Ain’t got the gumption nor the energy nor the willpower nor the “what fer ” to pray fer God’s strength to give you much this day. I reckon it may to date have been the most harrer’in’ day I ever lived.
This here’s Liam, Liam Goodwell, but I figure you know all that by now. An’ if you don’t, law, you should.
(Lord, fergive me my sideways an’ pesky attitude. You know my heart….)
But Golly Dang, this here’s been a day, clean since mornin’, and now, when I kin hardly keep my eyelids from slammin’ down shut!
This here day begun like ever’ other mornin’. ‘Cept this one found Mama fainted dead away whist serving a second platter o’ them scrambled eggs she knows I clammer fer.
She’d been bit.
‘N by the looks o’ what Louis and Lawton smooshed to smithereens durin’ the wildcat spinnin’ we was all doin’ gettin’ Mama in the bed o’ the ol’ International, it was a deadly copperhead what got her. Law, they poison is fast-actin’ and potent. Mama never once stirred, not one time.
Didn’t nobody say much, we all jest hit Goodwell high gear. Found myself behin’ the wheel, and well, I groun’ roun’ them truck gears till they found “Hightail it” and we all skidded, Mama and Daddy and Lincoln and Lawrence and Loreen in the bed, me and Grandpap and Livvie in the front. We was off to Doc Allen’s place, ’bout fifteen mile r’ so t’other side of Halesburg.
That Luce stayed back to watch over the twins, I foun’ a little disturbin’. I do like havin’ Luce along in times o’trouble.
Dust clean flew, fer I do know my way ‘roun’ a truck. Been drivin’ since the age of five, sittin’ on a stack o’ Montgomery Ward catty-logues. Stood up to work the pedals, gas and clutch and brake. An’ now I s’pose I can get after it like the best o’them racin’ car drivers, and this mornin’, by all ‘ccounts, I did jest that. We swayed and swung and near hit, but not, trees and gnarled branch fence posts. But we got on down the line in a hurry. Grandpap’s only ad-mo-nitions was “Hang on, ever’body.”
Had to mean he had full faith in the Good Lord….an’ me.
We still had us a r’spectable piece to go but was closin’ in when I hear a “Whoop!” come from the bed behind.
“Whoop!” There it is ag’in.
Grandpap twisted his spiky head ‘roun and through the back glass, he seen Daddy and Lincoln and the rest a’wavin’ and a gesturin’ to who laid a chunk.
“Stop this ve-hicle!” Grandpap bellered. And I done jest that.
Never seen him fly like he did, but with Grandpap in the lead, we bailed out the almost still movin’ truck, steam comin’ from the radiator in front, and run back to where Daddy and Loreen, they was cryin’, and Lincoln and Lawrence, they was bendin’ over Mama.
She did not look the same as when we hoisted her gentle-like into the truck. She did not. Looked to be her face was all red and mottled and specked, and them skinny muscles in her neck was strained and pained. She was a pantin’ and a’sweatin’ but law! Then they was her leg! Mama’s leg, layin’ propped up on Grandmama’s quilts, was tree-trunk sized, swole up three, no, four times its normal size. Lincoln or Lawrence or somebody back there had the clarity o’mind to remove her shoe, or law, it woulda plumb exploded from the looks o’things.
Daddy was near crazed with fear, cradlin’ her head and moanin’ and sayin’ sweet un-intelligible words. I knew nothin’ but to stare.
But not Grandpap, heck and Hell, no!
God gives us all gifts, but I’ll swan if Grandpap didn’t jest then get him the skills o’ one o’them high jumpers from them O-lympic Games the worl’ used to know.
Still roarin’, he leapt clean up over the closed tailgate, “Outta my way! Git!”
An’ ever’body got, sqooshed way up next to the cab, ‘cept Daddy, he sure as shootin’ wudn’t goin’ t’leave Mama. He stayed put, but settled hisself down in that instant. There was work to do.
And Grandpap, he was goin’ t’do it.
I kid you not, in a flash, he pulled his ol’ knife, the one slung in a leather pouch off his ol’ worn out belt, eight inches of shiny razored lethalness. Us kids, we was never ‘llowed to touch even the pouch. Grandpap kept that rascal sharp, be it with whetstone or leather strop. Used with precision, be in whittlin’ or cuttin’ saddlery fixin’s or guttin’ a fish, this was GRANDPAP’S knife, give him by his own GRANDPAP, and it had a fair mystical bein’ all its own.
Quick as a lick, and lickity split, he knew what needin’ doin’. He nestled hisself down by Mama’s purpled and marled leg, touchin’ it gentle here and there with his left hand. Only took a moment till he settled on a spot just back the outside her left ankle, then straightenin’ his glasses (when he pulled them from his pocket, I do not recall), he touched the spot with the point of his blade. Drawing no blood, but markin’ the spot, Daddy and Lawrence and Lincoln, they all leaned in close to verify. Not Loreen, she was out to the road, back to the doin’s. Livvie, she done the sisterly thing and stood, arm ‘roun’ Loreen’s skinny shoulders, but her head was twisted our way, eagle eyes a’trained on Mama.
Steeled and poised, Grandpap fixed his clear blue sky eyes on Daddy, who read the message loud and clearly. Grabbin’ Mama by the shoulders, he buried his head in her shoulder and held on.
Then Grandpap took my Mama’s life in his hands, and Lord, Lord, he sliced jest like that a chunk o’ my Mama’s flesh, size o’ two silver dollars an’ thicker’n a doubled-up worshrag clean from her leg! He then slice an “X” at the spot (don’t never plan to use THAT phrase ag’in, I tell you what!) and worried and pushed and then sucked the poison and blood right from that spot, then spit and then spit ag’in!
How long this went on, I do not know, nor care to. Suckin’ and spittin’ and suckin’ and spittin’, till Grandpap was plumb spent. Lincoln helped him down from the truckbed, give him some water from an ol’ jug under the front seat, and held his back whist Grandpap bent double in the ditch, heavin’.
Daddy, he only looked up once. Lawrence, he took to wrappin’ Mama’s leg light-like, in rips from Grandmama’s quilts. He could be right gentle, when he’d a mind to.
We all do love our Mama.
I’d played no role in this side o’ the road drama, but I did my fair share of prayin’. And dang it and hang it all, if by a miracle, Mama, she begun to stir, ever so little.
“Honey, it shore does hurt,” I seem to hear to say ‘fore she went back out ag’in. An’ if her leg didn’t look jest a little less purpled and swole. Jest a little, but ‘at there, ‘at’s all it took. We all scrambled back to the truck, a little lighter on our feet, a little more hopeful Mama, she was on the side o’ the angels, jest not clear over Jordan!
Grandpap heaved jest one more time, then pulled hisself back into the truck, eyes a little glazed but a’wipin’ his knife what done the deed.
An’ like a maniac, I groun’ that baby back int’gear an’ raced like a house a’far down to Doc Allen’s place.