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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 1 I RREANTUM EXPLORING MORMON LITERATURE MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION

IRREANTUM

EXPLORING MORMON LITERATURE

MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS

SPRING 2000 $2.00

THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS SPRING 2000 • $2.00 The Irreantum Interview: Margaret Young Drama by
The Irreantum Interview:
The Irreantum Interview:

Margaret Young

Drama by Eric Samuelsen Science fiction by Scott Everett Bronson Fiction by Marilyn Brown

Essays on humor, storytelling, and poetry Poetry by Jolayne Call and Cathy Gileadi Wilson Reviews of Robert Farrell Smith, Pam Blackwell, and Neil LaBute

and poetry Poetry by Jolayne Call and Cathy Gileadi Wilson Reviews of Robert Farrell Smith, Pam
and poetry Poetry by Jolayne Call and Cathy Gileadi Wilson Reviews of Robert Farrell Smith, Pam

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IRREANTUM

MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS

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Christopher K. Bigelow co-managing editor Benson Parkinson co-managing editor Tory Anderson fiction Harlow Clark poetry

.irreant@cs.com

.byparkinson@cc.weber.edu

.toryander@sisna.com

harlowclark@juno.com

Jonathan Langford AML-List Highlights

Kent Larsen Publishing News Jana Bouck Remy reviews Edgar C. Snow Jr. essays

.jlangfor@pressenter.com

.klarsen@mormonstoday.com

.janaremy@juno.com

.edgarsnow@yahoo.com

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Marilyn Brown

president

Cherry Silver

president-elect

John Bennion

.wwbrown@burgoyne.com

.cbsilver@worldnet.att.net

.john_bennion@byu.edu

academic conference chair & past president

Scott Bronson Gideon Burton Cory Maxwell Tessa Meyer Santiago Carol Quist Mikel Vause

.bronsonjscott@juno.com

.gideon_burton@byu.edu

.cmaxwell@ldsworld.com

.tm.santiago@cwix.com

.sunstoneom@aol.com

.mvause@weber.edu

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.mvause@weber.edu E X O FFIC IO BO ARD MEMBERS Lavina Fielding Anderson proceedings editor

Lavina Fielding Anderson proceedings editor

.lavina@utw.com

Carol Clark Ottesen secretary

.ottesenc@burgoyne.com

Christopher K. Bigelow

.irreant@cs.com

Scott Parkin

.sparkin@airswitch.net

magazine editor Henry Miles treasurer

.hlmiles@enol.com

awards chair Benson Parkinson AML-List moderator

.byparkinson@cc.weber.edu

IRREANTUM is published four times a year by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML), 1925 Terrace Drive, Orem, UT 84097, (801) 226-5585. Membership in the AML is $20 for one year, which includes an IRREANTUM subscription. Subscriptions to IRREANTUM may be purchased separately from AML membership for $12 per year, and single copies are $3 (postpaid). Advertising rates begin at $50 for a full page. The AML is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, so contributions of any amount are tax deductible and gratefully accepted. Views expressed in IRREANTUM do not nec- essarily reflect the opinions of the editors or of AML board mem- bers, and this magazine has no official connection with nor endorsement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

IRREANTUM welcomes unsolicited essays, reviews, fiction, poet- ry, and other manuscripts, and we invite letters intended for pub- lication. After publication of a manuscript in IRREANTUM (includ- ing publication and archiving in electronic format), rights revert to the author or the author’s assignee. To submit material, please con- tact the appropriate editor at the e-mail address listed above next to his or her name and editorial department. If you do not have access to e-mail, you may mail your text on a floppy disk to Chris Bigelow, 1033 S. Freedom Blvd., Provo, UT 84601. Submissions in other than electronic format are strongly discouraged.

Bigelow, 1033 S. Freedom Blvd., Provo, UT 84601. Submissions in other than electronic format are strongly

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2:29 PM Page 3 Spring 2000 • Volume 2, Number 1 C ONTENTS Editorial: Three Kinds

Editorial: Three Kinds of Appropriateness Benson Parkinson

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Poetry

. On Lazarus, Jolayne Call

April, Jolayne Call

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News of the Association for Mormon Letters

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. Our House Is a Spaceship, Cathy Gileadi Wilson

 

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Pregnant Sonnet, Cathy Gileadi Wilson

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The IRREANTUM Interview: Margaret Young

Incipient Polygamist, Cathy Gileadi Wilson

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Their Names, Cathy Gileadi Wilson

 

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Essays

Our Senses of Humor Are Our Lines of Defenses

 

Richard H. Cracroft

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Reviews

All Is Swell: Trust in Thelma’sWay and Falling for Grace: Trust at the End of the World By Robert Farrell Smith

 

Storytellers from Zion: Our Storyteller from Zion

Reviewed by Barbara Hume

 

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D. Michael Martindale

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Ephraim’s Seed and Jacob’s Cauldron

 

What I Have Planted: Notes on Cathy Gileadi Wilson’s Poetic Burden Harlow Soderborg Clark

By Pam Blackwell Reviewed by Gabi Kupitz Bash: Latter-day Plays By Neil LaBute

 

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Fiction

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Drama: Bar and Kell

Eric Samuelsen

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Scott Everett Bronson The Black Canary Marilyn Brown

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Three Kinds of Appropriateness

By Benson Parkinson

Morality is a mark of Mormon literature. I don’t know if it would have to be that way, but Latter-day Saint literature of most every stripe gets around to taking a moral stand. The difference is largely in the realm of appropriateness, which boils down to a sense of how sex, violence, profanity, and the sacred ought to be portrayed. Most judgments of this type

are matters of taste, but these tastes are shot through with authors’ and readers’ moral sensibilities, which makes them difficult to talk about without casting aspersions though that’s what I’m attempting here. I don’t mean to clump the different varieties together unnaturally. I doubt they can be recon- ciled. But basically there are only three kinds of appropriateness in Mormon literature. Fans and practitioners of the different kinds might be less judgmental if they understood each other better. The first kind of morality in Mormon literature is the “completely appropriate.” This kind seeks to be appropriate in every way. Some of these works duplicate the conventions of national genre fiction while toning the sex, violence, and swearing downwith authors’ and readers’ moral sensibilities, which makes them difficult to talk about without casting aspersions

to pre-1970s television levels, and broach the sacred

with great deference or frequently not at all. Others focus more deeply on Mormon characters, issues, and spirituality. This is probably the most popular

of the three kinds of LDS literature, at least in num-

ber of titles. Several books in this category, such as Richard Paul Evans’s The Christmas Box, have been national bestsellers. Others aimed at the LDS mar- ket, most notably Gerald N. Lund’s Work and the Glory series, have sold in excess of all but the most runaway national bestsellers. If I had to choose a mascot for this type, I’d pick

a cocker spaniel or some other family-friendly

breed. That’s not to say it’s so tame as to be lifeless. Completely appropriate fiction is increasingly will- ing to look evil in the face and portray all manner

of sinful behavior, though never graphically or in a

way that readers would find tempting. Primary characters behave and think as they ought to and

fret over even minor failings. That’s because its readers identify strongly and want to believe that the characters’ good-heartedness and obedience will bring them through. When a character strays, it can be as stressful to these readers as if a friend had done so. Too much of that would overwhelm a novel, though fans and writers recognize you need enough to make the story go. The second kind of Mormon literature is the “broadly appropriate.” This kind tries to be true to a mainstream vision of the gospel while acknowl- edging the complex mix of good and evil that exists in the world. This may be the category with the most potential to break Mormon literature out of niche status. Traditionally at least, the sort of slow- selling but long-lived books that wind up being studied in college courses are in this mode. Douglas Thayer’s Under the Cottonwoods is an example of fic- tion for LDS readers in this category. An example of fiction for readers at large is the Alvin Maker series by Orson Scott Card. The mascot for this kind of writing would be a border collie or some other intelligent, agile work- ing breed. These books are willing to depict sex or violence or bad language if there’s literary justifica- tion, though frequently less than in comparable works by non-LDS writers. By contrast, they’re more willing than most non-LDS writers to con- front the sacred head-on. The broadly appropriate shows evil as attractive in order to make its attrac- tion comprehensible. Characters think all manner of thoughts and fret precious little about their fail- ings because they’re not aware of most of them. Its readers identify with characters less strongly but study them more intently. Often the point of a book is to learn compassion by coming to grips with the complexity of a character’s situation. Often the emphasis is on agency focusing on a sin or flaw in order to follow it through to its logical conclusion. The third kind of moral literature is the “shock- ingly appropriate.” This kind tries to be true to its own often counterintuitive sense of gospel values while violating, for artistic impact, the average gospel believer’s sense of propriety. Shockingly appropriate Mormon literature has relatively small audiences but is probably the most in sync with

Mormon literature has relatively small audiences but is probably the most in sync with Spring 2000

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Mormon literature has relatively small audiences but is probably the most in sync with Spring 2000

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national literary tastes and has thus far received the most scholarly attention. Brian Evenson and Levi Peterson are two prominent fiction writers in this category, and one could also mention Neil LaBute’s dramas and films. The mascot for the shockingly appropriate would be the coyote, lone and wily, seen by some as a harm- ful enemy and others as a romantic character or a useful friend. In shockingly appropriate writing, nothing is sacred, at least at first glance, and vio- lence, sexuality, profanity, and every manner of evil may abound. Characters wallow in degradation, or revel in perversion, and the book may celebrate either or both. The shockingly appropriate violates every convention, every expectation, in order to set the reader up for the big punch: humans of every description have innate value, or good can prevail, or God’s grace is sufficient. Values like these transcend all the little ones the book pillories along the way. One way to point up the differences between these three kinds of writing is to draw the distinc- tion between what the book says and what its char- acters say. Neither book nor characters in com- pletely appropriate literature say inappropriate things. Because of this, fans of the other kinds, when they say “completely appropriate,” mean it sarcastically, though it’s a badge this kind wears with pride. After all, can one be “too good”? The characters in broadly appropriate literature say inappropriate things all the time, but the books never do. Fans of the other kinds typically find this kind too “broad” on the one hand, or too “appropriate” on the other. But this kind doesn’t apologize for finding truth abroad, or for serving the cause at home. That leaves the shockingly appropriate, in which both books and characters say inappropriate things incessantly, except for the thing that finally matters. Fans of the other kinds find this desire to shock a little juvenile, or downright evil. But if people are disturbed, fans of the shockingly appropriate rea- son, they need a little disturbing. The LDS Church in its occasional creative offer- ings sticks to the completely appropriate, and this is true of mainstream LDS magazines and publishers generally. My sense in talking to the people who work for these organizations is that they’re not nec-spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 5 essarily opposed to the other kinds (or at least

essarily opposed to the other kinds (or at least the broadly appropriate), but their viewers and readers are so keyed to the issue of implied endorsement that they won’t tolerate any other kind. For the Ensign and Bookcraft, that means they can’t pro- mote cultural change without spawning contention, which pretty well goes against their reason for being. For independents like Covenant, it means they can’t make money any other way. When regional or national arts organizations, universities, or publishers promote Mormon litera- ture, it tends to be the shockingly appropriate. The publishers can’t afford to push too hard against their secular readers’ prejudices. At universities and arts councils, church-state and multicultural considera- tions produce the same result. Meanwhile intellec- tually oriented LDS outlets like Sunstone and Signature seem to slide inexorably toward the shockingly appropriate, no doubt because of the polarizing effect of that kind of writing. Institutional and market support for the broadly appropriate has been thin in the past. BYU is the logical institutional sponsor, yet for years BYU has vacillated between welcoming shockingly appropri- ate LDS literature and throwing it out the door. BYU needs to excel academically, and there is only so much it can do with the completely appropriate because of this kind’s lack of sophistication. But BYU must also serve the ends of its sponsoring institution as defined by its board of trustees, and the Church will likely never be comfortable with lit- erature that so often seems at odds with those ends. The drama department, with its regular offerings by Eric Samuelsen and Tim Slover, seems to have embraced the broadly appropriate. The rest of the university should follow suit with fiction. That’s the only kind that can thrive in that tight spot because its goals are the same to scour the earth for all that’s good, and shore up faith at home. Mainstream LDS publishers have been experi- menting with the broadly appropriate (Bookcraft with Dean Hughes, Covenant with Marilyn Arnold), and hopefully we can expect more from them. This People seemed to be developing into a broadly appro- priate organ, though for a year or two the magazine has been tied up in litigation. One hungry young

organ, though for a year or two the magazine has been tied up in litigation. One

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organ, though for a year or two the magazine has been tied up in litigation. One

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 6 upstart, Irreantum, publishes as much short LDS fic- tion as

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 6 upstart, Irreantum, publishes as much short LDS fic- tion

upstart, Irreantum, publishes as much short LDS fic- tion as anyone right now. Editorially speaking, Irreantum favors the broadly appropriate, though like our sponsor, the Association for Mormon Letters, we seek to promote all three kinds. But broadly appro- priate is the most underdeveloped, both in terms of what’s available and who’s reading. That’s the kind most likely to draw large numbers of intelligent, committed LDS readers to Mormon letters. And that’s good for Mormon literature of every kind.

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President’s Message

Welcome, AML, to the millennium! Assuming our planet can learn to handle nuclear and biological warfare, we have a new thousand years ahead of us to promote peace! I can’t think of any better way to do it than in the precious associa- tions of a community of letters! As I heard the awards citations at our February conference and looked around at all the partici- pants, I was so gratified to see how the excitement has grown!The administrations of Neal Kramer and John Bennion have been hotbeds for amazing cre- ative efforts: Chris Bigelow’s wonderful Irreantum; Benson Parkinson’s work on AML-List; the fantas- tic touchstone writers’ conference at UVSC, put Irreantum; Benson Parkinson’s work on AML-List; the fantas- tic touchstone writers’ conference at UVSC, put together by Carol Ottesen; the continued dedica- tion of Lavina Fielding Anderson with our proceed- ings; and now the appointment of the outstanding Cherry Silver as president-elect, with environmental activist and poet Mikel Vause and well-known actor and writer Scott Bronson as new board members. Now we have added a world-renowned novelist, Anne Perry, to our roster of award winners. Perry, who lives in Scotland, comes to Utah each year as part of her book tours, and we in the AML hope to have more direct contact with her in the future. How nice it is to have a group to share our spe- cial joys and problems as both scholarly and creative Mormon writers and readers. And we are making

Benson Parkinson, co-managing editor of IRREANTUM, founded AML-List, the AML’s Internet discusion list, and served as its moderator during its first five years. He is the author of two novels, The MTC: Set Apart (Aspen, 1995), and its sequel, Into the Field (Aspen, 2000). He and his wife Robin live with their five children in South Ogden, Utah.

progress!The numbers of nationally published writ- ers in our group has increased dramatically most- ly in the areas of young people’s literature, science fiction, and fantasy. Some of our Mormon writers are making economic headway on the popular Mormon market: Dean Hughes, Gerald Lund, Margaret Young, and others. And the future? It looks like go. My most exciting moment of the February meeting was to offer the new $1,000 novel award to Jack Harrell, a young man who now teaches in the English Department at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. His unpublished novel, Every Knee Shall Bow, represents the quality of the work of these future writers. An honest look at a young man’s terror with drugs, Jack plots the repentance process that brings him to reality. Three other novels received honorable mention: (1) Dorothy W. Peterson, Windows; (2) Alan Rex Mitchell, Barry Monroe’s Missionary Journal; and (3) Laura Dene Card, The Wildest Waste. Many other novels that missed prizes had wonderful content! As well as new writers, we should not forget the veterans. It was so good to see Phyllis Barber at the meeting. I happen to know Don Marshall has almost completed a novel he’s worked on for 16 years. Doug Thayer has two excellent completed novels that he’s still hoping to market, John Bennion has one, I have four, and Dennis Clark has started one. I know there are others who are still hovering unpublished between the goal of writing with excellence and the lack of a market for such work.

unpublished between the goal of writing with excellence and the lack of a market for such

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unpublished between the goal of writing with excellence and the lack of a market for such

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 7 A warning to all who embark upon this road: It’s

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 7 A warning to all who embark upon this road:

A warning to all who embark upon this road: It’s

a journey requiring perseverance and courage!

That’s why it’s so good to get together a few times a year just to rub shoulders and find out what every- one else is doing! Maybe we’re not very formidable against nuclear war or biological warfare, but we’re a little army! And we’re going to win!

Marilyn Brown

AML Awards for 1999

D EVOTIONAL LITERATURE: N EAL A. MAXWELL

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an

award in Devotional Literature for 1999 to Neal A. Maxwell for One More Strain of Praise (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999). One More Strain of Praise, the book of medita- tions from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, is a grace-

ful and grace-filled new work. It is buoyant

without being glib, intelligent without being arch, and always heartfelt without being maudlin.

It is the work of a writer at the height of his powers. Elder Maxwell’s talent for creating a text that flows naturally in and out of scripture is reminiscent

of many early Christian writers. And his touch with

telling anecdotes and original epigrams on full display here will always be a trademark. Over the years Elder Maxwell has been called the LDS C.S. Lewis and the LDS Augustine. One enthusiastic reader even referred to him as the Mormon Isaiah. And, indeed, careful readers can find touches of them all in One More Strain of Praise. But the truth is, Elder Maxwell will forever be the LDS Neal A. Maxwell, an American and Mormon original whose work will remain a touchstone for Mormon readers for decades to come. One More Strain of Praise represents the latest and one of the sturdiest stays in his unique legacy.

DRAMA: ERIC SAMUELSEN

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an award in Drama for 1999 to Eric Samuelsen for The Way We’re Wired (produced at Brigham Young University, May 1999).

The Way We’re Wired does what all plays should and only the best few do: it takes us deeply and sat- isfyingly into the minds and hearts of real people, posing as theatrical characters; lets us take the meas- ure of their pain and joy; and causes us to discover that they are us. Andy and Katie, Terrell and Darlene: these are peo- ple inside our wards, our workplaces, and finally, our own skins. We take their problems seriously; we take their failures hard; and in the end we whoop over their successes with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for a family member who, after years of heartache and struggle, finally lands a job with medical benefits, or does some other amazing, impossible thing. With this play, Eric has taken drama of the con- temporary Mormon scene to a whole new country, where the coinage is neither propaganda nor criti- cism, but, actually, love. Everyone, Mormon or non-Mormon, who is thinking about trying to become a human being, should see this extraordinary play about every six months.

ESSAY: MARTHA BECK

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an award in the Essay for 1999 to Martha Beck for Expecting Adam (New York: Times Books, 1999).

Like cold pizza for breakfast, Expecting Adam doesn’t so much fulfill as create its destiny. You eat it knowing that it’s no worse for you than when it was hot, but now the flavor layers itself, surprises you bite after bite with how fitting a way to break your fast it’s made of itself.

Faith-promoting pizza, Hah! you might think. But this one-woman fast-and-testimony meeting bares beliefs most of us still dress in other language but still admit into our family of phenomena. What good is a Mother in Heaven you don’t address, who never answers because you never ask, cannot nurse you because you’ve clamped your mouth shut?

never answers because you never ask, cannot nurse you because you’ve clamped your mouth shut? Spring

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never answers because you never ask, cannot nurse you because you’ve clamped your mouth shut? Spring

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Without a mouth, great God, I’d rather be a pagan suckled on a creed outworn, but Martha’s mouth emits the cry of rage

and pain that I have not found words to howl.

If Utah is a sow that eats her farrow,

rather than silence, exile and cunning, here is a Martha who has unencumbered herself, chosen a good part which shall not be taken away, and, having escaped, has returned alone to tell us.

A proper faith served cold is the best revenge.

NOVEL: ANNE PERRY

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an award in the Novel for 1999 to Anne Perry for Tathea (Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain Press,

1999).

This year’s winner stands out in a field of new novels rich with challenging subject matter and important achievements in science fiction and fan- tasy. While the novel does not neglect the impor- tance of humor and romance, its prose is a model of

dignity and poise that matches the seriousness of its primary objective. Fundamental gospel concepts come into focus through the under-utilized but fully apt lens of epic story-telling. Metaphysics and morality are shown to make more than sufficient grist for dramatic narrative.

A landmark accomplishment for an already suc-

cessful novelist’s first venture into speculative fic- tion, this mesmerizing story revitalizes, and one might dare say reinvents, the genre with a new sense of expansive purpose. In fact, to call it escapist fan- tasy, or place it in any pigeonhole at all, is to mini- mize its accomplishment. It is genre-busting fiction

at its best.

It is bold; it is beautiful. Its voice calling to Utah

from afar should energize the world of Mormon lit- erature and remind us of ideals we cannot afford to forget. It reminds us that the gospel, properly understood, is not a straight jacket restricting imag- ination, knowledge, and experience. Rather it is a high mountain (or as Joseph Smith would say, a lad- der) on top of which we can better see the world’s goodness and evil, ugliness and beauty and better

make the choices we need to find happiness in this life and the next. This remarkable story lays bare the fallacy that didactic purpose and literary aspiration are oil and water. The author blends the two seamlessly with a powerful plot and a complex exploration of the dif- ficult truths we need to guide us through the human condition.

SHORT STORY: MARY CLYDE

The Association for Mormon Letters presents an award in the Short Story for 1999 to Mary Clyde for Survival Rates (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1999). In Survival Rates, Mary Clyde’s fictional world is a post-lapsarian desert Southwest, perilous, unpre- dictable, and inhabited by javelinas, black widows, cat-eating coyotes, and by an infinite variety of human survivors, some of them Mormon, some not. All of them are believable but ordinary people who are trying to learn what survival means in a harsh world where, after all, no one survives for very long. In each of her well-crafted stories, which gar- nered Clyde the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, her characters, coming off a variety of life-changing circumstances, grope to cope in hope. In a March 28, 1999, New York Times review, Karen Karbo says of Survival Rates that “although the stories here are all strong, a few are splendid,” and asserts that “Clyde’s writing has many strengths, but the greatest one is her ability to transform a shallow experience into something resembling hope. That she does so with intelligence and wit makes this collection as good as they get.” Mary’s stories are wonderfully human, universal, guardedly hopeful, and always important, incisive, of good report, and praiseworthy as good as it gets. We seek after her work. Mary Clyde does her craft and her faith proud, and the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor her achievement.

and her faith proud, and the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor her achievement.

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and her faith proud, and the Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to honor her achievement.

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 9 M ARILYN B ROWN N OVEL A WARD Marilyn Brown,

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 9 M ARILYN B ROWN N OVEL A WARD Marilyn

MARILYN BROWN NOVEL AWARD

Marilyn Brown, president of the Association for Mormon Letters and recipient of the Association’s first-ever novel award in 1981, has endowed the Marilyn Brown Novel Award. This contest, admin- istered jointly by Marilyn and the AML, awards $1,000 for the best unpublished novel among its entries. In this inaugural year of 2000, the award winner is Jack Harrell, an English instructor at Ricks College, for Every Knee Shall Bow, an outstanding work representing genuine Mormon repentance in unusual and powerful circumstances and setting. Because other entries also had such merit, the com- mittee of judges decided to offer honorable men- tions and small prizes ($50, $30, and $20) for three other entries. The prize winners were cited as fol- lows at the annual conference of the Association at Westminster College in Salt Lake City:

Third Honorable Mention: TheWildest Waste, by Laura Dene Card. In clean, readable prose, this author presents a strong, visual picture of 1860 Scotland. With more powerful opposition among characters or circumstances, the novel would have been stronger. But its smooth, polished writing gives it a place on our roster. Third Honorable Mention: TheWildest Waste, Second Honorable Mention: Barry Monroe’s Missionary Journal, by Alan Rex Second Honorable Mention: Barry Monroe’s Missionary Journal, by Alan Rex Mitchell. This novel does many things well. Although it may lack a forceful, strong central conflict, this story of an LDS missionary to Germany portrays many of the scattered inner conflicts a young man may have upon arriving home until he resolves them by returning to his mission. Although only one judge on the panel recommended it as first place, the pro- fessionalism of the text wins it a firm place among the entries. First Honorable Mention: Windows, by Dorothy W. Peterson. Also recommended by one of the judges on the panel, this is an interesting look at a woman’s act of adultery while her husband is on a mission, the child that results, and her penance as she stays committed in her marriage to her hus- band. Though in some ways the book is flawed, introducing compelling situations it doesn’t explore, with an ending that is perhaps predictable, this is an

engaging work that fully involves the reader. First Prize Winner: Every Knee Shall Bow, by Jack Harrell. This book was chosen for its power. With language that “crackles,” it brings a voice to Mormon literature that is clearly worth honoring. The main character of the story is a young man who travels a slow and painful road to overcoming the natural man. He begins as a boy who refuses to accept responsibility, becomes the husband who longs for “freedom,” and at last the man who feels God’s grace in spite of himself and the self-destruc- tive path that has beckoned to him with a siren’s allure. Always seeming to live in loose connections to others, but in close proximity to danger, the young man at one point participates in a day of drugs in which someone is almost murdered. The power of the story is in its authenticity and the char- acter’s compelling conversion. When he is ready to accept God into his life, God is patiently waiting. The relationship with the bishop is treated with force and poignancy. We are proud to give the thou- sand dollars to this author, and hope he will find a viable publisher. Call for Entries: The Marilyn Brown Novel Award encourages all writers to prepare to enter the next contest! You have a year and a few months to get your own novel into shape. Submissions for the novel award of 2002 will be due 1 July 2001. For submission instructions, please send a SASE to:

Marilyn Brown, 125 Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, UT 84663.

please send a SASE to: Marilyn Brown, 125 Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, UT 84663. Spring 2000

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please send a SASE to: Marilyn Brown, 125 Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, UT 84663. Spring 2000

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 10 Chains was published by Signature in 1997. My novel Dear

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Chains was published by Signature in 1997. My novel Dear Stone has been accepted for publication, but is not yet published. BYU did the dramatic ver- sion of that one in the Arena Theatre in May 1997. Currently, I am working on the project which has captured my heart (and time) more than any other of my life and I anticipate probably another decade devoted to its themes. The project is a trilo- gy of novels about black pioneers, whose inspiring, and sometimes troubling, stories are surprisingly unknown in the Church. I am co-authoring it with a remarkable man, Darius Gray, an African American who joined the Church 35 years ago, before the priesthood was available to him. Darius was the first counselor when the Genesis Group was organized by the First Presidency in 1971 as a sup- port group for African-American Mormons. He is now the president of that group and it is still offi- cially sponsored by the Church. (In fact, President Gray reports to a member of the Seventy.) The tril- ogy, titled Standing on the Promises, will cover the lives of Elijah Abel, Jane James (and their families), the three slaves who were in the first company to enter the Salt Lake Valley (Hark Lay, Oscar Crosby,

to enter the Salt Lake Valley (Hark Lay, Oscar Crosby, T H E I I T

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Margaret Young

professional juggler juggling care of her

Margaret Blair Young teaches creative writing part time at BYU. In many ways, she considers herself a

husband and

four children, her church callings as a Spanish-lan- guage institute teacher and ward organist, and her career as a writer. (She has a personal rule of teaching only one writing class per semester.) She has published two novels, with two more forthcoming, two short story collections, many individual short stories, essays, plus just a little poetry. She has a degree in university stud- ies (basically theater) from BYU and a master’s degree in English, also from BYU. She met her husband, Bruce, a BYU Shakespeare scholar, by taking his liter- ary criticism class. He had been told that he would probably not be hired permanently if he weren’t mar- ried, and Margaret was promised free tuition if she’d marry him thus, the Young family, plus four chil- and Margaret was promised free tuition if she’d marry him dren, fifteen years later. (Conveniently, Bruce dren, fifteen years later. (Conveniently, Bruce and Margaret also love each other.)

IRREANTUM: To start off, tell us a little about your published works. MY: House without Walls was my first novel, pub- lished in 1991 by Deseret Book. Gene England has characterized it as “home literature” and it really is, though I’m not ashamed of it. The best story about House is that my mother probably bought most of the copies. She distributed them freely, including to a Russian woman (an English teacher) while Mom and Dad were teaching in Russia. This woman read my novel, which spoke to her in some very specific ways, then asked if she could read the Book of Mormon. She and her son, and later her husband, joined the Church. When my dad, Robert Blair, was called to preside over the Baltic States mission, this woman’s son was called to serve in that same mission. Salvador was my first novel to win an award the Utah Arts Council award for novel. Aspen Books published it in 1992, the same year that the University of Idaho Press published my short story collection, Elegiesand Love Songs. My collection Love

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of Idaho Press published my short story collection, Elegiesand Love Songs. My collection Love Spring 2000

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 11 and Green Flake), and Samuel Chambers, a slave who was

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 11 and Green Flake), and Samuel Chambers, a slave who

and Green Flake), and Samuel Chambers, a slave who was secretly baptized in 1844 and then joined the Saints in Salt Lake after the Civil War. We also follow Darius’s family, beginning with his great- grandfather, who was a slave near Independence, Missouri, at the time of the Saints’ expulsion. We use equal parts documentation and imagination. Each chapter has endnotes. It has been an adventure!

IRREANTUM: In the interest of bibliographic completeness, could you list for us the New Era stories and some other articles? MY: The first story I published in the New Era was called “Mrs. Brant.” It appeared in June 1979. My byline was Margaret Blair. The second story they purchased was never published to my knowledge. That one would’ve been under Margaret Blair Fox. Under the Fox name, I published an article about home birth in Let’s Live magazine, a poem in Sunstone ( I don’t recall the title), and an article called “Artist of the Poor” in Format: Art and the World.

IRREANTUM : How would you describe your expe- rience writing each book and the responses RREANTUM: How would you describe your expe- rience writing each book and the responses you’ve received from readers including sales figures, if you’re willing to share them? Have you had a sense of breaking new ground in Mormon literature? MY: None of my books has sold terribly well yet. I’ve learned a lot about marketing from watching it done badly. (The University of Idaho takes the cake here. The extent of their publicity was their own little catalogues, published on newsprint and sent to various university libraries resulting in a grand total of 250 sales of my book.) For Standing on the Promises, Darius and I have been very specif- ic in examining and asking about Deseret Book’s marketing plans for our work. (In fact, we had a lawyer review our contract.) We’re satisfied that they’ll do a good job. Ask me next year at this time how I feel it’s gone. As far as being a “groundbreaker” goodness, a number of us are breaking new ground in Mormon literature. I’m certainly not the leader. We probably need to look back to Virginia Sorensen and Maurine Whipple and Doug Thayer as the head groundbreakers fine writers who took their cul-

ture seriously and wrote about it beautifully. And

Levi Peterson is one of my most important mentors.

I suppose one of the main differences between me

and some of my contemporaries who write the same

sorts of things I do is that I boldly proclaim myself

a believer in my faith and that it is my faith itself which leads me to write what I do which are not easy things, or quickly resolved dilemmas. Mormonism is a bold faith with remarkable claims and a painful past. I am a Mormon who cherish-

es or at least tries to charitably confront some of

the pain of my own Mormon history. I believe in the infinite worth of our mortal refining process, and in grace. I believe that one of the greatest les- sons we will learn in this life is compassion. In some way, all of my work deals with difficult circum- stances which (I hope) teach or remind us to com- fort those in need of comfort, and to do it without invoking cliches or easy answers.

IRREANTUM: In your introduction to Love Chains, you admit, “When my novels House with- out Walls and Salvador came out in the same year the first published by Deseret Book, the sec- ond by Aspen I knew some people would think I was schizophrenic.” And you’ve also published with Signature. MY: Yes. And they’ve accepted another novel of mine for future publication as well.

IRREANTUM: That’s pretty much a grand slam in Mormon literature. How would you compare your experiences with and observations about each of those publishers? How have you avoided develop- ing a brand name that one end of the spectrum or the other would refuse to work with? MY: It is so easy to avoid developing a name which one press or another refuses to work with if your name is not well known. Truthfully, those who know my work comprise a very small circle. I’m always sur- prised when someone asks me if I’m “the writer.” In my stake, I am the “institute teacher.” At home, I’m “the mother.” I honestly expect that the trilogy will make my name better known as “the writer,” but it will be paired with Darius Gray’s name and I hope our work itself will get more fame than either of our

with Darius Gray’s name and I hope our work itself will get more fame than either

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with Darius Gray’s name and I hope our work itself will get more fame than either

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 12 names. Neither of us is in this for a line

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names. Neither of us is in this for a line on our resumes or for a lot of money. We feel so strongly about this project. For Darius, it is in many ways the culmination of his work in the Genesis Group and he hopes it will help bring to light some of the racial issues which are so critical to the Church’s growth in minority communities. For me, it is the answer to a blessing I prayed for several years ago: that I would be able to consecrate my talents and find something to write about which would actually touch hearts and not just win awards. I used to read several short sto- ries daily and usually a part of a novel. For two years, all of my reading has been black history or Mormon history. My eyes have been opened in so many ways as I’ve focused my research on the race issues in early Mormonism, and even in contemporary Mormonism. I’ll admit that much of what I’ve found has been very hard to stomach. There was one time I was reading statements by former Church leaders which I felt were more reflective of their times than their faith, and utterly racist by God’s standards, when Darius called me and said, “I just felt impressed that I needed to bear you my testimony. You’re read- ing some hard things, and you need to know that the Church is still true. It really does have the keys to God’s authority on the earth.” It’s been wonderful to found has been very hard to stomach. There was one time I have my guide through have my guide through this difficult terrain be some- one as wise and faithful as Darius.

IRREANTUM: What has it been like writing with someone else? How do you accomplish it? What are the challenges and benefits? MY: I began writing what I thought would be one novel about black pioneers. I knew that, with my Scandinavian heritage, I didn’t really have the back- ground to do this. When I talked about it, I usually added an apology, saying I knew I shouldn’t be writ- ing a novel about blacks when I’m so white I can’t even tan, but someone needed to write it! Very short- ly after I met Darius, I knew he and I were to write this together. The language I was trying for in the book was the language of his childhood; he knew it well. He also knew the history of blacks in the Church and outside of the Church better than anyone I’ve ever met. And he came with that wonder- ful genealogy which we could use. As we worked

together, we learned that Darius’s contribution was

not just linguistic but logical. I love a good turn of phrase, but he is always looking for the realism of what we’re describing. I can create great banter and dialogue between my characters, but he consistently asks me, “Would they actually say this in this circum- stance?” and we go from there. We started with some

I was

the writer and he shouldn’t interfere with the writing part of it, just help me get the dialect right. But as we have worked, we have come to respect each other’s gifts. He is not shy about making suggestions though he was shy in the beginning. And I am not

shy about rejecting his suggestions though I usually

don’t, because he’s usually right. We really have learned to work as a team. The other thing I’ve real- ized is that it matters that we are working from two races and two genders. At one point, I thought that when it was done, I’d relinquish marketing to Darius (who has only one child at home, whereas I have four). I liked the idea, and knew it would give him an opportunity to carry out his Genesis stewardship, which is not limited to Utah but covers the entire U.S. However, as I’ve spoken to my husband and friends, I’ve come to feel that my “whiteness” matters too. My presence as co-author blunts the concerns of anyone thinking the trilogy represents some black guy grind- ing an axe. And Darius covers the concerns of folks who might accuse me of writing about people I couldn’t possibly understand.

predictable problems of pride my feeling that

I RREANTUM: You’ve written, “As a teacher of writing and literature, I find that my students are hungry for good writing, that they feel betrayed by easy resolutions and cheap tears.” Will you discuss whether you think such readers are finding more to satisfy them in the current world of Mormon liter- ature? How can writers reach more readers who perhaps choose not to read Mormon fiction at all because of those easy resolutions and cheap tears? MY: We really are at a good place in Mormon lit- erature. It’s not as good as the place we’re heading to, but it’s far beyond the world of Shirley Sealy. I’m thinking not just about fiction, but playwriting. Several AML-List members have written wonderful plays. What a coup for Tim Slover to have A Joyful

AML-List members have written wonderful plays. What a coup for Tim Slover to have A Joyful

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AML-List members have written wonderful plays. What a coup for Tim Slover to have A Joyful

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 13 Noise playing off Broadway! And Eric Samuelsen and Thom Duncan

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 13 Noise playing off Broadway! And Eric Samuelsen and Thom
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 13 Noise playing off Broadway! And Eric Samuelsen and Thom

Noise playing off Broadway! And Eric Samuelsen and Thom Duncan are remarkably gifted play- wrights. In poetry, we have the likes of Susan Howe and Lance Larsen both published in well-respect-

ed journals outside the Mountain West. In fiction, I think Dean Hughes has shown the depth of his gift in his World War Two series, evidenced by his receiving the AML award for novels in 1997. Marilyn Brown has always had such a talent;

I hope her work will get

more attention in the future. I’m almost afraid to name names, because there are so many fine authors and I wouldn’t want to leave someone out. Those I’ve named are all active Mormons. There are some less- orthodox Mormons, like Terry Tempest Williams and Phyllis Barber, who have written about our culture and been very well received outside Utah. We are doing bet- ter. Of course we still have a lot of sentimental literature as does much of popular culture, Mormon or non. But we are making tremendous

strides. Perhaps our biggest obstacle is that we have

a reputation for sugary work replete with cliches,

and those who are hungry for meatier fare will tend to presume the whole of Mormon literature can be lumped into a pile of saccharine. We perhaps have some PR work to do and certainly the Association for Mormon Letters can and should be an impor- tant part of that.

IRREANTUM: Tell us about your teaching profes- sion. How does teaching writing and literature affect you as a writer? Is it even possible to teach creative writing?

MY: You bet it’s possible to teach creative writing. Much of the process is simply opening my students up to their own voices and their own perceptions, then letting them find their writerly intuition and pursue it. And they do. They really do grow as writ- ers as they read excellent writing (essential) and do daily exercises which increase their sensitivity to the world around them. In my current class, I’m in the poetry unit right now. I open each class with two questions: “What poets have you fallen in love with since last class?” and “What have you seen with your poetic eyes?” I get wonderful responses. I love teach- ing. I’ve heard writers say they hate teaching amateurs, because they are inundated with so much lousy writing when the assignments come in. I do not feel that way at all. Rather, I find delightful phrases or insights or images in just about everything my students write. Sure, there are lots of cliches as the kids get started, but we trash those in pretty short order. Most importantly, I get close to my stu- dents and this includes my institute students. As my world expands to include them and their unique experiences, perceptions, and voices, I have that much more fodder for my own writing.

IRREANTUM: How did you come to writing in general, and to Mormon writing? What works of Mormon literature have you personally most enjoyed? What works of general literature? MY: The Brothers Karamazov was my great initia- tion. I read it in high school. On one of my trips to Guatemala (which I visited with some frequency

I read it in high school. On one of my trips to Guatemala (which I visited
I read it in high school. On one of my trips to Guatemala (which I visited

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I read it in high school. On one of my trips to Guatemala (which I visited

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 14 with my linguist father, who was studying and teaching Mayan

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 14 with my linguist father, who was studying and teaching

with my linguist father, who was studying and

teaching Mayan dialects), I took two books besides my scriptures: Moby Dick and Doug Thayer’s Under the Cottonwoods. One of my non-Mormon friends from high school gave me Don Marshall’s Rummage Sale for my birthday when I turned eighteen and

I enjoyed it thoroughly. I’ve already mentioned oth-

ers of my mentors in Mormon writing. In general writing, I find my mentors change as my projects change. For years, Charles Baxter was one of my favorites, and he started me on several stories in Love Chains. Toni Morrison’s Beloved was perhaps the most influential book I’ve read because of where it led me to the things I’m currently doing. As far as “coming to writing,” I knew for years I wanted to be a writer. The first story I wrote took me a year to finish. I was twenty-one it was quite an appren-

ticeship. I had not realized it was so difficult to write well. (I had sold a couple of stories to the New Era, but they were not really good stories.) Now I have a solid sense of what it takes, and I’m grateful to have the time and energy and by now a bit of abili-

ty to devote to writing books I care about deeply.

IRREANTUM: Most fiction is a combination of three elements: what the author has experienced, observed, and imagined. How do those three ele- ments work together for you? How much is auto- biographical?

MY: There’s the old writer’s cliche, “Write about what you know.” I have not always obeyed it. When

I came to BYU to begin what I anticipated would be

my writing career, I “created” stories with mazelike symbols and Mormon themes. I was reading great literature but all classics. I didn’t even know who the contemporary authors were. Professor Bruce Jorgensen made a list for me of about twenty con- temporary authors, and I began reading them. Then one night or actually one very early morning I began writing something from my own life. No sym- bols or set-up themes. I had just gone through an excruciating divorce, and I began writing about life with my ex-husband. For several weeks, I would get

up at 3:00 A.M. and write that story. Ultimately, I sold it to the Southern Review. (It was called “Grandpa’s Growth” and is also in Elegies and Love

Songs.) That was how I came to understand the “write about what you know” rule. So most of my short stories are autobiographical. My novel Salvador certainly is. And my novel-play Dear Stone, though fictionalized, was sprung from the life of my hus- band’s sister, Nancy, who died of multiple sclerosis the very day we opened the play. It was an emotion- al time. Bruce and I had been with Nancy as she died. I called Eric Samuelsen, who had directed Dear Stone, and we opened the play as scheduled dedi- cating it to Nancy. (Bruce had already written the program notes paying tribute to his sister.) Of course, the trilogy inhabits a world I do not know, which is why it’s so essential that I have a co-author.

IRREANTUM: Tell us more about your writing habits: how often you write, how you balance it with other things, any rituals or conditions you must have for a good writing session, and perhaps some comments about whether you use notes, out- lines, research, multiple drafts, et cetera. MY: When my babies were little, their nap time was always my writing time regardless of the condi- tion of the house. I produced a bunch of bad writing during most of those years but learned essential things. I do not demand any conditions for my writ- ing now except time. I don’t need to be in a cabin by the ocean or in some Samoan rainforest to get inspired. If I did, I wouldn’t have done any writing. I try to keep the right balance in all the things I’m doing (and I’ve spoken about that on a number of occasions, including at an AML conference), but I do find that if I go to the computer near bedtime to do “just one or two revisions,” several hours will go by without my being aware of the time, and my mind will be so filled with ideas for revisions or plot developments that I won’t be able to get to sleep. So Bruce has decided my computer time should be restricted to daytime hours. I usually go along with that. Because I still have chil- dren at home, I do not have the luxury of unlimited writing time and I find that’s good. I tend to leave my writing against my will, but that will pulls me back to it the next day. For the trilogy, I have read probably fifty books and have a file of research notes on my computer. Generally speaking, I have occa- sionally outlined a plot, but rarely followed the out-

Generally speaking, I have occa- sionally outlined a plot, but rarely followed the out- Spring 2000

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Generally speaking, I have occa- sionally outlined a plot, but rarely followed the out- Spring 2000

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line as my characters have taken on life and decided where they wanted to go. I usually let them.

IRREANTUM: Have you sent out much for con- sideration by national agents and publishers? Tell us about those experiences. Do you think this nation will ever have a Mormon Saul Bellow or Flannery O’Connor, someone winning a Pulitzer or National Book Award for fiction that deals with Mormon themes, settings, and characters? MY: I’ve worked with an agent but found that her enthusiasm for my work didn’t match the pub- lishers’. She was a New York Jewish woman, who learned that Mormon writing doesn’t generally invite much of a national audience. Ultimately, she negotiated my contract with Aspen for Salvador and got me an advance from the University of Idaho for Elegies. But lately, I’ve marketed my own stuff. We’ve certainly seen some Mormon writers break into the national market, but the cases are rare. Levi Peterson could not sell The Backslider nationally, though it’s one of the best things any of us Mormon writers has done. Brian Evenson may, in the future, be considered the Mormon Flannery O’Connor because of the grotesqueness of his characters, but his work doesn’t have the redemptive qualities of O’Connor’s. Still, I have no doubt that we will someday have our own Flannery O’Connor or Saul Bellow, but I don’t believe I’ve seen any of that per- son’s work as yet.some Mormon writers break into the national market, but the cases are rare. Levi Peterson could

IRREANTUM: What will it take to get Mormon characters and themes before a national audience? What kinds of stories, characters, plots? People love reading about Asians, Jews, Catholics why not Mormons more often? MY: Well, we obviously have had Mormon books and characters before a national audience, but the portrayals have been, almost without exception, biased, often even demonic as though we are all some version of Mark Hofmann, or sexual deviants, or protectors of sexual deviants. Conversely, we have the problem of “Home Literature” which protects more than it reveals, and thus would come across as unrealistic and preachy to a national audience. I really do believe we are transcending that, though. I

cannot emphasize enough how pleased I was that Deseret Book not only wanted Standing on the Promises but undertook a major sales meeting with us. (There was another press interested in publish- ing it.) Sheri Dew, who is such a powerhouse, said it was essential that Deseret, which is owned by the Church, publish this book, that the issues which arise in our trilogy be discussed under the Church insignia. Deseret Book knows that we will be quot- ing some of the troubling things Brigham Young said regarding “the seed of Cain” and we have per- mission to do that, provided we set the historical context. (Brigham Young was representative of most religious leaders and U.S. citizens of that time in his racial views.) They know that in novel two we will describe the lynching of Sam Joe Harvey by a mob consisting mostly of Mormons and again, we will not be censored if we do not make the lynching gra- tuitously violent. My impression from the Deseret Book staffers is that this book matters to them about as much as it matters to Darius and me. And I really believe it matters to God as well. We are still surrounded by folklore from the past. It still gets taught in seminaries and Sunday Schools. Historical fiction is a good way to introduce some Mormons to their own hidden prejudices, and to their broth- ers and sisters of color, and to the African heritage in this Church. Could this trilogy go to a national audience? I don’t know and I don’t think Deseret Book is planning on an attempt. But President Hinckley, thanks to Sheri Dew, has a book out from Random House. I suspect that as our own presses get better and our writers continue to strive for greater light and knowledge, people like Sheri Dew will be able to sell even fiction titles to larger press- es. I suspect that’s how it will happen.

I RREANTUM: You’ve been involved in the AML, Dialogue, and other independent intellectual and cultural efforts. What are your thoughts, observa- tions, and hopes related to the place of such efforts in the overall Mormon community? MY: My hope is for greater unity for all of us Mormons: black and white, male and female, liber- al and conservative, intellectual and nonintellectual. We simply cannot afford to label each other as “ene-

intellectual and nonintellectual. We simply cannot afford to label each other as “ene- Spring 2000 15

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intellectual and nonintellectual. We simply cannot afford to label each other as “ene- Spring 2000 15

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 16 mies” as some have done. We cannot afford to

mies” as some have done. We cannot afford to nur- ture our prejudices. We cannot afford to refuse to look at ourselves and our history squarely. Our errors in judgment, our leaders’ troublesome past statements, are readily available on the Internet, and future generations will find them (as current gener- ations do). I celebrate the ways Dialogue and Sunstone have really tried lately to explore Mormon thought in nondivisive ways. There was a time, years ago, when I found Sunstone so polemical that I refused to support it. That has changed. I appreci- ate that Elbert Peck sends Sunstone Symposium participants notification that the symposium is not about Mormon bashing, but about building faith and unity. I am glad to have Neal and Rebecca Chandler wonderful people editing Dialogue and fully support the direction they’re taking it.

IRREANTUM: Do your books have happy end- ings? How do you handle flaws in your characters? How do you balance portraying things realistically versus idealistically? What about potentially explicit things like sex and violence? MY: I RREANTUM My books tend to have rather ambiguous endings. I handle flaws in my characters My books tend to have rather ambiguous endings. I handle flaws in my characters with joy and delight. And I tend much more towards the realistic than the idealistic. There is sex and violence in some of my work. I address this in my opening essay in Love Chains. I do not believe in gratuitous sex or violence or sentimentality.

IRREANTUM: What has been the general reaction to your story “God on Donahue,” specifically the reaction to showing God possibly as a character in a pop culture setting? MY: Some have predictably been offended. I have never considered that the character I created in the hitchhiker was actually God, but he certainly was God in Joseph’s imagination, and what Joseph imagined led him to his own epiphany.

IRREANTUM: Could you comment on the tem- ple as a presence in your fiction. It’s in Salvador, Love Chains, House without Walls, and perhaps exclusion from the temple will be a theme in Standing on the Promises. MY: Certainly temple imagery is prominent in my work, as a symbol of Mormonism itself and lev- els of consecration. And I do see the temple as more symbolic of my faith than a regular Mormon chapel. In the temple, borders come down as we dress alike and speak alike (in some ways). So much of my writing deals with borders we set up between ourselves and others, and the temple is one place which truly begins to make us “alike unto God.” And yes, the temple will play a very big part in the trilogy. Elijah Abel helped build the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples, and was washed and anointed in the Kirtland temple. He helped build the Salt Lake temple too, but was denied permission to be sealed there to his wife though he held the Melchizedek priesthood. This is a sad history for all of us Mormons, but Elijah’s answer to the denial should inspire us: He finished his life by serving his third mission for the Church. He returned early, very ill, and died two weeks later, on Christmas day.

IRREANTUM: What other projects are you cur- rently working on? MY: We (the Genesis Group) are also staging a play about Jane Manning James, complete with some wonderful and very traditional Negro spiritu- als. It will have been staged by the time this is print- ed (we’re doing it as the March 5 Genesis meeting), but we hope to take it further. It is yet a work in progress.

as the March 5 Genesis meeting), but we hope to take it further. It is yet

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as the March 5 Genesis meeting), but we hope to take it further. It is yet

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Our Senses of Humor Are Our Lines of Defenses

By Richard H. Cracroft

There are, of course, a number of dangers inherent in the topic of humor. In the first place, a college dean has no place talking about jokes. Deans are jokes. In the second place, a stake president has no business talking about humor; stake presidents are to be humored; indeed, stake president and humor are contradictory terms, like fun run, generous banker, charming composition teacher, friendly Ute fan, or a seminary teacher who sticks to the scriptures. (No doubt my nearly ten years as stake president will soon come to an end because of this, for, with the famous Reverend Sydney Smith, who once explained when asked why he never attained a bishopric in his church while inferior men did, I also say, “I sink by my levi- ty, while others rise by their gravity.”) Flirting with humor can be dangerous because humor, as E.B. White wrote, “plays like an active child, close to the big, hot fire where is Truth. And sometimes the child feels the heat.” Humor is indeed a danger to human pretensions, to hypocrisy, to vanity, and thus a danger to all of us, for at some point each of us must learn the defini- tion of human being which reads, “a person who will laugh while looking in the family album then look into the mirror and never crack a smile.” Humor is a threat to our pride, for it is an occa- sional reminder that the sure and firm-set earth upon which we tread can shake and tumble us at any moment. If you say that such is also the effect of religion, you are speaking gospel truth. True humor and true religion mount a steady siege against the layers of falseness which can congest and destroy our souls. Humor and religion can become, then, the Dristan of our spirits, transforming us from postnatal drips and putting us into Celestial Contac; but perhaps I’m being Excedrin! Humor is especially dangerous to the somber- spirited one. Sydney J. Harris insists that “many ponderous and humorless men equate mere solem- nity with seriousness,” and the Frenchman Laof Humor Are Our Lines of Defenses By Richard H. Cracroft Rouchefoucauld adds that “a solemnity

Rouchefoucauld adds that “a solemnity of behavior is often a trick to disguise the deficiencies of the mind.” Too many, concludes Harris, inadvertently reveal themselves in a “heaviness of manner [that] masks an emptiness of substance.” Too often those who seem to be taking their subjects seriously are simply taking themselves seriously. A sense of humor is the ability to discover, to identify, and to appreciate the ludicrous and the incongruous in words, in situations, in ideas, in human beings, in the universe. It is, as Stephen Leacock has written, “the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life, and the artistic expression thereof.” Or, as a neighbor put it, it is what makes you laugh at something which would make you mad when it happened to you. A sense of humor is at least a partial way of look- ing at life. It is a person opting to see himself or her- self from a comic instead of from a solemn perspec- tive. Humor is a kind of self-dramatization in which a human being clambers out of himself, springs to a nearby pinnacle, and views himself from a different standpoint, from a comic stance which either dimin- ishes the problem by placing it in a cosmic context or magnifies the problem by exaggerating the matter to ludicrous dimensions and thus diminishing it. While humor presents the ludicrous as it is, wit exposes the ludicrous by contrasting it with some- thing else. Wit is, wrote Mark Twain, “the sudden marriage of ideas which before that union were not perceived to have any relation.” Humor, unlike wit, may be gentle or rough, subtle or sophisticated, but it need not be critical. Humor can range from the bludgeonings of burlesque to a subtle turn of the pen, but true humor is always a product of natural growth, a product of accident not art. Humor is spontaneous. It is a child psychiatrist writing in a newspaper about disciplining children, “It is permis- sible to spank a child, if one has a very definite end in view.” Humor is a slip of the chalk on a menu board at a local eatery: “Dreaded veal cutlets.” Humor is natural, relaxed, and often innocent, and its duty is to describe the ludicrous and incongruous. Incongruity is the key. It transforms the solemn into the familiar, generally by means of exaggera- tion, and makes the solemn accessible for laughter.

familiar, generally by means of exaggera- tion, and makes the solemn accessible for laughter. Spring 2000

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familiar, generally by means of exaggera- tion, and makes the solemn accessible for laughter. Spring 2000

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Incongruity is the discrepancy between what some- one thinks he is and what he really is. The tensions caused by incongruity, by appearance battling against reality, are the foundation of humor, wit, the essence of the laughable, of the comic spirit. William Hazlitt said it well: “Man is the only ani- mal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.” Again, we seem very near to describing the goal of religion, which is to narrow that gap. Cartoonists thrive on incongruity. I recall the clas- sic Calvin Grondahl cartoon in a Daily Universe of several years ago. In the cartoon a BYU student is seen rising, cut and bleeding, from a pile of rocks, all of which have obviously been thrown at him. He says to the BYU security police as they come to his assis- tance, “All I said was, ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’” The evident incongruity here attacks self-righteousness, a sad form of affectation. The complexities of humor depend so much upon launching the right incongruities at the right moment. The “sense of humor” must, therefore, include a keen sense of timing, which is almost a moral sense, a delicate mechanism with a hair trig- ger that can go off at the wrong time, even for the most successful humorist. To end, I will merely say this: We have enough jokes, I think; what we need are more laughs and more of optimism and faith in the universe which enables laughter. What we need is a greater sense of the ridiculous, the ludicrous, the incongruous. Laughing at the laughable, which often includes laughing at ourselves, will enable us to put mun- dane realities and Eternal Truths into their properto narrow that gap. Cartoonists thrive on incongruity. I recall the clas- sic Calvin Grondahl cartoon

perspectives, unfettered by our Self, which can dis- tort the simplest of truths. Our senses of humor are our lines of defense against the vicissitudes of life. Often we will have the choice between laughing and crying at life’s tricks. Sometimes crying may be the way to spell relief. But often the best way to get the red out is to laugh. Twain, in the Mysterious Stranger, has Satan confide that “your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution these can lift at a colossal humbug push it a little, weak- en it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” In an essay, Twain, whose own life was not always happy, has summed it up well: “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing, after all. The minute it crops us, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.” Let us strive to cultivate that sunny, Comic Spirit. Gloom, like the poor, is always with us. Good humor is scarce.

Richard H. Cracroft is the Nan Osmond Grass Professor in English and director of the Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature at BYU, where he has taught since 1963. Editor of Literature and Belief and a past president of the Association for Mormon Letters, he founded BYU’s Mormon literature course and with Neal Lambert published A Believing People (BYU Press, 1974), the first anthology of Mormon literature. This essay first appeared in the March 1983 issue of BYU Today.

anthology of Mormon literature. This essay first appeared in the March 1983 issue of BYU Today.

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anthology of Mormon literature. This essay first appeared in the March 1983 issue of BYU Today.

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Latter-day Frogs and Other Amphibians

By Edgar C. Snow Jr.

In anticipation of a Y2K societal breakdown, I sat down one Sunday afternoon last year and compared the plagues in Exodus to the plagues in the Revelation of John. In need of comfort, I figured my worst fears about Y2K glitches would pale in comparison to these two celebrated disaster scenar- ios of (literally) biblical proportions. I thought I was right, but discovered one exception: the plague of frogs in chapter 8 of Exodus. I’d never really focused on this one before. We’re talking about frogs. A plague of frogs. How scary could that be, I won- dered. Annoying, yes, but awe-inspiring, fear- inducing? Ancient Egyptians, being attacked by a lot of Budweiser-type frogs. Now submitting ancient Egyptians to Budweiser commercials over and over again was a form of torture I could under- stand. But frogs? Heck, we found about twenty baby frogs on our deck last summer, and my two boys starting packing them in their pockets. Now, I have to duly note that a mere salamander scared quite a few people I know not too many years ago, but a plague of frogs? Well, my exhaustive pondering and studying ofLatter-day Frogs and Other Amphibians By Edgar C. Snow Jr. of Mormonism, Mormon Doctrine, and some

of

Mormonism, Mormon Doctrine, and some old Reader’s Digest issues made me reminisce about what’s known in my house as the Decomposing Toad Incident. You see, my wife was startled a few years back by a toad she uncovered in a flower pot on our front porch. She promptly called me at work to discuss the matter. I had just read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, so I thought I’d give my newfound insights into the feminine mystique a try. I said something like: “I know how you feel about that. I’m really sorry. I mowed over a frog once in the back yard as a teenager and it scared me, too. Took me weeks to get over it. Ruined a pair of jeans. And the song ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine,’ kept ringing in my ears for weeks. The guilt was palpable.” I was acting the way a woman’s girlfriend would act, I thought, listening

this topic searching the Encyclopedia

and empathizing. Saying how I felt, sharing some feelings. That kind of thing. But she didn’t want me to empathize with her. She wanted a real man, a man of action who could fix the problem. She interrupted me and demanded that I come home immediately and remedy the sit- uation. “I can’t have a decomposing frog in my flower pot!” she said. When I got home a little early that night, I investigated the situation as my wife superintended. I armed myself with a stick and, like a wary fencer, thrust and parried into the flower pot dirt till I uncovered a little, fat, undecomposed toad. I looked at my wife and she said, defensively, “Well, when I touched him, he was really slimy and gross.” The toad sat there. I poked at him again. He forcefully leaned into the stick and tried to shrug me away with one shoulder, kind of the way a defensive lineman throws off a blocker. So I poked him again to see if he would stiff-arm me and hop out of the way. He held his ground. It was a less- than-apocalyptic event. But that was before I became a believer. While continuing my desperate search, one evening I felt compelled to pick up a video guide- book hidden in the TV cabinet, and I came across the entry for a ‘70s horror movie titled Frogs. Hmmmm. Sounded like a movie made from clip- pings on the cutting room floor of Cecil B. DeMille, the missing piece to my theological puz- zle. This was a wonderful opportunity, I reckoned, to see just how scary a bunch of frogs could be. The problem is, I haven’t been able to find it at any video rental shop. Lately I’ve been thinking a remake of Frogs would be timely, or maybe as an X Files episode, given the advances we’ve made in special effects, and the recent frog mutation stories we keep reading about in the paper. Seems that human pol- lution (or a natural parasite, depending on your source) is the cause of a lot of three-legged, mutat- ed frogs, a perfect motive for frogs to unite in revenge against the human race. With a little imag- ination, you could make those mutations even more interesting. Giant mutant frogs, with teeth and claws like Jurassic Park T-rexes, could roam the countryside in search of human prey, their tongues 15 feet long, catching people like flies.

the countryside in search of human prey, their tongues 15 feet long, catching people like flies.

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the countryside in search of human prey, their tongues 15 feet long, catching people like flies.

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 20 That video guidebook lifted my vision to new amphibious

That video guidebook lifted my vision to new amphibious vistas. I soon began recalling long-for- gotten incidents that spoke to me in ways I’d never before countenanced. Consider, for instance, a story about my friend David’s fearless eight-month-old daughter. I recalled how when they visited me at my parent’s house in the ‘80s, he let her crawl around on our back porch. She spied a toad hanging out by the screen door and crawled toward it, cooing, drooling, and gooing. My dad said, “David, you’d better watch her; she’ll grab that toad and put it in her mouth.” If my mom had been there, she prob- ably would’ve said, “She might even poke her eye out with it!” David replied, “Let her learn by expe- rience, I always say.” Then he started to say some- thing else but the thought was lost when all three of us lunged toward his daughter as she snatched the toad and plunged its entire head into her mouth. I don’t remember who performed the toadectomy, but she wailed, and the toad escaped to live and jump another day. About this time my wife and I watched a Chuck Jones-produced Warner Brothers cartoon entitled One Froggy Evening with our two sons. Frog plagues transformed instantly from mere possibilities to One Froggy Evening with our two sons. Frog plagues transformed instantly from mere possibilities to creepy plausibility in one sitting. It’s about a man who discovers a box inside the foundation of an old building being torn down. To his surprise, there’s a frog inside. And to his amazement, the frog hops up and sings and dances, of all things, ragtime, while he twirls a cane and hat! The man whisks the box away, money $$ign$$ floating in the air behind him. He takes the frog to an agent, but the frog will perform only in front of the man who found him. He then rents a performance hall and advertises his singing and dancing frog. When no one shows, he advertises free beer (a Mormon attendance-promot- ing principle, but with alcohol) and packs the house. Of course, the frog performs behind the cur- tain, but merely croaks when it is raised. Finally, impoverished, the man is sitting in the dead of night on a park bench, his frog next to him singing opera, when a cop accosts him for disturbing the peace. Again, the officer never sees the frog perform; he just hears the racket. The man points to the frog as the cause, and the man ends up in an insane asy-

lum. In the end, the man sneaks up to a new build- ing foundation and drops the box inside. Then, 100 years into the future, another man opens the foun- dation time capsule, discovers the singing and danc- ing frog, and whisks the box away, money $$ign$$ floating in the air behind him. Nor was it long after that I happened to read a bedtime story to my boys entitled The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague. In this beguiling story about the creative excuses of two incorrigibly tardy boys, there was one intriguing excuse that made me croak. They were late, they claimed, because they encountered a plague of frogs on the way to school. No doubt these boys had also been reading Exodus. My sons giggled at Teague’s illustrations, showing millions of frogs piled every which way, but seeing this through the eyes of an adult I was now visual- izing how loathsome such a plague would be. Frogs would just be everywhere. On your head. In your pockets. Under your feet. In your undershirt. In your bed. In your shoes. In your car. In your cereal box. In your bowl. Under your seat right before you sat down. And in fact, this is about what Exodus chapter 8 describes:

And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy knead- ingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy ser- [A]nd the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank (vv. 3-4, 13-14).

together upon heaps: and the land stank (vv. 3-4, 13-14). It was at this point I

It was at this point I made the successful trans- formation from skeptic to amphibiphobe, being forced in the process to confess my wife was onto something about how nasty decomposing frogs could be. After reading Teague’s book, I was now a believer. And since faith precedes the miracle, it was then that the miracle occurred. About two months ago, we returned from a long weekend and my wife

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that the miracle occurred. About two months ago, we returned from a long weekend and my
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 21 lifted a toilet seat on the second story
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lifted a toilet seat on the second story in our house
and discovered a live frog swimming, hopping, and
splashing around inside, like the creature from the
Black Lagoon’s little brother. I put on rubber gloves,
grabbed a colander, and, with my family cowering
behind me, I scooped it up, ran to our deck, and
flung it into the wild from which it had come. To
this day it remains a dark, miraculous mystery how
he got there. And I for one have been counting my
blessings that my wife didn’t discover the frog while
she was sitting down. That truly would have been a
plague on me and my house. My recommendation?
Take some precautions. Knock on the toilet seat,
then listen for splashing. Look before it leaps.
And now as the real next millennium approaches,
I feel prepared for whatever the new year will bring.
Yet I have only one regret: I should’ve kept that frog.
I’m thinking now I could have made some serious
money with him. Sometimes late at night, after my
wife and kids are asleep, while I’m worrying over
bills, I think of some of the marketing
possibilities no, probabilities. Of course, we could
have kept him in the toilet and created a small
shrine out of the bathroom, charging a nominal
admission fee, but why limit yourself?Think major
speaking and appearance fees. Big royalties. Stupid
Pet Tricks on David Letterman and other talk
shows: Phil, the Toilet Swimming Frog! You can
almost hear Robert Stack’s voice on Unsolved
Mysteries: “Spontaneous generation in a commode?”
Complete with a reenactment. And finally, I could
contribute a new chapter to Werner Keller’s The
Bible as History: “Pharaoh’s Frogs in Our Modern
Sewer System.” No, no, this story deserves even
wider treatment I’m selling it to the Enquirer:
S
T
O
RYT
ELLERS
FRO
M
Z
ION
Our Storyteller from Zion
By D. Michael Martindale
“Ancient Frog from Egypt Plagues Household in
Alpharetta, Georgia! Frog Speaks Hebrew!” So let it
be written, so let it be done.
Edgar C. Snow Jr. is a practicing attorney and
author of Of Curious Workmanship: Musings on
Things Mormon (Signature, 1999).
Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? These are
basic questions that people ask sooner or later in their
lives. We form self-images to explain who we are. We
develop a reputation in our minds for other people to
understand who they are. We create and join com-
munities in an effort to understand our identity as
social animals and our role in the universe.
As we develop our answers to these questions, we
begin to believe that we have discovered truth.
Prominent science fiction author Orson Scott Card
believes otherwise. In a sort of “relativistic” approach
to identities, he believes we create our truths with
stories. “Traditional psychotherapies rely heavily on
this process,” he says. “You thought you were trying
to do X, but in fact your unconscious purpose was Y.
Ah, now I understand myself! But I think not I
think that in the moment of believing the new story
you simply revised your identity. I am no longer a
person who tries to do X. I am a person who was
being driven to do Y, without even realizing it. You
remain the same person, who performed the same
acts. Only the story has changed.” 1
If this is correct, Card points out, then the true
cause of our behavior tragically remains “forever
unknowable.” And if we can never know ourselves
with any reliability, efforts to understand other peo-
ple are completely futile. Yet our ability to function
on a day-to-day basis requires a reasonably effective
method of predicting patterns of behavior in others.
Will that car stop at the red light? Will the bank
protect my money? Is the food in this restaurant safe
to eat?Without the daily multitudes of assumptions
we make about other people’s behavior, we couldn’t
function for one minute in society.
Where do people accrue the knowledge they need
to understand themselves and others in a sufficient-
ly orderly way? Card says through our stories. As
people develop stories about themselves that define
their self-image, so are communities built upon
communal stories we tell one another about our-

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their self-image, so are communities built upon communal stories we tell one another about our- Spring

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 22 selves. “There are two kinds of stories,” says Card,

selves. “There are two kinds of stories,” says Card, “that not only give us the illusion of understanding other people’s behavior, but also go a long way toward making that illusion true. Each community has its own epic: a complex of stories about what it means to be a member of that community.” 2 We could spend hours examining the epic stories that define the community called America what it means to be an American, what the country stands for, the inspiring tales from its history, the acts of its great leaders. We could do the same with the com- munity called Latter-day Saints. “The second category of story,” Card goes on, “that shapes human behavior so that we can live together is not perceived as being tied to a particular communi- ty. It is mythic; those who believe in the story believe that it defines the way human beings behave. These stories are not really about how this character or that character behaved in a certain situation. They are

about how people behave in such

He brings up scripture as a perfect example of mythic stories. Even though all scriptures tend to be epic in the sense that they arise from and are accepted by specific communities, those within the communi- ties accept them as mythic, as explaining how people and the universe and God behave. When members of the community believe it, they behave as if it were true, making it become true to a large extent. This philosophy can go a long way toward heal- ing the schism between the two warring factions in literature and other narrative arts such as film and theater that schism between the “elite” and the “masses,” between the “sophisticated” and the “gauche,” between that schism between the “elite” and the “masses,” between the “sophisticated” and the “gauche,” between the “snobs” and the “real peo- ple.” Boiled down to its essence, the dividing line between these two factions is the quality they seek after in their literature. The elite tend to favor that which is artistic aesthetically pleasing while the masses tend to prefer that which is entertaining. But what is the most critical element in an entertaining book?The story. The masses look for story. Now if stories are as vital as Card makes them out to be, then the quality of “storiness” has every bit as much validity as the quality of artistry. Perhaps more, because we are defining ourselves and our communities by our stories. That which is aestheti-

situations.” 3

cally pleasing speaks to our senses and our intellects. That which defines our identity speaks to our souls. How many people have enjoyed the masterpieces of the world: the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel ceil- ing, the sculpture of David? But how many have been brought to tears by them? To be sure, some have, no doubt. But how many people have been brought to tears by a moving book or film or play? The story that impacts us seeps into our very souls, teaches us, changes us. In a story, we know who people are and why they do things we come to understand people. In a story, we can discover reve- lations about ourselves, come to understand why we do what we do. With this paradigm this story, if you will we can see the drastic lengths to which the arrogance of the elite truly extends. More than just a snobbish feeling of superiority for their sophisticated tastes, the arrogance of the elite would rob people of the stories they need to define themselves. Are only the intelligent, the educated, the sophisticated allowed identities? Do not the simple, the naive, the down- to-earth also have the right to stories that speak to them and their needs according to their current state of being? To belittle the literature that speaks to the masses is to deny them their souls, their identities, their membership in communities of their choice. The stories-as-identity-builder philosophy also aids us in defining what Mormon literature might be. Put simply, it is the body of stories that define who we are as individuals and as a community. Whether the story is didactically about what a Mormon should be, or descriptively about what a Mormon often is, or not about Mormons at all but written by a Mormon who is revealing who he or she is by the subconscious decisions made during the creative process, all of it is Mormon literature, because all of it defines who we are in some small way. Orson Scott Card published a collection of his essays titled A Storyteller in Zion. It’s not a throw- away title. Communities and stories are at the very core of who Orson Scott Card is. He tells us, “As a science fiction writer I have wrestled in book after book, story after story, with the question of what makes a good community, of how the individual and the community must balance each other’s rights

a good community, of how the individual and the community must balance each other’s rights Spring

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a good community, of how the individual and the community must balance each other’s rights Spring

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and needs. Someday I hope to reach some firm and final answers.” 4 To him, the individual who is not a productive part of a wholesome community is a worthless indi- vidual. To him, stories define the individuals and the communities. Without stories, community can- not survive. He has gone into the world and repre- sented our community to it didactically, descrip- tively, and by example without any mention of the LDS culture. He helps define us to ourselves and to the rest of the world. He is a storyteller and a mem- ber of the embryonic Zion community that is still waiting to flower. These things define his identity as he contributes to defining ours.

D. Michael Martindale wasborn in Minnesota and attended BYU as a computer science major. He served in the Germany Frankfurt Mission and has since lived in Utah. He is the author and composer of the opera General Prophet Joseph Smith, which he produced as

a musical recording. Currently he is striving to become

a published science fiction author.

Notes

1. Orson Scott Card, Maps in a Mirror: The Short

Fiction of Orson Scott Card (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1990), 273.

2. Ibid, 274.

3. Ibid.

4. Orson

Scott

Card, A Storyteller in Zion

(Bookcraft, 1993), 166.

D

RAMA

Bar and Kell

By Eric Samuelsen

CHARACTERS:

BAR

KELL

BRANDIE

(Each actress plays multiple roles, and also serves

as narrator at times.)

(KELL is looking out the window of her house. BAR sits, watching her watch. BRANDIE stands

to the side.)

BRANDIE: From the first day Kellie Frandsen moved into the ward, she found herself under the wing and protection of Barbara Bartlett. BAR: Come on, Kell. What do you see? KELL: Give me a sec, Bar. I’m trying to… Uh…

A trike. A Barbie house. Oh, that’s nice, one of

those, what are those? Like, big plastic castle? You know the kind I’m talking, with a slide. BAR: Kids, in other words. Girls. KELL: I saw one of those at K-Mart. Hundred and eighty five bucks. BAR: Welfare types. When they want it, they can afford it. KELL: Boxes. More boxes. Oh, and a gas grill. BAR: There’s a man in the house, then. KELL: Not necessar BAR: Trust me Kell. Barbecue equals testosterone. Never fails. BRANDIE: It was Bar who brought over coffee cake and a quart of orange juice that first day, Bar who purchased shelf paper and mops, and Bar who sprayed the eaves for wasps. KELL: Lots more boxes, mostly boxes. We should go over, right? BAR: In a bit. KELL: Oops. She dropped that one. We should help, Bar.

We should go over, right? BAR: In a bit. KELL: Oops. She dropped that one. We

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We should go over, right? BAR: In a bit. KELL: Oops. She dropped that one. We

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 24 BAR: I want her full attention. BRANDIE: Bar who decreed

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 24 BAR: I want her full attention. BRANDIE: Bar who

BAR: I want her full attention. BRANDIE: Bar who decreed that the wood stove in the family room cut the room in half and was anyway too dangerous to light, and Bar who first took a sledgehammer to the brickwork. And who called Sylvia Thomas and Cathie Goosens and Bev Crittenden and Sophie Arguello and started mak- ing assignments. KELL: She’s taking a breather, looks like. BAR: Good a time as any. Get the lemonade, let’s go. (They rise, mime walking over to BRANDIE.) BRANDIE: And after that first day, that long dreadful move-in, it seemed easier, somehow, to continue following Bar’s lead. Kell found herself planting when Bar planted, canning when Bar canned, sewing kids’ clothes to Bar’s patterns. And the next family who moved in, Kell was the first name Bar called to help. BAR: Kleinman’s old place, of course. KELL: (Aside.) Government subsidized housing, the only rental in the ward on that list. BAR: How many times have I been in that place, cleaning. KELL: Both of us. BAR: Let’s just hope they’re a little less trashy than the last ones. (To BRANDIE.) Hi! Let me give you a hand with that. (They mime lifting a box from a truck.) BRANDIE: Thanks. It’s not so much heavy as awkward. BAR: (Assessing her. To the audience.) Pretty face, not much character to it, looked real young, way too much eye shadow and three broken nails. BRANDIE: ’Preciate you helping out. You don’t even have to help and three broken nails. BRANDIE: ’Preciate you helping out. You don’t even have to help if you don’t want to, it’ll be so good just to have someone to talk to. KELL: I know how that can be. BAR: But we’ll pitch in too. Where do you want this one? (Mimes picking up a box.) BRANDIE: (As they all ‘work.’) Master bedroom, I guess. Our last place we were in this little trailer court, I was ’bout the only one home days and it like to drove me nuts, not having company, ended up taking that job at Walker’s just to meet people, didn’t turn out so good onnacounta I have three

girls. That Doreen, we trade babysitting onna- counta her boyfriend got laid off and she wants extra shifts so I end up with hers ’bout three times as much as she gets mine though the agreement was we’d trade hour for hour; she’s got ’em now while I move and believe me I’m taking my time about it, even things out. (Holds out her hand.) Name’s Brandie, by the way, last name of Jacobs. BAR: Barbara Bartlett; this is Kellie Frandsen. KELL: My pleasure. BRANDIE: See, me’n Kenny ain’t married, been together six years off and on, got us three girls, onnacounta it’s kinda hard for me to get to Planned Parenthood for birth control all the time and Kenny’s sex drive is way stronger than most men, I even think about refusing (BRANDIE’s voice fades, and we hear the follow- ing dialogue, though BRANDIE continues mim- ing a long monologue.) KELL: (Under Brandie’s preceding monologue.) I’m not naive. I do have four children of my own. And I didn’t find any part of Brandie’s Oprahfied outburst surprising. BAR: I’ve seen plenty of them. Welfare women. No morals or self-discipline. KELL: Women like Brandie. BAR: Like I say, ADC doesn’t mean Aid to Dependent Children. KELL: Hate to call ’em ‘trash.’ Poor white something BAR: Adultery Drugs and Calamity comes nearer the mark. KELL: What I found amazing was her openness, the cheerfully casual way in which she spewed forth intimacies to complete strangers. BAR: To her, it’s just chit-chat, what passes for conversation. It didn’t bother me. KELL: Like it was the subject of some television program she’d seen and was telling us about. BAR: She wasn’t kidding about her love of conver- sation. Just try and get her to shut up.

BRANDIE: (Her monologue concludes)

know, me and Dorine we hitched all the way across country to see Aerosmith last summer, and if you look real close on the video you can see me

You

country to see Aerosmith last summer, and if you look real close on the video you

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country to see Aerosmith last summer, and if you look real close on the video you

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 25 right there in the mosh pit and I even pull

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 25 right there in the mosh pit and I even

right there in the mosh pit and I even pull up my top and flash the camera. Cool, huh. Do you want to see my tattoos? KELL: It was very nice to meet you, Brandie. BRANDIE: Hey, you guys were great. Woulda took me all day to get that trailer unloaded myself. KELL: I’ll call you, we should get our girls togeth- er. BRANDIE: ’Preciate it. It was real nice of you, Kellie and Barbara, to help me out BAR: Oh, we’ll be back. KELL: We will? BAR: As soon as we get lunch for the kids. All new shelf paper, scrub that linoleum; I hate those shower curtains, watermarks are so depressing. You ever thought about painting the paneling in the family room? Brighten the whole place up. BRANDIE: Well, honest, BAR: Kell, you still have the rollers from when we did Arguellos? KELL: Sure, coupla cans of primer too, I think Arguellos? KELL: Sure, coupla cans of primer too, I think BAR: Oh yeah, you’ll wanna prime BAR: Oh yeah, you’ll wanna prime it. You watch, your room will look ten feet longer and a lot more cozy. BRANDIE: Well, I don’t know. BAR: Leave it to us, Brandie. We’ll get you moved in properly. BRANDIE: No, that’s really not BAR: No arguments please. I’m a demon with shelf paper. BRANDIE: No kidding? BAR: I never kid, don’t have time for it. Consider it our welcome to the 28th ward. (Mimes walking back home with KELL.) They’re LDS, they had a framed picture of the temple, saw it in one of those boxes. KELL: Well, yeah, she told me she was, I guess you were measuring the kids’ bedroom. BAR: All right then. KELL: But, like, the very definition of inactive. BAR: Less active. Okay, she’s got a ways to go. It’s up to us to see she gets there. KELL: Right. Active in the Church, sealed in the temple. Good luck.

BAR: First things first. Get them married. Education. She’s our project, Kell. You and me, we’re going to make that girl over. BRANDIE: By six that night, thirteen ward mem- bers were in Brandie’s home, KELL: Propelled there, against their will, by the cattle prod that was Bar Bartlett’s voice on the phone. BRANDIE: Painting and repairing, measuring and cutting to fit, unpacking boxes and laying down shelf paper. KELL: By ten, Bar had every box unloaded, a fam- ily room reeking of primer, a new sand box in the back, fresh curtains on the front BAR: And new shower curtains in the master bath. But that was just preliminary. KELL: (She and BAR sit with BRANDIE, watch- ing children play. Every time they reprimand a child, it indicates a passage of time, perhaps a shift of position, a freeze or a pause.) So, how close are you to finishing the GED? BRANDIE: I dunno. It’s kinda hard you know you do the classes nights for awhile, and then the car breaks down, or you get a chance to pick up an extra BAR: Well, rides aren’t a problem. KELL: Between Bar and I, we’ll get you there. BRANDIE: And it’s not like I’m any kinda whiz at school. BAR: Nonsense. BRANDIE: It just never did seem to stick, remembering dates and all. Who them people were. Alexander Hamilton, whoever. KELL: Yeah, history wasn’t my strength. BRANDIE: Or figure out why it mattered. KELL: I hear you. BAR: You still need it. A high school diploma BRANDIE: I know. BAR: Now look; Kell did some checking, they got classes starting in just two weeks time, less than a year, you’ll be (To an unseen child.) Stephanie, you leave her shovel alone and I mean now! BRANDIE: You are right, you know. I’ve seen how they do, cops and all.

alone and I mean now! BRANDIE: You are right, you know. I’ve seen how they do,

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alone and I mean now! BRANDIE: You are right, you know. I’ve seen how they do,

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 26 BAR: Exactly. BRANDIE: You say, ‘It’s my boyfriend, he’s beatin’

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 26 BAR: Exactly. BRANDIE: You say, ‘It’s my boyfriend, he’s

BAR: Exactly. BRANDIE: You say, ‘It’s my boyfriend, he’s beatin’ on me,’ they treat you completely different than if you say ‘husband.’ KELL: It’s just natural. BRANDIE: I hate that look you get. ‘Boyfriend,’ and then they see the kids. KELL:

BRANDIE: You know what they’re thinkin’. BAR: So do something about it. BRANDIE: Easier said than done. BAR: We’re not trying to tell you what to do. It’s something to think about, is all. Kell was looking into this the other day, turns out that twenty-five percent KELL: (To a child.) Honey, you go up the ladder, down the slide. BRANDIE: I don’t know. Beauty college, huh? KELL: It’s just a thought. BAR: One year training, and then you’re, you know, marketable. And it’s flexible; you can work in a salon, or maybe even cut hair out of your basement while you stay home with the kids. BRANDIE: It’s something to think on. KELL: You bet it is. BAR: It’s good, honest work. BRANDIE: I ain’t afraid to work. KELL: Of course not. BRANDIE: I ain’t never been afraid to work. KELL: Sure.do. It’s something to think about, is all. Kell was looking into this the other day,

BRANDIE: I just

hands in someone’s (A pause.) BAR: Still, it’s a thought, right? Just a suggestion.

BRANDIE: I suppose. BAR: Now, Kell called ’em last week, and they do require a high school diploma, but BRANDIE: (To a child.) We don’t throw sand, sweetie. KELL: It’s something to think on, is all. BRANDIE: The bishop says the same. BAR: Does he?

standin’ on your feet all day,

?

BRANDIE: We were just talking to him; he thinks we should get married too. KELL: With three kids, it’s something you ought to consider. BRANDIE: Maybe so. KELL: Think of the advantages.

BAR: Not to mention child support, and I’m not saying anything about you and Kenny, but it hap- pens, you know, the D word. D-I-V-O. KELL: There’s a level of legal protection

BRANDIE: It’s just

BAR: (To a child.) If you do that again, we’re leav- ing this park this minute, I am not kidding! BRANDIE: I don’t know. Head Start, I saw this thing on the news, said ‘at risk kids’ BAR: Brandie, face facts. That’s your girls. At risk. BRANDIE: I’m a good mom. KELL: Of course you are. BRANDIE: I am. BAR: At risk. As long as you and Kenny KELL: (Leaps up.) The swing! BRANDIE: You know, I prolly shoulda kept better track of immunizations. (A pause while BAR nods her head in triumphant agreement.) No, honey, you’ve got that shoe on the wrong foot. KELL: I just think that you and Kenny need to find a way to put all that behind you. BRANDIE: I know. BAR: I mean, it’s how many other guys?Two, three? BRANDIE: Who knows? KELL: No kidding. BRANDIE: It don’t really matter.

KELL: I don’t mean to sound

you don’t think I’m being nosy or

BRANDIE: What? KELL: How do you?

how to meet BRANDIE: (A sudden outburst.) I mean it ain’t like he’s so pure. It ain’t like Kenny hadn’t had a few on the side himself. I ain’t so bad.

KELL: No, I’m sure you

Kenny. You know.

I mean, I hope

I wouldn’t even know

ain’t so bad. KELL: No, I’m sure you Kenny. You know. I mean, I hope I

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ain’t so bad. KELL: No, I’m sure you Kenny. You know. I mean, I hope I

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 27 BRANDIE: It just seems to bug him worse when I

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 27 BRANDIE: It just seems to bug him worse when

BRANDIE: It just seems to bug him worse when

I do it.

BAR: But you see, with marriage comes a kind of commitment BRANDIE: We’re committed. To each other. Then other stuff happens. KELL: We don’t pull hair! (Breaks away. A small change of costume for BAR, and she becomes AUNT DOT.) It felt good, you know. Knowing I was half of the

partnership, Bar and Kell Enterprises, service with

a smile. Knowing we were making a difference.

Then we met Aunt Dot. BAR as AUNT DOT: You leave her alone! BRANDIE: Aunt Dot, please AUNT DOT: I know how you do. You Mormons, with all that ‘we’re better than anyone else, we fart, it don’t smell, we pee, it ain’t yellow, we sweat, it don’t stink.’ Leave her be. KELL: We are Brandie’s friends, we are trying to help her KELL: We are Brandie’s friends, we are trying to help her AUNT DOT: She don’t need AUNT DOT: She don’t need to get married! KELL: She needs to make her own AUNT DOT: A piece a paper from a judge make Kenny stop hittin’ her? Huh? A few words from the bishop help him keep a job? KELL: She’s our friend and we care about her.

AUNT DOT: You care! Yeah, about every house in the neighborhood having a nice mowed lawn, toys picked up and kids all scrubbed. You care about ‘doing your visiting teaching.’ (The last four words spoken with infinite contempt.) KELL: That’s ridiculous, you don’t even AUNT DOT: You got her pegged inactive and it screws up your holy bookkeeping. You don’t know where she’s come from and you don’t care where she ends up, so long she don’t make you nervous bein’ single and with kids. (To BRANDIE.) I got five hundred bucks for you take care of that bun you got in the oven. BRANDIE: Aunt AUNT DOT: I mean it. Five hundred dollars, you can go to that guy in Wendover, get it taken care of. BRANDIE: Where’d you get five hund

AUNT DOT: And you tell this one and that friend of hers to leave you be.

BRANDIE: I don’t

KELL: Maybe so. I’ll come back later. AUNT DOT: And don’t come back! You ain’t wanted. Or needed! (Steps out, BAR returns to being BAR.) KELL: And I left. But the next BRANDIE: Hey, Kell. I was taking my girls to the park, wondered if, you KELL: Sure, I’ll be right along. BRANDIE: Looked like a nice enough day. Those clouds’ll hold off, I think, couple hours anyway. KELL: I guess so. (Pause.) Brandie, about BRANDIE: No, I don’t wanna talk about it. (An explanation.) When my Mom would get locked up

for drunk or drugs, start swingin’ away with that

extension

stay with Aunt Dot. She’d put me up, long as I need- ed. Kell, she’s someone real important in my life.

KELL: I understand. BRANDIE: But she don’t run me. KELL: The five hundred dollars. BRANDIE: I wouldn’t take it. (Fiercely.) I’m keep- ing this baby. KELL: And that was when I knew we’d been mak- ing a difference. (Quick costume change as she becomes KENNY.) BAR: With Kenny too. He was harder to get through to, kinda hoody looking guy, used to tool around the neighborhood in his pickup playing Aaron Tippin or Alan Jackson turned up high. BRANDIE: Like to drove Bar crazy, seein’ as how she was head of Neighborhood Watch and was just itching to call the cops with his license number. BAR: But I’d invite them both over, dinner and cards with Arguellos and Braithwaites. (To KELL and BRANDIE who are holding hands, KELL as KENNY, holding a plastic coke bottle with the top cut off.) Kenny, Brandie. Glad you could both make it. KELL as KENNY: Yeah. BAR: (Making an effort, indicates the coke bottle.) Kenny. We do have plenty to drink.

Kellie, maybe you better…

(Pause. She collects herself.) I’d

We do have plenty to drink. Kellie, maybe you better… (Pause. She collects herself.) I’d Spring

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We do have plenty to drink. Kellie, maybe you better… (Pause. She collects herself.) I’d Spring

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 28 KENNY: It’s for spittin’ in. BRANDIE: Kenny dips. BAR: Dips?

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 28 KENNY: It’s for spittin’ in. BRANDIE: Kenny dips. BAR:
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 28 KENNY: It’s for spittin’ in. BRANDIE: Kenny dips. BAR:

KENNY: It’s for spittin’ in. BRANDIE: Kenny dips. BAR: Dips? BRANDIE: Chews? You know. BAR: Oh! (KENNY spits into the bottle.) Good of you to bring your own

spitting

KENNY: (He’s making a joke here, which he finds very funny.) Didn’t wanna get it on your carpet! BAR: Thank you. Me neither. BRANDIE: (To audience.) But after that rocky beginning, the evening went much better than expected. BAR: Kenny was charming, really. Sort of.

KENNY: So the guy says to the doc, no kiddin’? That’s the only way to cure a snake bite? And the doc says, ‘Yeah, that’s it. Suck out the poison.’ So the guy goes back to Jim, back to his friend there, and he says, he says, ‘Jim, the doc says you’re gonna die.’ (KENNY laughs uproariously under the next three lines, sucking in the air as he laughs.)

BAR: (Disapprovingly.) He told

BRANDIE: That real funny one about the hunters. (Laughs along with KENNY.) Love that joke.

BAR: And he had the most

ions on a wide variety of topics. KENNY: Hey, you mark my words, one day,

they’re flying in one day in those black helicopters

they got

I mean soon. (Pause. Belligerently) Oh yeah? You wanna fight about it? BAR: But we all survived the evening. As did our house. Mostly. KENNY: Sorry about your carpet there. (Peering at his bottle.) Never knew this stuff to wear through a coke bottle before. (KELL transforms quickly back.) BAR: And next morning, and the each morning after that, the makeover continued. Sometimes I’d meet with Brandie, and sometimes we both would. Though, for some odd reason, Brandie actually

jokes.

interesting opin-

and they’re takin’ our guns away. And

seemed to respond better to Kell than to me. BRANDIE: Hey Kell. We’re over here. KELL: That’s so cute, what you’ve done with her hair. BRANDIE: (Pleased as punch.) Oh, it’s just a little French braid. KELL: You’ll have to show me how to do that. I never can. BRANDIE: I will. (They sit and watch their chil- dren. Companionable silence.) Oops. KELL: She’s okay. Landed on that padded little rump, she’s fine. BRANDIE: I swear, if I fell down as often as those kids KELL: I know, I’d be in the hospital for a month, just one of those falls. They’re so resilient. BRANDIE: Okay, now, what’s that? Resilient? KELL: Resilient. Means they bounce back easily. Fall down, get right back up. BRANDIE: Yeah. They are. Resilient. KELL: Right. BRANDIE: (Savoring the word.) ‘Resilient.’ Good for me, hangin’ out with you college types. KELL: I never actually finished college, you know. Dropped out my junior year after I met Tom. BRANDIE: Still, you went. Not for me. Nobody in my family. Ever. KELL: (To audience.) And it seemed so strange. I mean, going to college, that was automatic. Not even something you thought about not doing. (To BRANDIE.) Maybe your girls will, though. First in your family. You could still go, for that matter. BRANDIE: Maybe. KELL: You never know. You’re a good mom to those girls. BRANDIE: (Suddenly lashes out. Bitterly, deri- sively.) Oh yeah, I’m great. A great mom. KELL: What? BRANDIE: You know what that means? A good mom? Where I come from? KELL: No. BRANDIE: If you can keep your boys out of prison and your girls from bein’ pregnant until they’re eighteen. That’s a good mom. Eighteen,

and your girls from bein’ pregnant until they’re eighteen. That’s a good mom. Eighteen, Spring 2000

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and your girls from bein’ pregnant until they’re eighteen. That’s a good mom. Eighteen, Spring 2000

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 29 and then they can join the army. That’s a good

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 29 and then they can join the army. That’s a

and then they can join the army. That’s a good mom in my neighborhood. KELL: I see. Was your mom? BRANDIE: I’m twenty-two and my oldest is seven. What’s it sound like to you? College girl. KELL: Look, I’m BRANDIE: I was fourteen, my first time with a guy. I screwed Jimmy Tuttle right in my mom’s bedroom, five days after my fourteenth birthday which she forgot. Did him right on her brand new comforter, she bein’ in the county lock- up for D and D. Told her about it when she got out, and she whipped my ass till I got welts all over with that extension cord. KELL: A world I could hardly begin to under- stand. BRANDIE: And then she passed me and my sister around to her boyfriends. And I do not know who

the father of my oldest is. So no, Kellie, in answer to your question, my mom was not a particularly

good mom, not even

not even in my neigh-

borhood. KELL: I’m really sorry. BRANDIE: Kell, can I ask you somethin’? KELL: Sure. BRANDIE: Who was your first? First guy you ever slept with? KELL: (Steadily.) Well, Brandie, my first time in bed with a man was with Tom, my husband, on our wedding night. BRANDIE: That was your first time?The day you got married? KELL: That night.not a particularly good mom, not even not even in my neigh- BRANDIE: And not before?

BRANDIE: And not before? KELL: No. BRANDIE: And you ain’t fooled around since? Slept with other guys? KELL: Since I’ve been married? BRANDIE: Married, not married, so what? Do you fool around? KELL: No, Brandie, I haven’t. Not ever. BRANDIE: That’s just so weird. Never once? KELL: No, Brandie. I have to tell you, I’ve never even really thought about it.

BRANDIE: I ain’t never met someone who didn’t fool around at least some of the time. KELL: Brandie, I have to tell you in all honesty, I’ve never met anyone who did. (Pause.) BRANDIE: Look at ’em, just runnin’ around. KELL: Yeah. BRANDIE: Gettin’ along. KELL: They seem to be. BRANDIE: Now I’m gonna ask you this straight out, and I want you to answer me honest. KELL:

BRANDIE: Why are you my friend? Why do you spend time with me?

KELL: (To audience.) And I truly did not know what to say. ‘Because Bar told me to?’ No, don’t even think that, that’s not a good way to be thinking. BRANDIE: Well? KELL: ‘Because you’re our project, because once I was Bar’s project, and now I’ve grown beyond that, to become her equal and her partner, and we decided to do this together, raise you to our level, help you become like us, happy, like we are.’ I could say no such thing, of course. BRANDIE: Tell me straight. Why? KELL: Because I want things to be better for you

than they are. I guess

(Points out to the children.) Because you’re a good mom.

BRANDIE: You think? (Looks at her children.) A good mom. (Pause. Breaks the tension.) I’ll say this. Ain’t none of them pregnant yet. KELL: Well, she’s only seven. Give her time. (They laugh together companionably. BAR looks at them impatiently.) BAR: And that Sunday. KELL: Sorry Bar. Yes, that Sunday, after four months of nearly daily visits BAR: Babysitting trades BRANDIE: Long chats at the park KELL: Rides to the local high school, where Brandie made good progress towards her GED. BAR: A breakthrough. KELL: Brandie and Kenny came to Church.

because I like you.

her GED. BAR: A breakthrough. KELL: Brandie and Kenny came to Church. because I like you.

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her GED. BAR: A breakthrough. KELL: Brandie and Kenny came to Church. because I like you.

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 30 (BRANDIE looks around, in terror.) BAR: Brandie! BRANDIE: I ain’t

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 30 (BRANDIE looks around, in terror.) BAR: Brandie! BRANDIE: I
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 30 (BRANDIE looks around, in terror.) BAR: Brandie! BRANDIE: I

(BRANDIE looks around, in terror.) BAR: Brandie!

BRANDIE: I ain’t been in one a these places in

like ten years. Where

KELL: It’s okay, Brandie, just stick with us. BAR: Your girls look great. BRANDIE: Where do they go? KELL: For the first meeting, you can all sit with us. After that, there’s Primary for the girls. BAR: They’ll be with our kids, they’ll be fine. KELL: Don’t worry about a thing, they’ll love it.

BRANDIE: Kenny?

KELL: Tom and Jeff’ll take care of Kenny, don’t worry. Then we’ll all meet here, in this room after- wards.

BRANDIE: How do I BAR: You look fine. KELL: And in fact, she did.

BAR: Kenny had really made an effort too. Bolo tie, his nicest cowboy boots.

chewing any-

thing. BAR: And one Sunday led to two, and two to four. KELL: It was amazing. BAR: We worried about the bishop. KELL: The marriage thing. BAR: I told the bishop how to handle it. KELL: We knew Kenny well enough to think that he’d react badly to a disciplinary council. BAR: I told him all that. But you never know if they’re gonna listen. KELL: We did feel it would be better for him to wait, hope they’d marry, give them a chance for further growth, than a letter-of-the-law kind of discipline they’d neither understand or appreciate. BAR: But the bishop could not be expected to hold off forever. KELL: Brandie was about eight months along, when it happened. (BRANDIE is now TIFFANY, a five year old.) Tiffany, hello. Stephanie isn’t here right now, honey.

KELL: And best of all, he wasn’t

what

.?

Do I look all

BRANDIE as TIFFANY: My mom wants to know if you want to see her get married today. KELL: What did you say, sweetie? TIFFANY: My mom wants to know if you want to see her get married today. At the church? KELL: Today? TIFFANY: Uh huh. She wants to know if you want to come watch. KELL: So I dashed to the phone, and Brandie confirmed it. She and Kenny had talked about it the night before, and decided, on the spot, to get married the next day. (To BAR.) Today, in fact. This afternoon. BAR: We’ll get them a crock pot, I think. Should be about twenty dollars each. You call Bev Crittenden and see if she and Cathy and Sophie and Meredith can work up that quartet they sang in church two weeks ago. Oh, and Rachel Fessmacher we need the Primary kids, as many as we can get they should sing ‘I Love to See the Temple.’ That’s the next step for them, sealed as a

KELL: I still have to get my kids ready. (Mimes undressing a kid.) BAR: Right, and so will they so we’d better get on the phone now. KELL: She needs a bath, Bar. BAR: Kellie Frandsen, those phone calls are not going to make themselves. KELL: (Mimes pulling a shirt over a child’s head.) Okay, in the tub now. BAR: Kellie! KELL: I’m on it. BAR: And I’ll call the bishop. We need to do this right. KELL: And despite the short notice, the chapel was nearly half full. BAR: You can do a lot with an hour and a ward phone list. KELL: Some of Kenny’s family. Mostly ward members, of course. And Aunt Dot. BAR as AUNT DOT: (Sitting, as though in church.) Damned Mormon church. Messing with people’s lives. Should just leave well enough alone!

Damned Mormon church. Messing with people’s lives. Should just leave well enough alone! Spring 2000 30

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Damned Mormon church. Messing with people’s lives. Should just leave well enough alone! Spring 2000 30

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 31 BRANDIE as AUNT PEARL: Now Dot. It’s Brandie’s day. AUNT

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 31 BRANDIE as AUNT PEARL: Now Dot. It’s Brandie’s day.

BRANDIE as AUNT PEARL: Now Dot. It’s Brandie’s day. AUNT DOT: Nobody’s business, them not bein’ married. AUNT PEARL: Dot. Brandie’s big day. AUNT DOT: Richest church in the world, think they’re better’n anyone. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Damn Mormons. AUNT PEARL:

AUNT DOT: Making folks get married, like that’ll solve every problem. They get married, Walker’s gonna give her a raise? Make Kenny stop cheatin’? And cut ’em offa welfare if they so much as smoke. This is wrong! AUNT PEARL: Three kids, and a fourth on the way? It’s her decision, Dot.

AUNT DOT: It ain’t right! Gettin’ married ain’t right for my niece! Do you hear me! It ain’t right! KELL: We helped her move. We unpacked boxes and scrubbed floors and put up shower curtains. And painted. BAR: (Quick change back.) Kell and I, we babysat, and gave rides, and talked. We are her friends. BRANDIE: (Quick change back.) I don’t know. I just don’t know. KELL: (Troubled.) What were my motives? BAR: We baked bread and we invited them to par-kids, and a fourth on the way? It’s her decision, Dot. ties and we speeding in

ties and we

speeding in that truck in our neighborhood! KELL: Was I helping her, or just trying to feel bet- ter about me?

BRANDIE: I hope

BAR: We were her friends. KELL: This is the right thing. I think. I BAR: Her friends. We really were. KELL: I’m sure, the right thing for Brandie. BAR: Tiffany carried the ring in on a little satin pillow I loaned her from my living room.

KELL: And Kenny looked

Tom’s best white shirt, and Jeff Bartlett’s sports coat.

BAR: And the bishop didn’t talk too long, thank heavens. KELL: When it was over, Kellie Frandsen had little

we put up with chewing and

I just

presentable, in

difficulty silencing those last nagging doubts. BRANDIE: I hope I’m doing the right BAR: Nice peach dress, she looked great, even eight months pregnant, a beautiful bride. BRANDIE: Maybe it’ll make a difference, keep Kenny from hittin’ me and me from wantin’ to fool around so much.

KELL: She had to admit it really was for the best, and that Brandie really was better off than she’d been. BAR: A beautiful bride. A brilliant success. BRANDIE: (Almost praying it.) A good mom. (To the bishop.) I do. I mean, yes. KELL: Kellie just wished that the look on Bar’s face, as Brandie repeated the wedding vows, were

just the tiniest bit less slightly less familiar.

proprietary. And ever so

Eric Samuelsen, a professor of theater at Brigham Young University, has had numerous plays produced, including Gadianton, The Seating of Senator Smoot, and The Way We’re Wired, which won the AML award for drama for 1999.

of Senator Smoot, and The Way We’re Wired, which won the AML award for drama for

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of Senator Smoot, and The Way We’re Wired, which won the AML award for drama for

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 32 S CIENCE F ICTION And the Moon Became as Blood

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 32 S CIENCE F ICTION And the Moon Became as

S

CIENCE

F

ICTION

And the Moon Became as Blood

By Scott Everett Bronson

My mother never locked me in a closet or chained me to a bedpost and left me alone for hours. Hiking with my father in the Uintahs, I never got lost, never fell into a mineshaft and waited and prayed for res- cue. But now I think either of those situations might be an improvement over my current condition; for with them one might reasonably hope for escape, whereas here I have no faith that I will be saved.

“Help!” Karl shouted as the tape peeled back from his mouth. Of course no one heard his cry or the frustrated whimpers and moans that followed as he worked to remove the tape from his wrists and ankles. Karl was alone in the apartment; of that he was certain, even though, with the lights out as they were, his apart- ment was as black as the pits of hell. “Don’t leave me!” he shouted again, hoping to be heard by someone out in the hall. It was a thin hope; he couldn’t guess how long he’d been unconscious,escape, whereas here I have no faith that I will be saved. stuffed into his closet.

stuffed into his closet. It was possible that the last shuttle had already left. Then I am lost, Karl thought. Getting out of the closet hadn’t been too difficult, but his cheeks and forehead burned where they had rubbed against the floor as he had worked to remove the tape. For a few seconds he ceased his struggling with the tape around his wrists and ankles and lay panting into the cushiony fibers of the floor. He considered resting for a while, but the throbbing lump on the back of his head reminded

if

he hurried. “Lights.” Nothing happened. “Great.” If they’ve disconnected the whole city, he thought, then I truly am lost. As panic began to prickle the hairs on his neck and arms, Karl sum-

him there might be a chance he still had time

moned renewed determination to free himself from the tape that bound him. And despite the pain, despite the disorientation, despite the dread that carved a hole in him, Karl managed to scrape and tear the tape from his wrists. Then, using his wristphone he discovered that the city computer was still awake, though dormant, and that while it had been disconnected from the

nuclear power plant, it was still online with the solar collectors and could provide minimal life support and communications systems. Everyone admitted

to the Acropolis was given the code to power up

those systems in the event of emergency, so he ordered the computer to do so. Then he called again for the lights in his apartment. Only the emergency lights came on. Karl tore at the tape around his ankles and con- tinued to issue commands to the computer. “Open the window.” The screen on the north wall of his apartment

displayed a live view, received by satellite transmis- sion, from the top of Mt. Timpanogos. In its slow, 360-degree pan, the camera was now focused on Utah Valley. Home, Karl thought. And I’ll probably never see it again. In the flesh. “East exterior view.” The image on the screen wavered for a fraction of

a second then became a stark black and gray panorama of the lunar landscape east of the Acropolis. In the lower left corner of the screen Karl saw the lights of the shuttleport. “Enlarge dee-ee-one.” The shuttleport filled the screen, and Karl saw a small jumper shuttle taxiing onto the raked runway. “Is that the last one?” he asked. The computer remained silent. “Enlarge see-five.” The image of the shuttle increased in size and quickly moved off the screen but not before Karl saw the name painted along the side. Soledad. Everyone at the Acropolis, from the highest ranking shuttle commander to the lowest ranking custodian, had known the evacuation plan. Soledad was the last

to leave.

“Shuttle comlink, code ” That wasn’t a code that Karl was supposed to know, but he had over-

comlink, code ” That wasn’t a code that Karl was supposed to know, but he had

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comlink, code ” That wasn’t a code that Karl was supposed to know, but he had

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 33 heard it a few times and had made a mental

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 33 heard it a few times and had made a

heard it a few times and had made a mental note to remember it. But now he couldn’t. Karl knew, as he stood there trying to remember the code, that his last chance for a return to life back on Earth was about to launch into a slow rising orbit around the moon without any immediate plans for return. Without any immediate ability to return. Fuel for the evacuation had been parceled out right down to the last frozen drop. There were still plenty of vehicles that had remained moonside, but none of them had power or design to escape the lunar gravity well. “Full view,” he whispered. Karl chewed on his lower lip and clenched his fingers into fists as he watched the shuttle drift over the dunes. The jour- nalist lobe of Karl’s brain recorded the phrase, “Not really dunes though, for they weren’t shaped by wind, but they look enough like dunes that that is what the so-called natives call them.” Karl laughed at himself. I’m still writing the article that no one is ever likely to read. At that moment a fountain of brilliant white fire erupted from the rear of the shuttle and it shot up into the black sky, into a low lunar orbit. Once around the ball, then out into space and home. Karl sat shivering with the cold knowledge that there wasn’t a single soul but him on the surface of the moon; he was all alone. Karl watched the shut- tle rise into the blackness. He wanted to say some- thing, something that would express for him all of the frustrations and fears writing the article that no one is ever likely to read. the sheer terrors that churned the sheer terrors that churned like a storm-ridden sea within him. He wanted to say something that would release the tide of tension that was rising, rising. All he could think to say was something completely vile, and as much as he wanted to, he didn’t say it, couldn’t say it. His mother had taught him not to use such language, though he occasionally did. So what came out was simply a sound, a sound that he meant to be an angry growl but actually sounded more like a whim- per. Karl closed his eyes. Oh, how he wished he could express himself to someone. But there was no one there to hear, except God if He was listening. Karl thought about crying. Weeping. Then he decided that it wouldn’t do any good. It might clean something out. A bit of something. But it wouldn’t

be cleansing completely cleansing. Now why do I

feel like I need cleansing? What do I need to be cleansed of? I’m not the filthy one. I’m not the one who just stranded some poor fool on the moon.

Who would have thought it, that theThird World War like the First and Second would begin with Germany?Well, some thought it, and they considered the rest of us a bunch of hopeless fools.

While Karl’s mother wept in the background, Karl’s father looked at the floor for a long while, chewing his lip. Finally he looked up and said, “How long will you have communication capabili- ties?” “I don’t know, Dad.” Karl swept his arms back to

take in the entire control room with its thousands of lights, screens, and buttons all in full operation. “I’ve got everything up and running. The power plant is shut down, but most of this stuff runs off solar energy.” “What about when you go into night?”

the manual” Karl indicated

a screen behind him “the collectors can store

enough energy to operate all life support systems for more than two weeks, so I should be all right.” “Well, thank the Lord for that at least.” Karl did not reply. He didn’t feel like thanking the Lord for anything at this point, and might have

said so if his mother weren’t in range of the screen. Karl’s father looked into Karl’s eyes, waiting for the response that Karl stubbornly refused to give. His father’s eyes narrowed slightly and, purely by reflex, Karl imitated the gesture. The two men watched each other and nearly matched each other

in all their facial ticks and quivers, even the very

breaths they took. I am him, Karl thought. At least, I will be in thirty years, if I live that long. Karl’s father jutted his chin forward and said, “We’ll pray for you, Karl.” Karl wanted to sneer. Instead he took a deep breath and said, “Thanks, Dad.” Suddenly Karl’s mother shouted, “Why?Why did they do this?” She approached the screen; Karl could see the tear tracks on her face. “Karl, why did they do this to you?”

“Well, according to

see the tear tracks on her face. “Karl, why did they do this to you?” “Well,

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see the tear tracks on her face. “Karl, why did they do this to you?” “Well,

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 34 “Momma, I told you. I was ambushed by neo- patriots.

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 34 “Momma, I told you. I was ambushed by neo-

“Momma, I told you. I was ambushed by neo- patriots. They bound me and stuffed me in a clos- et.” “But why didn’t someone wait for you? Surely they knew you weren’t with them.” “Momma, I wouldn’t have been the first to take a flex suit and disappear into the dunes. It’s happened a few times.” “But you would never kill yourself.” “Nobody else knows that, Momma.” His mother reached out a hand as if to touch his face. But the fact that she could touch only a cold screen seemed to hurt her to the core of her soul. Her face twisted, her arms retracted to cover her breasts, and her knees buckled. Karl’s dad held his wife as she sobbed. Karl looked away for a minute. “Karl “ Karl looked up at the sound of his dad’s voice. “Karl, they will come back for you, right?” “They say they will, Dad.” “When?” “I don’t know. Sometime within the next six months.” His dad looked shocked and his mother cried out. “I know that sounds like a long time, but if things are as hot down there as the NewsNet indicates that they are, I really am safer on the moon than I am flying into a war zone.” His dad had his hands in his pockets, staring at the floor. He looked up and said, “Will they find these so-called neopatriots?” “I don’t know, Dad.” Karl took a deep breath. “According to the information I was able to give them, they have determined that at the time I was attacked, there were officially 156 people other than myself still on the moon. They have already begun investigating those personnel, but I don’t know how much good that is going to do.” “Why?” “Because before this assignment I had been work- ing on a story about the neopatriots, and according to one of my sources, there are neopatriots at every level of the military structure. I’m sure there’ll be a cover up.”sobbed. Karl looked away for a minute. “Karl “ Karl looked up at the sound of

“Are you sure it was neopatriots?” “Oh, I’m sure. Just before they knocked me out one of them whispered, ‘Sweet dreams, Adolf.’” “But you’re not German!” his mother cried. “That doesn’t matter, Momma ” “Fifty years ago ” “This goes back ” “Your grandparents came ” “ further . Tell her, Dad ” “After the Wall fell ” “Tasche ” “Momma ” “Don’t those bastards know you’re an American?” They all fell silent beneath the weight of that question.

Karl’s dad looked a little embarrassed by his wife’s vulgar outburst, but he also looked as though he agreed. He even looked as though he wished he had said the words himself. Karl squared his shoulders and said, “That

doesn’t matter

to these people, Momma my name

is Schneider.”

I went for a walk out on the surface today. Yes, it was stunningly beautiful, but I missed the sound of the wind blowing past my ears and the sound of my feet thumping on the ground. The only wind I heard was my own breath. And the only thumping I heard came from my own chest.

And the only thumping I heard came from my own chest. “Jamie, dear.” Karl leaned over

“Jamie, dear.” Karl leaned over the genuine wood desk in the corporate offices of Pharmtech Industries, a pharmaceutical company that had been in the process of establishing a research and manufacturing lab in lunar orbit before the evacua- tion occurred. He looked directly into Jamie’s beau- tiful lavender eyes and said, “How can you not want this story?” Jamie held his gaze for a minute, then stood up and walked to the door of her office. She had a motion-sensing camera on her screen that followed her movements. Pharmtech had the best comm- screen in the complex; the resolution was incredible, and Karl was suddenly made aware of just how incredible when he watched Jamie walk away from the screen. Her UV-suit, little more than another

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when he watched Jamie walk away from the screen. Her UV-suit, little more than another Spring

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 35 layer of skin, had woven into it a copy

layer of skin, had woven into it a copy of Yatono’s latest and greatest batik painting. Flames and feath- ers blossomed over the perfect curve of Jamie’s but- tocks; Karl was riveted. “Karl,” Jamie said, her back still toward the screen, “What are you looking at?” Karl blushed but refused to look away. Jamie closed the door of her office and turned toward the screen. She laughed when she saw Karl’s face. “Nice suit,” Karl said. “Yes, practical yet fashionable at the same time. I don’t get burned by the sun but I can start a few fires.” She stood still for a moment, almost posing for him, then returned to her desk. She had the well-toned body of a 30-year-old (“Without sur- gery!”), the well-smiled face of a 40-year-old, and the well-grayed hair of an 80-year-old. Nothing fal- sified, and all of it far from petrified. Karl found her to be refreshing and stimulating. Finally he did look up to her face. He was sure that Jamie could see the heat waves distorting the air around his head. But Jamie wasn’t laughing. After a pause she said, “Schneider, why haven’t we ever gotten married?” She hadn’t closed the door to ask this question; this was an old, and often public, routine. “Because you’ve never proposed to me.” “Have too. Dozens of times.” “Marriage.” “That too, Karl.” Karl studied Jamie for a moment. She faced him with her arms draped magisterially on the armrests of her chair. As much as he tried not to, Karl couldn’t help staring at her proud little breasts. He keyed the screen to focus a closeup above the neck. Then he said, “I never proposed to you though, Jamie.” “Why not?” “Mormons are not encouraged to marry outside of their faith.” “Oh, do you have faith then?” Karl thought seriously for a moment and here broke the routine, answering as truthfully as he could “Once upon a time, yes. I’m not sure now.” Jamie raised her eyebrows and nodded “Once upon a time, yes. I’m not sure now.” Jamie raised her eyebrows and nodded knowing- ly. “Maybe there’s hope for me then?”

“I don’t know, Jamie. Can we have a personal relationship and a professional relationship at the same time?” “What professional relationship?” “You’re my editor, Jamie.” “I haven’t had to edit anything of yours for a long time. I just read it and bid for a good location in the Net. I’m more like an agent. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s depressing me.” “Speaking of the Net, you should be able to get this story assigned to a peak hour. I should think evening prime with hourly teasers all day and a late prime cap.” Jamie revealed no expression for a moment. Then she said, “Must have been a pretty weak faith if get- ting stuck on the moon for a little while has made you lose it.” Karl held his gaze on her for a minute, thinking, She’s afraid of something and not sure how to tell me. He said without emotion, “Being the only person on the moon, a quarter of a million miles from any other human, has turned out to be a very big deal for me.” Even though he now felt emotion welling inside of him, Karl went on, “It’s very lonely, Jamie. I “ He chewed on his lip. “I feel like even God has abandoned me.” “I don’t know, Karl. The way things are going down here, He may have saved your ass.” Karl closed his eyes and rubbed his face, then leaned his head on his hands and said, “Do you want the story?” “No.” Karl looked up. Jamie’s eyes were glazed with fear. “I can’t take it, Karl.” “Why?” “Surely you don’t think the North American Security Alliance will let anti-American propaganda such as you’re proposing go out on the Net?” “What are you talking about? There’s nothing anti-American about it.” “The whole Adolf thing is a little hard to swallow, Karl.” “Since when did NASA start running things?” “You know how they are. They don’t run things. All they have to do is give someone a call or a visit and say something like, ‘That was an interesting

have to do is give someone a call or a visit and say something like, ‘That

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have to do is give someone a call or a visit and say something like, ‘That

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 36 conversation you had with Karl Schneider this morning.’ That

conversation you had with Karl Schneider this morning.’ That kind of thing could intimidate just about anyone.” “Including a hard-nosed NewsNet editor.” “Maybe.” Karl sighed and watched sadly as Jamie uncon- sciously displayed more vulnerability than he had ever seen in her. Her eyes darted about and her hands fluttered lightly over her breasts as though she meant to clench her fingers in fervent prayer but couldn’t remember how. “Jamie, I’m sorry.” Karl saw some of the old Jamie return. “Well, hey,” she said, then leaned over and picked up a plaque from her desk and held it in front of her face.

It was the gift he’d given to her for her last birthday, an etching of her favorite aphorism: Saying “I’m

sorry” is no excuse for being an

idiot.

“See ya later, Jamie.” “Goodbye. You lucky little punk.” Karl saw, and heard, tears as she keyed off.

The earth is stationary in this sky, but as my vehi- cle inched toward the crest of the dune, the earth seemed to rise above it, and I forgot to breathe. At first it looked like a hump growing out of the moon’s back a blue and white tumor beautiful against the finite gray and endless black. Then it a blue and white tumor beautiful against the finite gray and endless black. Then it broke free from the horizon and floated into the void. It wasn’t a full earth, and strangely enough my first thought then was, It looks like a football. A blue, brown, and white football.

Karl tried to run out of the observation deck into the plaza. In the excitement and terror of the moment, he had forgotten about the effect his mus- cles had in low-gee, even though he had learned to move nearly as well as a native over the preceding three weeks. He came very close to topping himself on the archway leading to the plaza, despite the fact that it was over five meters high. Once out in the open Karl forced himself to lope across the lawns and sidewalks of the plaza. He was moving close to three times as fast as he would on Earth, but it seemed like he was hardly moving at all because the movements felt languid. He practically

flew through Thatcher’s Field, reaching the hill at the far end in four leaping strides. He launched himself over the first row of orange trees in Grant’s Orchard, where he then had to slow down a little to keep from snagging on the trees. After that, it was nearly a straight line to the office complex at the far end of the Acropolis. As he ran, Karl ignored the immensity and inge- nuity of the Acropolis that had so engaged him upon his arrival and, indeed, every moment that he had spent there in the three weeks since he’d bounced in from the shuttle. His thoughts could not encompass more than the terror he felt at the moment. Terror at the thought that the Earth might be dying, might be in the process of being destroyed. He rode the glass elevator on the outside of the office tower the twenty-five stories to the top of the Acropolis, then switched to the center elevator that took him through the regolith to the trolley depot on the surface. The power-ladder there was not run- ning, but it was easy enough to pull himself up, hand over hand, to Rand Observatory. It took Karl a few seconds to focus the 10-inch telescope on the Persian Gulf, and when he did his breath left him. Scores of flickering orange lights with black web- like trails dotted the coastal regions and some inland regions around the gulf. The Earth’s primary oil supply was burning. Karl watched horrified for a few minutes before he hurried down to Pharmtech Industries. Every channel on every frequency he tried gave him only static or a blank screen. Even though he didn’t know how to over- ride the Unified North American Communication Commission’s restrictions against foreign communica- tions, Karl had to assume that all satellite links with Earth had been disconnected. Or destroyed. Karl opaqued the windows, shutting out the light from the plaza, keyed the screen to a link with the tel- escope in Rand Observatory, cut the lights in the office, and spent the next 24 hours watching the earth burn. Orange flares erupted sporadically across the surface of the planet most visibly in the night shadow below the terminator accompanied by dome-shaped clouds that oozed into the atmosphere. Black smoke from the oil fires mixed with the white mushrooms sent up by nuclear blasts until the entire

from the oil fires mixed with the white mushrooms sent up by nuclear blasts until the

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from the oil fires mixed with the white mushrooms sent up by nuclear blasts until the

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 37 planet was covered with a dark, bloody-looking soup. The feelings

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 37 planet was covered with a dark, bloody-looking soup. The

planet was covered with a dark, bloody-looking soup. The feelings of loneliness that Karl had felt up to this moment suddenly seemed insignificant next to the thought that he might be, or soon would be, the

only person alive

anywhere.

Upon further reflection I realize that of course there are still people alive. What their lives are like now, what their futures may be, I can only imagine. And my imagination dwells on the horrific. So, I find myself now alternating between wanting life, then wanting death, for those I love.

Karl took one of the six-hour flex suits and walked in a straight line away from the Acropolis. The silence and the emptiness of the Acropolis had been too great for him to bear. For days he had wandered through the caverns and crevices of the domed lunar village, looking for ways to occupy his mind; to hold the anxiety at bay. He sought comfort in the familiarity of his apart- ment. He read, listened to music, watched videos, and wrote for several days, leaving the apartment once each day for a stroll through the plaza. Eventually that routine began to grate on him, and he took to exploring. He investigated research laborato- ries, storage facilities, and offices. He window-shopped all the stores along the Mall. Even though there was no one around to care whether or not he took something, it violated his sense of propriety to do so. So it was that when he took to rifling through other apartments, he experienced the same kind of thrill and excitement that he had as a young teenag- er sneaking illicit peaks at his grandpa’s porno vids. Indeed, in several of the apartments he did find those kinds of recordings, produced both commer- cially and privately. The commercially produced recordings lost appeal very quickly, but some of the private recordings fascinated both Karl’s libido and his journalistic interest in people. Most of them were simply individuals, couples, or groups of people performing various sex acts for the camera, occasionally play-acting some lame little script in an apparent attempt to spice up the viewing pleasure. One couple had merely done everything they could to gross out some friends back on Earth.between wanting life, then wanting death, for those I love. Two of the recordings, however, held

Two of the recordings, however, held some allure for Karl. He’d found one in an apartment just a few doors from his own. In it the couple poured honey on each other. A standard sort of fantasy, yet this was done completely in extreme close up. Every body part took on the nature of landscape. The honey fell from the darkness like molten sunlight, blanketing hills, valleys, towers, and plains. The other recording was even more intriguing. It was a young corporal in the Air Force, Amelia Perez, whom Karl had met a couple of times. She was a communications technician (“That means tele- phone operator,” she’d said, smiling). Apparently she was also a dancer. Or wanted to be. Her tech- nique was weak, but her imagination and sincerity were strong. She had moved all her furniture back or out of her apartment and performed a 15-minute ballet to a recent jazz hit. As she danced, her cloth- ing seemed to melt away. She had used an F/X pro- gram to add the illusion of clothing. She had also used it to add a partner to the dance. A female robotic lover with shining silver skin seemed to be caressing and stimulating Amelia. As the music reached crescendo, Amelia’s simulated lover brought her to simulated climax. Then the music ended. After repeated examination of the recording, Karl noticed a wet sparkling gleam on Amelia’s inner thigh and realized that she had achieved literal orgasm through the music and the dance and her apparently vivid imagination. Karl longed for just such an imagination. He had

been obedient all his life to the tenets of his religion and remained pure and virginal. Of course, he had not maintained such virtue without monumental frustrations. He often thought it would have been easier to have lived 30 or 40 years earlier when temptations weren’t quite so profuse. And now he would die having never known the intimacy of a woman. He was angry about that. Very angry. And nearly insane with boredom and loneliness.

So he had gone for a walk

outside.

When his head had cleared enough for him to even care about how long he had been out, he looked down at his chronometer and couldn’t decide if he should despair or rejoice at the realiza- tion that he had gone too far. It had been 3 hours

he should despair or rejoice at the realiza- tion that he had gone too far. It

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he should despair or rejoice at the realiza- tion that he had gone too far. It

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 38 and 45 minutes since he had climbed into the suit.

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 38 and 45 minutes since he had climbed into the

and 45 minutes since he had climbed into the suit. If he wanted to live, by any remote chance, he would have to decide now to turn around and follow his footprints back. If that’s what he wanted, he might be able get back before his oxygen ran out if he hurried and concentrated on not breathing too hard. Karl walked up to the ridge of a rill, turned and looked back at his trail. He closed his eyes and lis- tened to his breath, sharp and hollow. He listened to his blood whoosh-thumping rhythmically through his ears. Why did I come out here, he silently asked himself. Am I already insane, or did my subconscious bring me here?If I just stand here long enough, unable to make a decision, then making a decision will become moot. “But you should make a decision,” a voice said inside his helmet. “I can’t, though. I just can’t.” Then Karl started to laugh. “Listen to me,” he said, still laughing. “I’m talking to myself now. I suppose that was inevitable.” “Not necessarily,” the voice said. “Turn around.” “What to make a decision, then making a decision will become moot. ?” Karl turned and saw ?” Karl turned and saw a man standing on the oppo- site ridge of the rill. And the man wore no flex suit, or hard suit, or any kind of suit at all, just flowing white robes and sandals. Karl’s knees buckled, and he pitched over into the rill. He tumbled about five meters and was vaguely aware, when he finally stopped, that his face guard had smashed against a rock and cracked. Karl smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Where is faith? In the heart, or in the head?

He opened his eyes on a brilliant white light and silently thanked God for a painless death. He moved his arm up to shield his eyes and became aware that he was lying on his back in He stretched his other hand out and felt grass. He sat up, and heaven, or paradise, or spirit prison or whatever, looked just like the inside of the Acropolis of Lunaton, the first structure of a proposed metropolis on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Tranquility. Then the berobed and besandaled man stepped

into view and said, “No, you’re not dead.” “Then I must be hallucinating,” Karl said. “Sorry,” the man said. Karl studied the man, picking out new details. The man wore his hair longish and sported a thick, untrimmed beard. He smiled easily. “Who are you?” Karl asked. “Peter.” “Peter who?” “Simon Peter. Simeon. Simon Bar-jona. The Denier.” “The Apostle?” “That too.” Karl shook his head, sighed, and rubbed his whole face with his hands. Then he actually tried to think, but his mind was completely empty. He looked at the ground, and the only thing he knew for sure was that he was sitting on grass. His cogni- tive self could not progress beyond that point. Still, another part of him burned with searing shame, and another part of him longed for an embrace from this man. After several minutes of watching the grass grow, Karl stood and began to stroll. He looked up at the vaulted dome of the Acropolis, the first real struc- ture of the grand scheme of lunar development. Acropolis was not even the official name of the plaza; Plaza A was its official designation. Plazas B and C had been under construction before the evac- uation. But the complex city by loose definition was in the crater Julius Caesar, and the plazas were designed to protect their inhabitants from vacuum and solar radiation, fortresses against the enemies of space. Thus, an Acropolis. Even Allred Theater, nestled down against the south wall, was a modified version of an ancient Greek open-air amphitheater. Karl wandered down the shallow slope of the the- ater’s house and stopped a couple of meters from the stage. He thought back to his first night in Lunaton, sitting in this very theater, watching closing night of a production of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo. Karl remembered how he had learned something that night that he had never known: that Galileo had recanted on his discoveries about the order of the universe. Am I like him?Karl wondered. Did I recant

on his discoveries about the order of the universe. Am I like him? Karl wondered. Did

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on his discoveries about the order of the universe. Am I like him? Karl wondered. Did

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 39 my faith, or did I ever really have faith? “That’s

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my faith, or did I ever really have faith? “That’s what I’m here to find out.” Karl flinched when the Peter phantom spoke. “I’m not a phantom.” “Right,” Karl said, wanting to, but afraid to, accept the evidence of his eyes. Peter smiled. “Okay,” Karl said. “Let’s say that you are Peter, and that we are here, and I’m not lying in the bot- tom of a rill halfway to Tranquility Base. Why are you here?” “I told you that. To discern your faith.” “Don’t you already know all about my faith?” “Well, yes. Let me reword it then: to help you discern your own faith.” “Why?” “Because it’s time, Karl.” Karl didn’t understand what Peter meant by that. Karl’s brain was still idling in neutral. Peter pointed his arm toward the general direc- tion of Earth and said, “Do you know what’s going on down there?” Karl shook his head slightly, wondering, my faith, or did I ever really have faith? Down where?What is this ghost talking about? Down where?What is this ghost talking about? “You missed the Second Coming, Karl. You weren’t there when Christ returned, when all the

inhabitants of Earth were either brought up to meet Him or burned in their sins.” Peter paused, but Karl could not think of a

response still could

“So, Karl, we have some unfinished business.” “Uh-huh.” Unfinished business. “We need to decide which group you fall into. Will you burn, or will you be brought up?” “Uh-huh. I’m asleep.” “I’ve got to tell you that your viewing habits in recent days have not been some of your better moments. You see, it doesn’t matter how much faith you have your whole life if you lose heart when the end comes. You’re supposed to endure to the end, and the end hasn’t come yet.” “For me,” Karl said, his face hot with shame. “For you. That’s right. You’re beginning to see.” “Maybe.” Karl stared at Peter for several minutes, trying to get his brain into first gear at least. “Karl, you won’t figure this out thinking about

hardly think anything at all.

it.” Peter pointed at Karl’s chest. “You’ll have to feel it out.” “Did everyone have to do this? I mean, didn’t it all happen at once? Weren’t they all either burned or brought up together?” “Yes. But it was still each person’s individual deci- sion. For when they saw the Lord, they were either grateful that the day had finally come, or they were not. For some it was a great day. For the rest it was terrible.” “So why am I receiving special treatment?” “Special circumstances.” “So how do I decide?” “Do you want to live, or do you want to die?” “I want to live! What kind of question is that?” “Yet, an hour ago you had nearly decided to die.” Karl hung his head. Not really, he thought. “I haven’t exactly been myself, lately.” “I know that,” Peter said in a kind, understand- ing voice. “So how can I prove that I have faith?” “Come with me.” “Where?” “Outside.” Karl gestured with his arm toward the airlock. “You mean out there?” “Yes.” “There’s no air out there. If I go out there with- out a suit, my blood will boil.” “Yes. You’ll burn.” “But “ “Or you won’t. Come with me. Trust me. It’s as easy as walking on water.”

For most of my life I feared death as the end as the final blackness despite the positive teachings of my faith. At last I think I believe that while death should be staved off so that one might live as long as one can, when the inevitable moment does come, it should be embraced.

Karl stood up and looked at the last words he would ever write. Though he believed them implic- itly, bringing them out of himself had been very dif- ficult. At the moment that Peter had said, “Come with

them out of himself had been very dif- ficult. At the moment that Peter had said,

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them out of himself had been very dif- ficult. At the moment that Peter had said,

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 40 me,” Karl’s body had begun to shake with near-con- vulsive

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 40 me,” Karl’s body had begun to shake with near-con-
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 40 me,” Karl’s body had begun to shake with near-con-

me,” Karl’s body had begun to shake with near-con- vulsive tremors. He didn’t realize it at first, but even- tually he understood that he shook because of trep- idation, and desire. He realized that this was the moment he had been waiting for preparing his whole life for. And he wanted it. Even though he was unsure of his faith. Karl knew that he was going to die, whether it be slowly, in six months or so when the food and oxy- gen ran out, or quickly, in a boiling vacuum. Or in the twinkling of an eye. Peter waited for Karl outside, and now Karl stood at the window of the observation deck watching Peter, who simply watched back. “All right, Peter. I’m coming. And one way or another, I suppose you’ll take me home. That’s all I want.” Peter nodded. “And I know that deathbed repentance is invalid, but I still have to say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being weak and carnally minded. Forgive me, please.”

F

ICTION

The Black Canary

By Marilyn Brown

DECEMBER, 1918

Even in the beginning, Helper, Utah, was a long narrow rope of a town as lanky as the track it strad- dled. When in 1881 the D&RG Railroad cut their way through the mountains, they found themselves in a black flume with cliffs on either side as mighty as any in the Wasatch range: big jagged rocks that stood like castles on either side, rocks that seemed to speak their own language in terms of promises, treasures, and prospects. Like flowering weeds, extending tentacles of fragile villages, shacks, and markets, the coal mines began to bloom: in Price, Spring Creek, Castle Quarry, and Castle Gate. In Helper itself there were soon two churches, three saloons, a school, doctors. There had already been

Peter smiled and held out his arms, waiting to give the embrace. Karl walked into the airlock. He programmed the override sequence that would allow him to open the outer lock without closing the inner. Then for sev- eral minutes he held his finger over the button that would open the outer door. Finally he took a deep breath, smiled and pushed the button. And the escaping air lifted and carried him gently onto the moon’s surface.

Scott Bronson, a native of San Diego, now lives in Orem, Utah, with his wife and five children. Besides writing, Scott’s obsessions include acting, directing, reading, and being a supply manager for a nursing home. Reading is the only obsession he has not been able to turn into a source of income.

strikes, troubles, murders, burglaries, and parades. The mining company of Castle Gate soon built rows of houses for immigrant miners: Italians, French, Serbs, Greeks, Japanese, Chinese, and Poles. And in the year of 1918, the mining company had drawn plans to build a large community meeting hall. It was in the excitement of that expansion that on a mild December afternoon the Boggery Saloon was proud to acknowledge the delivery of a piano. As the large box-shaped van drove from the railroad station through Main Street and turned at the alley that led to the back door of the saloon, several school chil- dren ran to keep up with it. As the back door opened, Mr. Baptiste himself, dressed in his stained apron, appeared on the stoop and clapped his hands. “Vee are glat to see you, Shentlemen,” he said. Others from the back kitchen strained to look past the saloon keeper, their eyes wide. When Mr. Baptiste got down from the stoop, the men followed him, rubbing their hands in the cold. “It iss time,” Mr. Baptiste said. And the driver of the

rubbing their hands in the cold. “It iss time,” Mr. Baptiste said. And the driver of

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rubbing their hands in the cold. “It iss time,” Mr. Baptiste said. And the driver of

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 41 van came around from the cab and opened the doors.

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van came around from the cab and opened the doors. Standing on the truck was the new piano wrapped in a blue quilt. “It looks fine,” Mr. Baptiste said. One of the men who emerged from the back kitchen to help the men carry the planks caught the eye of the crowd. So much so that there was a sudden hush, and the school boys began to talk behind their hands. He was one of those few African men who had ever come to work in the mines at Helper. And he was particularly endowed with very black skin. Several of the townspeople who had come to watch the event gasped when the man came out on the stoop and jumped to the ground. They had never seen this particular man before. Some in the group had never seen a piano, but there were probably more who had never seen a man with such dark skin. So the sudden burst of small talk and inaudible whis- pering may have been about a number of things. As the weight of the instrument shivered the planks on its downward way to the stoop, a pair of wide-eyed young girls, one a head taller than the other, stood so close that they were in the way. “Moof please,” Mr. Baptiste said. “Moof please.” The taller girl with dark hair and saucer-blue eyes removed herself, but the light-haired girl, her curls in wild disarray, leaned out with a sudden lightning motion and group had never seen a piano, but there were probably more while no one could possibly while no one could possibly have done anything about it plunged her fingers into the blue quilt. With vigor, she hit the wrapped key- board with a bang. The sound shot into the crowd with a shrill dissonance. Mr. Baptiste drew back his arm to push her away. But she was already gone. “No no no,” Mr. Baptiste cried out. “Get out off here!” He flailed, pushing angrily at the girl, though she was out of his reach. The deed had been done. The keys had been played for the first time. And the sound of the clashing notes rang out in the alley with a surprising power. The men who were helping to move the piano exchanged glances, smiled. Mr. Baptiste kept say- ing, “Get out off here. Get out off here.” And when they ducked behind the van, he asked, “Who are dose young girls?” One of the men was the mine boss, Charlie Steuben. He rubbed his neck with his handkerchief and looked after the girls with a grin. “I know who

they are,” he said. “Their fathers work in my crew at the Castle Gate mine. The frizz-head is Gazel. Sophia Gazel. I think the other is that Greek girl, Asha Diamante, though she has grown so tall.” The girls turned into the alley as though they were going to run away. But they did not run far. They crouched down behind some trash barrels for a few moments to catch sight of the last few moments of the piano they would possibly never see again. And it was at that moment as though Sophia had disturbed the sky with the sound of the clashing notes that it began to snow. A fine sharp swirl of ice suddenly began to blow into the faces of the men at the truck as though the collision of sound had forced the sky to open. Tottering on uneven wheels, the piano finished its journey down the ramp from the moving truck and shimmied into the back stoop of the Boggery Inn in a flurry of flakes. The men had barely lifted the heavy piano into the kitchen when the snow blew into their faces with a great force. Brushing it away from their eyes, they rocked the piano over the stoop and, clattering, began to pull the heavy instrument into the inside room. In only moments, the piano disappeared into the kitchen, and Mr. Baptiste had shut the door, closing out the yellow light. “I played the piano!” Sophia sang. She skipped and leaped down the distance of the alley, carelessly slipping and righting herself on the pavement slick with the new snow. “I think Mr. Steuben will report us,” Asha said. “No! Report us? Who is going to do anything about playing a chord on the piano?” “It wasn’t a chord,” Asha said. Sophia giggled, covering her mouth with her few fingers visible through the red-knit half glove. “You think if it had been a chord it might have been okay?” She laughed out loud. “But you can never say I didn’t play the piano!” She said it over and over again, still dancing. Perhaps because Asha was so much taller than Sophia and could see more, she was twice as wary. On the way out of the alley, she kept her eyes on the others from the school, on the troublemakers Ikaros Rizos, Nikos Kazantakes, and Fazio Bonacci. She kept her eyes on the back door of the saloon to

Rizos, Nikos Kazantakes, and Fazio Bonacci. She kept her eyes on the back door of the

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Rizos, Nikos Kazantakes, and Fazio Bonacci. She kept her eyes on the back door of the

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 42 make sure no one would come out, and on the

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make sure no one would come out, and on the back doors of the Lowenstein Mercantile and the Panhellenic Grocery. “You’re a worry wort,” Sophia said. “There’s noth- ing to worry about. Nothing. And now no one can ever say I didn’t play the piano at the Boggery Inn!” Asha felt her neck grow cold. This was not the first time Sophia had embarrassed her; she had never been able to outguess what Sophia was going to do. Yet this time there seemed to be something different that nagged at her, something unknown, until she finally realized, with some shame, that she was actually feeling jealous. She realized that she would like to have been the one who played the dis- sonant notes. She could still hear them ringing in her head when the snow began falling in a thick cloud. Suddenly the lamps inside the kitchen of the saloon were burning, the diamond shapes inside the saloon windows threw shadows on the black alley, and the ice whirled down out of the sky like gnats against the light. As it grew stronger, the snow began to shift direc- tions in the alley, exploding in billows of wind, forc- ing the white flakes up, around corners, around the back sheds of Lowenthal’s Market, the blank walls of the Strand Theater, and Stone Jam’s Drug Store. Soon the boys and the other townspeople who had witnessed the spectacle of the moving piano vacated the alley, letting the snow and the wind fill the empty space. “I ought to go home,” Asha said, but her words seemed weak almost a whisper. “No!” Sophia protested, her limbs still tense, swinging. “We’ll go in and almost a whisper. “No!” Sophia protested, her limbs still tense, swinging. “We’ll go in and ask him if you can play the piano too.” Asha, who had learned to trust that Sophia would do any outlandish thing, froze and shivered. “Not …” “Yes, Mr. Baptiste. You know how to play, don’t you?” Asha had taken six lessons from Joanna Larson. And she had practiced maybe ten times on the school piano, the only piano there had been in Helper until now. “Sophia,” she said. “I think I ought to go home because it’s snowing.” Awaiting her at home were

her chores, especially feeding the canaries, who would be flapping their wings about in the cages on the back porch, expecting her. But Sophia was paying no attention. She had stepped back out of the alley to go to the front side of the Boggery Inn. She must pass the Stone Jam Drug Store and the Strand Theater. “Asha, you’re not getting out of it that easy!” When Sophia begged and wheedled, Asha could seldom resist her. And to tell the truth, she knew she would like to have played one of her small numbers on the piano: “The Water Is Falling,” or “Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?” She followed Sophia around to the street. The snow was coming fast now, beginning to drift about the brick buildings. “If we dawdle, you’ll have to stay at my house,” Sophia laughed, tipping her head back and licking the snow off her lips. When they rounded the Strand, they could see the lights sputtering on all along the street and across the street. Only the Rainbow Gardens Dance Hall remained dark, a small lamp flickering in its window. Its marquee would light only when the dances began later in the evening. Sophia turned around in the street, her light curls lifting. Behind her, Asha watched the road to her home darken as it began to blur in the snow. Asha could no longer see the community of shacks built by the D&RG Railroad where her father and four brothers who worked in the coal mines would be passing soon on their way home, stomping their snow-wet boots on the wooden steps while they smelled their mother’s corn beef hash or corn bread and potato soup. “I can’t even see the road,” Asha said. “Ha!” Sophia whirled in the street, laughing. “It’ll still be there when you go back.” She stopped and grasped Asha’s hands. “Asha, you must not miss this opportunity, for it may never come again! You can stay with me all night if you have to. We’ll call your mother at the drugstore.” She turned away from the rows of wooden hous- es that seemed miles away. Stumbling along behind Sophia, she saw the lights of the Boggery Inn as though they were the harbor and she were a small boat tied to a tug and she could not reel free.

though they were the harbor and she were a small boat tied to a tug and

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though they were the harbor and she were a small boat tied to a tug and

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 43 At the front of the Boggery, the snow had begun

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 43 At the front of the Boggery, the snow had

At the front of the Boggery, the snow had begun falling like a bridal veil across the windows with dia- mond glass. The shadows of the lights played in long patterns on the snow. A few people standing out upon the stoop of the Boggery were covering their heads with their arms, the wind driving the snow in their eyes. Asha and Sophia had not expect- ed to see so many people standing upon the outside steps waiting to get in. Or it may have been possi- ble that these patrons were not planning to go in, for they were not in a queue, and they were not moving. On second look, they seemed to be simply standing there looking into the saloon door. As the girls came nearer to the saloon, they could hear the reason people were standing at the door. Bundled in their scarves and coats, the group was not made up of the saloon regulars, but shoppers from the town. Something had drawn them in, and now the faint sound of the music told them what it was. From the sliver of light in the slightly open door of the saloon came the sound of the music. A music of a kind Asha had never heard before. It star- tled her. As they drew close, they heard something like a miracle on the keys of the new piano. As they could not get close to the door, Sophia stopped at the front window and stretched on her toes trying to look inside. Asha did not have to stretch, however. If her mother and father had been worried about their daughter who at thirteen years old was growing so tall they feared she would never be married, at least she had an advantage now. A head taller than Sophia, she could stand at the win- dow and see everything in the lighted room: the tables, the glittering bottles, the visitors, the fire- place wreathed with pine boughs, the dark rafters lit with blazing electric chandeliers. Some red Christmas lanterns hung inside the window casings surrounded by evergreen wreaths. A green tree draped with chains of popcorn and cran- berries stood in the center of the room, and on the far wall, beyond the decorated tree, was the piano. Because the tree was standing between her and the piano, she could not see who was sitting with his back to her in the half-light beyond the smoke from the cigars and the men moving to and fro. “So tell me!” Sophia said.spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 43 Asha leaned her head against the glass to see

Asha leaned her head against the glass to see if she could better hear a sound she had never heard in her life. Her ears began to rock with the sound. She was stunned. “What’s going on?” Sophia said. “Somebody is playing the piano,” Asha said, and then she whispered, “Shhhh,” because she wanted to hear what the piano was saying. As she closed her eyes and touched the cold yellow diamond glass with her ear, she could hear the rocking chords of the bass, and the deep, bumping rhythm, the grind- ing, the trickle above the beat beat boogey woogey of the piano strings. “My. Oh!” Sophia said. “What! I didn’t know there was anybody who could make those keys shake like that.” Asha was transported. The sound of the piano keys played havoc with her, finding a resonance in her body as though she were as hollow as a drum. Where the sound touched her she felt a response she had never felt before. She was caught up, mesmerized. Because Sophia wanted to see more than her height would allow, she walked to the steps of the saloon. So Asha followed her. Though they must stand at the bottom of the stoop behind the others, they could hear the music bumping out into the street. Asha wondered if any of the others could hear what she heard. She imagined that she alone knew there was magic in that music, and that she alone was the object of its power. As the snow deepened, the passersby left the stoop to go home to their evening meals. But Asha and Sophia stayed transfixed, until Mr. Baptiste came out to the front in the light to shovel some of the snow away. Sophia hung back in the darkness so that he would not see her face and then darted to the top of the stairs to look through the door. What she saw startled her, and she motioned for Asha to hurry while Mr. Baptiste was shoveling the board- walk in a corner far away. Standing close, Asha easily looked over Sophia’s head. From the angle of the door, she could see past the Christmas tree and into the far corner against the wall. At the bench of the piano, the person who sat was tapping the darkest fingers against the keys she had ever seen. At first she thought he was wear-

the darkest fingers against the keys she had ever seen. At first she thought he was

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the darkest fingers against the keys she had ever seen. At first she thought he was

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 44 ing black gloves. But when she looked again when she

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 44 ing black gloves. But when she looked again when
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 44 ing black gloves. But when she looked again when

ing black gloves. But when she looked again when she followed the hands to the arms, to the neck ris- ing out of a ragged, olive-green shirt, she saw that the neck was dark, and the hair as black and tight as a head full of tied knots of string. “It’s that black man!” Sophia whispered. Asha was taken back. She could not name the feelings she was experiencing, coursing up and through her at the notes that spoke in perfect har- mony to the drumlike sound of the notes below. “Girls!” Mr. Baptiste’s voice startled both of them. “You no touch my piano now! You better get home!” He was standing at the foot of the stairs with the shovel, waiting to get by. “Get. Get.” His voice was a rasp on the night. It did not match the snow, the lights of the chandeliers. No one had ever known there was anyone in the town of Helper who could play the piano like that. Not so well. Bobbing up and down, he was making the instrument shake. Asha turned around sharply. Mr. Baptiste was standing at the bottom of the

P

O

ETRY

April By Jolayne Call

April is the month when white light, Christ’s light bursts through the earth’s prism in the green of grass of mesquite and palo verde in the pinks and yellows of saguaro, jumping cactus the purple of prickly pear

my yard backs the desert and bubbles with young a baby rabbit watches there and deer with their young descend to feed scant paces from their hunters of fall

stoop, waiting to bring his shovel back through the door. “You can vamoose, or serf drinks. So what it be, ladies?” They hurried to get out of his way before he shoveled Sophia and Asha like heaps of small bones. Down Main Street, on their way to the Gazel shack, Sophia could not stop saying over and over again, “I have never seen any man so black. Wasn’t he black?” Asha was quiet, holding her scarf like an umbrel- la over her eyes to keep off the snow. “I have never heard anyone play the piano so well.”

Marilyn Brown is the author of several historical novels set in Utah, including The Earthkeepers, which won the first-ever AML award for the novel in 1981. She recently endowed the biannual Marilyn Brown Novel Award, administered by the AML, which grants $1,000 to the best unpublished novel among its entries. With her husband she owns and operates the Villa, a community theater in Springville, Utah.

a snake sleeps on the road new skinned and warm pliable in spring’s amnesty

It’s April, light blessed April that holy month of miracles when Christ’s spring of love flowing forward, flowing back ward creates a ring of waters filling the deserts of our lives.

On Lazarus By Jolayne Call

We followed Jesus up the path that day, through the thick dust to Lazarus’ tomb, wondering what he wanted with a man four days dead in the desert heat. Lazarus had been sweet with spices and wrapped with winding cloths and dead—so we gave him to death,

had been sweet with spices and wrapped with winding cloths and dead—so we gave him to

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had been sweet with spices and wrapped with winding cloths and dead—so we gave him to

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 45 burying him there by that lightning- scarred tree that strains

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 45 burying him there by that lightning- scarred tree that
spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 45 burying him there by that lightning- scarred tree that

burying him there by that lightning- scarred tree that strains for the sky.

We heard Jesus call “Lazarus, Lazarus, Come forth” and he came, the dead man, death dangling from his shoulders,

dropping with the winding cloths to lie

a white chrysalis upon the pale path.

I gripped my sword so tightly

that when I released it, my hand had no strength, a useless tool

in a useless hand for what now was death? Where was its power?

I stayed when the others left,

stayed to trace our footsteps back to the open, empty tomb back to the rough stone bed.

I touched it, just to be sure.

And its cold became my cold. He had been dead—I had seen him this was no trick—no error.

But the world is changed, Marcus, and how shall we live, we who live by the sword, how shall we live when death is a chrysalis?

Born and raised in southern Alberta, Canada, Jolayne Call graduated from the University of Alberta and holds a master’s degree from BYU. She has 13 brothers and sisters and 6 children. She lives in Provo, Utah, with her husband and children, where she is working on a series of fantasy novels.

Our House is a Spaceship By Cathy Gileadi Wilson

At my computer one midnight Online with Zion They turned our house Into a spaceship

Convex clear hexagons

Light spurting along each inner curve

A nestling dome

Pulsing, slightly liquid

Certain stuff Began to jostle Paperbacks popped out windows

Crusted Farberware flung itself into the sink

A stash of amphetamines

Wriggled out from under a bed And toppled into the toilet

All the children mildly convulsed In their sleep Livers sweetened, smoothed Pancreases settled Along with the backs of their necks

My husband woke and strapped in beside me

We don’t know how to drive it yet But they’ll be here before long to show us Meantime we tap the controls Beam at each other And tendril out to the motherboard Just to test and yes to tighten The contact.

Pregnant Sonnet By Cathy Gileadi Wilson

Adolescents pale and glance away From the Silent Testimony of Sex they see:

Me motherly, my belly becoming a boy, Beaming beneath the never-big-enough blouse.

The married flat-bellied ladies sneer or sigh As, lumbering through the diminishing-daily doors, I See other mothers, abstracted, warm, patting, smile At the punching poking ruffling my smock.

I See other mothers, abstracted, warm, patting, smile At the punching poking ruffling my smock. Spring

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I See other mothers, abstracted, warm, patting, smile At the punching poking ruffling my smock. Spring

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 46 My man towers, not yet fatherly, but amazed, Grins, hovers,

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 46 My man towers, not yet fatherly, but amazed, Grins,

My man towers, not yet fatherly, but amazed, Grins, hovers, and prescribes, encircles me; I glow; the virgins splutter at my cheeks So mother splattered, rounded lips, right eyes.

My ruler thoughts are softened by the new, Insistent one who drains some of my life Into his life, into his brain; my self Can sense him alive inside, already a part

A part, blood-fed, flesh-clothed, dependent, yet A seedgod burst past earth-power to beget.

Cathy Gileadi Wilson is a writer, teacher and poet living in Price, Utah. She is the author of Everywoman’s Herbal, Homeschool Genesis, and Simple and Essential: A Step-by-Step Guide to Natural Healing with Essential Oils. Cathy is the mother of nine children.

with Essential Oils. Cathy is the mother of nine children. What I Have Planted: Notes on

What I Have Planted: Notes on Cathy Gileadi Wilson’s Poetic Burden By Harlow Soderborg Clark

Picture a church house. Sacrament meeting has just let out and people are hurrying, jostling to priesthood meeting or Relief Society or the various classes for young women and men. A woman great with child makes her way through the throng, sens- ing that her belly makes teenage boys uncomfort- ably aware of their adolescent sexuality, teenage girls aware of both sexuality and maternal hopes. Suppose the woman is a poet. How does she capture all the emotions of such moments, all the spatial awareness, all the sounds of people gathered togeth- er in the Lord’s name? One way is to create sounds that are fun to say, “Me motherly, my belly becom- ing a boy” (see “Pregnant Sonnet” above). The line is evenly balanced, half the words beginning with m, half with b, and could become sing-song, but the comma shifts the balance, much like shifting the leverage on a teeter-totter allows a child to lift a par- ent. That shift in balance preserves the fast repeti- tion of similar sound, but makes it more complex, like the complex sounds in a hall with many people,

or the movements of a body complicated by bearing a child before. Language, whether words on paper, colors on canvas, or torsos and limbs moving to music, lets us shape the world in delight. Perhaps words on paper are at a disadvantage in shaping such a world. How can words, one line after another, capture many things happening at once, like the way people react with each other in a noisy place of worship? Puns can do a great deal, carrying as they do many mean- ings at the same time. Consider how the phrase “Silent Testimony of Sex” plays on different defini- tions of the word testimony. The adolescents pale because a baby blossoming under a blouse has always testified of sex. The ado- lescents are shy before such testimony, shy as the girl whose parents tried to stop her nail-biting by telling her the nails would go down into her stomach and form a little ball. When she saw a pregnant woman she smiled shyly and said, “I know what you’ve been doing.” The adolescents likewise know and acknowledge that knowledge glancingly. But like the girl, they don’t really know, their knowledge is pale and shy. But the capital letters in “Silent Testimony of Sex” suggest another meaning of testimony besides simply “a witness to the existence of.” Within a reli- gious community a testimony affirms the goodness of something, the thing’s holiness. And testimonies are usually spoken, but this one is as effective silent as spoken. And there is another meaning of testimony that might suddenly delight a reader who pictures the speaker “lumbering through the dimin- ishing-daily doors,” bearing this child, and think, “Ah, she’s bearing her testimony.” The phrase “diminishing-daily doors,” is another sort of pun. Because doors are passageways, they function symbolically in our culture as keepers of the unknown, as in the song “When We Get Behind Closed Doors,” or the game show where contestants must choose between doors number 1, 2, or 3. Opening a door diminishes the mystery. We all know that door number 1 might open onto a Cadillac, or a pen of pigs. Opening the door tells us which. A door can also open into a deeper mystery, as opening the door between two people can pro-

A door can also open into a deeper mystery, as opening the door between two people

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A door can also open into a deeper mystery, as opening the door between two people

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 47 duce a third, a person who will require more space

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spring 2000.qxd 2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 47 duce a third, a person who will require more

duce a third, a person who will require more space of doorways as that person grows. Passing through the “diminishing-daily doors,” the poem’s speaker comes into the world of other married women, some new mothers who share her delight at bringing forth life, some flat-bellied who “sneer or sigh,” the mystery of knowing and pro- ducing bodies having diminished into burden. These are the women the adolescent girls will become as they embrace the Testimony of Sex, as they marry within the covenant taught them in the church house, as they turn away from sex before making the covenant of marriage. They will sneer, sigh, or smile at their own knowledge of sex per- haps all three as they come to know not only the joys but ambivalence. And the adolescent boys? We see their covenant future in the speaker’s man towering, hovering in amazement encircling his wife in a silly grin. All these reactions show us a place and culture that make clear the testimony the speaker bears is not simply a silent witness to her sexuality, but a Testimony to the divine nature of sex for the com- munity that both sanctifies sex within a covenant of marriage and sanctions sex outside that covenant. (Note that our language recognizes both blessing and prohibition in that word will sneer, sigh, or smile at their own knowledge of sex sanction , as if all sanction, as if all things contain their opposite.) In the fourth stanza the speaker contemplates how bearing this Testimony “who drains some of my life / Into his life” affects her self, softening her thoughts, turning them away from rule. The flat-bellied ladies who sigh know how much life insistent children can drain as they move apart from their mother, how much burden children can be. The poem suggests the speaker will know this too. But a burden is also the song a prophet sings. Or a poet, and the closing couplet completes the burden in a burst of praise for the child who is a part of her but separate enough to move apart the word apart:

A part, blood-fed, flesh-clothed, dependent, yet A seedgod burst past earth-power to beget.

A reader coming across such “Untitled” exuber- ant singing in Cracroft and Lambert’s 22 Young Mormon Writers might well wish to hear more, might delight in meeting the poet, recognizing the name Gileadi from an Old Testament class, and recognizing it again years later on AML-List. Cathy replied to an e-mail about her poetry by saying she had written books about herbs and home schooling more than she had written poetry lately, but had a few poems coming out. They were more closely connected to the earth, she said. The Summer 1997 issue of Dialogue carried her “Father Sky/Mother Earth.” The poem a celebra- tion of afternoon irrigating is told in first person present tense, the tense of prayer, as the speaker addresses the parents in her title, celebrating her ability to bring forth life like the water and soil and sun:

I have something to say:

Today I join the flow

To the corn and the peppers

I am forty and I still bleed

That lovely word chthonic comes to mind, with its connotations of primitive mystery closely tied to the earth. Cathy’s poem “Straw” in the next issue of Dialogue (Fall 1997) shows the garden growing toward harvest with the neighboring farmers on the mountain having already harvested some grain. The mountain’s round reminds the speaker of her son’s round head, the straw of his new-cut hair. As it begins to rain, the family gathers on the doorstep, sitting close.

Our toes outward, a circle of light We have No shadows in the setting sun

The poem is bucolic, and yet the family is not complete. The speaker finds herself thinking, mid- poem, of a robin crying for

the family is not complete. The speaker finds herself thinking, mid- poem, of a robin crying

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the family is not complete. The speaker finds herself thinking, mid- poem, of a robin crying

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 48 His strangled mate limp On the railroad ties by the

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His strangled mate limp On the railroad ties by the edge of the lawn Her song caught in her mouth

Both the Dialogue poems were published under the name Cathy A. Gileadi-Sweet as a way of reclaiming her maiden name and sundering herself from her married name, perhaps as a way of uncatching the song from her mouth. On Tuesday, July 13, 1999, Cathy Gileadi posted a note to AML-List of her wedding to Russell Wilson, sign- ing the post

Cathy (Gileadi) Wilson (That looks SOOO good) :)

Responding to a query about whether recent events had inspired new poetry, Cathy sent IRREANTUM a group of poems including an untitled poem about human and animal shapes in the mountains (September 1999) and “Afternoon at Autumn Solstice” (Winter 1999-2000). She also included a rather bitter poem about how the belief of some Latter-day Saints about the someday return of polygamy makes every man anResponding to a query about whether recent events had inspired new poetry, Cathy sent I RREANTUM

Incipient Polygamist

He is questing for his mother

A damp cheekbone

The turn of a thin hip

A flexed ankle, squatting

Ten o’clock tea on the breath Thin spun threads on the crown of her head Just that much cushion inside the shoulder To rest his head upon

He walks about broadcasting

A silent question air

At the grocery in the library along the freeway And those who apply He takes to God

How many righteous women does it take To equal one righteous man?

How many component

Knees, familiar phrases Glints of afternoon in the iris To create His mother?

This is a very different poem than “Straw.” There is nothing in it as subtle as that poem’s suggestion that the white-hatted hero did not get to the rail- road tracks before the train. “Incipient Polygamist” suggests how widely Cathy Wilson’s poetry ranges, as does the whimsical “Our House Is a Spaceship” (above), which plays on the idea of Zion, a place and culture she has commented on several times recently on AML-List. But the bulk of Cathy’s poet- ry, like the bulk of a growing child shrinking door- ways, still seems tied closely to the earth and bring- ing forth life. Consider the chthonic fecundity (hmm, fecund ditty?) of

Their Names We keep to the edges But the skylight calls our names Stand here and look into me:

The covenant wombs, they Round to be filled

Their fundal toddle mounding

Give me sons and daughters Not just sex, you begin to see But progeny They are mothers Even as girls they are mothers The dark earth soft in their hands Anyone, anyone Longs for their arms

The mother speaks to their feet She finds her way through their soles, she Finds them even through asphalt And library floors, she Remembers them, she Calls their names

“Now, chthonic,” Cathy replies. “Can you believe it????? A word I had to look up!!!!This is seri- ous, a day for celebration. As much as I declaim noncompetitiveness, I wilt and die when someone

ous, a day for celebration. As much as I declaim noncompetitiveness, I wilt and die when

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ous, a day for celebration. As much as I declaim noncompetitiveness, I wilt and die when

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 49 uses a word I don’t know :). Russell will grin.”

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uses a word I don’t know :). Russell will grin.” Oh, maybe chthonic wasn’t the word she original- ly used to describe her recent poetry. Such a lovely word to say, though. That’s the joy of working with words. And there are the puns, always the puns. Replying to a request to reprint the untitled poem from 22 Young Mormon Writers, she supplies the title we’ve given here, “Pregnant Sonnet.” Looking at the poem an editor notes a couplet following four quatrains instead of three. Pregnant indeed. The possibilities of bringing forth words echo the closing lines of “Father Sky/Mother Earth,” where the speaker momentarily “hold[s] the sky with a look” then addresses her audience more directly than before:

Just for once I want to tell you What I have planted in My garden And my sons And my daughters

Presumably you addresses the parents in the poem’s title as well as the reader, inviting all you addresses the parents in the poem’s title as well as the reader, inviting all to con- sider what she has planted in her garden, in her sons, in her daughters, what her sons and daughters have planted in her garden and inviting her chil- dren to hear what she has planted in them. It is a good thing to be included in that you, to watch what comes forth from the garden.

Harlow Soderborg Clark, father, mail sorter, free- lance writer and scholar, and champion weed grower, is IRREANTUM’s poetry editor.

R

EVIEWS

Trust in Smith for an Enjoyable LDS Novel

A review by Barbara Hume of Robert Farrell Smith’s All Is Swell: Trust in Thelma’s Way and Falling for Grace: Trust at the End of the World (Deseret Book, 1999)

It’s interesting to watch a writer take characters through a story that requires three books to com- plete, yet have each book able to stand alone. For such a work to satisfy most readers, it cannot take an episodic or picaresque approach in which the characters do not change. We want to see characters learn from their experiences. And that’s what Smith gives us in these novels. Not only the main charac- ter but also many of the characters change, learn, and grow in realistic ways. The viewpoint character in these books is a young man named Trust Williams. Smith employs a cur- rent technique that I’m still trying to adjust to: the chapters that focus on Trust are told in the first per- son, but when the writer wants to get into other character’s heads, he switches to third-person narra- tion. When I recognized this change from the old tried-and-true methods, I scowled a bit, but since I was almost through the second book before I noticed it, I can hardly claim it was intrusive! Diana Gabaldon uses this approach in her wildly popular Outlander series. The first novel focuses on an important part of many young Mormons’ lives: their Best Two Years. It carries the main character from pulling his mis- sion call out of the mailbox through his farewell, his entire mission, his homecoming, and his inevitable return to his mission field for what he had left behind. Trust’s mission experiences are funny, mov- ing, unique, sometimes slapstick, and always enter- taining. The story gave me a new admiration for the young people who serve missions and have to spend all that time dealing with human nature, the most difficult part of any endeavor. As you might expect, the most trying human nature he has to deal with in the first book comes in

As you might expect, the most trying human nature he has to deal with in the

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As you might expect, the most trying human nature he has to deal with in the

spring 2000.qxd2/11/03 2:29 PM Page 50 the form of missionary companions. He also has what we

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the form of missionary companions. He also has what we Mormons euphemistically refer to as “growing experiences” in dealing with the people of Thelma’s Way, whose way of life and thought processes are completely alien to him. And Trust does grow considerably during the the novel. He also meets the other most important charac- ter in the series: Grace, an engaging young woman who is completely different from the self-centered blonde beauty he had been infatuated with before his mission. The way these two characters from dif- ferent worlds come to care for each other is one of the narrative threads that hold together the struc- ture of the first book. Another is the planning of the sesquicentennial pageant for Thelma’s Way. As the plot moves toward the actual staging of the pageant, Trust moves toward becoming a more mature and generous human being. The second novel in the series takes Trust and Grace out of the Tennessee ambiance of the first book into the world Trust grew up in. Grace goes to California with him to see if she can adjust to his world as he did to hers. In some ways, though, the feeling is the same: the first book deals with weird and unique people in the back hills of Tennessee, and the second deals with weird and unique charac- ters in the wilds of modern California. I felt that Smith perhaps missed an opportunity to parody the rich, pompous, self-righteous contingent of the prosperous modern LDS community, but maybe I think so because I’m not one of them. (Well, I’m not rich, anyway.) The first novel coversTrust’s mission and the second covers the progress of his wooing of Grace (and her wooing of him). I hope Smith is up to the challenge of writing an interesting story about characters that have gotten to the “happily ever after” stage. There are many dull books out there about sweet young couples. I’m looking forward to seeing what unique twist Smith will give to Trust’s bizarre life this time. Here’s a sample of the easy-going, humorous style of these novels. Trust has decided to call his parents to tell them he is bringing Grace to California. His parents are less than thrilled, because Grace is not exactly what they had planned on for their upwardly mobile son: because Grace is not exactly what they had planned on for their upwardly mobile son:

The next day I called my parents from the

boarding house and told them that I had partial-

ly seen the light and was coming home. They said

they were partially happy, but wanted to know what the catch was. I told them the catch, in every sense of the word, was Grace, and that she was coming home with me. Surprisingly, my par- ents were all right with this. I think they saw the opportunity of picking her apart on their turf as something of a blessing. “Mom, I’m not bringing her home so you and Dad can make her feel uncomfortable and

unwanted in person.” “We’ll see,” Mom replied sweetly. (10)

I find the books to be skillfully written. Smith handles dialog well, his characters are consistent, and his humorous asides make reading it a pleasure. The themes are woven gently into the fabric of the narrative instead of hitting you with the sledgeham- mer touch of some Mormon fiction. I’ve read quite a few humorous Mormon novels written by women; I was pleased to see one from a male per- spective. Only the most prickly among us could be offended by the amiable humor, and goodness knows there’s plenty about the Mormon culture to poke fun at.

there’s plenty about the Mormon culture to poke fun at. Barbara R. Hume, a professional writer

Barbara R. Hume, a professional writer for the past 25 years, has written genre fiction as well as nonfiction technobabble. With a strong interest in Mormon litera- ture, she has written numerous reviews of LDS novels.

Into the Future

A review by Gabi Kupitz of Pam Blackwell’s

Ephraim’s Seed (BF Publishing, 1996) and Jacob’s Cauldron