From Sarvice, My Novel

An excerpt from Sarvice, a novel I am working on:

The Good Seminarian
Somehow, Junior ended up the next day in the dry, middle of nowhere watching antelope across the road graze with the cows. He felt like he had taken the most wonderful drug ever ingested. It must have been something he ate or didn’t eat. He didn’t recall ever feeling any better. No cares, a beautiful blue sky with some just-right white clouds, Jesus rays ready for the final call, antelope, cows, the blissful solitude and his penis not burning quite as badly. Maybe he was having that nice day everyone in San Francisco had wished him.
The God of hitchhikers let Junior’s spirit soar in the vast Saskatchewan prairie for as long as he could stand it. It only made feel good sense to lay down on the warm asphalt and look up at the blue sky with ships of just right white clouds easing southeastward. He felt that good, that high. There was little to no traffic, no danger prostrate in the middle of the road.
“He buddy, you ok?” Junior woke up and looked up at a young man peering down at him from his car window. This young seminarian was obviously brought to intersect with Junior’s reverie by a loving God. Junior got to his feet and joined the other two hitchhikers in the car.
They spent the rest of the day getting to Winnipeg. They talked the talk of young vagabonds–of sports, politics, sex, philosophy and they talked of religion. Junior mentioned that it would be good to spend this Christmas at home, the others nodded agreement.
Joe, from Quebec started. “Christmas, what a farce. They can’t possibly know when Jesus was born or when he was murdered, there is no historical record and it isn’t in the Bible, either.”
Jesus was murdered? I never thought of it as murder or that he was killed. In my mind he had always been crucified. But, yeah, it was murder. Junior thought as he nodded agreement.
Joe again: “How about torture and assassination?”
“Man, that too.” Junior said out loud.
Joe was on a roll. “Think about what happens around Christmas. The days quit getting shorter and start getting longer. The so-called pagans celebrated the hope of more sunshine and since the Christians were just recently pagans they continued to celebrate the winter solstice, the winter sun stop, and tucked the little baby Jesus right in there. For the sun to head back in the direction it came it would obviously have to stop.”
“But why is Christmas on the twenty fifth, isn’t the shortest day of the year a couple of days before that?” Junior asked the swarthy pagan.
“Well I figure the Christian bosses offered the twenty fifth as a counter celebration kind of like the Soviet Union substituted a New Year celebration for Christmas. Or maybe the Pagans waited a few days after the shortest day of the year to make sure it was really happening. To make sure there was still hope. Maybe the twenty-fifth was their day too. They probably partied for a week or two and the exact day didn’t matter too much. Can you imagine? Early in human history they had no way of knowing for sure that the days weren’t just going to keep on getting shorter and shorter until all they had was darkness.”
The first day must have been a wonder
Nobody knew what came next or how long it was to last.
Everybody cried at sunset the first time
And waited up all night to see if day was coming back
Ivan Norton Hunter

“Man!” Was Junior’s most consistent remark, with his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide and full of wonder like the first time he saw the northern lights or a jet fighter catapult off Storm Thurmond.
“When they decided that they were going to be saved from the shortening days, then my friend, they threw one of the biggest parties you ever saw. They had big feasts, invited all their friends, ate pigs and like pigs, got drunker than hoot owls, beat drums like crazy and danced to a frenzy.”
Junior glanced at the seminarian who peered straight ahead, no reaction. There was a slight arc of a grin on his face.
Joe continued, “Lots of babies were born in late September and early October in those days. Paternity might have been a mystery.”
“The Christians stole it. It fit right in. Jesus was a message of hope, the days getting longer was a message of hope. Jesus was saving people from Hell, from burning alive forever in a lake of fire. The sun was saving people from eternal darkness and freezing their asses off. And buddy don’t you think that maybe Santa Claus was a preparation for Jesus? You get little kids to believe in someone they never see who rewards them if they are good and they slide right on into the Jesus myth as adults.”
The conversation cycle reached magic moments when everyone was silent for a spell. And it was a spell. Talking stopped like light waves canceling one another and the result being darkness or sound waves out of phase opposing other sound waves, creating what passes for silence. Any attempt at conversation rushed into the rarefaction and was dampened to less than a whisper. It was like a quiet time in the woods sitting on Indian Rock looking over at beautiful Sarvice Mountain and the misty out of focus Christmas Tree Ridge. No one was uncomfortable with it. It just happened with no planning. It felt good and right for the moment,
A boy of twelve was hitchhiking alone. The good seminarian had four hitchhikers now. When they stopped for lunch the boy tried to steal the tip the seminarian left. With his empty pockets and no home, the boy didn’t think twice, the money was there unattended. His only rule was don’t get caught. Survival was his main joy. Junior took him back to the table and made him put the money down. The boy giggled, he liked the attention. Junior handed him a dollar and said, “Just ask and you will receive.”

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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1 Response to From Sarvice, My Novel

  1. K.K. Matthews says:

    I love the excerpt from the novel. It made me feel carefree. Please keep writing.

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