The One Feared is the One Revered

hand-mushroom-cloud-blast-explosionI don’t want to be worshipped– I want to terrify. My rival covets worship, but I’ve never been so inclined. You could say between the two of us, I’m the humble one. And between the two of us, I’m the one providing a service: I scare you, don’t I? Scare you into looking before you cross the street, frighten you into taking the boring, bill-paying job, terrify you into aborting those inconsequential cells growing inside you because no way can you handle what’s coming down the pike, my dear. No way. Be reasonable.

What does my rival do for you? …What? He hung the celestial bodies, slapped them spinning… and what’s bedecked His resume since then? Ask the burned-up, disheveled Syrian boy. Ask the refugees. Or the republicans. Ask the four-footed critters or winged creatures whose orb is fracked and fractured and asphalted, whose space is raped. Ask, what has He done for you lately?

I never asked to be worshipped.

But to petrify, that is my game. Humanity thrives on terror. I submit The Exorcist, all things Stephen King, the Autobahn on a rainy day, and Donald Trump any day. Who delivers this exquisite fright? Yours truly. And I never ask for applause. All I ask is you not applaud my rival, not send upward looks and wide-open arms and prayers for deliverance. No one’s coming.

I want to terrify because the one feared is the one revered. The one feared– his fat, itchy finger perches awkwardly on the launch button. Did I mention North Korea in my exhibit list? Terror fuels the world, make no mistake. What scurrying when the alarm sounds, what an economic boon is war! Didn’t your mother tell you she beat you for your own good? I gave her that phrase.

[Submitted to Cracked Flash Fiction contest. As I wrote this entry, I realized my default is not to story, but to essay. The Screwtape Letters is branded deep into my subconscious, and I shift into first person essays without meaning to. What to do about that? Recently I posted about changing my novel to 1st person. I figure I should do what comes naturally while I’m floundering about. Babies don’t run the 4 by 400. When I force myself into a format, the writing screams, “I’m stilted!” Then I hate it. Then I delete it. I’ve collected quite a few rejections from CFF, perhaps because my writing is more aptly described as Cracked Flash Essay. Ha! Well, the wounded warrior pets herself and finds excuses as to why she didn’t get the gold, doesn’t she? Whatever mind games we have to play to get back out there and get rejected again.]




Wormwood Weighs In on Planned Parenthood’s Private Parts

IMG_0063Don’t fool yourself, the Planned Parenthood scandal is dangerous to us in hell. When everyone’s talking about our work, someone will see the artist’s fingerprint. Not in the sense of “There’s a demon,” or “The devil made me do it,” but every expose shines an unwanted floodlight. Just like Planned Parenthood, we in hell hold privacy in high regard.

As a result of your efforts in the Los Angeles judicial circles, not nearly as many of our patients will see the Planned Parenthood videos, but shackling the press may not have been your best move. Under the tutelage of my sagacious uncle, Screwtape, I’ve been making my way up the ranks of hell, and I’ve learned a few things about humanity along the way. You may think you’ve made a keen chess move covering up Planned Parenthood’s private parts, but when the whore dons a habit, suspicion isn’t far behind. I tell you, we do better to deal in the open. To prove my point of brazen-works-best, I used to invoke the example of the relative safety of smoking pot on the White House lawn, but our efforts on that front have been so effective that soon one will be able to have a marijuana picnic on the White House lawn. Relativism, I get high on it alone… but I digress.

Every up-and-coming tempter feels the need to try something fresh and original and over-the-top macabre. That gets you on youtube, for sure, but it doesn’t get your patient tubed, if you pardon my pun. I just love puns. And being funny in general. Nothing does more for our cause than crass humor. If you can get your patients to mock and laugh at righteousness, you can consider them your next meal, burnt as it may be. Again, digressing.

The collateral damage we demons have taken by these images of lilliputian arms and legs, torn apart and scattered on a pie dish or the blitheness of Dr. Nucatola as she describes just the right way to crush a person so as not to waste, cannot be understated. Though you think your efforts with the restraining order are commendable, anyone with a molecule of discernment will see a neon flag barely less obvious than the hastily-sewn fig leaves. Cover ups serve only to scrawl our Father’s name in large letters. A restraining order was the worst move to make and belies your vanity.

If you can’t learn to work in anonymity, you’ll never get anywhere in hell. My advice is to use the subtler brush– delegation. Think about it. The first victory we had was in the garden, inciting that wench to do our work for us, to awaken in her a coveting for a power that wasn’t hers and would make her ours. Now, to her daughters who find themselves in a position to play god with the life growing within them, we give them that same damning power, and they wield it marvelously. They use it and call it a “right.” Makes me want to giggle. This Dr. Nucatola, a great physician if ever there was one, feels justified in desiccating smaller copies of herself, all in the name of scientific progress or Lamborghinis or “breaking even.”

To make the decision on when a person becomes a person has never been ours to make. Or theirs. But what a grand victory to delude them into usurping it… well, we’re sensational, I tell you. Absolute genius. And no resting on our toasty laurels– we’ve got scads of tempters working tirelessly to make sure that the person or faction who calls our spade a spade, is dubbed ignorant, dogmatic, extremist. Oh, I could go on, but you know all our names. Sticks and stones and names, even symbols– all useful to us.

We need to get busy, cleaning up your mess in California.

Warm regards,


An Open Letter (5000 Words Writing Class Assignment)*

Dear Satan,

I was thinking how left out and unappreciated you must feel– no one ever gives you credit for the effort you put in around here, the ghost writer of this broken world.

You’ve built a treadmill and set us to running like so many Frankensteins, piecing together dead parts–an arm here, a leg there, whatever stylish philosophy that tickles or pleases or comes along in our moment of need– we patch them together, hit the defibrillator, and expect our creation to be beautiful. How surprised we are at the thing that wakes and slithers off the laboratory table, as if it’s not the child of our own caprice.

I’ll say this for you: except for that little incident with Job (that didn’t work out so well), you’re no braggart. Perhaps you learned from skins like that to take no credit for your orchestrations, lest the world find out it’s you behind the Frankenstein faith being dispensed to and gobbled up by so many– your great placebo. I’d say it’s your greatest accomplishment since your little trick in the garden. At least you were given credit for that one. But now, is it painful to stand by and watch all your work be dubbed anonymous? 

Incredulously yours,


*I try not to waste an opportunity to use the writing prompts I assign to my students. This session we’re studying Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, so I thought I’d piece him in. An open letter has a recipient, but is meant for a broad audience.  In my experience the open letter prompt draws writers into sarcasm the way a tractor beam draws in Star Wars fighter ships, but some of my students resisted the pull and took it in new directions. Even so, I recommend students write an open letter at some point in their academic careers.  They’re motivated by the bullhorn opportunity it presents, even if the only one reading it is the teacher.

What the Devil? Screwtape Talks Politics


After spending six weeks studying C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters with my 5000 Words class, I feel like I know just what he would say…

My Dear Wormwood,

I am pleased to see you dabbling in politics. As even the most immature tempter knows, the passions that bubble up from the froth of political dissimilarity will produce the most delightful clashes, the deepest schisms in friends and family, the most hell-like states possible on earth. This is a promising field, this political arena. In fact, the entire machine of antithetical visions scrapping incessantly in a purposely created and carefully maintained tug-of-war in order to accomplish the business of governing is so exquisitely ridiculous I wish I had thought of it myself. And don’t worry about your patient seeing the preposterous nature of the status quo. If that happens, we can use even that revelation for our purposes. Consider the highly educated, morally upright (nearly extinct), disgruntled patriot who sees the futility of two choices, neither one perfect, of course. The patient can be made to see the stagnation and brokenness as an evil in itself and can be herded, quite in spite of the fact that he is a thinking man, out of the realm of actual tangible impact and into a harmless philosophical decision. By harmless I mean, to us. Some patients simply can’t be fooled into working for us… they can only be deftly ushered into not working against us. Malaise is the name of the game in hell: get the righteous to step aside or be “above all that” so that—our creeping tide of evil will pass right over the doorstep while the patient doggedly maintains his deeply held conviction about “how things ought to be.”

Your affectionate uncle,


Giving Grief. A Guide

Hell Show

Hell Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t think my loyalties are incongruous with previous directives because I urged you to be generous in your giving.  Gifts have been a part of our modus operandi since our Father’s first victory.     Here’s how it’s done, my fiend.  Give him innumerable little “benign” gadgets with which to fiddle, so he’ll be too busy playing and tuning and typing that awareness of his own mind or body as an apparatus for experiencing life is turned “off.”  If you’re doing your job right, you’ll feel like bloody Santa in no time.    And the hook, the point of all this benevolence, is the removal of your man from the game.   Give him lots of controllers; just don’t ever give him control.  Just because the Enemy came up with gifts in the first place doesn’t mean they can’t be exploited for our purposes.  And I’m not flattering Him with imitation.  His gifts are intangible.  Our gifts are real, and they really cost.  Just think of the destruction we can wreak on a man and his family by furnishing him with a winning lottery ticket.  It gives me goose bumps to think of the scrabbling, the scheming, the treachery a little money can procure.   And that’s where we come in.   We give these “gifts,”  these “windfalls.”  The Enemy’s gifts are “not of this world, ” so He says.    He makes presents of oxymorons  like contentment in poverty or peace in tribulation.   Has anyone ever seen these gifts?