“Come Hell r’ High Water”

“Don’t turn ’round, boy, mind yer own business,” the low voice went on, barely above a whisper.

How I could hear him so clear still befuddles me.  The auction corral was echoin’ to the sky with shouts ‘n hollers, and the silence of the stompled veternarian splayed bend and bleedin’ upon the dusty ground.

This ain’t no place fer heroes.  That’s what he said, be it to me or Daddy.  Heaviness weighed down my insides, it tasted somethin’ awful,  and I feared if I was to slip a look Daddy’s way, I’d see somethin’ I wudn’t wantin’ to see.

So I set.  And I did not turn left nor right nor ’round.  Daddy managed to touch my fingers, what was grippin’ tight upon the top fence rail where we was set, froze.  I swallered hard, hopin’ he’d see my Adam’s Apple a bobbin’ in response.  He an’ me, we was in this together.

The mayhem and confusion and wailin’ and flailin’ was rampin’ up.  Men and boys and cattle was runnin’, tangled in their indecision.  Still don’t know how long we was still, could’ve been seconds, felt like hours.  But Daddy, I could feel him decide before he leapt off the rail and hauled it to where the vet, he lay still.

Still.

I hauled my ownself, on his tail, lookin’ over his shoulder as he knelt beside the damaged man, that notebook clutched tight even still in his hand.  Folks made a wide circle behind us, givin’ room and settlin’ the panic.  Only a bit.  Some flash, some sound would send this little world into chaos again in a New York minute, but for now, there was breathin’ room.

Ain’t no place fer heroes, the low voice said.

But then, said I, there’s Daddy.

There’s Daddy

 

*********

“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

Hey.

Ho.

Liam here.  Missed you all somethin’ fierce.  Now, we ain’t been fightin’ no fars, nor we ain’t done floated down the river in the flood.  We done been right busy, though, we Goodwells.

I mention my folks and me, we’re the Goodwells?  The Goodwells of Denton County?  Yep, I got no doubt in my mind you heard somethin’ o’ us.  Grandpap, he practically owned him most o’ Denton County back in his day.

Now, his day done came and done went, but he made his mark, I kid you not.  An’ he’s still a’ huffin’ an’ a’puffin’ an’ a’makin’ hisself known all ’round!

But I digress.

Me’n my family, we near had to up and move, clean away from our home fer generations upon end here in Denton County, and the story ain’t quite seen its end.  I’m needin’ to set it to paper, thanks to Miss Meadow down to the school,  her remindin’ me some stories need to be tol’ before the endin’s been writ.

So here goes.

Me’n Daddy, me’n Daddy and Linc and Lawrence, and sometimes me’n Daddy and Linc and Lawrence and Grandpap ‘n Uncle Sedgwick, we all up an’ visit the livestock auction down to Polo ever’ month ‘r two ‘r six ‘r so.  This time, howsomever, it was me ‘n Daddy goin’ solo an’ we was havin’ us a fine’ ol’ time.

Got up ‘fore dawn, which ain’t unusual for us farmin’ folk.  Got us in the ol’ International pickup, cold breakfast at our feet and hot coffee steamin’ in our mugs.  We took precious care, I tell you what, in not lettin’ it slop over them fat white mugs.  Daddy makes his coffee hotter’n the far it takes to perc it!

My face, I’ll have you know, was grinnin’ from ear lobe to ear lobe.  Me’n Daddy, we don’t get time jest the two of us much often, bein’ we’re eight Goodwell children in our family alone, not countin’ cousins, second and third cousins, and kissin’ cousins what woosh they was real Goodwell cousins!

An’ Daddy, he was a grinnin’ his ownself, both at me an’ the world in gen’ral.  It was stretchin’ out to be a grand day for us Goodwell men.  An’ off we went.

Polo, little spot in the road next county over in DeKalb County (an’ don’t you go an’ get catched pronouncin’ that “l” in DeKalb!  Local’s like to hogtie you an’ tar’n feather you jest fer bein’ foreign!).  They ain’t much there to speak of.  Blink yer eyes and you’re like to miss it.  ‘Cept come auction day.  Some ol’ bird years ago name o’ Pike Pearson, he built him a barn with offshoots and corrals and even an’ indoor arena o’ some size, with benches built up like a three ring circus.  Even built hisself a snack shack outside with giant sized hamburgers and such.  His boys run the place now.  Law, I love me a cattle auction.

Daddy always buys us burgers.  Twice.  Law.

Drivin’ next to an’ hour, we made it ‘most unscathed, only one miniscule burn on my left shank when Daddy took a corner tight to miss Judge Huger’s big ol’ shiny black Cadillac takin’ its half plumb outta the middle.  Burned somethin’ fierce, but only fer a minute or ten.  I spit in my hand and rubbed it a time’r two fer good measure, sure.

We done ourselves some wanderin’, even some wonderin’, but Daddy’d done pronounced we wasn’t there to do no buyin’, nor no sellin’.  We was just notin the lay o’ the land fer the big Spring sale.  Fine by me, said I, munchin’ on burger number one. I jest relished the sights o’ the fresh brushed livestock, the smell o’ new hay, and the shoutin’ and wheelin’ and dealin’ o’ the farmers and stock traders.

We been there ’bout a hour, maybe a couple, my shiny boots dusty and my belly full.  Me ‘n Daddy, we was a perched upon a corral rail watchin’ a couple veternarians sashayin’ about, examinin’, then writin’ on their tablet.  Now, I know me somethin’ ’bout diseased livestock.  These here, they looked purty good to me.

Daddy’n me, we jest watched.

Why, time done slowed so much an’ we was so lost in the watchin’, no tellin’ how long we’d stayed perched when law!  Jest to my left hand, a writhin’ black steed, a’snortin’ with Hell’s own fury (Forgive me, Lord, but that there was a moment!  An’ Lord, please don’t tell Mama!), rid by some cowboy black hat low over his eyes, sailed over the fence upon which me’n Daddy was a’sittin’, so close I could feel the sweat a’flyin’ and the hair on the flank brush my cheek!  I near toppled and tangled in them flailin’ legs an’ but fer Daddy a’grabbin’ my shirt back, there’d like to be a mangled mess o’ me in that corral!

As it was, one o’ them vets, he had not a chance, couldn’t even blink an eye ‘fore that beast landed feet first on his shoulders, forcin’ him to the cowpied dust, then for punctuation, landed on his lower regions with his back two feet an’ kept on a’goin’, racin’ through the doe-eyed cattle and dumbfounded farmhands, leapin’ out the other side and headin’ lickity split toward the horizon!

I do not remember breathin’.  I do remember heavin’.  I recall jest the infinitesimal movement from my Daddy next to me,  I knew he was a’fixin’ to dive in an’ do what he could, I reckon.  The only other recollection was a low voice behind and betwist us two sayin’,

“This here is no place for a hero.”

…..an’ there be more to this story….

‘Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Now, look here, let’s jest us make a assumption right up front, for the sake o’ assumin’.

Mama’s Apple Pie is hot!

I mean straight from the oven hot, ooey gooey apple sauces oozin’ an’ bubblin’ from the slits Mama sliced on the top, shades of golden flakin’ crust pinched and shiny with Mama’s sugar butter glaze catchin’ the afternoon light, steam still a dancin’ and twistin’, hoverin’ jest above them toasty tasty mountains o’ de-light.

There ain’t no way under God’s good Heaven we Goodwells aim to wait clear till supper to have us a slice!  We come ninety to nothin’ from all over the farm, the ‘roma bein’ that intoxicatin’!  And here we set.  

Mama knew we’d come.  ‘Course she did.  I’d lay odds she fanned the steam risin’ from them pies with her apron straight out through the screen door to the back porch jest to catch our ‘ttention!

She loves fresh baked Apple Pie jest like the rest o’ us!  An’ like the rest o’ us Goodwells, she don’t aim to wait!

Now, to my left elbow round the big round kitchen table, there sets sweet little sister Loreen, quietest o’ all us.

She’s Apple Pie.  Plain an’ simple an’ so hot it’ll turn yer insides to charcoal.  She dives in right now, no lookin’ left nor right nor heavenward.  That slip o’a girl can eat!

Next roun’d be Lincoln, oldest o’ all us Goodwell young ‘uns. 

He’s Apple Pie swimmin’ in fast meltin’ homemade ice cream he’n Lawrence, next oldest, been churning since noon.  Takin’ turns addin’ salt an’ crankin’ an’  soppin’ water melts eekin’ from the churn they set up out to the barn.

Next to Linc., there’d be Lawrence, for one don’t go without the other’n.

Lawrence, big an’ handsome, he comes next ‘roun’ the circle.  

Mama’s give him a bigger slice that most, he’s a growin’ boy still, says she.  He takes it as his due, big ol’ slice looks to be still shiny with heat.  He eats his pie with a spoon, takin’ a giant bite, then divin’ into the tub o’ vaniller ice cream what sets in the middle for community eatin’, never even botherin’ to serve hisself, dippin’ his used utensil in, bite by bite, even standin’ to get him some leverage.  Mama stands aside, proud.  

Grandpap, he sets jest next, an’ he don’t abide bad manners no how, so pops Lawrence upside the head, grabbin’ the boy’s spoon an’ dippin’ a heap into Lawrence’s bowl.  Lawrence looks woeful but don’t say nothin’.  That’s be disprespectful.  He knows, an’how, Mama’ll let him lick the paddle later.  

Grandpap, he knows, too.  No matter.  He made his point.  He takes his Apple Pie a little cool, waitin’ fer the rest o’ us to gobble up our share.  Then, slow-like, he finds the slice o’ Velveeta cheese Mama set on one o’ her purty plates, the ones she saves fer when the ladies come over fer chats and such.  With the patience o’ Job an’ the determination o’ David, he wrassles that thick yeller slice to the top o’ his cooled pie, then comtemplates  what he hath wrought, jest fer a heartbeat.  Then with that same slow deliveration, he takes him his first bite, sliced with his fork jest so.

Ain’t nothin’, ain’t NOTHIN’ like watchin’ Grandpap rapturous, eyes slit to near naught, chewin’ like he been give elixir from God’s sweet angels.

Law.

Now Daddy, he’s at Grandpap’s elbow.  

He takes his pie how-some-ever Mama gives it to him.  He never fails to grab her hand an’ tell her how ‘ppreciative he his, how he don’t know how he got so lucky.  An’ Mama, lightin’ up like she ain’t never been treated so good, she agrees he IS lucky, an’ smacks his shoulder then giggles like the light o’ my life down to the school, Emily Sage Hawthorne.

Mama, she fair floats ‘roun’ the table, never once settin’, dippin’ more vaniller, slicin’ more pie, wipin’ the mouths of the twins who set next, who fuss and squirm an’ would durn druther wipe they mouths (an’ they noses) on their sleeves.  She herself always waits till we’re most done, then I catch her catchin’ me catchin’ her divin’ into the bits at the bottoms of the near empty pie plates.  We always share a smile, me and Mama.  We understand each other.

Them twins, Louis and Lawton, they eat jest slivers o’ Mama’s Apple Pie which only serve as the base of mountains of vaniller, more int’rusted in grabbin’ spoons backhanded and stirrin’ and beatin’ they ice cream into a Apple Pie spotted soup.

An’ they git more on themselves than in.  Ain’t seven too old fer that tomfoolery?

Comin’ roun’ the table, there’d be Luce, near a twin to me, but a tad older.  An odd duck, she eats her Apple Pie real slow.  She peels the shiny crusty top off the sliced gooey cinnamoned apples underneath, settin’ it to the side.  Then one by one, she spears them apple slices, lookin’ at em’ close, them poppin’ them whole into her mouth.  She finishes up with the sauce-laden crust, tiltin’ her head way back, slidin’ pieces in.  Ain’t certain I ever seen her chew.

Who knows why Luce does what she does?  Ain’t none o’ us wish to attract her wrath, so we let it slide.

Prissy Livvie, the oldest o’ the Goodwell girls, she eats itty bitty bits, hardly barely openin’ her mouth, then wipin’ the corners like they’d be an’thin’ there.  Ain’t no ice cream for her.  Says it makes her fat.  But I tell you what, she still don’t miss Mama’s Apple Pie!  And she does clean her plate!

Then there’s me.  Liam Goodwell, third son o’ the Goodwells o’ Denton County.  

An’ I’ll take Mama’s Apple Pie hot or cold or buried under vaniller, an’how, an’ any time.

‘Cept don’t give me no Velvetta.  Don’t look natural, somehow.

 

*********

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Ain’t nothin’ like Mama’s Apple Pie.

Ain’t NOTHIN’ like Mama’s Apple Pie.

An’ ain’t never a time she don’t make more’n one.  Law, us Goodwells, all us kids and aints and uncles and neighbors what jest happen along or outlaws in need o’ a hand o’ kindness or Grandpap or hey, even the huntin’ dogs and barn cats, we all us come a’runnin’ once we get us a whiff o’ that golden crisp brown sugar aroma what whafts and dances an’ sneaks  up ‘pon us delicate-like.  

Then Wham oh BAM, it slugs us upside the head till we cain’t see straight!  Our tongues get thick, our eyes fair to water with tears o’ joy, and our insides rumble like the ol’ potato truck over to the German POW camp we ain’t s’posed to know nothin’ ’bout, out to the used up quarry!

So Mama, she makes a slew.

Now these here pies, they ain’t perfec’ to look upon.  But I reckon purty’s in the eyes o’ the beholdin’.  An’ one you tried yerself a slice, you ain’t never ever goin’ back to them dry faded ol’ triangles under that glass down to the soda fountain in the drug store down to town.

If you ain’t been privy to the makin’, it’s well worth a watch.  But this tellin’, this here’s ’bout the anticipatin’.

Pinched round the edges quick as a lick, Mama’s fingers sound like a snip then a snap, hunerd or fifty times ‘roun’ the outside.  Like a ‘ssembly line, she snip snaps three, four, five pies.  Unless she’s borried  more pie pans from the church ladies.  We only got us five.

But I digress.

Then with the utmost care, she picks up her apron, decorated with faded-y apples and pears, and removes the black cast iron pot from the top o’ the stove, where it’s been bubblin’ slow and smellin’ like Heaven it’s ownself, some concoction o’ churned butter’n browned sugar an’ white, too, if we got it.

Well, with a feathered brush, with an artist’s clear eye, she’ll dab and dot and slide that sucker ‘roun in the butter/sugar then if she don’t paint ever crevice and bump on the top o’ that quarter inch crust atop that pie.  With a flourish, she’ll step back, admire her work, then lay on one last layer.

She’ll do that till the butter/sugar’s plumb gone.  We Goodwells, we don’t waste us an’thing.

Then this here?  This here’s where the anticipation starts.  She’ll, one by one, carry them glass rounds, mounded to overflowin’ with perforated white dough, now sogged with sweet buttery heaven and smellin’ o’ the heaps o’ sugared apple slices tucked underneath,  an’ slide ’em ever so careful into the oven.  Now, if you stoop real low, you can see the red hot coals to the bottom an’ the back an’ feel the whoosh o’ heat fair to melt yer face.

‘Ain’t no matter, I do my fair share o’ peekin’ in, once them pies all find their spots, like a puzzle, somehow.  Reckon I couldn’t get them suckers to fit, but then, my job ain’t the fixin’, it’d be the eatin’!

Now, here’s where I slide philosophical.  I reckon this ol’ world offers ever’thing Even Steven.  Ever’body, through hard work or bein’ in the right place at the right time, they got themselves ever’ opportunity ever’body else has.  Ain’t nothin to do with how many years they got under they belt, nor how few.  Ain’t got nothin’ to do with whether they was born big nor tall nor short nor fat nor girl baby nor boy baby nor under a rock nor if they be yeller nor green or soft or sassy.

Law, you should see Mama shoe a horse or’ toss hay on a near full wagon.  An’ you should hear my Daddy sing like a angel come Communion Service down to the church.  He hits notes I ain’t never touched!

My point is, how-some-ever, is that we ain’t all got to do it all.  Mama?  She ain’t inclined so much to muck no stalls, but I’ll bet she’d do it in record time an’ cleaner’n all the rest o’ us.  Daddy?  He wudn’t inclined to go past high school, the ranchin’ and farmin’ called his name, but ask him near an’thin’ ’bout an’thin’ an’ you’ll learn a load, I tell you what!

An’ me?  Liam Goodwell, third son o’ the Denton County Goodwells?  I ain’t so inclined to be bakin’ me no pies, though I ‘llow I’d do ’em up fine.  ‘Cept that snip snappin’, maybe.

But while I ain’t inclined to be there at the makin’, I ain’t never passed up a chance to do the imbibin’.

No.  Not never ever.

Now, if you all’ll ‘scuse me, I’ll be meanderin’ up to the house di-rectly.  There’s good times at the Goodwells this day!

 

*************

 

 

‘Tween a Crock an’a Hard Space

Hey, ho!  Here we be goin’!

Liam here, Liam Goodwell, amongst a passel o’ Goodwells an’ Mickelwaits, sweatin’ shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh in the bed o’ Grandpap’s big ol’ International pickup!  We’re a’bouncin’ and bumpin’ over ruts and potholes deep enough to sink a fat sow, (Grandpap don’t aim t’miss a’one!) an’ we’re a’beamin’ and a’screechin’ fer joy, pure and true!

‘Cause we Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits), we’re off on a vay-cay-tion!

Ain’t never been on one o’them before this!  Oh, sure, we go off on the odd fishin’ trek over to the Mississippi, or closer to the Big Platte, an’ we’ll camp under the stars fer the night, build us a far, smoke us some marshmallers and brewtime coffee in a tin can.

But this here time, this here, this is a fer real, durned tootin’ actuality of a git-away gone!

All the way to St. Louie!  Saint Louie!  Clear to the other side o’ our blessed state of Missouruh!  Why, if we play ar’ cards right, we may get us across the Ol’ Miss and his Illinois!  Law!  Law!  We’re movin’ on down the line, all us Goodwells ,and near all the Mickelwaits, on the road right this very minute caravannin’ three ve-hicles off to a new adventure!  We aim to drive till we git there, ’cause when we do?   When we do?!!!!

We’re, all us Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits, we’re checkin’ ourselves into a MOTEL!

A Blessed Hallelujah Praise Jesus MOTEL!  With indoor plumbin’ an’ wood on the inside walls an’ a swimmin’ pool with painted blue tiles under the water!

Lord!  Lord!  Fergive my blasphemation, but Jesus, Lord God, you shore are blessin’ us Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits!

My e-magination, it’s fairly takin’ over my brain with light and joy and visions o’ swimmin’ in a hole jest meant fer that there!  Ain’t no horse been slobberin’ in it, ain’t no fish been feedin’ in it, nor floatin’ dead on the top.  Ain’t no skeeters buzzin’ along the hazy slip o’ air skimmin’ jest above.  Ain’t no mud on the bottom, ain’t no green slime on the top.

Ain’t gotta watch fer no copperheads, neither.

We all got us swimmin’ at-tar from the Montgomery Ward down to Kansas City, brung to us special seein’ as the catalogue order would take too long.

We are some lucky ducks, ain’t we?

An’ more’n that?  As if we could handle the un-abated de-light of any more’n that?!

We ain’t payin’ fer one bit, not one iota!  Not a’ one!  Even the swimmin’ at’tar, it was a gift.

Grandpap, he been makin’ hisself scare of late, since Daddy an’ Leston Pike been conspirin’ on the down low, come stompin’ int’ the kitchen week before week before last, fair shoutin’.

“I’m a’doin’ it!  I’m a’doin’ it!  We takin’ this family away fer a spell!  We’re takin’ us on a sojourny jest fer the fun o’ the doin’ it!”

Why, he went on an’ on’ an’ we all, well, we was all jest froze in our tracks.  Well, we was froze until we lept out our skins in un-di-luted rapture!  

Hallelujah an’ Hark the Herald an’ Hosannas to the High!  We be takin’ ourselves, all us Goodwells, an’ near all the Mickelwaits, on a va-ca-tion!  Law!

 

‘T’wudn’t till some time later we was to chance upon the fact this here was orchestrated by, and paid in full by, the Judge.

 

But Katy bar the door, we wudn’t figurin’ on no conspiracy, no how!  We was a’singin’ and a’wavin’ at passersby and bein’ as gleeful as a pig in a mud puddle!

Any menace a’brewin’ in the real world didn’t mean much to us Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits this day!

We was goin’ swimmin’ in a pool meant jest fer that there!

**********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tween a Crock and a Hard Space”

Hey ho.  Liam here, still sticky’n still wedged low ‘neath the gray porch.

Did nobody never ponder themselves paintin’ the underneath side o’ these ol’ weathered boards?  Truth is, I been under here plunty, thousands or hund’erds o’ times, chasin’ cats, pullin’ out rapscallion twin brothers, buryin’ treasure.  But hidin’ down here for nigh on least a hour or a half, why, what’s a feller to do but contemplate him the conundrums what lay before, or above him.

An’ paintin’ these here boards would o’been a sight more pleasin’ to the eye o’all us who shimmy down this way.

I may mention this to Grandpap, once I find myself ready to confess to what end I was lyin’ down here in the dirt.

Leston and Daddy, they be up above, nursin’ they iced sweet tea an’ rockin’ to who laid a chunk in a couple o’Mama’s rockin’ chairs.  They shore ain’t sayin’ much, least not ’bout much but the weather an’ the price o’beef over to St. Joe.  But Leston, he been a reg’lar on the porch the last few days and I’m aimin’ to find out jest why.

I’m almost, I say almost, find my eyes a closin’ ‘gainst the heat an’ the bugs.  No, I ain’t a’nappin’.  No time fer nappin’, and anyhow, I don’t b’lieve it it, not whatsoever.  Think o’all I’d be a’missin’ was I to ‘llow myself unconsciousness to overtake me durin’ daylight hours.  Too much goin’ on in this ol’ world fer me to give any up.

I will ‘llow I might jest rest my eyes once r’ twice ever’ now an’ ag’in.

An’ I know I ain’t foolin’ nobody, least of all my ownself, but there it is.  A feller’s got to draw him a line, even if it’s with his own person.

No nappin’.  Not fer ol’ Liam.

But I digress.

Once I snuck and stuck myself down here in my hidey hole I was committed.  I was silent as a church mouse an’ so dry I was spittin’ cotton but I’d made me my bed and I’d see this mystery through.

Gol’ DANG, though, I wooshed them fellers’d hurry themselves up.  Time’s a’tickin’.

Time’s a tickin ‘.

Tick.

Tick.

“You aimin’ to sell, then, Duke?”

Great Horned Spoon, whaaat?!

Tickin’ done stopped when the talkin’ done started.  Not sure I’m a’breathin’!  I pressed my top ear to the bottom o’the slat crack.

“Well, sir,” begun my Daddy, rockin’ straight atop me dead stopped.  My guess he’s balanced up front on them rocker rails, a posture reg’lar fer him when he’s contemplatin’ somethin’ of portent.  

My head, though, it’s plum banging through my eardrums, Sell what?!  Sell what?!  I’m ’bout to pop!

“Well, sir,” Daddy drawled slow-like,”The Judge, he made hisself quite an offer, looks like he done similar to next to ever’ owner in Denton County, least this side o’ the river.”

Say it ain’t so.

He went on, never once sending them rails back to center,”We Goodwells, we been livin’ on this land fer generations on end.”

Oh, no.

This is where Leston slid in.  “Now, Duke, you ain’t been on this here property longer’n forty years.  Yer Daddy lost the hilltop land back before the last war.”

Ah oh.

I could feel the contempt in Daddy’s black brown eyes,  knew they was narrowin’ an’ borin’ holes in ol’ Leston’s own faded-y ones.

Heavy foggy silence held sway fer longer’n I cared for.  My insides was turnin’ cartwheels, my straw hair was clumped wet with sweat and under-the-porch filth, I durned near come to a’hollerin’ or kickin’ or even cussin’, if it wudn’t a sin.

Daddy spoke.  Quiet.  Hard as a Bois d’Arc heartwood.  Lethal.  Deadly as a nine-foot copperhead snake.  Dangerous.  Menacin’ as a Missouruh cougar crouched up a tree.

“Well, Leston, I reckon you an’ me, we et’ up the afternoon.  Let’s you an’ me give it a rest fer this day.”

And thusly, Leston, he was dismissed.  Daddy, resumed his rockin’ jest once or twice. 

Then.  

“Liam.  You’n me, let’s us take a walk, Son.”

Law.  

Ain’t but two choices, scramble out or face the consequences o’ Daddy draggin’ me out.

‘Spose I’ll chose the first, though both’r bound for unpleasantness.

 

 

 *************

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space…”

Hot as a Three-dollar Pistol!

 

These here are the continued collections o’ recollections o’ one Liam Goodwell, that’s be me, who’s been put up to these here chronicles by Miss Meadow, down to the school an’ who will never never, no never know I jest may be enjoyin’ myself jest a little.

Here ‘n there.

 

Now, it’s the sticky heat of new summer.  Steam comes up from the crick an’ the river further down, makin’ a little fog over the long grasses.  Horses an’ tractors alike slip and slide over the dew, and near ever’thing looks jest a whit whilted, plant and animal and mankind alike.

So what the hay’m I doin’ tucked in the skinny space ‘tween the worn gray boards o’ the front porch an’ the leanto attached to the side?  Believe you me, ain’t no stirrin’ o’ no breeze down here.  Ain’t no relivin’ the itch o’ the puffs of black powdered dirt ‘ttachin’ clusters here’n there on my person.  Ain’t no tellin’ how long I’ll be hidin’ out here, seein’ as I chose my ownself to wedge my thirteen year old gangly, rangy body down here to do myself some reconnaissance.

A feller’s got to what what a feller’s got to do.  An’, fed up as I am wont to be, I need to know what’s goin’ on.  Comin’s and goin’s o’ neighbor Lester Pike, dis-engagement o’ Grandpap in whatever matter’s bein’ discussed, the fac’ ain’t nobody shared none o’ this with nobody else, why, I vow I need to know!

So here I lay. A’waitin’.  A’sweatin’.  A’tangled up like some durned pretzel from the county fair.

Law, sneakin’ ’round shore ain’t glamorous like in the the-ater.  Them fellers, both sides o’ the law, manage to stay slick and suave.  Me, I’m just slick with sweat, and now some durned bugs ‘r findin’ my neck worthy of investigation.

I’m jest now thinkin’ it best I give up my investigatory sloothin’ for the day, when jest that minute, Leston’n Daddy saunter theyselves out onto the porch, footsteps punctuated by the slam o’ the screen door.

Mama’s no doubt cringin’ in the house somewheres.  Ain’t no slammin’ nothin’ in the Goodwell household.

I shimmy a little further in my hidey-hole, seein’ there shadows through the slats in the agin’ gray slats.  Leston chooses the rockin’ chair on the right, farthest away from me, and I note a sliver o’ discomfiture.  Ol’ Leston, he’s a slow and low talker an’ I may miss somethin’.

But then he posits, “Hot day, ain’t it, Duke?”

An’ fore my daddy takes his seat in the rocker di-rectly over top o’ me, I hear the twinkle crinkle o’ the ice floatin’ in his iced tea glass, I find myself hearin’ almost as good, was I settin’ smack in the midst o’ them two.

I decide to ignore the dirt and the sweat.  An’ the bugs.  But likely not the heat.  I’m figurin’ by now I got me dirt rings roun’ my nose holes from breathin’ in this dust.  An’ I’m thirsty now as all get out!

I’ll give it my best.

Clink clink clack rattle swirl gulp.  Don’t know which, but one o’ them’s takin’ his time with his iced sweet tea.  This is as near tortureous as a boy can imagine, leastwise a boy’s who’s hunkered in the twelve inch crevice below the porch.

Now, there’s much to be said ’bout Mama’s sweet tea.  I grown up guzzlin’ it for dinner and supper ever’ day o’ my life that I can recollect.  Ain’t nothin’ like a long slow snort when the heats got to you, as well.

Mama, she has a kettle on the black stove near all day, steepin’ Lipton tea bags, hangin’ the strings outside and tyin’ ’em in a little one bow knot to keep ’em from fallin’ in an’ havin’ to fish ’em out.  She keeps her a bottle o’ simple syrup (now a slug o’ that’ll grow hair on yer back!) made from boilin’ hot water and cups and cups o’ sugar in the icebox for sweetner.

We Goodwell children, all us kids, we count our blessin’ reg’lar Mama likes her sweet tea sweet!  I mean, SWEET!  It’s purtin’ near dessert in a glass, I kid you not!

Even Luce don’t complain, and that girl, she complains ’bout most ever’thing!

Clink clink clack rattle swirl gulp.

Long skinny glasses filled to the brim with ice, Mama then mixes her steeped tea with the simple syrup and pours it hot over the ice.  It’s grand fun to watch the ice melt itself into the dark brown liquid, lightin’ it to amber, and let me tell you, that first few slugs, not quite cold, not too hot to chug, that there may be the most satisfyin’ part o’ my whole meal!

“Well, Leston Pike, I’d say for shore, it’s durned hot.  Durned hot.”

Jawin’s beginnin’.  Time fer me to focus in an’ pay me some attention.

 

Durned bugs.