Where Does Creativity Come From?

What is your calling?

You know you are called when that desire to do something you are not doing keeps poking you at odd moments or for entire days. When around others who are at one with their callings and are actively engaged in them you feel convicted, bitter or jealous.

Where do callings come from?

If not from an intelligent being then where or how or why do callings come at all? A calling doesn’t feel like a figment of imagination, does it? If, like honey bees, we have evolved to have special roles it’s pretty amazing that evolution would take into account the role of hairdressers, baseball players and novelists.

I’ve read about many writers who’ve said that they were compelled to write. Like Jonah who fled from his calling only to be swallowed by a great fish, I refused my calling for many long years despite knowing of its existence. The tug was there, the self-reproach and misery, yet still I hid.

When you flee a calling all else that you do has a tinge of mediocrity about it, a veil colors all of life even if others praise you for talents that you deep-down know are counterfeit callings. As a teacher I was stung after a convincing sermon on my part about fearless writing when a ten-year-old student asked, “Why don’t you go and write?”

I see all of life as a redemptive tapestry with each thread as beautiful as the next. I didn’t always see it that way. I saw my thread as weak and unimportant before I embraced the calling — where it suddenly didn’t matter anymore if mine was the weakest thread  as long as I was a part of the inspired whole.

“Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. And perhaps the most God-like. It is the closest we get to creation out of nothing. When we try to express beautiful truth, we must think of a pattern of words, perhaps a poem. We must conceive something that has never existed before and does not now exist in any human mind. We must think of an analogy or metaphor or illustration which has no present existence. The imagination must exert itself to see it in the mind when it is not there. We must create word combinations, and music, and visual forms that have never existed before. All of this we do, because we are like God and because he is infinitely worthy of ever-new verbal, musical, and visual expressions.”  John Piper

So are callings real?

Are they just rationalized excuses for doing what you’re doing?

Are they just coded worker bee impulses?

Is not following a calling a sin?

Are we afraid to follow because we’d rather do our own lesser thing?

Do we think our one small life makes no difference?

Let me know your thoughts on callings in the comments!




“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Fiction: Seeing With New Eyes

“This is my home. I’m happy here,” William said, but he needed a drink to wash down his words. He tried to glare at Buck, but felt unsteady and it hurt his head. William spotted his drawings in Buck’s hand. “I-I’m gonna send some drawings east when they’re finished—start working harder at that—so me and Ginny can live nicer …”

Buck looked at the papers. “Not these, I hope. They’re crap.”

William grabbed them and sifted through them. He scratched his head. “I’m out of practice.” William wiped his nose. “I’d give anything for a smoke.”

“I don’t smoke any longer,” Buck said.

“Yes, I’d forgotten—you’re God’s little friend now.”

“I’d like it if we could be friends.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” William said.

Buck turned to go. He shoved his hands in his pockets and felt a dollar coin he hadn’t realized he had. Maybe he could offer someone at the stable the dollar as a deposit for a ride back to the fort. His father would pay the balance. Buck took a step, then turned to William. “Listen, Willy, I have a dollar. Will you draw me my portrait?” he blundered. “I have no gift for Thankful’s wedding—it’s only a few days away.”

William laughed. “Why would she want a picture of you?”

“I don’t know, but it’s my only idea … will you?”

William rummaged around for a piece of paper and Buck wondered if he should just give him the dollar instead of putting William through any trouble, but Fred was making the most of it with Ginny on the other side of the quilt. Buck detected a small excitement from William though he did his best to hide it.

Without looking up once, William produced a quick, but accurate likeness of Buck—the old Buck—handsome, clean-edged and hard-eyed. He handed it to Buck. “Shit, William. How’d you do that?” The slight smirk, the confident eyes, everything was correct—and full of sneering superiority. “God forgive me. I’m just as bad as you make me out to be, William. I’m even worse. What a piece of shit I am and you’ve every right to hate me for all I’ve done to you. You never deserved any of it! You trusted me and you were kind,” Buck said. “It hurts me to see you here.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Buck. You’re not responsible for me.”

Buck gave William back the drawing. “I want you to draw me again. Not from memory. I need you to draw me as I am now—ugly and wretched.”

“No.” William said. Old images were easy, well-practiced in his mind, but the present remained unfocused through his bleary eyes.

“You must! And I promise never to bother you again.”

William scratched his jaw and grabbed the paper back. “So you want to see things for real.”  He turned the paper over and picked up his pencil.

This time William had to look at Buck—could not rely on anything from before to capture the rough skin and the wrinkled mass above Buck’s eye. Buck insisted that he remove his bandages. His misshapen cheekbone torn by the bullet William deserved and the botched cut at his throat remained scarlet and unhealed. William considered another drink, but met Buck’s gaze and it unnerved him. He dropped his pencil and picked it up again. His hand shook.

The drawing was not very good and it made William angry. He found that he had to study Buck longer than he wanted and that no matter how he tried he could not make Buck monstrous enough. “That’s it. It’s the best I can do. Now give me my money.”

Buck flipped over the coin, but William missed and had to crawl on the floor to find it. Buck studied the portrait. “Land sakes, Willy,” Buck said. “Is this how you really see me?”

“I’m afraid so,” William said scratching his head.

“I mean, God, I’m one hell of a mess, but there’s something … I’m no artist …” The drawing comforted Buck. He didn’t know why. The cuts, the wounds, the disfigurement were there, but so was something else. Something new or maybe just discovered. “William, you see it don’t you? No one else has, but maybe Father …”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” William replied.

“You see what God’s done for me,” Buck whispered.

His scars were ugly and William had to drink not to let his heart go out to Buck.

“Thank you for this, Willy.”

“It’s nothing,” William mumbled, but felt sorry suddenly at how things had turned out between them. If only Buck hadn’t been such a sneaky bastard.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Hooked Up

Buck followed, having nowhere else to go. He glanced around at the filth and total confusion of the tiny place divided by a soiled and torn old quilt. The walls moved with bugs in the flickering candlelight.

Fred grabbed at Ginny, who wore a threadbare wrapper. She had a wonderfully white and soft-looking body, Buck noticed as Fred unwrapped her, but old evidence of smallpox marred her face, making her ugly. As soon as Buck thought it he remembered his own disfigurement in shame.

“Where’s the money? Money comes first, child,” Ginny demanded even as Fred shoved his hand between her legs.

Unusual drawings sat piled upon a small footstool and Buck went to them. They were shaky and crass but familiar.

“I’ll give you an extra fifty cents if you put it in your mouth, girl,” Fred bargained while unbuttoning his trousers. “But wait, what’s that mark at your mouth? You’re not diseased or anything, are you?”

“I had the pox as a girl …”

Buck looked up from the pictures and for a moment caught Ginny’s eyes. “Fred, she must be just Thankful’s age.”

The girl stopped what she was doing and glanced back at Buck. “Thankful?”

“Yes, our sister.”

“Who the hell cares?” Fred asked. “Go back to work.” He grabbed Ginny by the hair and jerked her head. “I’m paying, he isn’t. Listen to me if you don’t want any trouble.”

“Fred!” Buck shouted, but his voice hardly carried.

Buck watched as a tear rolled down the girl’s cheek. How desperate she must be to do this for fifty cents! “Miss Ginny, even now, right this very minute, there’s someone who wants better for you,” Buck said.

“Shut up, Buck!” Fred shouted as something stirred behind the other side of the quilt.

Buck peeked around it. “Willy!”

The quilt hid the worst of the room’s mess. Empty bottles and crumpled papers littered the floor.

“William, it’s me, Buck Crenshaw.”

“I know who you are,” William mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you here?”

“Fred is—well, he’s with the girl.”

“My wife?” William asked, detached.

“I-I don’t know. I mean, I hope not. Not the girl on the other side?”

“Yes, so what? I wanted to do right by her … and she cares for me. Ginny doesn’t judge.”



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”


Featured Image: The Awakening of Conscience by William Holman Hunt

Fiction: Gaming

“I want to make money and visit with real whores. As the teamster said, life’s short.” Fred gulped his last drink and down the road they went.

Quiet, almost sweet, music played somewhere within the gaming hall.

“I’ll wait out here, Fred.”

“Oh, no you won’t! Don’t be such a prig. Play one hand,” Fred urged him.

Buck had just a small amount of money saved from pawning his things and planned on buying Thankful a household trinket for her wedding, but if she was moving home there would be no point, he reasoned. Buck didn’t mind cards but hesitated.

“Say, Buck, you might win some money for the poor. Look, whatever you win tonight, I’ll match it and we’ll do a good deed with it,” Fred suggested. He pushed Buck along and sauntered in with a big smile.

“Oh, damn, the apostle is here with a friend,” someone said through the smoky haze.

“He won’t be doing any talking, men. I can assure you of that. Now let us in on a hand and I’ll show you how it’s done.”

The men laughed at Fred’s bravado and made room when he flashed his money. Buck, more tentatively, placed his small savings on the table.

Fred whispered, “Here’s to the poor.” After a few lucky hands, Fred proceeded to lose everything they had, all but four dollars. “Oh, well. It’s only money,” he announced, throwing his cards on the table. “I have more at home anyhow!”

Buck stalked out. Fred soon followed. “Sakes alive, what a night! Those men are damned good card players. I’ll have to bone up this last year at school or I’ll be laughed out of the army!”

“Now what’ll we do, Fred? I’m tired.”

“A fellow in there says there’s a place down the road we could spend the night cheap,” Fred said.

“With four dollars?”

“Yep. Follow me, Apostle.” Fred whistled.

Buck cursed under his breath but followed with hands shoved deep into his empty pockets.

They came upon a ruin of an adobe building with a sooty candle-lit window at the side and a falling-down, rotted door at the front. “What’s this place?” Buck’s stomach churned.

“It’s cozy in a way,” Fred said flashing a charming smile before knocking.

The door opened a crack with a loud creak and the sound of a smoker’s cough behind it. “What you want?”

“Mr. Beadle sent me this way. You open?” Fred asked.

“You got money?”


“It’s a dollar a poke—extra for anything else,” the woman said.

Buck pulled Fred back. “You can’t be serious, Fred. A dollar’s cheap even for here—this is disgusting. We can’t do this!”

“Cheap is good—it’s why I came out here tonight. I’m getting some western refreshment like it or not. You jinxed us at cards—at least give me this thrill.” Fred shoved Buck out of the way. “Let us in then, ma’am!”

The door opened, almost falling on them. The woman pushed it back in place. “My name’s Miss Ginny, sir. Come in.” Her doe eyes went to Buck lingering in the shadows. “Are you comin’ or ain’t you?”




“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Blood Brothers

“The night is running along and I want a good time—for your sake—to educate you. I can’t stand you leading such a morbid, saintly life,” Fred groaned.

Buck was disappointed at the stables. With most of the army out looking for Geronimo, the stable owner feared for his safety and ordered that no one be let in after dark so Buck had to stay out with Fred.

“I’ve dreamed of this night, Buck. In the dream I come into town on a white mount and with an officer’s jacket after slaughtering a pile of Indians.”

Buck laughed at Fred’s childish notions. Fred, happy to make his brother smile, threw his arm over Buck’s shoulder. “Point us in the right direction, my boy.”

“There is no right direction here, but there’s the Buckskin.”

“Bully!” Fred ran ahead. “Come on!”

Buck followed, dreading their entrance. Fred dragged him into the noisy saloon. “Don’t be yellow.”

“I’m not!”

Fred met each hard stare with an arrogant smirk and pushed to the bar. “Give everyone a drink on me,” Fred ordered and turned to the small crowd of roughs, soldiers, and miners. “Gentlemen, I’m here for my sister’s wedding and would like you all to share in my happiness. You soldiers probably know my brother, Buck.”

The group of soldiers turned away.

“Well, anyway, Buck may look bad, but he’s all right. Let the next two rounds prove it.”

The men brightened at the promise, but Buck whispered, “Fred, how much money have you?”

“Plenty. Now take a drink. Even Jesus drank wine—God, I can’t believe I’m saying that. Go on, drink up.”

Buck threw back the whiskey and swallowed hard. Before long Fred played the best of friends with two surprisingly well-educated miners and a few well-spoken soldiers. Fred had no tolerance for stupidity and froze out any less than adequate conversationalists with his haughty manners and large vocabulary. Buck fell into his old role as quiet observer, waiting for something to happen.

A miner kept glancing at Buck. Finally he asked, “What happened to your sidekick? Looks like he’s been through a meat grinder. Isn’t there any way you can cover yourself?”

“You dare talk about my brother that way? You lousy piece of shit! My brother here was shot by an Apache so you thieves can scrape riches from Indian land!” Fred replied.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize …”

“What? That you’re an ignorant son of a bitch?”

“Hey, you better calm down, mister. I’ve got a gun and I’ll use it,” the miner said.

Fred flashed his own weapon, resting it up against the man’s shining temple. “Try me, you little shit.”

“Fred, calm down,” Buck whispered.

“I am calm. No one’s going to get away with hurting you on my watch.”

“I’m not hurt. I’m fine.”

The man with the gun to his head fainted.

Fred shook his head. “What a jackass.” He kicked the man out of the way and ordered another drink for the soldiers, but they declined and soon excused themselves, dragging with them the humiliated miner.

“Bully,” Fred said. “This is just bully. See, Buck, see how it’s done? I’m teaching you valuable lessons.”

Buck sighed. “We should go.”



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Provoking Talk

“Be on alert now, boys,” cautioned the teamster. “This is where the bandits cut my friend down not two weeks ago.”

“Be on alert,” Buck remembered. “Be on alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong.”  He took a deep breath. He must try to have faith. The huge, dark sky terrified him. If there was no God then what did he have? He couldn’t go back to his old life. Maybe everything was just luck and happenstance or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe everything came down to behavior, or it didn’t.

Buck’s life felt different since accepting Jesus—but how could he be sure it wasn’t just wishful thinking? Maybe the stories were fake. Maybe there were no real men named Paul, John, or Peter … but Paul—how could he write so passionately, so compellingly about a fake savior? And all of those centuries after, filled with lives changed and artwork created and, yes, the very hope and peace that came to Buck, a nobody, traveling in the gloomy Arizona desert. Without God, he’d fall into despair. All else seemed shallow and worthless compared to the promises he was just now reading about and beginning to understand. Forgetting himself, he whispered, “I am so thankful, God, that you made them all write it down.”

“What are you saying, Buck?” Fred asked.

“Do you believe in God at all?”

“What? Well, sure, I guess. Whatever you say,” Fred said, the whites of his eyes narrowing as if to prevent an annoying light from entering.

“The things we did together in the past … we’re forgiven.”

“Great. Now what’s the name of the infamous watering hole in town?”

“The Buckskin. We should go back and spend time with the family,” Buck suggested.

“Are you joking? I rode all the way out here with them fools. I need a damned break and a good lay.”

“Oh, Fred, come on. You said I’d be home early.”

“My God, it’s like you’re an old lady. Listen, I do want to hear about your God thing. I admit I don’t understand it. I don’t mean to be aggressive with you, but it’s been a long journey and the last few months of school were very hard on me, having to get everyone sorted out so you could have a chance at success in life. One night out will make all the difference. I need to make some changes too, and maybe, just maybe you’re the one to help.” Fred took a sip of whiskey. “It just occurred to me that this whole conversion thing … well it could be that God is working through you to get to me!”

“I don’t think so.” Buck grit his teeth. What if the one and only purpose for Buck’s conversion was to influence Fred? God was his sanctuary. Buck worried that Fred, if converted, would be a better Christian than he was.

“Buck, are you all right?”

“I’m just thinking.”

“Oh, hell, you do too much of that. Let life play out a little on its own. You’d be surprised at how much fun it can be.”

The teamster laughed. “Yer brother’s right there. Life only gets worse as you get old like me. I got three marriages to awful jezebels behind me—very unaccepting women, schemers in their thinkin’—so I came west and I had me some very nice times.”

“See, Buck, listen to the old saw.”

The man snapped his reins. “Yep. Well, I can’t get it up no more.”

Buck glanced at Fred with a smug smile.

george elbert burr“Yep, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was dead tomorra. I piss blood. Have done for a while now. Old age ain’t no picnic, so live it up while you can.”

“How old are you?” Buck asked.


Buck took a deep breath. “Have you accepted Jesus into your heart?”

Fred punched Buck’s arm hard.

The man chuckled. “‘Course. Many times, but it ain’t done nothin’ fer me. I’m fine on my own.”

Buck cleared his throat. “Well, you need to make peace if you’re going to die.”

“Look, kid, I don’t know if I’m dyin.’ I was just makin’ talk. I ain’t wantin’ any preachin’.”

“It’s just that God will forgive your adulterous ways if you believe!” Buck said.

Fred punched him again.

Buck shoved him back, explaining, “But in Ezekiel it says if I don’t speak out to the wicked they’ll die for their sin, and I’ll be held accountable for their blood.”

“I don’t have to take this no more. Get out of my wagon! The both of you!” the teamster cursed them.

“But, sir!” Fred begged.

“No, get out with your ugly friend,” the teamster ranted. “You promised me no trouble!”

“Jesus isn’t trouble at all,” Buck said, but Fred dragged him from the wagon.

The teamster dashed off toward town, leaving the two in the dark.

“God damn it, Buck. You’re plumb loco! Now we’re in the goddamned middle of nowhere!”

“You shouldn’t keep using God’s name in vain …” Buck said.

“What? You’re crazy!” Fred went to slap Buck’s face, but Buck blocked him and took hold of his arm.

“I will never allow you to touch me again,” Buck said.

“Oh, what will you do about it?” Fred asked pulling his arm from Buck with a confident sneer.

“I’ll stop being your brother. I don’t need you anymore. I don’t need you!” Buck followed the moonlit trail to town. It was too late to turn back. A friend at the stables might let Buck sleep there.

Fred trotted beside him. “Come on, don’t be so hard. Of course we’ll always be brothers. And I guess you did us a favor. The teamster didn’t take his fare so there’s more money for us.”

Buck marched on.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Overshadowed

Fred’s expensive cigars, the way he shot, and the way he rode when taken out for a race impressed a few of the young officers. Though his cocksure attitude provoked the more experienced commissioned men and the privates who were the victims of his superior words and actions, he had a small coterie of loyal followers within a few hours.

Buck sat with his parents under the Markhams’ porch pretending not to notice the foolish men of the fort following Fred toward the house and their chatter about the little horse race Fred had just won.

“Say, Buckie, come here, will you?” Fred called at a safe distance.

Buck waved him off, but Margaret said, “Oh, Buck, be nice to Fred and see what he wants.”

Buck grumbled, but rose to his feet, dizzy in the heat. He walked out, hands in pockets, and Margaret called after him, “Stand up straight and stop slouching!”

The soldiers laughed. Fred shoved one of them.

“What do you want?” Buck asked.

“That’s no way to be with your brother! Listen, if you’re not too busy with Bible study maybe you’ll come with us tonight—to town—we’ll have a good frolic and no one need know. I understand that you want Father and Mama to think that you’ve reformed.”

The men exchanged amused grins.

“It’s nothing to do with reputation, Fred. You know I’m not much of a drinker …”

“Oh, go on! Have ginger beer for all I care. Just come.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“What are you afraid of? Your newfound piety not holding up in town? How do you expect to test yourself if you stay in a cocoon? I knew this religion bunk was just that—bunk. Jesus Christ himself ate and drank with tax collectors and other low lives. But I guess your faith is weak.”

Buck shifted his weight. He hated the way his brother spoke to him, but he’d always been a part of Fred.

“Fine, I don’t mean to make light of your religion. I’m happy if it makes you happy—really I am. It’s just—well—I miss our good times.”

The other men laughed. Fred turned on them. “Shut up, you ass-licks, if you still want to come out on my tab.”

“Well, I’ll come just this once,” Buck said glancing toward the missionary tents.

“That’s it, boy! Enjoy life a little. There’s no harm in it. Just come for a small drink and I’ll hire a Mexican to drive you back. They tell me it’s hardly dangerous if you move fast enough—and you’re not scared. Are you?”

“No, I’m not.”

Fred chuckled. “I guess God will be your fortress. I’m serious—why do you look at me like that?”

Buck’s gut churned, but he ignored it. Maybe he could use this opportunity to share the gospel.

After taps when the last pink of the sky faded, and the air cooled just a trifle Fred came bustling into his brother’s tent, clean-shaven and hair slicked. “Buckie, the chap I hired out will be long gone if we don’t meet him now.”

“Fred, I …”

“I won’t hear of you staying in. I realize you’re a little shy with your face and all, but I’ll take care that no one so much as looks at you.” He flashed his tiny Derringer and glanced in the little mirror, happy with himself.

Buck, rolling his eyes, pulled his blouse over his head, and grabbed his jacket. They skulked through the shadows. Buck heard Thankful’s lovely singing voice, the deep, sad Irish voice of Fahy, and his mother playing the violin:


Of all the comrades that ere I had, they’re sorry for my going away,

And of all the sweethearts that ere I had, they wish me one more day to stay,

But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,

I will gently rise and I’ll softly call, “Goodnight and joy be with you all!”


Buck longed to join them for a quiet night, but Fred pushed him along in excitement.

A teamster with a wagon snoozed just outside near a sentry.

“Fred, where are the others?” Buck asked.

“Oh, I was bored with them after an hour, though I managed to bargain a few bottles for us to take on our drive. Looks like it’s just the two of us then.”

“Oh.” Buck’s heart sank. “There’s really nothing to do in town … just a disgusting brothel and a saloon full of …”

Fred grinned and took a long slug of cheap whiskey before leaping into the wagon and pulling Buck in beside him. Buck prayed that the night be cut short as he half listened to the driver and Fred exchange ridiculous sexual conquests.

“Fred, how is Miss Turner?” Buck asked.

“Oh, Rosie’s fine, I guess. But it’s nice to have a break from the inane conversations—if you can even call them conversations. She’s still pretty as a picture though, and her family’s got all the right military and government connections, which I intend to take full advantage of. Stick with me, Buckie, and see if I can’t get you something.”

Fred would probably be president one day. Suddenly Buck’s big ideas about missionary work seemed not only feeble but also impossible. What had Buck ever finished without depending on Fred? How would he ever catch up to Seth Kenyon? Even Kenyon wasn’t famous anyway.

Buck took a slug of the whiskey, but it so offended his senses he could not drink it and spit it over the wagon side. His military training and the enthusiasm he had always had for it seemed so far away before Fred had come out to visit, but now the idea that Fred always outshone him bothered him as it always had.

Buck’s excitement over the Bible in this moment was a vapor in the wind. The future oppressed him.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: The Invalid

The front door opened in the hallway. Mrs. Markham called in, “Everything all set in there? We have eager visitors, so stop your sparking!” Her voice was high and nervous.

Before Thankful or Lieutenant Fahy could respond, the Crenshaws stepped in from outside and crowded the hallway. Fahy grabbed his blanket and Thankful threw another over his useless legs. Without considering his feelings, Thankful took a small bottle of flower water from her pocket and poured it between the layered blankets to hide the smell of urine.

The door opened. “Mr. Fahy, are you all right?” Mrs. Markham asked when she saw his miserable face.

The lieutenant nodded, unable to speak. The Crenshaws filed in, looking at Fahy as if he were a curiosity in a freak show.

Thankful stood just behind the couch.

Graham extended his hand. “Mr. Fahy, good to meet you. Thankful says you make her happy.”

“Well, she’s a liar then,” Fahy said.

The family turned to Thankful. “Oh, he doesn’t mean it! He’s joking,” she said.

“Good thing you poked my sister before this happened,” Fred said, laughing.

“Fred Crenshaw, stop it at once!” Margaret demanded.

“Sorry, Mama.” Fred glared at Fahy.

Margaret sneezed. “Oh, it must be that smell of flowers—I suppose desert scents don’t agree with me.” She wrinkled her nose at Graham.

“Buck has told us all about your troubles, Mr. Fahy,” Graham said.

“Oh, has he? I guess he told you I was a thief and debtor—but those charges were dropped. Bloody scoundrels!”

Graham’s color rose at the sides of his thick neck. “I was meaning your paralysis. I’m sure you know I’m a doctor, and I believe we’ll be able to help you.”

“Do you know something the doctors here don’t?”

“No, but Thankful has mentioned that you might like to stay with us. There is a wonderful hospital in New York that I am associated with, and new cures are found all the time.”

“I need a miracle—got one, Buck?” Fahy asked before looking up at Graham. “No, I don’t want to live with you, sir.”

“But Thankful will need help and we can do that,” Graham said, anger slipping in now. “After the wedding, you may decide—once you know us better.”

“I don’t need to bloody know you. I want to be left alone. I told Thankful to call off the wedding, but …”

“But nothing!” Graham shouted. “Thankful will not have a bastard child! Never! If I have to drag you to this ceremony at gunpoint, I will!”

Everyone stared at him.

Fahy softened.  “Dr. Crenshaw, how will it be for Thankful? You realize the life I’ll lead. You understand. What about your daughter, sir?”

“If you had cared about her yourself, you wouldn’t have knocked her up, you bastard,” Fred said.

Graham replied to Fahy, “It’s because I love my daughter I don’t want her reputation sullied further. She needs to leave here and you may come and be well-cared for the rest of your days.”

Thankful cried. Fahy took her hand, and she came from behind the couch and sat beside him. “Sir, I always intended to marry your daughter. Maybe someone from above knew that we wouldn’t be able to have children if we waited.”

“Oh, don’t use God to defend your disgraceful behavior. God is decidedly opposed to having relations before marriage,” Fred said. “Isn’t that so, Buck?”

Buck looked out the window.

“God or no God, Thankful is going to have a baby. It’s too late to discuss morality and ethics,” Graham said.

“Of course,” Fahy said. “I will marry her, but I refuse to live as an unwanted guest in your home. Maybe I’ll go back to Dublin.”

“Dublin?” Thankful cried.

“Oh, I knew a soldier would be the death of me somehow!” Margaret moaned. “And he’s not even that handsome,” she whispered to Meg.

Fahy heard and Meg blushed. She went to him, her every movement proclaiming her disgust for invalids. Meg tried a smile, but could not look him in the eye. “Mr. Fahy, do you have a proper chair? Maybe then you could come to the dance. Thankful wrote how much you loved them … I mean … well, you can still listen to the music and get pushed around and all.”

Silence now prevailed until Mrs. Markham brought in cool tea. They gulped it down and stood waiting, each in their own thoughts.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Into the Gloaming

“So now you give up and hide behind your little Bible studies and weird friends? You heap embarrassment upon the whole family. What will our friends at West Point say?”

“You’re no embarrassment, Buck,” Graham said. “It’s only that you’re lost in there somewhere behind those bandages. And you’re right to say I was never with you as a child. Please, after the wedding, come home to stay.”

Margaret interjected, “But leave this fanaticism behind, Buck. What would they say at First Presbyterian—and your father on the board! It’s nice to read the Bible now and again, and I’m proud of your memory work, but still, Buck, this is too much—it’s creepy even.”

“Buck was always creepy,” said Meg, but came over and kissed his hand. As obnoxious as he was, he was still family.

“I want to become a missionary,” Buck began.

Thankful interrupted. “Save that talk for another day.”

The family turned to her, staring in silence. Thankful embraced her sister and then Fred. She came to her father and looked up at him. “Forgive me, Father.”

“My pet, what have you let happen?” Graham said. “I so wanted you to do things before starting a family, but I love you as always.”

Thankful burst into relieved tears and turned to her mother.

“You stupid girl,” Margaret said repulsing Thankful’s attempt at embrace. “You don’t understand how much you’ve sacrificed, and your father’s health has suffered greatly. Don’t you realize how weak his heart is? I knew you’d disappoint me!”

“Margaret,” Graham said. “Stop.”

“No! I’ve raised a zealot and an adventuress—why can’t my children be normal?” Margaret cried. “Well, I guess we won’t be seeing much of you—being in the army.”

“Mother, we won’t be in the army,” Thankful said. “I was hoping to come live with you for a while.”

Margaret stepped back. “Oh, our house is so crowded.”

“There’s plenty of room, dear,” Graham assured her.

Thankful wiped a tear away.

“It’ll be all right,” Graham said. “We’ll help you with the baby. Where’s your sweetheart?” He was unable to hide his dislike for the unknown soldier. “We heard he was shot like Buck.”

“Oh, Father!” Thankful cried. “The army can’t keep him!”

“Keep him? What did he do?” Fred asked.

Thankful turned to Buck, who answered for her. “Fahy’s a—well, he’s a decent fellow, but he’ll never walk. He’s injured badly.”

“Thankful, shall we call off the wedding till you’ve had time to reflect?” Margaret suggested.

“Take us to him,” Graham ordered.

The doctor recommended that Buck stay at the infirmary, but he wanted to be with Thankful, so the family tramped off to Captain Markham’s home. Lieutenant Fahy, though officially discharged from the army, was staying with the Markhams until he decided where to take his bride. Mrs. Markham led the way and stopped in the barren front garden. “Thankful, why don’t you go in and see if Mr. Fahy is ready for visitors.”

They all stood, complaining in the heat. Mrs. Markham offered Buck the only cool spot in the yard. He politely refused.

Thankful entered the neat, little home afraid of Fahy’s mood. She tip-toed into the parlor decorated floor to ceiling with Captain Markham’s citations and framed photographs taken on his many military travels. Fahy sat where he’d been put, staring at the soldier’s life he no longer could enjoy. Thankful tapped on the door before entering with a hopeful smile.

“What the hell took you so long?” Fahy yelled.

“My poor thing, I’m sorry,” Thankful said with a kiss. “It’s just Buck was hurt again.”

“Is he dying?”

“No, his face …”

“Damn it, Thankful! I needed you!”

“Please, dear, tell me what’s the matter?”

“Are your parents here?”

“Yes, outside. Don’t be nervous.”

“Shit—the tube—it’s been leaking all the while you were away. There was nothing I could do. Oh, blast it! I can’t go through with this!”

Thankful lifted the blanket covering his urine saturated legs.

“I wish I were dead,” Fahy said.

“Don’t say it!”

“I can say anything I damn well want! That I can still do!”

Thankful wiped his forehead. “I’ll just clean you up.”

The front door opened in the hallway. Mrs. Markham called in, “Everything all set in there? We have eager visitors, so stop your sparking!” Her voice was high and nervous.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Revelations

The Crenshaws followed the men to the camp hospital and waited as Buck sullenly had his face bandaged yet again. Maybe God was punishing him. He’d handled his family all wrong. In a matter of a few hours he had managed to insult his sister, annoy his mother, hurt his father, and fight his brother. What had he really learned?

Thankful, a pile of children, and Mrs. Markham pushed into the crowded room. Thankful’s belly bulged, and in her hurry she had forgotten the handsome blue shawl Mrs. Markham made for her to hide what was nobody’s business.

The family understood her condition right away and huddled in the corner aghast. Thankful pretended not to see them, her face flushing with humiliation. “Poor Buck, you must be in terrible pain.”

Mrs. Markham and her children cried over the patient. “It was the meanest thing the children have ever seen,” Mrs. Markham said, “to have someone hit you when you’re already so sore. Very cruel, indeed!” The captain’s wife glared at Fred.

Margaret took offense. “Whoever you are, you’re in no position to judge my son!”

“I’m the captain’s wife, Mrs. Crenshaw, and I’m in a position to spot an injustice when I see it and to defend dear friends—Buck being one of them. He’s been such a comfort to my husband and me since the death of our daughter—every night reading to us—tracts he thinks might be soothing. The Spirit is working through him—truly.”

“Buck?” Graham asked in astonishment.

“I’ve heard about you western Bible folk,” Margaret said. “You’re crazy and you’ve gotten my son under a spell.”

Kenyon arrived with an Apache scout Buck had befriended over the gospel.

“For heaven’s sake, Buck, what’s happened now?” Kenyon asked, pushing his way past the Crenshaw family.

“I’ve failed, Seth,” Buck said, throwing his hands up in despair. “I’m no use to God or anyone and didn’t turn the other cheek.”

Kenyon saw the bandage. “Well, you should have,” he joked.

“I’ve prayed a lot,” Buck continued, “but still I’m so weak. I hoped to start things new with them, but it’s much harder than I imagined.”

“We talked about this, my friend,” Kenyon said matching his tone to the gravity expressed by Buck. “Sometimes God brings us into the valley to prepare us, to teach us. You’ve been enjoying the summit for a while now—that’s the easy part. But God is working in you. You are already forgiven, remember?”

“What the hell is this?” Fred cried. “God is working in Buck? Is that code or something? What is he, some new savior? This whole thing is scary.” He turned to his parents. “I hope you both see how frightening this is!”

“Fred, be quiet,” Graham said curious and jealous of the intimacy between Buck and this man.

“Buck,” Kenyon said, “remember what the Lord said to Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.’

Buck nodded and continued. Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.”

“Father, he’s been hypnotized!” Fred declared. He pushed Kenyon aside and grabbed Buck’s shoulders. “Get a hold of yourself, boy. Take pleasure in weakness? Are you mad? Are you satisfied being pathetic—the world will tear you apart!”

“It already has,” Buck replied.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”


Featured Image: Mary Turner Austin by John Singer Sargent