The Scandal of Grace

A while back I gave the keynote address at the induction ceremony of the Houston County (GA) Educators’ Hall of Fame. Here’s part of that speech…

I once had an ice cream cone with the school bully—a fifth-grader named Jay. I don’t remember how this came to pass exactly—maybe he and I just happened to be at the ice cream shop at the same time. But I remember that he and I and another boy ate our ice cream cones outside, in the grimy hindparts of a shopping center, among the dumpsters and discarded pallets. And I remember Jay swiping the last crumbs of the cone off his hands, then balling up his hard little fist and punching me right below my left eye. I remember the hot shame that burned on my face as I pelted home as fast as my bike would take me.

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Super Spider Powers

I’m in the last push on a book (a bio of Flannery O’Connor), so here’s another summer rerun. Back to regularly scheduled programming soon, I hope.

“I don’t think it will really work. Do you really think it will work?” If Mark heard me, nothing in his demeanor showed it. He knew it would work. I was still fuzzy on the details, and I was pretty sure Mark was too. But his confidence had nothing to do with niggling details. Mark was an idea man. His confidence came from his grasp of the big picture. And we all agreed on the big picture: when a radioactive spider bites you, you get super spider powers.

From the cartoon on Channel 17, I never really understood how Spiderman got his powers, but Mark had the more authoritative comic books. He explained the whole thing: Peter Parker was in a science lab, and a radioactive spider got loose and bit him, and then he got spider powers. We ate this stuff up.

Mark was the youngest of several brothers, so even in third grade an air of worldliness attached to him. He knew things the rest of us didn’t. It wasn’t just that he knew things; it was his casual, can-do attitude toward life’s great mysteries. This was a young man, after all, who had baptized his own dog.

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Pantsed: A Story of Self-Possession and Sangfroid

Here’s an old favorite from the archives of I hope you enjoy it again.

Think of all the amusing anecdotes you know about junior high football. I’m guessing 75% are set in that “magic hour” when the boys have arrived at the practice field but the coach hasn’t. Thirty junior high boys, no adult supervision. Something’s bound to happen.

In eighth grade, my cousin Brett got his pants pulled down at football practice. The coach was elsewere–wrapping up bus duty or finishing one last cigarette in the teachers’ lounge before facing the barbarians. Frank, the starting fullback, snuck around behind and snatched Brett’s pants in front of God and everybody. It was a beautiful pantsing, not one of those awkward affairs where the victim clamps his knees together and goes into a squat, clutching at his britches and his dignity. No, this was clean and quick. Brett’s pants went right to the ground.

Frank whooped and cavorted in his triumph. It was easily the best pantsing of the season. The other boys howled and pointed at Brett.

Who just stood there.

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Guest Post: Growing Peas

In the comments section of this blog she’s known as BuckBuck, but her real name is Rebecca Reynolds. Besides winning the recent clerihew contest, BuckBuck/Rebecca writes beautifully and thoughtfully at a blog she calls the little boots liturgies. Today’s post, about gardening and quadratic equations and the hymnal that is nature, is so good

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Rural Fantasy

The cover of Thirteenth Child features a windmill and a dragon. That's "rural fantasy" in a nutshell.

I was on yesterday and noticed that my book The Charlatan’s Boy was on a list of “Rural Fantasy for Children” put together by children’s lit blogger Kate Coombs. I’ve called my subgenre “frontier fantasy.”

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On Ash Wednesday


Recycling from a couple of years ago…

It’s Ash Wednesday. Yesterday my friend Father Thomas, an Anglican priest, burned the palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday to make the ashes to rub on people’s foreheads today. “Remember that you are dust,” he will say to them, “and to dust you shall

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In Which My Uncles Are Mistaken for Bank Robbers

My grandmother’s brothers were driving across Florida in a Model T Ford–this was eighty years ago or more. The car had no windshield, so the bugs that would normally get splattered on the windshield were instead getting splattered on my uncles’ faces. They were resourceful young men; they got paper bags at a grocery

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In Which I Pay Attention

A while back I was in the library checking my email on the public computers. The patrons of the library’s public computers constitute what may politely be called a cross-section of humanity. At my library, they don’t just let you sit at whichever computer you like. They assign you one, and it’s right next to the person who sat down just before you did. Which is to say, there isn’t any of that natural spacing of the discreet whereby two people in an elevator stand in the back corners and the third person stands in the middle right by the door. No, at the library computers you’re spang up against the next fellow.

The fellow I was spang up against was managing his account at an online dating site. He was a white-haired, paunchy old boy with a long, straight nose that ran bulged off to the left just at the tip-end, putting me in mind of a train that derailed right before pulling into the station. Every half-minute or so, he chuckled at something some dating prospect or other had written in her profile, wagging his head each time and cutting his eyes over toward me. Clearly he hoped I would ask him what he was laughing about or otherwise engage him in conversation. I was determined not to. I was in a bit of a hurry–just trying to check my email and get out of there–and I wasn’t up to it anyway.

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Paint Cans: A Fable

There was this guy, and he cared about the environment. He never threw mostly-empty paint cans in the trash when he was finished with a painting project. “Paint is bad for the environment,” he said. “It goes in the landfill, it ends up in the groundwater.”

So he put his old paint cans in

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MLK Day Book Recommendation: The Story of Ruby Bridges

I had mentioned this book in a previous post called Desire, Choice, and Consequences, but for MLK Day, I thought I would bring it up again.

The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic) is a non-fiction picture book that tells the beautiful story of a six-year-old black girl who faced incredible hatred from whites

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