Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Here's a second example of the kind of thing I'm talking about--this one my own, again, and a little less benign. Some of my own memories are more deeply traumatic than this one, but we'll get to those. Meantime, many of the stories I've received for my collection have to do with fathers. But please don't think I'm looking only for father stories. There's a whole range of boyhood experience to be explored, from larks and pranks to other misdeeds and punishments, to body issues and early sexual experiences. And so on. Please feel free to submit your story, whether for publication on this blog or for en eventual book. I'm looking for intensity, a sense of time and place, a particular emotion, a lasting imprint... Contact me through the link above, or via the email address that shows up in my profile. For now, here's...


It starts on the landing at the top of the stairs in the Rectory. I have done something bad, something terrible.

Have I pulled my sister’s hair again? Have been disobedient in some way?

No matter, my father is now in a terrible rage. He is wearing his black clerical cassock, and the skirts go flying as he chases behind me, down the long corridor that leads past the bathroom to the spare bedroom.

Once there, I stumble across the first of the two, twin beds, the ones with orange and yellow striped counterpanes.

My father towers over me, livid. He loosens the silver buckle of the narrow black belt that cinches his cassock at the waist and raises the strap high above his head. I cower away from him, terrified, crying…

I’m saved by my mother. “Harry!” she screams, running after us. “No!”

And suddenly all the anger drains out from my father’s face. Suddenly, it’s as if he realizes what he was about to do. I see his shame replace the anger.

For a long while, there’s silence. Then he tells me, gently, “You don’t have to be afraid of me. Not ever again. I promise I will never hit you in anger. Not ever again.”

And he never did. But I think I never entirely lost the fear.

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