It was just a big old farmhouse that had been burned at some time in the past and never rebuilt. We moved there when I was 6, maybe 7. Eleven of us, plus mother and father. We moved there from The Streetcar. My younger brother (I was number 10) was born in The Streetcar. No, it wasn’t moving. It had been parked on an empty lot, and where the conductor once sat was a sort of stove made of bricks, that served for cooking and heating. There isn’t much room in a streetcar. Elbow to elbow, ego to ego. To stretch, you turned inward. What an enormous space the mind is.
The Burnt Place had lots of space. Outside, the fields and pastures, a creek, a barn and a spring house. Inside, charred beams. Stairs that went nowhere. Rooms without ceilings, one missing two walls. It had ghosts. We are a family of ghost-seers, believers in the intangible, dream pursuers. Book people, too, readers. Bibles and library books and borrowed books and comic books and school books. All those words. “Come play with us,” the laughing words cried, and a delighted little boy took them to his heart, splashed in the creek with them and cavorted in the woods and drowzed in the sunlit pasture, conspiring in their seduction. “There is a place, at the roof of the world,” the honeyed words whispered, “The wind at your back blows down from the high Himalayas and at your feet, in a vast, green valley lies the ancient kingdom of Chin. Come, let us take you there.”
A writer is born.