60, McLean, writer
On a February day in 2009, I stood looking out the second-floor window of Andalusia, the family farm on the outskirts of Milledgeville, Ga., where Flannery O’Connor and her mother lived among the peahens from 1951 until the writer’s death from lupus in 1964. For years I’d slept with a copy of “The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor” beside my bed, for comfort.
On this overcast Tuesday, it was just the three of us in the old farmhouse: me and my friend Jim, who knew the docent giving us a tour of the home. Earlier, we’d visited Flannery’s grave, a quiet spot in Memory Hill Cemetery near Georgia College. And now I stood looking out her bedroom window onto the slanted roof of a weather-beaten barn. At that moment, this was not just any old barn. In my mind, it was the barn where the evil Bible salesman in “Good Country People” compromised the widow’s lonely one-legged daughter, Hulga. About that moment, Flannery said, “I didn’t know he was gonna steal that wooden leg until 10 or 12 lines before he did it, but when I found out that this was what was going to happen, I realized it was inevitable.”
I shook hands with the docent, walked down Andalusia’s front stoop, and bent down to pocket a loose brick that had fallen away from the steps. I hadn’t planned to steal that brick until about 10 or 12 seconds before I did it. I stole Georgia’s red clay. I’m hoping Flannery will forgive me. I’m guessing she might would, because she might could.
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