Of an afternoon when school had let out I would
saunter down the street, idly kicking an empty tin can, or knocking a stick against the palings of a wooden fence, or whistling, until I would stumble upon one or more of the gang loitering at a corner, standing in a field, or sitting upon the steps of somebody’s house.
I looked at him and did not answer; there flashed through my mind a quick, running picture of all the
squalid hovels in which I had lived and it made me feel more than ever a stranger as I stood before him.
At the age of twelve, before I had had one full year of formal schooling, I had a conception of life that no experience would ever erase, a
predilection for what was real that no argument could ever gainsay, a sense of the world that was mine and mine alone, a notion as to what life meant that no education could ever alter, a conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering.
Perhaps my uneasy childhood, perhaps my shifting from town to town, perhaps the violence I had already seen and felt took hold of me, and I was trying to
stifle the impulse to go to the drawer of the kitchen table and get a knife and defend myself.
She was the oldest member of her church and it would have been unseemly if the only grandchild in her home could not be brought to these important services; she felt that if I were completely
remiss in religious conformity it would cast doubt upon the stanchness of her faith, her capacity to convince and persuade, or merely upon her ability to apply the rod to my backside.
driven by lust; preoccupied with or exhibiting lustful desires
If my desires had been converted into a concrete religious symbol, the symbol would have looked something like this: a black imp with two horns; a long, curving, forked tail; cloven hoofs, a scaly, naked body; wet, sticky fingers; moist, sensual lips; and
lascivious eyes feasting upon the face of the elder’s wife.
With my bright idea bubbling in my mind, wishing to
allay Granny’s fears for my soul, wanting to make her know that my heart was not all black and wrong, that I was actually giving serious thought to her passionate pleadings, I leaned to her and whispered:
Then I babbled, speaking with emotional reproof,
censuring her for having misunderstood me; I must have spoken more loudly and harshly than was called for—the others had now gathered about me and Granny—for Granny drew away from me abruptly and went to a far corner of the church and stared at me with a cold, set face.