Children At Play. CAUTION. #SampleSunday

Here’s an excerpt from my science fiction “comedy of bad manners,” SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING.

Children At Play

by Marian Allen

We shared the Alley with rats and other assorted vermin. We dodged pimps, pushers, and gangs. When we got old enough, some of us entered one or more of these bands. I never did. Just wasn’t a joiner, I guess.

Hell Alley consumed most of the kids I grew up with, but it was the making of me. Insult humor– Slapping, in our lingo – was very big in Hell Alley. I was good at slapping.

A guy would say, “Hey, Girl! Good Girl! Come here and let me tell you something!”

And I would say something like, “If I was as good as you are ugly, I could work a miracle. What I’d do is turn your face inside out so nobody but you would have to look at it.”

And so on.


Slapping was only one of our favorite sports. Another was going to church. Mom and Daddy didn’t go to church; up too late Saturday to see much of Sunday. That’s how it was with a lot of the kids. My Aunt Bootsie – a sister of my Mom’s – used to drive down to the Alley in her purple electric mini-van and cram it full of us half-washed sinners.

She’d take us to St. Philemon’s Cathedral uptown, near her two-story shotgun house, and line us up in the front pew where she could keep an eye on us from the choir. Afterward, she took us to Joe and Sinkers for doughnuts and then back to Helena Street. I’d go in and see if Mom and Daddy were up yet. If they were, she’d come in and visit. They usually weren’t, and she’d go home.

We’d go through St. Philemon’s hymnals looking for material to use in another of our games. We’d get a packing crate or an appliance box out of the big dumpster behind 63 Andriot, do one-potato to choose a kid to be “it,” put the kid in the box, and sing one of those hymns. Then we’d cheer and dance around for a while and sit down and eat whatever cookies or chips we’d scrounged for the game.

Our favorite hymn was “Flesh is My Portion.” You know:

Flesh is my portion, blood is my cup,
Through these, Life is mine .
At this, Your feast, I eat and I sup
Flesh and blood Divine.

The grown-ups would all beam and say, “Ain’t it cute, the kids playing church like that? Baptism and communion and everything?”

They never caught on. We were playing Cannibal.


SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING is available in print and electronic versions from Amazon and in print through your friendly neighborhood indie bookseller.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about your character’s childhood.


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I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Children At Play. CAUTION. #SampleSunday

  1. Dan

    February 12, 2017 at 7:51am

    There’s a nicely little twist 😉

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Jane

    February 12, 2017 at 8:41am

    A sweet tale.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author
  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    February 12, 2017 at 3:52pm

    Ack! “We were playing Cannibal.” Powerful line.

    The problem with religion, church, and standards is that they have been misused so many times and so many ways, that most people feel justified in ignoring them.

    And miss out on the good stuff.

    I’m sure it’s always been that way, but it always saddens me, because ‘the good stuff’ is why I need the support of faith – and why I ignore the nonsense around it. So much nonsense!

    What saves me is the fact that whoever you are, you are required to follow your own conscience. Forming that conscience is the work of a lifetime (work that you should do for yourself, not for anyone else).

    But I feel for those kids. They’ve been subjected to so much nonsense.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 12, 2017 at 4:29pm

      That’s why I started going to Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Not only is it impossible for me to resist a church with a parenthetical phrase in its name, it has no dogma or doctrine. It’s Christian, which is the “well” from which I draw my spirituality, as Matthew Fox put it. Other than that, the work is up to each of us.

      Glad you found the excerpt powerful. This book is kind of likethat.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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