"Horned God" originally appeared in Issue 12 of Tahoma Literary Review.
By Robert Fieseler
A part of me must have believed that, because God made all things, God also made the dinosaurs, and so I brought a book to Mass, called so—I perceived—because that was where the Mass of creation gathered to meet the Lord.
I’d seen the priest enter with a holy text above his head, and I wanted him to bless my scripture: a laminate volume of oversized words and pictures, with a cartoon cover of a triceratops lifting its horns to the morning and the title DINOSAURS. That year, I wanted nothing more than to be a paleontologist, a hard word to say when you’re eight. There was something saintly in digging up dinosaur bones from the earth, perhaps near the bones of Jesus (which I was told were missing).
So I stuffed my backpack and hid the triceratops in the back, away from my mother’s inspecting glance, and wore it all to church. I readied my hands when the hymns began. And when the priest of the Lord did enter the room, his book outstretched, I stood on a pew and lifted mine. Smiling, I conjured the most powerful image I could: Jesus Christ riding into Jerusalem on a triceratops. For a sliver of a second, our books did face, black leather and cretaceous creature. Then the man extended a hand from his sacred work. He pointed to me.
His eyes screamed a panic that my mother must have read as people turned. She slapped the image away. It hit the floor, spilling pages, as she shook my shoulders and the people sang.
Reprinted with the author's permission
Robert had this to say about "Horned God":
Growing up Polish Catholic in the Midwest was a protracted process of having my heart uplifted by God and then broken by the Church. Inquisitive children, such as myself, regularly paid the price of shame. Yet, at least for me, being forced to pit my imagination against my religion at an early age had the effect of rescuing my curiosity from their regimentation. They know not what they made.
Robert is a gay Roman Catholic and the author of Tinderbox, a work of history published by W.W. Norton/Liveright in 2018.