Archive for February, 2019

Finalist: William Faulkner/William Wisdom Competition.

Finalist: Tuscany Prize for Fiction

The Distance Between High and Low is a novel about the consequences for two siblings who have never known the identity of their father.

Teenaged twins, Lizzie and Peck live in the house of their widowed grandmother Pearl–a house of history and secrets– along with their unstable, drug-addicted, artist mother, Lila, and Izear, a half-Cherokee Indian devoted to Pearl who took him into her house many years before.

Peck is a somber boy who sees a symbol of his father in an elusive Osprey which he tries to capture. Lizzie’s disposition is much lighter. She is very protective of Peck and quick to judge anyone who might harm him.

Next door to the old house are the neighbors. On one side is Hobart, who himself was fatherless, and as child, was virtually kept in a cardboard box by his mother, until he was adopted and brought to Highlow craving to belong in a town that did not accept him.

On the other side of Pearl’s house, is Little Benedict with his own dysfunctional parents–his socially conscious mother, his father who doesn’t want to rock the boat so goes along with his wife, and Little Sister, who is finally brought home from the institution where she was born and has lived most of her life. It is Little Sister’s innocence that makes her the genuine truthteller in the novel.

What most of Highlow wants is what Pearl already is: the epitome of old Highlow blood. But Pearl has dark secrets, too, known only by her first cousin, THE JUDGE–who takes notes on most everyone in Highlow, because The Judge is responsible for conclusions, so he needs to keep track of the circumstances leading up to them. 

When a tragic automobile accident claims her beloved Peck’s life, Lizzie’s sunny disposition sours to spitefulness against Hobart, who was driving the car. She vows to leave Highlow to find the father she and Peck never knew. Yet, when she does, it ends in misery.  Marrying a young doctor to get away from home doesn’t help either–her new husband is unfaithful, and Lizzie’s tendency toward revenge grows even larger–until something even more drastic happens. Personal guilt over the event takes Lizzie back home to Pearl’s house for reparation. There, she finally learns her father’s surprising identity, as well as the consequence he will have to pay.

Ultimately, this novel reveals the undeniable importance of fathers to a family. Over the years, there have been many published studies on the importance of fathers. Without a father a child is much more likely to engage in activities that are abusive or harmful. In an article entitled The Plight of Fatherless Children from the following discoveries were noted of children without fathers:

•Sixty-three percent of young people who commit suicide are from fatherless homes.
•Eighty-five percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes.
•Eighty percent of rapists are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy-five percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy percent of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
•Eighty-five percent of youth in prison are from fatherless homes.
•Seventy percent of pregnant teens are from fatherless homes.

These are startling statistics–and yet, there is hope and redemption, as there is in my novel. Read the following quote from Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners–in southern jargon, of course.

Every person that comes into this earth … is born sweet and full of love. A little child loves ever’body, friends, and its nature is sweetness — until something happens. Something happens, friends, I don’t need to tell people like you that can think for theirselves. As that little child gets bigger, its sweetness don’t show so much, cares and troubles come to perplext it, and all its sweetness is driven inside it. Then it gets miserable and lonesome and sick, friends. It says, ‘Where is all my sweetness gone? Where are all the friends that loved me?’ and all the time, that little beat-up rose of its sweetness is inside, not a petal dropped.

Why Are We Shocked By EVIL???

Posted: February 18, 2019 in World On The Edge

Evil exists in the world. Who can deny that? We see it in the news every day. Often its inexplicable, and we are shocked when we see the ugliness of it. But evil is lurking in all of us. It’s just that some, especially today, seem to welcome it and then, wallow in it like pigs in mud.

The reason we are shocked at evil is because it goes against the grain of the image in which we are made, the image and likeness of God who is goodness itself. Because God created us in His image and likeness, He is within each of us here on Earth and we are meant to return to Him in Heaven.

Still he loved us enough to give us Free Will. We are free to love Him back, or not. When we do not love Him, when we ‘mess up,’ when we sin; we have chosen to do evil by our Free Will. And the reverse is also true—when we recognize our faults and ‘clean up our act,’ that decision also comes from our Free Will.

But evil–Satan–doesn’t desire to give us a choice. “Cleaning up our act” is not something Satan wants us to do. He twists what is evil into an apparent good, making it seem sensible for us to choose wrongly. He is a liar and a charade.

Maybe you say, “I don’t believe in Satan.”

Well then–you’re just who he’s after.

Don’t be manipulated. Satan is real. That beautiful fallen angel once loved by God has always been real. And he is among us now. Look at the state of our world, the demise of our culture, our disintegrating values. Look at the lying, stealing, killing, raping, selfishness, all around us.

Based on the teaching and example of Jesus (Mt 4:1-11; 12:22-30; Mk 1:34; Lk 10:18; 22:31; Jn 8:44), the Catholic Church has always held that the devil is real, not a mythical personification of evil. Pope John Paul II, in his general audience of August 13, 1986, expounded at length on the fall of the angels and, in speaking on the origin of Satan, said:

When, by an act of his own free will, he rejected the truth that he knew about God, Satan became the cosmic “liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). For this reason, he lives in radical and irreversible denial of God and seeks to impose on creation–on the other beings created in the image of God and in particular on people–his own tragic “lie about the good” that is God.

Satan does all he can to get us to deny God and His commandments to us. And of course, it works.

Some of us deny God in what might be considered small ways. Others of us go whole hog. But any small chiseling away of the goodness God set within us is a danger–to ourselves, to others, and to our world.

God has a beautiful plan, a plan of goodness, and He’s showed us what it is. Satan has a burning plan for evil, enough evil to destroy us and our world with it. Satan disguises his plan as a “good for us” because he understands our human nature. He understands that we choose what we perceive as a good. So he makes evil appear as a good.

How can we fight this? First, we have to be able recognize evil as evil, no matter how it is disguised. We do this by prayer, by reading God’s word, by listening to truth from the mouths of those we know we can trust, and then be open to God’s grace.

Next, we have to consciously make the decision–indeed thousands of little decisions throughout our lives– to reach for the grace of God (for without it, we can do nothing) and use that grace to do battle against evil in OURSELVES and in OTHERS.