Sunday Storytime: “There’s no need to get that attitude with me, Char.”

The background for this scene is that Charlinder just got out of a conversation with Taylor, who was trying to convince him that his (Charlinder’s) life would be so much happier if their village practiced the family values of their more buttoned-up, God-fearing neighbor communities. This is the same Charlinder who within the year has his gal-pals lining up to jump his bones. In case you’re wondering, this conversation was written years before Bill O’Reilly gave us (albeit unintentionally) the “Can’t Explain That” meme, so I guess my muse has the ability to see the future.

Please expect this blog to be quiet for a while. Fait Accompli is crying from neglect, so I’m going to spend my evenings writing more on it. If I get in a blog post aside from Sunday Storytime, it means I’m having a slow day at the desk job.

In the meantime, I have a new author interview posted in which Laura Page asks me interesting questions. This is also the time in which I introduce my new challenge for readers of Charlinder’s Walk, to Unleash Your Inner Pedant.

Without further ado, Charlinder is about to get a visit from Robert. They’ve lived in the same place all their lives, but it would be inaccurate to say they’ve ever been friends.

*****

The conversation with Taylor, he could have let go. It was nothing he was in any mood to repeat, but also nothing that hadn’t happened in his village before. He still couldn’t shake this creeping suspicion that something was changing, and changing in a way that Eileen wouldn’t like any more than he did.

Not long after the meeting with Taylor, Charlinder was at his daily after-lessons cleanup of the school when he had a visitor. Robert came in one day when there were no kids around, and that was unusual enough, because he rarely had any adults visit the schoolroom, especially if they were not parents of his students. The best he had ever gotten along with Robert was when they left each other alone. He couldn’t imagine what Robert would want in the schoolroom after all the children had gone for the day. Maybe he’d just walked into the wrong part of the main cabin.

In which the schoolroom with its book-learnin’ is the site of some disagreements.

“What are you looking for?” asked Charlinder, when Robert came in.

“I want to ask you something,” said Robert.

So he wasn’t lost after all. The suspicion creeping in as before, but his curiosity also piqued, Charlinder replied, “I’m listening.”

Robert sat down on Charlinder’s stool. “Have you attended a Sermon recently?”

“I haven’t attended a Sermon in years, but I am aware of the topics under discussion,” Charlinder answered, hoping to achieve a tone that spoke of being more than satisfied with that arrangement.

“And do you teach the children about the Plague?”

“Yes, of course,” he said, desperately wishing he had Sunny there with him. “First, they learn about it as part of their Biology education, and then we go through it again for History.”

“Okay,” said Robert. “So, first it’s a Biology lesson. Do you give them the same story as we were told when we were their age?”

“Yes, it makes sense, so I use it.”

“Have you ever considered that the Plague was more than just another contagious disease?”

“It was an extremely powerful one, I’ll give it that.”

“And have you ever wondered how such a powerful disease could evolve so quickly?”

“I’ve wondered, but all the scientists and doctors died before they could find out, so we’ll probably never know. In the meantime, I try to teach the kids to stay healthy in the here and now.”

“You’ll probably never find out if you wait for a scientific explanation, but the real answer could be right in front of you, if you’ll just accept it.”

Picturing what Sunny would say to Robert if she were there, Charlinder responded, “If you mean one of the kids started the Plague, I’m afraid even their grandparents weren’t yet around.”

“Of course I don’t mean the kids. I mean maybe the Plague was an act of God.”

“You know what I think of any theory that uses God as its explanation.”

“No, I don’t know what you think.”

“Then you don’t want to know.”

“Is it really such a good idea to treat that explanation–I mean the materialist one–as the only one that could be right? All you have for it are the writings from that Woodlawn woman, and who’s to say she knew better than anyone else?”

“At least Eileen was around to see the Plague happen, and took the time to write something down. Her version’s good enough for me. At least it follows logic.” Charlinder figured he had used his undeniable weapon with the last part; Robert would either back off, or be incited to even more zeal.

“But it doesn’t follow logic,” Robert argued. Charlinder thought it quite rich that he should be getting a lesson on logic from someone making an argument that could never be empirically defended, but he kept his mouth shut. “There are some things about the Plague that Eileen Woodlawn didn’t understand. And yet she still acted like she had it all figured out.”

This wasn’t the Sermon, this was the schoolroom. Before he could stop to think about where this was headed, Charlinder took the bait. “There have always been some things that science couldn’t explain at first, but, given enough time and resources for research, they figured out eventually. During the Middle Ages, Europeans thought the Black Plague was brought about by Jews because they didn’t understand how it came from rats and mosquitoes. (Well, that and they were closed-minded xenophobic pigs.) They persecuted and slaughtered a lot of innocent people before they could learn Jews had nothing to do with it.”

“I’m not talking about rats and mosquitoes, though. Even if you put aside the way the disease worked–which you shouldn’t–she could never explain how all the survivors knew to come outside at the same time. How did she just happen to know it was safe to leave her house, while everyone else who avoided the Plague knew the same thing at the same time?”

“Except they didn’t all leave their houses at the same time. Two people in one town left their houses on the same day and met three other people in the same town who’d already been out and about for some time. They found fifteen more people, in several other towns, who had already come outside. She didn’t know whether more people came outside later. There’s nothing miraculous about that. They had to come out some time, or they’d starve.”

“Eileen Woodlawn didn’t wait until she ran out of food, though. One day, she just knew it was safe to go outside. How did she know that? Materialism can’t explain it.”

“She hadn’t seen or spoken to another person in months, she was stuck in her house with a terrible smell because her indoor plumbing no longer worked–they had indoor plumbing back then, remember–and she was so bored and lonely that one day she’d had enough. That’s about psychology, not theology. Did you come in here to lecture me with your beliefs?” Charlinder demanded of this presumptuous interloper sitting on his stool in his schoolroom.

“No more than you’ve been lecturing me—” Robert began.

“And you should have thought about that before you came into the schoolroom, so get to the point,” Charlinder interrupted.

Robert looked slightly alarmed, but quickly composed himself. “I came in to ask if you had tried or considered teaching about the Plague from a spiritual point of view, rather than just a scientific one,” he explained, “And now I see you haven’t.”

“No, I haven’t, so, now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, don’t let me take up any more of your time.”

“There’s no need to get that attitude with me, Char. I have a lesson about God’s role in the Plague for the kids, so maybe you’d let me give it to them,” Robert explained.

At first, Charlinder wondered why Robert would think to ask for his permission to give his own lecture to the kids, until he realized what Robert meant.

“You mean, you want to give them that lesson here, during the school day?”

“Yes, as sort of a guest teacher.”

Charlinder had one of his emotional moments in which he was so shocked by the incredible, presumptuous arrogance and rudeness of someone’s behavior that his tongue tied itself in a knot and he could only open his mouth while trying to land on something to say. When he found his powers of speech, he chose his words very carefully, lest Robert should go around telling half the village about Charlinder’s “attitude” before Charlinder could tell them about Robert’s part in the conversation.

“If the kids want to learn about how God made the Plague, they can go to a Sermon, or you can try and round them up after school. I can’t tell you what to tell the kids or not tell them, but don’t ask to do it on my time.”

“If that’s how you really feel, then I pray for your soul,” said Robert as he stood up.

“My soul can take care of itself,” he said as Robert walked out.