The Inspiration Behind “Miss Mae’s Prayers.”
By H.R.R. Gorman
“Miss Mae’s Prayers” was inspired by the area where I grew up. The Southern Appalachians are steeped in a rich history of superstitions, most of which are about health or weather, and many of which are considered about as Gospel truth as, well, the Gospels themselves.
The titular character, Miss Mae, is based on my next-door neighbor growing up (though “next door” meant something more like half-mile or a mile away). Though she’d grown up in a staunchly Christian community, somehow she’d made the decision to believe in no god. As a result, she was considered to be witchy, especially since the childless woman lived to be 102 before finally succumbing to pneumonia. Despite her status, she knew many mountain folk-cures and gave sought-after advice to others in the community.
Common practices in modern mountain churches stem from Baptist and Methodist missionaries that arrived in the late 1800’s. Circuit preaching, revivals, and camp meetings still happen in the mountains with surprising regularity, and they hearken to a time when only a few preachers tramped around the woods in search of souls to save. The story focuses on a highly respected circuit preacher who is skeptical of the mountain ways.
Elements of the present remind us of the past that created “Miss Mae’s Prayers”, and I hope reading this short can transport you to a fantastical world without the need to attend an old camp meeting…
Growing up, H.R.R. Gorman listened to a circuit preacher every Sunday at her local church near Boone, North Carolina, and has accepted supernatural medical advice from neighbors and relatives. She now holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in chemical engineering, with which she makes modern cures for those less superstitiously inclined. In her spare time, H.R.R. enjoys training her dog, Hector, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her husband.