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The Thin Places, short story collection, magical realism, contemporary fantasy, spiritual fiction, literary fiction, literary fantasy

Okay, I’m getting ready to dive back into the last round of edits on my novel-in-progress, Music of Sacred Lakes, so I’ll leave you with this third and final short story from the collection I’m working on called The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen, a book all about portals between the natural and spiritual worlds, time juxtapositions, dreams, and the possibilities of the might-be-real. I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be back sometime soon to let you know when this next novel will be out, and then I’ve got a really fabulous imaginative novel and another very strange one to work on while editing up my OTHER novel-in-progress before year’s end…. So you can see why I haven’t been blogging much. :) Many blessings in the meantime.

Mustard Seed

“Anyone with the tiniest amount of faith can move a mountain,” Sandy’s Sunday school teacher told him with a snort. “You see it every day.”

“You do?” Sandy couldn’t seem to stop pressing the issue.

Mr. Snother turned a dark eye on him. “You do,” he said, hands on hips.

“Where?” Sandy had to ask. Why couldn’t he shut his mouth? All the other kids were staring.

His teacher paused. “Jesus said it, so it’s true,” he replied. “Why don’t you try it and see? Do you have any faith, or do you just ask questions?”

Sandy’s cheeks were burning. Here he was, the preacher’s kid, challenging his own Sunday school teacher on something he had been told all his life not to question.

But faith like a mustard seed? Surely he had that much, and yet he hadn’t been able to do anything with it. Like when Davey had died from cancer. Didn’t they all pray for him? Didn’t they have any faith at all? Faith like a mustard seed was so small, but what good was it if it couldn’t save Davey?

Sandy crossed his arms on his chest. “Mr. Snother,” he said.

Mr. Snother raised his eyebrows and squinted at him.

“I believe I do have the faith of a mustard seed,” Sandy said in a cracking voice. He cursed his adolescence under his breath. “I will attempt to move a mountain,” he said. “That one there.”
He pointed outside the window toward Mr. Snother’s house, which stood right at the base of the foothills.

“That one,” Mr. Snothers scoffed. “Maybe you overreach yourself, Sandy.”

He paused. “No, you know what?” he said, raising his voice. “I dare you. I do dare you to prove to me that you have any faith at all.”

Mr. Snothers smirked at Sandy, and Sandy was tempted to punch him in his jaw. But he was right. If Sandy couldn’t move a mountain like the Good Book said, then maybe his faith—and the faith of all those elders who couldn’t save Davey—was good for nothing.

Sandy went home. His house was just down the street from Mr. Snother’s, so he had a full view of the steep rise into the rocky hills. He stood in his front yard for a while, and then he went back inside.
Sandy rummaged in the cedar chest in his bedroom for his measuring tape. Finding it, he went across the street, and he measured one inch between the mountain and Mr. Snother’s picket fence.

That would be his goal. One inch.

Sandy went home and sat on his bed. He began to pray.

The next day, Sandy went out and checked Mr. Snother’s fence. The mountain hadn’t moved—or had it? He had thought the measuring tape had recorded exactly one inch between the base of the hill and the bottom of the fence, but now it was slightly less. He measured it again and wrote down his measurement in pencil on the bottom of the fence.

He stood up to look at the mountain. It stretched up above his head thousands of feet in undulating peaks and valleys, but always climbing, climbing up to the very snowy peak. Sandy realized he had no choice. He stretched out his hand and reached up toward the peak of the mountain.

“Move,” he said.

Then he put his hand on the base of the mountain and spoke to its heart. “Move,” he said.

Sandy felt nothing but a strange exhilaration. It couldn’t possibly work, but that would prove something else entirely than Mr. Snother thought, wouldn’t it?

He turned to look at Mr. Snother’s house, and he jumped.

Mr. Snother was standing at his patio door, arms crossed, looking at Sandy. He wasn’t frowning now, but he wasn’t smiling either. Maybe he knew what this experiment was really about.

Then again, maybe not. Mr. Snother turned and drew the blinds over the glass, and he disappeared into the depths of his house.

Sandy prayed again. And he prayed the next day, and the next. After a month, he worked up his courage to measure the mountain again.

Sandy stretched the tape measure between the fence and the mountain, but he could already see that something was different. He did it again, and then again in the slightly larger gap between the mountain and the middle of the fence. But there was no denying it. The mountain had moved an inch and was touching the bottom of Mr. Snother’s fence.

An earthquake, maybe? Sandy thought of all the possible expAnnations. Landslide, a bit of erosion. Many things could explain this. But he couldn’t stop now.

Sandy started to keep a schedule. He came at the same time every day after school or after his homework was done on the weekends, to measure and to say to the mountain, “Move.”

His goal had been an inch, but now he saw the fallacy in that. And maybe that was all the Scripture was about anyway. Anyone could move anything an inch with their prayers if they allowed for natural forces to assist them.

He began to work out all the ways Davey could have lived. What would it have proved? Maybe nothing. It was the lack of healing that proved something, wasn’t it?

Then again, maybe not.

Sandy remeasured in two weeks this time, sure that something was happening. The fence was beginning to bend, with the hill pushed right up against it. He brought some paint to mark the original length of the fence, and he wrote down the full length of the fence in his notebook he was now keeping. How could he be sure the yard wasn’t moving, too? How could he know the sun wasn’t moving? It was all getting a bit complicated.

The mountain had moved five inches.

Surely that was notable, Sandy thought. Surely that…. But, no. It still wasn’t enough. His faith was now driving him to something he had barely dared admit he was thinking when Mr. Snother challenged him that Sunday morning.

What he really wanted was to bury Mr. Snother’s house.

Sandy kept coming every day, reaching his hand up to the peak of the mountain, then placing it on the belly of the beast, and speaking to the heart of the mountain. He invoked the only name Mr. Snother would have approved of, if he approved of this showmanship at all.

But the mountain was on Sandy’s side. It moved one foot into Mr. Snother’s yard, uprooted the edge of his raised vegetable garden, and then started plowing under the sod of his neatly mowed yard.

Mr. Snother had to have noticed that. There had been no notices to the neighborhood of any seismic activity. Sandy began measuring the neighbors’ fences as well.

The mountain was only moving into Mr. Snother’s yard.

Sandy began to enjoy himself again. In Sunday school, he answered all Mr. Snother’s questions first, and as correctly and respectfully as he could, wondering if the man went home and smashed holes in his walls. He looked that angry.

The mountain moved up to the porch behind the house in just one week after Easter—a fact Sandy noted but decided not to press into Mr. Snother’s awareness. He knew he could see the mountain getting closer and closer to his house. Maybe he even watched it nights out the patio doors, with the lights off and the moon shining down on Sandy’s miracle.

Sandy’s friends were joining soccer teams now, but he was obsessed with one thing. He came home every afternoon, dropped his books on the living room floor, and headed across the street to do the daily measurements. He was keeping a spreadsheet, with a variety of details that seemed to need keeping track of.

One day, the mountain moved under the back patio and sat poised right at the edge of Mr. Snother’s foundation.

This day, Sandy measured nothing. He could see that where Mr. Snother had once had a thirty-foot back yard, now he had nothing but a sheer wall of rock to look out on from his kitchen window. Sandy wondered what this proved to him.

It was no longer an experiment of faith, and they both knew it.

Sandy stood in the side yard beyond Mr. Snother’s mangled fence pile and watched the mountain creep ever closer to the back wall. Maybe when it touched the door Sandy would stop. Maybe he had already proved himself. Maybe he didn’t need to prove anything at all. He stayed until sunset, and remained in the same spot until the moon came up over the houses across the street.

Sandy heard a noise in the night. Mr. Snother was sliding open his patio door, with only room for his head to peek out. He stared at Sandy in the moonlight.

So this was it.

Sandy looked at the house he hated. He looked at the man he despised, whose mere existence wracked his body with pain. He missed Davey so much.

He looked at the mountain just inches from Mr. Snother’s hateful head shining in the starlight. And he looked down at his own hands. He knew the only way out.

Sandy walked up to the edge of the mountain. He put his hand on it. And he said to the mountain, “Move, the other way.”

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