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Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Chris Fuhrman

Publication Year: 1994

Set in Savannah, Georgia, in the early 1970s, this is a novel of the anarchic joy of youth and encounters with the concerns of early adulthood. Francis Doyle, Tim Sullivan, and their three closest friends are altar boys at Blessed Heart Catholic Church and eighth-grade classmates at the parish school. They are also inveterate pranksters, artistic, and unimpressed by adult authority. When Sodom vs. Gomorrah '74, their collaborative comic book depicting Blessed Heart's nuns and priests gleefully breaking the seventh commandment, falls into the hands of the principal, the boys, certain that their parents will be informed, conspire to create an audacious diversion. Woven into the details of the boys' preparations for the stunt are touching, hilarious renderings of the school day routine and the initiatory rites of male adolescence, from the first serious kiss to the first serious hangover.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-8

By eighth grade, Jesus Christ had been bone meal and rumors for most of 1,974 years, but we were only thirteen. We were daredevils, gangsters. I had a girl's name, Francis, and a hernia. School and church occurred right down everybody's street at Blessed Heart, the two buildings joined at the shoulder by...

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The Usual Gang of Idiots

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pp. 9-25

Homeroom next morning smelled of cough drops. Nearly summer, nobody had a sore throat. But gum was forbidden. Cough drops were classroom candy. Even the nuns sucked them. Sister Ascension, the principal, lumbered in and whispered to our teacher, Sister Rosaria, who bobbed her head. Ascension called the names of our whole gang---Tim, Rusty, Wade, and...

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A Discipline Problem

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pp. 26-38

Every afternoon I walked my youngest brother home past Margie's house. Today I poked, watching for her, stopped to loosen and retie my shoelaces, and stopped again to shift my pack to the other shoulder. Peter, my brother, wandered on ahead, glancing back suspiciously over the hump of his green...

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What Happened to God

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pp. 39-49

We vaguely said the Lor's Prayer and pledged allegiance to the flag, opened English books and raised hands and feared Sister Rosaria. Margie Flynn was in my head like a bad cold, blurring everything. It was a new kind of loneliness, a hurt I couldn't stop picking at. I saw her brother Donny plastered into his latest broken arm, sowing thumbtacks into Joey O'Connor's seat...

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Where the Wild Things Are

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pp. 50-61

The highway had marsh on each side now. Egrets snaked their necks down and plucked minnows and fiddler crabs out of a creek. The bus crossed the bridge toward Marshland Island, half wrapped in a fence that wound among oaks and pines. Our bus passed through the gate and rumbled down a dirt road. Mr. Thomas parked in a field between a rusty...

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A Priest with a Girlfriend

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pp. 62-72

Everybody brought chicken legs to Science class. Brown paper lavatory towels were spread on all the desktops. Mrs. Barnes sent Melissa Anderson around with a box of one-sided razor blades, and we took one each. We followed along with Mrs. Barnes, slicing skin into pink muscle and peeling away tendons and silky ligaments and splitting the bones...

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Did You Think I Was Tame?

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pp. 73-79

Prior to meeting Margie, I sat with my friends in Wade's house and heard their advice and attempted to drink away my fear. I held my breath and gulped silvery watered gin, listening to Elton John on the stereo, garbled and straining in a likable way, above his heartbroken piano. The music grew lovelier with each swallow, though one speaker was blown so that the bass...

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Southern Gothic

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pp. 80-86

The next day must've happened, but I don't remember it. Waiting and boredom don't leave much to recall. A slight drizzle began that evening, and it grew cooler, and I was able to justify the denim jacket I used to hide a quart of beer and carry it out of Riner's store. I drank it fast, with Margie, under the big magnolia in the park. We both still felt awkward, though. I suggested we sneak by my house...

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Precipitation and Anchovies

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pp. 87-93

When I got to my yard I saw Tim hunched on the stone bench like a gnome, feet scissoring above the grass. I told him I had to go inside and get bitched out for being late. The streetlights had returned the familiar landscape, brought to mind the regular rules and punishments. My mouth was horribly dry, my clothes wet. "I wouldn't grovel to my parents for a while," Tim said. "I smell booze on your breath from here." His...

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Shopping on a Budget

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pp. 94-101

The next night, while I was attempting to go to sleep, my brothers talked to each other from their bunks. They laughed at something, and Daddy came up the stairs with a beer in his hand and turned the light on. He said we were there to sleep, and that if he heard another peep out of us he was coming back with the belt and give it to us all. Then he went back downstairs to the late show and my mother. I didn't understand...

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Rebels of the Blessed Heart

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pp. 102-113

Father Kavanagh had cancelled his weekly hour of Religion with our class. I suspected it was because seeing "the artists" would bring to mind images from Sodom vs. Gomorrah 74, in much the same way as I was afflicted by watching Margie's brother Donny, sunken into the desk in front of mine, pulling at a scab on his neck. We'd been ordered to read silently. The Return of Tarzan was...

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pp. 114-119

A day could be salvaged by something in the mail. A fat khaki envelope loomed out of the mailbox, and at first I thought Kavanagh had sent the awful comic book to my parents. But it was addressed to me, from TranScience Co. I ran upstairs with it, tore it open, spilling some kind of padding like minced newspaper. Inside, a cardboard panel showed a family of pink,...

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Food Chain

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pp. 120-129

Friday morning, as planned with the gang, I skipped school. I shrugged my uniform on, swallowed milk, walked Peter school-ward, and then navigated the lanes back into our house. The dog was the only witness to my return. I cocooned myself in bed and went back to sleep. A racket at the window scared me awake, and I rolled over and shoved my face through the curtain. Gravel spattered the metal screen. I jerked back. Tim was...

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A Test of the Emergency Broadcast System

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pp. 130-139

The afternoon was slow and mysterious. My consciousness, due to the pot, was a bundle of telescopes: I'd start seeing through one of them and forget the others, then I'd recall them and my mind would shift, slide down another tube, and get trapped there a while, enlarging the details at the end. Sometimes I felt normal, then immediately I'd feel warped. We dozed on a bus most of the way back to town. I said goodbye to Tim outside of Blessed Heart, four hundred...

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Welcome to Horrible Movies

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pp. 140-155

I sat on the bed beside a stuffed bear while Margie, kneeling in a miniskirt, daubed rubbing alcohol onto the teeth holes in my ankle. It felt similar to a jellyfish stinging. In sympathy, Margie supplied the noises I was stifling, little backward hisses at each touch of the Kleenex. I distracted myself by studying the stripe of pale bare skin where her short, sleeveless top ended...

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Another Color

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pp. 156-163

I leaned over to help Tim unfold one of the tents and my nausea slid, stomach to head, like poison in a test tube. I sat down fast, sweating, in the monkey-high grass of the Sullivans' backyard, my senses so wide open I smelled the staleness of my own sneakers. Wade tugged nylon up into a sudden tent-shape, like opening a pop-up book, and said, "Margie wore him out. He can't even...

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Bwana Tim

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pp. 164-171

We rode past the Highway 80 Drive-In. Its glowing marquee announced Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Super Fly T.N.T., but several of the letters had been subtracted and rearranged below to spell TITTY. The drive-in was so decadent that it allowed this to stand, lit up like Christmas, on its busiest night. Rolling on through Thunderbolt, a subdivision on the...

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Banshee in the Woods

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pp. 172-180

hat's that?" I said, stopping on the trail. I heard a sort of magnified heartbeat through the trees. "Calypso music," Joey said. "Reggae. I think it's coming from that same truck we saw earlier." "We'd better investigate," said Tim. We crept along the trail. When the woods began to thin out, we pocketed our flashlights and relied on the moon. We stopped at the trees' end, trail's exit. The truck was parked at the edge of a field, near the pens for...

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pp. 181-184

The hospital was near our neighborhood. Attendants were waiting at the curb with a wheeled stretcher, and my parents materialized as I was lying down. "We're here," Mama said, and followed beside us as I was rolled through the sliding glass doors. They behaved as if they'd done something wrong and needed me to forgive them. In a curtained-off area in a white room, a black man wearing...

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Not Approved by the Comics Code Authority

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pp. 185-189

The adventure actually had the effect we'd intended, though Tim's death crushed any possibility of satisfaction. We did not return to school after the accident, Kavanagh never again mentioned our comic-book obscenity, and Blessed Heart graduated us, though I didn't attend the ceremony. Our gang became legendary. The local TV stations sent crews to Marshland Island and interviewed Paul Steatham. There were wobbly close...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820335858
E-ISBN-10: 0820335851
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820316321
Print-ISBN-10: 0820316326

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 1994

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Subject Headings

  • Bildungsromane. -- gsafd.
  • Savannah (Ga.) -- Fiction.
  • Catholics -- Fiction.
  • Boys -- Fiction.
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