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Back Porch River

*Recently I was reminded of the stories of Flannery O'Connor, and I remembered that I'd written a kind of tribute to her and her short story "The River" a few years ago. Most of her stories require work of the reader; "The River" is no exception. It burned several images upon my mind as I read and reread it, and those images manifested in some of my own characters. Mrs. Perkins hails from her own short story, but her first appearance is in a novel I'm still working on. Harold comes from the same novel, and the following story takes place years before he makes his vows to become a priest. They both live on the street named Eldorado.

Back Porch River
The old book on Mrs. Perkins's thighs weighed on her; the pages had yellowed years prior, yet somehow it was new to her tonight and pressed down upon her. It felt alive and warm to her legs as the words and images swirled through her mind. And it was a welcome warmth, for she sat on her back porch under a…

To the Mountains: Fall on Us

Blankenship didn't hear the priest's opening words. He heard people sit down behind him, and he noted that the sound of water hitting the makeshift tent mingled with their whispers and their folding, shivering umbrellas. A little girl carried a yellow one, and he saw the light of it amidst the intermingled shadows of gray clouds and those cast by ancient oaks as she walked toward the grave. The age-worn branches labored in the wind; endlessly they creaked and rubbed into life a music, a siren's song, the lyrics a sighing lament that told of what lay beneath the turf. Blankenship wondered what the roots knew and how much they would tell if he listened, if anyone listened.

He realized he missed the reading when the prayer began.

The priest spoke words into the air, but Blankenship pictured in his mind's eye his boy's room the night he learned of the sickness. A window had been left open and the wind swept in, and wave upon wave of dust was tossed over the floor. Hour…

Story Warren: Allies in Imagination

Some friends of our family loaned us a book called The Green Ember, by S.D. Smith in recent months, which led me to Story Warren. I've been encouraged by the blog posts that I've found there, but the overall purpose of the site is what keeps me going back. To quote the About page:

"Who are we? YourAllies in Imagination. What’s our purpose? Story Warren exists to serve you as you foster holy imagination in the children you love. Why? We hope God will use us toKindle Imagination for Kingdom Anticipation." Our boys are growing so quickly, and as we try to honor Jesus with our parenting, "Kingdom Anticipation" becomes more and more important. Looking for the work of the Holy Spirit, especially the work that is prepared for us, takes a holy imagination -- a heart and mind that is ready for God in all his startling ways.

I'm glad to report here that Story Warren has published a post of mine about reading Anne of Green Gables as a boy. My childhood was full of stori…


The jolt of the train woke me from my hard-won sleep. For some time I remained in bed, and my eyes trailed the swing of the short, white tablecloth. My compartment is small, but the table and its cloth were just out of reach from where I lay. Beyond it, through the window, I caught glimpses here and there of the half moon as it flashed through thick-standing pines. One often wonders how certain associations grow up in the soil of our souls. For a reason I'm not conscious of, these things reminded me of my failure to write to you while I've been gone. Perhaps there's no association at all. Perhaps the thought of you is simply always with me, and being awake with nothing but silence and soft moonlight was enough to bring you to the front of my distracted and tortured mind.

Now I sit in the dining car with thoughts and memories of you rising like the cigarette smoke of the passenger two tables down. It twists past his ear in an endless gray ribbon, attached yet disappearing i…

Big, Fat Liar: G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown

I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that stories are lies that tell the truth, and one of the best truth-telling liars I know is Chesterton. Through his small priest, Father Brown, he reveals truth after truth about God and man, and he's set to work some of the strangest parables within me -- one of which I'll try to explain.

The cold weather cracks my skin. For some inexplicable reason, my right thumb is always the first part of my hands to mark the season change. Right around the nail, sometimes just under, my skin opens and often bleeds. I apply all kinds of lotions and fake skin products throughout the winter, but I end up toying with dead flakes no matter what I do.

As I read the final part of The Secret of Father Brown, I peeled off a section of my right thumb, and it landed on page 807. I was reading page 806 at the time, and at once a parable set to work. It's not the parable of the knife playing an arrow, nor is it the parable of a missing suit of armor, bu…

Chesterton, Lewis, and Solitude

I love to find literary connections. Something about them gives me a small thrill, and my imagination's fires glow a little brighter. Recently, as I picked my way through C.S. Lewis's The Allegory of Love, I was pleased to find this on page 378 (I share the page number now because it comes into play later):

"...There is only one English critic who could do justice to this gallant, satiric, chivalrous, farcical, flamboyant poem: Mr. Chesterton should write a book on the Italian epic."

The Allegory of Love was published in May 1936; G.K. Chesterton died the next month. Of course, as I read the section on the Italian epic -- specifically on Boiardo and Ariosto, both of whom I am now compelled to read -- I wanted what Lewis suggested. And the main reason I wanted Chesterton's take was because I've also been reading his Autobiography, and every time I read Chesterton I am encouraged and renewed.

In his Autobiography, in the chapter titled "Friends and Foolery,…

The Fantastic Imagination

*I wrote this story years ago, and I'm glad to publish it here now. It shares the title with an essay by George MacDonald. Many of the ideas that inspired the story share elements from the imagination of both MacDonald and Kenneth Grahame, especially those found in Grahame's lesser-known work The Golden Age, in which his reminiscences about childhood are developed. MacDonald's fairy tales factored in much more than his prose, and I still return to them when my imagination needs to be refreshed.

The Fantastic Imagination
On the eve of a very important birthday for them both, for the boy and girl were twins -- though the boy had golden hair and the girl's was dark as night -- they woke with a start.
"What is it?" he asked. "I'm sure I don't know," said she.

It was a dull sound, a muted call from the deep forest that spread itself in all directions around their stone house. Without a word more the two children rose and looked out the nursery&#…