down the forms. There was no welcome mat, no knocker, no storm door to tuck them into. She tried to wedge the papers between the door and its frame, but it was too tight. Before she realized it, her hand was on the knob to open the door a fraction and make a slot for the papers.


It was heavy. She had to push hard. Then, like a compound bow whose draw unexpectedly eases, the door swung wide as if on pulleys, and she found herself staring into the withered face of Roy Landon.


He lay unblinking on the sofa in the sunken living room. The light from the southern windows poured warmly across his strangely wistful face. His eyes were clear, like raindrops; his parted lips as still as a sleeping baby’s.


“Oh,” she heard herself say. “I’m sorry.”


Again the smell of ginger, but there was a warmth accompanying it this time. A timid, testing touch. She looked to see if she might be standing in some pool of sunshine, but there was none. Then the feeling lifted. It was strange. Unsettling.


Landon watched but said nothing, not even a rebuke at her intrusion. He looked as if he had been rooted to that spot for eons. She wondered at the note he had written. Its strong, smooth hand belied the pathetic figure she saw before her.


“Are you all right?” she asked.


He followed her with his eyes as she descended the carpeted steps into the hollow of his cozy burrow. Still he did not respond. Compassion welled up to replace the annoyance she had felt at his note. Perhaps she had misread it.


How could this wreck of a man feed himself let alone keep up his house and grounds? The kitchen alcove was immaculate. There were flowers on the coffee table. There had to be someone else. But he had lost his wife years ago. Everybody knew the story—too independent to send for a doctor, hemorrhaged to death, and the baby born dead.


“Is somebody helping you?”


Landon breathed out, a soft hough, a word without meaning but full of longing.


Again the tender warmth. No longer tentative, it caressed her like a man’s gaze wandering over her body, down and up.


But Landon’s eyes had not moved. They were quiet, not unintelligent, but dim with a personal pain.


“Can I help you?”


He didn’t so much as shake his head.


She dared to come closer. She knelt near his hands which lay gnarled and blue against the afghan—not a trace of dirt under his nails. He was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, but they were clean and unfaded.


“You are Roy Landon, aren’t you?” she asked.


His stare faltered momentarily.


She looked impulsively over her shoulder at what he must be seeing, but there was nothing. When she looked back, there were tears on Landon’s cheeks, and the acrid smell of urine swiftly filled the room.


Landon closed his eyes.


She felt his shame.


She could only think he must have had another stroke. “I’ll send for an ambulance,” she said. She started to get up, but there was an invisible hand holding her, pressing her down. She must use a neighbor’s phone, she thought. But her feet were leaden. There was no time to waste. She was beginning to be more alarmed by the slow motion of her own actions than by the emergency she was trying to deal with. She knew he was tough; she knew he was independent. But even if he didn’t want help, she couldn’t just sit by and watch him die.


When she at last reached the porch of the mud-walled house there was an almost physical letting-go. She might even say a shoving-away. But she had no time to puzzle over it.

 


The ambulance arrived only seconds after she reached Landon’s doorstep again. It was then she discovered that the door would no longer open itself to her.


It was locked.


“Didn’t you say the old man was alone?” one of the paramedics asked.


“He was. I don’t know what’s happening.” She bent to a window, but all she could see through the slats was ceiling.


“It’s against our policy to break in.”


She already knew that. The same restrictions were incumbent on health department employees. “But he could be lying on the floor. Unconscious!”


“Then how did he get up and lock the door after you?” The ambulance attendant shook his head, and after a few more minutes of shrugging shoulders and wandering around the silent house, they got another call and left her to her own resources. Even the gathered neighbors finally gave up and left, unwilling to risk a lawsuit by venturing to force the door.


She felt helpless. And she was starting to feel sick again. She looked at the complaint, still on her clipboard. She had done more than was required of her.


Then she smelled the ginger. Landon had to be on the other side of the wall. She was furious. “Why didn’t you answer when we knocked?” she shouted.


A note came fluttering through the window. Since when is it a crime not to talk?


“Since scaring somebody out of their wits,” she shouted back. “You’re a mean-minded old man. I thought you were dying.”





 
I’m not dying,
came a second note in reply. And I’m not mean.


“Well, I don’t know what you’d call it,” she said. “And if you think I won’t serve this complaint now, think again.”





 
I’ll take care of whatever it is.


“Then why did you pretend to be helpless and try to make me feel sorry for you?”





 
You’re a trespasser.


“I’m not a trespasser,” she bristled. “I can condemn this place as unfit for human habitation. Then where would you be?”


She hated herself the moment she said that. Now who was being mean-minded? If she felt better, she would have more patience. But before she could retract the statement, the door flew open, and her skin prickled as she was enveloped in a cloak of icy air and the choking sweetness of spice. She seemed propelled forward into the room. She was almost afraid.


Until she saw the old man. Landon was sitting up on the sofa.


Her first thought was, how did he open the door and get back there so fast?


Her second impression was that he was propped up against the cushions like a ventriloquist’s dummy. His eyes were as sad as ever; his complexion, drained of color. But his clothes were different…clean, with no hint of disinfectant coverup.


She scarcely knew what to say. “Here,” she burbled, handing him the complaint. “I’ll be back to check up a week from Thursday. OK?”


His head nodded—up and down as if some invisible hand were gently mobilizing his body. And all the while those eyes like crystal never wavered from her own.


“I didn’t mean any harm,” she said.


She thought he knew she didn’t. The air itself, which had seemed so full of distrust, started to clear. And gently warm.


Landon’s hand reached for the pad at his side, put the paper on his knee and went back for the pen. The whole process was like a Tonka crane. As if there were another spirit animating his body. I just want to be left alone, he wrote.


She stood up and started to back out of his house, out of his sight, out of the warms and colds and haunting smells she couldn’t explain and dared not admit for fear of her own sanity. But his words didn’t match his eyes. And neither did her own. “What if something happened?” she asked, even as her body was deliberately retreating.





 
You can’t make me—
he started.


“I don’t want to,” she said. She knew the look—the fear of dying among strangers. “I understand.”


His hand was still, but his eyes were relieved, and the breeze resumed like a sigh of relief.

 


She said nothing of this in her official report. She had her benefits to think of. But every small New England town has its grapevine. The ambulance driver told the dispatcher who told his cousin who, in turn, told his girl friend, till it eventually came full circle: “I heard you reported Old Landon was dead, and when the police came he told them where to go.”


“It wasn’t the police; it was an ambulance. And it was the neighbor who called them.”


“Well, was he dead? Did you see him?”


“I saw him.” She shrugged. “He said he’d take care of the complaint. That’s all I’m concerned about.”


She tried to put the whole affair neatly out of her mind, but she should have known better. She was due to check on Landon a week from Thursday, but it was too long to wait. And who knew when another complaint would come in and give her an excuse to return. She ended up inventing her own—a fallen tree infested with termites, debris in the rain gutters, and a bough touching the overhead wires.


When she arrived, the door was slightly ajar. She knocked. She only wanted to reassure herself that the old man was all right. There was no answer. One peek wouldn’t hurt. She sniffed the air. Honeysuckle and lilacs. No ginger, nothing that didn’t belong.


She pushed the door open. She felt like an infidel about to profane Solomon’s temple. She braced for the rebuff of Landon’s water-blue eyes. When she didn’t find him lying on the sofa, she breathed easier. Then she started to worry. She tiptoed through the living room and touched the door to his bedroom. It swung open without a sound. But Landon was not inside.


She should have left it at that. The bed was made. There was a Bible on the night stand. But there was also a palpable sadness here. A desolation, even though everything seemed to be in order. Then the ginger seeped into her consciousness. She felt warm…welcomed like an only friend.


She wandered outside again. If she’d been asked, she might have said she was looking for the old man, but she knew, even then, that he wasn’t there.


She felt led—through the trellis of wisteria, past a stand of holly, magnetically toward the raked stone river of the incongruous formal garden.


She was on the town’s time, she tried to remind herself, but the lure was too strong. Suddenly she began to cry—great heaving sobs. She didn’t even question the tears. Grief put its arms around her. There, in the far corner of the yard, was an open grave, next to Landon’s wife and baby. Landon lay in the bottom, as if he had gotten into bed, himself, but needed someone to help him with the covers.


Some faraway part of her objected to burying a body without the officiousness of a death certificate and a lead-lined coffin. But another part of her instinctively felt sorry for the old man and couldn’t see the point.


Her vision blurred by tears, she stood beside the mound of dirt and toed a few particles into the hole. She knew she should tell someone, give the man a proper burial, even as she felt herself take a handful of dirt and rain Landon’s beloved earth through her fingers onto his body. It was as if someone else were using her muscles to power the shovel which never slacked until the hole was completely filled in.


When she finally fell exhausted onto the concrete seat, her blouse was soaked. Her throat was sore. Her ribs ached with her heaving sobs. And still she wept on. There was cleansing in it.


She had known such a purging before. It had happened more than five weeks after Jeff’s funeral. She had just been told that she was carrying Jeff’s child. She was seized with paroxysms of loneliness that she would have thought were impossible to survive. She had cried for hours.


But she hardly knew Roy Landon. And yet she cried. She cried until the voice in her head wound down its outpouring of sorrow and loss.


She cried—vicariously—for a soul with no eyes to cry with, no heart to ache, no hands to reach out. She cried on behalf of the baby never born, the child who never played, the youth who never strove, the man who would never know the love of a woman.


Toward the end she thought she must be insane. She looked around the tiny homestead with memories rebounding through her— memories only Roy Landon or his unborn son could have experienced. She felt a love for the place that far surpassed any resemblance it might have had to her own childhood home.


And she understood how it had been kept so beautiful, even in Landon’s wasted condition. There was no denying the absolute compulsion she had felt, the manipulation—almost possession. And there was no denying its source—the ghost of Landon’s stillborn son.

 


When Clare’s son was born that fall, she named him Jeff. Her own family and Jeff’s all said how much he looked like his late father, the dimpled chin, the wispy hair, the pouting mouth, everything except for the eyes—a cloudy, pale blue.


No one in the family had eyes like that.


Clare shrugged it off as a throwback. But she wondered if the boy would remember.


Probably not. No more than any of us remember where we were or what we did before we were born.


But he had Old Roy Landon’s eyes. Eyes of clear water. Eyes of rain.


 

 

WRITTEN IN PENCIL INSIDE A SEALED FREIGHT CAR

 

 

by Dan Pagis

translated from Hebrew by Benjamin Urrutia

 

 

 

***

handwritten note

 


 

 

THE SINFUL SOLUTION

 

 

by Benjamin Urrutia

 

 


Adam Merrysalt smiled wryly as he stared at the foaming blue liquid that he expected would be the solution to all his problems. He had decided to abdicate from his responsibilities. Any fellow Latter-day Saint would tell him that to do so would be a sin. Would it? Well, perhaps. He stood up from his chair and turned his back on the potion.


He walked out the door of his apartment and walked along the street, past the bookstore from which he had been barred by the owner for browsing too often and buying too seldom. And was it his fault that he was unemployed? Well, perhaps. He walked past the High School from which he had fired as a chemistry teacher for being too impatient, sometimes even screaming in frustration at his students. He had certainly paid the price for the weakness of his character.


And so he walked on, past the scenes of various humiliations, defeats and failures.  No, no.  Enough was enough. He had to put an end to it all. He turned around and went back to his apartment and his blue potion.


He sat for a long time staring at it and considering other steps he could take. Move to another city? He had tried that before, without success. No matter where he lived, he was the same old loser of a self. No, the only solution was to stop being himself. To drink his solution. He smiled for the second time that day. He reached for the glass.


His hand shook, but he managed not to spill a drop. His heart was beating furiously. The taste was rather unpleasantly bittersweet. When he had emptied the glass, he attempted to replace it on the table. But his head felt dizzy; his hand trembled more…


The glass fell, bounced on the carpet, and rolled a few feet. He tried to pick it up, and collapsed.


The room was spinning wildly around him. I have made a terrible mistake, he thought. I am dying… Well, perhaps.


But when he recovered consciousness he was still alive.  He dragged himself to the bathroom, unable to stand up. He took a shower, then a bath. He went to sleep, lulled by the warm water.


However, the water had cooled off when he woke up.  He took a second shower, noticing with relief that he was now able to stand up.


He looked at his face in the mirror for long minutes in silence. I did not make a mistake after all. It worked. The face that looked back at him from the glass was the face of a twelve-year-old. Rather tall for twelve, but he had seen taller.


He put on clothes he had bought especially for the occasion—an Elfquest T-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers. When he looked at himself again, he decided no one could or would ever believe he was really an adult.


Well, now for the hard part. He stepped out of his apartment for the second time that day, but this time purposefully leaving behind his keys and his identification.  Then he walked towards the bishop’s house.


Once in front of the house, however, his heart beat so fast and his hands and knees trembled so much that he almost turned around and left without accomplishing his plan.  But where else could I go? No, I have to go through with it. Nothing else is possible. He rang the doorbell.


“Hi. Is the bishop home?” How boyish his voice sounded! Well, of course.


The face of the bishop’s wife was “more good-natured than beautiful,” as Tolkien said about the hobbits, but it was beautiful too, and made more of both by her friendly smile.  Thank Heavens, thought Adam Merrysalt, at least I do not have to lie to her.


“The bishop’s in his office.  What’s your name?”


“A…Perry.”  Darn.  I do have to lie to her after all.

“Well, come in, Perry.  Please sit down in the living room while I go tell him you are here.”


The living room was large, comfortable, and tastefully decorated.  The paintings on the walls represented events from the life of Jesus, and various LDS temples. There were Church books in the bookshelves, and Church magazines on the low living room table, which is called a coffee table by suicidal people who poison themselves with that evil substance.  The thought made Adam smile, recalling that his own experiment had looked for a moment to be about to turn out suicidal. Instead, it now seemed that it would add at least some years to his life.  Well, perhaps. He leafed through some of the books and magazines, but few of the words got past his eyes into his brain.


The lady of the house reappeared. “The bishop will be with you in a few minutes. Would you like some milk and cookies while you are waiting?”


“Yes, thank you.  That would be very nice.”


She beamed.  He was a big hit with her. She had been polite and friendly enough, but, of course, more distant and formal, when he had been an adult.


No sooner had he finished the milk and cookies than he gained his audience. The room which served as the bishop’s office had a large oak desk, and more books—not all Church books—than the living room.


“What can I do for you, young man?”


“You are the LDS bishop, aren’t you?”


“Yes.”


“Then you can help me, I hope. I have a terrible problem.” That much was true, but from that point on, he would have to lie.  Boy, he thought, I am getting myself deeper and deeper into sin. How can I go through with this?


That’s what I’m here for, to help people.  What is your problem?”


Adam forced out his answer, “I have amnesia.  I can’t remember anything about myself, except my name and the fact that I’m a Latter-day Saint.  But if I go to the police, they’ll put me in just any old foster home or something.  So, I was hoping you can use your influence with the authorities to persuade them to place me with an LDS family.  Could you?”


The bishop smiled. “Yes, I think I could.  I don’t have as much influence as some people seem to think, but I do have enough, at least, to arrange that.  In fact, I think I could persuade the people in charge to let you stay right here in our home, if you like.  Would you?”


“Oh yes, than you, Sir.”


“Only temporarily, of course, until we find your family.  I imagine they are looking high and low for you.”


“Do you think so?”


“Certainly.”


Adam knew that was not the case, but he smiled broadly.  His plan had worked.  He would start a happy new life, without adult responsibilities and in a good LDS home.  A second chance at a childhood that would give him a chance at a good start in life.


Well, perhaps.


 

 

LIMERICK

 

 

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.


 

 

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

 

 

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.


 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

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.