D. Keith Mano is not well remembered today (even though, last I checked, he was still alive). He was at one time a columnist for National Review and a novelist with real talent and comic timing. Here’s a bit from my favorite scene he ever wrote. The novel is novel Topless. The narrator is Fr. Mike, a young, assistant Episcopal priest in Nebraska on his way to New York to sort out the disappearance of his brother:
[A]s my plane leaves Omaha, we hit this big-shouldered thunderstorm. Lightning actually knocked a wing-light off. And we kept flopping into air shafts Sudden elevator, whoops, going down. Stomachs turn inside/out. For me it’s a thrill — after Lekachman, [Nebraska] even near-death experiences are refreshing.
But the lady beside me is blitzed with fear. She asks if I’ll send up a prayer for us all.
I say, “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right.”
“Pray, damn it,” she says.
“God is watching us. We’re okay. If you want forgiveness, pray yourself.”
“I don’t believe in religion.”
Whoomp, big drop. Someone screams.
“You don’t believe, but you want me t’pray? That doesn’t make sense.”
“You believe, you pray.”
“I believe — and I don’t believe in bothering God with my problems. If he wants me t’die, there’s a darned good reason.”
“There may be a darned good reason for you t’die, but not for me.”
“Lord,” I said. “Forgive this woman her anger, and her mean-spiritedness — and if it be Your will t’take her into Thy bosom this day, be gentle and cleanse her narrow soul.”
“Narrow soul” really got to her. She screamed.
“He’s praying against me. He’s praying against me” [more...]