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Fiction #451
(published September 10, 2009)
A Troubled Man
by Errid Farland
Max Magoon suffered from great anfractuosity, which was problematic, considering his Christianity. A double-minded man, he was, unstable in all his ways, tossed about by every wind of doctrine. It worried him, and not in a small way. The stakes were high. He could be vomited out of the very mouth of God, for all eternity.

He spoke to his pastor about it.

"Pastor," he said, "I admit it. I'm anfractuous."

"I see," Pastor Steven said, though Max suspected he didn't see at all.

"I have moments of incalescence," Max tried again. "But they're just moments. I don't sustain them. Because the first thing you know, along comes some minion of Satan, practicing his roguery upon my being, challenging my conclusions, forcing me into willy-nilliness, cooling me down, making me lukewarm again. I'm left deliquescent, a former ice cube, reduced to a puddle."

Max could have gone on and on, but he paused to allow Pastor Steven to comment. Pastor Steven sat back, propped his elbows on the arms of his chair, tapped his fingertips together. He started to speak. "And, what, uh, why. . . " He paused. "Willy-nilliness," he said, "now that's not as serious as it seems."

"How can you say that?" Max spouted. "It's the utmost."

"But we're all subject to it from time to time."

This drew Max up short. He blinked. He paused. He finally said, as if it were almost too good to be true, "Even you?"

"Of course," Pastor Steven said.


"Yes. None of us is perfect. Remember what Scripture says, 'There is none righteous, no, not one.'"

"But it plagues me," Max said. "Does it plague you?"

"I wouldn't call it a plague. Why do you think it reaches plague proportions in you?"

Max thought, tapped his finger on his lips, thought some more, then lit upon the answer. "I think too much," he said. "Thinking provides opportunity. It's like a succubus coming upon a man in sleep. She can't ply her wiles unless he's asleep, yet he must sleep. Do you suffer from such attacks when you sleep?"

"Uh, well, uh," the Pastor began, but Max interrupted him.

"And I've had an incubus or two descend upon me, as well. In my sleep, of course, and this is exactly what I mean. It takes a fundamental truth, you see, because I know I'm a heterosexual, I know it, you know what I mean? And, yet, after these incubitic episodes, I wake questioning things."


Max shrugged. "Incidents where I've been visited by an incubus."

"I see," said the Pastor. "Well. . . "

"Which is one thing when we're talking about my sexual orientation. It's something altogether more vital when I begin to descry ecumenical issues, or worse! When it involves the incorporeal, or worse! When it causes me to meander with regard to God. Let me once settle upon a deiformity, one I can know, with assurance, and immediately, or it seems to be immediate, perhaps it's not instant, but, you know what I mean. I can't sustain it."

"Yes, I see what you mean," said Pastor Steven.

"You do?"

"Yes, absolutely. It's a problem, indeed."

Max's eyes grew large. He took a deep breath. Then he crumbled. "I knew it. I knew it. I'm not saved."

"Hold on, son. I didn't say that."

"You didn't?"

"Of course not."

"Then I am saved, despite the fact that I just can't find that passé partout, as it seems everybody else has? I search and search, Lord knows. He does know. Because I search."

"Perhaps you're searching for that which you already have," the Pastor said. He couldn't have said anything more inspired. It must have come straight from the very bowels of God's mercy and compassion.

"That which I already have," Max mouthed the words, with almost no accompanying breath, so it was more an internal expression, a deep revelation.

The Pastor seemed relieved. "That's the basis of faith, you see. You must hold it as truth, even when it doesn't seem to be true."

"Yes. I see. The basis of faith. Hold it to be true, regardless of any demonic confutation."

"To quench all the fiery darts," the Pastor agreed.

Max felt lightened, the burden lifted off his shoulders. He could face his anfractuosity without fear. He could hold fast in faith no matter the twists and turns. "It's like I'm on a road," Max said, thinking aloud. "THE road." Max thanked the Pastor and left, but he continued his reasoning as he walked to his car. "I'm on the correct path, and all these meandering turns, why, they all take place ON the path. It's like a stream. It turns here and there, but it's still on course. It snakes along the already engraved streambed."

Max drove away feeling the incalescence that comes of having placed yet another piece in the puzzle. A new assurance took hold. "I'm on the path," he thought to himself. "The straight and narrow path," he thought, and that was all it took to receive back upon himself the weight he'd just thrown off. "Because," he thought, "if the path is straight, it allows for no twists and turns, and if it is narrow, it brooks no zig-zags along the way."

"Faith!" Max demanded of himself.

But he couldn't muster faith blindly like that. His shoulders slumped. He sat at a red light and closed his eyes. "Woe is me," he whispered.

Errid Farland's stories have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, storySouth, and Pindledyboz. She runs www.ShowMeYourLits.com, which hosts a weekly flash fiction contest.

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