Below is a short piece of a larger fictional story. It is roughly inspired by this piece, which I suppose could serve as a treatment for where I’m going here. I’m not sure how often I’ll update this, but I think I’m onto something. I’m trying not to push too hard story-wise; I don’t want a major earth-shattering event every post, as that would make the story less interesting. I also want people to read these entries, so I’m trying not to make them too long. As such, they may end in slightly unnatural places, but, hey, I’m typing all this on an iPhone, one finger-poke at a time.
Pennington County Sheriff Paul Keillor had grown up on the shores of Lake Ayers. His grandfather was a Lutheran minister, who had come into the northern Minnesota wilderness as most outsiders did: running from something. No one in the family was quite clear what exactly. A gambling debt? An pregnant teenager (and her father’s shotgun)? The law? All that could be ascertained was that he arrived alone and never discussed the time Before.
In 1912, the Reverend Stieg Keillor began preaching outside the Harrelson Sawmill at shift changes. In time, he attracted a small congregation, which began meeting in living rooms, but by 1920 had grown and saved enough to buy property and begin construction of St. Anthony’s Lutheran Church just outside of Thief River Falls. Two years later, the good reverend had married and was expecting his first child, Lars.
Lars was headstrong and rebellious from birth. According to family legend, he was delivered by cesarean after refusing to come out the standard way. They said he had wedged his tiny arms above his head, gripping the vaginal walls of his etherized mother with as much force as could be mustered, batting away the forceps when they intruded.
As a boy, Lars was not interested in baseball and hockey the way his peers were. He preferred playing the piano. His mother was initially supportive of this, and she paid for lessons, but she became distressed when he began to fill her parlor with raucous Negro jazz music. Eventually, she sold the piano to discourage him. He continued his lessons in a more hospitable place–Hamlet’s Tavern, a dive so shady that the question was not whether a bar fight was to be, but rather how not to be maimed during one.
Being nine and small for his age, Lars was easily able to find safe hiding spots until the brawls passed. After a while, he learned to just keep playing the piano. No one wanted the music to stop, and combatants would contort themselves to avoid disrupting the boy as his small fingers made improbable runs up and down the keys.
Shortly after Lars turned 18, the Japanese incinerated 2,000 Americans at Pearl Harbor. None of his classmates could wait to get their hands on the dirty yellow bastards, and they lined up outside the recruiting station in Thief River Falls, talking about killing and revenge and hate. Lars had been shaken by Pearl Harbor. It had not enraged him; it terrified him. He thought of sailors trying to escape from sinking ships, swimming in oil-covered water, flames melting their skin away. Lars wanted to run from this, not toward it. He did not volunteer, and, when the draft came, he registered as a conscientious objector. He spent the duration of the war in Connecticut, mopping floors and scrubbing bedpans in a military hospital. His family was ashamed. Their neighbors became Gold Star parents, while their boy cleaned up the real heroes’ piss.
Reverend Keillor did not disown his eldest son over his cowardice, but there was one thing he could not abide. After the war, just as the community began to settle back down into routine, Lars became a Unitarian. The congregation at St. Anthony’s was shocked and appalled. Some longtime members were so outraged over the minister’s parental failure that they staged an unsuccessful attempt to remove the Reverend, fearing that he could not possibly hope to deliver them to salvation if he allowed his own child to run headlong into hell. When Lars refused to listen to reason and return to the bosom of the Triune God, Stieg revised his will and never spoke to his son again. Because of this, Paul did not see his grandfather until he was twelve years old.