“When Johnny Come’s Marchin’ Home Again…”
Hey. This here’s Liam.
One o’them sorely saddened and besides theyselves with fearful discombobulations Denton County Goodwells.
Big brother Lawrence, he done took plumb off to join the U-nited States Army, underaged and over-eager, he snuck hisself out durin’ mid-mornin’ chores some time r’t’other, none o’us Goodwells is quite sure. Caught hisself a ride to the recruitin’ office some two counties east where folks don’t know much ’bout nothin’, least of all we Goodwells.
Left a note, he did, a’stickin’ out from under his dinner plate, all sorts of platitudes and heartfelt “I Love Yous” and “My country needs mes” and “Won’t this be a kick in the pants, heys?”. All “Weehaws” and “Go get’em’s,” big brother done did the unthinkable.
And he used my tablet paper fer to tell us of his exploit. Sad, but a fact, that bit there? That irks me somethin’ awful.
Big, overgrown, muscle-bound Lawrence, not a slim lick o’sense in that hard head o’his, he done gone off and’ll prob’ly end up a gen’ral r’ a sergeant r’ other.
Well, I tell you what, I’ll not be a’salutin’ that son of a gun when he comes back, no sir-ee Bob.
‘Course, that there’s when my heart cracks just a little more. Healthy (and near as hefty) as a horse, and dumber’n ditchwater, I jest cain’t see my way to feelin’ any high level o’ his success. Nor his return, whole and safe and as brash and heavy handed as ever.
Find myself needin’ to wipe my sleeve over my eyes.
Oh, he’ll look right smart in them fine uniforms. And he’ll be skilled at whatever task they give him. Dogged if he ain’t tops at near any physical feat set before him. But if he ain’t got a writ set o’instructions in his pocket or an guidin’ angel a’whisp’rin’ di-rectives on his shoulder, that boy’s got nothing ‘tween his ears to speak of.
Here’s the deal. We, all us Goodwells, we’d jest come in for dinner, the sun blazin’ hot straight up in the sky, when Mama got her that worry line ‘twixt her eyebrows.
“Where’d Lawrence get off to, you reckon?”
Truth is, when it comes to dinner, or breakfast or supper or weennie roasts or potlucks or food inhalation of inny sort, big brother Lawrence is near always front of the line.
But not this day.
That there’s when time stopped.
Us Goodwells, too.
That there’s when a white blaze of light from the winder over the sink there, seemed like it shone a path di-rectly to ol’ Lawrence’s plate, and the brown paper with the red dotted lines a folded like a airplane stickin’ out from under.
Took a hund’erd seconds or a few, hard tellin’ as I search through the fog of that moment, but Daddy was the first to move ’round the table to retrieve it, unfoldin’ it with caution. He spread it out with on the table with his forearm ‘fore readin’ it silently, then readin’ it aloud.
And Mama, she melted silent and graceful to the “jest this mornin’ scraped and cleaned” lie-noleum. Daddy knelt ‘side her a’pattin’ her hand fer wont of any’thin’ else to do.
The rest of us Goodwells, we was jest struck plumb dumb.
Once Mama fluttered her eyes and returned back to the livin’, why, someone done stuck a far-cracker down our britches and we, all us Goodwells, we begun a’spinnin’.
Me, I grabbed the telephone, traded fer and installed nigh on one month previous. Party line, I’m full ‘ware, and ever’body’d know our business, but I hollered to Miss Kelly, the switchboard operatin’ lady sittin’ down to the Post Office “Hey! My brother’s gone addle-headed and run off an’ enlisted hisself, somebody go git him, hurry!”
Grandpap, he herded the wide-eyed youngsters into the front room, gettin’ them out from underfoot.
Big brother Lincoln took to mutterin’ and stompin’, and Livvie, she jest stood and shook and wept into her hands.
Luce, she snitched the ratty worshrag from the sink and wiped Mama’s brow.
Mama come clear to right now, I kid you not.
And now we all sit, stiff as stones and jest as conversa-tive. Wudn’t nothin’ to do but wait. Early along, Daddy’d thought we could some o’us jump to the International pickup truck, some in front and some in back in the bed, n’hightail it over to A-dair County and retrieve us back our boy. Hoggtie him, if it come to it. It’d only been what, a couple o’hours or two?
Lincoln, rodeo-ridin’ champ-een of the Goodwell family, that’d be his task.
But Miss Kelly called us right as we was gettin’ in gear. Dep’ty Fuller Quentin, over to A-dair County, why, he’d heard from Bessie over to the mill in May County, next one ‘fore A-dair, and she heard it from her sister’n-law Ada Aileen Bogg down to Halesburg and who was jest listenin’ in fer her health, why, he knew all about ol’ Lawrence Goodwell and his personal abscondification.
“Train done left the station, honey,” Miss Kelly shouted through the tel-ee-phone. Grandpap’d answered. Ain’t never heard no woman nor no man, nor nobody else fer that matter, tag him with “honey.”
But I digress.
“That boy o’yearn, he hit the jackpot, ‘r else he’s been a’plannin’ this fer some time. Dep’ty Quentin, he hauled hisself right on over to the recruitin’ office. Took him no time ‘tall, turned on his si-reen! Your boy, he’d done got his papers quick as a lick, they give him a physical once over, then pushed him on the coach fer Fort Leonard Wood. That boy’s in the Army now.”
“And,” she kept up the hollerin’. All us Goodwells could hear her clear. “Dep’ty Quentin, he’s officially requested you all please to stay put. He’s headin’ yer di-rection fer a full accountin’.”
Grandpap put the earpiece careful and precise back in its holster.
Law-abidin’ citizens, we Goodwells.
‘Cept fer the ‘shine.
Reckon we’d wait.