Artfully Overt

Andrew McNabb is a Catholic scribbler who has actually taken the trouble to, you know, hone his craft and get himself published in a few literary journals. Now, his efforts have been rewarded: Warren Machine Books is publishing a book of his stories, The Body of This. (The publisher has been kind enough to provide a sample.)

To celebrate, he is launching a crusade against the hated windmill. Er, I mean, he’s starting a Catholic Press, Leoness Books:

“Attention Writers & Readers!

Leoness Books is a newly formed small press specializing in LiteraryCatholic Writing. Leoness has been created due to the dearth of publishing opportunities for Catholic writers whose work can be described as “Literary, yet artfully overt.” Leoness is seeking book-length fiction (both novels and story collections) and narrative non-fiction submissions for their Leoness Book Award, and short stories for their Best Catholic Short Stories, 2010 edition.

Leoness Books is also seeking dedicated readers who are tired of the syrupy genre fiction that Christian publishers attempt to pass off as “real life,” who are put off by the poorly written Apocalyptic novels that misrepresent Bible teaching, and disheartened by the plethora of literary options for nearly every subset of humanity, except for devout Catholics seeking quality literature inspired by faith. There are several ways to become involved and ensure Leoness Books’ success. PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME TO OUR MAILING LIST (mailinglist@LeonessBooks.com) SO THAT WE CAN PROVE TO OUR INVESTORS THAT READERS ARE INTERESTED IN CATHOLIC LITERARY WRITING. We won’t overwhelm you with e-mail, and we won’t sell your address. Please visit www.LeonessBooks.com for more information.”

In honor of McNabb’s endeavor, Godsbody herewith presents the opening scene from The Cloister, a novel that will most likely never be finished.

DALLAS (AP) – Richard Johnson, spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced today that the Church would adopt a “one-strike” policy with regard to all newly reported cases of sexual misconduct among its clergy. Speaking at a press conference after the final closed-door session of the bishops comprising the USCCB’s Office for the Protection of Children, Johnson said, “all new cases will be turned over immediately to local law enforcement offices for investigation.”

PREFACE

“My God.”

The bishop sagged in his chair. Above him, on the office wall, Christ hung on the cross, the unpolished wood of the corpus crisscrossed everywhere by rivulets of red-brown blood. (The crucifix, which made the bishop uncomfortable, had come from Our Lady of Sorrows, a South County church whose congregation had lightened in complexion and softened in sensibilities as the San Diego suburbs swelled forth from Eastlake.)

Before him, on the desk, a black and white police photo showed Father Bryan Dwyer arranged in a gruesome mockery of his Savior. His pale and fleshy body stripped down to his briefs, his wrists lashed to the bars of his cell door with ragged strips of his prison uniform, he hung, lifeless, his gnarled toes a few inches from the ground. The blood gleamed black in the photo as it slithered forth from the tiny cuts in his forehead, from the gash in his side, from the piercings in his hands and feet, and from a host of tiny cuts around his shoulders. The bishop didn’t want to guess as to the state of the priest’s back and buttocks.

The Chancellor let a moment pass in silence as he stood on the other side of the desk. Then he spoke. “The coroner says he might’ve hung there for five or six hours before he died. The wounds, bloody as they appear, were superficial. He asphyxiated.”

“Six hours,” winced the bishop. “And nobody heard or saw anything? No guards? No inmates?”

“Nobody; not a thing.”

“How many is that?” asked the bishop, who knew them all by name, but couldn’t bring himself to go over the list in his mind and make the count.

“Seven.”

“They weren’t kidding about one-strike, were they?”

The Chancellor suppressed his response, and said only, “Your Grace?”

“Seven murders and no convictions. Hell, no charges. They barely even pretend to investigate, and nobody seems to care.”

“Sex offenders have always been targets in prison, Your Grace, and there’s a great deal of resentment. They’re priests. Or at least, they were.” He hesitated as he spoke; he didn’t imagine he was imparting any sort of new information, and feared the bishop might catch the note of weariness in his voice. Because the Chancellor was weary, weary of the whole sordid business, and after seven of these executions, he was finding it difficult to feel the requisite shock and horror, to summon up the outrage that would dispel his weariness and rouse him to stand with his superior. He was finding it difficult to condemn the murders, and difficult to sympathize with the victims. And in his weariness, he let slip a sentence he had long kept restrained. Regret kicked in before he had finished the last syllable.

“People are suggesting that it was no more than they deserved.”

The bishop raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Use every man according to his dessert, and who should ‘scape whipping?” he replied, but his tone was too snappish to convey Shakespearean wit. He had little patience for talk about retribution. “We’re in the mercy business” was a phrase often on his lips. Still, he couldn’t help but think of Saint Peter, who had asked to be crucified upside down, because he was unworthy to die in the manner of Our Lord. If Peter was unworthy, what did that make Dwyer? But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened ‘round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

He paused, assessing the man on the other side of the desk, trying to decide if the Chancellor was absolutely trustworthy, pained by the fact that such considerations were even necessary. After a moment, he decided to bet on the side of ecclesial loyalty and solidarity. They were two of the great reasons the Church had gotten into this mess; now, he was counting on them to help in Her rehabilitation. He spoke, his tone gone warm and a touch conspiratorial: “Sit down, Robert. I’ve been doing a bit of digging in the archives, and there’s something I’d like to show you.”

*****

Now go get on the man’s mailing list!

Comments

  1. Cubeland Mystic says

    “Richard Johnson”?

    I see you’ve been dipping into my porn star name hoard again.

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    What? He happens to be the spokesman on matters sexual for an all-male organization. I don’t see the significance.

  3. That is certainly no syrupy genre…I hope we get to read more.

    (And I thought I had an overactive mind. To think that “Richard Johnson” flew totally under my radar…)

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    Thank you, Ellyn. It’s a story I’ve been lugging around for a long, long time. Maybe someday I’ll actually finish it out. I’ve got reams of dialogue.

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