Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Material Media LLC
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Date of Publication: March 1, 2017
Number of Pages: 194
Gordon Atkinson, of the popular blog RealLivePreacher, brings us Foy, a recently- divorced, recently-resigned pastor in the midst of redefining personal meaning. As Foy travels to New Orleans, hoping to find a new identity separate from the church, he keenly observes the everyday, rendering ordinary moments unexpectedly significant. Atkinson’s own background as a preacher and blogger inspires Foy’s confessional voice, the voice which characterizes this story about how our own experiences impact the universal search for meaning.
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San Antonio 2005
Foy planned the trip to New Orleans after Anne left him but before the divorce was final. Those were the in between days when everything ran together in his memory. Asked later about that time in his life, Foy would shake his head and say, It was just a time when I wandered around. I don't know what I was thinking back then.
He lost his job at the church two days after he was served with divorce papers. It was hard to say how that happened. His energy had been draining away for a year or more. There was talk in the halls, people saying that the pastor was losing it. He knew what they were saying but didn't care. He'd been fantasizing about leaving anyway. He wondered what it would be like to be a regular person.
Foy asked for a meeting of the church leadership. They gathered at the church office. Someone brought in folding chairs and a couple of people sat on the secretary’s desk. They didn’t fire him, but he didn’t exactly quit either. It was more like two lovers staring at each other and saying, almost simultaneously, We need to talk. Officially Foy resigned for personal reasons.
He took all his toys down from the shelves in his office. The G.I. Joes, the Monty Python stuff, the pictures and the little things children had given him over the years. All the silly things that had amused and sometimes confounded church members. He put all of them into a cardboard box, sealed it with duct tape, wrote “Foy's Stuff” on it, and shoved it against the wall.
He couldn't bear to look at his beloved books. It was a damn fine library. Everyone said so. Ministers would turn their heads sideways, looking at the titles to see what he had. He didn't want to look at the books because he couldn't bear to face the fact that he didn't need them anymore.
He wrote a note to Ben, one of the deacons.
We've been friends for sixteen years. I'm going to call upon that friendship now. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but I must ask you to do something for me.
Please come to my office and box up my books and store them for me. I can't do it. I can't even look at them. It's probably going to take you 25 or 30 boxes. Get Michael and some of the guys to help, maybe. I hope it's not too terrible an inconvenience, but I need you.
I'm including money to rent a storage place for a few months. Have them bill me at my parents’ house after that.
Who knows, one day I might come back for the books. Or maybe I'll sell them after awhile. I have no idea.
I think JoAnn has my parents' address from that time that Jill watched our dog.
Also, there's a big box in my office with my name on it. Get that one too, okay?
He put the money and the note in an envelope and left it in Ben's box near the secretary’s desk. Ben always checked his box.
He went back into his office again and looked around. He thought he should feel sad, but he felt nothing. He took the key to the church off his key ring and laid it on the desk. Possessed by the strange idea that there was a casual place on the desktop for a key left by a departing pastor, he slid it around with his index finger, trying one location and then another. The absurdity of this rose into his consciousness and he dragged the key to the geographic center of the desk and left it there, suppressing his instinctive dislike of such a symmetry.
When Foy stepped outside, the sun reflected off the sidewalk and made him squint. It seemed like a scene from one of those movies where some guy gets out of prison. But there was no one there to pick him up.
He had nothing to do and nowhere to go. The absence of obligations or expectations was disorienting. Everything seemed strange. Cars passed and a woman stepped off the curb to cross the street. It felt odd that no one else noticed the abrupt shift in the world. When was the last time he had been this free?
About The Author
Atkinson is the author of the books RealLivePreacher.com (Wm. B. Eerdmans), Turtles All the Way Down, and A Christmas Story You’ve Never Heard. He was a contributor for the magazine Christian Century and founding editor for the High Calling website, which brought together hundreds of independent writers and featured their work.
His writing career started on Salon where he was among the most read bloggers on the site. One of his essays was chosen to be included in The Best Christian Writing 2004 (Jossey-Bass) and his book RealLivePreacher.com won the Independent Publisher Book Award in the creative non-fiction category.
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