CANON LITHGOW and David sat the following Saturday afternoon in the rector’s study of Saint Mark’s, with the heavy oak door closed, early spring daylight through the street window making bright shafts in the dust motes.
“Do you think something’s wrong with me, Father?” David said. “Somehow, when it comes to girls, I just don’t feel good enough. I don’t know how to act around them. First I get nervous, then I say or do something stupid....”
“Hold on, Davey.” The priest held up his hand like a top foreman directing the hoist operator to stop the machinery. “Not so fast. First off, who says you’re not good enough?”
“That’s just it. I don’t know. It’s like a million voices inside my head. They all tell me I’m not good enough, but I can’t figure out what they mean. And then, sometimes when I’m looking at a girl – admiring her, you know – things happen that I don’t understand. Down there.” David looked into his lap, blushed and shrugged.
The priest looked at the boy and chuckled.
David fidgeted and tugged at his collar. He stood and walked to the window. Outside, Race Street teemed with Saturday-afternoon activity. He saw Alison Willing and her friend Constance Starr emerging from Draper’s Drug Store with parcels wrapped in brown paper.
I wonder if they think I’m good enough, he thought.
“Am I going crazy, Father?”
Canon Lithgow rose from behind his cluttered desk and stood beside David at the window. “Crazy? No. You’re growing up, Davey. It’s natural to have doubts about all sorts of things when you’re growing up. Sex is one of the big ones, tied as it is to all the questions we struggle with. Good and evil, original sin, redemption, sexuality, spirituality, morality – these are things you’ll grapple with till the end of your days, if you’re any kind of a man at all.”
“Sometimes I feel as if I can be and do whatever I want. But when I get these...thoughts..., I wonder if I shouldn’t just go join a monastery....” He paused and watched Alison and Constance disappear around the corner onto Broadway. He chuckled and looked Canon Lithgow in the eye.
“But then I remember – forgive me, Father, this is something the old miners used to say – I remember that most of the time I’m as horny as a three-balled tomcat. Surely that’s not wrong?”
Canon Lithgow gave a percussive snort of laughter, then put a hand on David’s shoulder and steered him toward the door. “Just be yourself, Davey. ‘This above all: to thine own self be true.’ Struggle with your questions. Come to me if you get stuck. But you be the judge of what your inner voices tell you. Now, I’ve got a sermon to prepare, so I’ll be sending you on your merry way.”
The priest laughed again. “Tomcat! I wonder how the altar guild ladies would like a sermon about King David the three-balled tomcat. Ha!”