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The Quality of Mercy

Mrs. Goehring—may she rest in peace--knew nothing of what that jock in the back of the class was discovering in words she’d assigned us from Portia’s courtroom speech; but that morning in sophomore English, the schoolmarm won a game she didn’t really know I was playing. The ball games are long gone, but the lines of that speech showed up on my screen and then in a haze of memory just a day or two ago.
November 8, 2021
Fiction

Where the Tree Falls

James Calvin Schaap Our friend Lawrence told us he thought it might be good for our souls and there would be a death, a deliverance — some friend of his daughter-in-law somewhere out on the reservation. Lawrence doesn't ask much; never did. So a couple of us left the cemetery and went with. His daughter-in-law, Magenta, is no longer a young woman. Lawrence himself is a decorated World War I vet, so his son (had he lived) and his son's…
January 1, 2014
Uncategorized

The Unveiled

It should come as no surprise that death creates some unlikely bedfellows. Up here, up the hill, sworn enemies share a morning pot of coffee. The three Vande Gaard brothers, who fell into ten years of silence once their father's will was read, hang out here along the river as if they were boys, just a mile downstream from the home place. But a cemetery is as democratic as a public school: we've got to take everybody, so just one…
December 1, 2012
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Searing Stemwinder

MAY 2012: AS WE SEE IT by James C. Schaap Our lindens are just about the tallest trees in town, I swear. And there he was, high up top, singing his heart out, that searing melody so perfectly "cardinal" that it couldn't be mistaken for anyone else's. Even with a horse of a lens, my camera couldn't have caught him way up there because cardinals seem almost always nervous and flighty, jumping from skinny branch to skinny branch as if…
May 1, 2012
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Life, and Death: a memoir

The house where we lived at that time is long gone, as is the tiny kitchen where I stood, phone in hand, listening. The call had come in the middle of the day, in the middle of a lunch, our two kids were sitting beside us. It's now thirty-plus years later, but I will never forget standing there because I was reeling, yet confident that my being chosen for a waiter's scholarship--whatever that was--to the granddaddy of all writers conferences,…
August 1, 2011
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A Dirge for My Mother’s Cousin

Oddly enough, it may be my earliest intense memory. We're at the village park for a family reunion, I think, and it's fun--that much I remember. Then, for no particular reason, my mother's first cousin and some other faceless relative pick up my mother, one by her arms, the other by her feet, and swing her around somehow. They're just north a bit of the shelter house--I know exactly where they're standing, exactly, and it's more than fifty years ago.…
June 1, 2010
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The Sorcerer’s Smile

Your great-grandma says I talk like an old preacher, which is to say, too much. Maybe she's right. She's right about a lot of things. Of course, she knows all the stories, too. We've been married for sixty-seven years. It wasn't the time to tell the one I could have on Christmas Eve. Wasn't the time because nobody around that tree wanted to hear an old man go on and on, not with all those presents calling out. The only…
December 1, 2009
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Zuni Christian Reformed Church Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico

  Over the next several issues, Perspectives will be presenting "church reviews." These reviews are intended to give a glimpse into what is happening in Reformed churches across North America. We have selected a wide variety of congregations within the broader Reformed tradition to be reviewed. Some are "tall-steeples," others obscure. Some may be avant-garde, while others archetypal. A review is meant to be more light-hearted than mean-spirited. No congregation is going to receive a hatchet-job or "three stars out…
August 1, 2009
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A Huge Step

In March, 1968, we drove all night long in order to get to Florida for Spring Break, Daytona Beach. When we got there--as I remember--it was late evening, and the beach was wild with college kids. We looked for some place to stay but didn't find a thing until we stumbled into what seems, in my memory, to have been a retread army barrack. We got in line. We were third. It was late, almost midnight, and we were desperate.…
January 1, 2009