PIES OF GOD • by Sarah Black

Brother Joseph never told anyone that he heard the voice of God when he was fifteen. He wasn’t really sure if something had gone wrong, or if the first visit was just a prelim, and God was waiting for him to do something extraordinary. He really believed, hoped and believed, that the next time God spoke to him, something would be different. Something would change.

So Brother Joseph was living the contemplative life in a California monastery, waiting for God to finish the conversation he had started many years before. “Joseph,” God had said. He’d been lying in bed, staring at his bedroom ceiling. “Joseph,” God said. “Joseph.”

“What?” But that was it.

He was trying, God knows he was trying. But the contemplative life was difficult for him. What was he supposed to contemplate? He had to stomp down hard on his inner butterfly, his desire to fly through the springtime grass, roll through meadows full of wildflowers, enjoy the smell of Big Sur sea air. The other monks treated him like an overeager puppy, entertaining and lovable, but sort of annoying when they were tired.

The Abbott asked him if he would like to find some work, could he please find some work to do. He was offered a job as apprentice beekeeper and market gardener, but Joseph had been thinking a lot about pies. Could he perhaps train himself in pastry? He had once watched the movie Babette’s Feast, and he explained that he imagined his pies helping ease the aches of arthritis that were frequent topics of conversation at dinner. The Abbott agreed to the pastry, but suggested that he read the story, rather than depend on his original impressions of the movie.

Brother Joseph found great joy in his pies, and he made them to taste like the wildflowers, the green grass, the sea air of Big Sur. The other monks began to treat him with a little more respect, but Joseph hardly noticed. Happiness and an idea had taken root in his mind.

He understood that pastry equaled practice. There was no question a certain amount of craft was involved in a fine crust, and craft came from doing it over and over, and paying attention to the results. Certain flavors were easy on the mind, like whipped cream. Sour cream in a pie required concentration, a suspension of judgment, a leap of faith that in the end he found more rewarding than whipped cream. Joseph was happy contemplating these issues. What he came to believe was that when he was happy, his pies tasted better. And he was happy when he wasn’t thinking about that evening when he was fifteen and God had left a big question mark in his mind.

Spring berries, fresh-picked early in the morning; rolling out buttery pastry crust on cold marble, the smell of coffee drifting through the kitchen. Butter and salt, sugar and tiny green leaves of fresh mint. There came an April morning when Brother Joseph, his heart full to bursting with the beauty and happiness of the day and the goodness of his pies, decided to forget about that long-ago conversation. To give it up, and everything it might mean. To live as a pie maker, and forget about his failure, the lost potential he had never understood, to give it up and just make pies.

Two children came into the kitchen, delivering more berries. They came through every year when the fields got ripe, brown boys and girls, already learning that work was important for the family to survive. The girl had bangs cut straight across her eyebrows and berry-stained fingertips. They both stared at the pie cooling on the counter, purple huckleberry juice bubbling up through lattice crust, sparkling with sugar. They didn’t say a word.

“Joseph,” said God. “Joseph, they’re hungry.”

Sarah Black is a fiction writer.

Rate this story:
 average 4 stars • 6 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Very nicely told, Sarah. 🙂

  • Engaging, sweet piece.

  • That is so true of how many religious people don’t do the ordinary human thing because they are too busy listening for the booming voice from heaven to see the needy right there in front of them. What higher calling do you need than that? Excellent and inspiring. 5

  • Beautifully written, Sarah.
    Made my mouth water.
    Lovely ending.

  • Jen

    Very nice.

  • Rob Santa

    Lovely. So nice to start my day with a warm feeling i can carry around until bed.

  • Some lovely images, Sarah. Proves the theory that life is found in the details. Wonderful story.

  • Celeste goschen

    Atmospheric and well-observed.

  • mmmmm pie

    this story contains pie

    thus it is a 4

  • Robin

    This was fun, Sarah! Thanks for the read.

  • What a delightful way to start my day…with your story. Excellent writing and a lovely lesson. While it’s not a children’s story, I wish it were available to children. When it runs it’s course here, consider sending out a feeler on it to Hi-Lights, the one for their older group of children.

  • gay

    Love it Sarah!!!

  • Beautiful! Deliciously beautiful! With a sweet lesson as well. Gave it a five!

  • Gerard Demayne

    “That is so true of how many religious people don’t do the ordinary human thing because they are too busy listening for the booming voice from heaven to see the needy right there in front of them.”

    That story went right over my head but that explanation I understand. 3 for the story, 5 for Oonah’s interpretation of it.

  • Douglas Campbell

    Delightful story, Sarah, skillfully written. Sweet and fable-like, with a wonderful main character. Bravo!

  • Louise

    Hi Sarah,
    I like the discussion of the varying mental effects of sour cream versus whipped cream and the way God resumes his conversation with Joseph once he’s found his vocation.

    The story is about artists and the way they skip religion and go straight to God, or it’s about mystics.


  • jennifer walmsley

    Wonderful story.

  • Considering many religions worshiped cows, I was wondering what kind of pie this story was going to refer to. Well done as ever, Sarah.