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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Beautiful Woman And The Fear Of God

I was raised in a middle-class Protestant household and took religion seriously; for a while, at the age of ten, I wanted to be a minister. But my true spiritual life went on inside me, and I told no one about it, as if I were ashamed of it.

Beach Boy

I am a moody, bookish teenager living in a small town on the coast. Ten miles offshore, the Isles of Shoals seem to hover, whispering of mystery, a promise unfulfilled, a gift forever withheld. In fact, the islands are easily reached by boat in an hour, and the one time I went there it was bleak and cold and a seagull swooped down with its sharp yellow beak and stole my sandwich. I prefer to regard them from the shore, imagining a paradise just beyond my reach.

Old Maids

My aunt Eunice never married. I have not married either, and I think that perhaps we remained single for the same reason, though I may be wrong. Eunice never said why she hadn’t married, except in the joking way one replies to the curiosity of children.“I never found any man I liked,” she told us. “Wasn’t anyone good enough.” She let us know, however, that she could have married if she’d wanted to. Someone had asked her, but she’d turned him down.

Wild Things

Several years ago, I began working as a patient simulator, helping third-year medical students learn to recognize the psychological problems that sometimes underlie patients’ symptoms. I applied for the job on a dare. I must have been convincing, because the health-sciences center hired me on the spot, even though I was the only one in the group who lacked professional acting credentials. Once a month for six years, I spent ten hours in a stuffy little booth hung with dusty blue drapes, pretending to be, among others, Mary, who begged for tranquilizers to get her through an anniversary response to a rape, and Sara, an oil-and-gas attorney with chest pains that turned out to be panic attacks.


A sacrament is physical, and within it is God’s love; as a sandwich is physical, and nutritious and pleasurable, and within it is love, if someone makes it or you and gives it to you with love: even harried or tired or impatient love, but with love’s direction and concern, love’s again-and-again wavering and distorted focus on goodness, then God’s love, too, is in the sandwich. A sacrament is an outward sign of God’s love, they taught me when I was a boy, and in the Catholic Church there are seven. But no, I say, for the church is catholic, the world is catholic, and there are seven times seventy sacraments, to infinity.



Rain pounded on the train-station roof like kettle-drums. We were the only two foreigners in the waiting area, and faces turned each time we spoke, watching and listening. But this didn’t bother us. We had been in China long enough now that we were immune. We could say anything in public, as long as we said it in English.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write


God help the girl with an adolescent brother. Mine was an omnipresent snoop, like an inescapable eye in the sky.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


“The sex that is presented to us in everyday culture feels strange to me; its images are fragments, lifeless, removed from normal experience. Real sex, the sex in our cells and in the space between our neurons, leaks out and gets into things and stains our vision and colors our lives.”

Sallie Tisdale

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