Literary Journal – Spring 2016

Pearl – Prologue

A Novel Excerpt by Susan Wagner

I am a killer.

I say this without any sense of pride though I am an exceptionally good killer. Okay, I am proud of it. I shouldn’t be but I am. The good Father Corley tells me killing is a great sin but so is pride. Since he is my spiritual counselor, I try to listen and follow his direction. Didn’t used to be that way but now that God has a mission for me I have to pay more attention to details like this. This killing and pride thing.

The good Father Corley says maybe I was just exceptionally lucky not to be caught. Whatever. It doesn’t matter anymore. I no longer kill people. I would like to kill people but I can’t because of the special mission from God. And, to be honest, it’s because it makes me deathly ill when I try or even if I think about it too much. I’m okay if it’s just a fleeting thought or a short incident. But if I get to the stage where I’m thinking of how to do it, then I’m on the ground in pain and puking out my guts.

That lovely reaction came upon me in Ohio, as good a reason as any to hate the state. I was checking out Antioch, thinking I might go back to school and study art. I met the Punks coming out of a party when they proceeded to pee into the bushes right in front of me. You can see why I had to kill them.

Anyhow, having been twice to the emergency room for the pain and puking, I know it can get very bad. So when the need to kill comes on me, I have to pray and pray and try to focus my mind on something else, like the laundry or the neighbor’s cat or even the flowers of summer. Whatever.

I have people to help. Besides the good Father, I have the two Punks who are wannabe Prophets. These ghosts – the Punks not the good father — visit me periodically in my cell.  They’re the former college students I redirected into ghost-hood and who followed me around until I finally found Father Corley. I explained the trouble with the ghosts to him but it wasn’t until he actually saw them that he believed – in them and our Mission, the exact nature of which is, well, still a work in progress. It includes me not killing people, which I wasn’t happy about at the time. They materialized in his office, freaking him out as you can imagine. Annoyed the hell out of me at first because I liked the man and needed his help. But it turned out to be a good thing. The good father was able to convince the Punks that their constant presence was only making me worse. Once they began to trust him and his treatment of me, they let themselves go wherever former Punks-turned-Prophets go after death. Now, they pop in sometimes to supposedly “help” but I think they’re just bored where they are or God sends them when He gets too annoyed by them. Maybe, I’m their purgatory. I really don’t know but I wish they’d leave me alone. Prison is bad enough without having to not yell at ghosts. Especially since I’m in prison for just smacking a hospital social worker. Apparently, they’re a protected species or something. Anyway, yelling at ghosts might get me sent to psych and I’m too close to getting out for that. It’s all I can do at times not to scream at their truly stupid comments and conversations. You’d think the afterlife would have increased either their level of intelligence or their desire to be more than they can be, but no. Stupidity seems to be their eternal state. Last time I had a chance to talk to Father about it, he said I should use the opportunities they give me to develop patience, a supposed virtue.

You can imagine my thoughts about that.

The good Father Corley says in his letters that my mission has already started so I better try to learn what I can while I live through my unfortunate incarceration. With a little luck, I’ll be out soon and the path will be clearer.

We’ll see.

God, I miss the old days.


Susan Wagner, a former therapist, facilitated creative and poetry writing group therapies. She’s published poetry, short stories and feature articles for many years and taught both creative and business writing. Susan is currently finishing her second novel and is an editor with The Pearl S. Buck Writing Center.