from The Sarah Book
A few weeks later, I burned this Bible. I looked over at my friend Chris and said, “Hey man we should burn a Bible.” Of course, we’d been fucking around like this for a while now. A month before we were going through the Taco Bell drive thru and our order total came up 6.66. So every time I went out with friends and wanted to freak them out, I’d start talking about how I felt the devil was after me. I’d say “Like seriously, I think the fucking devil is after me.” Then I’d stop at Taco Bell and order my devil order and it’d come up 6.66 just like always and everyone would go holy fuck and lose their shit.
Maybe this was a sign. Maybe Satan was trying to tell me something.
So I started looking for a Bible to burn. Chris thought it wasn’t a good idea and that Sarah was going to find out. I told him not to worry about Sarah. I was a grown-ass man and if I wanted to burn a Bible then Sarah couldn’t tell me not to.
I looked through the basement bookshelves and at all the Bibles we owned. There were three of them. There was a Bible from the Gideon’s and there was a Bible with a black cover that had been my childhood Bible. Then there was another Bible on the bottom shelf. This was the newest Bible. This was the Bible someone got us for our wedding.
I reached down and pulled it off the shelf. It was one of those big plush white Bibles and it had Sarah and Scott McClanahan on the corner in gold. It’s the kind of Bible you see on people’s coffee tables or at somebody’s grandma’s house. “I don’t think we should,” Chris said, but I didn’t listen to him. So I put the Bible on the table and opened it to the book of Daniel. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. I walked over to another part of the basement where Sarah kept her father’s old tools. I looked around for a while and then I finally found some old lighter
fluid and matches.
I took the lighter fluid and squirted squirt squirt on the Bible pages and then I took a match and it lit. Then I blew the match out. “O shit. Let me do something.” I turned off the lights.
Chris repeated, “We shouldn’t be doing this. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
But I just lit another match and let the match drop drown on the Bible and then there was a ripping sound and the Bible blazed bright.
My face glowed in light. I saw myself in the reflection from the window and there was a halo around my head.
The flames spread across the pages like ocean waves and then burned from red to brown to black. I put out the bits of dark embers and that was it. Nothing happened. It was the same as when I drank in the car and the devil didn’t have anything to say. Then Chris and I laughed. But then we heard Sarah upstairs and we panicked. I shut the Bible shut. The paper crinkled and wrinkled. Then I slid the Bible on the bottom shelf and she came down the stairs.
A month later I’d already forgotten about it. I don’t know why, but I’d just put the burned Bible back on the bottom shelf instead of throwing it away. Sarah and I were downstairs with one of Sarah’s friends. I was working at my desk and Sarah was showing her friend the new floor we put down in the basement.
“O it looks nice.”
“Yeah it looks really nice.”
They were saying this type of shit. So Sarah’s friend looked at the shiny floor and then she looked at all of my books on the shelves and she said, “So many books.” Sarah shook her head and said, “Yep, he likes books.”
Then Sarah’s friend saw something on the bookshelves that interested her.
I heard Sarah’s friend say, “O god, we used to have a Bible just like that when I was a kid. I used to love those big plush Bibles.” I flipped around and watched the woman pull the burned Bible off the shelf and hold it. Sarah told the woman that she got the Bible a couple of years before as a wedding present. Then Sarah’s friend opened up the Bible and the burned pages crackled and crinkled and popped up into the air.
Sarah’s friend said, “Oh God.” Sarah said, “What the hell?”
I was caught. Sarah took the Bible from her friend and then Sarah was quiet. I didn’t say anything.
I tried to think up what I should say. When I was in the 6th grade my friends and I stayed up late and drank a whole bottle of cheap wine my parents kept in the back of one of the cabinets. After we were done, instead of throwing the bottle away I just put the empty bottle back in the cabinet. The next summer my mother was cleaning and she came across the empty bottle I had put back in the cabinet.
She said, “What happened to this bottle of wine Scott?”
I said, “It must have evaporated.” She believed me.
When Sarah asked if I knew what happened to the Bible, I didn’t know what to do. I wondered if I should lie like I did when I was in the sixth grade and say I didn’t know what she was talking about and give her a look like she was fucking weird. But I told her the truth. I told her Chris and I had burned the Bible. At first she just stood and looked at me like she was confused.
Then she said really quiet, “Why would you do that?”
Sarah’s friend just stood and grinned a grin like she didn’t know what to say.
But then Sarah started screaming, “Why would you do that? Why would you fucking do that?” Then she started shouting, “That’s the Bible Mary Jo got me for a wedding gift.”
And then Sarah’s friend said, “I can’t believe you would do that, Scott.” And Sarah screamed some more at me and then she stormed up the stairs.
That night Sarah was still pissed and shouting, “Why would you do that?”
I tried to defend myself again. I told her it wasn’t a big deal. It was funny. We didn’t believe in any of this shit anyway, so what did it matter. I told her we were just bored.
Then Sarah said it just creeped her out. She wondered if there were more things I wasn’t telling her about, people I was talking to. A different life I was leading. She told me you don’t mess around with shit like that even if you are joking.
Then she told me she wanted it out of the house. She told me she didn’t want the burned Bible in the house another minute. So I told her I’d put it in the trash in the morning but that wasn’t good enough for her. She told me to get rid of it. I got up and went into the kitchen and got a garbage bag out. Then I swung the garbage bag open and it poofed out poof and full of air. I went downstairs and put the Bible inside of it. Little specks of the burned Bible fell off slow like snowflakes falling. Then I pulled the garbage bag string and tied it tight. “I’ll put it out in the trash,” I told her, but that wasn’t good enough. She told me she didn’t want the garbage men to see it. I yelled and told her that it was pretty fucking ridiculous to care what the fucking garbage guys would say.
But then I said, “Ok, Ok.” I put my clothes back on and picked up my keys and I told her I’d get rid of it somehow. I left the house in darkness and I searched for a place to toss the Bible. I looked at the full moon and drove down the road.
I drove to the gas station and got out to throw it away but there was a guy with his back to me pumping gas in the stalls beside mine. I tried to push the big Bible in the trash can beside the gas pumps but the trash can was stuffed full of trash and so the big Bible wouldn’t fit. I tried to put the big Bible in sideways but it still wouldn’t fit. The guy who was pumping gas beside me still had his back turned towards me and didn’t seem to notice. I heard laughing and it was the man beside me pumping his gas. He turned towards me and I saw his face and I saw his skin. He looked burned. The face was thick with scar tissue and the mouth looked melted and sculpted into a look of pain. So I just dropped the burned Bible down on the ground and the burned man just looked at me.
So I fled. I got in my car and I fled so fast away. I looked up at the full moon and I watched clouds slipping over and above it and below it all like knives. I saw the clouds make ghost shapes in the sky and I saw how silly it all was. And nothing happened.
It was done and I wasn’t at a crossroads surrounded by an army of angels from hell. And I didn’t see the future. I didn’t see how my life was going to fall apart and how soon I’d be sick with swine flu. I didn’t see how Chris’ uncle would commit suicide two months after that and I didn’t see how Chris would get divorced within the year. I didn’t see how my daughter would be born so sick and small. And I didn’t see how Sarah would say soon that it was over. And there wasn’t the sound of ghosts haunting me. And there wasn’t anyone showing me the future of my life and how everything I knew and loved would disappear soon. And there wasn’t anyone there with a pitchfork and there wasn’t the smell of sulfur. There wasn’t the promise of a future apocalypse and the sound of things screaming or the weeping and gnashing of teeth. There wasn’t a crossroads and there were no souls to sell. And there wasn’t any such thing as Satan. There was only me. All Hell.
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