One Boy's Story

'Father M would like to see you in his office'

This is a story about a priest I knew, and what he did to me. I was not molested, exactly. But something happened.

The setting is a Catholic grade school I’ll call Saint Crispin’s, in the early 1970s. I was not a Catholic, but my parents, displeased with the public schools, sent me anyway. In the seventh grade at Saint C’s I was an outsider, and not only by religion. I lived in the doctors/lawyers/accountants part of town. My classmates lived in the welders/policemen/coaches part of town. Their houses were smaller, their attitudes tougher. Saint C’s was their place—a dark and antediluvian building that squatted behind the church like a big brick toad. The school grounds, a half-acre of fenced-in blacktop, resembled a prison yard. There was a hole in the fence where, if the teacher on patrol wasn’t watching, you could escape at lunch, then hustle up the block to the pizza place, cram down an Italian sub, and make it back by the bell. This routine wasn’t about the sandwich. It was about the transgression. It was about the escape.

The schoolyard pastime at Saint C’s was a rough game that combined tag and tackle. A lone boy would stand in the center of the yard, facing a line of thirty or fifty on one side. At a shout of "Go!" the line raced to the other side, and the one in the middle tackled someone; the next time the wave crossed, those two tackled two more, and so on, until at last a few...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.