Middlehouse

By

Note: This is a short fable I wrote a few days after Hutchmoot. -Sam

There once lived several people. These people, the several of them, lived on different corners of a flat earth. One day they each received a letter. This story is about those letters and what happened after the several people got them. The letters were different than the auto-messages they were used to. (The auto-messages came through a series of tunnel-tubes and were sucked into a giant tray by an impossibly complicated pneumatic system. But there was no spirit in the auto-messages; they were mostly regulations and bills and new regulations about bills.) The letters were heavy to hold and tied with a blue bow. It was not a womanly bow, or a manly bow. It was lovely and strong, if you can imagine such a thing.

Evanthia received her letter on a Monday. She had heard of such letters, but had never yet held one in her hands. So she opened it, like almost everyone who has ever gotten a letter does. Inside the letter was written, “Come. You are welcome,” in a fine hand.

There had never been a welcome for her anywhere.

A thrill danced up her back, a lightning ship which at last wrecked on the rocks of her golden hair. Well-used to hurt, she was suspicious. She looked on the back of the letter (where she had heard the sender’s place was to be found) and it said, “Middlehouse.” She looked around to be sure there was no one near. Confirmation came at once, for Absence was her constant and only companion. Then she decided her decision. She set off for Middlehouse, with something like a smile on her face.

Wuncellown and Mutch were not alone, because there was the other of each of them. Mutch got a letter, but Wuncellown did not.

Wuncellown said, “Go friend.”

“I will,” Mutch said, “and you with me.”

So Middlehouse-ward they went, laughing as friends do.

This kind of thing happened at each kind of place. So it happened that many got on roads and made for Middlehouse. Weary, they arrived at last and stood before the place. It was plainer than many expected, and grander for others, who were poor.

“Let’s go inside, friends,” Mutch said.

Evanthia’s ears blanched at that word. Friends? Crimson colored her face like a glass of cherrywine. Red and gold, her face and hair.

When they reached the door, it opened. In the doorway stood a wizard. (They knew by all the tell-tale signs people everywhere have used to identify such men.) He said, “I am your host. Welcome.” He wished them to doubt he was a wizard, but they knew better.

Wuncellown said, “Master, why have you written these letters to us?”

“Not to you,” he said, smiling.

“I came with Mutch,” Wuncellown said.

“And you will leave with more,” the wizard said. Some wrinkled their noses at that, others laughed politely. “Come in, come in. It looks as if it might rain. I have much to show you and more, no doubt, to be shown.”

At last Evanthia was the last one outside. Once more alone. Where she had a moment before been a part, she now stood apart. The wizard’s head reappeared in the doorway and he nodded for her to enter. She balked, afraid of the joy that sloshed around in her like an open jug in the hands of a clumsy child. Easily lost, she was sure.

“Come, beautiful,” the wizard said. “Come, Evanthia. We’re waiting for you and cannot be what we ought without you. Besides, there’s food in here.”

She approached the door, but stopped again. The door almost closed, but at the last moment a hand struck out and grabbed her own, pulling her inside.

The door closed on the sound of laughter.


37 Comments

  1. MargaretW

    I think it is very interesting the way Hutchmoot has shaped this cozy little place since it occurred. What stinks is that so many who read this blog were unable to attend. It surely was a grand adventure and I hope to attend in 2011. But only if Sam writes more of these gleeful tales and brings them to share.

  2. JennyE

    I love the moment where the wizard says, “Come, beautiful,”. For various mundane and wholly unoriginal reasons, I never believed anyone could see me as beautiful for many years. It seems silly, but I love beautiful things, and always longed for someone to see me in that light, but longed in the way one wishes for a million dollars or the ability to teleport. So I overcompensated in other areas, both appropriate and not.

    It was miraculous when I discovered that my Heavenly Father loved me and thought I was beautiful. And not because I had tricked Him with makeup and flattering clothing and witty conversation. I am beautiful because He made me. And all I have to do is get out of His way.

    This is a beautiful story in so many ways, and I know this wasn’t the main theme. Just what struck me today…

  3. Eric Tippin

    I would love to say I understood all of this, but the metaphor went too deep for me to follow. Or I didn’t have the correct information of reality to give the metaphor life.

  4. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Thanks for reading this, especially those for whom reading this meant you had to fight your way through post-apocalyptic Detroit to do so. It means a lot.

    MargaretW– Thanks so much. I agree that the HM really changed the dynamic here, I think for the better. I feel more invested and connected here as a result. I loved meeting you at HM!

    Laura Peterson– That makes my day. Thank you!

    JennyE– I LOVE what you said. That little wording was very important in this silly little story (though there was no intent at allegory, or double-meanings here). I believe that we sort of become what were are told, with (hopefully proper) authority, we are. This has implications for the kind of stories we let inside us and believe. Not in a “faith words” kind of way (like I’m not in for saying “I’m not sick,” and that heals me, kind of thing). But I think storytellers do shape –as Walt Wangerin shared at Hutchmoot– and that what we believe about what others say, especially God, matters. Jason Gray’s “I Am New” comes to mind. I think about this as a father and husband a lot. That the words I speak of blessing onto/into my kids are important, powerful. Not because I’m a big deal, but because I’m a big deal to them, to who they are becoming. My daughter will hear that she is beautiful, special, precious, lovely, wise, creative, smart etc from me a million times. Because what I say about her, in some way, is and shall be true. At least I think that’s mostly true. How many daddy-wounded people go around in our advanced culture? Is not fatherhunger our society’s gaping, glaring wound? I love what you said about getting our story from God, that great Father. OK, I need to stop rambling.

    LauraP– You better get that looked at. 😉 <---my first ever use of that emoticon. Eric Tippin-- If it doesn’t make sense to you, I get that. That probably just means its not compelling. There is no real metaphor. It’s not an allegory at all, but has a moral, meaningful tone and I would classify it as a fable --albeit without talking beasts. But mostly it’s just a little story that is supposed to make sense on its own and I am in no way shocked to find that I haven’t succeeded. 🙂 It’s just a simple story about invitation, belonging, community, acceptance, that kind of thing.

  5. Lanier Ivester

    Oh my goodness, Sam. Yes. Thank you for sharing this. I remember feeling kind of guilty before the ‘Moot, like I was taking up the place of someone worthier, more talented, whatever…
    The rather quaking 5 year-old that was me on the drive up to Nashville had nothing in common with the light-hearted pilgrim that returned. Thanks be to God.

  6. Don Smith

    The part I liked best was Jenny E’s middle paragraph. I assume her remarks are public domain because they will appear in our church bulletin next Sunday.

  7. Eric Tippin

    Now that I know it’s not a specific allegory (of course it utilizes general symbolism) it makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE! I kept wondering who the Wizard REALLY was (I had a suspicion it was Andrew Peterson) and if the words had symbolic and referential meanings. I know my last statement needs a qualification, because word definitions, by definition, are referential, but I hope you know what I meant. In any case, I apologize for my presuppositions and my nescience.

  8. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Lanier– I think a lot of us felt like that, but were likewise disarmed by the welcome and fellowship we found. Thanks!

    Don– You’re the Naptser of Pastors.

    Sondorik– Thanks. You have a cool name.

    Eric– It also might make more sense the more ERRORS (grammar, spelling, logic, etc) that I find and correct. I think I’ve “fixed” about 15 today. Wow. I made the mistake of not letting my editor (my wife) read this ahead of time. And it shows! Andrew is a wizard.

  9. Tsims

    I am new to the Rabbit Room but I truly thank God that this place exists. Christians who take the Gospel serious and desire to make art with that foundation, without rewriting the Bible. In the words of post-conversion, pre-antichurch Anne Rice, Christ “haunts” this story (and like stories). There is something else that really gets to me about this story. I am taking a course (or watching the DVDs) from The Teaching Company called Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon. Something he says continuously resonates through this story and that is that it isn’t the words alone that get a point or feeling but how words are put together in a sentence. The aesthetics of the sentence matters just as much as the vocabulary. Now, before I bore you with the lack of aesthetics in my writing, I’ll finish. Thank you for this fable.

  10. Sondorik

    My name? I thank a merry band of Ukrainian friends for that. It’s even cooler when heard under the influence of сладкое крымское вино. Trust me.

    S.D., what do you write when you’re not bringing us hard-hitting interviews or delightful fables? Books? Magazines? Witty greeting cards? A bit of shameless self-promotion would be welcomed. Your article on God’s sovereignty was one of the first posts I read here at the RR. And it convinced me to keep coming back for more. I appreciate the creative genius each writer brings to the table and the range of topics you have covered.

  11. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Tsims– We’re so glad you’re here in the Rabbit Room and happy you’re finding things encouraging. (When I say “we’re so glad,” I voluntarily speak for AP, President Obama, Dick Clark, Larry Byrd and the whole gang and am authorized to do so by expressed written permission.)

    Thanks for your very kind words and your radically off-based compliments of my story! I kid. It was very kind. I think Christ-haunted is a good word pair to describe what many of us aspire to. The Gospel is the center of life, definitely foundational. Thanks for your input.

  12. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Sondorik– We have similar Ukrainian nicknames, except for mine you remove the “Son” and the “i.” You’re very kind to say that about that Sovereignty post. And thanks for asking about my writing. I appreciate it. I’m working on a novel right now, have had a couple of other passes at that form. Trying to do it well. Third time’s a charm?

    I am a bit of a generalist. By that I mean if I ever get any traction in one area, I immediately go off to be really bad at some other area. The trouble is I don’t always know where to land. I am interested in a lot of things, maybe not really very good at any. I have had a short story serial published as well as some essays, along with some poetry. All in regional publications. I’m not big in the the Ukraine, for instance. I hope to have a novel for sale before I die. But we’ll see how that goes.

    Thanks again for asking. I honestly always appreciate your comments both here and over at my website. And I really wonder if you’re just my mom pretending to be some Ukrainian-friended guy just to encourage me. If so, I have your lanyard made, mom. We’re even.

    http://www.ginagsmith.com/2011/01/06/is-it-words/

  13. Sondorik

    Ужас! Now you’ve blown my cover. Yes, this is your mother from another brother.

    I failed to mention that your writings make me laugh. Out loud. Often. This is literally good medicine at this exact point in my life. Thanks for the background info. Your wife’s blog is lovely and Billy Collin’s poem is brilliant. But your self-promoting response was insufficiently shameless. We need titles and/or links to those regional publications. Looking forward to seeing where your creativity lands you in the future.

  14. LauraP

    I am hunbly honored to be the first ever recipient of the SDS wry winky emoticon. I shall not soon forget this auspicious day, Wizard Sam.

  15. Canaan Bound

    Sondorik,
    Who ARE you?? Please, do reveal yourself!
    (My asking really has nothing to do with the fact that SD supposes you to be his mother. In fact, I’ve been wondering for a while. From your post comments both here and @ JR’s blog, I’m certain we must be friends, related, or at least share the same brain. That’s all.)

  16. JennyE

    Wow, I’m so glad I found this place! That up there was my first-ever comment here in the Rabbit Room after lurking for a couple of months. (Does that make me creepy? Don’t answer that!)

    How wonderful and exciting that you, Mr. S.D. Smith, the author of this sweetly profound tale, responded here to your commenters. Thank you! And I love what you said about trying to shape your children by naming them as beautiful, smart, creative, loving and so on. I do the same with my daughter, though it has caused her, at two, to wander around chanting, “Beautiful girl! Sophia is beautiful girl!”. But it’s worth it if she can hang onto that when she hits the turbulence of thirteen…

    And Mr. Don Smith, I am honored that you want to use my words. You are welcome to them!

  17. Jazz

    Mr. Smith, I love what you said about fathers. i have friend who does not have a father and I will always wonder if he had a father woud he have different.

  18. Janna Barber

    Jenny E. There was a moment this past summer when I heard a song on a children’s cd that affected me in a similar way. The song is from the slugs and bugs cd that ap and randall goodgame put out a few years back. It says, “Hey beautiful girl, Daddy loves you. He loves you. Most beautiful girl in the whole wide world.” I had always heard it as a tune from those guys to their daughters but one night I went to check on my sleeping boy and heard it coming from his radio as a little message from Jesus to me, and it was a healing moment.

    Sam – thanks for your clarification about faith words. This difference in how they function is lost on many. I think you are terrific at naming people and things in your writing. Glad you wrote this and shared it here.

  19. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Sondorik –Mother from another brother? Great one! The short serial WAS in a publication called WVSouth. Now they are running an essay of mine in each issue. I miss the short fiction, though. The Fledge Chronicles may reappear at some point (I’ve made one pass at a novelization, but it needs a lot of work). I hope to have something to shamelessly plug sometime, but for now, no dice. Thanks again!

    LauraP –If only everyone would react with such delight when I do something that requires no work or creativity. I’d be close to my self-diluted, idolatrous dreamworld. 😉 Now I can’t stop.

    CanaanBound –Another example of my stunning abilities. I intended zero sarcasm (for once in my life).

    JennyE –I’m so glad you spoke up here. I’m very honored. Please do stick around and comment away. I think this place has the best comments anywhere on the webernets (because of the people behind them, of course) and you fit right in. I love the song your daughter sings!

    Jazz –Thanks. I think it’s beautiful how God is a Father to the fatherless, and how there are many people he is calling to that work. Like http://newhopeuganda.org/ for instance.

    Janna –Thanks for your words. As always, very rich. I love the moment of feeling you shared of that love that is so plainly presented in Scripture. I get that feeling too sometimes, like a sudden, overwhelming feeling of gratitude and joy. Maybe from a sunset over snow-covered mountains, or something like that. God loves me! The real, holy God of the Bible. This magical story is real. Thanks, Janna.

  20. Julie

    I really like this line: “Come, Evanthia. We’re waiting for you and cannot be what we ought without you.”
    Sometimes I let my timidity hold me back from joining in but I’m slowly learning that I do have something to offer and I’m worthwhile because of who God made me. Thanks for the reminder.
    I love the way the words were put together to form each sentence… I normally don’t pay attention to that sort of thing but maybe I’m more aware of it now since I just read your interview with Pete Peterson. I had to re-read several of the sentences just so I could savor them.
    I love reading everyone’s comments here… seems like such a great community of people!

  21. Ashley Elizabeth

    Yep. Fearfully hesitant was I before Hutchmoot. Sitting in the parking lot afraid no one would like me, afraid I would eat alone (college fear rearing it’s ugly head yet again), afraid I would be in the back of every room googling every 5th word out of stupidity that I didn’t belong there. But the Wizard did indeed say “Come.” Blessings did abound.

    SD, your fable is time-appropriate yet again. I find myself on the edge of another exciting adventure and those fears find there way. Thank you for reminding me the Author and Perfector still says “come,” and has crafted an adventure that cannot be what it ought without me.

  22. dawngreen

    As my friends have noted, I also felt the particular isolation of arriving alone. I wondered if I had made a mistake that May day when my invitation arrived and I set out on the road to August’s HM. Not being a writer by trade, I even second guessed my reason for attending and imagined I would be “tossed out” once my lack of qualifications was revealed.

    However, my fears were unfounded and I discovered that I had arrived at a place of acceptance and friendship. The wizard’s words to Evanthia feel as if they were spoken into my soul. Thank you, my friend for also making me feel welcomed at HM and for this beautiful fable.

  23. S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Eric– You’re the one with the silver tongue and the golden voice. Wizardly.

    Julie– Thank you. I love the community here, too. It’s special. My first response to you reading these sentences over and over is terror! But I’ll try to just go with it. 🙂

    Ashley Elizabeth– Wow, talk about words! It’s like you’re a professional at crafting them. I think the Hutchmoot people identify with this because it came out of that feeling of acceptance, commonality, and joy we found there. But there is a flavor of that here at the RR, for sure. I wish there were more ways to connect.

    All the best for your new adventure. We’re in your corner!

    Dawn– Dawn with the beautiful hair! It was a highlight to meet you, sister. Thanks for your kind words and I’m glad you liked the story.

    I’m bringing my wife to Hutchmoot next time (hopefully!) and am so eager for everyone to meet her. It’s funny that she says the same thing now that many of us thought. “Do I fit in there?” and I keep telling her, “Yes!” Of course maybe at the next Hutchmoot, since everyone will feel welcome going in, we’ll be a bunch of brash jerks and no one will have a good time. But something tells me that’s not going to happen.

  24. Jazz

    Mr. Smith, that website is awesome. Thank you for sharing that and for those words of wisdom. I now know that my friend has the best Father in the world. And that we can call God our father.

  25. Mike

    Sam, you always make me want to get out a pen and paper and write. I look forward to the day when there will be Hutchmoots throughout the country. Hutchmoot Atlanta has a nice ring to it.

  26. dawngreen

    As you know, my dear Sam, this is one of my favorites. Makes me want to wear my “Evanthia” brooch. Perhaps I will, tomorrow.
    I still need to be reminded that I belong here.

  27. Eddy Efaw

    How I missed this just after Hutchmoot 2011 I’m not sure. I do know that reading it now it fits on my heart like a glove. Just a wonderfully perfect creation to remind me of what Hutchmoot did with us, for us, and among us. Thank you Sam from the bottom of my heart.

  28. Peter B

    Sam. This just pierced me all over again. Thank you for faithful labor, toting truth from the well for each of us. I can’t wait to see you and this grand assembly.

    Also, it’s past-the-moon cool to read how you dreamed four years ago of publishing a novel. Grinspiring.

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