Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 6

I can’t believe there are 8 fucking chapters in this thing. Jeez, teenage!me, couldn’t you like, cut the fat? Or add in stuff that was more interesting?

I did go through a phase in my early 20s where I tried to edit this to make it more readable, because even at the age of 21 I realized this was bad. Unfortunately it never did end up getting revised because it was just too bad. I couldn’t read it for too long.

The usual disclaimer:

This was written by me in my sophomore year of Academy. I want to go back in time and shoot myself to keep me from writing this, but since that’s not how time travel works, we can move on.

The chapter opens with Mrs. Gladstone handing Holly an envelope with the results of the visit to the gynecologist. Because those totally get mailed to your house in envelopes…. Holly has no STDs, praise the Lord, yay.

Holly and Aralyn do some homework, and Mrs. Gladstone relents and brings Holly some vegan crap to eat, because she finally understands that you can’t just take a bunch of SDA children and expect them to start eating pork bacon right away.

Teenage!me thought that there was no way Mrs. Gladstone would know Holly was pregnant, but doesn’t that sort of thing get revealed to foster mothers? Maybe Mrs. Gladstone is realizing that Holly’s eating habits are going to damage the unborn baby and that if she doesn’t give in, Holly’s child will be severely malnourished.

Actually, I don’t know what was going through teenage!me’s head when she wrote this. Maybe she wanted to move the story along, maybe she didn’t want too horrible of an apocalypse, I don’t know.

As they do chores, Holly and Aralyn have time to talk. Holly gets Aralyn to open up about her experiences.

“My parents were captured on a raid the government did on our town.” she says, “they took me because for one thing, I haven’t been baptized so I’m not technically a member, and I guess because they thought I was young enough that I could be taught.”

I think the real!Aralyn would have actually been 13 at this point. I can’t remember if I decided she was actually 12 for narrative convenience, or if I decided to go with her real life age. I’m not sure if teenage!me ever intended to show real!Aralyn this story. Real!Aralyn hadn’t had the chance to be baptized yet, so if I were to have shown this story to her, that would’ve worked.

Actually, I think the story suffers a little from me trying to include too many characters, because I had a lot of friends I wanted to include in the story. We already see that Tori is mostly offscreen. I bet you didn’t even remember who Tori is, do you? See, exactly. The first thing 20!year old me wanted to do is take out half the characters.

Holly asks Aralyn what she does on Sabbath, and she says she hides up in her room reading the Bible if Mrs. Gladstone lets her, but on Sundays she has to go to Sunday School with the rest of the children.

She looks at me mournfully, “Holly, your not adventist are you?”

I think about just not answering that. I don’t want to spill my guts to a 12 year old, but on the other hand, I can’t lie.

“Actually, I am.”

So, Aralyn is 12. Why did I even have the bit about her being spared because she’s not baptized when she would’ve been spared anyway because she’s under 13?

Also, the line about spilling my guts to a 12 year old? No, there’s no way in heck I was ever planning for real!Aralyn to read this. That line is in there because, at 16, I was burned out on having friends who were more than a year younger than I was. They just seemed so full of stupid girly drama, and if there’s one thing I’ve never done well, it’s drama.

So Holly tells Aralyn her life story, “in a nutshell.” And this part is interesting, because it gives me insight into the way I thought I grew up.

 I was born into an adventist family, lived an adventist life without really knowing God, then, I went through a time where I was really spiritual and close to God, then for some reason I won’t mention now, I left the church for a few years, during which I got high, arrested, not to mention pregnant…..”

Ignore the high, arrested, and pregnant part. Other than that, when I was 16, this was my “testimony.” But the trouble is, I only thought I didn’t know God because people around me said that if I had, I’d have seen things differently. When I read the Old Testament, for example, I would not have seen a monster if I’d truly known God and who He was.

The problem was that I had read the Bible. And frankly, the God of the Old Testament? He seemed like an asshole. The God of the New Testament? Not much better. So I would read the Old Testament stories where he killed everyone, and the New Testament verses about wives submitting to their husbands, and then I would come to school and hear all about how loving God is. It just confused me.

When I was a freshman in Academy, I realized, to my horror, that I had never loved Jesus.

So I set out to love Jesus, and in doing so, realized he was even more of an asshole than I thought. Reading the Bible was supposed to help me love him, but it ended up having the opposite effect.

This is where the trouble with religion started. I still believed in Jesus and wanted to be a Christian, but I just couldn’t. I was supposed to love and worship that?

When you look at it this way, it is no wonder teenage!me seems to have had a fascination with Satanism. When you look at how awful the God of the Bible is, you really start to wonder if his worst enemy, Satan, is really all that horrible as is claimed.

In any case, that was what Teenge!me was really thinking when she wrote this. Teenage!me thought the problem in her life was a lack of God. Teenage!me didn’t realize that maybe God was the problem.

Holly chickens out and tells Aralyn she was totes kidding about that whole pregnancy thing, and I don’t know why. Is Holly hoping Jesus will come and the world will end before her pregnancy starts showing?

Actually, that is a possibility here, so nevermind.

Holly and Aralyn feed some of the smaller children, then let them out for exercise.

“So… where are we going this Sunday?” I ask her.

“Nowhere.”

“what?”

“Holly, I don’t wanna go to jail.”

“Do you wanna go to hell?”

“No, but–”

“Thats the thing,” I tell her, “Its either jail now and heaven later, or heaven now and hell later.” I sigh, “Its your choice Aralyn, but I have already chosen.”

Teenage!me thought this was so clever when she came up with it.

The next day, my stomach is bulging out a little more. I scream quietly, trying not to wake Aralyn. Oh no! I’m starting to show! Now what? I’m about 5 months along… I’m amazed I haven’t already started showing.

Hold up a sec. A few days ago, you were 5 weeks pregnant. How did 5 weeks become 5 months?

Time is fluid in this story. It does not exist in absolutes. I could make up some bullshit about how Adventists believe that the second coming will mess with the very fabric of space and time…. but no, this is just lazy writing. Bad teenage!me, bad!

Holly finds some maternity clothes in one of her eleventy billion suitcases, with a note from her mom saying she loves her. This makes Holly cry, and she wonders where her mom is now.

And then we get this godawful scene. Because everyone knows that non Christians always make 16 year olds abort their babies, no matter how far along they are in the pregnancy. Teenage!me had read a little about abortion, but not much. Teenage!me was unaware that, after the 5 month mark, it would be way too late for an abortion unless the life of the mother was in danger.

Teenage!me thought Godless heathens scheduled their abortions like her mom scheduled dentist appointments.

Aralyn doesn’t seem to notice I’m bigger, I don’t believe she’s very familiar with teenage pregnancy. But Mrs. Gladstone is. She pulls me aside.

“I’ll take you to the doctor later today for an abortion.”

“No!” I protest strongly. She coils back, “this is my baby that God has given to me, and I am going to have it.”

She glares at me, “It would be better for you.” she says slowly, “and your baby, if you would just abort now.” she stares me down for a while. I stare right back at her. The rest of the kids stare back at both of us. Luckyily, Aralyn is still upstairs in the bathroom brushing her hair. Slowly Mrs. Gladstone saunters away.

Well, now that the whole house knows I’m pregnant! I grab my backpack and walk out the door to wait for the bus. I’m not very hungry anyway.

This is just…. bad….. in like, every imaginable way….. Also, apparently teenage!me wasn’t worried about little things like misspelled words. Or it could be that this was an early draft that hadn’t had those corrected, I can’t recall.

In any case, I lost some sympathy for Mrs. Gladstone. She should’ve known better than to announce Holly’s pregnancy to the whole house like that.

Mrs. Gladstone, btw, is the only character in this story besides Matt without a real life counterpart. She is, therefore, my first real attempt at writing characters. So of course she’s a wildly inconsistent cardboard cutout who seems to have no personality.

Holly is scared of going to school, because she doesn’t want anyone to know she is pregnant. Even though the Lord reassures her that she saw a lot of pregnant teenagers at school yesterday, so Holly would actually fit right in.

What? Oh my GOD. Did Teenage!me think every other high schooler was pregnant? Teenage!me didn’t know shit.

I walk into the school, intending to just get through the day without talking to anyone or making any trouble. But Tall-girl-with-the-blonde-hair has other ideas.

TGWTBH is creepy. Incredibly over the top inexplicably creepy. Out of all the people who read this, including at least one grown up, no one thought to pull me aside and ask me if I thought this was normal.

But then, they were probably expecting TGWTBH to turn out to be my guardian angel. Spoiler alert, she’s not.

TGWTBH tells Holly she doesn’t care if she’s pregnant, she still wants to be friends. After that, Holly feels a lot better about things. No one else matters, right?

Then we get this scene, and I think teenage!me may have listened to way too many horror stories about public high school.

A group of kids with dyed hair beat Holly up, and Holly is worried about her baby, and why isn’t God helping her, and then TGWTBH is there. She tries to distract the bullies so Holly can get away, but Holly is either too injured or too stupid to do so, and then we get this godawful cringe worthy scene:

Suddenly, they all stop what there doing and start staring at something. Tall-girl and I look around at what their staring at, but we don’t see anything. The girls start trembling, then purple hair yells out, “Run!” the other girls don’t hesitate to obey her order. They run the other direction, through the hallway, down the stairs, and their gone.

Holly asks TGWTBH what the hell just happened, and TGWTBH shrugs and says “must be our guardian angels.” Who didn’t step in before Holly got kicked in the uterus because….?

After that, Tall girl walks with me to all my classes, making sure nothing happens to me. I’m scared. I hope the baby is ok. I should probably go to a doctor and get a sonogram.

How did your mother not make you do that immediately after you found out you were pregnant? That is more important than STD testing dammit.

And I get that TGWTBH is supposed to be looking out for Holly, and walking her to classes wouldn’t bother me if that’s the only thing TGWTBH was doing…. but combined with everything else, this just looks creepy.

Holly goes throughout the week, scared pretty much all the time, wondering how on earth she’s going to keep the Sabbath. Finally, on Friday afternoon, TGWTBH whispers to Holly that she’ll pick her up Saturday morning. There’s a meeting, apparently.

Holly and Tall-Girl talk about whether or not they’ll go to church on Sunday is well. Holly is worried because, unlike Tall-Girl, she doesn’t have much of a choice. Holly is 16, and 16 year olds get dragged to church against their will all the time. Tall-Girl is 18, and in Holly’s mind, that means Tall-Girl is free to do whatever the fuck she wants.

Teenage!me didn’t know that most 18 year olds still live with their parents and have to abide by their rules, and this is particularly true of 18 year olds who are still in high school.

TGWTBH points out that if she is caught going to church, she’ll be in just as much trouble as Holly. If they get caught, they are all going to jail. Holly agrees to try and sneak out, and Tall-Girl tells Holly she’ll pick her up.

That night, Holly slips upstairs while the others are watching a movie (movies are not Sabbath appropriate activities, unless you’re watching VeggieTales.) and pours out her heart to God as she reads her Bible.

Oh God! I’m not so worried about church on Saturday, as I am about sneaking out on Sunday! Its easy to sneak out of an Adventist church when no one will be watching, but in this church, there are probably going to be people taking attendance making sure no one will leave during the service! I’m so scared I’m crying. I brush the tears away.

 Aside from the entire plot point being silly, this is a real fear that someone might have. Holly would be terrified of the death penalty, but she’s also terrified of hell.

It’s no wonder she’s having panic attacks.

God doesn’t reply to Holly in words, but we do get this. This is cringe worthy. In teenage!me’s defense, this is something that is very difficult to describe.

A peace washes over me; a peace that I’ve felt but almost forgotten. A peace that I cannot describe. And even if I could, I wouldn’t, because almost before I can think about it, I am asleep.

The next morning, Holly dresses for church and sneaks out. On the way out, however, she hears one of the little kids crying. She comes in and tries to talk to the little girl.

“My mom! My dad! They took them! They killed them! I saw them! I saw them killed!” she chokes out. I gasp. This kid’s gone though more than I have! Poor kid! I gather her into my arms. “I want my mommy!” she gasps.

“Kid,” I say softly, “I can’t bring your mommy back from the dead.” she cries harder.

But.” I say, “there is someone who can. And he will, at the resurrection.” the kid sniffles.

“Will he take me?”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

She sobs, “I can’t go to church on Saturday, they make me go on Sunday, I don’t want to go, I try to run away, but….” she starts sobbing harder, “do you think he still loves me?”

Keep in mind that, being raised Adventist, this 8 year old little girl would have grown up hearing all about the end times. This little girl would have grown up hearing all about what happened to people who accepted the mark of the beast. This poor 8 year old child would’ve had nightmares all her short little life about exactly this thing. Now that she is living it, now that she is being forced to take the mark, she is terrified that this means she is doomed to hell.

The Adventist pastors I talked to all seemed to think that going to church on Sunday vs Saturday was a choice. They were ignoring the fact that, as children, often we did not have a choice. A 16 year old might be able to sneak out, but what about the little 8 year olds who knew the truth but were powerless to obey? Nobody ever addressed this, and teenage!me felt that this was a serious omission. So she brought it up and addressed it.

Holly’s reassurance is teenage!me’s reassurance. It’s clunky, but it’s genuine, and it portrays a much kinder picture of God than some Adventists would believe, so I am inclined to give it a bit of a pass:

“Of course he loves you!” I whisper fiercely, “God never stops loving anyone, even the most wickedest people in the whole world. Theres no question weather he loves you. As for heaven….” the girl looks up at me and trembles. “I’m sure God understands its not your fault. He loves you, and he wants to be in heaven. Ask him to give you reassurance that he loves you and wants you to be with him.” she nods. Silently, I pray with her, then ease her back down into bed and tuck her in. Then tiptoe out of the room, through the kitchen, the dining room, out the door, and into Tall-Girl’s waiting car.

As they ride to the “church,” Holly reads the book of Revelation, saying she has “memed” it. The verb “mem” is short for “memorized.”

We were not the sharpest crayons in the box.

Soon Tall-Girl pulls up to a small, brown house. She gets out of the car, dropping her wallet. Without thinking, I scoop it up and slip it into my coat pocket. I redden with shame.

Why did I do that?

Tall-Girl doesn’t even notice.

Let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on here. One of teenage!me’s pet peeves about conversion stories is that, once converted, people immediately seem to become perfect Christians. Teenage!me did not want that to happen to Holly. Teenage!me wanted to portray someone who still struggled with her past sins, who still screwed up sometimes.

Teenage!me didn’t really know if the idea that we will have to be sinless after the close of probation and stand before God without a mediator was Biblical. She didn’t think that fit with a loving God, so she didn’t feel a need to make Holly a perfect person just because end times.

Holly makes mistakes. Holly still sins. But Holly is still able to be saved, because she does belong to Jesus. She eventually repents, learns from her mistake, and moves on.

Holly is not saved because she is sinless after the close of probation. Holly is saved because she claims the blood of Christ covers her sins. And God saw that it was good.

We walk up to the door. [Tall-Girl] knocks out a certain rhythm. A woman answers the door, eyes darting around nervously, “what took you so long?” Tall-Girl and I walk into the house. “never mind, come in, wait, who’s this?”

The woman, naturally, is suspicious. Of course she is, her very life is on the line. For all she knows, Tall-Girl could be bringing in a traitor. What’s a little less inexplicable is how quickly she accepts Holly.

But of course she does. Mrs. Soucie is actually the pastor’s wife, whom I befriended my sophomore year. I can’t honestly remember if I ever gave her a copy of this story or not.

The meeting isn’t like a normal church service. there are more testimonies, more singing, bible readings, and no one preaches a sermon. And it lasts for hours. Pretty soon, I need to go to the bathroom, but I say nothing. From time to time I check my watch nervously, wondering when Mrs. Gladstone and her crew will wake up and discover my absence. Finally, after the last song ended, Mrs. Soucie says, “I think we’d better wrap it up, the less time we take here, the better.” I nod in agreement. We all join hands for a closing prayer, then ascend the stairs quietly. There is no visiting, as there would have been normally. Everyone exits as quickly as possible.

The less time we take here, the better, but we’re still going to make this last for hours. How many hours exactly? Um, time is fluid in the last days?

As Tall-Girl takes Holly home, Tall-Girl’s wallet falls out of Holly’s pocket. They have a fight about it, Tall-Girl slaps her, and Holly cries as she runs toward the house. She realizes eventually that this is not the smartest plan, as she had to sneak out that morning.

Note that Tall-Girl is also allowed to be upset. The characters in this book aren’t well written, but they’re allowed to be real people. Or at least, as real as teenage!me could manage.

Holly sneaks back into the bedroom without waking up Aralyn, reads her Bible, and cries over how guilty she feels.

God this is just so bad. How the hell are there 2 more chapters? This is just so depressing. I don’t even want to edit this, because that means rereading it. Gah.

 

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