Early on in my high school years, I had a class in which we read nothing but short stories. No novels, just spectacular short stories (and a few duds). “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Leaf” by O. Henry; lots of Edgar Allan Poe’s stuff; Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game”; and the greatest short story of all time, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
Before I go on, there’s something crazy about “The Most Dangerous Game,” which was written in 1924. It’s a story about a bored big game hunter who lures people to his secluded island and then hunts the people as sport. If they can elude him for three days, they are set free. No one has ever done it before when another big-game hunter named Rainsford becomes the prey. I won’t ruin the ending; if you haven’t read it before, you should.
Anyway, in 1981, three guys were sitting around talking about the safari that one of them had gone on and the subject of “The Most Dangerous Game” came up. By the end of that night, those three guys had created paintball.
One of the stories that had an impact on me was Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet.” In the story, a wealthy banker and a lawyer are discussing the death penalty. The banker argues that the death penalty is preferable to life in prison. The lawyer disagrees and they make a bet. If the lawyer can remain in total isolation for 15 years, the banker will pay him the huge sum of two million rubles.
There’s a double-twist ending to it and, to this day, I’m still not sure which twist is more infuriating. One thing that stuck with me was that after the 10th year of isolation, he began studying The Bible. He studied it for years.
By that point in my life, I knew that there were people who devoted their lives to reading the Scriptures. I also knew that that wasn’t going to be me. But I also thought, “How hard would it be to read that book once so I could always say that I had?”
I had heard the story about the time someone saw the notorious W.C. Fields sitting in a car on Hollywood Boulevard, reading the Bible. When someone asked why he was doing so, he replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”
So I read it and it was like, “Holy Porn, Batman!” (As a matter of fact, that was a very common phrase among guys my age back then after seeing Julie Newmar in her Catwoman suit.)
All that begattin’ came to mind the other day when I was watching something on the news about all the book banning that’s going on in what used to be referred to as The Bible Belt. MAGA moms are showing up at school board meetings, mostly screaming about mask mandates and vaccines, but also making sure that their kids don’t have to read any books written by Black people and they definitely don’t want their children to hear the fake stories about how there used to be slavery in the United States.
So, this one woman got up and said that she didn’t want her children reading filth and that she thought that public-school kids should be reading The Bible.
I sorta agree. Maybe they should read 1 Samuel 18: 20-30, which says, “When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, Saul replied, ‘Say to David, The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Quite the dowry.
Or, they could find out what Lot was up to after his wife was turned to salt. Lot moved into a cave with his daughters, who took turns employing a Biblical roofie. In Genesis 19:30, one of Lot’s daughters says, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children — as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
They each had a kid by their dad and one kid was named Moab. Why people in ultra-religious Utah would name a town after a kid born from drunken incest is beyond my scope of understanding.
And, of course, there’s not just perversion. There’s lots and lots AND LOTS of violence, as in 2 Kings 2: 23-24, which tells us: From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, bald man!” they said. He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.”
Just think what would have happened if those kids had thrown a snowball or something.
But MAGA Mom’s kid would probably get bored with all the violence and head back to the sex, closing with Ezekial 23: 20-21. “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.”