Lorin Lee Cary once taught Social History at the University of Toledo, wrote historical works and co-authored Slavery In North Carolina, 1748-1776 and No Strength Without Union: An Illustrated History of Ohio Workers, 1803-1980. Both won awards. His articles appeared in various journals, including Labor History. He also served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Now he creates fictional cause and effect relationships. The Custer Conspiracy, a humorous historical novel set in the present, is one result, another is the novella California Dreaming, a meta fiction venture. His fiction has appeared in Impspired, Torrid Literature, Cigale Literary Magazine, decomP magazinE, Lit.cat, Corvus Review and Short Story, as well in some now defunct journals. (He did not cause their demise.) Other fiction is being considered by overworked editors. He is also a prize-winning photographer.
For The Love of A Generous Woman
I got saved four times because, my parents claimed, it didn’t take right away. At the outset family and neighbors gathered to watch my five year-old go forward and then see me dipped in the river. That was the way it was done where we lived back then. But a child who has come to Jesus wasn’t supposed to act like I did. “Son,” my Dad said, “you are not to throw cow patties at passing cars. Jesus would not do that, would he?” I said I did not know as I had heard no Bible stories about him being around cars. My Dad put one hand on his forehead and shook his head. Then he whupped me good.
The next year Mom and Dad figured since I had attended Bible camp as well as Sunday school that there was a greater probability it would work, so they had me redipped. Pastor Shank agreed to do this despite the fact that I’d broken some things in church after being punished when I refused to sing in Sunday school. “Repent,” he said, as he plunged me into the water.
It didn’t succeed any better, I have to say. By now the weight of transformation expectations had come to irritate me no end and I proceeded to act out. I didn’t like the idea of people telling me I had to do this or that. It proved to be a problem in school, as my teachers had the notion that directing me was in fact their job.
This exasperated my folks. Mom about wore out that word. She fretted and so did Dad and they tried various ways to convince me of the error of my ways. When I reached the age of ten they sent me off for an entire summer to a church retreat for “troubled youth.” That’s what they told me. In truth I did not feel troubled by anything except the fact that I had to go to the retreat.
I had fun with the other guys, but that summer was not enjoyable. We had to wear uniforms so we all looked alike, which I thought made us look stupid. That wasn’t the worst of it. Everything built up to coming forward, once again, and the grand dip, the next baptism, and they sure put on a show. I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say that the trumpets and choir made the scene seem like a sanitized version of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Yet this third trip to the waters did not affect my approach to life. I thought it important to learn more about girls. And that led to some problematic behavior, such as when a counselor found me peering into a cabin after lights out. “I believe,” the pastor told my father while I lurked on the steps outside his office, “that Satan has polluted your son’s thoughts.”
My parents descended into lamentations once again, and I thought they’d given up the notion of saving me. I was mistaken. My continued reluctance to behave in ways that corresponded to their picture of perfect led them deep into connivance. They developed a sudden interest in family history and I came to believe that they designed their references to young ancestors who fought bravely, proved creative beyond their years and so on to inspire me to change my behavior. I also suspected something was up because of the hurried phone calls and whispered conversations that skidded to a stop when I entered the room. Maybe, I thought, they planned a surprise party for my sixteenth birthday.
Well, on the day of my sixteenth I pretended to be suitably surprised when I arrived home after school to find a gathering of relatives in the living room. Then I saw Pastor Shank and knew they’d tricked me. I had no chance to escape for two members of the football team escorted me outside where I saw a large tub on the patio. Pastor Shank held me under the water longer than I thought appropriate, and when I emerged he did not seem pleased at my references to water boarding and the Geneva Convention.
After that I did alter my behavior. As a result, my parents no longer believed that I might be a child of Satan. They attributed the positive alterations to the final baptism. It was a turning point, I admit, but the truth is I don’t think the Lord wanted me to continue suffering from parental nagging. Besides which I fell in love with my future wife, Mary Lou, who said if I changed my ways we could have sex. And that’s the truth.