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Saturday Scribblings: “Conviction”

So here’s the thing:

I’ve had quite a few ideas of late, and many of them are not quite whole novels (or even novellas). They are, quite often, vignettes, and while I certainly appreciate these glimpses into other universes provided me by the monkeys who dwell in the basement of my brain, I find that my idea journal is starting to look like the sort of notebook one finds in a survival horror game. (“Look at these rantings! She must’ve been truly demented. Now, let’s collect eight creepy teddy bears for some reason.”)

In an effort to combat the accumulation of tiny ideas left inchoate (my previous ideas about collecting them into a cohesive whole being stymied by my innate inability to cram a square peg into a diamond-shaped hole*), I have decided that I should A) write in this blog more often than, say, once every ten years and B) use these ideas as leaping-off points for larger ones, since some of my longer pieces have involved characters who just appeared in my head, whole-cloth, in moments of random lassitude. In order to do so, I have resolved (cue laughter) to write a short piece every weekend. It might be fiction, it might be an essay, it might be a poem. The point is, it will be something, and it will use one of the random ideas/vignettes to create it. You, my loyal hordelings, are welcome to offer your thoughts, either in this space or on El Feisbuk or even Twitter, although I don’t visit Twitter as often as I used to do (I sometimes wonder what made me think I was capable of saying ANYTHING in 140 characters). I’ve come to rely on Facebook as my main posting space, and I think that’s hurt me as a writer, both because my Facebook page is even more informal than this ramshackle collection of Claire’s brain-squeezins and because anything I post there is competing with LOLCats and posts begging for a million likes so some little girl can get her new pony out of prison to go to chemotherapy with an XBox. 

The point is, I’ve got to clear this logjam so the big stuff can get through, and this blog isn’t exactly turning a profit if I leave it to sit empty.

So, uh, here:


In the beginning, it seems like a good idea. “I need a change,” you tell yourself, and while this is true, a distinct lack of thorough contemplation about what drives your desires has left you wide open to regarding any change—new haircut, new girlfriend, new Designer Impostors ® scented mirror-thingy for the beat-up Nova you tell everyone you’re “restoring”—as a good one. And so you allow yourself to be hustled into a waiting cab by your overly-enthusiastic friend (the one who’s done this a thousand times already, and just loves it, and oh, my GOD, can you believe you’re FINALLY going to do it, and aren’t you glad you let her talk you into this? You are, aren’t you? Oh, my GOD!), and driven down to the Center for Religious Alignment and Perspectives, where you meet with a nice gentleman in a moderately-priced suit over expensive pastries and cheap coffee. The lobby (or is it a vestibule? Is it a foyer? Or is that just theaters? Why doesn’t anybody ever label things?) is tastefully appointed; the palest of pastels add visual interest to the otherwise stark white and chrome of the foyer/lobby/possible vestibule. The ornamental fig trees, lacking (to your knowledge) religious conviction of any stripe, strain toward the florescent lights with naked ambition.

Having selected a fat cinnamon roll and stifled the urge to hiss in dismay at the indifferent brew accompanying it, you settle into the plush, squeaky leather chairs and try to act as though you always eat hubcap-sized pastries without the benefit of a napkin. Suppressing his horror, the man will explain that what they do is, at its core, extremely scientific. It is a painless procedure, quite affordable, and (oh ye of little faith) completely reversible, should the subject (the man tilts his head toward you and raises one Old-Testament eyebrow significantly) change her mind later. But that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Changing one’s mind? One’s heart? Exploring the options available so that one may—if the man may be so bold—determine with clarity one’s place in the great machinery of the cosmos. Best of all, you only need to come in for refresher treatments once a week, and the whole facility runs on donations, so you’ll only be expected to give what you feel is appropriate.

At this point, you are tempted to leave, because, c’mon, who does this guy think he’s kidding? But your friend, sensing your resistance through some nigh-telepathic empathy (or perhaps observing your eyes rolling heavenward), puts a hand on your arm and says, gently, “We just want you to be happy, babe.”

Happy. Now there’s a notion. You think back to one of your college professors (a fiery iconoclast of the old school who’d somehow managed to infiltrate the bland, beige world of your Uni) who dismissed all emotions—love, hate, happiness, grief—as biochemical ephemera. Emotions are states, inherently transitory. Nobody’s happy all, or even most, of the time, you suspect. And that’s a good thing, because how else could you apprec-

“Hon? Are you ready? C’mon, it only takes a minute.” Your friend’s smile is very wide, and mostly convincing. She’s certainly seemed happier since she started coming here. No, not happy. Something else, something you can’t quite –

“Invest in yourself, miss. The first step is always the hardest.” Your friend and the poster boy for Men’s Warehouse are standing, now, hands extended toward you. Beyond them, past the rapacious fig trees, is a corridor labeled “Procedures.” The lights behind the doors are very bright.

Having finished your cinnamon roll, you see little reason to remain in the lobby (this is almost certainly a lobby. Probably.)  You rise with a sigh, hoping that whatever underpaid, overworked member of the cleaning staff will forgive you for the small mountain of crumbs and powdered sugar left in your wake, and follow your companions toward the light.

As you approach the door, you stop, apprehensive. “Doctor, will this really make me happy?” Your friend is staring, unblinking, into the lights. Her fixed gaze gives her a look both beatific and slightly poleaxed, like a poorly-painted Madonna.

The man (who is not, in any real sense, a doctor), turns to regard you. His fatherly grip tightens ever so slightly on your bicep as his eyes search yours. After a moment, he says, “It will make you…certain.” His smile does not quite reach his eyes. “And for most people, we find, that’s almost always good enough.”

And in the end, you find, it is.



*Just think about it for a second. There you go.

Published inAmericaBlogIll-conceived schemesrelationshipsReligionShort Fiction


  1. I think I like. I think I really do. And now I want a pastry. Damn you.

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