Setting Them Free

A short story of mine is under consideration in its genre for the Tuscany Prize in Catholic Fiction.  I didn't write the story for the prize, but when a friend e-mailed, passing along the information, I thought it might be a good fit for the newborn Catholic press.

Especially as they mention Flannery O'Connor on the home page.  (Ask and you shall receive . . ?)

It's tempting to try to plan and moralize.  I've killed a good many story that way before its even got off the ground.  I think what helped with "The Debt" was that I didn't try to think too much into it.

I wrote the entire rough draft in one sitting (in front of the Eucharist, no less).  Consecutive images came to me and I just put them down as they came.  When I had finished  I had something that kind of made sense, though I couldn't put my finger on why.

Some time has passed since I polished up the final draft, and coming back to the story every now and again, the pieces have started to arrange themselves more clearly, a kaleidoscope falling into place.

It occurs to me that the story is about two attitudes toward debt: that of the teacher, Mrs. Parsons, a rigid Puritan-remnant, who believes salvation must be worked for, that every sin must have a scapegoat; and Sister Ruth, who seems to know that debt is impossible to repay and that embracing this truth--rather than running from it--sets one free.

Or she could just be crazy.

Of course, I'm only the one who wrote it.  And a story, once finished, is kind of like a baby bird leaving the nest.  You may have formed and nurtured  it to the point of preparation, but when it's time for it to lift off on its own two wings, there's no telling where it may fly.

Maybe "The Debt" means something different to somebody else.  That is one of the pleasures and pitfalls of fiction.


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