Stonework is published by Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college located in New York’s rural Genesee Valley. Stonework seeks a diverse mix of mature and emerging voices in fellowship with the evangelical tradition. Published twice a year, the journal reflects the arts community at Houghton College where excellence in music, writing, and the visual arts has long been a distinctive.

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  • Issue 6
    Poetry by Paul Willis and Thom Satterlee. Fiction and interview with Lori Huth. Essay by James Wardwell, and student poets from Christian campuses.
  • Issue 5
    Poetry by Susanna Childress and Debra Rienstra. Fiction excerpt by Emilie Griffin. Art from Houghton's 2007 presidential inauguration and a forum on women writing.
  • Issue 4
    Matthew Roth--new poems. Diane Glancy--from One of Us and an interview. John Tatter-on gardens and poetry. The Landscapes of John Rhett. Stephen Woolsey--on the poetry of Jack Clemo. James Wardwell--on Herrick.
  • Issue 3
    Poetry by Julia Kasdorf, Robert Siegel and Sandra Duguid. Fiction by Tom Noyes. The portraits of Alieen Ortlip Shea. An anthology of Australian Poets
  • Issue 2
    Thom Satterlee - Poems from Burning Wycliff with an appreciation by David Perkins. Alison Gresik - new fiction and an interview. James Zoller - Poems from Living on the Floodplain.
  • Issue 1
    Luci Shaw — new poems with an appreciation by Eugene H. Peterson & Hugh Cook — new fiction and an interview

Monday, May 05, 2008

Excerpt from the novel Reckless Belief

“I told you Granny, didn’t I,” Catie said, back at the kitchen table, “that there’s a healing service in March? Not at my church, but, like, this other one over in Urbandale. Pastor Dittweiller says, prayer works. In the Bible, it says you can move mountains. ‘Ask and you shall receive’ it says”

“Catie, stop. There’s no cure for Parkinson’s.”

“But you haven’t even tried. I’ve heard – .”

“You can’t always be trying to fix up the world, bring back the dead. You just do the best you can. And when you can’t do that….” Some tomato sauce dribbled out my mouth and down my chin. I wiped it off with a dish towel. “When you can’t do that, you go on.”

“But I’ve heard some amazing stories.” She lifted her bare foot over her knee and scratched the bottom of it with a table fork. “There was this one woman with Multiple Sclerosis. For years it just kept getting worse. And then after the healing service, she had a revelation from an angel, saying she didn’t have MS. So she convinced her doctor to do more tests, and it turns out she doesn’t have MS. She has a brain tumor!”

“What kind of healing is that?”

“The kind you can operate on. They took it out, and now she’s cured! Did you ever go that Parkinson’s support group dad told you about?”



“Everyone was so – sick.” It made me feel too much like them. They kept talking about how they’d found out they were sick, wondering what had caused it.

Was it that time I went swimming on vacation in Minnesota, in that creek where there were dead fish then later a big fish kill nearby? Was it all my life around farm chemicals? Was it too little sunblock? Too much sunblock? Should we have had our water tested more often? Did I eat the wrong thing? Plastics in the microwave? Was it the cleaning products I used, not plain concoctions of vinegar and bleach, like my mother, but modern convenience products with chemicals and pungent smells?

We scour our memories for anomalous moments where we might have been exposed to something unusual, or common moments when we were exposed to something the consequences of which we hadn’t really thought about. Not only us, but our daughters. My daughters who walked with me down the soybean rows, no gloves, squirting Round-up, inhaling its fumes across the winds. My girls, teenagers, who weren’t as careful maybe as they should have been with those chemicals but who I didn’t bother to chide.

Like Sandy, the daughter I lost, who tried to fix the Round-up tank when it clogged out in the south field by herself, a fourteen year-old sent alone with a plastic vat of poison across the farm to learn the value of labor. In attempting these repairs, she accidentally opened and tipped the vat so that she immersed, she soaked herself in poison. Even then, before we had adequate warnings about how to use the chemicals and what do to in case of accidents, my daughter knew that soaking in them probably wasn’t a good thing and came straight home, leaving the bean buggy in the field, to hose herself down at the old well and then take a long hot shower. And later I yelled at her. For having left the equipment in the field for so long while she took a shower. I thought she was just being a vain and fussy girl.

It had seemed the height of indulgence for her to soak herself in so much water, the height of histrionics to dump all her clothes, including her sneakers, in front of the washing machine as if she expected me to wash them, which of course I was the mother so why wouldn’t she expect that, but I was in stage of wanting the girls to do more for themselves, maybe even more for me, hadn’t I taken care of them for so long, cooking and cleaning and chauffeuring them around, and weren’t they getting old enough now to drive (Sandy had just got her school permit), to cook, to wash their own poison-soaked clothes?

She walked a mile and half from the south field to the house with poisons soaking in her skin, stopping to pull a patch of cockleburs and button weeds on the way. And then I shouted at her for taking a too-long shower. Herbicides and maternal fury, the recipe for cancer.

Was it the food I fed her? The vacations we took? The camps I let her attend? The clothes I let her wear – I read now they say that the plastics in elastics, in women’s undergarments, could cause breast cancer. That every woman should wash new undergarments before wearing them to dispel the toxins. Well I never knew, never washed my girls’ underwear before they wore them.

Now Catie thinks she can undo what’s already been done, with praying to angels and faith-inspired healing. She wants me to pray to Saint Raphael for healing. She’s not even Catholic, I’m not even Catholic, and she wants me to pray to a Saint. Ex-Presbyterians just don’t do that. She can’t bring her mother back, so I don’t know what she thinks she can do for me. She says that God would heal me, that she’ll pray with me if I want. But I’ve just about been prayed out in this life. The prayers I concocted when Sandy was sick, I tell you, they were doosies. Help her. Heal her. Make me sick instead of her. Give her at lest a few more years so she can watch her daughter grow. Take away her pain. Take away my pain. Give me peace. At least, for God’s sake, give me some peace.

None of which were answered, I might add. Not a single one.

There should be a word for people who still believe in God but think he’s a mean-spirited, irresponsible misanthrope.