The Story Behind the Story: God’s Naked Wil

23 Sep

The Story Behind the Story: God’s Naked Will

 Back sometime in the mid 1980’s I was in college in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  A young Pentecostal Evangelist who was a close relative to me came and stayed at our apartment while he was preaching a revival at West Fork.  The second night of the revival he came crawling in around 4 AM. I got up to check on him, concerned something might have been wrong. He said he’d driven out into the back pasture with the preacher’s daughter and the truck battery had died. I told him I was an old fornicator and he didn’t have to lie to me, but he only laughed, a sincere, genuine laugh and said that was really what had happened. Oddly, I believed him. The seed for this story was born that morning.

I realized this man’s sexual experiences were very likely limited, and it occurred to me that he would be limited in his ability to preach about the dangers of drink and women and sex since he had never experienced them At that time I was not writing, and didn’t even think of the incident in terms of a story until years later.
There was also an old tale floating around my home town of a local car dealer who had actually met a prostitute at a motel in Corning, Arkansas. Apparently she was good at her craft because he fell in love with her and married the woman. I made notes of all of these things in my journals.
Years later while pursuing my MFA degree, I was creating stories for my thesis. I wanted to create a mythical town like Winesburg, Ohio, and write about the earthquake scare we had lived through back in 1990.  I had already written of a preacher in one of the stories, and decided I need to give my preacher a bit of a history.

Of course, every preacher needs a wife, but the story of how a preacher finds and courts his wife is rarely told. Along about that time the AWP conference was held at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. I experienced my first trip to the big city, and I was fascinated. While in Chicago, we watched the Blues Brothers, and as I realized they were orphans raised in a children’s home in Chicago, I finally had my story.

            I created a boy who was an orphan from his mother’s death, but who received a nice life insurance payment after her demise. Raised in an orphanage, he never received the attention he desired, but after attending church with a friend, he discovered he could out-Jesus even the best Pentecostal, and he soon discovered how to garner the attention of those around him.

            If you have never been to a holiness church, then you cannot imagine how enthusiastically they worship their lord. And no matter how loud they get, there is always one in the crowd who must be heard above everyone else. After attending a church for two services, you will know who these people are. This was my preacher! That gave me his childhood.

            For his adolescence, I imagined my friend in the pasture with the preacher’s daughter, and from my experience with preacher’s daughters, they are extremely active lovers. I could only imagine him saying “NO” to her, and I had a great deal of fun writing that scene.

            But I had to get this Chicago orphan to Delbert, Arkansas, as a preacher with a wife who cut hair. (I had already established this in other stories in the collection) so he bought an old church from his preacher friend who lived in the county seat. The preacher even tried to pawn his daughter off on the man.

But to plan his way to carnal knowledge, I took him to the palmer house Hilton in Chicago. I had him look up escort services in the phone book. I was somehow inspired by the idea of “God’s own escort Service” where all the ladies were named after characters in the Bible. I actually selected Delilah based upon a reference to her in an old western movie, The Sackets, without even thinking about her connection as a beautician.  I just got lucky on that one, although I wish I could claim I had thought that one out!

            As far as the scriptural story of Balaam and the ass, I did just like the preacher in the story. I sat down with the Bible and opened it up, and that just happened to be the story the pages fell open to. I read through it a few times and worked a few revisions to figure out how to work it into the story, but I think it worked well. In fact, and early working title for the story was “Am I not Thine Ass?”

            Endings are always problematic. I needed an image to end the story on that could stand as a metaphor for the whole story. I actually realized quite by accident that the planes constantly taking off and flying by the hotel provided a good image to end on. Planes have always fascinated me, and especially the way for a few minutes or hours people are crammed next to each other and become a fleeting moment in each other’s lives. I had actually used the image of the planes earlier in the story, with the line “carrying strangers to unknown destinations.” As I was editing the story one day, it hit me that the lives of Mooney and Delilah were about to take off just like one of those flights—two strangers flying off to an unknown destination. So I moved those lines from the middle of the story to the end. I am not sure if anyone has ever caught the significance, but it is there for interpretation just in case.

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2 Responses to “The Story Behind the Story: God’s Naked Wil”

  1. sted41 September 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Very interesting and only you could write like this. I never realized in high school how creative you were.

    • cdmitchell1964 September 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Thank you. I don’t think I was this creative in high school–except when i was lying to Mr. Arant I guess! 😉

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