WINGSPREAD Ezine for June, 2021


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

June, 2021                                                  James P. Hurd

Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: “Polygamous Navigation”
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

 New story: Polygamous Navigation

Driving alone I sometimes get lost, but it’s simpler than when my wife and I travel together. When I know where I’m going, I go there (and only occasionally blow past a turn when I get too absorbed in listening to Public Radio). Like other guys, if I don’t know where I’m going, I never stop to ask for directions. I usually follow Penelope’s instructions, the pleasant British-accented voice on my Waze GPS.

My wife trusts my driving implicitly, but she considers navigation more of a team sport. If Penelope is turned off, our conversation goes something like this:

“Do you know how to get there?”

“No; I’m just going to go to the general area and drive around honking until someone helps us.”

(Eyeroll) “Fine; I’ll just keep quiet, then. . .”

“Sorry.”

Why don’t you turn here?”

“We can turn here if you wish.”

“Will that get us there faster?”

“I dunno. We can turn if you want. . . .”

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2021/06/12/polygamous-navigation/

Puzzler for June

The “Don’t Look Back” promo tour
(Thanks to Car Talk)

The company that Bobo works for just finished a new product. They wanted to promote it across the country. Bobo was asked to travel by car to each of the 48 contiguous U.S. states to promote the product. He was told that he could visit each state in whatever order he chose, but the company wanted him to start in Delaware, at their headquarters.

They asked that he visit each state only once. He could not drive back into a state he had already visited—this was the “Don’t Look Back” product tour. So, Bobo sat down at his desk and began to plan his trip.

He realized immediately that it was going to be one long car trip. At that moment, his boss stopped by and said, “Hey, I’m going to join you when you reach your last state. I was born there and I’ve been looking for a reason to go back and visit. You can leave your rental car there, and I’ll fly you back in my private jet.”

Since Bobo hadn’t planned his trip yet, how did his boss know which state was going to be Bobo’s last state? And, which state would that be?

Answer to May’s puzzler: 

At least two of you figured this out!

You recall the policeman heard shouts of “Frank, Frank, no! Don’t do it!” He runs into the room, sees a dead man, a “smoking gun,” and three people standing around: a minister, a doctor, and a plumber. He immediately arrests the minister. What did he realize that allowed him to know who was the killer?

Here’s the answer: Only the minister could have been named Frank, because the policeman saw that the other two, the plumber and the doctor, were women.

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

Things that even native speakers don’t know:

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Word of the month: hintergedanken

A philosopher once said of Carl Jung, “There is a nice German word, hintergedanken, which means a thought in the very far, far back of your mind. Jung had a hintergedanken in the back of his mind that showed in the twinkle in his eye.” When we write, we need to plumb the inner depths of our mind and emotions and pull out the treasures.

Signs to get motorists’ attention:

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream of avaition, and finally his faith. How can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

Tip of the month: Worry your protagonist. If they’re worried, your reader will be also. Worry means tension and tension drives your narrative.

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Polygamous Navigation

Driving alone I sometimes get lost, but it’s simpler than when my wife and I travel together. When I know where I’m going, I go there (and only occasionally blow past a turn when I get too absorbed in listening to Public Radio). Like other guys, if I don’t know where I’m going, I never stop to ask for directions. I usually follow Penelope’s instructions, the pleasant British-accented voice on my Waze GPS.

My wife trusts my driving implicitly, but she considers navigation more of a team sport. If Penelope is turned off, our conversation goes something like this:

“Do you know how to get there?”

“No; I’m just going to go to the general area and drive around honking until someone helps us.”

(Eyeroll) “Fine; I’ll just keep quiet, then. . .”

“Sorry.”

Why don’t you turn here?”

“We can turn here if you wish.”

“Will that get us there faster?”

“I dunno. We can turn if you want.”

“Well, you just go the way you want to.”

“OK.”

“This doesn’t look familiar. I’m pretty sure we should have turned back there.”

“We can turn anywhere you want to.”

“No; you just go the way you think best . . .”

“OK.”

But Barbara is still uncertain. “Is it beyond I-35E?”

“Yes.”

“It’s taking a long time. Are you sure we haven’t passed our turn?”

“I think it’s up ahead here.”

“We should stop and ask.”

“I think we’re good.”

“I feel like we should have taken I-35E.”

“Why don’t I just shut my eyes and you can tell me where to go?”

(Irritated frown) “I’ve never been there. I’m just trying to help . . .”

When my wife is with me and I also have Penelope on the GPS, it gets more complicated.

“What did she say, right or left?”

“Right.”

“It sounded like left . . .”

I have plugged my cellphone into the USB port and balanced it in an empty cup holder.

“No; it was ‘right.’ See, there’s a little right arrow here on the display.”

“When I go, I usually go the back roads.”

“Maybe I can program Penelope to go the back roads.”

“No, you just go the way you think will be the fastest. . .”

“OK; I think this way is fastest.”

“Are you sure she’s taking us the right way?”

“I can turn her off and you can just tell me where to turn.”

“I don’t remember where to turn. I hope she knows.”

“I assume so; I haven’t been there before.”

We hit a straight stretch and Penelope goes silent.

“Did we miss a turn?”

“Penelope says we turn in 1.5 miles.”

“Oh, how does that take us?”

“I dunno; Penelope knows; I’m just following her instructions.”

“Are you sure this is right?”

“Penelope seems to think so . . .”

“Maybe we should stop and ask.”

“I think we’re good.”

Now, realizing that her common-sense suggestions are having no effect, she quiets for a while. Then,

“It feels like we’re going back the way we came.”

“I think this is right.”

“I think we should have turned back there.”

“Penelope says to go straight.”

“This doesn’t seem like the way we went last time.”

“Why don’t you just tell me how to go, since you remember from last time.”

“No, you just go the way you want.”

“I am; I’m following Penelope.”

“I hope she knows where she’s going . . .”

“I think she does.”

“I’m not sure . . .”

“I’m not polygamous; I can’t serve two masters. Either you tell me how to go or I’ll follow Penelope.”

“I guess we can just see if she gets us there.”

“Well, Penelope says we’ve arrived.”

Incredulous, she says, “O look! Here we are!”

WINGSPREAD Ezine, May, 2021

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
May, 2021 James Hurd



Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

• New story: Saving the World in a Season of COVID
• Puzzler of the month
• How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
• Writer’s Corner
• Wingspread E-zine subscription information
• Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter


New story: Saving the World in a Season of COVID


The last thing I remember was sorting food from one bag to another.


In the time of COVID, after George Floyd was shot and after the riots, my daughter suggests we go to downtown Minneapolis to help with food handouts, clean up the city streets, and generally help save the world in Jesus’ name. I am all for it, even though I have felt exhausted for several weeks.
We drive by some burned-out buildings, including the post office, broken or boarded-up windows, glass and trash in the streets. Most businesses are closed. We park the car a couple of blocks from the Midtown Global Market, just a few blocks north of the George Floyd memorial at 38th and Chicago.
We grab our brooms and buckets and pull out of the car several heavy bags of food that we will carry three blocks to Lake and Chicago. I barely make it and gladly set the bags down. We see hundreds of people sweeping the streets or just milling around. Dozens of bags full of food sit on long tables. Everybody’s masked up because of the COVID pandemic.
The last thing I remember is stooping over to transfer stuff from one bag to another . . .
To read more, click here: https://jimhurd.com/2021/05/25/saving-the-world-in-a-season-of-covid/
(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler of the month:

May’s puzzler:
(I had to look up the answer, but when I read it, I realized, “Of course!”)
An off-duty policeman is working as a night watchman in an office building. He’s doing his rounds and he comes upon a closed door. Behind the door he hears voices; people are talking and an argument seems to be taking place. He hears someone say, “No, Frank, no; don’t do it, you’ll regret it.” Bang! Bang! Bang!
The night watchman bursts through the door; what does he see? A dead man on the floor. And the proverbial what? Smoking gun.
And in the room, are three living people; a minister, a doctor, and a plumber. He walks over to the minister and says, “You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent.”
How does he know that it was the minister that pulled the trigger?
(Answer next month.)
(Thanks to “Car Talk” puzzlers.)


Answer to April’s puzzler:
Recall the family of four and dog, stranded on an island with rising floodwaters. Only one rowboat that will only carry 180 pounds. The key to this puzzler is that some of the family must make more than one trip:

  1. The dog can swim, so discount the red-herring dog.
  2. The two kids take the boat across and the son rows back.
  3. Mom rows across alone and the daughter comes back.
  4. Two kids row across again and the son comes back.
  5. Father rows across alone and the daughter brings the boat back.
  6. Son and daughter row across and voila! the whole family is safe.
  7. (Unless, of course, it takes too long, and the floodwaters wipe out the whole family. Maybe they could train the dog to pull the empty rowboat back, or something . . .)

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying. How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here: https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.)

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Writers’ Corner

Writer of the month: William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Though biographical details may be sketchy, his literary legacy is certain. He wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and a couple of epic narrative poems. He created some of the most unforgettable characters ever written for the stage, and shifted effortlessly between formal court language and coarse vernacular. The Oxford English Dictionary credits him with coining 3,000 new words, and has contributed more phrases and sayings to the English language than any other individual. His idioms have woven themselves so snugly into our daily conversations that we aren’t even aware of them most of the time, phrases such as “a fool’s paradise,” “a sorry sight,” “dead as a doornail,” “Greek to me,” “come what may,” “eaten out of house and home,” “forever and a day,” “heart’s content,” “slept a wink,” “love is blind,” “night owl,” “wild goose chase,” and “into thin air.”

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)
Sean McIntosh loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. But how can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

If you’re discouraged about your writing progress, take heart in these “bad analogies”:

Tip of the month: To pull the reader into a scene, make it more sensual: smells, tastes, how things feel to the touch. A smell will bring the reader immediately into the scene.

Word of the Month: WOKE. Used as a verb, such as a “woke person.” This refers to someone who had seen through the illusions and realizes the true cause of their troubles, who sees beyond the lies and understands the oppressive structures behind them. Similar to the older term, conscientization.

Subscribe free to this Ezine sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing: https://jimhurd.com/home/
Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.
If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Saving the World in a Season of COVID

The last thing I remember was sorting food from one bag to another.

In the time of COVID, after George Floyd was shot and after the riots, my daughter suggests we go to downtown Minneapolis to help with food handouts, clean up the city streets, and generally help save the world in Jesus’ name. I am all for it, even though I have felt exhausted for several weeks.

We drive by some burned-out buildings, including the post office, broken or boarded-up windows, glass and trash in the streets. Most businesses are closed. We park the car a couple of blocks from the Midtown Global Market, just a few blocks north of the George Floyd memorial at 38th and Chicago. 

We grab our brooms and buckets and pull out of the car several heavy bags of food that we will carry three blocks to Lake and Chicago. I barely make it and gladly set the bags down. We see hundreds of people sweeping the streets or just milling around. Dozens of bags full of food sit on long tables. Everybody’s masked up because of the COVID pandemic. 

The last thing I remember is stooping over to transfer food items from one bag to another. 

About ten minutes later. I wake up lying on my back, looking up at the sky. I see people standing around and see my daughter Kimberly kneeling at my side. “Daddy; how do you feel? Do you hurt anywhere? Do you want some water?” Kimberly, our drama queen, the freaker-outer in any small emergency, has risen to the occasion and taken charge.

The paramedics, in their yellow vests, roll up, each wearing a mask and transparent shield. I try to get up.

The paramedics say, “Please lie back down. You’re going to the hospital.” 

“I don’t think I need to go anywhere. I can ride home with my daughter.”

“But Daddy,” Kim says, “You fainted and you need to get checked out.”

“I fainted? I don’t remember anything.”

They check my pulse, take my temperature, then transfer me to a stretcher and push me into the paramedic truck. “Your temperature is normal. Have you had any COVID symptoms, cough, or anything?”

Kim asks me, “Do you want me to go with you?”

The paramedics say to Kimberly, “Maybe it’s better if you follow him in your car.”

They drive me five blocks north to Abbot Northwestern and take me to a staging area. Later, I find out it was a $2400 trip. 

Kimberly follows us, but they tell her she can’t go in, so she calls my cell. “You know, there was a guy from the crowd that ran out, jumped on you, and did CPR.”

“What! How long was I out? Who was he? Was he trained? Did he take my pulse first? Where did he go? Was he wearing a mask?”

“I don’t even know who he was; he just disappeared into the crowd.”

I think, Either he was an idiot who didn’t know what he was doing or else he saved my life. I’m grateful for his help.

The masked hospital doctor tells me, “Sometimes when people give CPR it damages your ribs. Do your ribs hurt?”

“CPR? Did I really need it? Did my heart stop?”

“What happened to the guy?”

“My daughter says he just disappeared. Just one spot on my ribs hurts a little bit.”

“Maybe the guy was afraid of the liability. We don’t know how long you were out. Don’t know if he checked your pulse. Don’t know how long he worked on you.”

I think, Who was this guy? Did I really need CPR? At the very least, he was goodhearted; or maybe he saved my life. He seems like an angel to me.

The doctor appears in his scrubs with a short, Asian-looking woman following him, holding a clipboard. “You have atrial fibrillation, don’t you? Maybe that’s why you fainted. We’ll just keep you overnight and monitor your heart.”

When I wake up on Sunday, he says, “Overnight, your heart raced up to 180 and down to 40, so I think we need to keep you here another day to evaluate you, then send you home with a chest heart monitor. Maybe the low heartbeat made you faint.” But the next morning, he says, “We think you need a pacemaker. That won’t help the fast heartbeat, but it will keep the heart from beating too slow. We can install it first thing in the morning.”

So on Tuesday morning I get wheeled into the operating room and the “pit crew” whirls around me. One nurse says, “You’ve stated you don’t want CPR. Do you wish to have it if you need it during this operation?”

“I guess so.” Strange how the operating room focuses your mind.

I notice only the eyes of people blinking above their masks, running around me, checking the monitors, adjusting my sheets, starting the IV, getting ready to slice the skin on my upper chest and insert two probes into my heart. Then they’ll slip a two-inch-diameter pacemaker under the skin. Shrouded in his plastic shield, the anonymous face of the anesthetist hovers over me. Then I know nothing.

      I wake up in my room numb but with no pain. The room looks white and antiseptic. The annoying IV tube in my arm will stay there until I leave the hospital. Masked nurses, orderlies, and doctors come and go. They tell me the operation went well. Sometimes it’s hard to understand accents through their masks.

I phone my wife. “Why don’t you come to see me?”

“But they won’t let me in because of COVID.”

“Well, at least you could come to my window and wave or something.”

“Jim, your room’s on the third floor!”

“Why are you always making excuses?”

The humor is lost on her. So kind and faithful, I probably shouldn’t tease her.

Strange, living in a masked world that isolates people. The masks keep telling me you can go home “tomorrow,” but you never know. It makes me much more dependent on the phone. I call lots of people.

On Thursday, they finally wheel me down to the lobby and out to our car. Happy reunion with Barbara and Kimberly. Thrilled to go home. 

So, instead of saving the world, the world saved me and gave me more time to live and love and pray and more reason to take joy in each day—even in a time of COVID.

Wingspread Ezine for April, 2021


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

April, 2021 James Hurd    

Please forward and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: “Journey to Mexico City”
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

 New story: Journey to Mexico City

  It was long before dawn with a bone-chilling wind sweeping across TBI’s quad. The guys all stood huddled under a floodlight on the hoar-frosted cobblestones. Sean envisioned traveling hour after hour, seated in the dark van. He thought of his family Christmas in California that he would miss. Wondered if this “mission trip” would help him recover Christian faith.

Sean and Alex remembered Greg’s instructions—”No cameras. We’re on a mission, not a tourist trip. Bring one change of clothes and stuff it all into a pillow case. It’s easier packing that way. And bring your Bible and toothbrush.” Sean wondered why Greg hadn’t hired a horse and wagon—it would have provided even more suffering, more sacrifice. But they needed to get to Mexico fast if they wanted to blanket several square miles with literature.

When Langston flung open the double doors, Sean saw thousands of Bibles and Christian pamphlets strewn two feet deep across the van’s bed. Langston threw two large tarps over the literature.

“Where’re we going to sleep?” Alex asked.

“Ya’ll gonna sleep on top of this,” Langston told him. . . .

To read more, click here:    https://jimhurd.com/2021/04/19/1658/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler for April: Trapped on the island

A family of four and their dog get trapped on an island when rising floodwaters tear out the bridge they used just a few hours before. Frantically they search for some means of crossing back to the mainland and finally, when they’ve just about given up hope, the son says, “I found a small boat and oars.” They gather around but their joy is short-lived because the manufacturer’s instructions — printed on the back of the boat — say that the boat can carry only 180 pounds. Thank God Grandma’s not here. It’s just Mom, Dad, the two kids, and the dog. And the dog is the only one of them who can swim. Well, the father weighs 170. The mother says she weighs 130. The son is 90 pounds. And the daughter is 80. The dog weighs 15 pounds. Everyone can row except the dog, who can swim.

And the question is: is there any way the family can be saved? And if so, what are the fewest number of crossings to save everyone?

Answer to last month’s puzzler:

Kudos to Bill, Sam, and Andy on this one! Recall: If a chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how many days will it take for two chickens to lay 32 eggs?

Clearly, one chicken can lay one egg in a day and a half.

How about two chickens; what do they do? Two chickens lay four eggs in three days. So, if two chickens can lay four eggs in three days, then two chickens can lay 32 eggs in 24 days. (I know; it’s kind of crazy.)

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

Here are a few things to ponder . . .


See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. But how can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

Tip of the month: Give your character a distinctive characteristic, so the reader can instantly identify him/her, and separate them from the other characters. (In my novel, Fulton was a stutterer. Instantly identifiable.)

Word of the Month:  Coherence vs. Cohesion. Good writing needs both. If the writing is cohesive, each thought is connected to the next. Think a train with its train of connected cars. But the piece also needs to be coherent. That is, the piece needs to be about “one thing,” it must have a unity. Think of a tree with many twigs and branches, and also a unifying trunk.

Here is a cohesive, but INcoherent paragraph: ““I bought some hummus to eat with celery. Green vegetables can boost your metabolism. The Australian Greens is a political party. I couldn’t decide what to wear to the new year’s party.” The ideas tie together, but the paragraph has no coherence; it’s not about a single thing. (Thanks to Harshdeep Kaur)

Here are some headlines that might need some rewriting:

  • Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter (Pretty fast on the trigger)
  • Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says (Wow! Who would have thought?)
  • Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over (Seems that’s going the extra kilometer)
  • Miners Refuse to Work after Death (Must be union rules or something)
  • Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors (Sued for prescribing growth hormones?)
  • Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
  • Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers (So that’s what those big grills on their Fairlanes are for!)

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Journey to Mexico City

The day after Christmas, Langston Brooks wheeled a rusty yellow delivery van into the Torrey Bible Institute quad to load up guys for the Mexico trip. It backfired when he shut it off.

Greg asked him, “Wow! Did you check the truck out before you drove it away?”

“I axed ‘em if this was the truck you reserved, and they said it was.” The van boasted only one tiny window on one side.

It was long before dawn with a bone-chilling wind sweeping across the quad. The guys all stood huddled under a floodlight on the hoar-frosted cobblestones. Sean envisioned traveling hour after hour, seated in the dark van. He thought of his family Christmas in California that he would miss. Wondered if this “mission trip” would help him recover Christian faith.

Sean and Alex remembered Greg’s instructions—”No cameras. We’re on a mission, not a tourist trip. Bring one change of clothes and stuff it all into a pillow case. It’s easier packing that way. And bring your Bible and toothbrush.” Sean wondered why Greg hadn’t hired a horse and wagon—it would have provided even more suffering, more sacrifice. But they needed to get to Mexico fast if they wanted to blanket several square miles with literature.

When Langston flung open the double doors, Sean saw thousands of Bibles and Christian pamphlets strewn two feet deep across the van’s bed. Langston threw two large tarps over the literature.

“Where’re we going to sleep?” Alex asked.

“Ya’ll gonna sleep on top of this,”  Langston told him.

They loaded up and started out through the vast, quiet streets of pre-dawn Chicago. Mexico City lay 2300 miles away—sixty hours of driving time with fifteen guys entombed in the dark van. A low-wattage bulb overhead gave barely enough light to read their Bibles. They sang a few choruses, but mostly slept. The route lay through Joliet, Champaign, St. Louis. It was getting dark, but they continued to drive, stopping only for gas, bathroom breaks, and truck stop food. They drove for hours through Texas, and finally reached the border town of Brownsville in the late afternoon of the second day.

“Okay; the church says we can overnight here on the floor,” Greg said. “We’ll cross the border tomorrow. We gotta pray that all this literature gets through.” Greg acted as if they were smugglers for Jesus sitting atop precious cargo, and prayed a panoply of protection over them.

Next morning they all grew quiet as the van approached the border and pulled up at a small wooden guardhouse where they all piled out of the van. The guards asked Greg some questions, trying out their English. “Where you from? Where you going? What you doing in Mexico?”

“We’re going to help some of our friends,” Greg explained.

Each guy walked into the guardhouse to fill out a visa form. Where it asked Motivo de viaje? (purpose of trip) Sean wrote in “missionary.” The official said, “No sirve.” He scratched this out and wrote “tourista.”Technically no one could enter Mexico as a “missionary.”

Outside, the guards sniffed around the truck, looked underneath it, looked inside the back, then turned to walk away. But one guard stopped, returned, then rolled back a corner of the tarp.

He saw the books. “Qué son estos?” he asked Greg.

Greg said, “We’re taking these books down to give to friends.” (He didn’t mention they were going to charge a few centavos for a copy.)

The guards looked around some more, asked more questions. Sean asked Alex, “Are they waiting for a bribe?”  Sometimes a couple of dollars at the border greased the skids and reduced the delay. All the STL guys were sitting around on the ground waiting.

Then abruptly, they waved them through. Sean didn’t see any money change hands.

The next day, evening was falling as the truck entered the vast outskirts of Mexico City. Street lamps illuminated the grey industrial buildings, and all the signs were in Spanish. Greg hadn’t planned for accommodations (typical of STL; they traveled “on faith”), so the group did what all homeless Evangelical missionaries do when they arrive in Mexico City—they went to “The Kettle” and threw themselves upon the good graces of Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT). In Mexico City, WBT maintained The Kettle, a place of refuge for their missionaries when they came to the capital to renew visas, get government permissions, make purchases or meet other staff. The director told Greg, “You guys can bed down on the floor of this large assembly room.”

Sean and the team felt truly welcome. Greg seemed oblivious to any sense of imposition; he was on a mission for God and graciously accepted the hospitality. It was a good fit anyway, since WBT, like his Spread the Light group, specialized in literature and literacy.

In high, cold Mexico City, the STL guys wore their jackets as they enjoyed hot coffee in the patio. Supper time came, and Sean and Alex helped themselves to a wonderful buffet-style meal of rice mixed with fragrant pieces of pork, mango and pineapple, accompanied by guanabana juice. Behind the counter, Mexican women in white blouses and multi-patterned skirts dished up the food.

Alex and Sean sat under the colonnade in the dim light, eating their dinner at a table with an older WBT couple. Sean asked, “How long have you worked with WBT?”

“Over twenty-five years.”

“Do you like it?”

The woman replied, “Well, yes; it’s been a great ministry for Cam and me”

Sean asked, “Where did you live in the States?”

The man said, “I graduated from Santa Ana High School. My wife, Elvira, also comes from Southern California.” He began attacking his rice and beans.

“Oh, I’m from Santa Ana! What parts of Mexico did you work in?”

Elvira said, “All over. Cam came here single at first, worked in Guatemala translating the Cakchiquel New Testament. He and I’ve been working together now for fourteen years.”

That night as Sean lay almost asleep on his cot, he thought about the tasty food. Then it hit him. Cam? Why does that name sound familiar? Cam . . . Cam . . . short for Cameron?

He jerked awak—“Uncle Cam” Townsend! He and Alex had just eaten with the legendary man who’d started WBT thirty years before. Uncle Cam knew the former Mexican president personally and had negotiated their broad presence in the country where they created alphabets for the Indian dialect languages and taught people to read. He was also founder of JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Service), the air arm of WBT!

Sean yelled and Alex’s eyes flew open. “Dude! The guy we ate dinner with tonight started WBT. Cameron Townsend! He’s world famous; written up in Reader’s Digest.”

“What? What time is it? Why are you yelling?” Alex clearly didn’t grasp the awesomeness of the encounter. Exhausted, they fell back again on their cots and were soon asleep.

The next day the STL group transferred to a local church where they set up housekeeping on the floor of the auditorium. Greg walked in. “Here’s some, coffee, pan dulce, tortillas, beans. Just serve yourself.” After breakfast they sat around, sang a couple songs and prayed.

“You’re going to split up into teams of two,” Greg told them. “Each team will carry a supply of Dios Llega al Hombre plus lots of pamphlets.” (Dios Llega al Hombre was a simplified New Testament that uses only a few hundred Spanish words.)

Plunging into the vast city like innocents abroad, Sean and Alex went from door to door trying to sell their low-priced wares. They canvassed a dozen little pedestrian cul de sacs, knocked on a multitude of doors.

Someone had fabricated a little plasticized card with a message in Spanish that they gave to the people: “We are visiting Mexico to distribute Christian literature. We have some free things for you, and a few books to sell, cheap. Do you wish to buy a Bible?”

Usually, busy housewives answered the door with a couple of kids, black-eyed and serious-faced, peeking out from behind Mother’s brown legs. The women were polite and kind. Some practiced their English on the guys. All the stuff was deeply discounted. Most took the free literature and didn’t purchase anything. But some bought a Bible (fifty centavos) or a small booklet (five centavos). Sean kept track of the coins they accumulated.

Farther on they began seeing more upscale stores. On the sidewalk by Neiman Marcus, a girl walked up to them. She appeared a middle teenager¾thin, with large dark eyes, black hair, long eyelashes and too much eyeshadow. A smile showed lipstick on her white teeth. She wore flip-flops and a short, flowered skirt. Sean glanced up and saw a man lounging in a nearby doorway, staring at them.

Quiére pasear?” she purred. He didn’t know much Spanish but discerned this wasn’t a question, but a proposition. The guy standing nearby was probably pimping her. They gave her a tract.

Late morning they bought pan dulce and coffee in a tiny bakery. They’d each exchanged fifty dollars or so into Mexican pesos, an amount that needed to last their whole time in the country.

Walking outside, they inhaled the black diesel exhaust from the passing busses. Each had an Aztec barrio name over its windshield—Coyacan, Chapultepec, Tlatelolco. Alex said, “I think Tlatelolco is ours.” After they rode for twenty minutes they exited the bus and walked back to their church. Sean thought he’d write Kathy, and he had bought some Mexican stamps downtown. They’d hardly talked all semester. She’d traveled home to be with her family for Christmas, so she wouldn’t get the letter until after she returned to school. He sat on the cold floor with a notepad in his hand.

Dear Kathy,

You probably won’t get this letter before I come back. I hope you enjoyed a great time in California with your family.

Two days ago, we arrived here in Mexico City at “The Kettle,” a hostel run by Wycliffe Bible Translators. You’ll never believe who we ate dinner with—”Uncle” Cam Townsend and his wife! He’s the founder of WBT. We didn’t even recognize him.

I hope we can see more of each other when I get back about January 7.

Best wishes,

Sean

The time finally came to leave Mexico City. After three days of constant traveling the truck rolled into the school’s quad. Sean stumbled out the back, climbed the stairs to his dorm room, then fell exhausted on his bed, sick with diarrhea. Greg brought him up some Lomotil but warned him not to tell anyone he was sick because TBI might cancel future Mexico trips.

Sean smiled to himself. How strange he’d survived, even thrived, on this trip, even though he was telling some people he no longer believed in God. Interesting how a person can soldier on, even as they are losing their faith.

WINGSPREAD Ezine for March, 2021


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

March, 2021                                James P. Hurd    

Please forward or share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: Jeff Landry: Serial Killer
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner

*********************

 New story: Jeff Landry: Serial Killer

One of my most interesting students was Jeff Landry. He was the one who threatened to kill me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was teaching anthropological theory at Bethel University—10 students, all in their early twenties. All except Jeff Landry who was in his early thirties.

The first day Jeff walked in, he took a seat in the back and slouched down in his chair with his motorcycle-booted feet splayed out in front of him. Hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. Black, disheveled hair hanging down over dark glasses. Looked as if he was running security for the mafia. Like a person whose anger boiled just below the surface. Intimidation behind dark glasses. . . . To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2021/03/23/jeff-landry-serial-killer/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

New puzzler for March:

A chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half. 

The question is very simple: How long will it take two chickens to lay thirty-two eggs?

Answer to February’s Puzzler:

Recall you had a series of numbers:

Two, nine, seven, nine, 12—That series of numbers represents the number seven.

Three, five, zero—That group of numbers equals two.

So how would you write the number 10? That’s the question.

———————————————-

Bill, Eldon, and Sam all submitted very creative answers! (Some of them were correct. 😊)

All we’re doing is substituting each of the numbers—the 2, 9, 7, 9, 12—for the letters of the word “seven.” So above, 2 equals s, 9 equals e, 7 equals v, and so forth.

In the second set, 3, 5, 0 equals “t, w, o.”

So “ten” would be: t=3, e=9, and n=12, giving 3, 9, 12.

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month: Denouement:

This is the outcome; how things worked out. In Sherlock Holmes, for example, we learn who the bad guy was, what happened to the characters, and the motive of the crime—this is the denouement.

Tip of the month: Not only should your novel have a plot arc; every chapter should have a plot arc—rising tension, crisis, denouement. Readers want something to happen, something about to happen, tension that drive the story forward.

You’re right: the world is really a scary place!  Just look at these headlines:

  • Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
    (See if that works any better than a fair trial!)  
  • War Dims Hope for Peace
    (I can see where it might have that effect!)
     
  • If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile  
    (Ya think?)  
  • Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures  
    (Who would have thought!) 
  • Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain;  Police Suspect Homicide  
    (They may be on to something!)  
  •   Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges 
    (You mean there’s something stronger than duct tape?)
  • Man Struck By Lightning:  Faces Battery Charge
    (Ouch!)
  • New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
    (Weren’t they fat enough?)  
  • Kids Make Nutritious Snacks  
    (Do they taste like chicken?)
  • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half  
    (Chainsaw Massacre all over again!)

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. But how can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming. . . .

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Jeff Landry, Serial Killer

One of my most interesting students was Jeff Landry, the one who threatened to kill me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was teaching anthropological theory at Bethel University—10 students, all in their early twenties. All except Jeff Landry who was in his early thirties.

The first day Jeff walked in, he took a seat in the back and slouched down in his chair with his motorcycle-booted feet splayed out in front of him. Hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. Black, disheveled hair hanging down over dark glasses. Looked as if he was running security for the mafia. Like a person whose anger boiled just below the surface. Intimidation behind dark glasses.

An older student often enlivens a class. Jeff was like this. He didn’t talk much, didn’t fraternize with the other students. But he asked questions, good questions. He showed himself a skeptic—never smiling as he offered humorless critiques of my ideas. And he had this strange interest in the motivation of serial killers. He said he wanted to do a sociology major, which we did not offer at the time. I advised him, “Take the sociocultural major and take lots of sociology classes.”

One day he told me, “Dr. Hurd, we’ve gotta talk about Postmodernism.” My heart sank. Not only did I not want to teach Postmodernism; I knew almost nothing about it. But I grudgingly prepped a lecture on the subject.

After he graduated, Jeff pursued a Ph.D. in sociology. His thesis topic: serial killers—their methods and motivations. Completely focused. Over the years, he would email me. I was puzzled why he kept up a correspondence with me, but I tried to give him helpful suggestions for his graduate studies.

He had some run-ins with his instructors and finally stalled when he had to write his Ph.D. thesis because he kept clashing with his thesis adviser.

I was sitting at my office computer late one night when I received a short email from him: “I can show you how to strangle a man with a piece of piano wire.”

My spine chilled. Jeff was like this—straight, direct, and he apparently still had this obsession with serial killers.

I emailed my colleague, Harley Schreck. He said he’d also received an email from Jeff Landry which read: “I can show you how to strangle James Hurd with a piano wire.”

I freaked, and called Bethel security. They told me to call the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff came out. I was surprised he did not seem panicked. Maybe people called in death threats every day, I thought. “Look,” he said, “contact Jeff and ask him to explain his email to you.” Then he disappeared out into the night.

But I was afraid to contact Jeff. I couldn’t concentrate on writing my lecture, so I gave up, and decided to head home. Walking out in the dark toward my car, I was looking to the left and right. How do you protect yourself against a vague threat, I wondered? I had considered asking security to accompany me, but reasoned that only women did that. I walked a little faster, trying to stay under the lights that illuminated the parking lot. I was relieved when I reached my car. I checked the back seat, checked under the car, then got in and drove home.

The next day I told Harley about the sheriff. He said, “Oh, Jim; I’m really sorry! Landry never sent me an email; it was a joke!” Harley was like that. Random jokes. He was really apologetic.

In later years, my study of Postmodernism transformed my thinking about theory and even about understanding the Bible. Jeff was the one who pushed me into it.

So, that was the day I survived Jeff Landry’s threat to kill me.

WINGSPREAD Ezine for February, 2021


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

February, 2021                                             James Hurd    

Please forward, and share this E-zine with anyone. Thank you.

Contents

  • New story: The Middle Passage
  • Words to Ponder
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner, with a new contest
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

*********************

 New story: The Middle Passage

I survived three years at Orange Intermediate School, but I resent that they forced me to do puberty at the same time.

The first day, l I walked past Jimmy Creech in the hall—a bellowy eighth grader, bereft of grace, who stood six foot five. Creech wasn’t the sharpest needle in the pincushion–it probably took him two hours to watch 60 minutes. But here he came, walking like the Fonz, with a gaggle of admirers following.

I must have said something like, “Hey there,” or “What’s up?”

Creech paused, and turned: “What’d you say?

“Nothin’”

“Come ’ere kid.”

I came.

“Turn around, kid.”

I turned. . . .

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2021/02/19/the-middle-passage-2/

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Things to ponder:

If the world had a population of one hundred, the following would be true:

11 are in Europe
5 are in North America
9 are in South America
15 are in Africa
60 are in Asia

49 live in the countryside
51 live in cities

12 speak Chinese
5 speak Spanish
5 speak English
3 speak Arabic
3 speak Hindi
3 speak Bengali
3 speak Portuguese
2 speak Russian
2 speak Japanese
62 speak their own language.

77 have their own houses.
23 have no place to live.

21 are over-nourished
63 can eat full meals.
15 are under-nourished
1   ate her last meal, but did not make it to the next meal.

For 48, the money spent on living for one day is less than US$2.

87 have clean drinking water
13 either lack clean drinking water or have access to a water source that is
polluted.

75 have mobile phones
25 do not.

30 have internet access
70 do not have conditions to go online.


7 received university education
93 did not attend college.

83 can read
17 are illiterate.

33 are Christians
22 are Muslims
14 are Hindus
7 are Buddhists
12 are other religions
12 have no religious beliefs.

26 will live less than 14 years
66 will die between 15 – 64 years of age
8 will live to over 65 years old.

If you have your own home,
eat full meals and drink clean water,
have a mobile phone,
can surf the internet, and have gone to college,
you are in the miniscule, privileged lot (in the less than 7% category).

Puzzler of the month:

February puzzler: number translation

Here are two series of numbers and their equivalents:
Two, nine, seven, nine, 12—That series of numbers equals the number seven.
Three, five, zero—That group of numbers equals the number two.

So, how would you write the number 10? That’s the question.

Answer to the January puzzler

Recall the three boxes that sit on a table, inside one of which is a picture of the fair Rowena. It is the job of the White Knight to figure out – without opening them – which one has the treasured picture.

The gold box says, “Rowena’s picture is in this box.” The silver box says, “The picture is not in this box.” The lead box says, “The picture is not in the gold box.” Only one of the statements is true. Which box holds the picture?

So, two of the statements are false only if the silver box has her picture in it. Therefore, it’s in the silver box. If it’s in the silver box:

The gold statement is false
The silver statement is false
The lead statement is true

Yeah, White Knight!

 Best black-and-white movie you’ve ever seen:

That one’s easy for me—Casablanca. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a famed resistor, and with Germans on his tail, Ilsa knows Rick can help them get out of the country, but if he does, he will lose her forever.

What’s your favorite black-and-white and why? (I’ll publish these in the next WINGSPREAD.)

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  

How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

Writers’ Corner

Tip of the month: Your whole novel, and each chapter, should have a “plot arc.” The action should rise, climax, then quickly reach its denouement.

Word of the Month:  QAnon

A popular conspiracy theory, started by a social media item posted by the mysterious “Q,” which asserts that an international pedophile ring is conspiring to bring down the 45th President of the United States. Many people still believe it.

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. How can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it yet, but grace is coming. . . .

Subscribe free to this Ezine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to this WINGSPREAD ezine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread Ezine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

The Middle Passage

I survived three years at Orange Intermediate School, but I resented that they forced me to do puberty at the same time.

The first day, l I walked past Jack Cratch in the hall—a bellowy eighth grader, bereft of grace, who stood six foot five. Cratch wasn’t the sharpest needle in the pincushion–it probably would tak him two hours to watch 60 minutes. But here he came, walking like the Fonz, with a gaggle of admirers following.

I must have said something like, “Hey there,” or “What’s up?”

Cratch paused, and turned —“What’d you say?

“Nothin’”

“Come ’ere kid.”

I came.

“Turn around, kid.”

I turned.

He ripped a piece of paper out of my notebook and wrote on it, then scotch-taped the paper to my back. “You take that off and I’ll beat your face in.” Then he walked away. The paper read “I AM THE SCUM OF THE EARTH.”

I wore the sign the whole morning of my first day at intermediate school. Finally, a teacher saw it, ripped it off, and asked, “Who did this to you?”

“I dunno,” I lied. From that day on I realized that I was not the most important person on campus.

After lunch, the boys would sort of mill around the playground or huddle in tight little knots. Cliff was squat, muscular, a football type of guy. John played first base in our pickup games. Dan had a crewcut and a waxed ducktail. These were the noble ones—they drank from the Source. That year I invited them to my birthday party—miniature golfing at Shady Acres in Long Beach. They never invited me back. I learned then that friendship isn’t something you can buy.

I got a crash course in fashion when I noticed these same boys wearing button-down shirts (two lapel buttons, and a collar button which you left unbuttoned) and perma-pressed slacks with a little cloth belt buckle on the back. Or they wore Levi’s. If a kid came to school with a new pair of Levi’s, they would wrestle him to the ground and tear off the little red Levi’s tag on the back. I didn’t wear Levi’s. My parents provided well for us, but we weren’t rich, so my mom found a second-hand tee-shirt somewhere that said “Orange Grammar School” on the front (an obsolete name for Orange Intermediate). I only wore it once.

I learned more vocabulary on the playground than I did in the classroom. We would say “Oh, fat,” “spas out” [a mockery of spastics, whose gestures we would perfectly imitate], or we would call someone “brain” [mocking his stupidity]. My linguistic education was bilingual—I learned dirty words from the Mexicans, even though I didn’t know what they meant.

Playground talk often shifted to the second gender, and soon my hormones began warring against my Fundamentalist Christian morals. All the girls at Orange Intermediate wore dresses, or a blouse and skirt. The boys would look up their legs when they climbed the steel stair steps to the second floor, longing to pick the low-hanging fruit. Sometimes when a girl leaned down at the drinking fountain, a boy would come up behind and snap her bra strap.

But I loved Shirley—blonde, beautiful and burgeoning—the daughter of the owner of Orange Furniture Store. In second grade she was my first girlfriend, but I hardly dared speak to her now in intermediate school. At high school graduation several years later, I played clarinet in the marching band from where I watched her sitting on the stage playing the piano, flouting school clothing regulations with her low-cut, strapless dress.

At intermediate school I learned about the criminal justice system. The principal was the ultimate threat, the face of justice that was supposed to motivate good behavior. Once during lunch hour, some of us were playing handball against the side of the stuccoed building instead of participating in the required softball games. The principal told the Phy Ed coach, Mr. Elmwood, to deal with it. He was a proud man, bronzed, muscular, and serious as a heart attack. Talked as if someone had put sand in his toothpaste. He took three of us to the woodshop where he found the wooden paddle with the holes drilled in it. He told me, “Grab your ankles.” I upended, wondering how hard he would hit. He hit. The single, hard whack brought tears to my eyes but I refused to sob.

At Orange Intermediate, I just felt weird. Later I learned that “feeling weird” is common for pubescent males, but at the time I was convinced it was because I was a Fundamentalist. The kids at school came in only three categories: Unchurched, Catholic, and Mainline Modernist (read liberal, “worldly”). I didn’t fit any of these categories. As far as I knew, I was a group of one, a spiritual orphan.

My Fundamentalist pastor told me I had to separate myself from the contagion of the world. At intermediate school I saw the world all around me—worldly dress, worldly language, worldly activities. I felt compelled to “witness” about my faith, speaking Jesus-words to my unchurched classmates. I refused to participate in square dancing. At graduation, they were all doing the Bunny Hop in the auditorium while Howard and I sat in the lobby playing chess. Howard, the supreme nerd, once asked our math teacher if she knew how a right triangle is like a frozen dog? (Answer: “perp-in-di-cooler.”) I didn’t like Howard. I didn’t like myself. We were both nerd-heads.

I would stand mute while my friends discussed the movies they’d seen. Our church was anti-movie, so I never entered Orange Theater. And when my history teacher talked about early hominids and evolution, I had to tell him, “I don’t believe that. The Bible doesn’t mention it.”

He told me, “I don’t believe it either, but we have to teach it.”

I did not like my body. Looking in the mirror I would think, My eyebrows are too low! In the locker room, I discovered a new athletic appliance—the jockstrap. I didn’t even know boys needed one, but I self-consciously climbed into it. Other boys were less self-conscious—Mike would pull his on, stretch one of the straps over his shoulder, then look around and ask innocently, “How do you get into this thing, anyway?”

My most precious memory of the locker room is Billy, a guy who would steal pennies off a dead man’s eyes. One day he turned from the adjacent urinal, directed his appliance, and peed on me. A little yellow river trickled down my leg and onto the floor.

Some days, Orange Intermediate seemed the last refuge of the damned, but looking back, I see that most of my pubescent learning took place there outside the classroom—learning how to deal with adversity, how to relate to “worldly” people, how to be “in the world but not of it,” how to respect women, how to share faith, and how to have compassion for all people, even Billy the Bully.

I began to realize that I was a prig, a “holier than thou” person. The kids at Orange Intermediate did their best to squeeze the prigness out of me. But I felt more than different—I felt insecure, with an unfulfilled passion to conform. I failed to fit in. (Much later, I discovered that most middle schoolers feel that way.)

But perhaps most important, Orange Intermediate taught me that I was not the fourth member of the Trinity.