“Mum’s the Word” by Jeff Lindemann from Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival (Bold Strokes Books).
Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.
Something is definitely going on here. Either I’m getting accustomed to this sort of over-the-top humor, or Jeff Lindemann is light years ahead of others in this form, or maybe it’s both. I thought this story was hysterical right from the get-go. Getting a chance to hear him read a selection from his story at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival was a delight, just as it was last year.
Poor young Peter Boggs has been summoned to the office of the Reverend Bosco Byrd, Dean of Bible Studies at the East Texas Bible College where Peter is a student. I chuckled when Reverend Byrd was described as resembling a chicken hawk, and at all the subsequent avian references, but it wasn’t until his “pipe organ began to swell” and I laughed out loud that I realized just how much my reaction to this sort of humor has changed.
This is a really funny story for a long while, but it has a rather dark ending. I didn’t expect that and at first found it disturbing, but now I feel it works. The world described is melodramatic; it’s all good vs. evil, the devil made me do it, and eternal consequences. When you deal with people who believe they answer to a higher moral authority, you risk running into ones who are acting out against the same, like a petulant pre-teen, and you risk getting burned.
Note: I have a photo I wanted to include with this entry, an image from the French Quarter that I feel exemplifies the author’s “East Texas Gothic” style, but it is stuck on the camera’s memory card because I (still) cannot find our card reader. I’ve never posted any photos from last year’s trip for the same reason. The photos are trapped on the three cards we own. Today I broke down and bought a 50-in-1 reader but discovered when I got home that even it cannot accommodate our outdated technology. Sigh.
Update: I found the photo! Turns out it’s actually two photos. Here they are: