When she was eight years old, Megan Strehle conceived an unnatural passion for Tamas Preltz, a fifteen-year-old apprentice butcher in the town where her father took vegetables to the local farmers market. She would beg her father to bring her along when he loaded his Ford half-ton pickup with cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, beans and brussels sprouts.
When Tobin was eight, he fell in love with his babysitter Aganetha, the awkward one with the large, damp eyes, floppy, uncontrollable bosoms and a soot-coloured hair-wing she kept pulled down over her face to hide her acne.
Drebel started when he was fourteen organizing a grocery shopping service for the elderly in his neighborhood. He charged a flat rate per bag, accepted gratuities, and handled the cash exchange between the grocery store and the old people.
In the third book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, Moses is herding his father-in-laws sheep on a hillside when the Lord erupts in sheet of flame from a nearby bush. The author presents the scene as a scientific impossibility: the bush burns furiously without actually burning up.
He remembers this: in January four Years now, my little niece Rebecca Ann Burgin playing behind the Oxen at the horse Mill, bending to Grasp a shiny Stone when the Brace, which the Oxen pushed to, caught her Head against the outside Post & smashed it to pieces. She could not have felt but an instant’s Pain, yet the Sight of her were difficult to bear.
We in the Republic are exhausted. Our enemies have lain down their arms, leaving us suddenly without a national purpose. Brown people are pouring over the border to take up work we heedlessly relinquish in our pursuit of leisure and sexual gratification.
Call this an act of piety and self-education. Academia has sacrificed entire forests to the altar of Jane Austen, and I am not likely to add one whit to the pile. But her novel Mansfield Park has been gnawing at me for two decades, ever since I taught it at Skidmore College to a class of privileged young people who might have walked out of its pages.
This essay is from Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing published by Biblioasis. Out in March.