On a rain-swept Florida highway, eco-terrorist Edie Aberdeen is robbed and left for dead. When two police officers rescue her, she offers nothing of where she came from and nothing of what she fled three-thousand miles to leave behind.
While recovering from her ordeal, she is taken in by several members of Christ by the Sea, an evangelical mega-church whose pastor preaches a fiery brand of charismatic activism. But the praying in tongues and the energy with which the congregation worships—combined with a focus on conservation and end-times theology—refuse to grant Edie freedom from her dark and ever-encroaching past.
Green Gospel deftly navigates past and present while moving across the landscapes of California, Florida, and Oregon. Several unforgettable characters narrate this vivid debut novel that examines the roots of fundamentalism; the powerful sway of community; and cuts to the heart of the question of whether or not people change.
ISBN: 978-1-60489-073-0 Trade paper $18.95
ISBN: 978-1-60489072-3 Library binding $29
L.C. Fiore has published stories in Folio, MAKE Magazine¸ Michigan Quarterly Review, Wascana Review, and the anthology Fresh Flash: Short Short Stories about Youth, among others. An award-winning short-story writer and editor, his work has also appeared on NPR and in various baseball publications. He and his wife live in Durham, North Carolina. His website is http://www.lcfiore.com.
From the Book:
The truck has stopped. She feels the truck has stopped although she has not yet opened her eyes. Sleeping or half-sleeping for a thousand miles, her body surrendered to the darkness and to the noise and to the deadening vibrations of the road. Now the jostling of the truck bed and the drumming of the wooden slats built up along the side of the bed are still. She is sitting upright, leaning against the planks with her knees drawn and her head resting on her arms. She opens her eyes; it is dark inside the back of the truck and a slightly less-dark light falls through the slits in the siding, between the bowed heads of other bodies sitting motionless across the bed. Ten or twelve men also do not lift their heads when they hear the sound of the chain pulling free of the tailgate lock. There is a pattering on the aluminum roof and when the tailgate opens she feels the insistent bite of rain.
She is closest to the gate on the driver’s side. The smell of the unwashed men is cut by the fragrances of humidity and pine. The outside air blows through the back of the truck bed and cools the sweat along her arms. She has leaned against these men for balance, and for something else, courage maybe, for days, and now they lean forward as one body to taste the outside air. When the tailgate swings open, the man she remembers as Yahir is standing there motioning for her to step down.
Salte, he says. Get moving.
These are not her people. This is not what her grandparents endured, nor her parents. And this is why they did not speak to her, why they did not even look at her when she hoisted herself onto the truck somewhere south of Tucson, only the one man who did not look at her but made room for her along the side, enough space for her pale arms thin as bone gleaming in the shadows of the truck, eastbound on Interstate-10. The smell was unbearable, the smell and the sounds of the cooped-up men, a steady murmur of hacking coughs and stuffed-up nostrils and some drooling man sucking the spit back into his mouth, over and over again. Isolated also by her softness; the hands of these men are callused, their faces hard as burned wood from laboring beneath the sun. The companionship of a blonde gringo—that’s why Yahir accepted her as freight. She’d been brought along as entertainment. She had also said that she could pay.
She shoulders her backpack and slides across the floor to the open air. The rain gusts up from the road. The marsh and the wilderness and the palm fronds swaying are silver in the moonlight through the rain; the tops of trees snap and buck in the wind and the lushness is colored cobalt and steel in the night. Yahir’s hands on her waist help her to the ground. She gathers her hair from her face and feels the rain on her lips and spits it out and she sees nothing down the road in either direction. Their journey began in the desert and will continue through the swamp and end somewhere in an orchard, somewhere, but here is where the ride ends for her, this flat, two-lane roadway without a single sign or mile marker, the unswerving roadway stretching through sheets of rain in either direction.
You’ve got to be kidding me, she says.
The money, Yahir says. Rapido.
She shrugs her backpack to the ground, a hiker’s pack, green nylon, carbon frame—all of which strike her as absurd, squatting there on the rain-swept route, unclipping one pouch and threading her hands through the pockets, digging deeper, and finding nothing. Inside the truck, bodies stir. She unzips the hood. She pats down the side pockets, unclipping the side compression straps, yanking the tool loops, rummaging through the mesh dividers and finding no money. She feels the rainwater on the back of her neck and running down between her shoulder blades and she feels the wet seeping through the spaces between her toes.
Nos tenemos que ir. Dáme el dinero.
She empties her bag onto the ground: the knit ski-cap, a water bottle, a half-eaten bar of peanut brittle. The sum total of her possessions spread around her as she kneels on the flooding roadway watching freshwater from the sky dissolve the candy into sugary granules. She wants the water to rise up high enough that it drags her into the marsh; she is thinking of birds that tilt back their heads in a storm and drown.
ˇYahir, nos tenemos que ir a la chingada! says a voice from the truck cab.
All her life traveling alone and never this. She had listened to the road and she had fallen asleep and she had been careless and she had been robbed. Her money was in the lumbar pack and now the lumbar pack was in her hands and her money was somewhere in the truck. Folded damply in a pants pocket. Secured by the elastic band of someone’s underwear. The worker who’d made room for her in Tucson; his perhaps. Or had they split it while she slept, or half-slept deeper than she thought, probing her person and then the removable floating hood with internal mesh zip pocket, finding her meager stash of money. At the bottom of the backpack, her fingers touch the sewing kit.
The money’s not here, she says. It’s gone.