Logo, MacQueen's Quinterly
Listed at Duotrope
MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Flash Fiction: 621 words
By Daryl Scroggins

Power Beseechment


Ricky wasn’t about to tell anybody at Jesus camp, especially not the other twelve-year-olds in his group, but he was having serious uncertainties about what it meant to pray hard. He was by far the smallest of the six boys in his cabin, so it was important to be mostly an observer. He didn’t make much noise, except to laugh at the right times. They had nicknamed him “Note” because he was always writing things down in a pocket spiral notebook.

After lights out, when the only sounds were farts and snoring, and Whip-poor-wills calling to each other out in dense pin oak woods, Ricky turned on his book light. He held his notebook in his Bible to consider it. So far he had three headings under Pray Hard: Strain, Frequency, and Top of the List.

The thing most perplexing was—why wouldn’t a person pray hard all the time if that made it work better? And why wouldn’t God already know that you really meant it, and how important it was, anytime you prayed?

Over the past week, at every service, devotional, and study group meeting, Ricky had paid close attention whenever somebody called for everybody to pray hard for this or that. He took note of what got singled out for special treatment. Things like—pray for Aunt Ellen to not die from her surgery to get the wrinkles off her neck that were making it hard for her to breathe, or for a particular person to win reelection. The most instructive times were when the call was for everybody to pray right at that moment. A quick glance showed a number of details that would fit under “Strain.” Many people seemed to think that appearing to be a weight lifter or constipated was a good approach. That was the men, mostly. The women often took on a look of not believing that anything good was ever going to happen, but by dang it wasn’t going to be because they didn’t try. The young people just poked at each other below the line of sight, as usual. How could it be that getting your face right was like a God megaphone?

Under “Frequency” he had only a line of marks representing the number of times he had been asked to pray, and a line of marks under that representing the number of times “hard’ had been added to the request.

The “Top of the List” category seemed to drift into the “Frequency” category, but it was difficult to find much to add when some people seemed to never stop praying, and who knows how many times in a day they would hit the same point again?

Just when Ricky’s data collection seemed to be picking up steam, he woke at reveille to find his notebook missing. When he looked at all the other bunks he saw that Bobby Masterson was already up and gone. It could be risky to tell on a fellow camper, but usually the reward would be greater in the long run than the penalty of blame at the start. So Bobby was sure to show up soon, back from Pastor Buckle’s office with a summons.

Uncertainty was bad. Questions were bad. But worst of all was—taking notes about such things. Spying on what people did that you didn’t understand. Ricky tapped on Pastor Buckle’s partly closed door, and it swung open a little more. Enough for Ricky to see the gigantic desk and the dozens of framed diplomas on the wall behind it. And there Buckle sat, head bowed. Sweating and kind of rocking back and forth, breathing fast. Wow, Ricky thought. He’s really going at it. And all because of me.

Daryl Scroggins
Issue 23 (April 2024)

has taught creative writing and literature at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of North Texas, and the Writer’s Garret, in Dallas. He now lives in Marfa, Texas. He is the author of This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press), Winter Investments: Stories (Trilobite Press), and Prairie Shapes: A Flash Novel (winner of the 2004 Robert J. DeMott Prose Contest). His poems, short stories, and creative nonfictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, including Blink Ink, Cutbank, Eastern Iowa Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Star 82 Review, and Third Wednesday, among others.

Copyright © 2019-2024 by MacQueen’s Quinterly and by those whose works appear here.
Logo and website designed and built by Clare MacQueen; copyrighted © 2019-2024.
⚡   Please report broken links to: MacQuinterly [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡

At MacQ, we take your privacy seriously. We do not collect, sell, rent, or exchange your name and email address, or any other information about you, to third parties for marketing purposes. When you contact us, we will use your name and email address only in order to respond to your questions, comments, etc.