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Jakov
July 11th, 2019, 08:09 PM
***sexual content

This is the first chapter of a book I intend to write.

Chapter 1: Fickle Spirits
The bells rang in their usual loud manner. Hot air slowly drifted throughout the big church. Many held their hand fans in hope of easing excreting sweat. Little solace was to be found in the sermon. Paul, the pastor, didn't effectively catch the attention of the damp crowd.
“For if you believe in almighty God, you shall be saved. Faith is the most important aspect of a Christian life.” Wait; didn't I just say that about love? Where was I? “However, one cannot believe without love and that's why my previous statement that love is more important actually stands.” The notes say I should remind them of their duties to their families, fathers as providers and protectors, mothers as loving and obedient wives. But that has nothing to do with this. Oh, Christ, I am bad at preaching. A silence ensued. Paul was riffling through his sermon notes in a slight panic. I can always end it, but it was really short. Was it at least ten minutes? Ah, whatever.
“Strong faith is manifested in love. Amen.” A sigh of relief was spreading in the church as people prepared for the last part of the rite. After it was done Paul went home. It was bad, again. It always looks so good on paper; it makes sense and is coherent. I guess the problem isn't in the notes themselves rather in my poor deliverance. Could that really be the case, I can't stand being a bad preacher, it makes me look pathetic in front of everybody and I will never be able to make a difference. Of course it's hard to preach, I hardly believe in anything I say. Every night I go to sleep thinking how can God exist with so much despair and corruption around me. Ah, let's leave it for now, I want to greet Virginia smiling. His mood improved instantly. He entered his home and kissed Virginia on the nape of her slender neck. She was preparing lunch, mash potatoes with venison – a gift from the parish.
“You're early today.”
“My sermon was short.”
“What was it about?”
“About love, faith and stuff.” Paul was sitting with his arms and head resting on the kitchen table. Virginia noticed but didn't continue the conversation especially because she knew what the problem was and boy was she sick of listening about it.
“Do we still have that wine we got from Lydia?”
“Yes, but not much is left, about a glass.”
“Nice.” Paul helped his wife to set the table. Oh, the smell of meat infatuated Paul. The dark red clean texture, the magnificent deer that once roamed the fields of Montana lies in front of him. The whole point of the deer's life was to be eaten in a few lunches. He would feel sorry for that deer if the aroma was weaker. As Virginia sat he snatched a piece from the plate and almost put it in his mouth, but then realised, ashamed, they haven't said thanks for the food. Virginia wasn't really astonished but she was holding her hands, ready to embrace Paul's during the prayer.
“Thank you Lord for this wonderful food. Thank you for a beautiful wife who prepared it so well and thank you for our undying love.” He closed his eyes and enjoyed thinking about the meat. After a few seconds of divine silence he ended the prayer with an Amen. Virginia looked at him, baffled, zeal and conviction now flowed through the man, but he couldn't give an average sermon with notes.
“That was very good Paul, you see you have it in you.”
“Certainly.” Not really listening he started eating. If there is a Heaven, this is how it feels. After a few bites he drank some wine. He forgot about the sermon, everything disappeared. The red flesh in front of him, a glass of red wine on the side, it was all. It was all that needed to exist.

***

The lunch was over. He was full and content, his wife was washing the dishes and he was lying on the bed. This is life, I love it. Now if only Virginia would have sex I could call it a day. He stripped naked and pleased himself, not to the point of orgasm; that was immoral.
“Where are you?” He asked her. Oh, her soothing voice, if he could lick her bosom now and play with it. He added: “I’m in the bedroom, come quickly or I will.” Virginia immediately recognized this was a sex call; Paul had a special voice when he was horny. She loved him for his directness. On their first date he made some lewd suggestions. She was, of course, pretending to be astonished, playing hard to get is a must with men, especially with men like Paul. She loved making love as much as him, no doubts there. She swiftly came to the room and looked at naked Paul. Burning desires quickly erupted and the sheets were dirty, as they often are. Virginia dismissed his several requests of her moans. Somebody had to take care of a pastor's reputation, we can't have people thinking he's a lustful wretch.

***

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” Paul closed the Bible and put it on his desk. His sins are overt; thankfully, the guilt is usually transient and passes quickly. It was time to go to sleep. Paul shut the petroleum lamp he had near his bed and embraced Virginia. After a short prayer he closed his eyes. Have nothing to do with such people. Such people. Ah, what is this? The feeling of guilt persisted. Shut up, mind. Ordering it to shut up only made it louder. You can't go to Heaven like this. What are you doing for the community, you slob. Caring only for yourself, lazy bastard. You have everything, others little and it's even sadder because you are a pastor, you are one of the people whose example of a pious life should be followed, not overlooked. Will you ever stop with your erroneous ways? Argh, stop it already.
“Virginia, are you awake?”
“…” Of course, sleeps like the dead. He shook her gently.
“Virginia, are you awake?”
“What, yes, I guess.” She turned on her back. “Listen Paul, if it’s about the sermon I really…”
“It’s not.”
“Really? Well then, what is bothering you?”
“Can I read you something and you tell me what you think?” She nodded, interested in what she was about to hear. He turned the petroleum lamp on and read the Bible excerpt.
“I mean it’s interesting, but it’s not an unusual Bible moral lesson, I don’t see anything special about it.”
“First of all, every word here was inspired by God and you should appreciate that more than you seem to. Secondly, I fear I am a man of pleasure, enjoying life but giving little to others. I mean just look at my behaviour today. First at lunch then the sex. I’m a… hedonist.”
“And now you feel guilty about that?”
“Yes.” He was smiling, he adored his wife and she was always willing to listen to his blabber, at least that’s the impression he got. She was doing it, he could sense it, she was going to wipe his guilt away.
“Well Paul, you have to understand you’re a good person. You’re giving a good part of your income to the most unfortunate, you’re listening to people’s problems, you regularly visit your parents and family…” Oh, she did it, what a nice feeling. She continued: “However, that thought has merit, if you wish to live one hundred per cent according to the Scripture you do have to restrain yourself to basic needs. But let me tell you, there is no need for that, there isn’t much more you can do. You can give some more money to the poor but it won’t change much.” Why did she add that? It was perfect until that however. Not wanting to argue with the advice he replied: “Thank you. I’ll go to the kitchen for tea. Do you want tea?”
“No, thank you.” She hugged a pillow and, without a care in the world, closed her eyes. He went out and entered the kitchen. It was surely past midnight. The air was cooler now and he decided to go for a walk. The house was on the edge of Morston and he could easily reach a few paths into the nearby pine forest. Paul loved strolling around forests, being in nature made him feel free. He took a lamp with him because the moon was covered with clouds and the forest was pitch black. He crossed a small wooden bridge and continued walking. His mind was still troubled, but it felt clear. I must stop this, it’s abnormal. I cannot simply ask my wife, hinting at what I want to hear and be content with it. I have the Scripture and I have the knowledge. I know what’s moral and what’s not, I just don’t want to admit it. God, give me a sign, give me something so I can finally say I know what needs to be done. He watched the sky waiting for an answer. It could be thunder, it could be rain, practically anything. But no, clouds were there but not a drop fell and the silence was absolute, thunder was unimaginable. He sighed. How do we even know you exist? How do we know you’re not a human invention to make people obedient to someone, to have a sense of responsibility? He never dared to ask these questions at the seminary, they would attack his lack of faith and conviction. He was still a young man, just a few months have passed since he returned from the seminary to Morston, but not a day has passed since without him doubting God’s existence. The pine forest thinned and eventually became grassland. He sat on a rock and looked at the stars. Then again, who would create all this if not God? Let’s leave it at that, let’s enjoy nature for a few minutes without the mind interfering. The mind relaxed and, surprisingly, didn’t fight. He almost fell asleep, but he had an odd feeling somebody was watching him. Annoyed by this he opened his eyes and looked in front of him, nothing was there. Stupid mind playing tricks. However, in a few moments he heard weird grunts behind him, he rushingly got up and saw a bison few meters from him. How is this possible? There were so little bison left, besides they were migrating during summer. He wanted to run, but knew buffalos like to chase, so he froze in place. He decided to pretend he was dead. However, before he could do that the buffalo started walking towards him. Paralyzed with fear, he simply stood there. The animal didn’t seem to care about him much and passed beside him. Relief was instant and intense. As he returned home, he realised it must have been an act of God. For such a rare animal to be there and not to attack him, it is a miracle. This is the sign he was searching for. This was it, he is to sin no more, he will love and give and never expect something in return. He will do anything and everything for happiness of others which will, in turn, make him happy. What a beautiful evening, and yet it’s nothing compared to happiness he is bound to have after letting go of material pleasures. Tomorrow is a new day.

Bmble_B
October 27th, 2019, 05:44 PM
Although I identify as Agnostic, I have a soft spot for stories that incorporate religion and faith. You even openly address how someone like a Pastor, can have doubts about the very words he preaches to his audience. This was a nice excerpt, it's nice to read things and really feel like you're inside of the person's head amidst their actions, not for a single moment did I feel disconnected from the protagonist. I can't wait to read more.

What was slightly jarring though, were your transitions (or lack thereof) between first person narration (from Paul's perspective) to an objective third person point of view. It didn't take me too long to catch on to when the shifts occurred, but I feel like I could have been eased into it a bit more.

Other than that though, great work. I especially appreciate how you incorporate sexual content without making it the main focus, avoiding your story seeming gimmicky.