The book of Lionel is the story of a man doing his best to live in accordance with God’s word. But the adversary, otherwise known as Satan, identifies a glaring blunder in God’s moral management of his creation. If a man favors one of his children over the others, and this child favors him over all others, are they not sinners? Acquiescing to this truth, as stated in James 2:9, God allows Satan to disrupt the peace and the beauty and the strength of the bond that Lionel has with his daughter, and in so doing destroy their chances at maintaining a lasting, healthy relationship.

Vue d’en haut (11 May 2023)

1 There lived in the land of Maine a man named Lionel, a good man who feared God and stayed away from evil1. He had three sons and eight daughters, a couple cows and some sheep, as well as a dog and a bunch of barn cats. He also owned 30,000 laying hens and ran a small business out of his garage called Lionel’s Tire. He was a great man in the town, respected for his honest work ethic, and loved for his kindness, generosity, and humor.

2 For his own sins and transgressions against God, as well as those of his children, Lionel would pray upon waking and again in the evening before laying his body down to sleep. During the day, seated in the rocking chair by the bay window in the kitchen, he would read from his old Bible. Sunday mornings, he would load his wife and his children into the big blue bomb and drive them all to church. He bought these children their catechism books; with his wife, he would go for a drive to kill the hour or so these children needed for their weekly instruction in the basement of the church. These things were Lionel’s regular customs.

3 Amongst the eleven children he had sired, Lionel was particularly fond of the tenth one: Florence. The runt. He called her Toothpick. She called him Vlegie. Vlegie loved everything about Toothpick, and Toothpick loved everything about Vlegie. He was the sun around which her entire world orbited.

4 One day, Satan came to present himself before the Lord.

5 “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

6 And Satan replied, “From patrolling the earth.”

7 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant, Lionel? He is a fine man, a good man who fears God and stays away from evil.”

8 To which Satan replied, “Lionel Belleville? The chain smoker with the anger management issues?”2

9 “Touché,” came the Lord’s response, “But have you observed how attentive and loving and gentle he is with the little one?”

Petit diable arrivant sur la pointe des pieds (22 March 2023)

10 “Florence? The one he humiliated a little while back with that merciless spanking in front of her siblings? For playing an innocent game of hide-and-go seek with her little sister?”

11 “For shoving her in a Sears Kenmore 500 top-loader washing machine,” clarified the Lord, “The child deserved the spanking. In any case, he apologized to her after. Unheard of in the Belleville household.”

12 “Precisely,” Satan said. “The man favors the child. And she favors him. Have you never read in James: ‘But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers’? Your Lionel is not such a fine man, not such a good man. I dare say he and the runt mock you to your face. Would you tolerate such iniquities? Would you leave such a sin unpunished?”

13 “Very well, then,” said the Lord to his nemesis, “I leave them in your hands. Break them up. Muddle their speech. Silence them.”

14 And with those words, Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

15 Down to the town and into the house where Vlegie and Toothpick lived he went, arriving just in time to watch them play Toothpick’s favorite game, a sparring match of sorts. The rules, Satan noted, were simple: climb on Vlegie’s back and cling to it for one whole minute; the odds, Satan remarked, were in Toothpick’s favor: the runt was lightning fast, strong as an ox, and ultra-scrappy. But this, Satan saw, was not all. Vlegie was not trying with all his might to peel Toothpick off his back; Vlegie was letting her win.

16  “This will not do,” Satan said to himself, and into Vlegie’s body he went.

17 Within seconds of the start of the next round, Vlegie had both of Toothpick’s arms pinned behind her back. She squirmed. She contorted her skinny little body. To no avail. Toothpick was caught in a snare, Toothpick was trapped.

18 Her legs, however, were free; she could kick her way out of Vlegie’s grip. But Vlegie saw the blows coming, anticipated where each one would land, twisted his body to avoid them all. All but one, of course. Square between his legs it landed, turning his laughter into desperate gasping for air, breaking his face into a million pieces.

19 “Ça bon!” came a woman’s angry voice from the kitchen.3 The mother’s voice. Not, strangely enough, directed toward the child who had just done something wrong and who now lay crumpled in a heap on the floor, but toward the husband. Toward the father: Vlegie. Vlegie, who was gasping still, doubled over, and hobbling away.

20 Off Toothpick hastened to the safety of her bedroom closet, to look there for Johnny Colorful and the comfort he would surely bring her.4 But it was Satan she found waiting there for her instead.

Petit diable arrivant sur la pointe des pieds (22 March 2023)

21 “Florence,” he said. “Why so sad?”

22 “I have just killed my Vlegie,” came her reply.

23 Satan chuckled, and slithered closer to her. “My poor child,” he said, “You have not killed your father. You have only hurt him gravely, that is all.”

24 “Ah!” she exclaimed with relief, “I will go to him, then! I will say I am sorry!”

25 “No, my dear child,” Satan cooed, “Those are words no one ever utters in this household.”

26 Remembering the time not too long ago when Vlegie had said those very words to her, Toothpick said bravely to Satan: “That’s not true. He said it to me once.”

27 Paying no mind to what the child had spoken, Satan moved even closer to her.

28 “Florence,” he whispered, “you mustn’t ever bring it up. You kicked your father in a very secret, private place. A shameful place. It is forbidden for parents and their children to speak of this place to each other.”

29 And here, Satan put his paws on her head, breathed shame and fear and guilt and doubt and confusion into her body.

30 “Florence,” he said, “Go now, from this closet. Say goodbye to Toothpick, say goodbye to Johnny Colorful; they cannot go with you. And do not search for Vlegie out there. You won’t find him. He is already gone far, far away.”

31 And thus Florence emerged from the dark closet. She crossed the threshold into the bedroom she shared with two of her sisters in the house where she had been so free, where she had known such happiness. The sun was shining through the window, but there was no light.

  1. Though the introduction to this piece is modeled upon the one appearing at the beginning of The Book of Job in the NIV, the rest is inspired by the wording found in Lionel’s old Bible, The Way: the Living Bible (Tynsdale House, 1972). This Bible was gifted to the author by her mother, as described in blog post #13: Mission Dirigo (30 April 2023), and is mentioned in several other blog posts, most notably #14: A time for everything (7 May 2023) and #20: Dear dad (18 June 2023). ↩︎
  2. To what adverse childhood experiences might we attach Lionel’s addiction to nicotine? What is the true emotion hiding behind the mask of this secondary one, which is to say anger? See blog #20: Dear dad (18 June 2023). ↩︎
  3. What do these words mean, and why would the mother direct them at the father rather than the child? See blog #6: Love is forgiveness (12 March 2023). ↩︎
  4. Who is Johnny Colorful, and why would Toothpick look for him in the dark closet of her bedroom? See blog posts #5: Welcome back, Johnny Colorful (5 March 2023) and #23: Start by listening (9 July 2023). ↩︎

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