“Backbone” by Sarah Voss

Gray Scale Photo of Baby in White Onesie

At Thursday’s noon meeting, one guy oozing piety used his speaking time to offer a long, traditional prayer, something even Jane knew was totally against the rules. Jane’s own prayers were mostly short, silent requests for insight.

Perry’s presumption irritated her.

Still, she was new to AlAnon. She kept quiet.

Later, at home, Jane wondered about the protocol. Should she have spoken up? Complained to the group facilitator? Said something privately to Perry? She was so damned tired of being carpet!

In her journal, she experimented with things to say to Perry next week. She wrote:

Perry, when you recite an entire prayer to us, it’s like you’re forcing prayer on us. I find this invasive. In the future, could you please not do this?

She read it over, decided she’d followed a good formula: state the behavior; use “I” language; make a request.

Then she softened her message: You could make it available afterwards, for those who want it.

She scratched out the last sentence, added some starch:

Your prayer offends my spiritual sensitivities.

Then: Don’t subject me…

Before she knew it, Jane had spent forty-five minutes trying to decide what to say to Perry next meeting.

Forty-five minutes! She wasn’t even sure she’d go back. What a dope she was, wasting her time, her effort. Idiot!

She felt exhausted.

“I’ll just let it go,” she thought.

She paused. Then heard her words, “Let it go.”


She closed her journal, unexpectedly excited, her own prayer answered.



Sarah Voss is a semi-retired minister, author, and lecturer who lives in Nebraska and publishes mostly esoteric stuff about religion and science including articles on “matheology” and “moral math,” in publications as varied as Parabola, Religious Humanist, and Theology and Science. Her poems and creative nonfiction have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, including Thema, The Mid-America Poetry Review, The Healing Muse, Ellipsis, Nebraska Presence and (forthcoming, web journal) Sacred Journey. Micro-fiction is a new exploration for her.