Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Faith of the Ocean,” by Arwen Taylor

As we join the story, Jonah has earned free passage onto a ship to Tarshish by means of winning a camel race; instead of taking his winnings and purchasing a ticket to Nineveh, he instead takes the free trip, upon which the voice of God leaves him.

The first three days on the way to Tarshish were beautiful. The sun played in a sky ornamented with the most delicate of cirrus clouds, and the water was a fortune in blues, purples, and greens, shot with gold where the light tumbled into it. Zabah lounged on the starboard deck, in a chair which he had specially constructed to recline and fold back up, sipped olive wine, and composed chiastic poetry to his favorite harlot back in Midian. The Amalekite who had come in third sat in his cabin sulking because he had lost to a crazy Israelite. Jonah paced the deck, distracted, usually in the way of the ship’s crew. Fortunately Zabah, with the very best of intentions, had inquired about a bit as to whether the Israelite camel champion might not be a bit insane, and so word was had around the ship that he was crazy.

When Jonah had said to get off, it appeared that the voice had taken him at his word, and stayed behind in Joppa. €œI’m sorry, € he growled into the silence. €œLook, as soon as I get to Tarshish, I swear, I won’t even race, I’ll turn right back around, I’ll swim to Nineveh if I have to. € His head stayed quiet.

€œI don’t know, € Zabah told the sailors. €œI’ve heard some strange things about the interior of Judaea. But still, he’s a phenomenal camel racer. €

€œI know, I didn’t even win that race, you won that race, I’m sorry! €

€œYou’re no better than Abiezer, € a voice in his head told him, but it was only his own mind. He didn’t know how he knew the difference. His own thoughts were oranger, somehow. The other thoughts came in darker, and blue.                    

€œThere may be something in the water there, € Zabah had said. €œBut he’s a good-looking kid. €

€œDamn nutty Israelites, € the Amalekite said.

€œI’ll go to Nineveh right now, just give me a way! € Jonah shouted to the ceiling of his cabin on the night of the third day, and promptly fell asleep.

The storm came up from nowhere. Zabah was nearly thrown off his chair by the wind and the Amalekite spilled ink on the angry epistle he was writing to the camel-racing commission. The ship rose high on a sudden swell of water. The rain came slamming down on deck like wheat dumped from a sack. Sailors swarmed and bounded from all corners to tie down the sails and bail water off the side. Zabah, in a hurried retreat below deck, chair in hand, heard them crying every man to his god, and went to find Jonah.

€œHey Jonah, € he said. €œSleepy boy. Jonah! €

Jonah woke with a start. €œWhat? I won’t go to Tarshish! €

Zabah took his shoulder and shook him a little. €œIs it your god you’re always talking to? €

€œWhat? €

€œYou talk all the time, to no one. Are you talking to your god? €

Jonah shook his head. €œGod doesn’t talk back, € he said sadly. €œI didn’t go to Nineveh. €

Zabah took a step back. €œYour god is angry with you? €

€œMy God has left me, € Jonah said. €œOr I left him. €

€œWell, I think he’s back, € Zabah said.

Jonah took in the violent tossing of the room for the first time. €œThere’s a storm? €

€œYou might say that. €

A sailor burst into the room. €œYou! € He launched an accusing finger at Jonah. €œWho are you? €

€œJonah son of Amittai, € Jonah said. €œI am a camel racer. € He shook his head. €œNo, I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Hebrew God, who made the earth and the sea. €

€œYou’re fleeing the god that made the earth and sea, € Zabah pointed out.

€œYou’re fleeing your God? You’re bringing us to destruction! € the sailor shouted. €œWe cast lots, and it fell on you! Come on deck, both of you. € He wrapped a burly hand around Jonah’s wrist, lest he try to resist.

€œHow could the lot fall on me if I wasn’t there to draw one? €

The sailor shrugged. €œThat Amalekite camel racer stood in for you. €

€œConvenient, € Jonah muttered.

€œMy will may be done even through an unreliable man of Amalek, € the voice said.

Arwen Taylor’s €œThe Faith of the Ocean € appears in its entirely as part of Plain and Precious Parts of the Fob Bible ( or as part of   the complete Fob Bible (


Excerpt from “Speculations: Trees” by William Morris


A FEW DAYS LATER, an old man €”a carpenter €”came and chopped down the fig tree. It took the better part of an afternoon. The bark and outer layer of wood easily flaked away, but the core of the trunk was almost rock hard. The rotten, withered branches rained powdery shreds of wood, as his axe chiseled its way through.

          By the time he finished, the axe had dulled, and the sun embraced the horizon. His son-in-law came to call for dinner, and they dragged the tree home.  

          The next morning, the old man cut off the remaining, scraggly branches and rasped away layers of trunk until only the heavy core remained. When he finished, the piece of wood measured two arm lengths and three hands in diameter. The wood was darker than fig wood usually is; its grain tight and mottled.

          The old man let the wood sit for weeks in a corner of his workshop.   But then, after his daughter’s latest disappointment, a thought entered his mind, a thought he couldn’t let go of even though it filled him with horror and awe.

          He planked the wood and joined the boards to make a rectangular box. He cut two green branches from an olive tree and began the slow process of curving them. When they were fully cured, he trimmed and sanded their edges. He fitted the bottom of the box with four short posts and added the runners. He sanded it and rubbed it with oil and resin until the oddly dark fig wood took on an almost silvery glow.

          When it was done, he set it down. The cradle rocked ever so slightly, slyly mocking his talents. His daughter was old, almost past childbearing years. He moaned, brushed at his eyes and held his palms to his temples in disbelief. This thing he created was a beautiful abomination, a piece of devilish craftsmanship borne of unrighteous yearnings and a cursed tree.

          He could not bear the thought of giving it to her. The look on her face. The look that would be filled with pain and that fierce hope that he might know something, that some small prophecy had been burned into his mind and heart.

          He buried it beneath a pile of scrap wood in a corner of his shop. Two months later he died.

          Six months after that, his granddaughter came into the world, crying, her skin dark and rosy, eyes deep and thirsty, hair thick and black. Her mother rocked her in her arms €”her movements slow and tender; her rhythm even and precise.


The elusive William Morris is the benevolent dictator-genius behind the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision  and, truth to tell, WIZ as well.   He lives in suburban Minneapolis with his wife and daughter. Refugees from the insanely-priced, but lovely San Francisco Bay Area, the Morrises love their new life in the frozen north. And don’t pity them, William still takes public transportation to his work* (a position in higher education marketing/pr at a college in Minneapolis). William’s professional career has caught up with him and he now serves in a public affairs calling for the LDS Church. Which is great, but he misses teaching.

*This is very important because it a) keeps his blood pressure low, b) means that the Morrises can remain a one car family, and c) gives him time to read and write.

“Speculations: Trees” won honorable mention in 2006 Irreantum Fiction contest and was published in Irreantum (Winter 2007/Spring 2008–double volume), 93-96.