“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

(musin’s and confusin’s of my Daddy’s Midwest childhood)

 

Seems we Goodwells, when we got us someplace to go we get ourselves there lickity split.  An’ so it was here an’ now.

Daddy an’ me, we fair sailed from the auction barn, Daddy behind the wheel o’ the International an’ me holdin’ on fer dear life!  I’ll swan we pitched ourselves into ever’ pothole an’ tore ourselves up ever’ unseen projectile upendin’ itself underneath our tires.  Sand an’ soil an’ cowpies, petrified and otherwise, spat clean up to where our windows would have been had they been rolled up.

Which they wudn’t.

The engine underneath the hood came close to singin’, it was so happy to be up an’ at ’em and gettin’ some deserved facilitatin’ and acceleratin’!  Hummin’ and gunnin’, it was hittin’ on all cylinders an’ happy to be doin’ it.

I always did love that pickup truck.

Fore an’ aft an’ ever’where inbetweenwise.

Glancin’ over to Daddy, his face was all angles and determination, eyes like bullets, jaw set like ce-ment.  He wudn’t goin’ to let stand what that black horse and rider did to that veternarian.  He wudn’t goin’ to let stand whatever part Judge Huger had in stealin’ him away from them that was givin’ aid.

I always did love my Daddy when he got intent and resolute.

Outwardwise an’ inwardwise an’ ever’where inbetweenwise.

Folks was hollerin’ and wavin’ their hats our way, wudn’t sure jest why at the time, an’ it didn’t seem right to grin so I didn’t.  Vet feller may not make it after all.  But deep in my heart, I was proud as punch my Daddy had in him some gumption to do somethin’.

Somethin’.

He’d know what to do.  This was my Daddy we was talkin’ about.

Whateverwise that somethin’ was….

But, Law!  We wasn’t headin’ back home to sort out us a plan or to think through the next thing we should be a’doin’!

Law!  We was barrelin’ clean the other di-rection, swingin’ way wide left ‘stead o’ right back to the farm!  Our unswervin’ singleminded International pickup was haulin’ our backsides quick as a lic k, doubletimin’ the tracks o’ Judge Huger’s shiny black Cadillac!  An’ Daddy, he was leanin’ hisself forward, feet workin’ that clutch and that transmission whinin’ and wailin’ fer all it was worth!

Law!  If I didn’t sweep off my own sweat-stained straw hat an’ wave it myself!

Law!  We was goin’ to have us a “Come to Jesus meetin'” with the ol’ Judge!

Law!  The world was ’bout to change!

*********

 

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‘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.

 

 

‘Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space…

Come ag’in?

 

Well, hey!  Been a long time!

This here’s Liam!  Liam Goodwell, scion ‘n third son  o’  us Denton County Goodwells!

You shore been missed!

Well, mostly….when I had me half a minute to think.  This here started a long hot bacon-sizzlin’ summer, I tell you what.  Been plantin’ an’ mowin’ and haulin’ an’ stuff like that there till I been fallin’ dead to rights on my bed come bedtime with my boots still hangin’ from my feet!  Now, my big brothers, they pummice me with pillers ’till I wake enough to kick ’em off…often in their di-rection.  Last ev’nin’, bam! Nailed ol’ Linc upside the head!  Boom!  Smacked ol’ Lawrence in the left elbow.

Then Lawrence, he catched that boot ‘fore it hit the floor and usin’ his pitchin’ prowess, sent a fast and hard strike to my midsection.  Oooof.  Daddy hollered from the other room, “Hey, you fellers, put yerselves a stop to what’s goin’ on in there ‘r I’m a’comin’ in!”

Game over.  Lawrence smirked, victorious once ag’in.  His timin’, I’ll admit, rests on the edge of perfection.

Oooof.

But that ain’t here nor there.  You been missed and I ‘spect I best claim responsibility, as I ain’t writ fer weeks an’ days.  Seems plumb f’ever, somehow.

‘Ppears we Goodwells, however, we have us a sit-iation.  Over the course o’ the last seven days, or six, we been gittin’ these visits ‘most daily from our neighbor to the northeast, Leston Pike.  Scrawny son of a gun, long and lanky with stooped shoulders an’ long monkey arms what sway back ‘n forth near to his knees.  Ol’ Leston, he’s tanned to leather, with a skinny hooked nose an’ a straw yeller hairs stickin’ out his ears.  Good feller, but keeps to hisself, hence the mystery o’ his visits.  No family to speak of, lest you count his hound dog, Drum.  An’ his sister Wandette what lives over to St. Joe an’ who drives over most ever’ Sunday to cook him a proper dinner an’ who fixes hair fer a livin’.

‘Cept Leston’s.  That ol’ hair in his ears near always looks the same before she come to visit an’ after she takes off back home in her shiny green Buick.  Business must be brisk at her hair fixin’ place.

Well, as I was sayin’, Leston’s been hikin’ over jest past noontime dinner right reg’lar.  Him an’ Daddy, they set out on the front porch, sippin’ Mama’s sweet tea.  Grandpap, he ain’t a part o’ these here conversations, which I find odd and some disconcertin’.  He makes hisself scarce, busyin’ hisself in the barn out out to the garden.

He hums a little bit, too, jest like Mama when she’s a’hoppin’ mad an’ dancin’ with the point o’ no return.  This here gives me pause.

That them two on the porch, they never do really look to-wards one another, but talk out to the yard out front, that they talk in whispers, near, gives me yet another pause.

Never did like whisperin’, be it ‘tween goofy gigglin’ girls or fellers down to town on a corner, sizin’ up passersby.  Whisperin’ tells me one thing.  If what they have to say ain’t fer public consumption, it ain’t worth sayin’.  Hairs stand to attention at the back o’ my neck, if I’ve had me a recent haircut.  Mama calls it a sixth sense, says she’s got it too, and Law, I do believe her!  I could tell you stories.

An’ I believe she and me, we’re kindred spirits that way some, but when it come to soft talk an’ eyes what holler “hush hush” when me or anybody gets too close, well, I don’t speculate so much as jest get mad.

Luce, my next oldest sister, she says I’m jest feelin’ self-important, that I ain’t s’posed to know ever’thing ’bout ever’body.  An’ maybe she’s right.

An’ then, maybe she ain’t.

Either way, whisperin’ an’ a’talkin’ an’ sneakin’ ’round ain’t any part o’ what I claim is right.

(‘Cept when it comes, I reckon, to birthdays and Christmastime…but I digress.)

So this day, the burblin’ in my tummy set me in motion and I found me a quiet nook in the gap ‘twixt the porch an’ the leanto me an’ my big brothers call our room.  Cool soft dirt what puffs jest a bit when I git myself settled.  I give myself some deny-ability (That’s what Luce called it when she found me and tossed me a gunnysack to lay my head) were anybody to find me down in my hide-y hole.  Jest restin’ my eyes a bit ‘fore I head back out fer chores, I’d imply.

Now, while I’d imply,  I’d never lie.  Not out loud.  That there, that’d be a sin, and duplicitous in the eyes of the good Lord Almighty!  No sir-eee!  No sinnin’ fer me!

Jest eavesdroppin’.  Ain’t no commandment ’bout that I heard tell of.

 

 

I settle myself in an’ wait fer Leston and Daddy to saunter out with their iced sweet tea an’ tell that front yard a thing ‘r two.

 

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