Depths: My Short Story Of the Week

Depths

“Mr. Ben?”

“Yeah, Raph?”

“I prefer my full name, Mr. Ben.”

“My apologies, Raphael. What’s up?”

Children surrounded a plastic banquet table as they toiled away at a craft pertaining to Jonah and the whale. The Youth Ministry Team created an engineering marvel in which the Sunday school students could color a previously manufactured Jonah, affix him to a craft stick, and then connect that to the back of a large cardboard whale. With the help of a grommet, the children could force the whale to regurgitate Jonah and then swallow him whole again.

Luckily for everyone, Ben wasn’t in charge of developing projects. He simply facilitated class every Sunday morning in room 21 of the church basement.

Encouraged by Ben, Raphael asked, “Do fish utilize a digestive system comparable to that of a human?”

Baylee, Ben’s daughter, said, “See? I told you Raphael was smart, Dad.”

Another child, Kean, countered: “I’m just as smart.” Though he listened intently, Kean refused to divert his eyes from the shade of gray he hoped to achieve by alternating between the heavy application of a black crayon and the soft smattering of a white.

“Guys, it’s not a competition,” Ben said.

“That’s good,” Jay giggled, “because I’d lose big time!”

Baylee, Hattie, Malik, and Sammy joined Jay in laughter. Kean didn’t appear to find it all that funny while Raphael seemed not to notice the joke at all.

“Mr. Ben?” Raphael repeated.

“Right, Raph—Raphael—sorry. Fish. Um, yeah. I think fish digest food the same way we do …”

“I can check on my phone,” Baylee offered.

Kean muttered, “Cell phones are not allowed in Sunday school classes.”

“We can’t get a signal down here anyway,” Sammy added. “It’s like a dungeon.”

“Mr. Ben?” Raphael asked.

“Yes, Raphael,” Ben responded as he strolled along the perimeter of the room.

Raphael said, “Jonah could not survive in the stomach of a whale. He would have been digested by the third day.”

“Oh,” Ben began, “well, you see, the Bible is … um, we shouldn’t take everything the Bible says literally, right?”

“What?” Hattie huffed. “My mom says the Bible is truth.”

Nodding furiously, Ben replied, “Yes! It is. It is truth—that’s right.”

Sammy said, “But … you just said it shouldn’t be taken literally.”

“What does ‘literally’ mean again?” Jay asked.

Malik answered, “You know, like, word for word.”

Kean mumbled, “You were right about being the loser in the room …”

“Kean,” Ben said, “come on, that’s not nice.”

“You were saying, Mr. Ben,” Raphael prompted.

Perspiration seeped from Ben’s forehead. “Oh. Well, that was pretty much it. It’s just that, while—yes—the Bible is truth, most people agree that it also uses quite a bit of embellishment in order to make a point.”

Raphael asked, “So it’s possible Jonah did not actually find himself swallowed by a whale, fish, or any other aquatic life-form?”

Hattie’s eyes bored through Ben as he said, “… It’s possible.”

Malik leaned over to Sammy and whispered, “Mr. Ben is so fired.”

Having overheard the comment, Baylee declared, “My dad does this for free. He can’t be fired.”

“He could be asked to step down,” Kean said.

Ben and his wife joined Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church twelve years ago when they were engaged. They were young, new to the community, and felt an urge to assimilate. Though they were now longstanding members of the church, they still knew very few people. Ben thought that teaching his daughter’s Sunday school class could be a productive way to increase his connectivity to the congregation.

Forcing himself to laugh, Ben said, “I don’t think anyone is going to ask me to step down.”

“You look apprehensive, Mr. Ben,” Raphael said.

Ben asked, “Are you sure you’re only eight? You’re all eight, right?”

“Yes, Dad, we’re all eight, about to turn nine.”

“I’m already nine,” Malik said.

Hattie added, “Me, too.”

“Mr. Ben, may I ask you a difficult question?”

Sensing Raphael’s trajectory, Ben wanted to preemptively deny the child’s request. Unfortunately, he didn’t wield the ability to redirect or otherwise terminate Raphael’s impending enquiry.

Mistaking Ben’s silence as accordance, Raphael pressed on by asking, “Do you believe in God?”

“Duh!” Jay exclaimed. “He wouldn’t be teaching Sunday school if he didn’t.”

Ben moved his mouth, but nothing came out.

“I only ask,” Raphael continued, “because I find it very confusing. So much of the Bible is impossible. There is no evidence of God’s existence in modern day society. Yet, in Biblical times, God’s influence manifested regularly. I hoped you could provide some insight.”

The children grew quiet. Each one of them, even Keane, awaited Ben’s reply.

Ben thought for a moment, then said, “You’re all so smart. So much smarter than I was at your age. I’ll just be honest with you. I struggle with God all the time. I don’t teach Sunday school due to a calling or anything like that. I just wanted to spend more time with Baylee, help out the church, get to know some kids, and maybe meet your parents.”

The children remained silent.

“So do I believe in God?” Ben resumed. “… Yes, I do, but I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because my parents raised me in the church? Maybe I’ve been conditioned to believe? I don’t know. And I won’t lie to you—I can’t say that I believe everything in the Bible to be true. A lot of it doesn’t make any sense at all. I guess it just comes down to … faith.”

Ben watched the children nod in agreement. Only Hattie seemed dissatisfied with Ben’s analysis.

As they returned to their crafts, Raphael said, “Thank you, Mr. Ben. I appreciate your candor.”

“Um, you’re welcome.”

Raphael worked on his project for a few more moments, then looked up and asked, “Could we discuss Santa Claus?”

At that point, Jay erupted, “Dude! Don’t even go there!”


Copyright © 2019 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

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The Book of Revelation – A Book Review (Graphic Novel)

This graphic novel adaptation of The Book of Revelation is terrifying, beautiful, provoking, and poignant.

Due to the ambiguity of The Book of Revelation, many have tried to interpret it over the centuries.  Though I am far from an expert, I find this graphic novel an insightful take on the world-renowned work.  So much of this book from the Bible is based on imagery that, when read alone, most of us fail to truly envision its descriptions.  Thanks to artist Chris Koelle, those words have been chillingly rendered upon the page.

The Book of Revelation is a scary read, and Koelle has intricately delivered those frightening aspects.  When I received the book from Amazon Vine, it at first unsettled me.  But this is not the stuff of gratuitous violence or repulsion.  This is a realistic approach to a story that many believe will come to pass.  The monsters are disturbing, the angels are intimidating, and the end of the world is ghastly.

Interestingly enough, the art reflects the customs and attire of when The Book of Revelation was first written – it looks as the world did thousands of years ago.  We often think of the end of the world as being our (2012) future, but, I suppose upon reflection, after it was initially written the future was very much our long ago past.

This work is a translation by Fr. Mark Arey and Fr. Philemon Sevastiades, and it was adapted by Matt Dorff.  But the art is what truly makes this a unique version.  It is sensible yet fantastical, gruesome yet gorgeous.  If you are interested in a distinctive interpretation of The Book of Revelation, I highly recommend this exceptional work.

Free Samples Of My Fiction

I’m excited to announce that free samples of my work are now available at my website.  Among them you’ll find stories delving into horror, religion, family dynamics, love, humor, and empowerment.  If you like them, I hope you’ll consider checking out my two short story collections and novel.

Just click on the link to find them:

https://scottwilliamfoley.com/sample-stories/

Win a Free Copy Of Souls Triumphant!

I recently had a copy of my novel, Souls Triumphant, returned from a nonexistent address.  Several attempts to reach the owner failed.  The pages and cover were slightly bent in its travels.

I can’t resell this signed, damaged copy, so if you’d like to try your hand at winning it and don’t mind the fact it got beat up apparently making several trips across the nation, just email me at scottwilliamfoley@gmail.com with “I Want To Win!” in the subject line. 

I’ll then drop your name into a hat, and on November 28th, I’ll randomly select a winner!  I’ll email the winner to congratulate them and get their home address for free shipping.  The first name of the winner will be posted on my website, so you can check back on the 28th for the results.

As always, there are a few rules:

  • You must live within the United States to win (due to the free shipping).
  • If you win, you agree to write an objective review (at least ten words) of Souls Triumphant at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com within six months. You also allow me the right to quote your review at my own website.
  • If you participate in the contest, you will receive my monthly e-newsletter and sporadic updates which you are free to read or delete at your discretion.

Drawing heavily from Christian theology and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Souls Triumphant is the story of Joe and Alessandra, two recent college graduates who meet on the street and fall in love at first sight.  However, when they discover they are reincarnated servants of the Kingdom and that the mutinous Ned and his faction of monstrous demons want Joe dead and Alessandra to bear Ned’s child, an adventure ensues in which the very fate of the planet and the heavens hang in the balance. It is a story of action, intrigue, romance, fantasy, and faith.

I hope to hear from you soon, and good luck!

Regards,
Scott William Foley

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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – A Book Review

Originally a series of talks given over the radio to the people of England during WWII, this collection of said dialogue explains in laymen’s terms what Christianity is and why C.S. Lewis, originally a non-believer, eventually came to Christ.  It does not give his personal story, mind you, but rather is a mixture of philosophical lectures and entertaining anecdotes as to why Christianity is a valid belief. 

Beware, this is not a light reading romp.  I found myself concentrating diligently to follow his ideas and contemplations.  In the end, I thought he did a superb job of explaining why he believes what he believes, and why everyone else should as well.  Never does he take a condescending tone, and always he appeals to the heart as well as the intellect. 

C.S. Lewis has long been considered one of the most highly respected Christian writers of the last few centuries and I’d have to agree.  However, I have a great deal of trouble believing the “common man” followed his talks on an intellectual level during the time period it originated, but perhaps I’m looking at that from a 2005 perspective.  Perhaps people were more willing to listen to complicated lectures then than they are now.   

If you are a Christian needing a contemporary view on your beliefs to serve a purpose much needed, or if you are a non-Christian just wanting to know what it is all about but without the usual stories and Scripture, then I highly recommend this book.  Put your thinking caps on though, ladies and gentlemen, this one requires intense focus.