(We thought we would publish a bit of fiction in these pages, for light, yet edifying and educational, relief from the barrage. Here is contributor Carl Sundell’s story, with, as he puts its, a theme is rooted in Pascal’s Wager argument, and reference to an historic debate between Chesterton and Darrow. Chesterton won the debate according to a vote taken with the audience of 3,000, at least according to a New York Times review)
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, touted by friends and critics as arguably the “biggest” literary giant of the twentieth century, was satisfied that he had done his good deed on this sweltering August day in 1931. No one around was gargantuan enough (321 pounds) to offer his subway seat to three panting and perspiring old ladies. The now aging literary lion tightly gripped the ceiling strap of the underground bullet as it hurtled him swaying to and fro from station to station beneath the great metropolis. At last, the screeching stop he had been waiting for … Times Square. He glanced at his pocket watch … in four hours, the great debate.
Unwilling to trust the moving escalator stairs (perhaps they would collapse under his great bulk and he would sink bellowing at the top of his lungs into the bowels of the machinery below) the poet heaved his huge bulk slowly up the seemingly endless stairwell, pausing to catch his breath at two landings, until he arrived finally at street level and hailed a cab. He counted on the driver to recommend a first rate restaurant where he would dine and relax before his evening debate with the legendary atheist lawyer, Clarence Darrow. The subject of their debate for several days had been well advertised in a headline of the New York Times: “Does Religion Have a Future?” Three thousand tickets had been sold for the event to be held at the Mecca Temple. It did not occur to Chesterton that he should worry about the outcome. After all, hadn’t he performed on the platforms of England with the likes of Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Bertrand Russell? Still, Darrow was known for clever tricks of logic, as the fiery orator William Jennings Bryan had learned to his dismay at the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. The poet would have to tread carefully this night, he mused, lunging into the back seat of the cab.