Requiem for Black Shoes

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Requiem for Black Shoes - a new novel by Ken Hills (adult fiction)

For thirty two years, I worked with teenagers, as a teacher, as an administrator and as a counsellor. It was in this latter position that I became most aware of and involved with troubled teenagers. One common denominator they shared was they came from dysfunctional homes. They were homes in which the parents were not present. Perhaps the parents were divorced or separated, possibly one had died. It could have been that both parents were absent at crucial times during the day because they had work commitments. It may have been a home in which the cultural views clashed with those more prevalent in North America. I personally knew of many young people who were abused either sexually, physically or emotionally. When that happens to anyone, the natural compass which we all have is disrupted and the youngster, who is already battling with the challenges of a normal development, now has to find his way through life as well as he can, carrying an extra burden. Some turn to drugs, others to alcohol. Virtually all of them seek the company of others who are experiencing similar difficulties.

My book, Requiem For Black Shoes, is the story of how a young Catholic boy, sexually abused by a Catholic priest, lives his entire life struggling with this burden. It illustrates how his relationships with others, with the church and with God have been affected. This is a story of fact with fictional embellishments.

Recent Reviews:
"Drawing extensively on his 30 years teaching experience, coupled with a childhood steeped in the machinations of the Catholic Church, Ken Hills has crafted a sensitive and honest story, balancing humour with pathos, to show the ruthlessness often met by adolescents from their environment."
Charles Ryall, Lawyer

“Requiem For Black Shoes” tells of a life long struggle to escape the “inescapable tomb” of child abuse. The violation of a vulnerable youth at the hands of a trusted friend, a role-model, a father- figure, a Catholic priest is distressing, heart-breaking, infuriating. Nevertheless, “Requiem For Black Shoes” is a hope-filled invitation for us all to seek resurrection and deliverance from our own demons. It is a testament to the awesome power of love in confronting a self made prison of suffering, injustice and shame.
Paul Faye, Catholic Elementary School Principal, Retired

"Ken Hills has written a very personal autobiography of healing in the guise of fiction. He uses a stream of consciousness narrator to tell this story in a writing style reminiscent of J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”. The story is one of sexual abuse and betrayal of an adolescent by a priest and the life consequences that result. Several references are made to The Catcher’s Holden Caulfield, “.... practically brothers”. In fact, the narrator is a senior Holden Caulfield, now undergoing therapy, a retired teacher, a loving yet struggling father, and a devoted husband who still questions the success of his personal relationships with his wife and others. This book is Ken’s answer to finally wrestling with the demons of guilt his catholic faith brings him and reconciling the damage he suffered from the sexual abuse by an authority figure." Ted Pritchard, B.A., B.Ed., O.T. , Retired Elementary School Principal

I invite you to read the following excerpt from my book and to let me know your reaction to my story. I really appreciate your comments. Thanks for your help, Ken

from Requiem for Black Shoes by Ken Hills

"Yeah, I know, Holden Caulfield, right?"

The eternal teenager? He will never change. Holden and I have a lot in common all right. I identify with him. It’s a case of arrested development. But why am I telling you that? And you and I both know the reason for that. I used to be just like him when I was a teenager. And now I don’t always talk like him like I used to on account of I was a teacher and all. That’s just like him, isn’t it? He would often end sentences that way. But I still think like him and sometimes I still talk like him. It’s not that I’m imitating him or anything like that. It’s just that Holden experienced something traumatic in his life too and I really think that when that happens to any of us we look for a way to survive the best way we can. If that means ignoring realities for awhile, then that’s what must be done. If it means living in another world that is so much more pleasant then that’s what has to be done. If it means suppressing what happened to you, burying it so deep that you cover it over with other activities, situations, relationships, then that’s what you have to do. Because it’s all about survival, right Doc? I mean if I really dwelled on what happened to me, I couldn’t stand it. I would probably jump off a bridge or something. When I say that I identify with Holden, I mean that I agree with him when he says that people are phony. He probably used the wrong word but I know what he means. Like, people disguise their true identities. You should know that. Everybody is suffering with something, whether it is emotional or physical. There’s always something there. We just can’t go around revealing our true selves all the time. What kind of world would that be anyway?

And kids, the way Holden looks at kids is right on. I hope my grandchildren never grow up, you know, lose their innocence, the fresh young way they look at the world with curiosity and wonder. I mean we have to grow up. I know that. They will face those pubescent crises of acne, periods, awkwardness, peer pressure, hormonal explosions, puppy love, parental defiance. They will get crushes on movie stars or rock stars or athletes. They will struggle like hell to find their own identity. But they will survive it all. I know that the human spirit is amazing as it takes on a life of its own when we, seemingly, lose control of our lives. But why do we have to lose our kidness? That’s what I mean. Holden’s one of my favourite fictional characters. But he’s not really fictional, is he? There are tons of people like him, all over the world.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, give us peace. I loved the Latin mass. The thing about Latin is that the language never changes. It’s like the little kids I talked about. Yeah, you might say I had a strict Catholic upbringing, confession every Saturday, whether I needed to or not, Mass on Sunday morning and benediction in the evening. The priest’s word was law unless my mom said differently, rosary every night at home, holy water font at the door so every time we went out, we would dip our finger into the font and bless ourselves, high mass once a month when the priest stunk up the church with the incense, singing in the choir, educated by the nuns who never spared the rod, hours spent at the church for the exposition, praying, praying, praying, no meat on Fridays, respect, respect, respect for the priests, for our elders, never speaking unless spoken to. But it was my church, you know what I mean? It was like family. Only I could make fun of it or some other Catholic could make fun of it. But if a non Catholic made fun of it, watch out. We wouldn’t fight unless we had to but we stuck up for our church. I don’t know why intelligent people in charge of our education ever allowed a Catholic school to be built right next to a Protestant school. What were they thinking about? Were they thinking they might be able to convert all of the Protestants? All they did was guarantee name calling and fights. We were kids. What did we know? They used to call us dogans or micks or fisheaters and at first those words hurt my feelings but actually, the truth is that after a while I kind of liked it when someone called me those names. It gave me an identity.

I was proud of being a Roman Catholic. It gave me a lineage that could be traced back two thousand years. It made me part of a history that was filled with serious confrontations, many of which are still carrying on today. When you think of it, on the other hand, it is pretty stupid to be fighting over religion. I really don’t think that’s what a loving God wants of us. But when you’re a kid, you don’t know any better. You’re of the same religious tradition as St. Michael the Archangel who slew the devil. When you were confirmed, you became a soldier of Christ. Yeah, I loved being a Catholic, still do, although there were times when I turned my back on God. But I don’t really want to talk about that now. Maybe later.

Now that you've read this except, tell Ken what you think...
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