by Christina Dalcher

Gloryville is that place where you dress in blue gingham down to your ankles, wear small white hats, watch re-runs of Little House on the Prairie. “So perfect,” Father says when Michael Landon puts his foot down. Gloryville is that community where you know where you stand and what God wants, and you don’t mind, not too much, because in Gloryville everyone is happy and busy. Old Brother William calls them productive, like bees in a hive. “Everyone’s happy here, right?” you say at supper. “And no monsters?” Father nods, and Mother smiles. 

Gloryville is different from the places you used to live: the city, the suburb, the country farm. When you were ten, Father said the city was too full of monsters, derelicts who would rob the clothes from your back and hijack your car; a quiet neighborhood would be better. So you moved to a house with a driveway and a lawn and shutters on the windows and no derelicts. The shutters were good because they blocked out Mr. Randall who used to come over to visit Mrs. Holloway, whose husband worked long days and nights and often traveled. 

“Monsters,” Father said. 

And you moved to the country farm. 

Unlike in Gloryville, where you have friends who are girls, at the farm you had friends who were boys. Some of them more men than boys. They took you for rides in hay wagons. When one of them brought you home late, stinking of beer and tobacco, Father called him a monster. 

So you live in Gloryville now, where there are no monsters. 

You go to the Gloryville school and attend services at the Gloryville church. There’s only one: a canvas tent Brother William erected down by the river, plenty biɡ for the fifty families who live here. Church is the closest you and the other girls come to the river, with its icy currents in winter and slippery mud banks in summer. Sometimes, it seems as wide as an ocean, but you suppose you’d rather look at the river during prayers than at the barbed wire circling the rest of Gloryville. 

After Sunday services, Brother William asks you to stay behind to help him clean. You do this because Father told you once that Brother William was a good man and the founder of Gloryville, and that he had no wife. Also, Mother used to help him clean, but she stopped doing that a while back. 

Brother William reminds you of a scary Spanish painting you once saw, all sallow skin and soulless eyes, so you work fast. He watches you sweep, watches your long blue gingham skirt swish and sway in the empty tent. Brother William says things like you are a fresh gift from God and wouldn’t you like to know what God wants? as he unrolls the tent flaps down, blocking out the light. He tells you what a good girl you are and offers you candy for your work. 

“It tastes funny,” you say, biting into the chocolate. 

Brother William smiles and waits and then pulls you onto his knee. 

“Monster,” Father says when you tell him. 

“Monster!” Father says when the gates refuse to open, when young boys with guns turn your car around, when Mother cries on the way back to your bungalow. 

Gloryville is that place where you dress in blue gingham down to your ankles, wishing you had extra material to hide your shame. Gloryville is that community where you know where you stand (or lie) and what God wants, because Brother William tells you every Sunday afternoon. In Gloryville, everyone is too busy to notice when your belly swells, or when Brother William asks another girl to stay after services and help him clean.

Christina Dalcher has recently transferred from the Read Every Word Stephen King Wrote MFA program (which she invented) to the Devour the Margaret Atwood Canon in One Sitting MFA program (which she also invented). In between homework assignments, she writes stuff, some of which gets published.
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