Short Fiction

Sharon Goldberg.jpg


Sharon Goldberg

Selected by Guest Editor John Matthew Fox, author of I Will Shout Your Name

Followed by Q&A

Tempting the Serpent


The summer after I turned sixteen, Mama forced me to live with Granny and the God-fearing Pentecostal snake handlers in Sparrowville, Tennessee. She said I was headed to hell in a handbag. Had no sense. Was likely to end up in jail or pregnant and she didn’t know which was worse. Most of all, she believed I was a bad influence on my thirteen-year-old sister Heather who was sassing back, sneaking cigarettes, and looking to me as a role model. It was 1990, before texts and tweets, before the Amish and polygamists starred on reality shows, before the Bible Belters preached and blogged on the Internet like everyone else. Mama was desperate. And to tell the truth, she was right.

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself,” she said.

I was mad as a hornet to be wrested from my friends in Charlotte and exiled to that tiny town in Appalachia where Mama grew up.”

“You’d be wise to use the time for soul searching,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with my soul,” I said. “I’ll run away.”

“Where to?”

I didn’t have an answer.

I packed some clothes, my Walkman, cassettes, and guitar. I figured I’d serve my sentence writing songs about misery that I’d record when I was a famous country singer and get revenge on Mama. We dropped my sister at a friend’s house and drove north through Gastonia and Henderson and Asheville. Through Smoky Mountain forests and Podunk mountain towns. Through miles of kudzu and roller coaster hills. For three and-a-half hours, I didn’t speak a word.

~ ~ ~

We’d visited Granny—and Grandpa before he died—every few years. Mama wasn’t keen on spending time in Sparrowville. She’d grown up in the Holiness Church with Signs Following and told us what they believed, including the Bible passage Mark 16:18. “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” But Mama was a backslider. She’d turned away from their strict way of life when she met Papa and ran off and got married. “He could charm the feathers off a chicken,” she said. Papa’s version of marriage didn’t include fidelity, so Mama kicked him out when I was eight. I didn’t see him again until I had children of my own. Even though she’d liberalized, Mama was still a religious woman. She dragged my sister and me to a Baptist Church until I flat-out refused to go. She believed in the power of the Holy Ghost. She believed in salvation. She believed in miracles. She said it would take one to turn me around. Music was my religion, I told her, and not church music.

~ ~ ~

Granny lived in the first of four houses on a dead-end street. Hers was yellow with black shutters, a neatly mowed lawn, petunias in front, and a garden in back where she grew tomatoes, squash, corn, and black-eyed peas. Next door, the house was shabby, the grass parched and straggly and junked with a rusty truck, old refrigerator, and broken toilet. Granny was nice to the neighbors anyway. She welcomed us with a big smile that revealed she’d lost three teeth.

“Well, look at you, Angela!” Granny hugged me, then my mother.

“How you doing, Mama?”

“The Lord’s been good to me, Ellie. I got no complaints.”

Granny was a simple woman, a kind woman, a generous woman. She was in her early fifties, but to me she looked old. Like all Holiness women, she wore no make-up, no jewelry, and a long skirt. Her gray hair was gathered in a ponytail that hung to her waist; she hadn’t cut it since she declared herself for the Lord. My hair then was Meg Ryan-short with platinum streaks; my wardrobe sexy-grunge. Trashy, Mama said.

“Go wash up,” Granny said. “Dinner is almost ready. I made us some pot roast and corn bread. Peach pie for dessert.”

The house was kitschy, cutesy, spit-and-polish clean. White lace curtains framed the living room windows. A coffee table Grandpa had carved from a maple slab sat in front of an overstuffed plaid sofa and matching chair. A six-point buck head hung in the center of one wall flanked by childhood photos of Mama and Uncle Jimmy, who’d moved to Kentucky, and of Grandpa and Jimmy handling serpents. I’d stared at those pictures every time we visited, fascinated and frightened. I knew Mama had never handled, although Granny had a few times. I’d touched snakes at petting zoos and in the woods, but never poisonous snakes.

During dinner I was polite and gave up on the silent treatment. I knew Mama wouldn’t relent; I could only make things worse. She stayed just one night, anxious to get back to work and Heather.

“Good-bye, honey,” Mama said, her eyes moist. “If you change your ways, you can come home early. If you take responsibility for your actions and show you understand consequences.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“It’s for you to figure out.”

I settled my belongings in the bedroom that had been Mama’s: small, pink, furnished with a single bed, double dresser, and a hooked rug. Her graduation photo smiled on the dresser as if the eighteen-year-old who’d left might return. I wondered if Mama was, in part, using me to make up for her backsliding.

~ ~ ~

The next day when I woke, Granny was reading the Bible. She read it every day and she believed every word. After breakfast, we drove into town to buy groceries, bumping along in her Ford pick-up. We passed a video store, a tanning salon, a beauty shop, three bars, Billy’s BBQ—“Best in Baxter County”—and a bunch of thrift stores, one holding a sidewalk sale. Granny parked in the lot next to Food Mart. Two boys around my age leaned against a truck and drank beer. They looked me up and down. I smiled and waved.

“You can get into trouble if you want,” Granny said, “but it won’t help your cause none.” 

I turned away from the boys.

When we got back to the house, I helped Granny with chores. We weeded the garden and we washed the kitchen floor. I did not complain. I was a child earning gold stars for good behavior. How many would it take to win my way home? After we finished, Granny said she was fixin’ to go to church.

“You’re welcome to come along.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Sure you got a choice. You’re sixteen. I can’t make you go. You’ve got to come to God on your own.”

I didn’t have anything else to do and I was curious about the snakes.

We rode down a gravel road to a one-story, white clapboard building with a plain, wooden cross on top: The Full Gospel Church in Jesus Christ’s Name. Marigolds lined the walkway. Old Rock River ran behind the church and poplar trees loomed on the opposite shore. A sign posted next to the door listed church rules and the numbers of the Bible verses supporting them: No gossiping. No tale bearing. No lying. No backbiting. No bad language. No tobacco users. Men not allowed to have long hair, moustache, or beard. Men not allowed to wear short sleeves. Women not allowed to wear short sleeves, jewelry, or makeup. Women not allowed to cut hair or wear dresses above the knee. Applies to members, visitors excluded.

I didn’t like rules.

Inside, a dozen rows of pews led to a raised platform, a wooden pulpit in the center. A sign on the back wall read “Jesus Made The World.” Twenty or so people had already gathered. They embraced and chatted. Granny introduced me around. The people called her MaMaw.

“This is Angela, Ellie’s daughter.”

“Welcome,” Sister Lydia said. She was blond and pretty and held a sleeping baby on her shoulder. She didn’t look any older than me.

“So glad you’ve come to worship with us,” Sister Sarah said. She wore a long, denim jumper and her chestnut hair was gathered in a bun. “I grew up with your Mama.”

“Sarah is the pastor’s wife,” Granny said.

I nodded. More folks drifted in. No one looked askance at my hair or mini skirt or lipstick or dangly earrings.

On the platform, two men tuned guitars and another fiddled with a microphone. To their right, a girl about ten, wearing a lavender cotton dress, sat at a piano.

“Brother Porter is the pastor.” Granny pointed to the big man with the microphone. He wore a long-sleeved, royal blue shirt that strained over his belly.

“That’s his daughter Melody at the piano. The man with red hair is Brother Ray. And the young man up there, that’s Travis, Porter’s son. Just turned nineteen. He’ll be pastor one day.”

Travis was slim, broad shouldered, and handsome, his sandy hair shorter than I liked.

“Where are the snakes?”

Granny pointed at two boxes next to the pulpit—flat, wooden, with clear lids.

We settled in a pew in the middle of the church. More folks migrated in and filled seats, children in back.

Brother Porter stood behind the pulpit.

“How many’s ready for a good time in the Lord tonight?” he shouted. “How many’s ready to have church tonight?”

“We’s ready!” a man in front of me said.


Porter nodded at Melody and the musicians struck the first chord of a hymn. The current pulsing through the guitars seemed to ignite the worshippers.

Travis sang, his voice clear and joyful.

                    Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
                    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
                    Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour?
                    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Brother Porter paced and snapped his fingers to the music. The congregation sang along, some people raising their hands toward heaven as if they could feel the presence of God like the direction of the wind. Lydia and Sarah scurried to the front of the platform, shoeless, and danced a country clog step. A woman behind me banged a tambourine. Soon I was in the center of a swell of worshippers who rocked, swooned, swayed, wailed, twirled, clapped, hopped, and stamped their feet. Even the kids jumped around. Next to me, a woman spoke in tongues, babbling weird words, her eyes glazed, transported somewhere only she could see. The music boomed louder, frenzied, vibrating, the church suffused with sound, as if any non-believer’s thoughts could be suffocated; as if Satan, should he exist, would not find a single molecule of oxygen to fan his fire.

In unison, the musicians segued into “I’ll Fly Away.” I sang along and clapped. I could see how a person might get caught up in the fervor.

Brother Porter bent down and opened one of the serpent boxes. He reached in and grabbed a tangle of skinny, yellow snakes, each one about three feet long. He raised them above his head and they writhed. A man wearing overalls, his hair wispy and white, stepped onto the platform, Porter’s father Dewey, I later learned. Porter handed the serpents to Dewey and he cradled them to his chest as if they were kittens. I cringed. Dewey handed the snakes back to Porter and he returned them to the box. Travis laid down his guitar. He reached into the second box and pulled out a thick striped snake. It rose straight up, forked tongue darting in and out. Travis was brave, I thought. Or stupid. What if one got loose? No wonder the kids stayed back. Travis put the thing back in the box.

Porter preached, microphone in hand.

“Ohhhh I am feeling the Lord here today!”


“You know He is a powerful God, a mighty God, a merciful God. There is no higher power. Do you feel Him?”

“We feel Him!” 

“He’s a God who can do all things.”

“Yes He can!”

“King Darius threw Daniel in the lion’s den. But God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel WAS NOT HURT!”


“The Lord works miracles. I call to Him and He is always there. Just like He was for Daniel.”

“Tell it like it is!”

“One day I’m gonna fight my final battle. Ain’t no escapin’ that.”

“No there ain’t!”

“But when it comes, I pray I’m ready. Ready for Judgement Day.”


Sweat glistened on Porter’s forehead. I watched Travis. He nodded. He amened. He hallelujahed. Porter preached on. The singing, the telling of Bible stories, the quoting of Bible passages went on for two more hours. Sister Linda swooned to the floor. Sister Grace testified God had cleared the fog of her depression. Brother Conrad suffered from emphysema and a healing circle formed around him. I did not believe the circle would cure a man who could barely breathe. Finally, the service ended. Granny introduced me to Porter and Travis.

“You take after your Mama,” the pastor said. “Just as pretty.” The index finger of his right hand was black and shriveled.

“Thank you.” I lowered my eyes, feigning shyness.

“Welcome,” Travis said. “We’re right fond of your MaMaw.

“Oh, now. . . ,” she said.

“When Mama got pneumonia last winter, MaMaw never left her side.”

I smiled. I wondered if he and every other church member knew I was living with Granny because I was headed to hell in a handbag.

On our way home, Granny looked content.

“Maybe one day you’ll be saved and give your life to Jesus.” She patted my hand.


If Mama believed I was saved, would she let me come home? The next morning I told Granny I wanted to read the Bible. A few days later I stopped wearing lipstick and earrings. I decided to let my hair grow out. I was an accomplished liar, but how soon was too soon to “see the light”?

~ ~ ~

June lumbered on hotter than blue blazes and Granny didn’t have an air conditioner. I missed my friends, I missed my sister. I even missed Mama. I missed movies, the mall, and the beach. Church three times a week and Sunday potlucks weren’t my picture of a good time—Jesus freaks and no beer. But the setting soothed me. I took to walking there, sitting in a shaded spot on the river bank, and working on my music. I’d spill out my anger, my loneliness, my rebellion. One Wednesday, before services, I was singing about a boy I thought I’d loved, a boy I’d had sex with, when Travis strolled over. He wore faded jeans, a blue work shirt, and a red baseball cap. He carried a can of paint. I stopped mid-verse.

“Don’t quit on my account.” He stood there.

I finished the song.

“That’s pretty. Never heard it before.”

“Thanks. I wrote it.”

“I write some, too.” He sat next to me and put down the paint can. He smelled like wet grass and turpentine.

I handed him my guitar. “Play something.”

He sang about God and glory, his rich baritone warming the words.

“Your voice is beautiful.” I rested my hand on his arm.

He blushed and moved his arm away. “It’s a gift from the Lord.”

“Play the song again.”

He did and I harmonized.

“Do you only sing gospel?”

“Now, yeah.” He chuckled. “I used to hang out on a corner with some guys and play Hank Williams Jr. and Johnny Cash. Put out a hat. Spent what we got on whiskey.”


“Yup. Before I committed to The Lord, I was a wild one.”

“Too bad you aren’t anymore.” I nudged his shoulder with mine.

Travis inched away.

“Maybe we could write together sometime.”

He squinted his right eye, moss green.

“Something gospel.”

“Uh. . .sure.”

“I’m usually here before church.”

“Sounds good.” He looked at his watch. “I’d best get to painting those steps.”

~ ~ ~

July sweltered in and slogged on. More weeding and scrubbing. More preaching and praying. More call and response. More healing circles and testifying and laying on of hands. How much longer must I pretend I was opening my heart to the Lord? Serpents were handled at some services but not all. I still thought the ritual was bizarre, but no longer shocking. I learned the snakes were copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlers, whatever people caught in the hollows and hills and woods. Brother Porter liked to swing them over his head like a lasso. Brother Ray draped them over his shoulder like a shawl. Dewey was partial to grabbing a handful—three, four, ten at a time, their bodies a wriggling mass like Medusa’s head. No one got bit.

If I handled a serpent would I get bit?

Travis and I met up and wrote music. I figured I could reuse the melodies with different lyrics. I played some of our songs for Granny.

“I can hear your joy in the Lord,” she said, happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. More gold stars.

I was attracted to Travis and I could tell he was attracted to me. But he never made a move. Maybe he was waiting to see if I’d commit to his way of life. Maybe he sensed I had no intention of sticking around one day longer than I had to. I liked being with him. We talked about his job driving a coal truck like his daddy and grandpa. We talked about Charlotte. He’d never been there. Or Atlanta. Or Nashville. He’d traveled mostly to other Appalachian churches where his father, a kind of Holiness celebrity, was invited to preach.

“Don’t you want to see other places?” I said

“I got what I need. My family. My church. These folks would do anything for me. I’d do anything for them. When I get married, I’ll raise my kids here.”

I picked a puffy white dandelion. “How come you handle serpents at church sometimes and sometimes you don’t?”

“I don’t handle unless I’m anointed, a vessel of the Lord. I may want to bad. But that ain’t enough.”

I blew fuzz in his direction. “What’s it feel like, being anointed?”

Travis inhaled as if he were smelling fresh-baked corn bread.

“My heart starts a-pounding and I can’t keep still. I feel tingly head to toe. So much joy. I feel plumb out of this world. Nothin’ feels better.”

“Nothing?” I leaned toward him, my lips a whisper from his.

He turned away. “Nothin’.” He gazed at the poplars. “I remember the first time. I knew I was ready. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, my Grandpaw was standing in front of me with a big, fat copperhead. ‘This is for you, if you want it,’ he said. I took it and I raised it over my head. It felt smooth, like velvet.”

“Velvet. . . .”

“Now when I feel the spirit I go to the box and get ’em out. When the Lord calls, you’ve got to obey.”

“Aren’t you scared?”

“If you wait for the Lord, there’s no fear in it.”

“You could get bit. You could die.”

“I could. Daddy’s been bit seven times. Six of ’em he only got numb or swollen for a little bit. But once was different.” Travis grimaced. “He was handling a little yellow timber rattler and the serpent raised his head, opened his mouth, and grabbed Daddy’s index finger. Hard.”

I shivered.

“It was the worst pain Daddy ever felt. We took him home and watched over him. We prayed for seven days. His finger swoll up like an onion. The venom ate into his skin and muscle, down to the bone. That’s why his finger is shriveled to this day.”

“Didn’t he go to the hospital?”

“Daddy would never go to no hospital. Neither would I if I got bit in church. It’s up to God.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Not to us. Daddy said he knowed he was gonna suffer but he weren’t gonna die. He said he’d been bit ’cause he done something he shouldn’t have done. The Lord was punishing him but he knowed the Lord would heal him.”

“What if he doesn’t heal you?”

“If it’s my appointed time to go, that’s how it is. God’s will. He decides the day, the hour, the minute. If it’s not my time, the Lord will protect me.”

I was not convinced. But I wondered how it felt to be plumb out of this world.

~ ~ ~

August first came and went. Granny was waylaid with a bad cough, the first signs of the cancer that would eventually kill her. I needed to make a move if I was going to salvage any of my vacation. The next Saturday, I decided, would be the day I’d get saved. Then I could be baptized on Sunday before services. I had to be convincing. I pumped Travis for information.

“When people say they hear the voice of the Lord and speak in tongues, how do you know they aren’t faking?”

“Why would they do that?”

“To fit in, maybe. How would anyone know?”

“God would know.” He looked me in the eyes. “That’s all that matters.”


That night when Granny was asleep, I practiced speaking in tongues.

~ ~ ~

The Saturday service began, as usual, with Melody at the piano and Travis, Ray, and Porter on the platform. Travis spoke into the microphone.

“This here’s a song Angela and me wrote together.”

Granny squeezed my hand and Travis sang.

                    He always answers when I call.

                    He knows I need him most of all.

                    He hears my heartbeat, he feels my sorrow

                    The Lord he listens to us all.

Travis sang two more verses then launched into “Tell It to Jesus.” The worshippers joined in. Porter snapped his fingers and paced, but he looked troubled, as if disturbing thoughts churned inside him. He settled behind the pulpit.

“Ohhhh, I am feeling a dark presence here tonight. I feel the devil scratching at the door. I knowwww there are sinners among us.”

That was my cue. I closed my eyes and I rocked.

“There are those that feel the grip of Satan. THEY ARE HURTING! But the Lord is more powerful than any demon.” Porter paused and scanned his flock. “Who among you is ready to break free? Who among you is ready to take the hand of Jesus? To feel the Lord’s sweet embrace?”

I sprang from my seat. I made myself cry. I pretended I felt God’s love guiding me to the altar. I sank to my knees in front of the pulpit.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner!”

Granny appeared at my side. I intoned the words I’d practiced in my bedroom. “I believe you died for my sins on the cross.”

“Amen!” Granny said.

“I believe you rose from the dead to give me eternal life. I reject Satan.” I wailed. “I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins. I accept you as my Lord and savior.”

“Hallelujah!” Granny said.

I babbled nonsense syllables mixed with real words, what I hoped sounded like speaking in tongues. Porter crouched next to me and placed his hands on my shoulders.

“Get thee gone, Satan!” he said. “Praise the Lord!”

I felt a tingling come over me, but it passed.

The next day, I donned one of Granny’s denim jumpers and waded into Old Rock River. As the congregation watched, Brother Porter baptized me in the name of Jesus Christ. I emerged from the water soggy and grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato. Granny, Sister Sarah, and Sister Lydia embraced me. Travis looked suspicious—that squinted right eye—but no one else did. For sure, I thought, Granny would tell Mama I’d reformed and could go home. Monday afternoon while we shucked peas, our fingers stained blue, I broached the subject.

“I’m homesick, Granny. Do you think I could go back to Charlotte? I’ve changed.”

“That you have, Angela.” Granny considered. “But I think a few more weeks here would do you good.”

I smiled and nodded, but I was pissed. What more could I do to prove I was a good girl, a righteous girl, a responsible girl? I was sick of pretending and I was running out of summer. If I handled a serpent, would that convince Granny? At services the next day, I watched closely when Porter or Travis or anyone else picked up a snake.

~ ~ ~

I chose Sunday, August twelfth, Granny’s birthday, as the day I would handle a serpent. A nice present for Granny. A ticket out of Sparrowville for me. I sat by her side in the pew, a good little Holiness girl dressed in a long, floral print dress she’d bought for me.

Porter, Travis, Melody, and Ray took their places on the platform. Dewey sat in his spot in the front row. On Porter’s signal, Travis and Ray strummed their guitars. I kicked off my shoes and scuttled to the platform with Lydia and Sarah. We danced and raised our arms to the heavens. Dewey stood and stomped his feet. Porter opened the serpent box and uncoiled a long, black cottonmouth and draped it over his shoulders. Dewey stepped toward him. Porter lifted the serpent and passed it to Dewey who raised it high in one hand. The cottonmouth’s pink tongue flicked in and out. I danced closer to Dewey and I saw Travis watching me. I looked into Dewey’s eyes. He lowered his hand and offered the serpent.

“This is for you, if you want it.”

My heart pounded but not because I was anointed. Was I tempting fate? Was I wrong to trifle with something sacred? I stared at the serpent’s triangular head, the cat-like pupils of his eyes. Did I hear it hiss? I held out my hands. In a flash, Travis was between Dewey and me. He grabbed the serpent.

The cottonmouth lifted its head and sunk its fangs into Travis’s forearm. It dug in and wouldn’t let go. I screamed. Porter swooped in. He undid the snake’s fangs and put it back in the box. Travis collapsed on the floor. Four holes in his arm squirted blood. Porter and Ray lifted him and carried him out of the church, Sarah at their side, their friends crying and covering the eyes of their children.

I wept. Travis could die. It was my fault.

Granny and I and the others gathered at Porter’s house.

“The first forty-eight hours are the most critical,” Porter said. “If my boy survives that, we can breathe easier.”

Travis moaned. He vomited slimy, black liquid. His arm swelled clear into his chest. Would it shrivel like his Daddy’s finger?

We prayed by his side, taking turns, for seven days. I prayed to the God Travis believed in. I prayed for mercy, for grace, for salvation. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed this was not Travis’s appointed time to die. I promised if he lived, I would never pretend to be saved or anointed again. I promised I would try my hardest not to cause anyone pain.

Finally, the swelling subsided and Travis began to heal.

~ ~ ~

I called Mama and told her about Travis getting bit. I told her it could have been me. I begged her to let me come home. I told her I’d changed and Granny vouched for me. I still had two weeks before school started, but I’d lost my taste for parties and mischief. I just wanted to get away from Sparrowville. Away from the church. Away from the serpents.

I went to see Travis to say good-bye. To apologize. To admit my sin. He had regained his strength and was ready to return to work.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “So sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” he said. “I chose to handle the serpent even though I wasn’t anointed.”


“Because I didn’t believe you were. I knew if you got bit, you could die. I believed the Lord would protect me.

My heart wept. I didn’t deserve his kindness.

~ ~ ~

I didn’t go back to Sparrowville until Granny died three years later. I was a college sophomore then, majoring in music, still hoping to be a famous country singer. After the funeral, at the church’s hilltop cemetery, Travis introduced Mama and me to his wife Janelle. She was petite and sweet. He introduced us to their two-year-old son, Cody. The boy had Travis’s green eyes and Janelle’s black hair. Later, at Granny’s house, Travis approached me.

“I’ll miss MaMaw. She was a good woman.”

“She was good to me.”

“She’s with the Lord now, for eternity.”

I nodded to be polite.

“How’s your music?”

“Coming along. I wrote a song about you.”

“Oh. . . that’s nice.” He shifted his weight. “Well, you take care, Angela.”

“You, too.”

He joined his family and they said their good-byes. I watched as he walked out the door, little Cody in his arms, Janelle at his side. His God was still protecting him.

Sharon Goldberg is a Seattle writer who was an advertising copywriter in a former life. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, The Louisville Review, Cold Mountain Review, Under the Sun, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Gold Man Review, three fiction anthologies, and elsewhere. Sharon won second place in On the Premises’s 2012 Humor Contest and Fiction Attic Press's 2013 Flash in the Attic Contest. She is an avid but cautious skier and enthusiastic world traveler.


I first learned about the practice of handling poisonous snakes as religious ritual when I read an article about Jamie Coots, a Pentecostal pastor in Kentucky who died after he was bitten by a rattlesnake during a service. I’m intrigued by behavior that falls outside the norm and wanted to know more. Once I got past my judgements about the practice and people who believed in it, I realized that the environment offered a rich context in which to explore the boundaries of faith and responsibility.


With what fictional character would you most love to spend the day?

Marie-Laure LeBlanc from Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. She navigates Paris and survives World War II although blind and in grave danger. I’d like to see the city, before the war, through her eyes.

What is your favorite day of the week?

Saturday. It’s when my partner Arnie and I are most likely to spend time with friends or family at dinner, at a film, on the slopes, or on a beach.

Which movie have you seen over and over again? What keeps you coming back?

I don’t tend to see movies over and over, but one that I don’t tire of is Dirty Dancing. A coming-of-age story that’s romantic, steamy, funny, with a serious undercurrent and killer music and dancing. “No one puts baby in the corner.” Yeah!