Monday, July 20, 2009

Revelation, by Erica Orloff

In Sunday School, I used to think that John dropped acid.

I was generally, from sixth grade on, stoned during Sunday School. Which wasn’t on Sunday, actually, but took place on a Wednesday when the Catholics sent their children off to religious instruction in our town in the hopes we would become confirmed, which in my case meant my parents would throw a huge party at which a lot of alcohol and lasagna would be consumed. Oh, and there would be cake.

My Sunday School teacher was a horse-faced woman with eleven kids, which always astounded me—that someone, her husband, who was short and fat and balding, but at least had a nice face, had screwed this woman a minimum of eleven times. Well, actually ten since she had a pair of twins in the middle of the pack. And when she briefly discussed Revelation, I decided that author of it—John—dropped acid. He drank the Kool-Aid. And whatever he drank—or smoked—I wanted some of it.

But turns out he wasn’t entirely a dope fiend.

Because when the end came we expected the Four Horsemen

Instead, we got angels.

Just like it said in John’s Book of Acid.

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.'”

But people forgot that. The first time the angels filled the sky, yeah, some expected the Rapture. Churches were filled with wailing people, and people celebrating. But angels, right? How could angels be bad?

I was walking down the street, and people pointed and . . . once they got used to seeing them, they were excited. Angels! They’ve come to protect us. To watch over us. Angels with wings. And halos. Like the pictures in a children’s Bible.

“If I should die before I wake . . . I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Was I the only one paying attention? Did no one else listen in Sunday School?

I had this nagging thought. But like trying to retrieve anything from the hazy pot-smoking years of my youth, and yes, my twenties. And even last year when I was thirty-two and my girlfriend and I went to Amsterdam . . . retrieving the memory was like falling to the floor in a smoke-filled room and crawling around searching for something in a fire.

So I opened the book. John’s book. And the memory came to me. From the horse-faced woman. “Children . . . Revelation is a warning.”

But no one listened. The people I passed in the street, they thought they saw halos. They thought the sky was like the Sistine Chapel come to life.

Until the pandemic started.

Now I spend my time waiting. I peek out the windows of my apartment. Sometimes I look for the Horsemen.

Most of the time, I get stoned.

Sometimes I mutter an apology. To John.

It wasn’t acid at all.


To see the previous stories:

Harmony, by Melanie Avila

My Brother's Keeper, by Jon VanZile

Bob Johnson Being Pushed Out of a Helicopter, by Jude Hardin

Release, by E. Flanigan

The 5,000-Pound Gorilla, by Mark Terry

And if you want to see this month's prompt or figure out what this is all about ...

July's Prompt

Become a Storyteller


Jude Hardin said...

So what was it? 'Shrooms? ;)

Nice job, Erica. It left me feeling a bit puzzled, just like the book of Revelation in the Bible. Love the similes near the end, the smoke-filled room and the Cistine Chapel.

Erica Orloff said...

Hey Jude:
No 'shrooms . . . reality, man. ;-)


P.S. And you know, since we have all been posting "short-shorts"--I tend to think they all have a lot of ambiguity.

Natasha Fondren said...

Ohmigosh, Erica, this made me crack up: "which always astounded me—that someone, her husband, who was short and fat and balding, but at least had a nice face, had screwed this woman a minimum of eleven times."

I love how the person who notices it is someone whom most people will automatically judge as stupid. I also love how he apologizes to John, instead of the apologizing to God as a reader might at first expect. :-)

Mark Terry said...

I like the concrete details, like thinking mentioning lasagna and cake, and the woman's sex life, then angels in the sky. Nice.

LurkerMonkey said...

Nice! Whatever you're smoking ...

I liked the part, the image, of the angels swarming in the sky. It was a cool image, one that stuck with me for a few days.

At first, I assumed the narrator was a woman, oddly enough, because of one single phrase. The husband with the "nice face." I know a lot of guys, but I don't know of any I'd describe as having a "nice face."

Also, the image of him huddled in his apartment, smoking dope and waiting, was great. Who is this guy's dealer, I wonder? 'Cause that's one dedicated dealer!

I agree, too, about the general ambiguity in these shorts. It's interesting. With so few words, it's a different—yet the same—challenge as a novel. Which ones do we include? Which are the necessary ones and which ones can be cut? You can create plenty of backstory, plenty of powerful suggestion, with a single phrase. The lasagna and alcohol ...

Erica Orloff said...

Yeah . .. I thought of the narrator as still not being ona first-name basis with God, but thinking, "Sorry, John . . . I doubted you, but turns out you weren't dropping acid."

Erica Orloff said...

Thanks, Mark. I think that's the other thing with these short-shorts. Grounding them in some finite details--but quickly since you don't have the word count.

Erica Orloff said...

Yeah. Male narrator. And I wondered about the "nice face." But I thought that MAYBE pondering backwards, in sort of a sixth-grade memory he might have used the phrase. But maybe not.

And I intended the waiting to be--for the end. And for the dope. And yeah, makes me wonder what I'M smoking. And you know, this was written in less than ten minutes and was the first thing that came to mind with the prompt oddly enough.

And I agree . . . with the short-short form . . . you have got to make up your mind with nearly every word what details to include. But I am enjoying all the ambiguities,


Melanie Avila said...

Erica, I love that we both had things in the sky that people thought were good but really aren't.

I've never read Revelations all the way through but now I'm feeling the urge. I just remember it being much harder to digest than the rest.

I also thought the MC was a woman. The reference to the girlfriend made me pause, but then I just figured she was gay. So it works either way.

LurkerMonkey said...


I did the same thing ... I went and read Revelations. (For some reason, even beside this story, it's popped up in my life enough times over the last week or two that I finally read it.)

And, yeah, that's what I meant about the common threads in all these stories, but I didn't want to spoil the surprise. You and Erica went in the same general direction; as did me and Jude; and Jude and Mark. It's cool.

I think that's one of the coolest parts of creativity -- seeing how people use the same or essentially similar material in very different ways. I come from a family of people who cook, and even though we basically all learned how to make a bolognese sauce from the same source, and use the same basic ingredients, everyone's is still completely different.

Melanie Avila said...

I'm already excited for next month!

Richmond Writer said...

LurkerMonkey, I'm amazed at the stories you've put up. I see that picture and think of very little and yet all these stories are so different. Cudos to you for inspiring so many people!

Erica, interesting story. I forgot about the picture and in my mind I saw this man walking down a cobblestone street. Don't know why the cobblestone.

Erica Orloff said...

Jon and Melanie:
Revelation is one weird-ass book. (And it's without the "s"--just ONE revelation, essentially). WEIRD.

AND . . . do any of you remember when the Police did the Synchronicity album and they didn't tell each other and all took their photos and so on. Reminds me of that a little.


Erica Orloff said...

Hi Richmond:
I thought it was a weird prompt . . . so now is as good a time as any to ask . . . Jon, why'd you pick it?


LurkerMonkey said...


Ha ha! I don't think I've ever got that Revelation/Revelations thing right.

So why that picture? Well, this was going to be my blog post for tomorrow, but here goes. I had a few criteria for my first prompt, and I spent a while looking for a picture that met them. Here it was:

1) I wanted off-screen action. People looking or pointing at something we couldn't see. I didn't want the picture to tell a story as much as suggest a story. Nothing too complete.
2) I wanted more than one person, but to still be able to see facial expressions.
3) I didn't want to use anything that came from a known piece of art. So no movie stills, no famous paintings or photos, no news events. Nothing identifiable.
4) I wanted something with several possibilities. In this case, I found a tattoo, the pointing, and four people (including the guy walking away in the background). So I knew there was lots of information in the picture.

When I picked the prompt, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I actually spent a while staring at the photo after I posted it, then more time thinking about it. It took me a few days to get my idea -- after I keyed in on the guy in the yellow jacket and started wondering why he was such a weird looking dude.

Anyway, next time, I'll have a different set of criteria for a prompt. You know. To keep things interesting.

LurkerMonkey said...


You should write next time!

Melanie Avila said...

Lurker, I would have saved that explanation for my post the next day. :P I'm impressed you put so much thought into it -- and it was very good thought. Well done!

Remember how I told you that my idea came to me just as I was falling asleep? I'm hoping the next idea comes a little more easily.