“Dang me!”

Hey.  This here’s Liam, settin’ pen to paper yet a’gin, jest like Miss Meadow, down to the school, requested of me I do.  And so, I reckon I’ll give’er another shot.

One thing par-ticular she’s wont to admonish me over’n over.  “A-luminate the moment!” says she.  Don’t be too danged grand, jest pick you a minute out the hund-erds durin’ the course o’livin’, and di-ssect the thing inside and outwards, too.

Given Miss Meadow, she finds herself par-ticular enamored o’my ways with words, well, I’m likely to wrestle with it a mite.  Jest to prove it can be done.

Well, I picked me a moment.  It ain’t purty, it ain’t worthy of learning a lesson nor is it sweet as pie nor does it have a happy endin’.  Truth be tol’ it now and forever won’t leave the front of my mind, so to be rid of it, I’m puttin’ it down to paper.  Then I’m like to burn it.  And it that there don’t e-rase it from my head, I don’t know what will.

Here’s the deal.  All us Goodwells, while we’re cream o’ the crop when it comes to Denton County, Missouri, US of A, we come down a few pegs since Grandpap had to, years ago,  up and sell parcels o’and from the top of the hill where our fore-bears once lived in peace and tranquility and abundance.  We still got us a hund’erd acres or so, but we’re livin’ plum in the shadder of that same purty hill.  Ofttimes, Grandpap’ll snitch him a glance up thataway, and I’ll catch him and he’ll give me a toothy grin, but I know he’s a hidin’ some pain.

Well, we survive jest fine.  Some give, some take, family circles the wagon come hell ‘r high water, and we share and share alike.  Why, jest this very mornin’, come breakfast-time, I seen Louis and Lawton, the seven-year-ol’ troublesome twins of the Goodwell household,  they was each a’wearin’ a shirt I have recollections of a’wearin’ my ownself.  Back when I was half the size I am now.  Shirts been through Mama’s wringer more’n once, I tell you what, fadin’ to a nice color of runny blue.  Or is it green?

Still, they’s not threadbare and they got most they buttons, so they’ll work for another day.

And therein lies the backcloth of my moment.

Not that it matters one iota, ’cause it don’t, but I figure ‘tween Grandpap and Daddy and big brothers Lincoln and Lawrence, I ain’t never, ever, in the history of Liam Elias Ephraim Goodwell, I ain’t never had me a new shirt nor a new pair o’dungarees nor a new coat nor a new nothin’.

Least of which, I ain’t never had a new pair of boots, one’s what wasn’t pre “shot to smithereens” from the wearers what come before.  It ain’t scuffin’ what bothers me so much, it’s the holes in the toes and the soles and ever’thing in the middle.

I know what you’re a’thinkin’ even ‘fore you say it, “Count yer blessin’s, boy, they’s child’ern in China ain’t got no shoes at all, got feet with soles like leather they ownselves jest to git by.”

And you’d be dead on.  I reckon if I’ve a failin’, it’s the one where I long fer a new pair o’footware to call my own.  Call me selfish, call me self-servin’ and mean, but I got me bumps and lumps on my feet where they surely shouldn’t have to be, squeezin’ into boots and shoes what wudn’t never meant to fit the likes o’where my rubber hits the road.

Now, it prob’ly don’t matter much, and you’re like to not give a hill o’beans, but I’d settle fer jest some shoes, maybe ones with real shoestrings ‘stead of de-twists of rope from the barn.  Truth is, my dream would be boots, shiny to start, only my feet been in ’em, stretched to jest my par-ticular toe stretch.  but that’d be a stretch its ownself, and as soon as that thought crosses my mind, I cross it right out a’gin.

My wants are few, and I’m liable to live my life in hand-me-down ever’thing.  But this day, this day done took the cake.  I’m so without words I jest want to spit.  And I’m like to..

At that same breakfast-time, jest when I was notin’ the shirts the fronts of which Louis an’ Lawton was dribblin’ they eggs and some honey, well, I’d jest then come in from the barn.

“Mama?”  I’d hollered, “Mama?  I cain’t even push my feet into these ol’ boots!  Near had to do my chores barefooted, even got me some splinters.”

Mama looked up from where she was a’fryin’ another pan o’bacon, exter-crisp like I like.

“Listen here, Liam, you jest give them boots one more day.  Linc and Lawrence, they done lit out and I know they ain’t got no more shoes a’waitin’.  And Grandpap’s and Daddy’s, they’s way too big fer you jest yet.  Give ’em one more day, Son.”

This is where Mama give me “the look.”  The one what says I feel yer pain, bein’ the middle boy of all the children, but they ain’t a sliver of ‘nothin’ I cain do to he’p.

What she didn’t know was, the last month r’so, I been wrappin’ ol’ socks and tape round and round jest to keep them in attached to my person.  Don’t know if my feet had them a overnight growth spurt, like other parts of my bein’,  but they wudn’t a way in the world my feet would fit down ‘side them boots this mornin’, and the bindin’, why it plum disinter-grated, poof.

“Let me see ’em,” she tossed over her shoulder, “after you finish yer breakfast.”

Now the other kids, they didn’t give me no nevermind.  We was always borryin’ and makin’ do.  And I crunched myself through a platter of bacon, them had me some eggs and some o’Mama’s biscuits, all fluffy and white slathered with farm butter and honey.  Law, I felt good.  Mama’d take care o’ it.

That’s when Lawton hollered.  ‘R was it Louis?  Don’t matter much.  Result’s the same.

“Looky here what the dog drug in!”

And look I did.  They was what I thought must o’been what was left of the sole of my left boot hangin’ out the side o’ ol’ Buford’s slobbery jowls.  Law.  I was done fer.

“Git that mangy beast out my kitchen!” Mama hollered her ownself, and we done what was necessary, pushed ol’ Buford back out to the back porch.  But he would not give up his treasure.  And t’other, the right one, it was nowhere to be found, and it sure as shootin’ wudn’t where I’d left it.

Mama come to the door a’wipin’ her hands on her apron, surmisin’ exact what’d become o’ my de-lapidated footwear.

“Reckon it’s too late now to find the hole where the dog buried yer other boot, Liam.  You need to hightail it right now to school, ‘r you’ll be late.”

Lookin’ ’round the leanto kitchen, I seen the rest o’the child’ern, they was gatherin’ thur books and such and was headin’ out.

“But Mama, I ain’t got no shoes to wear.  They ain’t a pair to be found in the whole place, I checked ever’where!”

And I had.  Daily.  Fer weeks now.

“Well, Son, we’ll find you somethin’.  You cain’t go to school barefooted, that’s fer certain!”  And that’s when Mama got “that other look” on her purty face, the one sayin’ I’ll do my Goodwell best for you, boy!

I had faith.

Now, I’m a believer.  Ain’t no uncertainty there, none what-so-ever.  The Lord God A’mighty loves me like I was his own and I believe one day I’ll be brung through the Pearly Gates to live in a mansion along one o’them streets o’gold.

But right now, my faith, it was bein’ tested.

I begun my look again, layin’ flat to look under beds and cots and the livin’ room divan.  I heard Mama a’rummagin’ through somethin’ somewhere, and jest as I was a’losin’ the vict’ry, Mama, she cried out it triumph.

“Liam!  Liam!  Look here!  I found you some shoes!  They’ll get you through ’til the fellers get back tonight!  Look here!”

And she come through the door to where I was waitin’ with great expectations aglow on my thirteen-year-ol’ face, a shoe raised high in each hand.

My glow diminished some, right there.

“Mama.”

“Liam!”

“Mama, they’s Livvies ol’ shoes.”

“Liam.”

“Mama, them’s girls’ shoes.”

“Liam.”

“Mama….”

“Liam, look here, we’ll scuff the up some,” at which time she throwed them both to the floor and stomped hard on the sides, “They’ll look jest like men’s brogues.”

My breathin’ was comin’ short now.

“Mama, no….”

“Son, you have to go to school.  What would Miss Meadow say?”

I had no answer.  But I shore didn’t care to show up to school, sportin’ the latest in girls’ shoes, don’t care how scuffed they was.

“Son.”

Mama’s word was final, and ‘spite the sadness in her eyes for she knew exactly what I was in fer, I put them shoes on my big ol’ feet, and stared.  Now, they wudn’t covered in buttons or bows nor buckles or purties, but they was clear not shoes meant fer a boy.

There wudn’t nothin’ to be done.  I hung my head and trudged out the door and down the dusty lane, lookin’ ever’where but down at them shoes.

I knew what was comin’.  And I’d be right.  I was in fer the roughest day of my life.

Well, so much fer a-luminatin’ a moment.  Wudn’t purty, wudn’t no lesson to be learned.  Ugly as a sinful black heart.

And I don’t feel a heck o’ a lot better, pardon my French.

A-luminatin’ serves to do jest that.  I ain’t sure I’ll be a’doin’ this again.

Sorry, Miss Meadow.

Yep, Loaded Fer Bear!

 

 

“Well, Hell, Luce,I didn’t mean to!”  Marie-France with her short little Michelwait legs couldn’t no way in keep pace with me, her a’hop, skip, and a’jumpin’ just to stay close.  We was moving quick like, through the long stickly grasses of the meadow other side the bridge.  “It’s not like I set out to catch me my own German Nazi son of a gun!  But now I got him, what in tarnation do I DO with ‘im?

My head was fair buzzin’.  Had me a sudden vision from one o’ them film strips what come to the County Library some time back. Feller named Picasso painted all sorts o’ nonsense, points and people and sick horses, all drippin’ with colors and confusin’ the daylights outta me.  That’s how my mind was lookin’ right now.  Like them paintin’s, maybe I was jest lookin’ at ’em from the wrongways angle, but I couldn’t figure neither out with ease.

So, like ever’thing else in my way, ‘stead of studyin’ the proper way around, I jest pointed my head forwards and headed right on through.

Which blessed me with yet one more headache,  more often than not.

“Oh, quit ‘cher whinin’, Marie-France, ” I tossed back her way, “What’s done is done did.  What we got to do is sort out just what to do now.”  

We was gainin’ on the treeline just ahead, and where cousin Marie-France had herself a lean-to hidey hole for readin’ and makin’ daisy chains and what have you.  ‘Tol me that’s just where she’d stashed her Nazi man.

“He’s next to near a boy his ownself!” she’d claimed more’n once, but who could ever tell.  I’d brung along Grandpap’s buggy rifle just in case.  Had it stuck in my boot and half way up my dress jest to get past Mama.  Gave me more’n a little hitch in my get-along but I still had Marie-France two strides to one.

“What’d’you think we’ll do when we get there, Luce?  You got a plan?”

I squinted back toward the sun,  lowerin’ slow in the afternoon sky.

“You say you been a’takin’ him dinner and such for now on three days and he ain’t run yet?”

She stopped still in her tracks.  Lord, I wanted to keep on movin’ but I needed the answer more.

Hands to hips, “I TOL’ you, Luce, he promised!  He promised to stay put ’til I could figure a way out this perdicament.”

Then, gol dang if she didn’t remind me, “You promised, too, Luce, you did, you know it!  You promised not to turn him in nor me neither!  You solemn sweared before Jesus, Luce, no lies, no crosses, no nothin’!”

Now why’d I go and do such a stupid, bumble-headed thing like that?  But Marie-France, she knowed me too well, and while yes, I’m a durned good liar, best I know, once I swear before Jesus, I’m done for.  I could just feel the air go outta my balloon.  Marie-France, knowin’ she’d won this round, bore her glistenin’ eyes through mine.  

“Look,” her voice low, “Maybe there’s some way we could get some information outta him, like war plans and such.  We could hogtie ‘im then drip drops o’cool water on his head ’til it drove him just this side o’crazy.  He’d answer all our questions right now jest to get us to stop!   Why, think of it, Luce!  We’d be heroes!  They’d likely be even a parade in our honor and we could ride on a float and wave at folks and have them wave back!  We’d like to even get a day ‘er two off from school for interviews and picture-takin’!”

She was settin’ to roll, face flushin’,  eyes lookin’ dizzy off to the distance.  “Jest think, they might’n even name a schoolhouse after us. Or a milkshake!”

Reckon we’d gone one furlong too far.  I shook my head.

“Marie-France.  Lissen to yerself.  What we got here is a feller, true, I’ll ‘low an enemy of our beloved nation feller.  He ain’t been doin’ nothin’ but raisin’ taters in a gravel hole for nigh on a year.  Whatever he got in his head, even if was worth somethin’ once, it’s long ago done and over with.”  Her face , though turned to mine, only lost just a shimmy of hope.

She’d done landed herself a precious commodity and would not in no way be obliged to give it up willingly and without a set to.  Marie-France, while a mite smaller, was one worthy adversary, bein’ full of tricks and thiev’ry her ownself.  

Finders keepers.  We’d use her rules for the time bein’.

We’d just see if her prisoner had stayed stuck in his hidey hole, waitin’ for the master o’ his fate.  And his dinner.  

‘Cause while I brung me a buggy rifle, Marie-France, she swung a bucket o’ leftover fried chicken with some drippin’s gravy for soppin’.

My head was fixin’ to hurt.