Locate me in the back row of the church choir. It’s not difficult. Since it’s rehearsal night, there aren’t that many of us, and even fewer if you are looking at the men’s row. That’s me, younger than the geezer profundo over to my left. I’m young enough to be the the son of the forty-something tenor to my right. He sings ahead of the beat. I was pressured to join because I play the piano. Never let them know you can play the piano, by the way—free advice. This is one of my first (respectable) adult activities: the church choir.
He often told his wife about his twenty-first birthday. He and his father had sat under a bright red canopy on a dark, starless night. They were at some nameless Chinese restaurant in one of the metropolitan corners of Atlanta, just a few blocks south of Terminal Parkway, where commercial airplanes stitched long blinking lines across the sky. A half block away, he remembered, a street cleaner inched across the asphalt, brushes spinning in a lopsided, broken rhythm.
Young Trace Gregson, thin and curly at eleven and generally happy-faced, cringed whenever he saw Dirty Molly Sadow. If there was such a thing as a bad witch about in the world, she was it. People said her toes were black with earth rich as The Hollow, and that she smelled foul as chicken leavings.
Carly’s hair is falling out. She leaves gold strands everywhere, Gretel’s nightmare version of bread crumbs. We don’t talk about it.
To prepare for the trial ahead, the boy must fast for three days.
On the third day, there is a ceremonial feast that begins the quest. It marks the beginning of the boy’s ascent to manhood and it marks the beginning of the Suburban Vision Quest.
In the lands of suburbia, in the whitest and most complacent of Canadian suburbs, the Suburban Vision Quest has arisen to bring isolated families together so that they can celebrate a child’s elevation to adulthood. It also doubles as a harsh lesson that spoiled suburban kids shouldn’t complain that their house is so big that it needs two Wi-Fi routers. The young men and women of the suburbs fulfill this quest to prove their worth and to prove to their overbearing parents that they are ready to move out.