My short story "Pitch" will be coming out in the PHANTASMA STORIES anthology on September 22nd. "Pitch" is, on the surface, a simple story about a boy, "Billy Goat" Gibbons, who sets out one morning with his grandfather's rifle to kill the devil. A lot of mental percolating went into the creation of this story, though, and I thought some of you might enjoy an early look at my insights that will accompany the story in the anthology.
Thoughts on "Pitch"
An editor once pointed out to me that my leading characters are all loners, even a certain redheaded witch whom I saw as being deeply connected to her family and her community. I’ve come to realize that the creation of any character provides an invitation to make a Freudian slip, one that will perhaps reveal more about my own psychology than I might like to make publicly known, or sometimes even privately acknowledge. When creating “Billy Goat” Gibbons, though, I made a conscious decision to dig into those habitually shunned areas of my psyche that hold the memories of what it felt like to grow up the odd boy out in the rural south. I’ve set Billy’s hometown within an easy driving distance of my own, but rather than limit what makes him an outsider to an internal difference, it’s his physical appearance that marks him as an outcast.
So why a goat? Well of course there is the obvious occult connection as a symbol for the devil, but it goes a bit deeper.
The book of Leviticus contains a curious injunction regarding taking a pair of goats, sacrificing the one and driving the other off into the wilderness “for Azazel”. The Hebrew “for Azazel” is translated in some English versions, including the King James Version, as “as a scapegoat”, a wording that neatly sidesteps any theological issues that an acknowledgement of an earlier form of worship might lead to. This command has needled at me over the years not only as it seems to contain a fragment of a pre-Biblical practice, but as the act of creating an outcast/scapegoat is clearly echoed in the stories of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, and to a lesser degree, Jacob and Esau.
Still, Billy Goat’s tale is a simple story, of the kind intended to be read around a campfire, or better yet, midwinter, when the days are short, and the nights as black as “Pitch”.