19 January 2008


My parents beat me growing up because they thought I was a pretentious boaster. They never actually called me a 'pretentious boaster,' rather a snollygoster. I had no idea what this word meant so I asked my Sunday school teacher, Old Mrs. Snodgrass. She seemed to be under the impression that I was a drinker because I would sit in the back with the bad kids and repeat the words . . .snollygoster, snollygoster, snollygoster . . .over and over again until she mumbled something about catching roaches of the liver. She also called me the fatigue-inest boy she'd h'ever met in her life.

Old Mrs. Snodgrass's first name was Chloe. I didn't know this, and thought it strange to be called Slow. I'm not saying she was slow, but if the Devil got sick, she's the one you would send for the doctor.

Slow Snodgrass waxed eloquent about Noah, Moses, and the Garden of Eden. She had her own notions about scripture and many of her interpretations, while not perfectly accurate, were quite sincere. Chloe hated reptiles and snakes in particular. According to her, the Devil was a "large serpent seeking whom it may bite." She also said, "snakes are natured that way, and that's why a snake is a damned snake."

Sometime later, I found a black snake in our strawberry patch and told my parents, "There's a damned snake in the berries." But being a pretentious boaster they beat me within an inch of my life and threatened to wash out my mouth with soap, which I thought unusual since I always brushed my teeth twice a day and never had cavities.

I think my parents taught me to speak wrong. Hiding from yet another potential beating, I hid in the dirty clothes hamper and distinctly recall mom saying, "You come on up out from down in under there, or I'll tan your hide shore enough and just see if I don't!"

That's when I took up reading.

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