In the opening chapter of Charles Clay's novel The Alien Corn, the young Clarence Weaver is walking past a neighborhood baseball game with a recently purchased bottle of milk when the batter smacks a ball straight towards him. Just as Clarence reaches for the ball, a car honks at him, players shout, and although he catches the projectile, the milk bottle drops and shatters on the street. For most Americans today, spilt milk is hardly worth crying over, but this moment is painful for Clarence Weaver, a child of the Great Depression who will soon be sent to a Methodist orphanage by his widowed mother. Clay's story of an impoverished and orphaned childhood in Raleigh is autobiographical and captures a lost piece of Southern history. A former editor at The News & Observer and The Fayetteville Observer, Clay will read from his novel at Quail Ridge Books on July 13 at 7:30 p.m. Call 828-1588 for details.