Terry Barr


The Informer

I’ll never forget Chip’s enormous right thumb, directed toward me, as he turned in response to Mrs. Laird’s question about my desk mate, Robert: “Who told him the answers?”

I’ll never forget the jerk of my own torso, the pop of her hand against my virgin first-grade butt, as I learned the hard way the lesson of all tellers.

I’ll never forget Parents’ Night, 1962, as I stood over my first six weeks’ test work and saw the full-page “U” scrawled by Mrs. Laird across my arithmetic problems. I hadn’t realized that you couldn’t add moons and suns. So very unsatisfactory.

I’ll never forget the news, over a decade later, that Mrs. Laird had been crushed to death in her own garage. By her son, only a “learning permit” driver, who thought he had shifted the car into reverse before he accelerated.

I know one act doesn’t lead to another. I know that no one, mother or son, deserves such a fate. But remember: I’m the one who, at age six, added four moons and three suns and got a sum of seven.

And I’m the one left, here and now, to tell their story.


Terry Barr is the author of the essay collection, Don’t Date Baptists and Other Warnings From My Alabama Mother. He lives in Greenville, SC, with his family and has had essays published in Full Grown People, Vol. 1, Brooklyn, and The Bitter Southerner.

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