Sweet Little Nothings

Inhale the future chocolate

When she’d been LDS—
a Molly Mormon on the outside
& some kind of nondenominational,
free-spirited Christian on the inside—
she’d had friends, good & plenty,
but when she’d lost her testimony
of Joseph Smith
& returned to her Protestant roots,
she reclaimed her creativity.
When she went back to school
at a liberal arts college,
where she was often
the red elephant in a room
full of donkeys
in varying shades of blue,
she realized that the life she was living
wasn’t a remake
but rather,
a sequel.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

The testosterone trio
had made a calendar of themselves one year
right before their missions,
including their favorite foods in the bio section
(which Donna had said was code
for what they’d expect their wives to cook for them).
Donna had kept one to someday sell to the tabloids
in case Tony ever decided to run for office,
even though the spreads were G-rated,
the missionaries looking like the salt of the earth
that had not lost its savor.

Some saw Kath as being under the curse,
for the Church believed that Cain was the father of the black race—
the black skin the mark God that had put upon
the fratricidal maniac for protection.
How interesting it was that thousands of years later,
that protective cloak of dark hue would lead to the enslavement
of its wearers.
Sister Batts had told Kath that because she’d inherited black blood,
it had changed colors when she was baptized.
Such absurdities,
to me,
were anti-science,
akin to believing that the bones of albinos
would bring great things to those who not only trafficked them
but removed from them that which made its possessors human.

Elder Carmichael seemed to prefer the young girls,
perhaps because he was such a kid himself;
to these young teens,
he was the forbidden older boy.
But those too young to marry were of no consequence to Sister Wiley,
for as soon as she saw me heading towards Elder Roberts,
she watched us from over her punch cup,
continuing to stare,
making my hair
prickle with awareness.

I preferred feeding them on different days,
so we could have the elders all to ourselves,
yet I figured having the sisters among us
would help cool the hot stories
that circulated the ward about Elder Roberts & me.
I’d never forgive myself if I did anything
that would cause my precious Elder Roberts
to return home with a dishonorable discharge.

No one had ever called me anything but Katryn,
but to him,
I was Kate.
Even after we married,
I knew he would always be Elder Roberts to me.

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 Based on the Book

There were musical chairs for the young single adults
& a cakewalk for those who had not sampled
Sister Minnie Page’s mayonnaise pie—
(or “bile cake,” according to Caitlin)—
an inedible mess that half the young single adult girls said
they would be glad to buy from the winner,
just to smash in Tony Schafer’s face.
Caitlin ended up making five bucks that night,
& Tony, who, at his heart, was good-natured,
let himself be “pied.”
There was a costume contest for the kids,
but no masks were allowed,
for just as painted ladies did things to men
that their wives weren’t willing to do,
a mask provided an air of anonymity
that emboldened those who were predisposed
to do evil.

Mother had felt foolish dressing up before,
but this year, she was the epitome of a Russian princess,
David, a Russian czar.
No one knew what they were supposed to be,
& David enjoyed educating them,
with Sister Batts being the only one who dared ask
if they even knew what they were supposed to be.

Sister Wiley looked like a teeny-bopper
in checkered pedal pushers & ponytail—
adorned with a scarf instead of a scrunchie—
reminding me of the time
I had heard Sister Wiley tell Mother
that she preferred slacks over skirts
because she didn’t like her legs to touch.
If I hadn’t found out from Elder Roberts
that she’d had a baby in her teens,
I wouldn’t have thought much about it,
but I realized then that that attitude
was what had gotten her into trouble
in the first place,
& it disturbed me to think she was discussing
such personal matters with the elders.

The Jonases were dressed as Raggedy Ann & Andy
who looked down on their luck,
Brother Roswell, who always looked like a homeless Vietnam vet,
had come as a Hare Krishna,
his wife a gigantic pumpkin,
which was fitting,
as she had the face of a jack-o-lantern.
Sister Batts was the Wicked Witch of the West,
complete with a slime-green face,
though the warts were original.
It was a cavalcade of freaks & weirdos,
with a few genuinely sane people,
or at least that was how Leann would describe
the wacky assortment of characters who were
so unlike the types cast in Church-sponsored commercials.

Catie Jonas was the unofficial photojournalist of Green Haven Ward,
Caitlin, her captioning sidekick,
both of them ending up in the November ward newsletter
for their high jinks.
Caitlin hadn’t been spiritually converted into the ward,
but she had been converted socially—
with flying pink colors.

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 Based on the Book

mormoni

David had been educated in all the social graces—
an Irish seed that had been planted in American soil
& replanted in the deep recesses
of the ultraconservative South.
Women found his politesse charming,
for he was a gentleman among men,
& I was proud to know him as I did.

To Leann,
David was “Katryn’s almost dad,”
to Kath,
he was “Brother Dalton,”
to Donna,
he was Mother’s “fiance” (in air quotes),
to Caitlin,
he was “just David,”
but to me,
he was,
in a way,
better than God,
for he was not only just
but fair.

I was Heidi,
an old classic,
Leann was Scarlett O’Hara,
a modern classic,
& Kath was a generic cowgirl—
an American classic.

I, at 18, looked 12,
& Caitlin,
albeit dressed as Pippi Longstocking,
could pass for 17.
In those days,
my naiveté kept me young,
even as Caitlin’s lack thereof matured her.

Though Tony wasn’t a groper,
he was a “poker” when dancing,
which he blamed on a physiological response
rather than a premeditated one.
Leann was sure he would calm down once he married
to release all that pent-up testosterone,
& the fertile flowers of Green Haven Ward
would be less likely to be mass pollinated
if he were plucked from the garden
without the roots attached,
for he had told me several times
that he would never leave Green Haven.
He had no so much cleaved unto his mother
but his mother unto him.

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 Based on the Book

mormoni

Leann was not a kid person,
despite being in a Church that prized children
to the exclusion of everything else,
though Mother believed the Church would change her;
perhaps if polyandry were allowed,
Leann—who was like Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue at Twelve Oaks,
writing to a dozen elders at a time—
would meet the one elder who had not been conditioned
to want what she did not.

We were so unlike the Jonas family,
which consisted of a half dozen teenaged girls;
“Greater by the Dozen” was their family slogan,
for they were of the Quiverfull movement.
Leann believed all they needed was a set of sextuplets
to make them “Cheaper by the Dozen,”
so they would get a spot on 60 Minutes.
To Leann, big families were overrated,
for they lacked the intimacy of small ones.

We were archetypes in a stage play,
even as I felt those around us were stereotypes in a TV series.
Leann was known as the pretty strawberry one,
Kath, the popular chocolate one,
& I, the quiet vanilla one—
a Neapolitan concoction that perfectly completed one another.
As for Donna Marley,
who was known as Twenty-Seven & Unmarried,
she was the hot fudge, whipped cream, & cherry,
all in one.

Kath’s African lineage made her one of the most popular girls in the ward.
To Mick, she was the “white chocolate sista” he liked to tease,
& though Kath replied that she may have been a freak of nature,
he was just a freak.

Leann Sweeney,
who had come as Scarlett O’Hara
in the white dress at the beginning of Gone with the Wind,
had the kind of charm that was disarming,
whereas I felt like Melanie Hamilton,
with Elder Roberts as my gentle, noble Ashley,
who was as loyal to the Church
as Ashley Wilkes had been to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.

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 Based on the Book

mormoni

Life was marked with holidays & celebrations,
with weddings & funerals,
& the seemingly endless baby showers
that happened in the Green Haven Ward.
In early October,
there was Trunk or Treat,
when all the members would line up their cars
in the Church parking lot
& pop open their trunks filled with goodies.
These weren’t our neighbors
but the same people we saw every Sunday.
In this modern era,
we knew those who lived across town
better than those who lived beside us,
for Mormons surrounded themselves with those
who understood their lingo,
their culture,
& their way of life.

Leann Sweeney,
the smiley-faced girl
with the Shirley Temple curls
couldn’t bear to say no to anyone,
whereas Kath Wakefield,
the black albino girl,
was brought up to say no
& to say it often,
& then there was I,
who’d simply wanted Mother to say yes once
after a lifetime of saying no.

I rarely thought of my high school days,
which were like a Gaussian blur.
I had befriended the sheltered, studious girls there—
the ones who ate from brown paper bags
& hung out with their parents on the weekends.
They had invited me to Mass
but never to their house,
& it had never occurred to me to invite them to mine,
for I hadn’t ever felt I needed a friend beyond the hours
I spent at Green Haven Catholic High School.
Commencement was the last time I saw any of them,
but now I craved the type of friends who knew me
as I knew myself at home.

We appeared as the perfect nuclear family:
mom, dad, 2.0 kids,
all of us well-groomed & well-mannered.
It had meant so much to Mother
that we attend Church as a family.
Mother went for herself,
David went for her,
I went for Elder Roberts,
& Caitlin went for Elder Carmichael.

Though I had known David’s aunt & uncle,
Mother’s family was still largely a mystery.
All I knew was that she had been an only, lonely child,
whose father was Irish & whose mother was Russian.
On the top shelf of a bookcase,
that held all of Mother’s crystal figurines,
their picture was as familiar to me as my mother’s face,
& years would pass before,
by chance,
I would take it down to dust it,
only to drop it.
When I removed the picture from the broken frame,
I looked at the back,
hoping for a date,
only to see the names Clayton & Marjorie Maynard
instead of George Francis McCarrick & Katerina Kasparkova.
Through researching my family history,
I would learn that these people were strangers;
when I looked up my grandparents’ names,
it was as if they had never existed,
& I knew that Mother had joined a Church
where family history was prized,
only to have made hers a lie.

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 Based on the Book

mormoni

I was plunged into the water & arose anew.
I looked at my hands, which were still,
& that was when I realized the trembling was inside.

I had expected a sprinkling of water on the head,
not the immersion process I had just gone through.
Had one hair on my head come up out of the water,
I would have had to do it again.
I smiled at Elder Roberts,
for how wonderful was it that my future husband
had led me down the path?

He hesitated before baptizing David,
but my chaste young love knew it was the only way
to get Mother sealed in the temple
& on her way back to her divine origin.
It occurred to me then that
David had never loved God enough,
or even himself enough,
to give Him his soul,
but he loved Mother enough
to forsake everything
he had never believed in.
To get Mother to finally marry him,
he had to do it on her terms,
but when had she ever done anything on his?

David’s sparkling water glass was empty.
He held it, twirling it by the stem,
looking at it as though the answers
to all of life’s quandaries were there,
as crystal clear as the glass.
Caitlin was not with us,
for Mother, David, & I were connected in a way
that she would never be.
Her “otherness” set her apart,
& when I went to bed that night,
I realized had she never been born,
our lives,
as they were now,
wouldn’t be much different.

“To peace and love,” I said instead,
raising my tumbler in a toast.
“To love,” Mother said, smiling again.
“To peace,” David said,
& we lifted our glasses,
clinking them together,
the sound seeming to ripple through
the room in endless echoes,
signaling the beginning of the life to come.

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 Based on the Book

mormoni

Our souls had not been created
but simply given earthly vessels
for these diaphanous substances to be poured into.
We had existed before this life.
Because I had not joined the ranks of Lucifer
but of God during the great war in heaven
in the pre-mortal life,
I had been given a body—
only to have to prove myself a second time
that I was worthy enough to be reunited with it
in the afterlife.
It was alleged that memories of this premortal life
were forgotten when we passed through the veil,
with that first breath of life,
& it seemed like the Mormons were the recoverers
of repressed memories,
for how could I deny something
that I was told
I would not remember anyway?

Sister Kyle was floating on a cloud in Kolob,
she was so joy-filled.
When had the Baptists or the Pentecostals
or any of the other churches in town
ever reached out to me like this,
much less cared about me?
My eyes fell on many of the members,
all of whom were smiling & encouraging—
all except Sister Wiley,
whose expression was dark & cunning.
I believed then that it was because
she saw through me,
but only a faker could recognize another one.
She knew that I knew what she was,
even as I knew that she knew what I wasn’t.

A look of realization,
of incredible awe,
came over Elder Roberts.
“I—I think I love—,” he said,
but just then,
the double doors before us opened,
& the rest of his sentiment went unspoken.
I could only guess what he had meant to say then,
wondering had he finished it,
if things would’ve turned out differently between us.

Caitlin was holding her rosary,
the last vestige of our former faith,
as Mother had taken down all the crucifixes in our house,
for Mormons preferred to focus on the resurrection
rather than the crucifixion.
Mother didn’t seem to see me,
but David—
David looked at me as he always did—
with a love that changed not.

My eye was single to the glory of Elder Roberts—
to the promise of celestial glory.
Just as Elder Johnson had said our husbands
would call up their wives from the grave
to ascend into the celestial kingdom alongside them,
so would Elder Roberts,
in the name of Jesus,
call my name
& raise me up from my watery grave,
to prepare me for life as a future Mormon wife.

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.

She Is

Girls

Raised on God & with the 2-parent privilege,
she recognized that she was who she was,
not just because of the choices she had made
but because of the choices those before her had made—
a birthright she sought to pass down to her children:
a stable home in an unstable world.
She had been given a set of rules,
of precious metals,
that became more polished with every use.
She was limited not by her integuments,
varying in color & texture,
nor had she profited from them,
for the grades she had gotten,
the stories she had written,
& the job she had been offered,
she had earned.
In a world that was surviving a natural disaster,
only to be thrust into a man-made one,
where order & change could not coexist,
living in 1984 36 years hence,
& in a world that sought to gaslight her
into hating how God had made her,
demanding that she atone for other people’s sins,
she looked inside herself & saw it was possible
to be neither the oppressed
nor the oppressor.