“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Friday Fiction: "The Company We Keep"

35K in 28 days
16777 / 35000 words. 48% done!

Fiction Friday,button,karlene

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted this week by Sherri at A Candid Thought. Make sure that you head over to her blog and link up with your own fiction. Or, if you just want to read some great fiction (ALWAYS great in my opinion!), head over to Sherri's blog and check out the links there.
 I wrote this piece quite a while ago for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. The entire piece was inspired by the quote that is found near the very end of the piece. It is still an issue I am grappling with myself, and I have found that whenever folks read it, a discussion starts up. Hope it does again ;)

The Company We Keep

“Let’s see: Grimm, Haggard, Hardy… Hawthorne. There it is!”

Virginia Collier gingerly slid the volume from its place on the shelf and brushed the dust off its edge. Cradling it in her hands, she meandered toward an overstuffed chair beside a small table in the corner of the room, where she had placed a cup of tea moments earlier. Easing into the chair, she curled her feet under her and opened the book to the first page.

Virginia smiled. This was one of her favorite parts of the day. Her youngest was napping and the twins would be off the bus in 20 minutes or so. She’d gotten the cleaning and a load of laundry done and afternoon snacks were on the table. Now she could enjoy a few moments to herself until she had to get back into “mommy mode.”

She wasn’t always able to carve these times of solitude out of her busy day as a mother, wife and volunteer. But she certainly tried, and was generally successful a few times a week.

During those precious minutes, she’d generally do a little something for herself. Usually, she would pray, call a friend, or perhaps do her devotions or Bible study. But today, she’d decided to curl up with a classic.

An avid reader since childhood, Virginia had majored in English in college. She’d kept every one of her required literature books, and purchased several others. Add to that her husband’s love of books and the Colliers had quite a home library.

Since she’d become a Christian a few years before, however, she hadn’t spent much time up in their library. She’d added a number of Christian books to her collection, but they were kept on shelves in a different room – simply because the library bookcases were filled. This was the first time she’d sat down with a novel from college in at least a year, if not longer.

Glancing up after finishing the first chapter, Virginia practically dropped her book.

“Good book, Mom?”

Virginia looked into the twinkling eyes of her daughter, Sarah.

“Good heavens! How long have you been standing there? I didn’t hear you come in.”

Sarah tittered. “Just a minute or two. Steve’s downstairs eating. You must have really been into that book. He even slammed the door when we came in.”

“Guess I was. It’s one of my favorite novels I read in college.” Virginia stood up and handed the volume to her daughter.

Sarah looked at the cover as the two walked toward the kitchen. “The Scarlet Letter? What’s it about?

“Well, there’s this woman, Hester Prynne, who…um…”

“What, mom? What?”

OK, God, how do I explain this to my nine-year-old daughter without making it sound like a trashy novel?

Virginia took a deep breath. “It’s about a woman who sins with a man, and the consequences of their actions.”

“Cool.” Sarah headed for the table to grab a snack. Her twin was already there, munching on a cracker and reading from a piece of paper in his notebook.

Virginia walked to the table and tousled Steve’s hair. “Have a good day?”

“Yup. I’ve gotta do my math homework, then can I go outside?”

Virginia nodded, starting to putter about the kitchen, beginning her daily dinner preparation.

I wonder how many of the books we have up in that library are “Christian?” How many of them teach lessons I don’t want my kids to learn? I mean, Hester, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale seem to get what they deserve in the end – but how many others up there are teaching just what we’re trying to avoid teaching to Sarah and Steve?

A piece of paper slipped from the pages of the cookbook she was opening. Upon inspection, Virginia found a short list of quotations. Smiling, she remembered often jotting down things like this in college, when she heard something she didn’t want to forget.

“‘We should be as careful of the books we read, as of the company we keep. The dead very often have more power than the living.’ Tryon Edwards”

“What, mom?”

“Oh, nothing, Steve. Just some food for thought.”

Virginia strode purposefully toward the Collier library. 

 Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Sherri's blog for more great fiction.

Paving Rough Roads With God's Presence


  1. Do you think that everything we read needs to be Christian-themed or just adhere to Christian values? I read books that are not overtly Christian, (and really not Christian at all) yet I enjoy the story and there's nothing in them that is anti-Christian, or against the moral code that is in the Bible. I believe in "garbage in, garbage out" and that we need to order our thoughts to honor God (and can't do that if we're reading trashy novels!) but I don't think being a Christian means I can't enjoy a good story if the story never mentions God.

  2. I don't think everything has to be Christian-themed. I just wonder about books - "classics" especially that introduce non-Christian themes to children and/or "baby Christians." I remember reading a Normal Mailer book in college, for example, that was assigned in a college class. I was NOT a Christian at the time, but the language ABSOLUTELY disturbed me. Now he is a Pulitzer winning writer, and I really don't know if all his books are like that, but I would be VERY wary of letting my kids read anything by him.

    Like I said, I'm not sure where I stand on this exactly. When it comes to young kids who are very influenced by what they read, I might draw a different line than I would with a solid Christian who is interested in a book of this nature.

  3. Good "food for thought" Joanne. I agree that books should be chosen carefully for children, or that ones with controversial subjects should be read and discussed with a parent.

    I do look at it differently for adults, however. In one of my college classes we were assigned to read a book that we would never choose to read on our own -one that we thought was contrary to our own beliefs. I didn't like the book any more than I thought I would, but I did enjoy the way it challenged my thinking and strengthened my faith.

  4. Good food for thought, Joanne. As a non-Christian growing up I read everything I could get my hands on. God has blessed me with reading and writing abilities, but what I choose to "feed on" these days are the things that help me grow well, not merely entertain or even educate me in head knowledge. I think Christian parents have a huge responsibility in raising their kids to have genuine faith, and need God's help to keep their kids from feeding on trash - whatever form it comes in. That said, clean entertainment in moderation, in my opinion, is a good thing, for both children and adults.


Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear your thoughts - please share them!

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