One of the members of the judging panel for the anthology wrote this:
"This piece is seriously creepy! Gross! I also wondered if your church members read this knowing it was from you [. . .] would most likely hold an impromptu board meeting and have you sacked as Pastor . . . ."
If you haven't read the story yet, it is free for a limited time for your Kindle. Or free indefinitely from Smashwords. Ordering options are all here.
Back in 2001, I took a Creative Writing class at SUNY Orange from a professor who liked to be called "Mike". At this point I had already written Untold, half of Untold Trials (which has never been published) and a plethora of short stories. So I entered this class, presented my stories by reading them out loud, and time and time again Mike savaged the stories. He often cited how religious they were, and how no one could relate to anything written in them.
Also he banned us from writing "Darth Vader riding on a white horse" stories. (I think he meant speculative fiction.)
Now, in retrospect, all of the stories I presented in this class were mediocre. In my defense, though, they were no worse than the stories other students presented.
As I sat in the class, I noted Mike would praise any stories with sexual content. The more graphic it was, the more praise ensued.
This was long before I was a pastor, but I had been in ministry leadership for a year at this point. And like any good preacher, I asked myself Who is my audience? and How can I communicate to them?
Simultaneous to all this, I had been studying the book of Proverbs. As I read through the book, I began to notice there was quite a bit of time in that book warning young men about adulteresses and adultery and fornication. Proverbs used some rather visual metaphors to highlight these warnings.
If Mike wanted sexually perverse stories, I would give him a sexually perverse story. And I would do it by weaving these metaphors from Proverbs into an adultery story about a man's descent into darkness.
Armed with my paternal grandfather's Catholic Bible (complete with baptismal names and their meanings) I gave both my protagonist and antagonist names which meant "dark" or "darkness".
Side Note: Why in the world would anyone give their son or daughter the name "darkness" during his or her baptism?!
The day of presentation came. I passed out the story. I read the story out loud.
After a long moment of silence, the first comment came from another classmate: "Dude, that was the most disgusting thing I have ever read."
The rest of the class agreed and reiterated the comment.
Then Mike chimed in, frustrated, "It's kind of a fairy tale, though."
Another classmate responded to him, "Man, what kind of fairy tales are you reading? This is gross."
As the class began to once again reiterate how disgusting and perverse the story was, I smiled again and said, "Good." I pulled out a stack of papers, "Here's the Bible verses the story was based on."
As the single sheets of paper were passed around no one spoke a word. Everyone was in shock. Even Mike. After everyone had enough time to read the verses I broke the silence, "The story is supposed to be disgusting. It is an image of what adultery really is. I'm glad you all found it ugly. This story is what adultery is like."
I got a B - on the piece.
This early version of the story was titled "Daily Bread and Proverbs 6:26." But Mike was right, this was a fairy tale. A dark fairy tale. So I changed the title to "Proverbs - A Fairy Tale" to reflect the genre.
I updated and expanded the story a number of times. It was overhauled and re-written from the ground up in 2006 for my final Creative Writing class at SUNY New Paltz. There, the professor said the story lacked a sex scene. But he liked it, and if memory serves correct, he gave it an A. (Maybe an A-).
After this, I put the story away.
There was no audience for it. It was too sexually charged for the Christian market (which often understands "Christian" to mean either "safe" or "family friendly"). And it was too pregnant with Christian imagery and themes for the general market.
Then Mark Carver incited David N. Alderman to put out an anthology of short stories for The Crossover Alliance.
This story came to mind immediately.
With some minor updates thanks to David Alderman and Jess Hanna, "Proverbs - A Fairy Tale" finally found its audience.
In all honesty, I am a little concerned about potential backlash from the publication of this story. I've no doubt that there are certain churches and ministries (and publishers?!) who will have nothing to do with me because of this story.
But at the end of the day, if this story has given an accurate image of adultery in the spiritual realm, and can sink into the minds those considering adultery, then it's worth it.
Also, it's biblical. I included the original Proverbs sheet (1984 NIV verses!) I handed out to the class thirteen years ago. When you read it, I think you'll agree . . . the Bible was my outline for this story.
If the Bible doesn't shy away from portraying the ugliness of sin, then neither will I.
Get The Crossover Alliance Anthology: Volume 1 here.
Directly from Amazon here.