2018 Mormon Lit Blitz Winners

As always, we owe thanks to all the writers who submitted to this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz and to the many readers who read the finalists, shared them on social media, and cast votes in the contest. This year, we also want to thank the core group of supporters who have pledged a monthly contribution to the Mormon Lit Lab Patreon account: we’ve almost reached the funding goal to add a second contest this fall!

To wrap up this contest, we’ve counted votes and after a historically tight race the top four stories are:

4. “Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March-3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by Mattathias Westwood

3. “Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins

2. “Beneath the Visiting Moon” by Lee Allred


1. “A Perfect Voice” by Katherine Cowley


We’d also like to recognize the winner of this year’s special “Judge’s Choice” Award, chosen by literary scholar and longtime Mormon Literature teacher Kylie Turley: “Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” by William Morris. You can read the complete citation, with honorable mentions of other finalists, here.

We hope many of you will join us this fall/winter for our next contest, with a theme to be selected by patrons of the Mormon Lit Lab, and next spring/summer for the 8th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz.

2018 Mormon Lit Blitz: Judge’s Choice Award

To celebrate the 7th anniversary of the Mormon Lit Blitz, we decided to fund an additional $100 “Judge’s Choice” award, with a winner selected by Kylie Turley, a scholar of Mormon Literary history and a longtime teacher of Mormon Literature classes at Brigham Young University’s Provo campus. Turley’s award selection and citation follows: 

In a set of Mormon Literary Blitz finalists, William Morris’s “Proof that Sister Greeley Is a Witch” stands out. Though all of the finalists developed their works from compelling and dramatic ideas; and some had especially unique diction and used powerfully vivid imagery (“Beneath the Visiting Moon”); while others developed intriguing plots that grabbed the readers’ attentions (“Counsel” and “Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets”) or closed powerfully (“Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together”) or moved through interesting plot twists (“After the Fast”); and yet still others conveyed powerful emotion in a non-sentimental way (“The Last Swing”), Morris was able to do all of those things in his short 10-step list while creating a strong sense of character within an LDS context.

Morris developed his idea in a creative manner: his use of a sort of “top 10” list incorporates both humor and serious moments, uses imagery and sensory description to not only tell a story, but also to develop his character. For example, Heidi’s sense of comedic timing is matched by her clever turn of phrase and wise insights. After listing gradually lengthening numbered reasons why Sister Greeley is strange, Heidi suddenly announces in reason number eight that “Sister Greeley has a wart on the side of her nose.” Heidi claims that she should have told the reader this important detail earlier, “but it seemed rude to point it out right away.” The length of the reason matches the lengths of the first two reasons, which not only supports Heidi’s argument, but also provides an abrupt and pert contrast to the lengthy run-on sentence in reason number seven. By writing in this manner, Morris masterfully reveals Heidi through her diction and thought processes, even as Heidi is revealing Sister Greeley through her astute observations and glib commentary. Despite the brevity required by the contest, readers finish the list understanding Sister Greeley and Heidi. Sister Greeley, from Heidi’s perspective, is a “witch”—but readers understand Heidi well enough by the last sentence to know that this bright and feisty young Mormon girl may not always be saying exactly what she means. Heidi tells us that “she didn’t know exactly what [Sister Greeley] meant” when she insists that Heidi—like her mother–is “one of these sisters” and demands that Heidi promise that she “won’t let them drive [her] away” from the church. Heidi says she doesn’t understand, but she concludes reason number ten with a series of shrewd contradictory statements that let readers know she understands exactly what is going on: Heidi tells readers that she is now sure that Sister Greeley is a “Mormon witch,” even though “Mormons don’t believe in witches” and she, Heidi, just promised Sister Greeley to remain in the church and to be “one of those sisters”—thus promising to be a “Mormon witch” herself. William Morris’s “Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” is well worth the few minutes it takes to read it. And who knows? Readers may discover a few LDS witches in their own wards now that they have read Heidi’s observations. Hopefully Morris will provide Heidi’s next list, so readers know what to do with the Sister Greeleys of the world—but, if he does not, I’d suggest Heidi’s approach: Brigham tea and a nice chat (reason #10).

One more thing: if readers run out of things to chat about with their Sister Greeley, I’d recommend reading and discussing “Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” and “Beneath the Visiting Moon.” If they have a bit more time, they could include “Counsel” and “After the Fast” or “The Last Swing” and “Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets” and “Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”—although the reader and his or her Sister Greeley might find that the best idea is to read all the finalists and set up a weekly discussion about LDS authors and LDS writing.

2018 Mormon Lit Blitz Voting Instructions–and Some Exciting News

It’s that time of year again–just a week left to choose the winner of the Mormon Lit Blitz!

Voting Instructions

As per tradition, the audience chooses our annual Mormon Lit Blitz winner. To vote, look through the pieces, choose your favorite four, and email their titles (rather than author to avoid confusion) in ranked order to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com.

Voting is open from Monday, June 11th until the end of the day on Saturday, June 16th. The winner of the $100 Grand Prize will be announced on Monday, June 18th. For the first time, an additional $100 Judge’s Choice Award will be announced that same day.

The twelve finalists are:

Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins
Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets” by Lehua Parker
A Perfect Voice” by Katherine Cowley
New Rhythm” by Tanya Hanamaikai
Counsel” by Faith Kershisnik
After the Fast” by William Morris
Beneath the Visiting Moon” by Lee Allred
Still Clean” by Sherry Work
Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” by Wm Morris
The Last Swing” by Sheldon Lawrence
Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” by Eric Jepson
Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March-3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch” by Mattathias Westwood

Again: in order to be counted, votes must contain a ranking of the reader’s four favorite pieces, listed by title or keyword from title, and must be emailed to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com by the end of the day Saturday, June 16th. Voters should have at least skimmed all twelve pieces. We also welcome comments and feedback on the contest in vote emails.

Our Exciting News

We have loved this year’s contest. Every year, it’s a little hard to say goodbye as the contest draws to a close: this year, it’s been doubly so because the author Q&As left us so impressed with the people devoting their creative energy to Mormon Lit–and excited about the possibilities they envisioned.
So we’ve decided not to say the same year-long goodbye we typically do. After careful consideration, we’ve decided to start a new organization called the Mormon Lit Lab. The idea is to bring a core of Mormon Lit enthusiasts together to enroll as regular supporters of a Patreon fundraising page and then use our shared literary war chest for more contests, events, publications, and so on.

If you’re interested in seeing more contests like the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories or the Meeting of the Myths Contest, in attending a Writers’ Retreat like our 2013 event in Heber, Utah, in seeing an anthology of past Mormon Lit finalists and selected semi-finalists, or generally helping to advance the cause of Mormon Literature along the lines of this contest, we hope you’ll give the Patreon page a look and consider contributing.

“Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March-3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by Mattathias Westwood

Dear President Sudhakar,

Our key indicators for the week are 30 new investigators, 55 member-present lessons, 6 investigators who attended sacrament meeting, 1 investigator with a baptismal date. Zion Emmanuel is progressing but says he couldn’t afford the bus fare to make it to the chapel this week. I have asked Brother Dilip to pick him up next Sunday.

As you already know, our proselyting efforts this week were complicated by Elder Dnyaneshwar’s abrupt departure by train in the middle of the night on Thursday. I awoke to see his bed empty and his desk and cupboard cleared, and soon received a text message alerting me that he had arrived safely home to Visakhapatnam, and that I should not try to convince him to return.

I am sure you are wondering what led to this sudden action, and I have been wondering the same over these past four days. Of course, I should have noticed the signs. He had been even more homesick than usual for the past month, frequently mentioning his mother’s cooking and memories of his college friends. The work has been difficult here for so long, and the branch had been frustrated with him ever since his outburst at the member missionary fireside.  With the upcoming election, he has been easily distracted by talk of politics. And any of his former companions will tell you that he could be moody and argumentative.

But I thought things were changing. We have redoubled our efforts, and you know that it is only due to Elder Dnyaneshwar’s persistence that I considered tracting in Bharatiya Colony, where we have had most of our recent success. I am ashamed to admit that I was fearful of the crowds of beggars by the rail station there, and I did not think anyone in the mud-spattered shanties under the elevated highway would be interested in our message.

It was Elder Dnyaneshwar who reminded me that the Savior himself had nowhere to lay his head, and that he was followed by crowds of people who yearned for daily bread as well as the bread of life. And with Rajbabu and Shanti, Isaac Sion and Ammamma, I saw how mistaken I had been. They have been filled with joy since the first day we shared the Plan of Salvation with Shanti at the auto stand. Shekar, Jhansi and their sons have pasted a picture of the Temple on the crossbar above their door and have begun collecting rupees in a jar with the hope of going as a family someday. And ever since Elder Dnyaneshwar challenged Naveen to prepare for a mission, he has been spending almost the full day with us, though he is still frustrated we will not let him take us to our appointments by motorbike.

So it came as a surprise when I awoke to an empty apartment after a day in which we had 16 member-present lessons to eager families and youth throughout the shanty-town, led by Naveen and Shekar’s 6-year old, Prakash. I had thought Elder Dnyaneshwar was relaxed and joking because he was finally starting to be comfortable here, not because he had decided to leave.

Some of the elders in the Zone will no doubt say he was always disobedient and rebellious, insisting on teaching in his own way and ignoring the counsel of his leaders. And given how he replied to the branch president’s suggestion that we were running faster than we had strength by teaching so many, or by teaching in the Colony at all, I understand why they think so. He was certainly a strong-willed missionary.

But perhaps it was simply that he saw what we could not. In a nation of 1.3 billion people, struggling in poverty, and unaware of their divine birthright, he knew the urgency of our call. We serve in a city of 21 million, 12 million of whom do not know where their next meal is coming from, in a branch of 300 members of record, 76 of whom attended sacrament meeting the week we arrived. If we alone carry the everlasting gospel and true hope of salvation, the balm for all the world’s ills, what are our efforts here but a drop in this ocean of suffering and need? The savior said the harvest was great and the laborers few, but if we truly recognized how great a burden lay upon us in this land, how could any of us stand?

Yours Faithfully,

Elder Arjun


A Q&A about this story with Mattathias Westwood is available here

“Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” by Eric Jepson

You never used to sleep this late,
motes of sun dancing above your
face. The years pull your eyes
toward your pillow. Your smile
has become permanent, even in sleep.
I like to trace the lines, each a testament
of God’s surprises, less frequent now.
Now, God gives you time to stand out
by the fence and watch
the few dozen members of your
obscure order plow and seed and reap.
He seems to have little to say.
He has become a nodding God,
satisfied with another harvest. But
are you satisfied? Ten thousand acres
outside Palmyra is more than your father
dreamed of; and as your children’s children
and your nephews’ children and the children
of Knights and Whitmers are born and marry
and work the land, as our Joseph
sits in the Assembly: we know the Lord
has kept his word and made us safe
as I had asked you to ask him to promise us
(once, twice, three times), but you—
you still miss (will always miss) the running
danger of our youth, our near escapes and
passionate celebration. But your
God gave us this corner and gifted us
with happiness and, Oh! Joseph!, as I run
my fingers across your every line,
I see the paths we’ve taken, while
you, in quiet moments, you, in the dark of night,
you, I know, see paths we did not take, paths
God held back—for himself?—for
another?—for ever?

Emma, Emma, you
are enough for me.


A Q&A about this poem with Eric Jepson is available here. 

“The Last Swing” by Sheldon Lawrence

At some point you will take your last swing from our arms as you walk between us on that gravel road, when you wiggle in and take each of our hands, and say one two threeeee as we lift you forward, your knees bent, squealing with delight, before our strength gives out, lowering you down, to start again, taking great leaps, flying almost, or like walking on the moon where one effortless step carries you twelve feet.

The time will come when we will say you are getting too big, too tall, or that we are too tired, or that mom and dad are talking now. Or you will just move on to different pleasures of the path, and never think again to ask. At some point there will be a last one, a last time. If we knew it, the occasion would deserve some kind of ceremony, some recognition that this is the last swing ever, and maybe we would even shed a tear, or feel gratitude that such moments were ours, that swinging from suspended arms is one of the many things life is about. But instead, when the last one comes, none of us will know it. We will release our sweaty palms, and you will skip away, and we will keep walking, talking, believing that nothing important just happened.


A Q&A about this essay with Sheldon Lawrence is available here

“Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” by William Morris

  1. Sister Greeley’s first name is Agnes. Agnes is a witch’s name. No woman named Agnes has ever not been a witch.
  2. Sister Greeley doesn’t wear a pointy hat, but she always wears a gray shawl on her head and shoulders. Even in summer. Even when it’s 90 degrees out with no cloud cover.
  3. Sister Greely rarely laughs, but when she does, it’s… Well, it’s this high-pitched “ah-ha-ha-hah” followed by snorting that while not exactly a cackle is cackle-like.
  4. When people in the ward get sick, she shows up at their doorsteps with weird smelling poultices, creams, and teas. Even when people make a point of not telling her they are sick, she still shows up. Everyone usually thanks her and then tosses the stuff out after she leaves, but Sue Ann says her mom actually uses them and claims they work about 3/4 of the time. Of course, Sue Ann’s mom doesn’t let her eat anything with refined sugar in it.
  5. She owns a cat. His name is Harold. He is a very large white cat with very green eyes. I know witches normally have black cats, but maybe things are different for Mormon witches (even though Mormons don’t believe in witches). Not only that, but this cat follows her everywhere. Even to Church. Except he doesn’t come into the building (which might also be proof she is a witch).
  6. One time when we were kids, Sue Ann, Mark, and I were playing Harriet the Spy (I was Harriet, Mark was Sport, Sue Ann was Janie), and we spied on Sister Greeley while she was working in her herb garden, and we overheard her tell Harold to go catch her a grasshopper, and what do you know, but the darn thing went and caught one of those flying ones with bright yellow wings and brought it to her, and she buried it next to her horsemint plants.
  7. Okay, this one is just hearsay so grain of salt and all that, but Mark’s older sister Tiffany told me she heard that one time there was this sister (who has since moved away) who started bleeding and was losing her baby to miscarriage, and all the brethren were at a stake priesthood meeting, and somehow Sister Greeley found out, and she went over and anointed her with oil—on her stomach, not on her head—and gave her a blessing except she talked about the power of Eve and Esther and Mary and Sariah and Abish and told her that she was to be like Hannah and offer this baby to the Lord, but that her next one would be for her, and she did lose that baby and was super sad about it, but then she got pregnant again and had a healthy baby and was happy again.
  8. Sister Greeley has a wart on the side of her nose. That probably should have been an earlier item, but it seemed rude to point it out right away.
  9. Mark says that one time they horsing around outside at church, and Chris tried to pet Harold, but Harold hissed at him, and Chris said you’re a mean cat and your owner is an ugly wart face, and later that week he got, like, seven warts on the bottoms of his feet. Mark says that’s probably just because he skips showers after PE, but I don’t know about that.
  10. Sister Greeley invited me to her house for tea and cookies last week. I didn’t want to go, but my mom said it was a great honor, and that I should go. So I did. Her house didn’t look that different inside than any other old lady’s house. We sat at the end of the table in her dining room that wasn’t piled with quilting supplies and drank Brigham tea from porcelain cups. I didn’t like it at first, but then Sister Greeley put two more sugar cubes in mine and added some half and half, and after that I didn’t mind it so much. We talked about the normal stuff kids talk about with old people: school, church, weather, the Utah Jazz. Then Sister Greeley asked me how my mother was. I said she was fine. Sister Greeley noted that my mom had been a rock for Sister Hansen when her husband ran off to Reno with a waitress. I agreed. Sister Greeley said she knew a long time ago that Brother Hansen was going to be trouble, but the Bishop hadn’t listened to her. I said something about the Bishop being a very busy man. Sister Greeley nodded and said there are some things the brethren of the priesthood just can’t understand. And there are often things they just can’t do. That there are things they shouldn’t even try to do. She said some sisters try to ignore that fact and that only leads to more trouble. But other sisters were different. There was hope for some sisters. My mom was one of these sisters. I just nodded. Then Sister Greeley reached out and grabbed my hand. Her grip was firm but gentle. Her skin papery and cool. She said, I hope you’re going to be one of those sisters, Heidi. She said, the Church needs us. The priesthood might not know it, but they do, and you must promise me you won’t let them drive you away. Can you promise me that, Heidi? All I could do was nod. I didn’t exactly know what she meant. But that was the last bit of proof I needed to know that Sister Greeley is a witch. A Mormon witch. I know Mormons don’t believe in witches, and I don’t know for sure if I can keep that promise. But I’m planning to.


A Q&A with Wm Morris about this story is here

“Still Clean” by Sherry Work

A cleansing ritual
Pure water flows
Living water washes me
Clean every whit.

My heart is soothed
My spirit soars
At one with my Lord
Changed and renewed.

Daughter of the oath
Watched by my King.
“Come, Bathsheba.”
Oh you knew, you knew.

Wife and then widow
A mother in Israel
Would God I’d died for him,
Not my sin, but yours.


A Q&A about this poem with Sherry Work is available here

“Beneath the Visiting Moon” by Lee Allred

I woke to repeated hammering at my front door. I staggered through from my bedroom wearing nothing but a tattered pair of Army sweatpants and a three-day beard.

Dawn’s early light revealed a living room right out of an episode of Hoarders. Amazing how much garbage can collect on the floor in so short a time. A kick sent an empty plastic milk jug skittering across the floor, bouncing across the detritus of meals I didn’t remember eating. My bare foot squelched on the blood-soaked pad of a plastic hamburger tray. Clumps of raw meat still stuck to the torn-open cling wrap, sour and reeking. Meat wrappers made up most the garbage on the floor.

The pounding on my front door grew more insistent.

“Brother Lawrence,” called a muffled voice outside the door. “Are you there? Are you okay?”

My home teacher, Brother Knowles.

“Coming,” I mumbled, still zonked from my meds. Rows of plastic pill jars from the VA sat on the scratched-up counter of my breakfast nook. Daily maintenance pills and the pills the size of horse tranquillizers I take on my bad days.

I’d taken two last night.

I grabbed a key ring off the wall peg and began unlocking my front door. I fumble about trying to put key to lock, my hands clumsy with sleep and meds.

Each deadbolt I threw back sounded like the shot of a hunter’s rifle. All four of them.

The chatty locksmith who installed the locks and the reinforced steel-core door thought I must be a prepper. The high deserts of Eastern Oregon are full of them and there I was a new move-in buying an old farmhouse miles away from anyone else. Then he saw my Iraqi vet hat on the sofa, added two and two, and finished the job in complete silence.

All those movies about us, I guess. There’ve been a lot of them.

The movies are wrong, of course. Those of us who’ve returned, those of us who returned other than who and what we were when we left, we’re not Hollywood’s vicious killing machines. We just want be left alone, to live alone.

But human beings cannot live alone.

Not and stay human.

And I’d learned I wanted to be human.

I opened the door.

Night sky had brightened to a colorless grey. Stars had faded from few. The moon, though, still hung ghostly white on the horizon, just beginning to wane gibbous, the barest of slivers missing. “Visiting moon,” Brother Knowles once said. Something from a line in Shakespeare, he said.

Blue-black morning stubble on his chin, Brother Knowles stood on my porch in his rumpled Oregon Ducks t-shirt and Old Navy cargo shorts.

Shorts. I used to wear shorts. Only wear long pants now. Legs too scarred up, a real horror show. Went my entire rotation patrolling the narrow streets of Baghdad without a scratch. My last week, I get mauled half to death by a pack of feral dogs.

Mauled more than my legs. Mauled my old life to death.

Brother Bellamy’s Ford pickup sat parked in my driveway. Clattering diesel engine idling so the cab will stay heated. High desert nights are cold. Blue-grey diesel exhaust puffs upwards.

Brother Bellamy lay slumped over the steering wheel, asleep. They’d slept the night parked there in the truck, the same as they do every time I know I’m going to have a bad night.

They park there in case I ever did get it into my head during a bad night to unlock my door and go do something stupid, they’d be the first thing I’d see. They’d be there to talk me down.

“You okay?” The concern in Brother Knowles’ voice as real as the concern in his eyes. One human being to another.

Human being.

“I should be okay now,” I said, talking to my feet because I can’t look him in the eye. “Thanks.”

He asked if there’s anything else they can do for me. As if they hadn’t done enough. A mechanic at the Ford dealership in town, Brother Bellamy would be dead on his feet all day. Brother Knowles works on the country road crew, he wouldn’t be much better.

And yet they came back time after time, month after month to sleep cramped all night in a pickup cab. For me.

I’d cried exactly once since Iraq, once in all the hospitals, the counselling sessions, the long lonely hours of the pitch black nights.

It was on their third visit, after I knew the difference they made in my life. They’d asked, just like now, if there was anything else they could do. I cried in frustration with my inability to express just how much they’d done for me already.

The VA and all their programs and fancy doctors gave me the means and the meds to cope. What they couldn’t give was a reason why I should.

These two men have.

They have given me back my humanity.

After muttered thanks and a brief prayer, they drive away. I watched their truck trundle down the long dirt road back into town, framed by the last fading glimpse of the pale, pale moon hanging on the horizon.

Somewhere among the Ponderosa pines behind my house, a wolf put back his head and cried, calling out to all his brothers to join him in the wild.

Instead, I turned and went back in my house. I got out a broom and mop and began to clean up the sorry mess I’d made of things.

Because that’s what human beings do.


A Q&A about this story with Lee Allred is available here

“After the Fast” by William Morris

The problem with fasting forty days and forty nights is that he had, once again, forgotten how to eat.

He had been on individual assignment this time. There was so much need in the world now he and his companions often split up. This one had not been so hard. He had helped a lonely, sad woman pass peacefully into a death he would never know. But it had required much fasting and prayer. For all her loneliness and pain, she had clung fiercely onto a life that while full of disappointments was at least a life she was accustomed to.

She was needed on the other side. He knew it. She knew it. But she still wouldn’t let go. And when she finally did, he found that he no longer had an appetite. He had forgotten how to eat.

Not that he and his two companions needed to eat. Not exactly. Their nourishment came solely through the spirit. Light equals intelligence equals truth equals power equals a full belly (or rather: equals sufficient energy and nutrients for their cells to go about their work). But while their bodies technically needed no additional sustenance–stuck as they were between mortality and immortality–the ability to eat was still crucial for them to magnify their callings.

For one, the power of the fast was useless without some sort of privation and whatever celestial physics and chemistry governed the feeding of their post-translation state was impossible to dampen or turn off. Not even, say, withdrawing to a place with no sunlight. Or immersing oneself in the depths of the sea. Thus, the only way for them to fast was to eat—eat well—and then stop eating.

For another, if they didn’t eat, they had trouble focusing on their work. It was as if physical nourishment was necessary not to the functioning of their bodily systems, but rather to the psychological conditions required to keep them tethered to this reality (as opposed to that other reality they felt coursing through their veins but that otherwise was just out of reach). Without eating, without regularly partaking in meals they lost their purpose. They felt the sins of the world as irritants rather than sorrows. They saw the suffering of others as something inevitable and intractable rather than something to be coaxed towards hope and faith.

To fast was to draw with strength upon the powers of heaven and direct them toward a particular purpose or cause; to eat was to connect deeply with the mortality they had left behind centuries before.

For him, the easiest way to remember was to have a particular dish that jolted him back into the desire for the experience of eating. A poached egg with sourdough toast and mushrooms fried in butter from this one café in Noe Valley. Canned tamales. A pomegranate molasses that had just the right amount of sugar to cut the bracing sour and that hadn’t been available since before the first world war. But the danger of such particularity, of course, is that if you’re not careful, it becomes a habit, and then that brand changes its formula or the restaurant loses its chef or an ingredient becomes impossible to get.

He started with fast food. It was not as reliable as it once had been, but sometimes it still worked. When the order was ready, he found he just couldn’t do it. He tried various fine dining establishments—concealed himself so he could watch the dishes be cooked and served. But nothing appealed to him. It all seemed too great and spacious. He wandered the aisles of an upmarket grocery store in a daze, eyes sliding off of every item with no stirring of desire—not even the hope for the particle of a desire.

He needed to leave the city. That was all. Someplace new would bring him back. Someplace not so wretchedly hot. He rented a car. Drove a little too erratic and fast. Drunk (so-to-speak) on his fast. Had to talk a highway patrol officer out of giving him a ticket.

Without knowing how, he found himself pulling into the driveway of the house belonging to the woman he had wrestled with lo, these many weeks.

Breaking in was not difficult. Being there was, especially with the air conditioning turned off. He sought the coolness of the basement. Studied the swollen metal cans, the barrels of hard wheat, the packs of freeze-dried strawberries gone gummy with the years. He opened up one of the barrels and thrust his hand into the kernels of wheat. They were hard and cool. Slightly musty, but not moldy.

He thought of some of his travels behind the Iron Curtain. A certain notion developed. He decided to pursue it.

He went back upstairs. Found a pan. Took it to the basement and scooped several cups of wheat into it. Filled it with water. Boiled the wheat until it bloated—soft but still chewy. He added the contents of a box of dark, crystallized raisins he found in the pantry. Added a cup of sugar for good measure and a lot of cinnamon. Poured it all into the olive wood bowl he had washed a month earlier after tossing the fruit that had been molding in it.

He set the largest of her doilies on the dining room table and placed the bowl on top of it. He had no cocoa powder, so he made the cross on top with a chocolate syrup so dark it was almost black. He stepped back and looked over his creation. It was not the most presentable colivă he had ever made, and certainly not the usual offering for a tough old Mormon woman who had died. But it was suitable. He looked at it for a while longer before coming to a decision: he had never died, but he could eat food for the dead.

He strolled to the kitchen in search of a clean spoon.


A Q&A about this story with William Morris is available here