Hey everyone! So I made a few changes to the "John" story I had written the other day. I decided that I didn't want him to be an LDS person living in the real world that we inhabit. I didn't want BYU in it or Provo in it or any of that. In fact, the whole paragraph where he mentions ward prayer and Elder's Quorum and temple trips is completely gone. It was all too Mormon-specific. Instead, I'm imagining it as if it's a very religious and chaste society where everyone wicked is known as the Unspeakables. The Unspeakables are shunned and sent out into the Unknown. Everyone else is a member of the Church (an unspecific religious entity) and I am now using the word congregation instead of the word ward. The Church is led by Bishop, who is referred to as such, and his directions come from the Prophet.
I changed everyone's names except for John's. I wanted to keep the names biblical, because I couldn't imagine a society like this having any other names! So the girl Sharon is now Deborah, Bishop Walters is just Bishop and Brandon is now Ezekiel. Although Jared was already biblical I changed it to Jonah just because I like it more!
Anyway, other than that it essentially reads the same as when I first posted it on this blog. I've decided that the part you have read is going to be the Forward. The rest of the book will be events leading up to that moment when he decides to call Bishop. Got it? Okay. Oh, and I've also decided that the narration will follow characters beside John. The part I'm going to share with you right now is the first part of Chapter One and it is from the perspective of a character named Mary. Let me know what you think!!
Mary was sitting very stiffly on the couch as the movie washed over her with its colors and sounds. The images flashed before her eyes but she wasn’t really seeing any of it. She wouldn’t let herself. This wasn’t her kind of film. She couldn’t even fathom how John could like it, yet here they were, watching it on his insistence.
He was sitting only a foot or so away on the neighboring seat cushion yet it felt like yards or miles or worlds apart from her. The distance between them was vast. She couldn’t understand it. Everything was so perfect in the beginning. John had returned to the congregation in a blaze of glory so to speak. He was their valiant hero. He had ventured out into the great Unknown, preaching the Word to the Unspeakables who refused to take heed. He was a shining example of everything that was good.
So why are we watching this filth? This isn’t uplifting, she thought to herself, this isn’t lovely or virtuous or of good report. This isn’t John.
Mary remembered how John had looked that first Sunday back. He somehow seemed taller. More grandiose. Positively handsome in his dark suit, crisp white shirt and contrasting lilac tie. She always noticed his ties. They were so fetching, providing a pop of color in what was otherwise a drab ensemble. Checked ties, striped ties, even polka-dotted ties in every color of the rainbow. Yet never trashy. Always in the best of taste. None of the other men in the congregation had such ties.
“Mary! My, how’ve you grown!” he had said, stretching forth his hand to shake hers. His hands were admittedly small, yet there was a power in their fragility. Something warm and comforting. Electric. He had always been attractive to her. He had been friends with her older brother growing up. John and Michael were almost inseparable. Playing Frisbee, racing their bicycles, camping in the backyard. Mary had begged and pleaded her mother to let her sleep out in the tent with the boys. Her mother gently reprimanded her—and Mary knew that she was right to do so—but she would still stand near the back screen door and stare longingly at the two boys’ shadows whispering together with their faces near the flashlight. The sound of their voices like music notes floating over the summer air…
He addressed the congregation over the pulpit that day. His voice wasn’t particularly masculine in its tonal quality, but it wasn’t feminine either. It was like velvet—soft and soothing. It rose and fell lyrically as he emphasized certain points. Seeing him speak was like seeing a play. The words were so eloquent and so moving. He would build you up to the point that you thought you were about to burst with the sheer sensation of it all before letting you down gently again with a string of calming rhetoric. Mary didn’t remember much of what he actually said, but she remembered how he looked up there. Radiant. Beaming. Like God himself.
She remembered how she felt. Her body tingling all over. Quivering almost. Her short breaths so audible in the silence of that great room.
Of course, she wasn’t the only one affected by John’s speech. Deborah made it quite obvious that she liked him, tugging at his arm and giggling at his every word. Mary had fought Deborah for John. Not literally like how men fought in wars but the way women fought. Mary had won. But who had she won? Who was John? Here and there she would catch glimpses of her prize that she didn’t like. He had ideas that were different than hers. Dangerous ideas at times. At first she thought she was overreacting. Or perhaps misreading him. But that was the trouble. She never misread anyone because everyone was so easy to read. Everyone else watched the same programs that she did, read the same books that she did, and always felt the same way as she did on every issue under the sun.
Abortion? Ungodly. Homosexuality? Sinful. War? Noble if the cause was just. But John… oh, how could she put it? John. John John John John John. John seemed to consider both sides. It was true! She couldn’t deny it. He seemed so open-minded about things. An open mind was an empty one in her opinion. A mind needed to be shut up to keep all the good inside. John seemed to be entertaining ideas that weren’t honorable.
“But how can you say we shouldn’t go to war?” Mary had asked him a few weeks ago. She knew she had put him on the spot, and he seemed suddenly uncomfortable. Perhaps he regretted saying anything at all.
“I just—“ he faltered. “I just don’t see how it’s constitutional.”
“Constitutional?” She was so utterly confused at this response. She had never read the Constitution, of course, but she knew it to be a godly document. How could the war on the Unspeakables be unconstitutional? The Unspeakables went against everything that was moral. Everything that was decent in the world. All the Church leaders had said so. It came direct from the Prophet.
John continued, “Mary, I don’t mean go against the Word or anything. I don’t agree with the Unspeakables either. I just don’t feel that we should impose our ideas on them so violently.” He took her hand and she let him. He smiled at her and said, in a lighthearted way that was clearly meant to diffuse any tension and drop the matter, “I just wish there was another way. A more peaceful way.”
She felt momentarily reassured. “You’re always so compassionate. Even towards the Unspeakables who are so undeserving of your compassion.”
And although that statement was received with a gentle squeeze of her hand and another one of John’s dazzling smiles, she couldn’t help but notice his countenance had changed. He seemed a little out of it the rest of the night. Like his mind was deep in thought. Elsewhere. Away from her.
That’s how she felt tonight on that couch. John had been so excited to show Mary the movie. He talked of how beautiful it was. It had such artistic merit he had said. It was powerfully driven and revolutionary he had said. It was essentially a love story, although the young man and young woman of the film had questionable moral standards. There was a nude love scene that caused Mary to look away. The image caused her to feel something. Something not quite right. Something she knew she shouldn’t be feeling. She was a little girl again, watching the boys sleep at night in their tent.
Other things were happening in the film that she didn’t quite like. Ideas like feminism, intellectualism… was that a hint of socialism? She felt bombarded by isms. Even lesbianism. The film was grotesque. Thoughts she had never thought before were creeping into her mind, and she was fighting to keep them out. Memories from her past were surging up. Memories she had tried to bury. To forget. That damned night under the stars, the soft breeze that whipped around her sundress and blew raspberries along her thighs. Oh, Michael, she thought. Michael. Why did you abandon the teachings of our father and mother? Why did you run off into the Unknown? Where are you now, dear Michael? Michael, you fallen angel…Tears fell from her face. She didn’t usually cry. The realness of it frightened her.