When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home Again…
This here’s Liam Goodwell. Born to the Denton County Goodwells.
Feelin’ like I been rode hard and put away wet. It’s been a day and a half, I tell you what. I’m plumb tuckered and ain’t no end in sight o’ the trouble we, all us Goodwells, done been gifted.
See here’s the deal. When big brother Lawrence figured he’d up and enlist in the army, the U-nited STATES Army, that’d be, why he never considered once the consequences of his be-havior.
That he was underaged, first of all. Dimwitted brother of mine, did he never think nobody’d discover his de-ception?
Second up, that boy done used his own name, forged Grandpap’s and Daddy’s signature on a letter o’waiver, and never once thought nobody’d find that suspicious?
Third of all, and we come to learn all this after he’d shipped off on the train out A-dair county, he decked some swellheaded smart Alec of a Yankee officer what give him some guff ’bout his dollbaby face and mis-matched socks.
Them things and a dozen ‘r so more put me and Grandpap smack in the back o’Dep’ty Fuller Quentin’s po-lice vehicle.
No, we wudn’t arrested nor nothin’ as newsworthy as that’d be. Dep’ty was jest the fastest ride over to the courthouse in Pickle Creek, an hour or two or three away. We’d be gettin’ there long past nightfall, to where Lawrence’d sit behind bars, a’waitin’ fer our arrival and his home-takin’. How I come to be part o’ his retrival committee went like this. Mama in her sorry state needed Daddy, couldn’t find hide nor hair o’big brother Lincoln, Livvie was just plain useless, and Luce, well, like ever’body else we was just all scared o’ Luce. Then there was the youngin’s, and dogged if they wudn’t off to playin’ and rough housin’ once we got us certainty Lawrence was safe and sound and not a’headin’ off to Germany or Japan, or Italy, jest yet.
Yessiree, he’d been found out not so long after he lit out. Didn’t take no Einstein egghead to work that one out, neither.
But now. But now I was a’workin’ on a mystery of sorts.
How the hay (pardon my French) did dimwitted, muscle-headed, muddle-brained Lawrence git as fer as he did? Took some connivin’ and plannin’, and we all know, plannin’ nor thinkin’ of near any kind what-some-ever ain’t in big brother Lawrence’s wheelhouse.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my brother. He’s a Goodwell, after all. He’s far too handsome and slick fer his own good, all the girls giggle silly when he’s ’round. If it don’t beat all, he’ll flex them big ol’ arm muscles if they hum a tune, sendin’ them off to Giddytown, and then’ll shine that big ol’ white smile like they’s all the cat’s jammers. And it ain’t jest the girls, he can sway and charm a room full of grandmas down to the church social ‘r have the fellers hangin’ outside the Feed and Seed a laughin’ till they weep. Lawrence, he’s got hisself a way. Folks say one day, he could be president. A head full of white blond hair, cut short shootin’ sparks in the sunshine makes him almost as good lookin’ as one o’them movie stars on the poster boards down to the the-ater over to the county seat.
I wouldn’t woosh that on my worst enemy, says I.
But I’ll swan, he ain’t nothin’ but jest Lawrence, sixteen, big and mean, and the one from whom I’m most likely to get me my hand-me-downs. And I’ll defend him, after tacklin’ him best I can and gettin’ in a couple o’licks fer the trouble he brung to this family and Mama, to the bitter endin’.
But let’s us harken back to what’s ‘twixt his ears. Picture yerself a foggy night, windy wisps a swirlin’ and a’whirlin’ and vacant far-away rustles and mumbles whisp’rin’ to and hither and over yonder.
That’s be on a good day.
So, ain’t no way under Good God’s Heaven Lawrence thunk all this up his ownself and executed even to the miserable un-successful end he done did.
Big brother Lawrence had him some help. Laws’ if I ain’t goin’ to determinate jest who and how.
“Hey, there, you, boy?”
Um, what was that?
Grandpap brung me back to today with a sharp “Pay the man some attention” elbow poke to my skinny ribs.
“Yes, sir, Dep’ty, yes, sir?”
Follerin’ a deep sigh, denotin’ clear he’d hollered at me fer some time, “I axed you if you knew what sort of trouble yer brother’d been in iffin’ he’d made it all the way to Fort Leonard Wood. Iffin’ he’d actually snuck hisself into the U-nited States Armed Forces.”
I hid a sigh my ownself. Time fer a lesson.
If I could count the times I got the “what for” resultin’ from the wrongdoin’s of misbehavin’ kin, well, I’d be usin’ my fingers and toes and them of all my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and all they neighbors and kin.
Bein’ a Goodwell, however, meant we jest sat up tall and took what we was give. Like I was a’doin’ now.
‘Sides, Grandpap was a’givin’ me the eye.
“Boy, yer brother’d be hauled up ‘fore a mess o’generals and majors and judges and given him a court martial, like to spend rest o’his youth and some o’his a-dult years in some military prison some’war. You understand me?”
Yes, sir, I nodded, them spoke up after another rib-ticklin’, “Yes, Sir, Dep’ty!”
Havin’ my attention, and Grandpaps, he revved up for the long haul, “Yessirree, since that Hawai’yer de-bacle, boys yer brother’s age and younger, ” here he turned his long face to look me full on, “boys patriotic and wide-eyed, they been sneakin’ in to the recruitin’ offices, changin’ dates on they birth papers, lookin’ to enlist and ride off to save the world and shoot theyselves an enemy and eat cold dinner from a can.”
Turnin’ back to the road, and for this I was grateful as he had this ol’ beast floored, he give a self-satisfied smirk and chuckle.
“We been a’watchin’. Don’t you worry none ’bout that there. Them little peepsqueaks ain’t no idear what they be up against. We lawmen, we’re postin’ ourselves near ever’war, like them spies, a’watchin’ and a’waitin’.”
Cain’t have upright patriotic young fellers wantin’ to do they duty, no, sir….
“Cain’t have young fellers itchin’ fer adventure,” Dep’ty Quentin was havin’ hisself a time, “… a’playin’ at a’fightin’ a war what seasoned fellers with ex-purience and brave hearts been steppin’ up to do.”
I’ll admit I was startin’ to woosh ol’ Lawrence would o’got hisself away clean and clear. I’d stack his skills, though not his brains, next to quite a few I seen wavin’ to they tear-stained sweethearts down to the depot.
Now, how-some-ever, I was not only bound n’ determined to figure how Lawrence pulled this off as good and got as fer as he did, I found myself ready to give him aid the next time he lit out.
I swear to the Good Lord this is all true as I live and breathe.