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Tag: Autobiography




There is no original thought in this book. I do not believe there has been a wholly original idea since someone said, “I think I will stop using my arms as legs and stand the fuck up.”

Those of us thinking today flow from that original thought and have merely borrowed from it and wrinkled it into an incalculable number of permutations over the ages.

Everyone copies, plagiarizes, and hopefully grows the efforts of others. If there were other original thoughts, they are now lost to us, buried under the passage of time and the infinite number of embellishments that were born by it.

As a plagiarist and absolute center of all that I know, of every experience ever had and the few that remain to be had, the diminishment of my aspirations seems unavoidable. Aging has settled me into a slowing dance between spasms of desperation and quiet resignation. I’ve never had an original thought. A few good tweaks were the best I could hope for.

My ego has become an uncomfortable thing. Un-stroked by recognition, awash with influence or at least a lot of cash, it gnaws as I age.

How can a life that began with extraordinary good luck, mostly happy and honest, surrounded by love, be unfulfilling? I think it must happen to many of us as our lives are stretched out in the rear-view mirror, and we see the attainability of so much more that now the loss of time and energy has rendered unobtainable.

As a six-year-old I knew time was short. It was on that birthday that one of my always wiser brothers informed me that life expectancy was 60. Just nine more, six-year birthdays and it will all be over I was told. I am fairly certain not a day has passed in all the days that followed that I have not thought about the time I have left. Time left that past none fourteen years ago.

I now live on lucky time. In my youth I responded to that calculation with a spasm of discomfort but would quickly recover and head out for some more play, always thinking that I would make my life worthwhile another day. When another day finally arrived, I would be 31 and about to be born again but not in any Christian sense.

Everyone has a story to tell, and this is mine. No great drama, no epic events, no marks to be recalled by anyone but me. Telling your story in a way that would have anyone else give a damn seems farcical. I have no confidence that I will tell mine in a way you would give a damn, but it has some interest to me and there seems some value in thinking through all that has been me and imagining what might have been. So why not? Hell, now in the retirement I wish I had never attained, what else do I have to do?

In the end, what I see of human beings is what little it would have taken to make life so much better than it is for all of us. If only we would recognize and invest in the obvious, that one precious difference that sets us, as humans, apart from all other species: our abiilty to know.

In case you missed it, I am as close to a miracle as you will ever know, and so are you. If the teeniest difference in time or circumstance had changed in your line of ancestors from the very first time a cell split, 3.8 billion years ago, you would not exist. Having been given such a fantastically improbable chance, you would think we would make more of it.



My first memories are not of events or moments of significance, but of ordinariness, a sudden interest and comfort of just being aware, aware of textures, smells, scenes and the presence of people and objects.

Everything seemed smooth and rounded in some way and mostly white in my most distinct and perhaps earliest memory. It is of sitting alone at the kitchen table, in my highchair. In front of me was a bowl of soup that had come out of a red and white can. I was focused on the tiny, shiny, clear flat spheres of oil floating on the surface with various waterlogged bits of what I would come to know as noodles, vegetables, and chicken on the bottom. Out the window in front of me was our round driveway and rounded car with rounded fenders, hood, and roof. A Packard I would later learn. My table was white and smooth except for a spot or two on the rounded corners where the porcelain had chipped away, exposing the metal underneath. Around the room were the refrigerator, freezer, stove, and sink, all white, all smooth with rounded corners.

I was not happy or sad, just content. I could not say why I remember this eventless scene but sitting in that white rounded highchair that moment somehow imprinted on my memory and represents the point that is as far back as my memory can go.

I have one other distinct memory of that moment. She stood behind me, again all round and dressed in white, but black. Her name was Essie, our maid and cook. My mother did not have her help long and I do not remember much about her other than the chicken she fried, great chicken my older brothers later assured me. Chicken that our mother, the German antithesis to fine dining, could never duplicate.

A few years later I visited Essie’s house. She lived in a home very unlike our own. My mother was bringing her some Christmas gifts and I happened to be in the car.

We lived in a big house. I didn’t know it. We lived in the nicest neighborhood. I did not know it. As we turned onto Essie’s street the houses became tightly jammed, any half-dozen of which could have easily fit into our front yard. As best as I can recall, there were no driveways, and the yards were all barren dirt with a few broken toys, flat balls and scraps of various objects scattered about. Inside, where doors would be, were hanging sheets and there was one stuffed tattered chair. The walls were unpainted with one wall having a large chunk of missing plaster which commanded my attention because I could not imagine the purpose of the wooden slats that were now exposed underneath.

Above all, I remember that Essie had a family; this was a very big surprise. It never occurred to me that she would be a wife, have children, a home, a life. Essie was just our maid.

I did not feel sorry, have any sense of pity, I was not old enough to know such things. I only recall being confused, wanting to leave and being happy that my parents chose not to live that way. I would not see those kinds of living conditions again for 15 years, not until I stood in the dump three of my college buddies and I could afford and used to eat, sleep, drink, and smoke dope in.

Anyway, I am still very young in this beginning of my story and looming in my happy memories are the few horrors I am anxious to get to.

I had three brothers. Like all brothers, they were both horrible and wonderful. My mother was ruler of all that we knew, and my father was God, or the closest thing to it I would ever know.

My childhood nickname was Kimmy, the third in line, and shy enough to be in need of some professional counseling, which never came, or at least not for that reason. I remember my young life as being full of energy and adventure with my brothers and our tight circle of neighborhood buddies but never with strangers. When visitors came to the house I would hide in the back yard or up some tree, any place where I was certain they would not be or have any reason to come.

Of course, certain communications with outsiders could not be avoided, and on occasion I was cruelly forced to deal with those unknown. A couple such instances became top hits in the family’s folk tales.


The announcement was casually made in front of our living room mirror as Mom stroked my hair, “We are going to get this cut.” The shock was instant. I was going to be “cut.” Cutting hurt and I had no reason to believe cutting my hair would be any less painful than cutting off fingers or toes.

My protests, apparently laughable, were ignored, and I was unjustly packed into the Packard and off we went.

Entering the shop there he stood, as sinister a sight as any little boy had ever seen. He just stood motionless looking down at me. Recognizing my fear, that grim-faced, slick-haired, spectacled little man with the tiny mustache and stiff white shirt grimaced and looked up at my mom. I was doomed.

My terror was splayed open for all to see as I took in the various fluid-filled jars containing combs and cutting devices, along with assorted objects plugged into electrical sockets behind him. And the chair, OH GOD that chair, what was it? Huge with various handles and levers and a long leather strap swaying at its side. I lost it!

Dismissing a child’s fears as simple childishness is so convenient to an adult who has long forgotten the traumas of their own first-time childhood horrors: the time you first got the needle at the doctor’s office, wobbled and crashed that first two-wheeler attempt, the dark that came at night, when you first rode The Hammer at the State Fair, or just the creaking noises in the closet when all were asleep. . . and a hundred other childhood traumas.

Most adults could easily revisit those fears by trying a bungee jump or first sky dive, taking a quick dip into a frozen lake or maybe a bit of harmless water boarding — all would likely do the trick and give a taste of what we have forgotten about first-time events. And you will never have so many first-time events as you did as a child.

Anyway, I stood in front of the barber butcher, and he was going to cut me. For some incomprehensible reason the person I trusted most in life, picked up a box, placed it on the torture device and stuck me to it — then let the butcher have his way with his sharp pointy objects. My fear was intense and real. My mother, like all mothers, knew such fears absurd, but mine also had the presence of mind to see an opportunity for posterity and documented the event.

Pictures by Maxine Christy Kimball



The Barber Butcher torment takes only slight precedence over that time as a seven-year-old when Bobby, one of my older brothers, second in line, thought it a fun idea to shove me out of the house naked and lock all the doors. However, my first days at school take a back seat to nothing.

St. Ambrose School would be all that I knew and loved ripped away as I was tossed amongst strangers and strangeness on every conceivable level. A world governed by scowl-faced, rigid women cloaked from head to toe in black sheets.

Mother made careful plans all designed to excite me about the new adventure. We bought new clothes at a local store that had just installed the town’s first escalator. Magical moving steps I did not really understand the need for, but fun like some carnival ride. And right out of Buck Rogers, the store had a new x-ray machine for your feet, which mom said could magically tell us what shoes would fit.

Mom did her best, and succeeded in making the preparations exciting, but then came that first morning when she woke me up singing the most dreadful lyrics ever written for a child’s ear: “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days….” To this very moment, I could have sworn that the next line of those cruel lyrics went, “The teacher’s going to hit you with a hickory stick.” But looking it up to validate my memory, I discover the line was actually, “Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.” A small difference from my memory which always tends to make traumas more traumatic than they were.

She dropped me off with my two older brothers, Billy going into the 7th grade and Bobby going into 4th, then pulled out of the parking lot and headed for home. My brothers being popular old pros, and suffering from none of my affliction regarding strangers, dashed off for a little pre-class play with old friends.

For me, panic had set in. I stood alone looking across the parking lot at St. Ambrose School when it occurred to me that the easiest way to escape was simply not to cross the parking lot at all. So, I didn’t.

It was never quite clear how I managed to do it, and I do not recall myself, our house was one mile away, but as my mother pulled into our rounded driveway, there I was sitting on the front steps gasping for air.

This irrational fear would never really leave me, not entirely, or at least not until sometime later when I stood in front of a room of politicians as a state senator on behalf of everyone I ever knew.

School did get a little better, very gradually. For a few days, when I woke up to my mom’s favorite song, I would plead with her not to make me go. When I got to class, I did all that I could to be invisible. I would sit in the last row and adjust my desk just so, in a not all unsuccessful effort to hide, particularly from that woman dressed in the black hoodie and draperies. My greatest fear being that she would begin the once-a-day trauma of calling on us, one at a time, to stand and answer some question, thus exposing ourselves as brighter or dumber than dirt.

In the years since I have often fantasized about forcing those nuns to stand and recite, not the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Condemnents, but the Bill of Rights, the application of which never applies to children, and I feel certain had never been heard of by any of the nuns.

I hated everything about school and focused far more on the ticking of the big, black-rimmed clock than I ever did on the nun droning on and on about reading, writing and arithmetic.

No sound has ever rung so sweet to me as the school bell ending another day’s torture. The lunch break itself, which seemed to thrill my classmates, filled me with apprehension. At St. Ambrose I was to learn that all the food we ate came directly from God and that God could cook up some real shit.

The nuns and priests of St. Ambrose expected you to eat anything and everything put in front of you, which included their Sunday mass special, “The body and blood of Christ,” arguably the best tasting thing they forced down your throat.

Years later I would understand that with all my mother’s special wonderful qualities, cooking was not one of them. But in grade school when I was finally lucky enough to get a lunch box, Mom was the grape jelly, Skippy’s, baloney, graham cracker queen. A kid’s real Julia Child of the lunch box.

What a marvel it would be to re-live the extraordinary experience of tasting the things you love again for the very first time. For me as a kid an Oreo cookie, a baloney sandwich slathered with mayo, Bazooka gum or mint chocolate chip ice cream come to mind. Later in life it was my first taste of a Macadamia nut, Cream Bruleé, foie gras or my wife’s pecan pie that locked in days to be remembered.

There were, of course, those things that revolted, those first pioneering repulsive bits that adults see as a duty to cram past your convulsing taste buds. Every child and most adults, me included, know of foods you simply will not, cannot eat. Things you would fight heaven and hell to avoid ingesting. For me, the blood red repulsion found in red beets, or the damp, gagging chalkiness of lima beans are near the top of my list. But nothing, not anything on earth matches my memory of that first globular bite of stewed hominy slopped into a puddle of canned tomato sauce at St. Ambrose in first grade — the memory of which can still make me retch.

I only swallowed one tiny spoonful that one time, but many years later I was in Birmingham to give a speech. Hungry, I walked into a little earthy sidewalk cafe. Sitting down, looking at the menu I got the slightest whiff, the unmistakable odor from a moment in time 45 years in my past. What is that? I know that smell, I’m sure I know that smell, I thought. Then the waitress threw open the kitchen door to deliver someone’s order. The stench overwhelmed me. It couldn’t be, no one would ever order it, request it, want it, be able to swallow it! An instant later the shallow bowl with slopping red sauce and super-sized corn kernels passed by me. To the great good fortune of everyone in the cafe, my stomach discreetly informed me what was going on and that the deal was up. It said, “You have ten seconds!” There were still five seconds on the clock when I blew out the front door.

It was one of the nun’s specialties requiring only a large pot and the will to boil the mass to within an inch of Hell for certain putrefication. The first and last time it had ever been set in front of me I was able to hold dignity through the dried corn bread and the canned beans. Then, just as I skipped over the main course to the other side of the tray for the orange Jell-O with the nun cook’s fancy flair of a few pineapple chunks, another nun, this one on lunchroom patrol, stopped behind my chair. “Finish lunch before you have that dessert!” She didn’t move. Hoping for some divine intervention I moved slowly. I took my spoon and dabbed it in the red chunky goop. She said, “Hurry up, you are not going to waste God’s food or get up from that chair until you have finished every drop of that gift.” I raised the spoon in the general direction of my mouth but not quite meeting the target.

As I recall my nose got between the spoon and my lips making a rejection much like a professional basketball player would of an opponent’s best shot. The nun was not to be denied. She said, “You will sit here until you finish all of God’s great gift.” To my added horror I now had the attention of all the students across the table and for a few tables beyond.

To this all-trusting five-year-old it was a convincing argument. It wasn’t the nun cook, it wasn’t the nun who had ladled it onto my plate, it was God giving me this food and now everyone was focused. Could I down the repulsive stench given by God himself? You can do it I thought. The spoon dove into the goop with good intent and then with God in my mind I closed my eyes and crammed it in my mouth.

Now my experience with throwing up had been limited to being sick or having an upset stomach. It was always the same. You knew it was coming, then you really knew it was coming and you bent over the toilet or the pail your mother somehow magically appeared with. Even when you didn’t have sufficient warning you still had time to bend over and make your deposit on the floor. But at that lunch table, with those students surrounding me, the nun behind me, and God above, it was my first experience with the shot gun method.

The event ended with me unscathed but a few of my classmates had to go find something else to wear. And the nun, looking repentant, said, “OK Kimmy — — I guess you don’t have to eat that.”

THE MIRACLE OF ME — Chapter three


I was the tallest kid in class, something I took pride in, imagining that I might be more adult than the others. I could jump and catch better than most, even those a grade or so ahead of me. Thus, at recess and after school, I was the one young kid that got invited to play with my older brothers and their friends. At play I could shine, and I eventually learned to survive each school moment waiting for those recesses or glorious after school sessions with my brothers and neighborhood friends.

In third grade my St. Ambrose torment would abruptly end. It appeared that the nun teaching us suddenly disrobed, and joined the real world. With God’s habited disciple out of the picture, a mere disciple-in-training was put in her place so my mother took the opportunity to send me to a “lesser school,” my brothers would say, a public school. Which in my experience it was not, but then that was back in the day when teachers were admired and supported because they had authority, could enforce order, effectively reward achievement, or discourage a willful lack of it.

I believe the truth of the matter was that mom had concluded that I was not only miserable but that I was in route to becoming an illiterate nitwit.

Anyway, so I packed up what had by then become my mystical ability to disappear and went public.

My first effort at disappearance at Robison Elementary was a tragic failure. I was instantly exposed as an idiot and behind the other children in the three Rs so they made me take second grade again.

Completely humiliated I redoubled my efforts at the dark sciences. Invisibility I now understood had to be kneaded into complete non-existence. My success in this work is, I suppose, the reason that I can’t remember but one of my elementary school teacher’s names.

It was Mrs. Shenfield. She was about five feet tall, somewhat shorter than I was in her third grade class. She was nicely rounded and somehow shockingly managed to only call on me when I knew the answer to a question. She was no beauty, but no nun, and became the most jaw dropping, stunningly gorgeous thing I’d ever seen.

Going to sleep at night, thinking of Mrs. Sheffield, the oddest things would happen. I had noticed that on occasion, for reasons I could not know, when I woke up, I had a stiffy. And although I did not know what it was or why, I instantly recognized the truth of it. It was true love. But I will save my sexual awakenings for another time — or maybe not at all.

Falling in love at that age is easy, I found it somewhat more difficult to learn how to read, find joy with digits or as I was about to discover, even learn where to properly go to the bathroom.

It is difficult to learn how to read or learn much of anything else if you don’t exist. And if you are truly nonexistent, as I was in my reboot of second grade, people will simply not notice that you cannot read, or even when you must poo or pee. It was their not recognizing the latter two that turned into a serious liability for someone struggling to stay invisible and that liability would first exhibit itself to the toughest kid in school.

Raising your hand in class! I had actually seen other people do this. I could not understand what compelled them to jump off such a cliff, but they did. Some like Lacy Scanlon, jumped all the time. Lacy, clearly more deserving of existence than any other child I knew, knew everything. All that she did was perfect. I became convinced of this one recess when Stevie Bogard, my neighbor, best friend, now classmate came up with an extraordinary idea.

Until Stevie’s brilliance burst forth, we had been resigned to recess games involving spitting, making fart sounds, or just about anything we could do in the dirt. His idea would require courage, athleticism, cunning and some exhilarating aspect we were not quite old enough to grasp but was very exciting none the less.

He called his game “The Panties Report.”

Understand that this was the 50s and schoolgirls still wore flouncy dresses. The basic idea was to chase each other around, one at a time and at the key moment push or trip whoever’s turn it was and have them roll under some unsuspecting girl. With that you were able to return to the group with the “Panties Report.” The reports were almost always of white panties, color was a rarity, but on one fabulously triumphant occasion I excitedly reported back, “purple polka dots!!” It was so rare as to be unbelieved by my classmates. I was immediately tackled and piled on by every giggling boy in the group. In the dirt and spitting out dust I looked out from under the pile of classmates and across the field, there was Lacy. She was standing with her friends in a crisp clean yellow dress with a satin bow around the waist. All of them were quietly ignoring us and playing a game of hopscotch. As I looked at her from the grit and grime, I knew, as I have known ever since, that Lacy Scanlon and all her kind were of a different, more advanced sort.

Anyway, back to raising your hand in class. The first time I had to raise my hand in a class had nothing to do with a teacher’s question. I actually had to raise it 30 minutes earlier than I did, but didn’t, and I would regret it for years and I am sure if childhood relevance cared any weight in adulthood, I would say that I regret it more than any other single self-inflicted event in my life.

The quiet rumbles in my lower stomach started while we were saying the Pledge of Allegiance, but the discomfort was minor, and I gave it little thought. Ten minutes later my view had changed somewhat, the early rumbles had become a bit gassy, but if I softly eased it out and looked busy and innocent, I could escape detection. Another ten minutes and I was out of gas, one leg here, move another there, put my weight on the right butt, then on the left, gave only seconds worth of relief. Another 15 minutes and I was in serious trouble. That is when my butt said, “Raise your hand or poop right here.”

I did not raise my hand, I launched it as high as I could stretch. The teacher looked at my sudden appearance like one would a stranger, not at all sure that she recognized me, confused and busy with more important matters she said, “not now.” Like stretching rubber, my arm went to unnatural heights. She took a second look, whatever sub-human quality she saw in my eyes gave me a reprieve. I told her, and announced to all that I, me, the invisible one, needed to go to the bathroom. She said, “Can’t you wait,” and then thought better of it, “OK go.”

I had so wanted to make it. With my first step into the hall, I knew it was now a race, but if I moved too quickly, I would not hold. Only thirty feet left, now twenty, at the ten mark it was over, out it came. Like a green horn just off the saddle, I waddled the last few feet to the boy’s room. It still would have been OK, no one was in the halls, but as I threw open the restroom door there stood Jerry Egerton, the toughest, nastiest kid on the planet.

I did not hear his hackling end even after the bathroom door closed behind him. I cleaned up pretty well and I covered up my underwear with a mountain of paper towels at the very bottom of the trash can, but the damage was done.

The humiliation should have been crushing, but as it turned out, only Jerry Egerton had been humored because everyone hated the bully as much as I did. If truth be told no one was that far removed from a poo in the pants at some point, and simply thought, “Thank God that wasn’t me.” Within a couple of days, Jerry’s finger-pointing shoutouts of “poo boy” got old and ended. By week’s end no one remembered, no one but me, who still winces at the ancient memory of my final delicate waddling steps.

THE MIRACLE OF ME — Chapter Four


I was the tallest kid in class and skinny as a stick, which branded me with the name Skinny Kimmy and two never ending kid comments: “How’s the weather up there?” And, “Look out — it’s the Jolly Green Giant!” More importantly and impactfully I was also certain that I was the class dummy.

When I finally got back to third grade, I felt that my feeble mind was universally acknowledged, largely because I still could not read anything but the simplest lines in Dick and Jane books.

My greatest dread was that once-a-day class ritual where my love, Mrs. Shenfield, would start in the first row and have every student, one at a time, read a page from that week’s story. It was the only truly horrible thing Mrs. Shenfield ever did. I paid no attention what others were reading, had no enjoyment or even knowledge of the adventure that was being told one student at a time. I was completely occupied in calculations. My only hope was to successfully cipher what page they would be on when it finally became my turn to read out loud. One page, one student, how many students were left, how many pages in that chapter. When I was sure I had it right, I sat quietly and practiced my page preparing for my moment of unavoidable visibility. Of course, it did not always work, sometimes Mrs. Shenfield would skip one student or another or let someone read more than one page, particularly if it was someone like Lacy Scanlon, who I was certain was bored by the daily reading ritual and simply looked forward to relaxing at home, enjoying the smell of a freshly printed volume of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Not that I or anyone else other than Lacy would have known what that was.

When it came to me, I would be so tense as to stumble even over the words I did know, prompting Mrs. Shenfield to have the class help me out, in mass. Oh God, forgive her for she knows not what she does.

Anyway, it was all humiliating to me and a real worry to my mother. She tried to tutor me and was tough but had little patience with my stunted attention span. She hired tutors who fared no better until finally concluding that whatever existed between my ears, it couldn’t possibly be a brain.

I had no awareness of what was about to happen, and she denied the reasons for it to her very last days, but the fact remains that I was scheduled for an evaluation at the University. To be more precise I was to take an IQ test. My memory of the test is of an odd but fun series of games involving circles, triangles, sticks, shapes, memory, and a few races against a clock. At the conclusion of the games, I overheard the doctor, or professor, or whatever the tester was, telling my mother that I was at 132. It was all meaningless to me, and my mother simply grabbed my hand and turned around and walked out.

A week later playing ball with some of the older kids I embarrassed John Cole, a neighbor, with my ability to throw a football further than he could. So John, older, heavy-set and, not much of a student himself, got mad and tried to pick a fight with me. His initial verbal attack had nothing to do with our game but simply focused on how stupid everyone thought I was. It was then that I first witnessed what was to become a brotherly tradition. It was Bobby, second in line in the Kimball brotherdom who leaped to my defense. Clearly having information that I did not, he told John Cole that I was close to genius and the university tests proved it, while he was just a well-blubbered, ignorant Cave Newt. None of us had any idea what a well blubbered Cave Newt was but it had us all doubled over in laughter, and John huffed his way home.

That was the thing about my brother Bob. While I, like everyone else on the planet, would spend a good amount of time during our lives mumbling to ourselves the things we wished we had said during a heated moment, my brother Bob never needed reflection, he had the enviable ability to punch you out right on the spot with nothing more than words.

Well, I was no genius, but for the first time I had some evidence that I was not an idiot. I just couldn’t read, but that was about to change.

Not long after testing with circles and squares at the University my mother went to the library, and I was along for the ride. All the teachers, all the tutors had no effect, but walking into that library and having my mother dump me in the toddler’s section did the trick. She did not plan it or think it mean, but for me, standing there towering over all the toddlers in the cartoon and picture book section of the library, something snapped. As soon as I saw my mother disappear into the stacks of grown-up books so did I. To prove that I was really a big kid to anyone that might have seen me with the toddlers, I wandered around looking for the biggest, wordiest book I could find. Twenty minutes later I pulled in next to my mother to check out; in my possession I had a book titled 20 Best Plays of the Modern American Theater. Mom looked at me, then at the book, then back at me, but had the wisdom to say nothing.

That night I learned to read. I was instantly fascinated by the dialogue in plays. I could make out just enough words to get some sense of what one character was saying to another. Once I figured out what one person said, I just had to know the response. It seemed to me that very character’s response to another was a story in itself. I was up for most of that night with that book and the family dictionary, finishing the first play. Over the next few weeks, I lived with that wonderful book and read the whole wonderful thing and can still recall the play I liked best: a gambling comedy called Three Men on a Horse.

It didn’t cure my shyness, dread of school and strangers or even my apprehension about reading out loud in front of others, something I still avoid to this day. I so dread reading out loud, that I rarely do it even when putting children to sleep, preferring to simply make up stories in my head. Something I seem to have a talent for, and they prefer.

Anyway, getting through 20 Best Plays was liberating. It was the second sign that I was not necessarily an idiot. Although, a year or two later, my addiction upon discovering my favorite reading material, hidden under a brother’s bed, might convince you otherwise.



 My mom was funny, but duty bound to bring up 4 sons who were abnormal to nearly normal. When I say she was funny, I mean really. Her dream was Hollywood, she was a jaw-dropping beauty with a degree in drama and a sense of humor that sold.  After seeing her speak at a convention, Bob Hope asked her if she would come out to L. A. and write for the Joey Bishop Show.

 She didn’t. She had Kimball Boys to raise and with the little time that left to spare, she settled on just dabbling with local radio and TV shows and convention appearances.

 Mom’s endless press: “Comb your hair, tuck in your shirt, stand up straight, rake up the yard, turn off that TV, do your homework, did you wash your hands, take your elbows off the table, no dessert if you don’t finish those vegetables, wash the dishes, turn off the lights, it’s 7 get into bed, say your prayers.”

 With dad so often sick, or off to the state capitol where he ran some show of his own, what an endless burden the Kimball boys were.

 It is always the same with kids.  You want to live in your parent’s world. To you, it is there that all the rules expire.

 As a young boy you don’t spend time on your parents’ nonsense, you’re thinking about more pressing matters:  Some dreaded encounter with a school bully or that stiffy you get when thinking what girls must look like without their clothes on.

 In third grade you are not likely to see naked girls, so up front and center stage was your relationship with your kind.

 Being forced to fight is chiefly reserved for the male gene pool and best limited to one’s brothers. What you were angry about was obvious at the moment, but quickly forgotten. And the results?  Well, they were forgone conclusions.  If you were the oldest brother you won, if you were younger you lost.  On rare occasions, it was possible to win without a blow by appealing to one of the Supremes, almost always Mom. At a weak moment Mom might be convinced through acts of bewilderment, confusion and a “what, me?” expression that you were innocently sound asleep when the vicious unprovoked abuse from a brother took place.

 My greatest brotherly conquest happened this very way. It was with my little brother, Johnny who was 7 or 8 at the time and who, as yet, lacked experience fighting without fists.  I belted him out cold with one little lie: “Mom, Johnny said Fuck.” 

 I believe that is the first time that word was ever uttered in front of her by one of her little boys. It left an irregular, never seen before expression on her face that caused me to recoil, and I instantly sought distance from what, for my little brother, would be the End of Days. 

 Although I felt guilty and was instantly full of regret, it was a victory for the ages.  The vileness of the lie was on such an unheard-of scale that my mother could not imagine that I made it up.  To this day, even as he is in his sixties, it is the one “fight” remembered and remains un-forgiven.

 Fighting with those outside the family was a different matter entirely.  We might abuse each other but you couldn’t be abused by outsiders.  It was a standard set by the oldest, Billy and Bobby, and of which Johny and I were most often the beneficiaries.   No one could touch a brother.  My memories are filled with heroic deeds each brother did in defense of another.

 Bobby, the top student of the four brothers, but the least athletic, who was once quoted in a teen newspaper article, to Mom’s embarrassment that he “wouldn’t walk a mile if his life depended upon it” was my most ardent defender.

 Once during the neighborhood pastime (football), when an older, stronger player pushed me into the hedges simply because I snatched a pass intended for him, the fight was on.  Not with me but with Bobby, who had glanced up from his book on the sidelines and seen the injustice.  The members of both teams were in shock. Bobby?  He could trash you with words but not fists — if he fought, he’d be killed.  I did not disagree and sat in a big circle with everyone else sheepishly awaiting my intellectual brother’s certain death, a death that never came.  The fight did not last long.  Right turned to might and Bobby’s blows landed fast and furious until he stood alone with his opponent running home blubbering in tears. The pride I felt at that moment would never subside.

  The pencil-up-the-butt incident was my first call to brotherly arms.  I entered our kitchen one Saturday afternoon to hear my little brother crying. Bent over my mom’s knees with his pants down, he was telling her how Tommy Kurtin, a boy up the street, and his friends had de-pantsed him and then took a pencil and stuck it up his bottom. While my mother checked his bottom for a #2 (pencil, that is), I was off on my two-wheeler steed, carrying the lance I would stick into Tommy from orifice to orifice. 

 When I got to Tommy’s house, I did not knock but simply stomped in through the open back door and yelled TOMMY!  Tommy, wisely sent out his second—his mother.  As she scowled down at me, Mrs. Kurtin and I had some heated words, but she convinced me that she was not likely to allow me to enter Tommy’s rectum with the thick long handle to a broken garden spade.

 It wasn’t that we liked to fight with others.  We didn’t, and I for one was always scared and would avoid any confrontation to the point of private if not public cowardice.  No one really wants to fight.  If we could all choose within the privacy of our own thoughts and without any judgment of others whether to punch people or not to punch people, we wouldn’t punch people.  There are just so many more pleasant things to do with your day. 

 Unfortunately, sibling rivalries, mob expectations and the actions of those choosing to dislike us can make peace difficult.  Fighting, because it is what the mob expects, promotes, and is just an all-around excellent entertainment for them, is one of the few childhood rites of passage that grows more serious, widespread, and far deadlier with age.

  I only had two fights on my grade school fight card.  In each, a deep sense of entrapment and panic ruled my private senses while I hid it as well as I could.  It was, of course, difficult to stay invisible and be in a school fight.  Fist fights were the grandest of all school boyhood events. Talk of one will instantly pulse through every student in your class and maybe a few classes beyond.  In a boy’s world it takes precedence over Mom’s “Eat your vegetables” or “Say your prayers.” Your pre-fight prayers will finally be said in earnest.  

  In the 1950s, grade school fight training was generally confined to name calling. Name calling was the least serious but most common type of fight and had degrees of escalations usually depending on age and experience. Success was measured in the complexity of a slur and the number of multi-syllable words used.  At first, you learned simply derogatory descriptions of your opponent’s vulnerabilities:  fatty, dum-dum, spaz, klutz, sissy, poo poo head or anything else you thought damning.  But if the contestants were experienced on the field of verbal battle they might employ more complex word combinations, like mucus brain, puss head, vomit breath, lard butt, and such.

 It wasn’t until you were a little older, say fifth or sixth grade that language turned nuclear, and you could incorporate words that had been reserved for grown-ups and were taboo for us: Asshole, shit-head and the multi-megaton mother of all cuss words, fucker.

 Unless you were like me, a Catholic.  Then the chain would start with equally accelerating damnation “damn it,” “go to hell” and end with the big dog “God damn you,” which Sister Mary Margaret assured us would reserve you a place on the everlasting roasting spit in Hell.  Because of her, I would soon leave the Catholic Church and not think very much of God, but right now I am just trying to get through third grade.

  My first actual fist fight had none of this pre-fight warm up language; I went straight for physical violence. It was on odd sort of matter, where a kid actually a year younger than my friends and I, would taunt us as we all walked home after school. I cannot remember the little snot’s name, but I do remember that we ignored him, because he was younger, but mostly because we wanted to avoid trouble with his older brother Brad.  Brad was known around school for being a black belt judo champion or some such thing. One afternoon the little snot decided to escalate by saying that my mother was a “fucking pig.”  She wasn’t, she was thin and very pretty, but that didn’t matter, he had gone nuclear. 

I did the only sensible thing and chased him down the street yelling something about his mother being a maggot turd.  Animal references in attacks were seen as a good thing, the smaller, less significant the animal, the more effective the attack. So, by everyone’s calculation, my maggot reference was a winner.  Unfortunately, my comments were not only offensive to the snot but also to Brad, his judo-chopping older brother, who happened to be hiding in the bushes.  Now cowardice was the chip on the table.

 There was no getting out of it. My friends and other students from the school gathered around and do what mobs do, “FIGHT! FIGHT!”  I looked at Brad, he looked at me and we began to circle first one way and then the other, pushing at each other until he threw a first punch, hitting me square on the shoulder and following up with a few more swings that missed. You have to understand here, that in my school in third grade, there was a kind of fighting etiquette.  You didn’t kick or bite, that was “dirty fighting.”  And hitting in the face was just bad, and no one ever did it.  Mostly contestants would throw a few body punches and fall on the ground in a jumbled mess of arms and legs in the dirt.  A good fight would usually be completed in less than a minute before it was broken up by some adult or some clear victory had been won.  Well, we were in a ditch behind the school and with no adults, there was nothing to stop it from going a full fifteen rounds and might have, had I not decided to break etiquette and punch Brad square in the face. 

 The blood came gushing out in shocking amounts, very dramatic.  Typically, this would have been the end of the fight with me being the acknowledged victor.  But Brad looked confused and in kid-dom, mortally wounded, but without any adult to break it up, we just kept circling.

 Wiping blood from his face and unwilling to approach me again from a standing position, Brad suddenly dove for my legs and with a completely foreign, twisting, perfectly-executed action, I found myself on my back.  He scrambled on top of me and fearing that I was about to pop him on the nose again, which I fully intended to do, Brad struggled to hold my hands down as his blood dripped on my face. We squirmed in the dirt until the little snot of a brother yelled out, “COPS! COPS!” I was particularly relieved and as everyone scattered Brad and I happily joined them.

 There were no cops and, on my walk home, my friends treated me as some sort of hero, kept slapping me on the back and demanding all the gritty details. The next day the story got around the school that I had beaten up Brad and people who had never said a word to me or even knew I existed, looked at me with a kind recognition I had not known. I didn’t really feel like a hero because I had ended up being pinned to the dirt but being suddenly visible with all this admiring attention felt pretty good, so I went with it.

 It all had zero impact on my home life. In fact, right after the fight, when I was met by Mom at the back door, she said, “You’re late, wash your hands, ice cream if you finish your broccoli.” And with that, I was slammed back into every childhood’s alternate universe. 

 My second school fight did not take place until four years later in seventh grade. Again, I had no wish to fight, but again the mob was in the business of converting my private cowardice into a public one if I refused.  The issue at hand was simple.  I had been elected home room basketball captain and Rudy Rios had not.  I did not campaign for the honor, nor did I want it, but I was a fair basketball player, so they selected me anyway.  Rudy, a tough kid and a bit of a bully did want to be captain and was not happy.

 At recess, when I checked out a basketball and organized a little team practice, Rudy came over, walked onto the court, and took the ball. He then started playing his own game with friends on the other court.  I knew this was not going to go well for me.  I looked around at my classmates and they all stood silently looking back at me. They had elected me leader and were very thankful that the issue was now in my hands and not theirs.  Oh Christ! I thought, I have to go get the ball.

 I walked up to Rudy hoping beyond hope that with my sheepish grin and joking attitude the matter could be resolved. “Hey,” I said, “very funny, we were practicing and need the ball back.”  He tossed the ball to one of his friends and sneered, “Why don’t you try to take it.”  Of course, the classmates that had elected me to represent them in this matter started helping me again in the way all such groups do, “FIGHT! FIGHT!”

 In the seventh grade, looking cool and winning is more important than it ever was in the third grade. It certainly drew a bigger crowd.  Also, hitting in the face is not taboo in seventh grade, even kicking was accepted.  It meant you were a hardened fighter, someone to be avoided at all costs.  Of course, no one really knew how to fight very well or kick, particularly Rudy, who, after a little bit of very cool pre-slug prancy dancing in front of me, tried to kick me.  This was not good for Rudy, because I caught his foot, and he was now prancy dancing on one foot.  As it turns out it is very difficult to look cool that way.  It was even more difficult for him to protect himself from a spot-on poke on the nose.

 Well, that was it, my grade school fight card ended 2 and 0.

 From there I would simply fight the crazies and mobs that formed and foamed in adult life. Those “leaders” that would forever, as they had forever, use patriotic, flag waving, oratory fervor, to enchant dewy-eyed seconds, with those words, “FIGHT! FIGHT!” to fight in their stead.



Learning to fight had hazards but being schooled on SEX was a killer. I presume that it is the same with all Catholic boys coming of age at a time when any talk of those exquisite new sensations would bring God out of his vomit-inducing kitchen and strike you dead.

My shyness and practiced invisibility worked against me in many ways but never more so than with girls. I was certain they did not know I existed and when they did it was not good. Some girls seemed to get pleasure making fun of the skinny, gawky, goofy, class idiot that towered over everyone, including the teacher. When girls showed distaste for me it seemed far worse than Jerry Eagerton’s “poop boy” mantra, simply because Lacy had convinced me that they all had something boys didn’t: brains.

My pants were always too short, showing my white socks which was generally referred to as my “high water look.” My hair was combed in one of two ways depending on how long ago I was last willing to let a barber touch it. If recent, it would be a flat top with a sharp spiked front kept perfectly stiff with stuff called Butch Wax. If it had been a while, then the front would be doubled back in an enormous front wave. In my old photographs it made me look even taller, something I was learning to regret simply because it made me stick up and out more than ever.

I was learning that slouching helped with my invisibility. If I had to stand up, I converted myself into a walking slump. This drove my mother crazy, “stand up straight” was her constant badger.

One particular group of girls (Wendy, Janice and Helen), took a shot at me every time we passed in the halls. If a sound can be condescending, they had perfected it. They would place their tongue on the roof of their mouth near their teeth and give off a short tisk-tisk sucking sound. Its knowing effect was to announce my sliminess and their wish that I would vanish for real. When I mentioned this shame to my mother, she gave me a bit of advice that only great mothers can give, advice I was able use to good effect. “The next time, why don’t you just ask if they have something stuck in their teeth,” she suggested. The next day, as they passed by with lifted noses and began their suck-it chorus I said just that. The joyous effect was instant, embarrassed silence and I never heard that sound again.

I never told anyone about the stiffies I would get when seeing magazine ads for women’s undergarments or that most fantastic painting Rubens did of Venus, found in an art book my parents had.

Any kind of nudity was an entirely private and secret affair, most particularly in our Catholic household. Some weeks after my one-sided love affair with Mrs. Shenfied began, my affections took a dramatic turn. It happened one day when Mrs. Shenfield was teaching us about Australia and asking us questions in a learning game. If you were able to answer her questions you got to stay in your chair if you couldn’t you had to move to the very back and everyone else that had been seated behind you got to move up one seat. I was doing well, for again Mrs. Shenfield seemed to only ask me questions that I knew. Anyway, I had moved up right behind the most perfect person in class, Lacy Scanlon. The game was just about to end, the last question was about to be asked and Lacy, holding the front chair would have the first go at it. The teacher asked, “What is the name of the wild dog that lives in Australia?” In a very rare event, Lacy looked confused and then said, “I don’t know.” She got up, turned around, smiled at me, and walked to the end of the long line of chairs leaving me in front. Mrs. Shenfield looked at me and said, “Richard (my formal name), do you know the answer?” Far more surprising than my knowing what a Dingo was, was that when I said it, Lacy squealed in delight. I had won my first and last academic contest, more importantly I was now bright and even grander still, I now went bonkers for the brightest, most beautiful girl in class, Lacy Scanlon.

She had a new devoted lap dog but never knew it because I wouldn’t be able to start a conversation with any girl for some years. This is not to say I did not have any early sexual experiences; I had a lot of them, beginning with my best friend Stevie Bogard.

We were still in third grade, at some point after the Dingo incident. I was sleeping over at Stevie’s house and we were talking about girls — their breasts and what pussies must be like, when we both noticed our hands were down our pajamas. Giggling we looked and touched each other’s erections and then laid down and talked about girls and their privates for most of the night. This began months of searching for sex as we saw it — women’s magazines with underwear ads, swiping panties and bras from mothers’ drawers, and little tubes inscribed with the word Kotex, (whatever that meant), we knew must have something to do with their privates.

One of our biggest finds was at another friend’s house whose father happened to be a doctor. There we discovered a medical journal with pictures of nude women. To young boys who spent much of their lives with rocks, sticks, dirt and the mud they could make of it, it didn’t matter one little bit that some of these nude women had strange exotic, often grotesque diseases. What did matter was tits.

It would be a few years before I had any idea what these feelings were all about. And when finally, I was sort of told, I would be so completely repulsed that it would take me the better part of a day to get another stiffy.

My brother Bob was always on point, said exactly what was necessary to convey his meaning, no more, no less. “Mom and Dad took off all their clothes” he said, “and dad stuck his penis in mom’s pussy and that is where I came from.” My reaction? “That’s disgusting, you liar!”

What child, so isolated from such intimacies could envision their parents doing that? I so wanted to unhear it, but it rang with the sudden sense it made of many things.

Anyway, somehow, I got through early adolescence without getting it or even hearing about a thing called orgasm. Then one day hidden under a brother’s bed I found a secret folder. I had been home alone, bored and rummaging through all sorts of things I shouldn’t, and there it was, hidden under some Mad Magazines and comic books, a prize unequaled in all my kiddom’s worldly experience: a nudist colony magazine.

How my brother had obtained such a prize I never knew but as I flipped through the pages of pictures, my body went into shock and awe and then howled at me, “I have a secret! I can only tell you in absolute total isolation.” I gave one anxious check of the house for any other sounds of life. There was none, the bathroom door slammed shut.


A wife, brother and close friend became too squeamish reading this and agreed that it was way TMI (Too Much Information). So, no more for them and none for you.




XXXXXXXXXXXXX. I knew that something inside me had burst. Scared, I just sat there waiting for death to settle in.

It would be a few years, getting close to when dad was so sick he died (more later), before I would get any official parental words about sex. But finally, one evening, long after my number of orgasms exceeded the number of Big Macs sold, my mother thought it time to give me “The Talk.” I wanted to be more than invisible, I wanted to be dead. A devout Catholic mother who by all appearances never took her clothes off and a youngster who could secretly fill buckets like a milk cow.

As the word penis came out of her mouth, I would have willingly stretched out underneath an elephant turd and hoped to be stepped on.

My fondness for invisibility, would still take me some time to ask anyone on a date. When I finally did, I got my first look through the eyes of someone on the other side.

I was perfect, did everything perfect, polished my parent’s car and my shoes. Carefully selected the best from my wardrobe. Not the stuff jumbled in the dresser drawers but from the items actually hanging in the closet. I shaved what little fuzz I had so close I cut my chin and then took a painful hit of an older brother’s cologne.

She was nice, the daughter of a former Mayor and I really liked her. I always let her go first, opened all the doors, made sure she was comfortably seated before I sat and of course paid for everything. I don’t recall what she wore, hair style, smell or much of anything about her. All such recollections, which should have been, would have been, locked into memory departed with that first kiss that came with a kicker.

Should I, or shouldn’t I? The mere thought of it had me excited as I walked her to the front door. We turned and she said she had a nice time, I dumbly stared at her for a few seconds and then with all the courage I had to muster leaned forward fearing she would somehow be outraged. The kiss was magical, and it was long, and then longer and then her knee slowly raised up and rubbed between my legs.

Stunned and confused, I found myself alone, back in the car blabbering to myself as I wondered what just happened, what was that knee all about?

Then it came to me, just as the front door closed, while I had dreamed of first base, this never-to-be-a-nun girl was seeking a home run.

Years later after telling that story to a friend, a former girl, now a woman, she bellied over in laughter, telling me I had that Catholic thing, the “Virgin Mary Complex,” meaning, I thought girls were always innocent, pure, immaculate, and never thought of sex. Had she added the word brighter, it would have been spot on how I viewed the opposite sex.


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If you want to scare the hell out of a child and assure stunted emotional development and a twisted perception of the world, send them to a 1950s nun at St. Ambrose for an education. More specifically, send them to Holy Sister Mary Margaret.

She is probably dead now, and the children of the world are better for it. Should I think her still alive I would have a moral duty to seek her out, rip out her tongue and stitch her mouth closed forever. In the 1950’s, she and her ilk could cause serious damage to any child true to the faith.

Religious instruction was not a matter of faith to a child at St Ambrose, it was fact. Front and center in a child’s mind and training was not God or Christ but the “everlasting fires of Hell,” where, as Sister Mary Margaret put it, “your flesh would be consumed by fire, yet continually be reborn so that you would suffer the unimaginable agony of your flesh burning for all of eternity.” God’s desire was to get you to Heaven through your fear of Hell.

According to the good sister the great joy of getting to Heaven was not to be found in mounds of candy bars, cookies, cakes, and endless feature cartoons, but the ability to “look upon the face of God.” To a seven-year-old, my age at the time, I simply wondered how someone could possibly look so good that seeing them would beat out a Root Beer Float.

But Holy Sister Mary Margaret had much more to offer, not the least of which was her informing us that it was not necessary to actually commit a sin in order to be guilty of the sin. All you had to do was think of the sin and you were equally guilty. This was very discouraging. Now I was guilty on so many layers of sin that I had no hope of escaping the fiery pits.

It was the stuff that put thinking and believing believers into insane asylums as they aged. At seven years of age, I had not yet come to realize that these nuns torturing children with their unforgiving, cruel nature of God should be imprisoned, if not themselves thrown into that everlasting roaster.

Holy Sister Mary Margaret understood that our minds were too young to comprehend such horror. To remedy this unacceptable situation, she would tell us stories that were sure to reach into our imaginations with lasting effect. One juicy illustration was her telling of the “very real possibility” that our classroom might be broken into by Nazis. Nazis, who would shove us up against the wall and then ask with a gun pressed against our heads, “Are you a Catholic?” The holy Sister Mary Margaret, wanting to tempt an incorrect answer said. “If you deny that you are a Catholic, they will let you live.” But then quickly followed with, “If you love God and admit that you are Catholic, then you will be shot and experience the joy of looking upon the face of God.”

Years later I would remember thinking of all the children she must have tortured with that kind of question, and fanaticized entering her classroom, gun in hand, and offering her that very choice.

However, at seven years old, I hung on every word she said and believed every story that horrid human being told. That was until she told us how God handled the dead guy.

The previous week she had gone through some pains to explain the difference between a Venial Sin and a Mortal one. With Venial Sin (a small sin), God would place you in Purgatory, a place much the same as Hell only with a possibility that at some future time, after you experience adequate flesh burning you would be given a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free-Card. However, Mortal Sin was a sin so egregious that you roasted for all eternity in the real Hell. She just loved telling a little story or two to make certain her little charges could understand.

All her stories kept us in frozen attention, but the story about the dead guy stands alone and still rots away in my brain.

The following, minus modest changes, since I cannot remember each word precisely, is a fair if not precise representation of Sister Mary Margaret’s example for Thou Shall Not Kill:

“A long, long time ago there was a man suffering from a very strange disease causing him to fall into a deep, deep sleep where his heart quieted to a soft undetectable murmur. The people thought he was dead. They dug a deep six-foot hole, took his body, and placed it in the tight confines of a coffin and nailed down the lid. They lowered the coffin into the pit and filled it over with dirt.

Sometime later the poor, sick man woke up in the darkness. Alone and unable to move in the black tightness of his coffin, the man realized his predicament, was terrified and began to scream. But in the blackness, six feet under the ground he knew no one could hear his cries for help. Unable to withstand the horror of it, the man drove the forefingers of his hands into the temples of his head to kill himself. Even he, today, is burning in the everlasting fires of Hell.”

That night when I went to bed I could not sleep. I was tired but every time I started to doze off, I woke with a start. If I slept, I was sure someone would think me dead. Finally, in the wee hours of the night I had an idea. I got up, stumbled over to my desk and switched on the light. Searching around in the drawers I found my drawing book and ripped off a little piece of paper and wrote out a short note. I then quietly crept down the hall to the bathroom where my mother kept the safety pins. A few hours later she came in to wake me up for Sunday church. Pinned to the middle of my pajama shirt, where no one could possibly miss it, was the note: “Pleese do not berry me, not dead.”

You must understand that I believed the Holy Sister Mary Margaret’s story, absolutely. I had not the slightest doubt that was exactly what God did. Only the effect of the story was not what the Holy Sister hoped for. That morning at church, sitting at my mother’s side as she dutifully focused on the word of God, I was staring above the alter where Christ was draped on his cross, thinking, “Asshole!”

Today, I think a kind of God may exist but one that is wholly unlike the insanely narcissistic jackass preached by so many religions.

My best guess is if there is a God, it is far beyond any lowly human’s ability to comprehend its existence and would clearly be powerful enough to talk to me directly, without need of some self-anointed human middleman. The same middlemen so galactically arrogant to presume to speak in God’s name that billions pay homage to and fund their nonsense.

If there is a God, and I hope there is, he already knows how to and actually does speak to me directly through the guilt, shame, pain, and pleasures I feel with my every intention and action I take.

And what is this with so much unimaginable, often inconceivable, grotesque agonies that consume the utterly innocence? No God — not yours and not mine — can answer for the unfairness of life, the damnable repugnance of the hulking injustice that puts one existence in the convulsions of death before a single step is had and another’s anointed with a passel of servants to care for their every need.

The line, “God works in mysterious ways,” exposes the poppy cock heart of much religious training for any willing to open their own eyes. What is the mystery in a child who has done nothing, can do nothing, unable to speak, raked with painful cancerous cysts, gasping a final breath in a struggle to whisper, “Please help me mommy?” Every conscious soul on this planet would struggle so to stop such a horror if they could, but the “all-powerful” God of organized religions does not.

The incomprehensible suffering of incalculable numbers of starved, enslaved, diseased, burned, bombed, drowned, murdered, maimed, tortured living things repudiates any notion of, or any need to be humbled before the nonsense of an all-powerful, “loving,” living God. I may have a good life, you may have a good life, and we feel compelled to thank our lucky stars, but we do not represent, nor can we poll the countless, faultless others who never asked to be born and now largely reside amongst the gratefully dead.

Ok, ok, I am just a bit bitter about Sister Mary Margret’s loving God. There is some part of me that hopes I am wrong, that there is an answer that an ignoramus-like human such as myself has no hope of grasping. There is even a part of me that envies friends who have faith in this kind of God. It is clearly desirous: stats show you live longer if you are comforted and smother yourself in such beautiful, irrational, thoughtless delusions of a loving God.

There are few things more uncomfortable than that moment in an argument when you realize you are wrong. Perhaps that moment will come for me when I die, and somehow, magically, miraculously, and thankfully I will be given the power to see that all is right with God’s world. I am just not ready to bet on it. In fact, after an adult life in politics, being God is the only job I feel certain to be better at, or at least fairer, only it never comes up for election.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

Sign up on my Blog at:

or at:

(Chapters will be added roughly one a week. Preface published earlier)

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