“A SUMMER LIFE” by Gary Soto
Read carefully the following autobiographical narrative by Gary Soto. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze some of the ways in which Soto recreates the experience of his guilty six year-old self. You might consider such devices as repetition, word choice and imagery.
I knew enough about hell to stop me from stealing. I was holy in almost every bone. Some days I recognized the shadows of angels flopping on the backyard grass, and other days I heard faraway messages in the plumbing that howled underneath the house when I crawled there looking for something to do.
But boredom made me sin. Once, at the German Market, I stood before a race of pies, my sweet tooth gleaming and the juice of guilt wetting my underarms. I gazed at the nine kinds of pie, pecan and apple being my favorites, although cherry looked good, and my dear, fat-faced chocolate was always a good bet. I nearly wept trying to decide which to steal and, forgetting the flowery dust priests give off, the shadow of angels and the proximity of God howling in the plumbing underneath the house, sneaked a pie behind my coffee-lid Frisbee and walked to the door, grinning to the bald grocer whose forehead shone with a window of light.
“No one say,” I muttered to myself, the pie like a discus in my hand, and hurried across the street, where I sat on someone’s lawn. The sun wavered between the branches of a yellowish sycamore. A squired nailed itself high on the trunk, where it forked into two large bark-scabbed limbs. Just as I was going to work my cleanest finger into the pie, a neighbor came out to the porch for him mail. He looked at me, and I got up and headed for home. I raced on skinny legs to my block, but slowed to a quick walk when I couldn’t wait any longer. I held the pie to my nose and breathed in its sweetness. I licked some of the crust and closed my eyes and I took a small bite.
In my front yard, I leaned against a car fender and panicked about stealing the apple pie. I knew an apple got Eve in deep trouble with snakes because Sister Marie had shown us a film about Adam and Eve being cast into the desert, and what scared me more than falling from grace was being thirsty for the rest of my life. But even that didn’t stop me from clawing a chunk from the pie tin and pushing it into the cavern of my mouth. The slop was sweet and gold-colored in the afternoon sun. I laid more pieces in my tongue, wet finger-dripping pieces, until I was finished and felt like crying because it was about the best thing I had ever tasted. I realized right there and then, in my sixth year, in my tiny body of two hundred bones and three or four sine, that the best things in life came stolen. I wiped my sticky on the grass and rolled my tongue over the corners of my mouth. A burp perfumed the air.
I felt bad not sharing with Cross-Eyed Johnny, a neighbor kid. He stood over my shoulder and asked, “Can I have some?” Crust fell from my mouth, and my te...