The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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Jaime O’Neill writes regularly for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. He hopes to continue writing and teaching for a long time, though he is significantly more than half finished. He lives in Magalia, California.
When the discussion simply stalled out, I would dismiss the students early, leaving Frida waiting for her attendant to pick her up while I rewound the film and gathered my papers. On one such night, after a movie about the life of Billy the Kid, she said, “I met him once, you know.”
Something has always attracted me to the underdog, and it’s hard to think of an enterprise with worse odds of survival than a raggedy-ass hippie paper in a largely redneck Western county. We were up against a reactionary, well-established, deep-pocketed competitor who could afford to wait us out.
It is the summer of my fiftieth year, and I have just returned from a long journey to pay my last respects to my mother’s sister Charlotte. Everyone called her Chad, pronounced “Shod.” Her husband of forty years, my Uncle Glenn, had preceded her in death by less than six weeks.
His name was Tom Howard, and he hit my brother so hard that he broke both his cheekbones and shattered his nose, all with one punch. My brother was not yet thirty, but he was already on a decline that Tom Howard’s blow surely hastened.
His mother is blessed with a dull acceptance that cushions her suffering, but Arnell, her youngest son, is bright, and this winter will leave its mark on him.