The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
—- Mark Twain
Or gettin’ back to even, dad gum it!
Hey ho, Liam back ag’in!
Bet you was a’wonderin’ jest where this boy got to!
Let me tell you, it ain’t been a easy road.
Fact is, this here, sitiation we fin’ ourselves in, it’s been one long row to hoe.
An’, we got us rows clean to the horizon and back. And to the horizon and back. And to the horizon and back. You know how rows go.
See here, we had us a cat-astrophe. An’ as cat-astrophes go, we done fair to middlin’. We, all us Goodwells, we be alive and well and unscathed, mostly. ‘Cept fer Louis and Lawton, the twins. They got them some burns to they hands tryin’ to retrieve Grandpap’s treasure chest out from under his bed.
An’ me. I got me some singed hair (boy does THAT stink to high heaven!) and crispy fried ears draggin’ them rangy boys kickin’ and wallerin’ out from under.
Now, if you ain’t figured it yet, I’ll give you a hint. If you’re a’figurin’ we had us a far, well, that we did. An’ I won’t.
Ol’ flue piped ‘tween Grandpap’s room and the kitchen, it clogged itself right good and burned half our house, singed black with scales like a big ol’ black stinky fish.
Few days ago, Mama, she was a’stokin’ the stove, pokin’ in bits o’ litter paper.
“Honey?” aimed at Daddy, “You smell somethin’?”
Then Daddy, “I smell that newspaper. Ink smells particular greasy. I’ll open a window.”
Mama, she stood fast, nose up, sniffin’ the air this a’way an’ that, arms spread wide, like to stop the air from movin’.
“No, this ain’t paper, nor ink, nor that wet wood you boys brung in last evenin'” This here was aimed to Louis and Lawton, who aimed their own attention heads down to their breakfastin’.
“No,” Mama turned about slow, “somethin’ jest don’t smell right. Livvie? You’n Linc go on outside, see what you c’n see.” An’ when Livvie, all purty curls and fluff, when she wrinkle up her nose and pickle up her mouth, Mama, she waved her on, “Go on! Go see what you c’n see, the both o’you!”
Don’t nobody question Mama twice, an’ near never even once, so they shoved away from the breakfast table and their yeller scrambled eggs and crispy crunchy bacon and fresh white biscuits, slight underdone, slathered in butter and Mama’s huckleberry jam, and hauled themselves out the backdoor, careful not to slam the screen, and further incur Mama’s wrath.
That’s when me’n Luce, we both perked up, same time, which ain’t unusual.
“Mama!” we both hollered at once, “Somethin’s burnin’!”
With that, all us Goodwells, we near to upended the table, grabbin’ pots ‘n buckets n’ pitchers n’ such, runnin’ to the sink an’ out to the pump over the well out to the smoke house. Livvie an’ Lincoln, them come runnin’ in at the same time, hollerin’ they was flames shootin’ out the chimneypiece, catchin’ them ol’ rotted wood shingles a’far one at a time.
Smoke filled the kitchen right quick, Mama stood fannin’ her apron and swooshin’ all us kids out the back door. That’s when Lawton and Louis, they broke loose from the muddle and mayhem and ‘scaped to Grandpap’s room, be-hind the kitchen.
“We’ll save it, Grandpap!” they hollered. “We’ll save yer treasure!” An’ if I wudn’t so worried ’bout their state of livlihood, I’d’ve been bustin’ my buttons. Them two been a high time a minute an’ a skirmish a second since they was born into this world seven, near eight years ago. Nice to see them takin’ some thought o’ somebody else.
I filed that away in my head till this here cat-astrophe, it was done and over with.
Well, didn’t nobody have to tell me twice, nor even once in this case, I give Mama a look, she give me one back, an’ me and Luce, we hauled after them wildcats.
“Here! Lawton! Louis! Get yerselves outside right now!” Me and Luce, we each grabbed a couple o’dungareed legs, bent ’em this a’way an’ that. Truth be tol’, we may’ve glomed onto a leg from each one, but the way they was a’kickin’ and squallin’, we, me an’ Luce, we didn’t much care.
The smoke was next to intolerable, breathin’ hard and puffin’ whist rasslin’ these youngin’s was wearin’ us plumb out. They hollered like they heads was on far, but Grandpap’s treasure chest, a flat metal box stenciled with numbers salvaged from WWI surplus, it was blazin’ hot an’ ’twas their hands burnin’, not their heads. Still, enterprisin’ fellers they is, an’ ag’in I’ll give ’em credit another day, they pulled them legs out our grasps and shimmied themselves ’round underneath the bed, disappearin’. Law, if then, jest when I’d headed under that bed after them, danged if Grandpap’s treasure chest didn’t come a’slidin’ out, with them two, Louis and Lawton, a kickin’ to who laid a chunk, and law, if they didn’t kick that sucker out with their boots.
I grabbed me one twin, Luce the other, an’ we hightailed it out the house to the backyard. Yeller an’ orange blazes was climbin’ and lickin’ the wall ‘tween the bedroom an’ the kitchen, an’ I smelled the stink of my hair cracklin’ and fryin’.
I did, however, given the gumption o’ them two, I did without thought or a hesitation, run right back in from whence I came, doin’ my own version o’ kickin’ out Grandpap’s scorched treasures, out through the smoky kitchen, ‘cross the back porch and out to the dirt patch beyond.
Now, I wudn’t no hero. But Grandpap’s treasures, some he’s been known to share, others not, they are his firm foundation an’ I wudn’t sure jest how he’d go on ‘thout ’em.
An’ truth is, I did it as much fer them boys as I did fer Grandpap. Jest finishin’ what them boys started, them rapscallions.
Just ain’t sure I’m ready to give them credit for that, jest yet!
Put that out my mind, too, grabbed me a bucket an’ got me to doin’ my part to save the Goodwell abode.