27 July 2008

The Prince of Frogtown

In water so fine, a few minutes of bad memory all but disappear downstream, washed by ten thousand belly busters, a million cannonballs. Paradise was never heaven-high when I was a boy but waist-deep, an oasis of cutoff bluejeans and raggedy Converse sneakers, sweating bottles of Nehi Grape and Orange Crush, and this stream. I remember the antidote of icy water against my blistered skin, and the taste of mushy tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, unwrapped from twice-used aluminum foil. I saw my first water moccasin here, and my first real girl, and being a child of the foot washers, I have sometimes wondered if this was my Eden, and my serpent. If it was, I didn't hold out any longer than that first poor fool did. It took something as powerful as that, as girls, to tug me away from this tribe of sunburned little boys, to scatter us from this place of double-dog dares, Blow Pops, Cherry bombs, Indian burns, chicken fights, and giggling, half-wit choruses of "Bald-Headed Man from China." Maybe we should have nailed up a sign _NO GIRLS ALLOWED- and lived out our lives here, to fight mean bulls from the safe side of a barbed-wire fence with a cape cut from a red tank top, and duel to the death with swords sliced off a weeping willow tree. I don't know what kind of man I turned out to be, but I was good at being a boy. Then, a thrust to the heart only bent against my chest, in a place where I could look straight into the Alabama sun through a water-smoothed nugget of glass, and tell myself it was a shipwrecked emerald instead of just a piece from a broken bottle of Mountain Dew.


-first paragraph of a great summer read, a book all about fathers and sons.... "The Prince of Frogtown" by Rick Bragg

3 comments:

Matt Ross said...

really, really good.

Dave said...

I read Mr. Bragg's book "Ava's Man" a few years ago, his biography of his maternal grandmother. Mr. Bragg is an excellent storyteller.

I was wondering what happened to him since writing the book about Jessica Lynch, the captured American soldier in Iraq. Will have to take a look at his new work.

CityKin said...

Dave, I'm glad your still checking in, even from halfway around the world.

This book really hit home with me, as I saw myself in both the boys and the fathers. Boyhood is so precious and so short...