Tag Archives: Scott Hales

The Curelom by Scott Hales

The Curelom

The world is in chaos, but Tom Turner is frying two eggs and a side of bacon. His wife, Mattie, sits at the kitchen table eating cold cereal and watching the news on her tablet. Revolutions are whittling away at South America. Europe is on the brink of collapse. China is squeezing the U.S. dry. In Salt Lake City, crime rates have tripled in six months. As Tom spatulas his eggs onto a plate, he overhears a report on the killing of Peep Stone, a local superhero. Six bullets to the chest. Police have no leads.

“Poor Peep,” Tom says. He takes a seat next to his wife and silently blesses his food.

“Did you know him?” Mattie asks when he raises his head. Continue reading The Curelom by Scott Hales

The Mechanics of Creation by Scott Hales

Model T Ford by O'Brien

“Darwin’s book was rather heavy, but by close application, the young student thought he learned what the scientist was ‘driving at.’”—Nephi Anderson, Dorian

Elder Joseph F. Smith, Jr. knows the Ford Model T as thoroughly as he knows his scriptures, and he knows those better than any man in the Church. So, with the automobile in neutral, he has little trouble guiding Brother Anderson through the process of setting the throttle and choke, adjusting the spark advance, and safely operating the hand-crank.

“You always crank with the left hand?” Brother Anderson asks after the demonstration.

“Always!” says Elder Smith. “If you use your right hand, you could lose your thumb when the engine backfires.”

“Oh, dear,” says Brother Anderson. He removes his glasses and polishes them with a pocket handkerchief.

“The Lord has provided us with a wonderful machine,” Elder Smith says. “Respect it!”

Elder Smith spends the next hour drilling Brother Anderson on the proper care and use of the Model T. They discuss the four cylinder engine, the flywheel magneto, the timer and trembler coils. He demonstrates how to use the foot pedals and handbrake, offers his opinion on gasoline and ethanol. After Brother Anderson successfully starts the engine three times, Elder Smith removes his coat, rolls up his sleeves, and shows how to change a flat tire.

“Extraordinary,” says Brother Anderson.

***
With Brother Anderson behind the wheel of his new Model T, the two men bump their way down 700 East. From the passenger’s seat, Elder Smith offers instruction about speed control, braking, and how to safely pass slow-moving vehicles. Over the sputter of the engine, he says, “Remember that you have dominion over the road. Nothing matches you in strength, speed, and mechanical sophistication. Even the streetcar, with its petty reliance on cable and track, is no match for you!”

Brother Anderson nods his head and tries to look attentive.

“Even so,” continues Elder Smith, “your dominion must be righteous. You must not lord over the road. ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.’ I have seen it happen before! Just the other day—turn here!”

Applying the brake, Brother Anderson turns haltingly onto 900 South. To his left, he thrills to see the magisterial trees of Liberty Park. With a gloved finger, he points to the park’s entrance, a wide thoroughfare flanked by two stone pedestals. “Shall we take a spin through the park?” he asks.

“Yes,” says Elder Smith, “but I must be at my office in thirty minutes.”

***
Liberty Park is full of late-summer picnickers lazing in the noonday shade. Brother Anderson steers the car south through its tree-lined lanes and admires how the landscapers have molded and shaped nature to accentuate its inborn beauty. As they pass the zoo, Brother Anderson asks Elder Smith if he has taken his children to see it.

“No,” says Elder Smith.

“You really should,” says Brother Anderson. “The elephants are a sight to see.”

“Yes,” says Elder Smith. “I saw one in a circus once. When I was a child, that is.”

“You really should take your children,” insists Brother Anderson. “My children love the zoo. Have you ever seen a chimpanzee?”

“In England.”

“Amazing creatures,” says Brother Anderson. “They almost persuade me to believe those theories about pre-Adamite man.”

Elder Smith scoffs. “You don’t suggest…?”

“Not necessarily,” says Brother Anderson. “Elder Grant and I attended a lecture in Liverpool on Darwin’s theories some years ago. They’re rather compelling.”

“Let me remind you of your Bible, Brother Anderson,” says Elder Smith. “‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.’”

“Certainly,” says Brother Anderson, “but is there no greater metaphor of man’s eternal progression, from lowly intelligence to divinity itself, than the monkey that evolves into a man? Does it not say in Abraham, ‘And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed’? Could it be that pre-Adamite man was merely disobedient…”

“And I suppose next you will tell me that these pre-Adamites lived with us in premortality. Perhaps they even pursued each other romantically, like those spirits in your storybooks.”

“Well, no…”

“Such,” says Elder Smith, “is like saying that a machine as sophisticated as this automobile has the capacity to make itself. No, Brother Anderson. Man had a creator just as the automobile has Henry Ford!”

“I am only bringing this up as a matter of speculation,” says Brother Anderson. “The chimpanzee is no doubt of a lesser order than we who are created in the image of the Father. But still, face to face with a chimpanzee…”

“Remind me,” says Elder Smith, “to give you a copy of my father’s statement on the origins of man when you drop me off at the office.”

***
With his hat brim low across his forehead, Elder Smith walks hand-in-hand with his daughters through the strange noises and smells of the zoo in Liberty Park. They see an elephant, a lion, some exotic birds, and two chimpanzees. The girls squeal with delight as one chimpanzee peels a banana and smiles at them. “Look, father!” says the youngest daughter. “He eats just like us.”

Elder Smith watches the monkey chew its food. The way its mouth moves, the way it carelessly tosses the peel to the floor of the cage, seems so vulgar and common. Elder Smith stares at the beast until it locks eyes with him. For a moment, he recognizes something in the monkey’s grimace. He gasps as it proudly shows its brown teeth and pink gums.

“Look, Papa!” his daughter shouts. “He looks like Uncle!”

“Silly goose,” he says. “He doesn’t look a thing like Uncle. Uncle is bald.”

“But he does! He does!” says the girl.

“No,” Elder Smith says, looking at the beast. “No. No. No.”

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Scott Hales1Scott Hales does not usually write fiction, but when he does, he tries to keep it around 1000 words. He blogs at A Motley Vision, Dawning of a Brighter Day, and Modern Mormon Men. He also maintains a personal Mormon literature blog, The Low-Tech World. When he isn’t writing short short stories or blogging or parenting, he is writing his doctoral dissertation on the Mormon novel.

Picture of Model T Ford by Don O’Brien via Wikimedia Commons Images.

The Curse of Eve by Scott Hales

426px-Grafe,Gustav-Mutter_Erde_3

*

The girls stand together, arm-in-arm, at the lip of the desecrated grave. The night before, as they lay in bed, they had listened to the wolves yelp and snarl over the corpse. As widows both before the age of twenty, they’d held each other until the noise died down. At dawn, they loaded their dead husband’s shotgun and hiked up the mountain to see what remained of him.

**

The girls had met two months earlier. The older had just arrived by handcart from the streets and textile mills of Manchester. The younger was the orphan of a Salt Lake City drunk whose wife had died one summer day in Wyoming. That afternoon, neither girl had known much about the man they were to marry by day’s end. When they buried him, he was little more than a stranger, a man they had failed to bring through a fever. His name was Henry. He stood six feet tall in his boots. His age, thirty-four, was equal to their ages combined.

***

The younger girl knew Henry from the home of her bishop, a man who had crossed the plains with Henry and Henry’s first wife. That night, Henry told her about his farm in Cache Valley, the solitude of the mountains, the peace of sunsets and sunrises. He told her about the death of his wife and children. She listened silently as he said that no man should live alone as he lived.

The older girl learned of Henry from his brother, Thomas, the missionary who taught her about Zion amid the squalor of her back alley home. You wouldn’t like him, Thomas said, laughing. He’s nothing like me. He never speaks except to pray or shout at his children.

Thomas loved the older girl. She had dark eyes and hair that reminded him of the wheat fields of his childhood in Illinois. They planned to marry in Zion, but he died on the voyage home. She held his hand until the time came to give his body to the ocean.

****

When Henry was alive, the girls passed each day and night in silence. Now, with their husband’s body lost to the desert and the bowels of wolves, they speak to each other with the shyness of a new friendship. The younger teaches the older songs she learned from her mother. The older tells stories of Manchester and England and the Atlantic Ocean. She talks about Thomas as a missionary but not as a lover. At evening, they sit outside and read from the Book of Mormon and the revelations of the Prophet, the only books in Henry’s house.

The nearest neighbor to the girls is three miles away. Their bishop is ten miles to the south. Horses make the girls nervous, so they rarely attend meetings. When they do, the younger drives the wagon. Food and water are always scarce. In their nightly prayers, the girls ask the Lord for preservation and guidance. Together they carry their dead husband’s babies.

*****

Four months after Henry’s death, the girls wake from a noonday nap to find a man on horseback at their front door. He is dressed in a soiled cotton shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows, and a blue pair of army breeches. His hat covers his eyes and casts a shadow over his face. His neck, forearms, and hands are sunburned and striped with sweat. A pistol is holstered at his waist.

—You women have food? he asks.

—We ain’t, the older says.

—No bread? the man asks.

—No, says the younger. Try the next house. Please.

The man dismounts and enters the house. He removes his hat, unholsters his gun, and levels it at the head of the older girl. With his hat he points to a sack of flour perched on a barrel in the corner of the room.

—What’s in there?

—Get out, the older screams.

—Tell me, the man shouts. He places his hat on his head and slowly makes his way across the room to the sack. The barrel of his gun remains aimed at the older girl’s head. She watches the unmoving tip of the barrel. When the man reaches for the sack of flour, she screams again and rushes the intruder. The gun fires and lead tears through the older girl’s left hand and lodges in her arm just above the elbow. She collapses to the floor, wide-eyed and strangely jerking.

Seeing blood pool on the packed-earth floor, the younger girl cries out. The man, indifferent to the gore, grabs the sack of flour and turns to leave. The younger girl meets him at the door with her husband’s shotgun. She shoves it weakly into his stomach and pulls the trigger. The piece misfires as the man clubs the girl across the face.

******

In the days that follow, the older girl loses her arm and her baby. The bishop, the man who took saw to flesh to save her life, tells her that she and the younger girl can live in his house, be a part of his family. He offers to marry them if they will have him. The girls whisper at night as the collective snores and nightsounds of the bishop, his five wives, and eighteen children settle over the homestead. In the morning, they tell him they will return to the wilderness, to their husband’s home, as soon as they are able. He does not argue with them.

*******

A hard winter settles in as the younger girl’s belly swells with her dead husband’s child. The older girl, her sister in all but blood, tends now to the sheep, the cow, and even the horse. She splits wood one-handed and carries it into the house a few pieces at a time. When she is able, when her knees and ankles and back are not aching from the curse of Eve, the younger girl lights the fire and cooks the evening meal. At night, she reads scripture to her sister by lamplight.

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Scott Hales does not usually write fiction, but when he does, he tries to keep it around 1000 words. He blogs at A Motley Vision, Dawning of a Brighter Day, and Modern Mormon Men. He also maintains a personal Mormon literature blog, The Low-Tech World. When he isn’t writing short short stories or blogging or parenting, he is writing his doctoral dissertation on the Mormon novel.

Photograph of  the statue of a mourning woman by Mutter Erde.