From Three to Four

The first born of a first born of a first born and the first grandchild and great grandchild in the immediate Colle family circle sounds like it could carry with it a lot of pressure, but my oldest child has been up for the challenge since day one. Granted, he was 19 days late entering this world and his head was... well, large, and proved to be a bit of a problem for his mom that wonderful afternoon 26 years ago. And that was about the last time he gave either of us any trouble. Among his many talents and gifts, he has made us look like incredible parents and for that we will always be eternally grateful.

Today he turns 26 years old and I want to thank him for carrying our name with such class and for the not-so-small thing of bringing a wonderful addition to our clan named Julianne. She is a guarantee of his refined taste and that our family is in good hands for at least one more generation. Happy Birthday, William Jacob Colle IV. I love you and am more proud of you than you will ever know. 


Sneak Pique II

Happy May Day! To celebrate this annual event, I am offering you another free preview of another story, “Back, Again.” If you read it and are intrigued, you can purchase the full electronic version here

Other stories are also available:

Note: When you purchase one of the stories, you can download and read it on the Kindle app on your computer or phone; you don’t have to own a physical Kindle.

Back, Again

By Jay Colle

Chapter One

September 4
Dear Pastor Enzo,
It is with all of the seriousness I can muster that I write this letter to inform you I am done with Christianity. Obviously, that means I will no longer be attending the church. I want to make it clear this has nothing to do with you so please don’t take it personally. I am not disappointed in you or your teachings although you and they did contribute to my decision but only a little bit. I will not be attending another church so don’t bother asking. As far as I know, Ellen and the kids will still be attending but I can’t confirm that. Understandably, my wife and I are suffering some communication issues right now. I wish you the best of luck as you lead your flock into the future. I will chart your progress from afar.
Till whenever,
Earl Benton

Chapter Two

I had mailed the letter to my pastor days ago. I hadn’t heard from him and didn’t think I would. What could he say to me? I doubt there are many classes offered at seminary that taught future pastors how to respond to longstanding members of their congregation that decide the whole Christianity business is a sham. My initial dilemma had more to do with timing than anything else. Did my new, heathen life officially start the minute I wrote the letter and proclaimed the announcement in print? Or did it start once the pastor received the letter, thereby having an officer of the church duly notified? Not exactly a blessing but almost. Hard to say and, honestly, I don’t think it mattered all that much. After all, it was my decision and it became sanctioned the minute I said it was sanctioned—mentally, verbally or otherwise. The fact that I pondered that question at all showed I had a lifetime of built-in authority issues to claw through.

My decision to abandon Christianity wasn’t a knee jerk reaction to some catastrophic event or the result of an unexpected death of a loved one. That would have made the decision superficial and doomed to fad status, here today and probably not here tomorrow. The initial germination may have been budding inside me my entire life. I’d always been a ponderer, someone who thought and worried too much, and my spiritual life was by no means off limits to my internalized dramas. Of course, I say that but, thinking back, I probably put a mental governor on my creeping reservations because, according to a lifetime of teaching and indoctrination, doubt was a sin and hell had special vats of boiling oil for those who turned away.

With that hot liquid in mind I could only imagine what my wife was thinking when I caught her staring at me, eyes wide, lips mashed together, unable to verbalize the angst winding through her emotional reserves. I had made it a point in our 23 years of marriage to try and share with her whatever was on my mind, no matter how inane or odd. And boy, did I ever have a lot of thoughts in both categories. This verbal sharing habit served the duel purpose of making me more endearing (in a “it must be a wonderful little planet that you live on” kind of way) and scaring her to the point of tears (in a “if you follow through with that I will never speak to you again” kind of way). For both of those reasons I decided to keep my developing thoughts about abandoning Christianity to myself. When I first started toying with the idea I managed to scare even myself so I didn’t dare drag Ellen into the process. Maybe it was a subtle form of spiritual chivalry but I didn’t want to haul her through my mental flipping just for exercise. She deserved to be spared. Of course, my gallantries made the impact of my announcement pack a much larger whollop than was probably necessary but I’m not sure anything would have sufficiently prepared her. She hadn’t spoken to me since I told her, which was probably best because I had 45 years of habits and processes that needed to be adjusted. Her silence gave me a chance to gain a toehold in my new life of heathenry.

On Tuesday I woke up at 6:01, the same time I had been waking up for as long as I can remember (when it wasn’t 5:30). I always enjoyed the mornings because the house was silent and it gave me some time to enjoy my domain without interruption. The kids varied school schedules required a complicated matrix of alarms and wakeup calls, but I had routinely given myself 15 minutes of quiet before the whistles of water pipes and the screeching of clothes drawers broke the calm.

Ever since junior high school I had spent those minutes reading the Bible, praying and writing in my journal. The omnipresent specter of The Quiet Time has hung over the followers of Christianity for hundreds of years. Sunday School teachers and Small Group Leader’s have waved it like a club over the heads of believer’s young and old. Approach any spiritual authority figure with a problem in your life and the first response is usually, “How is your Quiet Time? Are you being faithful in your Time With the Lord?” The tilt of the head, furrowed brow and softly bitten lower lip only added to the seriousness of the unspoken accusation. In the areas of prayer and Bible study, the laity are guilty until proven guiltier. And we are guilty, because no one, not even the exalted accuser, can keep up the torrid, expected pace of Daily Devotionals every morning of the week. Those that came close were either cripplingly legalistic or bucking for a Perfect Attendance With God plaque from their Sunday School class. And really, at 14 years old, in my darkest hour of need, I could never understand why the Quiet Time question was at the top of the response list when I had just confessed of my paralyzing desire to see the preacher’s daughter naked.

Over and over we were told by the adults–either from the pulpit or in casual conversation in the Church parking lot–habits can be formed in 30 days. “Give it a month and you will be amazed at how easy it is to get up in the morning and dive right in. Before long you will find yourself jumping out of bed and, odds are, you will experience a bad day if you don’t have your Quiet Time.” When I was in high school, one teacher was honest enough to admit he couldn’t get through his without a cup of coffee but, in his easy rationalizing style, he figured God made the coffee beans and that rendered special dispensation on caffeine. The thirty-day theory never worked for me. I remember thinking it was because I had been inconsistent with my start times or maybe I had carried out the Quiet Time a couple of mornings when I’d rather been sleeping. I’m sure insincerity counted against you just as much as caffeine counted on the positive side of the holy ledger. I also remember thinking how it was unfortunate that I wasn’t allowed to drink coffee in high school and that my parent’s should be held partially responsible for my inconsistent Quiet Time. At least I was learning rationalization from my teacher.

Until today. Rationalization was unnecessary. In my foggy journey to the edge of the bed I realized I had no reason to be awake. No Bible to read, no journal to record sad and sappy thoughts and D.J., my daughter, wasn’t due her wake-up nudge for another 30 minutes. I threw everything into reverse and dug into the comforter for another half hour of heathen sleep.

But I couldn’t pull it off. The minute my head hit the pillow I was wide-awake. I could not have been more alert if someone had splashed me with cold water. Lying on my side, double pillows stacked under my head, I started receiving mental snap shots from some deeply hidden crevice in the section of my brain responsible for doling out memories. The stills started cross-dissolving slowly and I could distinguish details from each one. I was young, usually reading, sometimes drawing, but always alone. As each picture was replaced by another, the pace of the flips quickened. For a brief period of time the speed allowed me to see myself in flip-book animation style and it looked like I was eating books and then passing them through the back of the chair. After a few minutes watching myself power read, the transitions were flipping too fast and the whole thing disintegrated into an origami egret and flew away. I spent the rest of the time staring at the floor fan, praying, no, hoping the egret would not return. At 6:30 I climbed out of bed and began my day.
 © 2012 Jay Colle