Oh, Boy…

“Look what you done.”

Conversational like. Then.

“Look what you DONE!”

Here we go.

Big sister Luce stomped her big ol’ feet, one of them unfortunate family traits, par-ticularly for a girl with stick skinny legs and knobby knees.  Now me, bein’ a feller, my own big feet didn’t stick out so much, hidin’ like they did under my britches.  Well, when they was long enough.

A small whirlwind brought me back to the livin’.  Them boats holdin’ up them bony ankles didn’t hinder her stompin’ one iota.  Red clay Arkansas dust fairly flew.

“Just look, ” she growled, “Just look!”

Then she waited.  There’d been a black threat of more’n mayhem in her voice.  I reckoned someone ’round here better take to lookin’ at somethin’ or other, right quick.

“Look what you DONE!”

Now, if I was wondering, like you might be doin’, I’d say she’d be a’hollerin’ my direction.  If I was a bettin’ man, I’d lay odds on it.  Stickin’ my hands deep into my dungaree pockets, I rocked forwards and back, on my heels then my toes, for wont of somethin’ better to do. I’d a’whistled if I’d thought of it.

Her angry mottled face lifted to the sky, she hummed like a slew of bees headin’ this di-rection.  She was a’workin’ up to somethin’, then she let loose a howl, aimed towards no one in particular, “Ain’t my fault!  Ain’t my FAULT!”

And then, to me, IN particular (I was purty sure since she grabbed both my shoulders in a vice grip, squeezin’ hard with them long spider fingers o’ hers),  she spat like the words was filthy and bitter, “You!  You dirtied my worshin’.  I spent all afternoon gettin’ them things clean,”

“Liam!”  This is right about where she got my full attention.

“Liam!  You are a DIRTY FILTHY A-RO-MATIC SACK ‘O HOG ENTRAILS!!”

Fine, I’m listenin’.  But she does spend too much time with her nose in them books, that girl.  There was more.

She went on.

And on.

” Putrid ones!”  I figured we was still talkin’ about entrails.

Her arms began a flailin’.  “Sticky buggy innards stuffed inside a hog belly piled in a heap of steamin’ cowpiiiiiiies!”  There she went again, a’stompin’ them big ol’ feet o’ hers. I was fixin’ to cough, but caution ruled the day.  She was just gettin’ up steam.

Reckon I’ll stay twelve for a spell.  Thirteen sure is ugly.

And yup, she was a’hollerin’ at me, I could tell.

But then her voice went low and gravelly, which never boded well.   I was durned certain I was lookin’ to be dead meat.

Deep and menacing, “Liam.  You.  Are.  Dead.  Meat.”

Yup.  Like I done said.

I now had the distinct feelin’ I should duck.  Or run.

Or both.

There was an unhealthy pause, ” And,”

Here it comes.

” … I’m tellin’ Mama.”

‘Course,that done it.  The end was near.

I was done for.

But Luce, she weren’t nearly done, not by a long shot.  Her bellerin’ bag wasn’t quite emptied.  I was gettin’ worn out just a’listenin’.   She hollered and she fretted and she hopped on one foot then the next.  She cried one minute, then swore she’d whomp me the next.  Lord A’Mighty!  Fergive me my French,  but she was madder’n hops! I stood transfixed.  Demonized, that’s what she was, possessed!

My sister’s always had her a vicious streak, ’twas  one of her more visible and viable characteristics.  And it was showin’ itself more’n ever these days, ‘specially since she had her thirteenth.  Now she’s all poison and venom and hurt feelin’s.  We’d always been purty near twins, bein’ we’re less than one year apart.  We was partners in all kinds of schemes and mischief.  Some rip snorters!  But this here, it’ll be the death of me, sure’s shootin’.  I’d felt her wrath a’fore she turned into a teenager.  We was fairly even sparrin’ partners, and I could hold my own.  Words was differnt, somehow.  Them gut punches and Indian burns was a breeze tallied up next to this typhoon in the makin’.  Her face was red, her ears was blowing smoke, and now her eyes was aimin’ buckshot straightways into mine.  Luce was apt to bust a gut, and it weren’t mine I was a’worryin about.

Mostly not, that is.

Nope, this storm what was a’brewin’ was lookin’ to be somethin’ powerful and mean.

And since I’d po-tentially perpetrated the evil she claimed, I reckoned I’d no choice but to weather it.

In my defense, I’d had a lot on my mind….no, that don’t cover it….See, I was….

Okay, looka here.

Now what I may or may have not done weren’t that awful bad.  Accidents happen.  Actually, to me they happen right regular.  I usually blame my big, ol’ feet.  So does most everbody else.

I ain’t admittin’ to nothin’, but my alleged doin’s today evidently struck a nerve, and shewwwww wee!  This sister o’ mine was on the warpath!  Normally, Luce’d just get things done, quiet like.  Outta character, this rantin’ and squallin’.   Usually she just took control, mean and ugly and quiet,  and then beat the tar outta me.  I’ll admit, though, with my latest growin’ spurt, that occurance may be less and less commonplace.  Still, this  just wudn’t her style.

Puffin’ up just a bit, I’ll contend this here accident didn’t in no way entitle her to abuse me the way she was doin’!  They’s just clothes.  Formerly clean ones, true, but hey, they’ll clean right up again.  Them phrases shootin’ in and around my person included words seldom heard in our Christian home!   She must be incredible het up.  Bein’ a teenager didn’t give her no right.  None, a’tall.

Well, don’t I sound all collected and at peace, like I was readin’ a bedtime story.  My feet, though was tellin’ a whole differnt tale.  That observation right there come while the rest of my person was a’hightailin’ it right outta there, haulin’ down the path away from that girl as fast as my skinny legs would carry me.  My head was a’ talkin’, settin’ back calm, assessin’ the situation.  My feet, on the other hand, couldn’t give a rat’s be-hind ’bout her heightened emotional state.  They was poundin’ the hardpacked clay outta her reach.  She was a speedy thing, her ownself, so wasn’t nowhere safe.

Now, now, said my head,  and I come to an abrupt stop, tryin’ to wrestle some logic into my behavior,  my last stride becoming a long slow step.  I turned around right quick, though, measurin’ her physical distance from my person.  Cain’t never be too careful, I says to that quiet voice persterin’ me.

Didn’t make much differnce.  It kept right on yammerin’.

Runnin’?  It said.  Runnin’?!  Why, that’ll just heap more troubles upon the troubles you already got, boy.  Once she tells Mama you dirtied all her cleanin’, worst can happen you’ll be redeeming yerself at the ringer worsher out on the back porch.  But once she tattles you run like a scared rabbit, the shame will far outweigh the punishment.  Last longer, too.  All them other brothers and sisters lookin’ up to you, or lookin’ to razz you?  Best not to add fuel to the flame.  Best to take what’s comin’, take it like a man.  It’ll be past, soon enough.

Sound advice, my head was givin’ me.

I found I preferred the counsel of my lower extremities, however, as they was fairly dancin’ and itchin’ and fixin’ to move on down the line.  Right now.

Oh, she weren’t done, neither, but she’d planted herself and hadn’t moved.  The distance I’d put between me’ n her put her to raisin’ her voice even more.

“Shushhhhhh!”  I shushed.  Didn’t do nothin’ but spur her on.

“You pulled down my cleaned worshin’!  Now just look what you did!!  I’m tellin’ Mama,  and she’ll have your hide!  The whole lot, all my HARD work, suckin’ up dust!  You’ll be re-doin’ the worshin’, mister!” she spat.  And then she really spat.  “I hope it takes you all night!”  She balled her fists tight, and even from all the way across the back lot, what some’d call a yard if there was grass,  I felt a fear wiggle.

Off she marched back to the house to report my supposed crimes.   A storm front done brewed and stewed was just this moment  a’fixin’ to come down!

And she was right.  Mama’d have me for dinner.  My dance card for the evenin’ was surely full,  what with redoin’ the worsh .  Regular chores be hanged.  There’d be a whole new passel of repercussions for them bein’ late or undone.

I sighed.  Doom hung low all about me, heavy and gray.  I was done for.  I couldn’t a’ run had I wanted to.

“Go on ahead, Luce!  You just go on ahead!  See if I care!  Go on!”  Tryin’ to salvage a speck of dignity, I managed a thin holler at her stiff, determined back, shootin’ it like a weak arrow what arches high, then dies before the target.  “Go on ahead, see if I care!”  All the while, I’m hopin’ she’d see the error of her ways and turn back, forgiveness floodin’ her heart.

Well, that didn’t happen.

There wasn’t much recourse for me.  Short term didn’t look good, no matter how you sliced it.

Now, fact is, big sister Luce can get on her high horse, fumin’ at all sort of wrongs she sees bein’ done to her.  Bulgin’ eyeballs during her tirade attested to that.  Boney, sticky-out shoulders throwed back and hair blowed horizontal by the wind made her a force of nature.  Like the front of one of them old time sailin’ ships.  The world owed her plenty, way she saw it, and it wudn’t makin’ payments fast enough.  That and the fact that chores and whatnot kept her away from her precious readin’ time gave her an ugly disposition most days.  Me?  Her fussin’ and frettin’ was irritatin’, like ants a’scurrin’ up yer pant legs, but they ain’t nothin’ what can’t be brushed off and next minute clean forgot. Till they come back.

‘Course, this time her huffin’ and puffin’ weren’t for naught.

She was right.  She most certainly did have a bone to pick with me.

Guess I’ll admit to havin’ somethin’ to do with what set her off so.

All them clean shirts and overhalls a’danglin’ their hems in the dust, saggin’ low on the loosened clothes line?  Yeah, I reckon that was me.

Nothing purposeful, mind you.  It was truly accidental, me daydreamin’, my head in the clouds, not a’watchin’ where my fine feet was a’takin’ me.  Seems they took me right into the clotheline pole, knocking it askew, dunkin’ them cleaned clothes right into the red clay dust below.

Wudn’t even time to recover.  Luce’d burst from ’round the side of the house just as I gathered  up my wits and tried to gather up them dirtied shirts and socks.

Yeah.  I looked afar off to the horizon, notin’ outta the corner of my eye Mama’d scrambled out to the back porch,  a’wipin’ her hands on her apron.  Normally she wait a bit, see if the ruckus’d die down on its own, but Luce’s shrieks and hollers reached a pitch couldn’t even Mama ignore.

I was a’foggin’ up.  Luce’s wailin’ was fadin’ fast, her mouth a’movin’ in silent slow motion, her nose all scrunched up, arms a’wavin and fingers a’pointin’.  I scratched that spot over my left shoulder.  I done it.  True enough and sure.   Wasn’t no gettin’ around it, facts was facts.

No gettin’ ’round the lickin’ I was due, neither.   And I’d take it,  for what I’d done, I’d done.  But there’s more to it ‘n just dawdlin’ and and there’s a fine differnce between lollygaggin’ and  misbehavin’.

See, it happened like this here.

I plum love Saturday mornin’s.  Ain’t no school, ain’t no lessons, ain’t no necessary clean clothes.  We’d all gathered like ever other Saturday, all us eight kids, Mama and Daddy, for prayer, then biscuits and sausage gravy and eggs cooked however we liked ’em.  Mama worked hard, spending most of the meal at the stove, but she always took pleasure in providin’ a proper meal, and special treats.  Saturday, today, was no different.  My favorite eggs is fried, overeasy, little salt and pepper dottin’ the snowy mound.  I do love that first punture, fork into egg with yellow sunshine lava a meltin’ across my plate.  But I also allow myself a moment of reflection over the work of masterpiece art my mama created just for me.  I do like to spread out the joy.  And my special overeasy egg is one of them!

And like ever other Saturday mornin’, it did not disappoint.

But once the dishes was done and we was scrubbed behind the ears, and once we’d all parted, off to see what adventures this golden day held, be they skippin’ stones down by the creek, climbin’ some ol’ tree out to the woods, or diggin’ for buried treasure out to the old tumbledown Holt mansion, I found myself wanderin’ down past sweet little Jacey May’s house.  How that happened I still don’t pretend to know.  But there I was, a’standin’ and a ‘scuffin’ my old shoes in the dirt outside the little white fence behind which was the purtiest, loveliest, sweetest smellin’ little girl I’d ever knew.

How long I’d been there, sighin’ and swoonin’ and pretendin’ to catch flies with my tongue, I won’t pretend to know neither.  After a while though, I caught a glimpse, just a rustle, of a curtain partin’ in the front window.  Optin’ not to notice none, I found rat tracks in the ditch and turned my attention there, followin’ them to , yup, that hole right there, I seen him!  Forgettin’ the girl for just one joyful second, I stood and let out a whoop.

And there, a standin’ on the front porch, was Jacey May Hodges, all pink and pigtails and clean, and grinnin’ just for me.  She wriggled her bitty little fingers my way, then duckin’ quick like, she tucked back into her door.

I was smit.

Forever, I was smit.

Facts was facts.  I done what I done and I’d take what I was due.

But in all the world, there ain’t no feelin’ like I had at that there moment, all light and love and sweet breezes.

Yup.   It was worth it.

And I’d be goin’ back.

Growing Boy

Liam?  He couldn’t squeeze his skinny, scrawny fists any tighter.  The backs of his hands was all dingy in the cracks, scrapped and bruised and worn from all his nearly twelve hardscrabble, farmbred  years of livin’.  His rangy neck muscles strained hard against his too small buttoned up collar, fabric worn and frayed.  Lord, he wanted to scream so.  He gritted his teeth so hard he could fairly hear them crackling under the pressure.  His breathin’ wouldn’t hardly come up from his insides, much less out through his nose holes or anywheres else.  He’d like to explode from all them extra breaths trapped deep down.  A big ol’ giant foggy bubble filled his head so’s he couldn’t see nothing but pops of lights.  Nor could he hear nothing neither, just static, like from the radio late in the night betwixt far off, lonely stations playin’ Tex Ritter and Gene Autry.

This is what pure black as coal hatred feels like. He cultivated this singular solitary line of thought.  Pure ragged rage.  Bitter tasting anger.  Vile, putrid venom.  It don’t just eat you, his brain told him, it comes near devourin’ you from the inside out.  Big ol’ raggedy torn up bites, drippin’ with blood and gore and spaghetti strings of innards unknown.  Nasty.

“Nice shoes, boy.”  Ugly, taunting words pierced the static.  And while the tiny piece of him seeing clear told him the voice was beyond arms length,  the mammoth, putrid hateful part assured Liam that ugly, doughy face was purtin’near an inch from his.   Even if were so, he weren’t able to see it anyhow, his anger blinding him true.  Still, the youngster could smell it, that porcine breath,  no chance he could mask the stink of the bologna sandwich ol’ Winston’d had hours ago for lunch.

“Yeah, them is really fine shoes, boy.”

Laughter and snorts of derision echoed not far behind.

Liam, somewhere outside himself,  reckoned it was time to stop with the “boy.”

His next highly vola-tile, irreverent, taking-the-Lord’s-name-in-vain thought, though,  must ‘a made itself heard.

Must ‘a.

Because at that point Winston snickered real loud, tossing back a fat burbling laugh over his fat shoulder.  No tellin’ how long he’d practiced that move.  Turning back, his little puffy pig eyes narrowed, dark as midnight.  He was gettin’ stirred up.  His so-called pals, repulsive follow-the-leader suckers the lot of ’em,  sneered then guffawed along behind, amused and secretly relieved for a di-version from Winston’s normal pursuit of a-bullyin’ them.  They could smell somethin’ was a’comin’ and they wanted to be on the winnin’ end.

“Hey, , boy, where’d you get them shoes?”  Another snicker behind a fat hand.  “Them’s just all right!  I think I’d like me some, sure would!”  A jiggly speck of saliva caught in the corner of the big boy’s mouth, unnoticed.  Liam tried hard to focus his writhing senses on that speck, keepin’ his ownself in check.   Again, nasty.

His mind, however,  would not stay still,  it kept on a’chewin’ and spewin’.  “I ain’t yer “boy,”  it shouted!  He kinda hoped not out loud, but then kinda hoped it was.  Near time for this to be over and done with, one way or th’ other.

Winston gave a pig snort appropriate to his constitution, then, sing-songy, “We’d like us some shoes just like that, wouldn’t we, fellers?  Where’d you get them, huh, boy?  In the little girls‘ department down to the store?”

Here we go.

Lard boy Winston reckoned himself  pretty hi-larious, Liam noted, his jelly belly bending plum double,  creased in the middle, then fake laughing just for the show.  Cur-like minions a’joinin’ in the glee added to the fun.  They was like wolves a’circin’ their prey, all itchy and ready to pounce, waitin’ for just that moment the schrivledy little rabbit showed its fear.  Then, bam!  Rabbit stew for dinner.  Seen it a hunderd times.

Liam vowed he would not be the rabbit, not this day.

Immobile, purposeful or not, Liam was planted, the deepest unseen part of him rooted deep down through the wooden schoolhouse porch, anchored solid in the clay beneath, unable to move or even sway.  Couldn’t run nor even turn away.  Aged nearly twelve with a birthday month after next,  and growin’ like a weed, his dungarees was inches too short, his bony ankles rising high above his stretched-to-death socks, and his stretched-to-death socks puddling sadly atop…here he couldn’t help an inner sigh…atop his big sister’s outgrowed shoes.

His sister’s shoes.

His sister’s shoes.

They was all ‘twould fit this mornin’ come gettin’ ready time.  Why, his tattered boots, they fit a mite snug yesterday, but today, they simply would not allow entrance of Liam’s growing feet, no matter how much he pushed and tugged and silently swore.   He pondered, just for a moment, slicing the toe end right off, leaving his own toes the wide open spaces for to wiggle and jiggle.  He then pondered one more moment , one too long, he reckoned, and  knew Mama’d not let the destruction of a perfectly good pair of boots, worn in and ready for his the young’uns followin’ behind, stand.   Bald panic ensued.   The boy  barreled ’round and ’round the house, inside and out, tossin’ things hither and there-ther.   Surely the big boys had some leftover shoes ready for hand-me-down duty.  He dove under beds, shimmied into the tight space behind behind the sooty wood-fired stove, even checked in the barn where the muddy boots and stiff oilcloth jackets lived.  He’d come out triumphant with a pair of Daddy’s hip waders, but Mama’d have none of that.  She vetoed them waders right quick.  Now, true, she had some sympathy for his plight, she did love him awful bad, but time was short and she would not abide his being late to school.  What she would also not abide was her precious son arrivin’ down to the schoolhouse in them too big rubber tubes still smellin’ of dead fish.

Still, he plead his case somethin’ fierce.

“Please, Mama, I cain’t.  I just cain’t. These is Luce’s shoes!”  A salty tear or two might of helped turn the tide, but Mama’d made up her mind, and frankly, manufacturing personal precipitation never came easy for Liam.

She’d looked him straight in the eye, mournful somehow,  her words, though, was anything but.

“Liam, straighten up!  Ain’t no shame in wearin’ Luce’s shoes.  They’s nice leather, and they got plenty of wear left in ’em.”  Mama was not without her pride, “And it beats goin’ without, like some poor folk.”

Mama had said her piece.

Backtalk would’a earned him the switch.

So.

Done and done.

She was an understandin’ woman,  and a little softness come through.  They, the two of them, ripped and pulled and chewed and sawed with an old file but couldn’t quite get the buckles and straps clean off, not in a hurry anyhow.  Nothin’ he could do but push the telling Maryjane stumps hard inside the side of the shoes, and go a’ limpin’ and a’scufflin’ his way down the lane toward the one room house of learnin’.  There was some heartfelt prayin’, hopin’ the whole way and the whole day no one would notice.  He hoped his mama was a’prayin’ too, ’cause the Good Lord answered her prayers way more often than his.

And sure enough, didn’t nobody notice none, neither, at least not until going home time, which is what time it was.   He’d surely and purely concentrated hard on the hidin’ of them shoes.  The entire day, Liam’d managed to tuck his newly growed feet up under his desk tight and clean, one on top a’ the other’n so’d only one showed at at time.  He’d been studyin’ up on his fractions, it was standard in sixth grade, so he was purty sure he was only half as prone to bein’ found out.  He sat on his haunches at lunch.  Uncomfortable, sure.  Still nobody’d said a word.  Now, he’d admit catchin’ a glance from Luce early on, but it was one full of pity, and he couldn’t hardly abide that neither.

But that was the extent.  And that’s when Liam, thinking he was home free,  waited till he thought everybody’d headed home before he slipped out.  He slung his books, cinched tight together with an old belt, over his to his back.   He looked left then looked right out the door, then took a caution step out to the wooden porch.

That’s where Winston and the boys was waitin’.  A little semi-circle of jibes and jeers and torment gathered at the bottom of the schoolhouse steps. That’s when his heart dived straight down to the pit of his person, wallerin’ there, waitin’ to die.  Throwin’ up was what his insides wanted, his stomach lurchin’ in and out, tryin’ to spew.  Liam kept it down, where it started to stew.

“Hee Haw!  Them is some shoes you got, Liam!  You look so pretty!”

Quick as a lick, mortification and shame turned to fury and flames.

No tellin’ how long he just stood there, straight and proud, and shoes bared for all the world, and Winston, to see.  Not much else he could do.

Chilled, it occurred to him he was not afraid, not one iota.  He buried that line of thinkin’ too, knowin’ he’d need all his attention for what he knew lay ahead.

He’d take it as long as he could, Liam vowed, but his red-headed temper was a takin’ its toll.  His insides was now a seethin’, wrigglin’ mess of oily innards.  They was all afire and blazin’.  Liam was sure smoke must be emittin’ from his person somewheres.

His whole self was stiff, the top of his head ready to pop like a Polynesian volcano he’d seen down to the the-ater.  All hot and seeping red orange goo.  A low gutteral  growl started way low in his belly and was bubblin’ up at the back of his throat.  Them big boys couldn’t hear it for all that sniggerin’ and tee-heein’ and Liam wasn’t of a mind to force it back down. Wouldn’t.  Maybe couldn’t.

He was fixin’ to erupt after all.  It tasted hot and spicy, hot tamale-like.

And so he stayed, planted.  Murder ‘n mayhem was a’comin’ and he cared not one whit he’d be the perpetrater of the same.

And them boys, unbeknowin” of the thunder and lightnin’ awaitin’ them, they kept on with their laughin’ and jawin’.

“Liam, what are you, a girl?”

“Them’s girl shoes!  You get dressed in the dark, son?!”

“Liam’s not a feller ‘tall!  He’s LeeAnn!”

“LeeAnn!  LeeAnn!  Nice shoes, there, LeeAnn!”

Oh, they was funny, wasn’t they.  The cloud in his head broke ever so slightly, he could see a red haze through squinted eyes.  Classmates he’d been sure was long gone hung out of nearly every tree and peeked ’round the corners of the whitewashed building,  witnesses to  his humiliation, afraid for their ownselves lest Winston and his crew turned their attentions their way.

Liam knew he hadn’t much time.  Them wolves was closin’ in, circlin’ tighter and tighter.  Smells of hot metal burned his nose.  He’d best take the fight to them, elsewise he’d be cornered up here on this porch, no options but to flee inside the cool sanctuary of the classroom. No salvation there.   Miss Meadows was a’gradin’ papers up to her desk, unknowin’.  He’d melt into a puddle before he sought refuge from these thugs in front of her.

No.  No runnin’.  This was, Liam vouched, a turnin’ moment of his life, one he’d long remember.  He vouched, one more time, he’d remember it or die a’tryin.

Lights in his head was firecrackers now and the rush in his ears was the like the crick after the first big thaw, gushin’ loud and mean.  Flexin’ his hands, he stepped strong and slow down the first step.  Beady-eyed Winston waved his boys back.  They shut right up, tense, tight.   He himself stepped one step closer to the bottom of the stairs.

Winston’s watched, moving not a muscle, black eyes drillin’ holes into Liam’s.

Liam took the next step, deliberate.  Slow.

So’d Winston.  Eyeball to eyeball.

Liam’s head cleared right up just that instant, just like that, sparkly and blue as the sky after a summer rain. Things was as clear as clear could be, and truth be known,  the picture unfolding before him in stark Technacolor rattled him a pinch.  Liam stomped down hard on the next wooden step, a reminder of his march to his destiny.  Luce’s leather shoes was firm but squeaked just a bit.  Now only one step down to the ground where the wolves was now silent as puny lambs, and not near as purty.

Not the time to think about it, Liam, took that last step to the ground, even up with ol’ Winston.  Well, even with his Adam’s apple, but they’s eyes was glued to the other’n.  Liam’s growl burst out sharp, barkin’,

“You got a problem with my shoes?”   Sure don’t sound like me, Liam’s small voice noted quietly.

Winston rolled his tongue ’round the insides of his mouth, a poke here and there showin’ out the sides of one or t’other of his chubby cheeks .  He curved his fat back, throwing his neck back so his face was even with Liam’s.  Close this time, sharin’ breath close.  Exceptin’ Liam was holdin’ his.

Darkly, deeply, breathy, “I reckon I do.”

Then, a shot!  A cannon shot of a right hook came from the depths of the skinniest boy in the sixth grade, a punch ‘twoud be remembered dismembered and talked about in graphic relief for time immemoriam!  The slingshot tension of all that anger and embarrassment and hate and shame snapped that wiry arm back and thrust it forward with the forward motion of a loco-motive!  Toot toot and shoot!

Liam, feelin’ less red and boilin’ over, found himself oddly spent and still, lookin’ down on the bloodied mangled mess of a nose of the biggest boy in the eighth grade.  Detatched, like them folks what came back from being slain in the Spirit down to the Pentecostal Church.  And the biggest boy in the eighth grade found himself wiping away a few tears, his own humiliation on display for God and ever’body else to see.  Snufflin’ and makin’ fussy baby noises didn’t help him none, and his pack turned their heads away, shamed.

His own arm hung loose, dangling unaffected and uncaring at his side.  It took some effort to raise it.  Liam eyed it and the bony fist attached wonderingly.  Was it his own?  He’d no recollection of pulling his arm back and lettin’ ‘er rip.  Remembered nothing about it finding its way to Winston’s nose.  None whatsoever.  It done it of its own accord.  He wasn’t even certain it’d felt good, nor if it would rare back and do it again, of it’s own volition.  Would it?  Could he will it?  Should he try it?  Worth a shot, Liam smiled.  He managed one short motion in the direction of that downed tub a’ lard, a slow fire kindlin’ once again, and hintin’ at heatin’ up.

This newfound fire lasted only a second or two when Liam’s mouth fell slack, open, agape, and his ear twisted and burned somethin’ turrible.

Miss Meadows, her teensy little almost womanself loaded for bear twisted for all she was worth.

“Ow ow ow ow OW!”  Liam was practically on his knees, shimmyin’ the rest of hisself to undo the twist put upon his left ear.

“Liam!  Young man!   What’s going on here, tell me right now!”

A cacophony of voices, the whole peanut gallery what spectated the whole ordeal, the schoolmates who’d thought better that day than mention the girly shoes Liam’d been sportin’,  their voices rose all at once, explainin’, describin’, joyful and giddy.

“You should ‘a see’d it, Mizz Meadows!”

“Winston started it!  Winston started it!”

“Picked on Liam, ’cause a’ his shoes!”

“Bad form!” This from Liam’s  bookworm sister Luce.

“Lily-livered bully”

“Boy, but did ol’ Liam end it!”

“Did he ever!  One punch, boy, one punch!”

“Right in the kisser” not accurate, but the general idea.

“Yeah!  Hu-rray for ol’ Liam!”

“He oughta be a boxer!  Hey, Liam go after his bunch, boy!”  The giddiness reached a pitch. Winston’s bunch went pale.

Miss Meadows put one hand up, and the juvenile cheering section shushed themselves and each other.  Winston just covered his face with his pudgy hands, whimpering, still sidelong in the dirt.

Looking stern, Miss Meadows pursed her lips, finding Liam’s eyes.

Once there, she asked, “You the one responsible for what just happened here?”

Now the sun was fairly shinin’, his whole self gloriously lit from the insides.

He looked her straight in the eye.

“Yes, ma’am, he said loud and proud.

“I reckon I am.”