“Amanuensis” (Hayden’s Ferry Review)
An amanuensis is a scribe, a secretary, who carefully writes what others dictate. When we find a record or document detailing the events of a particular place or time, an amanuensis is often responsible. Without him, we do not know what really happened. After a long snowstorm, the residents of a small town discover that Dumond has disappeared. Dumond is a man of science, beloved by nearly all his eighth grade students. He is a keen observer of all things natural. He is rumored to have gone out to photograph “ice crystals and falling flakes.” The events of Stephen Tuttle’s tale rest on these facts. Like a grotesque story by Shirley Jackson, “Amanuensis” chronicles the response of the town once Dumond is gone. At first he’s remembered fondly. But after his wife also leaves, the townspeople’s curiosity draws them into the vacant house. There they discover Dumond’s hobby—in his basement, he had built a nearly perfect replica of their town. Closer inspection reveals how much he actually knew about them. Too much, it seems. Curiosity is replaced by suspicion; suspicion by fear; fear by destruction and finally by the return of softly falling snow bringing with it once again the peace of forgetfulness. Why are we humans so small minded? Why do our imaginations lead to ignorance, fear, and violence? Can this part of our nature truly change? Should we blame the amanuensis? The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to present an award in Short Fiction to Stephen Tuttle for “Amanuensis,” which was published in Hayden’s Ferry Review.