First, if I may, a preliminary bit of shameless self-promotion:
On May 15th, Open Road Media and Mysterious Press will allow me to join fellow Murderateros Gar Anthony Haywood and Ken Bruen as a Brother in Backlist as they re-publish in ebook format my first two novels, THE DEVIL’S REDHEAD and DONE FOR A DIME, plus an all-new collection of stories, KILLING MYSELF TO SURVIVE.
Pre-orders are now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Google.
I’ll have more info when I post on May 14th (I’m trading days that week with Pari), but for now here’s a personal profile the folks at Open Road prepared for the launch. Hope you enjoy it:
* * * * *
The author, age three or so. Note the evil.
This is a story about unspeakable sin and ultimate redemption.
Whose sin, whose redemption? You tell me.
At the age of six I entered first grade at Our Lady of Peace Elementary in Columbus, Ohio. Nothing, nothing about the public school where I attended kindergarten the year before could have prepared me for what I was about to encounter.
The first bit of strangeness involved the women in whose care my parents abandoned me.
Penguins, the older kids called them.
I’d never seen nuns up close before. And not just any nuns. Dominicans. Daughters of the Inquisition.
They had antiquated names linked to obscure saints—Sister Malcolm (there’s a St. Malcolm? Who knew?) Sister Sabina. Sister Norita. Sister Euthenasia (Okay, I made that one up.)
The habits they wore, which I would later refer to as Medieval Madonna Drag, had a black-veiled wimple with a flat mortarboard top. It looked like a nice place to park a cup of coffee if there wasn’t room on your desk. I was secretly hoping one of them might pull a stunt like that—you know, for laughs. But you don’t take vows of lifelong obedience, chastity and poverty if what you’re looking for is a chuckle.
But it wasn’t just the habit. The truly weird part about their get-up was that each of them had tied around her waist a long chain of black beads:
At the end of that chain was the figure of a dying man, naked except for a loincloth, nailed to a cross, a gaping wound in his side and a bird’s nest of thorns jammed down onto his head.
They referred to this man as their spiritual husband.
All of which explained, I suppose, their generally unpleasant demeanor. What a pack of sourpusses. Scowls outnumbered smiles ten-to-one, and a few were just mean as weasels. They glared at you through their rimless spectacles with an expression that said: There’s a chair in hell waiting for you, my pretty.
But as strange and menacing as these women were, they were nothing compared to Father Foley, the parish pastor. Kids would literally turn white and tremble at the sound of his name—partly because the nuns said it the same way your babysitter talked about the guy with a hook for a hand out on lover’s lane. The constant, inescapable message was: Beware! Beware of the Wrath of Father George Foley!
Central Casting’s Image of Fater Foley
He was a huge bucket-headed Irishman, 6’2, 250 pounds. He ran the only “legal” bingo operation in all of Franklin County and believe me, there were a LOT of greased palms involved. He’d been a boxer before he went into the seminary and his first stint as a priest was at the boy’s industrial school, as they called it. Reform school.
But none of this — NONE of this — could prepare you for your first face-to-face encounter with the man himself.
To borrow a line from The Twilight Zone: Imagine if you will … You’re six years old. Six years old. You’re still in a state of childlike awe over so many of life’s mysteries, things like dragonflies and waffles and questions like: If I have a right shoe and a left shoe, does that mean I have a right sock and a left sock? (You wouldn’t believe how long I puzzled over that sucker.) Innocent, okay? That’s what I’m talking about. You’re innocent.
But you’re also Catholic. Which kinda nullifies the innocent.
Then one day, as you’re sitting quietly at your desk while Sr. Sabina teaches you the Hail Mary or the Our Father or the ever-so-important, never-to-be-forgotten Act of Contrition (“O my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins…”), suddenly downstairs the door to the school SLAMS open.
I mean, LAPD’s SWAT Team would love to kick in a door like this.
And then you hear it. The voice. The voice you will never forget.
BAAAAAHHHH!!!!!! LITTLE MONSTERS.
You hear his steps on the stair — did I mention he had elephantiasis in one leg, so he was crippled and in constant pain. There’s a mood enhancer. But despite all that he dragged himself up the stairs to the second floor where the classrooms were, his steps an eerie and ominous:
Silence as he reached the top of the stairs. Every kid in my class is shaking. Then the classroom door BLOWS back. He’s there in the doorway, immense, fire-eyed—he’s John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, he’s Ahab harpooning Moby Dick. He’s the God of the Old Testament. And he’s come — here to YOUR classroom — to pass out report cards.
The first thing he says, still in the doorway, is: STAND UP!
Confused, wobbly and weak-kneed like baby goats, we clamber up as best we can from our still somewhat puzzling desks — but that’s not good enough:
When sister or I enter the room, you don’t just stand up. You leap up. LEAP!
For the next five minutes, we had leaping drills. He’d tell us to sit. Then he’d bellow: LEAP. We’d shoot up from our chairs like bottle rockets. Okay, he’d say. Sit down. Pause. Then: LEAP. Up we’d shoot again. Over and over, until he decided we’d finally gotten the message.
Then he passed out report cards.
“Have they been good, sister?”
“Well, for the most part, father. Some better than others.”
To say Father Foley believed in discipline is kinda like saying the Vikings were fond of sailing. And it wasn’t like you could run home for sympathy. My mother — my mother — told me: Don’t come running to me complaining that Father Foley hit you because if you do I’ll just swat you again.
If you got a C in conduct Father Foley would BLISTER you with a harangue that would make a Marine drill sergeant weep. His voice could knock out fillings — and if it didn’t, he’d use his hand, or his cane — no joke. For a C in Conduct. It was like you’d robbed a bank or strangled your kid sister or raped the school mascot. Then you had to come down for the next 6 Saturdays and help Mr. Johnson, the janitor, clean the school.
Father Foley called it: The Rock Pile.
I never had to go on the Rock Pile. My crime would be far more serious than that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First grade went by reasonably quick and without memorable incident. I habitually got straight A’s and was thought of as a decent kid and a good student.
Things would change.
In second grade I had Sister Alphonsa, who truly, madly, deeply … HATED me. Even before I did the terrible thing.
One day I was working quietly at my desk like all my fellow second-graders when suddenly I heard this swoosh swoosh swoosh and the rattle of beads.
I glanced up: Sister Alphonsa was charging toward me, her habit and rosary swaying from her momentum, a look on her face as though, given half a chance, she would eat me whole and pick her teeth with my bones.
She grabbed my hair, pinched my cheek hard, slapped my face, and said: Look what you did!
She slammed a piece of paper down on my desk. I’d misspelled the word “school” on my spelling test.
Call it the curse of being a good student, I suppose. I got the message — I was supposed to be perfect.
Maybe that’s why I did it. The terrible thing.
What was it?
I signed my own report card.
Now, let me remind you, we’re talking straight A’s, across the board, even for Conduct and Effort. I’d show my grades to my parents and they were so blasé about it like: Oh, Christ, this again? Yawn.
So I thought: What’s the big deal?
Now, in second grade we were just learning how to write script, and we hadn’t gotten around to “a” yet, which made writing my mother’s name somewhat challenging, since it was Mary. I thought, Oh well, I’ll just use an “e.” Like Merry Christmas, except it was Merry Elizabeth Corbett. And Merry only had one “r.”
But the misspelling was hardly the giveaway. My mother had the most beautiful handwriting. Her signature belonged on the Declaration of Independence, or the Magna Carta. When I signed her name beneath her previous signatures, it looked like this woman with the beautiful script had lost her hand to a wolf, and was writing with the stump.
But arch fiend criminal genius that I was, I thought: Eh. Who’s gonna notice? Nobody looks at these things.
Several weeks went by. Then Sister Alphonsa appeared beside me once again. She didn’t come flying down the aisle this time. She came slowly, methodically, as though pacing herself to a dirge only she could hear. When she reached my desk, she stopped, glared down at me with every drop of contempt and disgust she could muster and said:
“You … are an evil boy.”
She told me to go out into the hallway. Sister Macaria wanted to speak with me.
Sister Macaria—named for St. Macarius, of which there are in fact three: Macarius the Elder, Macarius the Younger, and Macarius the Wonder Worker—Sister Macaria was, as it turned out, pretty much the opposite of Sister Alphonsa. The kids liked Sister Macaria, the boys especially. She played softball with the eighth graders, had a mean underhand and when she was at the plate and the wood met the leather that little sucker was outta heah.
She also wore her wimple cocked a little to the side with a kind of — how shall I put this — devil-may-care jauntiness.
Sister Macaria had my report card. She looked at it. Looked at me. Looked at it. Back at me. Said finally:
Huh. You signed your own report card.
I dunno. Sister.
She sighed voluminously. Well, go inside and get back to your schoolwork.
I’m thinking: That’s it? One minute I’m evil, the next it’s: Go back to your desk and try not to puke on your shoes.
I’m thinking: Wow. This is sin? Count me in.
A few more weeks go by, then early one morning: SLAM.
Boom. Thud. Boom. Thud…
The classroom door blows opens: We all leap up.
Good morning, Father Foley.
Oh yes. We’d learned our lesson only too well. We were God’s little children. Obsequious, oleaginous, obedient little drones.
The weird thing. Father Foley was in an incredibly chipper mood. He didn’t bellow, didn’t threaten, he even cracked a few jokes with the nun.
But I knew what was on my report card, and I’m thinking: You know, this may not end well.
But then I think: Oh come one. He loves my mom—she made an incredible apple pie, and when she baked one for bingo he’d sneak down to the school basement, scoop it up before the crowd arrived and take it back to the rectory all for himself. And my brother Jim, the sanctimonious suck-up, was his favorite altar boy.
I had juice, is what I’m saying. How bad could it get?
Father Foley goes through the A’s: Jimmy Adamski. Marie Anthony. Terry Archibald.
Then the B’s: Mike Bernardo. Kathy Brennan. Debbie Bucci.
Finally the C’s: Jack Cardi. Nancy Callahan. David Corbett.
He looks at my report card — again, such a good mood.
He says: Okay, Corbett, let’s see what we’ve got. A in reading, good. A in arithmetic, good. A in conduct, A in effort.
He turns it over, looks at the back.
YOU. SIGNED. YOUR OWN. REPORT CARD!!!
I shot out of my chair like a moon launch and stood there shaking. I was so terrified I don’t even remember what he said but he made me stand there for what felt like eternity, going on with the other report cards but returning his attention to me every few minutes to scold me, browbeat me, humiliate me.
The other kids, I knew, hated this. Hated me. I’d turned the sunshine into gloom. For everybody.
I was an evil boy.
Finally Father Foley wrapped up with Brian Zimmerman. No more distractions. But instead of handing down my sentence, he got up and started to leave. He shot me one last withering, malevolent glare, then said: Corbett? What you did is so bad I have to go home and think about what I’m going to do to you.
Thus began my year in hell. I knew, as only a seven-year-old can, that Father Foley was spending every waking minute of every day trying to come up with the most hideous, shameful, pitiless punishment he could dream of — for me.
If he came within sight I’d duck behind somebody else and shrink up like a sponge, trying to become invisible. For whatever reason he didn’t hand out report cards any more that year, Sister Macaria did, but I knew that just meant he hadn’t come up with an appropriate punishment yet. He was still thinking. And what he was thinking was just getting worse and worse and worse the more the days rolled by.
Finally summer break came, I forgot about it for a while, though I knew he hadn’t forgotten. How could he? What I’d done was so bad …
Next year, third grade, we’re preparing for Confirmation, the sacrament that would make us Soldiers of Christ.
We had to memorize the catechism
because we’d be questioned by the bishop and if we flubbed an answer, we wouldn’t be confirmed, our families would be shamed — we’d be a public disgrace not just to our confirmation class but the entire parish.
And so we learned:
The three conditions for a mortal sin.
The four kinds of sanctifying grace.
The three Evangelical Counsels.
The four cardinal virtues.
The seven chief works of corporal mercy.
The two types of judgment.
The three kinds of lies.
The eight beatitudes and:
The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost (which are, by the way: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord—some things you never forget.)
Father Foley conducted the confirmation classes. I still expected him any minute to finally say: Okay, Corbett. I figured out what I’m gonna do to you.
Me: still trembling scared. Terrified.
One day, as he’s running us through our paces, trying to explain the difference between mortal sin and venial sin, he says to Molly Medaglia: Medaglia, say you push good old Corbett there down the stairs …
I didn’t even hear the rest of the question. It didn’t even register that, at least hypothetically, he’d just pushed me down the stairs.
I thought: He called me Good Old Corbett.
Good. Old. Corbett.
Inside, it’s like the Bells of St. Mary’s are ringing in my chest. Doves are flying off toward sunlit towers. Raindrops on roses and blah blah blah blah.
From somewhere deep inside, a voice rose up: Free at last! Free At Last. Thank God Almighty I am free at last!
I was an evil boy. But I never spent a minute on the rock pile.
But I’m still Catholic, and I know how this works. No one gets off Scot free.
Somewhere in hell. There’s a chair. With my name on it. In my mother’s handwriting.
* * * * *
So, Murderateros: What incidents of childhood fear, dread, sacrilege or shame formed you indelibly as the hopeless wretch— ahem, soulful writer — you are today?
* * * * *
Jukebox Hero of the Week: Speaking of an evil boy: Moodvideo’s revisualization of Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” (oh yeah):
Thanks for wading through such a long post.
In related news: I've managed to break my foot in 3 places, and I'm in a cast. I'm only supposed to sit at my desk a few hours a day, so I'll only be checking in every now and again. (I've been a bad patient, putting too much weight on it, hobbling around, and I've been told to knock it off.) Please excuse me if it take a while to respond to your comments.
Three places? Ouch! My deepest sympathies, and why does it not surprise me that you aren't the most compliant patient?
Love the profile–I think the armchair diagnoses of 'sociopath' and 'psychopath' are assigned as easily as ADD these days. It might be okay for other characters to refer to each other that way, but the writer had better dig a little deeper . . . Nice curtains, too.
As for the rest of your post, Holy Crows (she blasphemes), I'm just grateful I was raised in the Episcopal church and went to public school. Episcopal nuns appear to be collectively more forgiving and the priests aren't any more frightening than the Altar Guild (and often far less).
Most my sins so far are venial — according to George Carlin's definition — though that 'wanna' clause is a tough one. I'm not ready to share the rest. Though I did frame my sister for Banana and Teddy Bear Flushing Incident of 1977, which did something nasty to the bathroom floor and expensive to the septic system, but I don't know that the shame has shaped me much. It's been so long that *she* thinks she did it, anyway, and I'm not sure anyone would believe me if I confessed.
(Stay off the foot, wouldja? You'll lose more time redamaging it than you would if you just sat still for a couple days — might be a good time to do the Ring Cycle)
This, my friend, is exactly why we home school our kids. A childhood should be fun. I have wonderful memories of my raucous childhood. My wife has terrible memories of hers. While I had numerous shameful moments, the good out-did the bad. Not so much for my wife, and the cause was terrible schooling and a community baby-sitter who was rather abusive to the kids. So we keep our little ones close and hope that future scents and sounds bring memories of a wonderful childhood for both.
So sorry to hear about your foot, David. What in God's name did you do to it? Sounds like you're paying the price for signing your own report card.
in three places? So you got pushed down those stairs afterall‽
One question…well two really: Did you have children and, did you raise them in the Catholic faith?
I guess Father Foley reached out beyond the grave and punished you after all.
Sneaky of him to wait so long.
When I was about eight, I stole $5 from a girl who sometimes came over.
I'm not sure what the deal was, but she was a rather boring goody-goody with a milquetoast little
brother who only liked to eat five things. Her mother, who was sort of friends with my mother (although my mother didn't exactly like her), was the sort of woman who though stewardess was an aspirational career. Anyway, I stole $5 and my mom somehow found out. I think I told her because I wasn't good at keeping my own secrets. And you know, they say stealing is an entry crime… I can't remember how I was punished, but I still remember my mother's absolute mortification. And feeling terrible for causing her face to look that way.
Oh, god, my sympathies on the broken foot. UGH.
Great post. I will never understand organized religion. Both my parents were raised half Catholic but by the time they had children they were two of the most agnostic people you could ever hope to meet, and I thank them for saying NO.
I didn't escape childhood unscathed, though. My grandmother was mentally ill, but no one ever said it, and one morning when I was four she had a complete meltdown and accused me of biting her. I hadn't, but the terror and confusion of being accused and punished and her absolute certainty made me question my own sanity. Yes, at four. I decided she was the crazy one but I also realized I wasn't going to get any protection from her, a very lonely thing. Which accounts for a lot of that undercurrent of insanity or possible insanity in my books.
Sarah: Wow, you really did wade through the whole darn thing. Down to the curtains. I’m humbled. Thanks. And yes, I’m a lousy patient, but pain has a way of correcting that.
As for 1977: I’d say the Banana and Teddy Bear are pretty much out of the bag, my dear, unless your sister avoids online comment threads. You actually got HER to believe her own guilt all these years. First, I’m impressed. Second: You all that venial? You really are Episcopalian.
Stephen: I’m one of those who believe that if you have parents who care enough to want to teach you at home, you’re probably in good enough shape to endure whatever school throws at you. But, as already established, I do love paradoxes.
As for the foot: Debbie, Shizuka, you know I didn’t think about it but you’re right. I have a weak ankle that rolls outward, and this time it happened at the top of three stairs. Bad tumble, three fractures. Molly Medaglia got me after all. Though I’m sure the real culprit is … (cue eerie organ).
And Shizuka: Isn’t that the real torment —seeing how badly your much loved parent feels because of what you’ve done? Whenever I did something bad, I felt worse for letting my dad down than for anything else.
Alex: That incident with your grandmother scared ME. My mom was a little loose on deck, and the moments when she and reality parted ways were always terrifying. But to have that happen at four, and to be placed into a situation so young of wondering if you could trust your own mind – that’s incredibly scary. And yet taking some control, deciding that she was the one who was crazy, not you — that must have been empowering in a backhanded way, and yet again: so young. I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t find a way into your writing.
P.S. Thanks to all of you for not chastising my ridiculous typos in my kickoff comment (I've corrected them). Obviously, the problem with my foot isn't that I put too much "wait" on it. Your forbearance is deeply appreciated. Sheesh.
David – your writing aside, because I really appreciate both that and the way your mind works, here are words of wisdom from an old RN. You have to use that foot for the rest of your life. No question there. So be a good patient for now and let the darn thing heal — or you will have to put up with discomfort or pain from now on. Just like writing needs time, so do broken bones. And whatever you did to cause 3 breaks (hard to do), don't do that stupid thing ever again!
JJ: Thank you. I live alone so I have to hobble about to do just basic stuff, like go to the kitchen. But I'm heeding everyone's advice and taking it easier today. Mostly I just sit at my desk, but the ELEVATE mantra has resonated. Thanks for the reminder. And the kind words.
I pretty much am evil. I'm not proud of it, but yeah, I guess I am evil every day. The thoughts I have in my head (that pop in without my choosing them, and then linger 'cause I can't control them or drill them out), would make Sam Jackson on a bad day go, "Damn man, that's fucked up."
That said, the only one I have to answer to for those thoughts (and I will, and it scares the crap out of me) is Jesus. I just hope he'll forgive me for using them to help my writing, 'cause I don't know how to banish them and I have no other idea what to do with them besides take them out on unsuspecting fictional characters (not real ones).
Hey, I'm crazy, but I ain't going to jail over it….
You remind me of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite songs, "Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home:"
Can't control the feelin'
Cause after all I didn't make myself
Wonderful video. Great story; egads, the terrors some of us endured as children that were passed off as discipline. Wow. But the video…you have made me curious about reading your books, especially The Devil's Redhead, so I eagerly await the availability of it as a download. Why haven't I read your books yet? I mostly read this blog for the splendid advice on writing, not because of the genre in which the authors write (although I've read a few of the group's books). I confess that as I've aged, I now tend to avoid The Terrible, The Horrific, The Gore,The Graphic (in movies and books) that held me fascinated in my 20s and 30s. That said, you are all tremendously inspirational and thank you for that. In my appreciation, I *will* commit publicly–eek!–to reading at least one book by every single author that blogs here. 🙂
Couldn't top that story, David. It's wonderful. My only experience was Sacred Heart in Manhattan for kindergarten and all I know is they tried to turn a strongly lefthanded girl into a rightie. To this day, I have lousy lefthanded writing and a baffling inability to remember which is right or left at times. Wen my father insisted I go to a Sacred Heart high school, I said I'd kill myself first. So I wound up at a tough public school with a 50-50 mixx of Italians and blacks who – girls and boys – fought constantly in the halls with fists, pen knives, and books.
Stay of the foot, for heavens sake! Not that it will do much to offset your mortal sins….
Darla: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you find the blog both educational AND inspirational. That means a lot to me and I'm sure it will mean a lot to everyone else. And lso I'm warmed by your public commitment to read at least one book by each of us. Of course, we do have spies who will alert us it you don't follow through. We're very resourceful that way. 🙂
Susan: Now there's the twist. Your high school sounds far scarier than anything I went through. Very homogenous classrooms — too homogenous. Not quite Stepford Catholic but definitely suburban boo-jwah.
I didn't know that about your right-left indoctrination. And yet it somehow seems so obvious now that you tell me. Not sure why, but it does.
Lefthandedness is associated with the devil in literature and religion. In my world, with art, freethinking, creativity. Oh, right, that IS the devil's signature!
Susan: Seeing you as freethinking and creative is a snap. It's envisioning you as the devil that's kinda fun.
I can't think of a single thing to say other than, "Damn."
You are a piece of work, Corbett. And I mean that only in the most positive and awe-inspired way.
Gar: You're too kind. And yes, I have a feeling "Damn" will be the final verdict.
I'm so sorry about your your foot. Elevate is indeed the mantra. I am, of course, appalled by what you went through in school. I actually liked school (public); it was my father's wrath I feared. He was fond of the silent treatment, and that was more horrible than anything I could imagine. Even at age 70, I can feel the anxiety that that produced. Take care.
Lil: That's a fascinating observation. My late wife went through several years of silence from her mother — or more correctly, a pronounced emotional withdrawal targeted specifically at her. It was devastating. I'm sorry you went through that.
David, Meant to ask – isn't that photo of a priest lookalike actually one of Brendan Gleeson, who starred in The Guard, a recent comic (sort of) thriller (sort of) that also starred Don Cheadle? It was a funny script with lots of potential, but something didn't click – timing, maybe?
David, do feel better… what an owie to get, one that makes you walk like Fr. Foley. What happened?
I hated memorizing that catechism so got my knuckles whomped with the edge of a ruler. But probably was for trying to cheat by reading Sister's lips. She was a compulsive lipper of things she anticipated others would say.
My worst, though? No, not my worst. But bad for reliving, even at my age… the time my mother locked me on the porch while she ate the dinner.
Susan: Yes, that's Brendan Gleeson. I also thought THE GUARD was fun but forgettable.
Reine: And so we learn you also can read lips. Your talents never cease. But jeez, locked out of your own house. By your mother. And, as you say, THE dinner. Speaking of owies.
David, I might have mentioned that it was during a New England blizzard had I not first realized it would sound unbelievable.
And it was spaghetti. My favorite.
Reine: If you leave out the unbelievable parts of your bio, what's left? I swear, every time I learn something new, my jaw hits my shoelaces.
Oh, yeah. Well, maybe the only reason I talk is because this is here, free of my daily life. Most of my family gone now. That frees me as well. Who knows me here? No one. It's the only place I have to talk about what happened. I waited for my parents to die before I did anything worthwhile, because I didn't want to give them any reason to take credit. Fortunately they died young. I still had time and ability.
About my talents: I developed a few areas of expertise that may seem disparate, but they are all interwoven so that one stems from and enhances the other. It's not much of a feat. I've been indulged in my education and my work. Luck and guts and fortitude. Still just a sad person trying to let go of it. I really don't know if people here believe me or make fun of me. It doesn't matter, though. You don't know me. You can check my credentials, but you don't know me.
Reine" I don't know of anybody who doubts you. I think the operative verb is "impressed." Or "awed." Luck and guts and fortitude indeed.
Thank you, David, because I love Murderati.
Mmm…I was feeling guilty (not Catholic guilt, wife guilt) for not sending my daughter to Catholic school given my husband's Irish…but now I'm thinking maybe it was a good choice!
Great post, David and I really like the video too.
Phillipa: Remember things have changed somewhat since I went to school. For one thing, the Middle Ages ended.
Oh, David . . . there are so many things . . .
I do wonder about the question. I vaguely remember being taken down to the FBI and being questioned about a school bully when I was in 2nd grade — and being scared and worried and very confused . . . is that the reason I ultimately started writing mysteries?
Nah. But it might explain my continued confusion with humanity <g>.
David, do take good care of that foot. I have an ankle that I sprained, badly, some twenty years ago that, by virtue of my having been young and stupid at the time, never received the medical attention it deserved to heal properly. To this day, it gives me trouble – about twice a year, I'll step funny on it and then – POP! – next thing you know, I'm on the ground with my ears ringing, sweating and trembling, trying not to throw up from the pain.
Ah, if only I knew then what I know now…and damn, I surely don't feel old enough to have any kind of right to say that! Perhaps that's why I'm typing on my laptop despite the splinted fingers and sutures down the side of my hand right now, instead of taking it easy with a good book. (I had a birthmark removed, and I'm supposed to be resting my hand for a few days while the incision heals.) What is it they say about being "old enough to know better, and young enough to do it anyway"?
Reine, I only know you from being a fellow Murderatero (to shamelessly pilfer David's word), but I am so very glad I do…and I look forward to seeing your name when I visit.
Pari: Wow. They brought in the FBI … for a school bully? Was he a Trotskyite? I'm impressed. yes, there are many things that lead us down the writerly path, not one or even a handful of traumatic scenes. But we draw from that well ever after.
Tammy: I think we went to the same "bad patient" class. I should be elevating the foot but here I am at the desk. Good luck with that hand. I'd tell you to do as you're told, but, well — see the foregoing. Hope it heals just fine.
I don't know what it was about the nuns, brothers, priests (not to mention the laity) and their obsession with punishment (not to mention humiliation), but it's in the culture. No denying it. Suspect it's one of the reasons so many of us fell away and stay away.
The awful thing is the education itself was good, better than the local alternatives. Automatic dilemma for parents who knew the inside story.
Meanwhile, great news about the reissues, and best wishes for fast healing! No, faster! EVEN FASTER!!
Now I feel obligated to say that by the time I got to upper school it was very different from first communion, confirmation, and confraternity classes. The nuns were all very pleasant at Keith Hall, Bishop Fenwick, and The Newman School didn't have any at all. Oh. Look at the multiple number of high schools there. And I didn't even mention Marblehead, Dorchester, or Center or whatever it was that other one was called. Maybe I should reassess that experience. Nah.
Tom: Not only was the education good, but many priests and nuns have been some of the most admirable and inspiring people I've ever met. Yes, it's a real mixed bag. All in all, I'm grateful. But I had a father who buffered a lot of the bad. I pity the kids who didn't have that.
Reine: You're on to something. The more educated nuns were also more civilized. The ones trapped in elementary school were often burdened with their constrained lives in ways even now I'm not sure I fully appreciate. But even in my high school some of the nuns could be, well, challenging. Sister Malcolm was a terror. Sister Norbertine was a racist ("Those gooks are over there are killing our boys" — this during Vietnam.) As for the revolving door your high school experience seems to have been — well, that would have been a challenge, nuns or no.