Mar 16, 2023

sloppy economy

Just re-read Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Twenty years after my first read, it still holds up. And then some. Not even 200 pages. Possibly a perfect novella.

“Do you feel you learned things at camp?” my mother asked suddenly, after she’d paid the station attendant and pulled away, down the road. She seemed anxious to exude something, some affection; she seemed possessed of some inarticulate goodwill — I could see it surging and flickering in her face, in a kind of confusion.

“Yes,” I said.

“Really? That’s good. What did you learn?”

What I’d learned at camp, from all the vesper readings, mostly, was that you didn’t give back to the same people who gave to you. “Let’s see,” I said, stalling. You didn’t give back to the same people at all. You gave to different people. And they, in turn, gave to someone else entirely. Not you. That was the sloppy economy of gift and love. But that was living as a Christian — a practical Christian, but a Christian nonetheless. This, I realized, my parents already understood. Though it was probably not what they’d hoped I’d learn. “I learned that God is eternal benevolence,” I said finally, a little breathlessly.

My mother looked at me with alarm, then became quiet, watching the road. For about forty miles she said nothing, and then suddenly she started in. “Your grandmother’s looking forward to seeing you,” she said.