Last of the Faithful

by Electra Hunzeker

In Which Paul, the Lonely Boy, Makes Friends
He calls them his sisters, but the two little dead girls are actually his great-aunts, the twins who died among the vomit and filth of steerage while his grandfather survived. He’d been playing near the chapel when his ball rolled into the graveyard and came to rest at their simple tombstone. They awoke and greeted him. Fascinated by this motherless boy fashioned from grief and burdens, the girls made solemn promises to be his playmate.

In Which Paul’s Grandparents Use Laying on of Hands to Deliver
When the demon bursts from Paul’s little-boy body, it is a glass pigeon that falls to the tile floor and shatters. After the grandparents have gone, he lies in bed weeping, waiting for his ghost-sisters to crawl out from under the bed. Together they will sweep up the shards.

In Which Paul Comes of Age
Every few days Paul puts on snowshoes and glides over the frozen lake. He is accompanied by his childhood playmates, the sisters whose souls were stolen while they lay still as dolls in their cradle. Paul is less boy than man now, and he should probably give up this fancy. Paul should become a trucker like his father, and escape the oppressive religion of his grandparents. When Paul gets home, he sets the pigeons free from their cages. He waits for them to fly away. They don’t.

In Which Paul’s Grandparents, Fanatics that They Are, Devise A Plan
When the resort closes, most people leave. The only smoke comes from Paul’s grandparents’ chimney. Paul sits by the fireplace with his homeschool textbook. He watches the blizzard through the frosty window. His grandparents are excited. They have decided to burn down what they consider the ultimate symbol of evil. They show Paul a picture. It is an old Catholic church—one which has a reputation for miracles—and Paul is supposed to be repulsed. He feels comforted by this adobe building with its taboo depictions of saints on the interior walls. He wants to be in the church when his grandparents light the match.

Electra Hunzeker lives, writes, studies, teaches, edits, & eats green chile in the Land of Enchantment.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Last of the Faithful”?

    I tend to write long. This means I have one finished novel draft & many drafts-in-progress. I originally imagined Paul’s story to be a novel. I changed it to a short story & brought it to a writing group; it seemed to be missing something. Then my mentor introduced me to microfiction. I’d already written some flash fiction, & it occurred to me that maybe my story wasn’t missing anything at all. Maybe it had too much. So, I distilled it into its basic story and came up with what some might call a collection of microstories & others might call a flash fiction in chapters. The process was exciting & makes me eager to experiment on some more of my longer stories.
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