Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Missionary" a short story

Greetings friends –

I first wrote this short story, anticipating that it would be a full novel, but the first major episode seemed self-sufficient, and until I am ready to write the rest, I will follow the advice of a friend who said it works well as a short story. It is mostly autobiographical, based on things that happened to me, but rearranged for a different character, much abbreviated, and simplified. Nevertheless, I think its more subtle than it appears: the young innocent Christian boy grows up a bit.

Daniel Christopher June







The Missionary



          Aton intently scanned the classroom, but with a distance, like the September sun, visible yet remote. Not the sun, but the earth had grown cold, and, having grown cold, it masked the sky in grey. The students were chatting, everybody with their neighbor, cell-phones, enthusiasm, the buzzing noise of life, for the teacher had not yet arrived. It was the last time Aton looked at the room; he hardly even looked at the teacher. When class started, he wrote notes, considered the notes, and felt, as he walked out through a crowd of hurried students, that college would be like high school: he would know nobody, but then, he would not be known.

          And so the semester progressed: he accumulated notes, digested notes, thoroughly systemized his notes, and was himself digested, surrounded in a cloud, draped in grey, as if he had fallen from the sky and now walked the streets in a singular fog.

          He had his guitar, he had his books, he had his thoughts.

          But as he read his Bible and read about the church body being the ‘Bride of Christ,’ he remembered the mega-church of his hometown, and how he hadn’t heard a sermon in months. In privacy he had discovered many truths in the Bible. He wanted to discuss them with others. In his solitude he had written hymns to God. He wanted to share them with friends. Joining the youth group was the thing to do.


          “Christ washed the feet of his disciples and told them to do likewise. Now the world cannot understand this. It can’t process this. If you’re the head guy, if you’re the ruler, you get your feet washed. You say, ‘write a memo,’ and your secretary writes it. You say, ‘get this done by Friday,’ and they do it. Well that’s because the world doesn’t quite get Jesus. Oh, just about everybody will say, ‘Jesus was a great spiritual teacher,’ but isn’t it easy to say what a great teacher somebody is and yet ignore everything he has to say? How good could his teachings be if nobody follows what he says? It’s as if all he taught people was to say, “Gee, what a great teacher!”

          “Jesus also said, ‘they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’ He said that the ones who would follow him must be as children. Children do not pray to impress each other, they pray because they want God to hear them. Ask an adult about what he has done wrong, and he will have a hundred excuses, but ask a child what he has done wrong, and he can say exactly what. It is written all over his face. Jesus was saying something here that would make all the hypocrites say, “Oh what a great teacher!” but for those with ears, well that’s a whole other matter. With those who get it, well they know what a treasure they have here, they will sell all they have to keep it.

          “Jesus said the greatest of you will be a servant to all. A servant to all! Not a grumbling servant, not a servant who says, ‘oh look at me, nobody gives me credit, look how hard I work!’ but a humble servant. Nobody even knows that he is there, yet they feel happy, and can’t tell why. That’s how you know. Everybody around you is happy, and they thank themselves, but the servant knows they should be thanking God.”

          It wasn’t news. None of the sermons were. As always, and since his youth, the messages were the same. But that was what sermons were for. They reminded you of what you had learned. They brought you back to the same truths till you got it. And today Aton felt as if he did get it, in a way he hadn’t before. It wasn’t fun to be separate. It wasn’t fun to always be alone, wondering why nobody liked you, why you didn’t fit in. You had to serve. And if you served enough, God would reward you, would draw other servants near you. You would never be honored, but among those like you, you would be recognized, and this was much better than being honored. To be seen for what you are, to be really seen—that would be something.


          After the evening service came dinner. The suggested donation was two dollars, which was hardly anything. But Aton didn’t have much spending cash, and what he did have he had left at home. He decided to eat in his dorm and not take from the church.

          “You’re going to eat with us, right?” It was a tall, handsome student, with a cheery voice.

          “Sure,” said Aton.

          “I’m John. You’re new to this church aren’t you? But you live in the Hubbard dorm. So do I. I thought I recognized you.”

          “I’m Aton,” he responded. “This is a good church then?”

          “The pastor has a strong heart for Christ. He isn’t afraid to say what Jesus was really about. Our youth group has over a hundred students, and the worship is awesome. I play the guitar with the team.”

          “I play the guitar too.”

          “We’ll have to play sometime. I have a calc exam in the morning, so I can’t tonight, but you should look me up next weekend. I’m in 7b.”


          John joined a group of his friends in the line for dinner, while Aton held back. He considered the group. They seemed happy. They were so talkative, and everybody was smiling.

          After they waited in line, they sat down for dinner—it was roast beef and potatoes. The pastor led them in prayer, and then he asked, “Who will volunteer to clean up and do dishes afterwards?”

          Nobody raised a hand. The pastor looked over the crowd, and frowned. Finally Aton stuck up his hand, embarrassed.

          “Thank you, Mrs. Brunswick appreciates your help.”

          Aton had gotten his food last, so he sat by a group of older congregants who were already deep in a conversation, though Aton didn’t quite catch what it was about. He slipped his blue Bible from his pocket and read:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

          After dinner, he collected up the used plates with Mrs. Brunswick, who turned out to be a wise-eyed woman of about 45. They made small talk while washing the dishes:

          “So what are you studying at State?”

          “Psychiatry,” said Aton.

          “Ah, going to figure us all out?” she asked.

          “I want to be able to give a person the meds they need to feel normal.”

          “What is normal?” she asked, and then excused herself to sweep the halls.


          So it went for a few weeks. Aton never got around to meeting up with John, who invited him over a few times for Bible Study. But every Sunday evening Aton went to the services, and after every meal he volunteered to help clean up.

          On the fourth week, Mrs. Brunswick exclaimed, “You again! You must have some serious guilt.”

          “I like to help,” said Aton.

          But the next week, after the service, when the pastor asked for help cleaning up, Aton kept his hand down.

          “Will anybody help clean up afterwards?”

          Nobody said anything.

          “This is deeply disappointing from a group of those who call themselves 'Christians,'” the pastor said.

          Aton slipped in the kitchen and helped up afterwards. He didn’t know that he had decided this yet, but he would never again stay after service for dinner or clean up. He felt humiliated.


          The next week, a youth pastor was the guest speaker. He was a dark, severe man, handsome and angular, with intense eyes.

          “The worst sins are the sins against the body. Paul says this. All other sins are outside the body, but the sexual perversion is against the body. When I was very young, I don’t know what made me do it, but after my dad had left the room, the devil told me, stick you hand under the mattress, and I did. And my dad had sinned and now I had sinned, and those things I saw in that magazine would change me forever. The devil is sick, and he likes to make us sick as early as possible.

          “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I confronted my dad on this, and told him he had sinned against me by bringing that into the house. And he cried. And he asked for my forgiveness, and I forgave him.

          “When I was just a teenager, my cousin was older, and he did things with me, and had me do things. And I didn’t know what I was doing, but I felt it was wrong, and I was ashamed, but I wouldn’t tell anybody, I just kept it secret. And then I started to want to do those things. And I sinned against my friends, and brought them into it.

          “God is angry when we sin, but he is sad too. He knows that we are hurting ourselves. We ought not to do those things. What is good for the body? What is good is marriage! But the devil wants to pervert those things. He pretends that he is doing what’s natural, having pleasure, but those things are not natural, and they make us more ashamed, more broken and sad, than ever we were before.

          “How many of you can look at things on the internet, and pretend that it is okay with God? Can you imagine Jesus sitting alone in the dark looking at pornography at night?”

          After the sermon, everybody seemed in good cheer, and as happy as ever. Aton felt sick in his heart. He ducked out and went home to study.

          The next week he had a test to study for, and after that the semester was getting pretty thick, so it was a while before he would go back to church.


          As the semester progressed, he studied more. But he was interested in reading the Bible better, so he bought a book on “How to read the Bible.” This book, in turn, recommended other books on how to read the bible, how to read ancient literature, how to read books in general, how to read intelligently. Soon he was reading all the time, from morning to night, and he spent most of his time in the library. Study seemed less important now, and he stopped going to chemistry class, only showing up for tests, but nevertheless managed to pass them. The campus library was eight floors high and he would wander from section to section, checking out the authors with names he recognized, and writing down everything interesting in his notebooks.

          When he came home late at night he did feel lonely. Incredibly.

          He decided to configure his computer to get online. Internet, after all, was free at the university. In a few hours he had it figured out.

He had only been on the internet a few times before, but he learned enough to get by.

          He didn’t know where to go or what to do. He typed in the names of his favorite authors, and followed those links around, and read some articles. He spent hours on it, and explored the internet until morning.

          The next day, class was difficult. He had trouble caring. He couldn’t wait to get home that night. He didn’t stop at the library.

          At 2 a.m. in the morning, he suddenly had a thought. Did they really put bad images on the internet? Well he could see what it was about and then just stop.

          He typed in the word “Porn,” into the search engine. The very names of the pages that came up blushed his cheeks and sent his heart racing. He turned the computer off.

          But in an hour, he got back on. This time, he searched for a chat room. After he had figured out how it worked, he typed:


Hello, I’m Aton.

Hi Aton, you chose a dead room, nobody’s here.

Who are you?

I’m Ambiance.

Hello Ambiance.

So where are you from?

I’m from Michigan.

Oh I know some people up there, whereabouts?

Grand Rapids, but now I’m up at Michigan State University.

Ah yes, yes. What do you study there?


That’s cool.

And you?

I’m dual majoring in Medieval Studies and English Literature, with a minor in German.


Yep, I’m pretty much a medieval nut.

Do you like to read then?




What is it?

Reading is everything.

But what about writing?

Aton can I ask you something?


Do you have a girlfriend?

Not really.

Why is this?

I study a lot I guess. I have been busy studying a lot.

Aton can I ask you something personal?

Yes, sure.

Have you ever fucked?


Haha! But you must not be alarmed at the word, my sweet Aton. It’s a harsh Germanic word. There is no word like it: fucking fuck the fucking fuckers! That’s a sentence. It has a meaning. But I am teasing, just teasing, I would not presume, after having just met you, after having, shall I dare say it, just charmed you, to suddenly undress you. You must not think me less then a decent woman, Aton, promise me you won’t do that. But it was such a sterile conversation. “I’m from Michigan, I study medicine, I was born 1982”—it was so vanilla Aton! And now I over explain, and that itself is an irony, because you are thinking, “I just have to get out of here” and you are probably Christian, but Aton, I have to know…will you tell me something else?

Uh yeah.

We are just words on the computer screen, Aton. You can unplug me at any time. I may just be a dream to you, there could be no Antigone at this end, just words, perhaps from your unconscious! Ha!

Who's Antigone?

Oh that. Well there are names we go by, and different names for different times. Is your name really Aton? What is that? That sounds Egyptian. Are you a sun-god, Aton? Do you fertilize the earth? Tell me, and I’m serious now—and you can call me Antigone, please, your antagonist—answer me this question—no wait. Promise something. Promise me you will chat with me tomorrow. This is just way too late for me, Aton. I go to bed by midnight normally. Will you promise me that you will be on tomorrow. This is too good.


“Okay” will do. It is not “yes!” Am I too presumptuous to demand exclamation marks? What is it I sense in you? You really don’t have a girlfriend? Would you lie to me? Okay, here’s my question. You promised now. I have you by the spirit. You have to tell me this. You’re going to think, oh what a whore—but it’s not true Aton, I am such a virgin, I am hypervirgin, I am patron to Mary herself—you don’t know what a complete virgin I am! My mouth says one thing but my other mouth does another. Okay this is it. Tell me. When you touch yourself, what do you think of?


Nothing what?

I almost never touch myself, and when I do I don’t think of anything. I try not to think of anything at all. Why think of anything? Just do it.

That’s so touching, Aton, I almost believe you. But you have to be honest to me if this is going to work, I need you to really be honest with me. I know that when you touch yourself, something helps you feel good, and it is okay to think those things, only you have to tell me what it is.

I don’t know what to tell you.

Okay, let’s pretend you’re touching yourself right now. You’re alone, nobody’s looking, and you feel good, but something's on your mind. What are you thinking?

Nothing. I’m not thinking about anything.

Are you thinking about a cock going into a woman?


Well are you thinking of a young girl, then?



I once thought about a girl touching herself for the first time. She was just curious...looking around.

A girl touching herself?

Yeah, I guess.

How old?

I don’t know.

And she’s alone?

Yeah, she’s alone.

Okay, Aton, that was good. That was an honest moment. I like that. You think of young girls masturbating for the first time. Do you wish you were there with them?


So you are watching them from the window then?

No, its not like that.

So who are these girls then? Is it somebody you know?

Its not anybody in particular, just a young girl.

What color hair?


So you like blondes then? How big are they?

I didn’t say I like blondes. It was just this one time, and she isn’t anybody I know. Its not really a girl, just the idea of a girl, discovering that about herself. I don’t know. It’s interesting.

Uh huh.  So you never look at anything while you do it?



Well…what about you. What do you think of?


When you, you know…when you’re alone.

Oh, Aton, I’m too afraid to do that. Its not my thing. I think someday I will enjoy the real thing, but I’m not into that whole touch yourself thing. I think sex would be so much more real.

Oh, okay.

But you know what Aton?


You made me think about it. You should be proud of that. I wouldn’t have thought of those things before, you know, me actually doing it, touching myself for the first time. I was always afraid to.


Oh I don’t know. Like something horrible would happen. I think its different for a guy, when you just have to. With a  girl, you can be like, oh I’m just fine reading a romance novel. But I like it that you guys do it, that you make yourself happy. You know what, Aton? You should be happy. You should be proud that you’re happy. And you know what else Aton?


Okay, this is going to sound so bad after what I said, but I have to know.


How big are you?

What you mean?

You know. How big is it?

You mean down there?

It has a name, Aton. Your cock. You should be a man and be proud of your cock.

I don’t know how big it is.

Then measure it.

Right now?


Umm. Okay.

So how long?

Do you measure it when its small or big?

What shape is it in now?

Well….kinda big.

Oh really? Wow. How big is it?

Well its seven inches.

Wow, Aton. You’re a big man. You ought to be proud. That’s a mandango, Aton. I would be afraid of that. Any woman would be afraid of that.  That’s dangerous.


Aton! I have to go! I hate to, but I have to. But you have to promise me one more thing, okay, just one more.

What do you want me to promise?

The next time you think of that young blonde, I want you to think of yourself putting that seven inch cock into her.

….I don’t think of her every time!

Goodnight. You are meeting me tomorrow. You promised.

Goodnight, Antigone.




          Aton lay awake thinking of Antigone. He knew that he should feel guilty for loving her crazy talk, but yet he could not. She was so funny, so unexpected. It was silliness, all of it. She was merely having fun. He was erect and tingling, but would not touch himself. He fell asleep happy.

          The next night, she was not on until 1 a.m. He had expected her at 11.

Hi Aton, she said.


You’re here. That’s good. I figured I’d scared you away.

No. You’re funny. Who are you? Where are you from?

I’m from New York, Aton. And you must not mind my demeanor. On occasion I am forward—everybody in New York talks that way you know, its like, hello my name is John, you wanna fuck? Its crazy. Everybody is just ridiculous here. It’s the rhetoric that speaks through me, Aton. If you met me in person, I wouldn’t say a word I would blush and bow my head.

So you like to read?

Everything Americana. Whitman—what I assume you shall assume. Emerson—study nature. Emerson is amazing Aton! You have read him, yes?

Maybe in high school, I don’t know. Does he write novels?

You might be thinking of Hawthorne. Emerson was an essayist. He expresses the sublimity of nature. Go forth and strike a new trail!

Do you believe in God?

Of course. All of them.

What’s your religion?

I am Catholic and I am Hindu. I adore Mary. There is a purity, an aspiration, a holiness.

I’m Protestant.

You mean you’re Christian?

Well we’re all Christian.

Well that’s a Christian thing to say. No, Catholic is Catholic, like, the original thing, the ancient thing, we have the saints, and the stories, and the sacraments. I know as a Christian you have Luther and everybody is a priest, but Aton, Christians have no respect for holiness. They do not know the real sacred. They do not know that before some things you bow your head and are silent.

Maybe some Christians get that too. What’s your favorite book of the Bible?

Oh I haven’t read it.

You don’t read the Bible?

You see, the priests read the Bible, and they interpret it. The Bible is a sacred thing. It takes somebody who has dedicated his life to only that, to appreciating what God has written, to have the right to touch the Bible.

I like to read it. I like the Sermon on the Mount. Like where Jesus says to be perfect. The pastor said that we can’t be perfect, and that Jesus was showing us that we need forgiveness.

We do need forgiveness. And we are perfect. You need to study the Vedas. You need to feel peace.

Antigone, do you have a boyfriend?

No. I am into my studies. I feel love is a distant thing, like hope, something that comes to you as a gift after you have sacrificed everything you have.

I want to be a writer.

Yes? What do you like to write?

I would like to write about God. And about love. I would like to write about what we should do on earth to please God.

Those are lofty topics, Aton.

          They continued to talk into the night. And after that, the next night, and for the entire week, every night until dawn.

          Antigone played the cello and the bass guitar. She had studied at Julliard, and was now studying English. She spoke four languages, and was inventing a language of her own. She wanted to be a writer someday too, a novelist.

          Aton had become nocturnal. He slept all day. He barely got by in his classes. When they couldn’t talk, he was thinking about her, and playing the guitar. The songs flowed. He wrote a dozen. But mostly, he thought of Antigone—felt depressed when he couldn’t talk to her, and when she finally signed on, he couldn’t get enough.

I wrote you a poem, Antigone.

Aton! No, you should not have done this. I do not deserve a poem. Can you really care for me? But you don’t even know what I look like, I don’t know what you look like. I could be a man, Aton! How can you write a poem about me. Let me see it!

Okay, here it is:

All speaking, daring highest flights

Near as dearness, warm as dark

Touched by Virgin, Stung like nails

Inner purity in written veils

Gives me heart, gives me life

Over flow of ocean

Nautical tides of masks and hides

Everyone in their heaven.


You are a writer, Aton. I am figuring out the rhythm you are using here. And the lack of rhyme scheme, it's quite free verse.

It spells your name.

Oh! Aton, can you answer me something. What do you think of me?

You are a wonderful person.

But you don’t know that, Aton, I could be horrible. How do you know I am great? Its just words. I could be anything.

So I must be just words to you, then?


No, Aton, you could never be that.

Then what? What do you feel for me?

Oh Aton! What do you want, pledges? I cannot say it. The very being of it is spoken. You are Aton, and I, I am Antigone, and there is this, and I dare not say more. What if you hated me when you saw me? What if you think I am ugly?

You could not be ugly. I think you are beautiful.

You think, but you don’t know. But Aton—Michigan State University, how many students does that have?

I don’t know. 30,000?

And half of those are girls. That’s 15,000 girls, Aton. Of those 15,000, there is going to be a quiet, blond little girl who is Christian, and is untouched and innocent, and needs you to take her in and love her. You owe that to her. This would be good for you. You are smart, you are kind. You are gifted. And you’re funny. But all I can be is this concept in your head, this fantasy in your mind. You need real lips to kiss. You need a real hand to hold. I cannot accept that poem from you, Aton. I cannot. It is too much. You need to make a pretty blonde girl happy, and love her, and make love to her, and have her kiss you, and have her go down on you, and love you, and give you pleasure.

But that’s not what I want.

Its what you need.

But I want you.



I want you.


Say it once more.


Of course I want you, Antigone. You are exactly what I want. You are spiritual, but you’re playful. You are fun. I spend all day thinking of you, and when I am not with you, I am not happy. But don’t you feel this?


Aton, do you expect me to just pack up my bags, drop school, leave my family, and live with you in Michigan just to be your girlfriend till you get sick of me?


Well Antigone—we will work towards it, if you want. I mean, we don’t have to move in together, or anything like that right away. But if you care for me like I care for you, then I will be happy.


Aton, I will say something, because I feel it, and I don’t know if I have felt this quite before, but you must say what you feel Aton, while you feel it, just be sure, right?




Aton. Okay, I have to go now. I don’t have computer at my house right now, and I am at a friend's, and now I have to go. I will be on tomorrow, Aton. I’m sorry.

Say what you wanted to say.

I can’t, I have to go now. Bye.

          And that was her.


          Antigone wasn’t on the next day. Or the next. Or the whole week. He didn’t have her email address. He didn’t have anything about her.

          So he looked it up. Antigone Salia. He finally found a weird webpage with a nude photo of Marylyn Monroe, and some information about a metal band called Death Set. Apparently, she was the bassist for the band. There was no photo of her. But at the bottom was an email address:

          He emailed it:      



I am sorry. I said the wrong thing. Maybe I am just lonely, and I don’t really know you, but what I did know I liked a lot. And that’s what I was trying to say. I wasn’t so you had to marry me and live in Michigan.

          The site I got your email from said you were a bassist for a band! Wow! There is a lot about you that you didn’t tell me. Maybe we can meet up to talk tomorrow at 11 pm. I miss you a lot,




          But at 11 p.m. the next night, she never showed up.


          At the end of the semester, Aton couldn't resist visiting the student church one last time. The sermon was about loving God with all your heart, soul, body, and mind.

          "This is God's shorthand for saying we have to love him with every ounce of our being. Every last ounce of you. That's how Jesus loved God and that's how he loves us: enough to give his life in the most painful of ways."

          He gestured to a painting of Jesus carrying the cross.

          "That, that is true love. There's no higher love than that. Who has felt higher love than this?"

          Aton looked over the congregation and felt --disgust. These were the world’s great lovers? He laughed. A few people looked at him and murmured. He looked back. He said aloud:

          "That is not the highest love. I have already loved higher than that, and I am just starting my journey."

          The pastor was silent as Aton regarded him, frowned, turned and walked through the rows of concerned people, who murmured as he walked out the church doors, into the sublime winter night, and out of Christianity.









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