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For All Nails #186: A Boy's Life

by David Mix Barrington

Boston, Massachusetts, N.C., CNA
13 March 1975

"Hallelujah Amen Amen Hallelujah Amen!"

David Barrington's mind was half on the Handel FN1 he was singing and half on his own thoughts. This was easy stuff, in C, nice short intervals, logical tune. Not exactly the Lokes. Not only that, but they'd now done it so many times (it was taking so long for the rest of the baritones to pick it up) that David no longer had to look at the music.

School choir was a snap compared with church choir. Last fall All Souls had done pieces in Bulgarian, Hindustani, and Zulu, the last a piece Deacon Palmer had brought back from his year in Natal. A lot of these guys couldn't even handle the other language they were supposed to know. Was it so hard to say "weer-gin-es" and "dee-kee-mus" in Latin class, and then "veer-ji-nes" and "dee-chee-mus" here? He tried to imagine their struggles with the variations of the English in the Roberts Hymn to Jah Love they were doing in church this term -- the whole thing, mind you, not just excerpts.

Not that he considered himself much of a singer, but anyone from an Anglican church choir started with a leg and a half up when it came to singing. And there weren't many Anglicans at Roxbury Latin School. Not that RL discriminated, in picking students anyway, nobody really discriminated, but mostly the Anglicans went to Emerson or the other Anglican places. Mom and Dad had picked RL for the broadening, the better academics, and the lower tuition. Mostly the lower tuition.

"O Judah rejoice! Rejoi-oi-oice! Rejoi-oice O Judah, in songs divine,"

Now with faculty, David had concluded, Brother Jarvis did discriminate. Since he'd taken over there had been eleven new teachers, and the only one who would deny the divinity of Christ was Mr. Ben-Judah. And of course that was all right, separate dispensation and all that. But Unitarian Anglicans? Heretics, a danger to the youth, should probably be burned at the stake, that was Brother Jarvis Anthony's view. Which would shock the Calvinist founder of the school more, David wondered, a Catholic headmaster or Unitarian Anglican students?

Would he really be better off at BE? After all, Dad was going that way now, changing at Dudley Square for Concord after David got off in Jamaica Plain. FN2 He could ride the same train -- maybe make a few more pounds working at Leebild after school. They already said they wanted as much of the summer as he could give them . . .

But that would mean dealing with a whole new school for only two years. And hearing two Anglican sermons a week, school and church. And spending twice as long on the train. All in all, a higher price than hearing his religion abused from the pulpit here. Now his sister Jennie, it was a good thing she was at Fuller and not here, even if RL took girls -- Jennie would be organizing hunger strikes against the religious bigotry and getting in all sorts of trouble.

"With cherubim and seraphim harmonious join."

Why did all the best schools have to be single-sex? Choir practice at church went a lot more quickly while he was staring at those soft little hairs on the back of Victoria Hartford's neck. Which reminded him of a problem. How early was too early to ask Victoria to the Spring Social in May? As far as he knew there was no other boyfriend involved, so he didn't have to rush, but if Victoria said no he needed time to find someone else, but asking now would make him look really desperate, which he was because he didn't know any girls outside of church choir, except for Jennie's friends who were too young to count. But if she said yes maybe they could go together to a Fuller dance too . . .

He'd ask Christine about it tonight. It was silly, and he'd never admit it to anyone, but it helped sometimes to ask advice from the poster of Christine on the wall of his bedroom. He had to imagine the answers, of course, but they usually made sense. That was Christine, the wise big sister he wanted but didn't have in reality. Since Christmas Christine had shared his wall with Gina, who inspired fantasies of a more conventional nature. The first woman in space, and the first woman to walk in space. FN3 They made a perfect pair -- he'd had to take down the old poster of the original Sweet Six, but he'd never liked the way Evangeline looked at him out of that poster anyway. You couldn't say she wasn't smiling properly, but there was something in that look that let you know she thought you were dirt. And he wasn't dirt. Last week Victoria had been willing to talk to him in the breaks at church choir, anyway.

"Amen! A-men! Hallelujah, Amen!"

Proceed to #187: The Children's Crusade.

Proceed to 28 March 1975: My Home Town.

Proceed to Barrington family: We're a Happy Family.

Return to For All Nails.