For the first five years that I lived in Charlotte, my mother called me religiously (pun intended) every Sunday evening at 8:30 from her cellphone. She'd be just leaving the night service of her church, driving home. Before asking me about work or launching into a story about locking my dad out of the house because he'd poked fun at her new haircut, she would pose the question: "Did you go to church today?"
My answer varied each week. If I had gone, she'd immediately praise me: "Good girl." If I'd overslept or had to work, she'd lightly chide me before asking what I'd eaten for dinner.
I share this because I know that many people in the South can relate — whether it be from my perspective as a young 20-something who's trying to find her spiritual path, or from that of an older devout trying to instill religious values in a younger generation.
Something as complex as one's religion produces the best discussions or, as we at CL figured, the best creative writing.
For our first foray into the world of fiction contests, we put out a call for flash fiction. While the genre is loosely defined, it is generally accepted that flash, or short fiction, is less than 1,000 words. We received more than 25 entries — not too shabby.
We looked for a captivating story that touched on religion and Charlotte in some way. Because let's face it — asking a writer to expound upon a topic you're not supposed to bring up while drinking with a mixed group of friends will inevitably produce good shit.
The stories we've selected explore religion in vastly different ways. The first-place entry, Emilia Fuentes Grant's "The Second Coming," shares the tale of Jesus Christ's return to the world in the 21st century, by way of Charlotte.
"I am very interested in the state of Christian faith in the South today," Grant, 27, said in a recent phone conversation. Aside from church, she continued, "we have so many other influences nowadays, everything from global events to movies and television and pop culture. We understand things by Googling them and looking them up on YouTube. So my thought was, how would we understand it if Jesus came back, [visiting first] the city of Charlotte? How would we respond?"
Aside from the storyline in and of itself, what's interesting about Grant's piece is its use of an Everyman narrator. We know very little about the character who shares the account of Jesus' return — male, female, young, old? No idea. But the ambiguity draws the reader in to be more than just an observer — we become an active participant in the story.
Second and third places respectively go to Sarah Klapprodt for "On Meeting God" and Kelly Jo Bladl for "Sanctuary to Sanctuary." Their stories paint a brief portrait of what the culmination of a devout lifestyle might look like — for Klapprodt, it's delusion; for Bladl, guilt.
Whether you spell God with a big G or a little g, we hope you'll enjoy reading these short stories. We certainly did.
— Kimberly Lawson
1st Place: Emilia Fuentes Grant's "The Second Coming"
2nd Place: Sarah Klappordt's "On Meeting God"
3rd Place: Kelly Jo Bladl's "From Sanctuary to Sanctuary"
We'd like to give a special shout-out to three other stories we enjoyed, ones that just missed the cut:
"Handcrafted, With Our Initials: Notes From a Dark Place in The Plaza" By Jonathan Robertson
"All Fall Down" By Robert Morrison
"Sundee in the South" By Rick Deal