How to Kill a Mockingbird
And Other Family Observations
The autumn I was 12, my big brother, Emmanuel, invented a name for our neighbor across the street: Boo Radley.
The man’s name was actually Doug. Although in his late thirties, he still lived with his mother. Doug had narrow eyes and a strange, perpetual smile. When he walked, his palms faced backward instead of toward his body, and he rarely moved his arms.
We had been his neighbors for about a year before Emmanuel’s uncalled-for christening. We had moved to Clovis the previous May, from a small house in Fresno, about three miles away.
I had heard, little by little, stories about Doug. He had spent some time either in a mental health facility or in prison. Other, more disturbing details about his earlier years might or might not have been true. His dark eyes seemed to be watching from his front porch whenever I ventured outside.
When Emmanuel first referred to Doug as Boo Radley, our mom made a mock-stern face although her eyes betrayed hidden laughter at my brother’s wit. She told Emmanuel he shouldn’t use that name again.
Of course, that intrigued me. “Who’s Boo Radley?” I asked.
My brother walked away. I asked my mom the question again.
“A character in a book.”
Of course, I had to know the name of the book.
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