After 4 years of flogging my allegory, “Agent of God,” it was selected for Under a Dark Sign, an anthology to be published in October 2015 by WolfSinger Press. The novelette had been given an honorable mention in 2012 in Allegory Magazine but otherwise had been passed over. I understood. Who writes allegories anymore? Only me, apparently. Oh, and one other. Herman Melville in Moby Dick and Billy Budd.
Flannery O’Connor didn’t write an allegory in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” but came close in her examination of good and evil. A family on a outing is overtaken by a stranger with a gun. He ties them to a tree and proceeds to shoot them one by one. The father, the last to die, survives long enough to ask his murderer why he has killed people he never knew and did him no harm. The killer struck dumb by the question, scratches his head. The world is so violent, he mutters, finally, that to create chaos is the only way he knows to be in harmony with it.
“Agent of God” raises the father’s question for a second time and offers an explanation for chaos, one appropriate to our epoch. I’ve waited a long while to find an editor who would understand it and now, with my contract in hand, I felt vindicated. To celebrate, I penned a note to personal friends and those on Facebook, closing with the words, “Be Happy for me.”
To my surprise, I received an outpouring of good wishes via emails and social media. My tale of the human darkness had evoked such fellow feelings that I was forced to consider again Flannery O’Connor’s story of evil and chaos.
What a piece of work is man. We weep for a lion killed in Zimbabwe yet endure with seeming indifference the daily shelling of children in far off places. How is one to comprehend such a nature, at once compassionate and cruel? If Melville and O’Connor cannot solve the riddle of good and evil, I despair of trying.
(Originally posed on 9/21/15)