Fiction Friday: Novelines from the Book

mormoni

Sometimes, I felt as if I would leave David, who had always taken such loving care of me, only to place myself into the hands of another man, and it was in that way I was like my mother.

I didn’t present another Katryn to Brad but simply another side of me.  He was the one who understood that moment of ecstasy I had experienced at St. Mary’s when I had shared it with him.  Kath and Leann had looked at me as if I had said I’d had sex with the ghost of Joseph Smith, for my spiritual experience didn’t fit the narrative of a typical Mormon.

“I’ll miss you, too, Katryn but as believers in something greater than us—good-bye is never forever.”

I’d never been attracted to the blue-collar type worker, though I admired what they did.  I liked my men more urbane—men who saved people from ignorance—even as men like these saved lives.  

I had no picture of Elder Roberts to remember him by, no proof that we had ever met, except in the memories of the unreliable narrators of my life.

Brad had wanted to be a firefighter, but he saw the priesthood as putting out a different type of fire—the type of fire that Mormons didn’t believe in, for eternal separation from God the Father burned enough.  Being a firefighter was what Brad had wanted but being a priest, he was convinced, was what God wanted, and He wanted what God wanted.

That day at the fire station and afternoon on the beach would be the last date Brad and I would ever have, for it wouldn’t do for him to dance his last with a girl who would fall in love with him, except it was him who was falling in love with me.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Mother was with David,
on a walk with God,
Caitlin was asleep,
surely running,
but I was as still as the silence,
waiting for something
to happen.

When it came to our figures,
Caitlin was the Audrey
& I, the Marilyn.
She had the figure
that could do justice
to the dance,
whereas I had the figure
that some feminists insisted
did an injustice to me.

The Church had stripped Mother of her formality,
redressing her in a tennis-style dress & mules.
She kept her hair pulled behind her,
making her look 10 years younger—
like an older sister
with whom I felt I’d been competing with
all my life.
She had taken her place in the sun,
even I had sought my space in the shade,
for her limelight had become too bright.

I had thought Bethany House
a haven for battered women,
but while the women were being looked after,
the men to whom they were married
were going through LDS counseling
with a male therapist,
in conjunction with
more spiritually-based counseling
from their bishop.
It wasn’t an escape
but a holding place—
the women there like foster children,
waiting for their husbands to reclaim them.

With Elder Roberts,
I had always felt compelled to be
someone better than what I thought I was.
Though I’d always believed
that the right person would bring out
the best in me,
so much of the good
that had been brought out
hadn’t been in me at all
but had been manufactured.
I was like a robot
who had allowed itself
to be reprogrammed
into something I did not recognize.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Poetry from the Book

mormoni

In times of frost,
everything seemed rushed—
rushing to finish holiday shopping
& rushing to get in out of the cold
or home before darkness fell;
in times of fever,
everything moved as if in slow motion—
the trees swaying rather than shimmying,
the birds languid & low-key,
& the people,
even more so.
Perhaps this was because every holiday
had happened one year ago,
but in Green Haven,
summers bled
one into the other
like crayons that had been left
in the car too long.
Even after the town had turned its back on the sun,
the earth rolling over in its cosmic bed,
there was no respite from the heat.
Given the choice between being hot in stale air,
or hot in fresh air,
we’d chosen the latter.
We let the cold water cascade
over our heads & shoulders,
our hot bodies silhouetted in the frosted light
that shone through our bathroom windows,
drying with still-damp towels.
We had become as lethargic as wilted lettuce,
smelling not like bacon grease but of misery.

It was the season of the hurricane—
of parties on downtown patios
& beach condo balconies,
of people grilling their meat before it went bad,
to prevent the sourness & waste
that would pervade their homes,
for sometimes one had to consume something
a little too fast,
lest it be left out & seen for what it was.

The town of Green Haven was lit up that night of the storm.
There were no flickering televisions,
only flames,
no sounds of canned laughter,
only radio reports,
& the scent of burning paraffin that wafted like sooty, curling specters.
Books & board games that had gathered dust were dug out of closets,
while those who had imagination told stories like Andy had told Opie;
people had conversations on porches with those they could not see,
their voices floating like soap bubbles that popped in the trees.
We prayed for clouds like a rain dance—
to shield us from the demonic sun that was like a dictator,
oppressing us with its brutality.
But this was not the storm that frightened me,
for I was the meteorologist who could see
the change of climate that had come into our home—
a home which had once been warm,
yet frozen in his warmth,
even as it would become fluid
in its rapidly cooling state.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Vignettes from the Novel

mormoni

They prayed to Heavenly Father (it was never God, but Heavenly Father) for His Spirit to be upon them, the only light coming from the curious stones, glowing in the dark. 

There were Amens, and then Brother and Sister Schafer chanted “Pay Lay Ale” thrice, and a minty mist imbued the air. The room suddenly felt damp, and I could smell the verdant earth after the rain. As they continued to chant in a language I could not understand, I felt the floor beneath me shift, like the plate tectonics I had learned about in school. Brother Schafer placed his palms on the stones, and his whole body was filled with light.

My surroundings change from four walls to a woodland. The ceiling opened up and disappeared, and sunlight streamed through the treetops. Birds were singing sweetly in the breeze. I stood in awesome wonder as I beheld who I recognized as the Prophet Joseph as a boy, on the Hill Cumorah. He was conversing with an angel. I started to walk towards them. The angel looked my way, but the boy did not seem to hear me. As I drew nearer, I saw that the apparition was not an angel, but a goat. It was beyond this scene that I saw a path through a grove of trees, leading down into a dark abyss, and I knew that was from whence this creature had come. 

I rushed to the boy, trying to tell him this being was not of God but a demon, wanting to touch him, but unable to, screaming for him to see what I saw. 

It was strange, for I could still hear all around me, all that was going on in that room, the two worlds colliding—one of sight, in the past—one of sound, in the present. Had I slipped into the fifth dimension of imagination, for I surely felt like I was being taken on a journey through the Twilight Zone, only to be left there.

The spell was broken as Brother Schafer ended what had turned out to be a séance of sorts, conjuring up visions of visions. Had I gone back in time, only to be unable to change the history that had been made before my eyes?

No one had seen what I had seen, for I had been alone there in the forest. The very people who believed in Joseph Smith’s teachings had brought him back from the dead, only for God (or had it been the devil tricking me?), to tell me he had been mistaken, to show me that after all, he had been just a boy with an imagination out of this world.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Novel

mormoni

Had there been 12 places,
it would’ve been like The Last Supper,
but there were 16—
a perfect square full of imperfect squares—
a latter day First Dinner.

Her husband was a descendant of Brigham Young—
who had been a modern day Abraham
& whose descendants may not have numbered the sands of the sea
but the stars on the BYU sports teams.

The Urim & Thummim—
the seer stones that the Prophet Joseph
had used to translate the golden plates
& had been taken back by the angel Moroni—
had been placed in the Schafers’ backyard
that was like a shady, suburban wooded lot.
This Urim & Thummim glowed like breast implants
in each of Brother Schafer’s hands,
& of course,
Saint Tony had been the one to find them,
while Brother Schafer kept them safe,
being one generation
closer to Brigham Young.

What David found laughable,
Mother found laudable,
& it was as if the stones
were the eyes of an albino,
mesmerizing her.

What some would consider Tony & Kath’s dirty little secret,
I considered a wonderful little secret,
& what Kath did not show,
she did not have to tell.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Known as “The new Dalton family,”
notarized by the marriage contract,
legitimized by the marriage vows,
& sanitized by not the rewriting of history
but the ignoring of it,
we lived as Mormons—
I, through deed,
David, through word,
& Mother, with her whole heart.
As for Caitlin,
she simply lived.

We still received news of Elder Johnson through the grapevine,
or the grapes of wrath known as the elders. 
Wariness had replaced openness with them,
at least towards us,
despite Mother & David’s morally married state. 
I held on to the memory of Elder Johnson,
for he had loved us then
before we had become us now.

Sister Schafer,
the quintessential administrative assistant,
had dispensed legal, medical, & real estate advice—
advising against divorce, birth control, & cohabitation,
& all without a license—
but who could question a woman
who was as close to God
as some were to their demons?

According to his mother,
Tony choosing to marry sooner than planned
rather than languish with lust had started a trend,
& would lead to less sin,
for he had followed the admonition of St. Paul.
After all, what was a bit of fooling around between him & his wife
before she had become his wife
if if prevented others from doing the same?

The acrid smell of burnt food hung in the air like barroom smoke. The haze seemed to soften the images—Ronald Reagan watching us enter the foyer, his eyes with that twinkle of merriment, almost as if he were laughing at us. David had always said that Reagan had been such a charismatic President because of his acting ability, though many of his University colleagues had debated whether the Old Gipper had ever had any acting ability.  

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Our home on Harrington Court was like an aging Southern belle,
& the greenery that concealed it from the sun rays grew like wild ferns,
so all that grew near this cracked, white-washed belle could only thrive in the dark.
Whereas most of our neighbors had an American flag hanging from their porches,
we proudly hailed our absence of allegiance to any institution,
public or private,
for David considered shows of such patriotism—
which he equated to nationalism—
a bit cliché. 

Their home was what black-and-white TV sitcoms were made of—
with the hedges surrounding the front porch sporting a crew cut,
the sidewalks leading up to the red front door looking freshly poured,
& even a pressure-washed white picket fence that was not meant
to keep anyone out
but suck them in.

When Mother & David forgot I was there, 
I felt invisible,
for everything I was,
I was
in relation to them. 

Mother used to lie—
little white lies
that fit her like a little black dress,
her pearls of wisdom cast before swine—
but not anymore,
for honesty was the only policy
when it came to the Mormons.
But what of the lies
they told themselves?

The new elders weren’t the friends we had known in Elders Johnson & Roberts,
& Sisters Corbin & Kyle had moved on with just one piece of correspondence
as physical proof that we had ever known one another.
I longed for those days—
for those friends—
for they not only represented what I wished I could be,
but they had presented to us what I believed had been the best versions of themselves.
They were the grown-up children Mother would’ve loved,
but so many of them passed through our strange little town like Good Samaritans—
who didn’t need our help but had come to help us—
with their unending kindness that produced not only prayer but service,
only to be gone as if they had been a guest star for one episode of our lives.

Fiction Friday: Novelines from the Book

mormoni

Christmas had come and gone, and the New Millennium had begun.  At Maxwell Manor, burgundies, navy blues, and hunter greens had been replaced with shades of cream, ecru, and chartreuse.  Modern art had been replaced with several of Greg Olsen’s paintings, and the place began to more resemble a Mormon temple than a museum.

“Though the husband is the head of the home,” the elders of the Church had often said, “the wife is the heart.”

It was my house, too, even though I was old enough to move out , but Mother was changing everything.  The house on Harrington Court was mine now, but I would always have a place at Maxwell Manor—a room in one of David’s many mansions, and the one room, besides David’s study, that Mother would not touch.  Did that make it a shrine unto myself?

I would keep the house at Harrington Court as one would a museum, for Mother had changed nothing in it since the Mormons had come, flooding our house with their holy water and setting fire to our lives as we had known them.

He told me that I’d become as she once was, even as he believed who Mother was now, she would always be. She would never change her mind about the Church, for the Church had changed her.  

Mother had put off the natural woman to put on the spiritual, for in her eyes, the two entities could not coexist, for one would always rule over the other.  It was perhaps the first time in my life I acknowledged with defeat that a Force greater than the influences of those who loved her, led my mother now. As she drew closer to God, she withdrew from us, even as David and I grew closer than ever.  A part of me still feared losing him, if he completely lost Mother.

David thanked God for my will that I would never allow the Church to change me.  I had never heard David thank God for anything before, save that night in the hospital, and I wondered, if, in his own way, he was changing, too.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

With any other youth group,
the idea of dating a lot of different people
seemed like cheating,
but in Mormonism,
until one felt ready to marry,
it was better not to get fixated on any one person,
for that might lead to falling in love
& that just might lead to sin.

Tony had been willing to give up his reputation for Kath
but not Elder Roberts.
Tony had sealed his fate with his beloved by impregnating her,
whereas Elder Roberts had denied himself
by denying me.

It was a jubilee of sorts—
the tinkling of our fluted stems
signaling the beginning of the New Year
& the best years of our lives to come.

A cool gust, a warm breeze,
stirred me from my slumber
like a ghostly lover beckoning me.
I just stood back and watched him,
enjoying him,
& when he spoke to the sky,
it was then that I realized that he was speaking to the God
I thought he didn’t believe in.

I would never know if David lied to himself,
so he could lie to Mother,
but they would have a year before the temple
for her to fall in love with him
without all the trappings of Mormonism,
before she would expect him to take her to the temple
& promise things that he would never do,
not even for her,
even if she were me.

Fiction Friday: Novelines from the Book

mormoni

Mother and David were like eloping teenagers, and I, their unmarried, childless friend, who was forced to witness a choice that I knew would end in doom.   

A baby grand sat in the corner of the room; on top, sat a picture of Jesus.  For some reason, it made me think of a picture of a woman’s late husband. “I guess He’s the witness,” Caitlin whispered, and I held back a laugh.

The preacher’s daughter sat on the witness chair, telling Mother, “I hope I can have more than one husband, too, but not at the same time, of course—not like the Mormons.”

“David, when I think of you, I think of the guardian angel who came to us all those years before, bearing good tidings of great joy.”  I did not see Pastor Taylor’s right eyebrow almost fly off his forehead, nor the shock on Mrs. Taylor’s face, nor the curiosity on Carolyn’s.

My vow was simple.  “You’ve not only been my father but my educator, edifier, and friend.” I refrained from saying savior.

I had reached back inside myself, back to that girl I used to be, whose dream it had been to see the two people she loved most in the world married.  Through her eyes, I could see this as she would have—as an occasion for celebration. How happy I would have been a year ago, before I ever knew the Church, yet it was because of the Church that we were here at all.  

That night, David told Mother he would love her for eternity, but only I knew that he meant that his love for hernot their marriagewould abide forever.  I could not portend what had been in his heart at that exact moment, but I knew who David was at his core.  That was how I knew their marriage would last for time only, and a fleeting time at that. 

Pastor Taylor spoke a few words, Mrs. Taylor stone-faced, Carolyn starry-eyed, and I, pledging my allegiance to David Dalton under the banner of heaven.