I was reading some more in the newest issue of Storyglossia, and came across Peggy Newland’s “Mama Took the Bacon.” I enjoyed reading it — it’s the type of story where a slightly ridiculous situation escalates to the breaking point and beyond. When two Mormons come to housewife Mrs. Williams’ house, they find her in an unusual state, since she’s just stolen and used her son’s drugs:
I keep my face pleasant but I realize my voice is very loud, louder than I’ve had it in a long time. “You’re staying for a special supper.” And I whip that sword around in the air making calligraphy spirals. Garnett makes for the door. “Hey! Get back here!” And by accident—I’ve never really hurt anybody, not that I haven’t wanted to—I clip the side of his ear. He screeches when he touches blood on his neck. Charles holds his stomach.
“Ma?” It’s Randy.
“Hi, honey,” I say, and this time he doesn’t tell me to stop calling him honey.
“The sword’s very sharp,” I explain.
“Are you on drugs?” Randy mimics me in a pleasant-but-concerned mother’s voice.
“Why, yes, I am,” I say. Swords make good microphones. Easy to move around and light. I finish my Tina song. “What’s love but a second hand emotion?”
The funny thing is, this is the third thing about Mormons I’ve come across recently. Earlier today, I was reading an interview with Brian Evenson about how he approaches Mormonism in his work. And I also recently read Remittance Girl’s “The Central Registry,” which is also about a visit from two Mormons that doesn’t go as the higher-ups would have intended (note: this story is erotica, so if you’re offended by that or are underage, please refrain from clicking).
In the interview, Evenson talks about how these types of coincidences can seem very meaningful when they strike at an opportune time. I don’t have any particular connection to Mormonism, but I am interested in the underbelly of religion. Growing up, I found religious imagery largely terrifying. No matter how often I heard sermons or stories about a God who loved me, what stuck in my mind were the images of blood sacrifice, Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt, and Elijah laying down the law. What I’m seeing in all three of the pieces I’ve mentioned here is that, in the presence of people who seem to only see the skittles-and-rainbows side of a religion, the idea of opening them up to the darker side is nearly irresistible. Remittance Girl’s story is about sexual corruption, Evenson’s interview is, in part, about violent episodes, and the Newland story is a bit of both. In all three cases, I notice myself reacting to the insanity with glee. I don’t think this is just because I’m a twisted person — the subgenre that seems to be going here suggests that my reaction is not uncommon. I’m not sure where the glee comes from, but I’d be curious to see what others think.