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On a summer's Saturday morning in Pasadena, more than ten years ago, my ten-year-old son Andrew and I, as was our custom, walked downtown, where our first stop was Stottlemyre's: ice cream for Andrew, coffee for me, cookies for us both. Then a half-block down Colorado Boulevard to Bungalow News, where we checked the comics to see if there was a new installment of Donald Duck or Uncle Scrooge. Next across the street to Vroman's Bookstore, a Pasadena institution, for a quick look: had anything of interest arrived since our last visit? And finally, just down the street from Vroman's, to the House of Fiction, where our friend Bill Tunilla presided.

Here we stayed for a while: I in a battered easy chair, talking books and baseball with Bill; Andrew roving among the boxes draped with dirty blankets, woolen sweaters, and old sweatshirts, the teetering stacks of books waiting to be priced. After an hour or so, we set off for home, stopping at Rick's for a bag of french fries to share as we walked and talked. I mentioned to Andrew that I'd noticed a couple of books in Vroman's with "soul" in the title—not in the religion section (where we rarely looked anyway; here Vroman's was no match for the riches of the Fuller Seminary Bookstore) but on the table of new nonfiction. That was surprising: that "soul" suddenly had a certain cachet.

Andrew said he had wondered a good deal about the soul: what was it? His question shouldn't have taken me by surprise—by the time they are ten, children have started to wrestle with most of the essential metaphysical questions—but it did. I don't remember what I said then, and Andrew may well have forgotten the conversation altogether, but afterward I was dissatisfied.

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In the years ...

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December 2001

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