The Fieldstone Review

SURVIVAL MANUAL FOR A MEMBER OF THE ECCLESIA
BILLINGS, MONTANA, 1969-71

by Melanie Reitzel

  1. Help your mother gather up the four younger children and get them into the car on Sunday mornings.
  2. On the way, try to guess who in the congregation will be this week’s Examples. Shake your head when The Apostle points to those who have fallen. Try not to squirm during the four-hour sermon.
  3. Nod when the Scriptures are quoted. Pretend you care about the Latin root of the word “transgression.” Promise you’ll never step across the boundary from obedience to sin. If you lower your eyes and nod knowingly, everyone will believe you’re sincere.
  4. Sing whatever the congregation sings. The message does not apply; the refrain is not yours. Meanwhile, try to remember the lyrics to every song they wont let you sing.
  5. Keep a few things of this world to yourself that you have been commanded to give up—old pennies tucked tight into the black pockets of their cardboard folders tucked safe in the bottom drawer of your desk under sheets of your calculus homework that are filled with symbols your mother can’t understand.
  6. Agree to renounce fiction in all forms. Stories, however, never die—they’ll wait for you. You shall find them.
  7. When school is out, ride your bike downtown. Open the door to the courtroom slowly. Sit in the back where you won’t be noticed. Imagine you are the lawyer for the defense telling the judge that you object. Guess how each jury member will vote.
  8. Tell no one. If caught, say you’re witnessing justice.
  9. Find ways every day to say Yes that really mean No.