Was Born at Night, but it Wudn’t Last Night

Greetin’s Ever’body,

Liam Goodwell, here!  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

Hey!

Reckon you be chewin’ on jest where Ol’ Liam’s been these here last couple o’days!

Well, I ain’t been lollagagging nor morosin’ underneath some Weepin’ Willer, I tell you what, though cause and e-fect may aim one’s thinkin’ that di-rection.

See, Mama, my very own ever-lovin’, purty as a picture, stubborn as a Missouri mule, smart as a dingdong whippersnapper Mama, she come down puny.  Plumb poor. Now, my Mama, she don’t get sick.  She always been the one goin’ off to minister to the sick, or the weak and heavy laden.  But law if yesterdee mornin’ she didn’t lay down her ladle gentle as you please atop the hot stove, bend herself plumb in half, and squeak out Daddy’s way, “Honey, I think I’m sicker’n a dog…”

Then what, hey?  Durned if she didn’t right then and there, collapse in a heap o’crinoline and cotton on the fresh mopped kitchen floor!

Stopped in it’s tracks, time did.

Luce, first to move, first to assess what all us others was too froze to do, she near leaped the kitchen table, barely clearin’ the first heap of yeller scrambled eggs Mama’d been shuttlin’ to we her starvin’ family.  Snitchin’ a dirty worshrag from ‘longside the sink midflight, that girl knelt sweet-like and wiped Mama’s face till the rest o’us woke up.

You ever hear Luce bein’ kind and lovin’?  Me, neither!

Well, woke up we did, says I.  We Goodwells, we got into action.  Daddy, he lifted Mama, easy as pie, and carried her out the back porch, lettin’ the patched screendoor slam behind him.

Mama’d have a fit, were she to know.

Livvie and Loreen, they run to the big ol’ wood hope chest at the end o’ Mama’n Daddy’s bed, grabbin’ arm loads o’ Grandmama’s ancient quilts, fair sprintin’ to the International pickup to lay them in the truckbed.

Grandpap never once flinched, fer’s I could see.

Grandmama’d gone to Glory some time long ago, you see.  Grandpap, lovin’ her to dis-traction, kept him a keen eye on her memory, and her belongin’s.   We learnt long ago there was lines we did not cross.

They was no lines this day.

Lincoln and Lawrence, them two, they dashed out to the gray slatted cattywhomp barn, returnin’ with a big red gas can,  sloshing and wet, for contingencies, and the keys and some hay to further soften up Mama’s ride.  Leapin’ up to the truckbed, they sorted them quilts and fluffed that hay, and gentle and soft as cuddlin’ a babe, they give a hand to Daddy and settled Mama, cushed and pro-tected up there.  Daddy, he jumped up ‘side her.  Me, I run to the seat and turned the motor.  Caught first time.  I wrenched her int’ gear when the twins, them ornery, wretched trouble times two little brothers come racing out the back door, Grandpap got near run over.

An’ slamming that screen door again.  Poor Mama.

“Look here, look here!” That’d be Lawton.

“Look a’here!  Look what I got!” That’d been Lewis.  

And Lord have mercy and bless my soul if he wudn’t a swingin’ a freshly dead copperhead snake carcass up ‘roun’ his head!

“Grandpap, look!  I kilt it!  Smashed one o’them heat bricks from ‘side the stove, smashed his head in!”

Never was right sure ’twas Lawton or Lewis what done the killin’

Never much cared.  I floored that ol’ beast and busted, dust flyin’ an’d gravel sprayin’ like shrapnel, haulin’ fur flyin’ to Doc Allen down to town.

Mama’d been bit.
***************************************

“Oh the Places You’ll Go!”

I am, I am a journeyman.

I’ve happily lain my head many places.   And hope to rest myself at many more.

I even claim the homes of those gone before.  Stories passed on down and on down become real, like my own memories.  That’s alright by me.  Those places remain alive and well as long as we don’t forget.

What’s the point, if not the journey?

And then the landing.

And then the telling.

 

 

Daddy’s home was whatever ramshackle homestead HIS own daddy could negotiate for.  Rent was a struggle, as Daddy’s daddy had many skills but never a real job.  Rent payment was nearly always at risk, and always in arrears.  More than once, Daddy and his daddy and mama and all the kids and cousins and hangers-on (and there were always hangers-on) would pack up and move on in the middle of the night.  It was a troubled life.  Daddy learned early wherever he found himself come night,  that was home.  Mama’d hang the same curtains, put out the same faded stiff black and white photos, make the same biscuits from the same cast iron skillet.  So whether it was tumbledown shack, an abandoned hen-house, or the back of someone’s barn, it was home.

Daddy vowed he’d never live that way again.

 

Mama’s family, they were big business, at least in their neck of the woods.  Why, they owned nearly one hundred fifty acres of the finest, blackest, most fertile farmland east of Kansas City, Missouri side.  They raised livestock, even named a few, although Mama says she learned early on not to become too friendly, seeing as saying goodbye when they were hauled off to market was a tearful affair.  Every year,  a box of live baby chicks arrived via the U.S. Postal service.  They had dogs, hunting dogs and lap dogs, and cats lived in the barn.  Mama climbed trees and had Kool Aid stands to tempt the odd farmer passing along the dirt road out front.  They got a new tractor every two or three years, but always longed for one with automatic transmission or a cab to keep out the rain.  Settling for a sunfaded umbrella wasn’t, however, half bad.  They had a big white barn with cartoon characters on horses painted on the rough-hewn insides by where the cows, always named Bessie, were milked.  They had a smoke house and four chicken coops and a machine shed and circular grain bins of all heights.  She played in the hot and dusty barn loft. She skated on frozen crystal ponds in winter, and swam in the same come the summer thaw.  She and her sister walked the half mile to a one-room schoolhouse for their first eight years of schooling, and visiting the empty sagging building years later, she salvaged the blackboard where she had carved her name into the black slate.

Mama was a rapscallion.

 

Memories of my first home begin with a fire.  A flu fire.  It was dark, must have been nighttime. I remember the smell and some orange flames poking out from the black pipe snaking up the wall from the round black stove.  Mama reminds me I was two years old when the place caught, so the visions burned across my mind (pardon the pun….came way too easy!) must be  powerful ones.  Our little community was out in the country, some distance from town.  I recall being pulled quick from the bath by my mama, then wrapped tight like a sausage in a white towel with two big brown stripes.  I remember the jogging, jostling run over my mama’s shoulder to the neighbors’, then being dried off on a chenille bedspread sprinkled with green and yellow fabric flowers by old Mrs Price.  I remember peering through her side window when the firemen came and pumped the back of an old fire engine, then sprayed the blackening rooftop.  I remember my daddy had a hose, too, and mama was running in and out of the back door, boxes and clothes, and funny, a cowboy hat sideways on her head.

Last I remember was Mama tucking me back in my own bed with the high wooded slatted sides.  I still had the white towel with the big brown stripes around me.

Where that old towel got to, I don’t know, but I’d give my eye teeth to find it.

(Here’s where I’d gleefully add some comment about keeping “the home fires burning,” if only I’d the courage…)

 

And the voyage continues!  Some like being planted, some revel in the trek.

 

Either way, what’s the point, if not the journey?

And then the landing.

And then the telling.

 

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

 

 

 

Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!

To: Who it May Concern

From: Punk Bole

Been nea’ a week I been livin’ with the Goodwells out to the edge o’ Halesburg.  They been treatin’ me well, hardly asked hardly any questions, but I’ll admit, after a good meal and some quiet time, I offered up my own explanations to why I was so bruised and cut up that very first night.

Didn’t tell them the full extent.  Tol’ them the truth, jest not the whole of it.  They all, even the chil’ren, they all jest nodded and harumphed and the girls, they even wiped them a tear ‘r two.

Now, I don’t merit no pity, let me be clea’.  I stood up fer m’se’f, didn’t always take Daddy’s vi’lence lyin’ down.  Makin’ it worse on m’se’f was a decision o’ my own makin’.  Somehow, though, it give me some equanimity.

Learnt that word from Liam jest this day.  Mean’s “fair ‘n squa’e” and bein’ it rolls ‘roun’ the tongue right nice,  I aim to use it of’en.

I’d come to these Goodwells late of an evenin’, but ‘stead of parkin’ me out to the barn, cushed up in the soft hay, hearin’ the snorts and snores of them horses inside and them cattle out, (which that there wouldn’t be the worse thing ever happened to me), that Mama o’ thern, she push by me whist I was eatin’ my fill o’ biscuits and cold fried chicken at the table, loaded to her nose with blankets and down.  Her and her man, Liam’s daddy, they piled me down a pallet in the boys’ leanto, off to the edge of the front room.

I stick to the edge, near a em’ty corner, don’t want to be stepped upon nor in the way.  But shore ‘cain’t say I ever been treated more like a king, or at least a prince o’ some sort.

Well, that there may be some exaggeratin’, seein’ as I ain’t certain how kings and princes, they be treated.  But maybe they jest be treatin’ me with  “equanimity.” ( I’d write me in there a smile, if I knowed how.)

Well, I been beddin’ down there comin’ up on a week how, an’ still, they ain’t condemn me, not once.

‘Pears I be jes’ part o’ the passel.

Now Liam, he been pressin’ and pushin’, get me down to the schoolhouse.  Say Miss Meadow, that real nice teacher, she’d do me a worl’ o’ good.  But I ain’t ready for that, not by half.  Run off last time by them pasty fat white fellers, I’m pleased to hunker down right here fer the time bein’.

‘Course then, Liam, he lug hissel’f home as many books he can tote, an’ copies problems from the front board, makin’ me do near a whole day o’ schoolin’ come afternoon.  The readin’ and writin’ and stories from long ago, they hang me up proper.  But give me them numbers problems, and I scare m’se’f with the speed to which I can complete them.

Liam, he jest whistle and grin.  And try to find me harder challenges.

I jest push him on the shoulder and tell him to go an’ try.  Jest go an’ try!

Now, I make m’se’f useful roun’ here.  I been he’pin’ with the chores, find I got me a way with them horses and the dogs, they all love me all to pieces, folleri’ me ever’where.   Livvie, the purty one, she call me Mr. Pied Piper, whomever that feller is.  The ol’ houn’ name Buford, he try to sneak in and sleep ‘side me on my pallet, but Liam’s mama, she shoo him out.

She don’t shoo me out, though.  I am grateful, but the words do come hard.

I ain’t been off the land once, not once, since I come.  An’ I feel certain to my bones ain’t none o’ them Goodwells plannin’ on tellin’ no body.  They been treatin’ me not like a guest, but one o’them, which wouldn’t be to the likin’ o’ some ‘roun’ here. Jes’ yeste’day, even the stony one called Luce, she even push me out har out the way, she see me snitchin’ a warm cookie from the oven.  They what she do?  She go an’ she snitch it her ownse’f.  Wouldn’t do that to no comp’ny, but to a almos’ member of the fam’ly, shore.

Got to say, that moment warm my heart, ’bout to weepin’.  I ain’t clouded up in some time.  I like that girl.  She got beans.

I will not be takin’ ad-vantage of they hospitality much longer, howeve’.  I fear my own Daddy, he been sniffin’ ‘roun’ from what I overhear Liam’s daddy and Grandpap heart-to-heartin’, an’ I fear he come to fin’ me, puttin’ the Goodwells in some kin’ o’fix. Cain’t put them in no pre-dicament, no how.  They been faithful frien’s to me,  an’ me bein’ undeservin’. Been doin’ nothin’ but considerin’ me like a real person and not a pushin’ nor a’askin’, jest lettin’ me eat and heal and settle.

But they comes a time, and I feel it breathin’ hard on my back.  Time I was gettin’ on.

Got to get to makin’ me some plans.

For like to not be any frien’s he’pin’ me where I’m goin’.

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

“Dang Me! Ought Take a Rope ‘n Hang Me!”

To: Who It May Concern

From: Punkett Boyle, fourteen years

 

Been avoiding Liam fer some days now, nigh on a week ‘r more.  He been leavin’ notes reg’lar on the front screen, but I been abscondin’ wid ’em ‘fore Mama see ’em.

And ‘fore Daddy.

I been savin’ ’em, though, tucked in my hidey-hole ‘hind my sleepin’ blankets, out to the back porch.  Hard tell when I may need rememberin’ I got me a frien’.

These here couple weeks, been ’bout that long Daddy, my own daddy, he been back.  He been sleepin’ on the ol’ saggin’ di-van in Mama’s front room.  He cleaned up and sweeped all them glass shards o’ Mama’s keepsakes.  He cry some, he plead some, he ain’t had him a drop, so he claim.  And I ain’t smelt nothin’.

So Mama let him stay.

Say Christian woman she is, she obligated to forgive.

I’d o’run him off, he don’t mean nothin’ to me.   Mama forget he hurt me real bad.  Scabbin’ jest now peelin’ off, blue and green on my face and neck and arms and middle ’bout faded, but my nose still swole and cain’t breathe me any air through it ‘thout it poppin’ and cracklin’.

‘Course, that there may be why I ain’t smelt no drink on Daddy’s person.  Cain’t smell nothin’ no more to begin with.

And he ain’t mess wid me since that first day.

Time, it does pass, and I be hopin’ so, too, will Daddy.  Jest ’cause I got his blood don’t mean I got his stock.  Lookin’ deep in his creased and saggin’ face when he’s snorin’ on that di-van most afternoons, I shore don’t see no resemblence none.

An’ if I was a believer like Mama, I’d be shoutin’ Hallelujah.

But I ain’t, so I’m not.

But I stop short o’cursin’ him, jest in case.

I been layin’ low, be it known.  I shore ain’t aimin’ to cause no trouble, so I jest go ’bout my business elsewhere, fa’ as I kin git from our little two room shack.  Ol’ Lucky, cowboy down to the garage south o’town, big ol’ hat, big ol’ belt buckle, and big ol’ chaw side his cheek, he let me clean the grease pits, long as I stay out o’sight.  Give me somethin’ to do.  Give me some spendin’ money fer plunkin’ in my hidey-hole.  Give me time t’sort my thinkin’.  Give me time to count.  Reached me 457 nails ‘long the back wall ‘fore Lucky me send me on my way.

But my thinkin’, that there’s why I’m puttin’ this down to paper.  Sortin’ alone in my head don’t always make it clear.

See here, my idee, from long ‘s I kin recollect, I felt me some sadness when I see’d little chil’ren, or dogs, get beat. Not jest fer the beatin’.  The hurt is bad enough.  But that they ain’t got no idee’ why ‘r what for they been gettin’ beat, that’s the thing.

It was them not knowin’ nor understandin’ what distressed my heart.

But now, now I got me a diff’rnt idee.  Them youngin’s, and them dogs, they ain’t got no idee and that there’s what in-solates them from the inside hurt.   Just like they wet when it rain and be dry when it don’t, with a beatin’ they hurt on the outside and when they don’t get beat, they don’t.  Either way, they got no idee of the why, nor don’t even give them a care, so they don’t hurt none on they insides with the thinkin’ and ponderin’ and wonderin’.

Jest a’rollin’ wid the punches, they do, (an’ I shore don’t mean that to make no amusements) n’then they goes on.

But me, Punkett Boyle, well, I ain’t one o’ them chil’ren, nor one o’them dogs.  And me,  I hurt plenty bad on the outside, let me tell you.  Felt me pain like I ain’t felt never in my life, deep down as fer as my bones and them some.

But what grieves me the most is the powe’ful pain I got me on the inside where they ain’t no bone nor marro’, wonderin’ jest what I done, or what I will do, or when I’m like to have me another go’roun’.  This my Daddy we talkin’ ’bout here.

Them little chil’ren, them dogs?  They got it easy.  It rain, they get wet.  They get beat, they hurt some, then forget.

Me, I ‘llow I will not be forgettin’ any time soon.

Got me no forgiveness in my heart, not fer Daddy,’n not too much fer Mama.

She hurt my heart the worse of all.

 

***********

 

 

t

 

“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope ‘n Hang Me!

From: Punkett Boyle

To: An’b’dy list’nin’

 

Mama.

She still sick.  Coughin’ up a storm.  Cain’t ketch a breath.  Whistles when she sucks in.

Daddy.

He come back.

Me.

Beat black and blue and ever’whar over and under, and then some.

 

Had me some pages still, from the notebook Liam give me ‘while back.  Ain’t got nobody ‘roun’ here who can look at me full on ‘thout turnin’ away.  Mouth’s too swole and throat’s too poked to speak none, an’way.  Fingers ain’t much better, but they’s near the only part of me workin’ ‘tall.  So talkin’ to you ‘ppears to be what God give me t’day.

 

Don’t recall never settin’ eyes on my Daddy.  Mama say, when she ever did talk ’bout him, he lit out ‘fore I could set up.  Better off gone, she say.  Mean bugger.  Got me some older sisters what been married off and live up Chicago way.  Reckoned I could find them some way ‘t’other, as’ them some questions.  Don’ t got us no way get ‘hold o’them,  says Mama.  Got her a birthday card couple years ago, no address fer returnin’ the greetin’.  Mama’s got it taped it up to the wall, and while it’s faded near to nothin’, the “I love you, Mama” can still be read if you looks real close.  Means the world to her, and ain’t nob’dy ‘llowed to touch it.  Tape keeps yellerin’ and rottin’, and she keep tapin’ it right back up.

Mama love all her chil’ren.  But what it mean is this: what I don’t know, I may never not.  Don’t nob’dy here in Halesburg know nothin’ ’bout my Daddy they willin’ to share.

I give up my querryin’.

 

But last night, come ‘roun dinner time, me’n Sib, Mama’s son jest after me, we was heatin’ soups on the burner in the kitchen, we heard us a shout and a slam from the front porch.

“You in there Beulah?!  I know you is!  Get on out here, greet yo’ man!”

Me’n Sib, we looks at each other, Sib’s eyes big like cat’s saucers.  Cain’t move, neither o’us, and we stood stone still fer a minute too long.

Furniture tippin’, glass shatterin’, I kin only ‘magine Mama’s purties jest smashed to smithereens but move?  I ain’t ’cause I cain’t.

Like a funnel-wind twistin’ and heavin’, the curtains dividin’ the livin’ part o’ our ol’ shack from the backporch kitchen was buckled and wrinkled and wrung, wrenched and pulled down in a heap, big ol’ ugly face, all grimace and anger poke itself right into our’n.

“Who you, boy?  Who you? ”  Big thick paws, fingers strong and thick grab my neck like a clamp, pushin’ my jaw near clean to my nose.  My tippy toes barely touch the floor.  Where Sib hightail it to, I don’t know, but I cain’t holler, cain’t answer, cain’t near breathe ‘tall.

Big ol’ ugly face get so close to mine I can fair smell what he’d drunk fer dinner last night and this mornin’ and the last month, and sour and vomit and whiskey and beans. He twist my head till lights sprung up front my eyes.  Bells rung middle o’ my ears.

“Who you, boy?  You got peas fer brains?  Where Beulah?  Where my woman?  You tell me!  You TELL me!”

Now my Mama, long time ‘fore, was a full on beauty, all shiny black hair and long eyelashes and skin to this day like caramel ‘top ice cream sundae.  ‘Fore my recollections but I seen pictures hid in her dresser.  She’d had her a husband, and then some.  None us kids had us the same daddies.  Never did we fret none.  We all had us the same Mama and that there was the glue keep us fam’ly.

Mama love all her chil’ren.

And we all love her to eternity and back and forevermore.

So, if I had been able to speak to this monster of a beast heaved up from the gates of Hell come lookin’ fer her, I’d took what wuz comin’ and kep’ my mouth shut!

As it was, wudn’t no time to say nothin’ anyhow.  Man loosed his grip and slammed me upside the head hard, felt crackin’ and poppin’, landin’ me up against the pipin’ snakin’ down from the flue.  ‘Member seein’ quick snap o’ Mama’s nice wallpaper, saved from the fire down to the hardwar’ store last May.

Hurt some, but not as much as what come after.  I’m wont to countin’ most near ever’thin’.  I counts my steps to ‘n’from wherever I be.   I adds and subtracts the cats screechin’ come darkest night, I multiply and parse and divide the tweets of the birds and the hollerin’ and bickerin’ from the bar down the street.

But I lost me track of the pelts and the punches and kicks what rained on me last night.  Best I jest take it, and keep my mouth shut.

Went on fer plumb ever, seemed.  Lost my daylight ‘long the way, and come mornin’ I come to,  curled and mangled and unable to move tucked behind the potbellied stove.  Mama bent over me, sick as she was, but doin’ her best to wipe away the bleedin’, cryin’ and drippin’ and mumblin’ curse words.  Seen Sib over her shoulder, holdin’ a bowl fer her to worsh out her bloodied rag.

I hurt so.  Lord A’mighty, I hurt so.

 

Welcome home, Daddy.

 

*********

 

 

 

 

 

Cuttin’ It Fine….a digression

“Great Day in the Mornin’!”

Hey.  This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County, Missouri Goodwells?  Like to certain you all may’ve heard tell o’us.  We got us kin nigh to ever’where!

 

And, law, we do have us a history these parts!  But truth be tol’, my story this day takes a whit and spit of a di-version.

Fer this day?  This here day?

Mama’s made her a Chocolate Cake!

Now lest I mislead the lot o’you, Mama’s known far an’ wide fer her Chocolate Cakes.  She done won county fair ribbons like to paper her bedroom wall.  That she’s papered her little closet hung with them dresses done with flour sacks and purty little flah-ers, well, at least she don’t hide them under a bushel, NO!

She’s whipped up Chocolate Cake with Sugar Roses.  She’s erected Chocolate Cakes with skinny little layers and slathers of deep rich chocolate icing what grew so tall it leaned a tad, like that I-talian buildin’ over to where our boys is fightin’ fer Democracy and against the Devil’s heathenry.  She’s built her Chocolate Cakes sprinkled all over with bitty coco-nut slivers like tiny rai’road ties.

I’ll admit I ain’t particular partial to coco-nut.  One of them few thing’s I’m like to turn my nose up to, can smell it a mile away, cain’t he’p myself.  Grandpap, but Daddy mostly, they’ll take umbrage and then take it right personal when one o’us kid’s shy away from not jest Mama’s cookin’, but anybody’s anytime.  Includin’ some of them unknown dishes brung to the monthly potluck down to the church.  (Some looks like pig slop, but if I was to utter them words, my skin’d be tanned, sure!)

“Eat what’s set before ye,” Daddy’ll say.  And ever now and then, he’ll only need level them black-pool eyes to-wards the o-ffender.  Don’t take us long to straighten up, I tell you what!

But this day, THIS day, Mama’s made her a Chocolate Cake with no bells nor whistles nor sugar flah’ers nor coco-nuts nor swooshes of purty designs.  Jest a plain, ol’, delicious, heaven-sent, mouth-waterin’ three layers of luscious deep cocoa delight.  Then, slathered in between and a’top and all-round comes next to ‘n inch of sweet billowin’ clouds of  succulent, melt-in-yer-mouth icin’, to who laid a chunk!

So good?  So ever-lovin’ good it makes you want t’reach right out and slap yer mama!

(That there?  Now, don’t get yer dander up nor nothin’.  That’s jest a sayin’ these parts, meanin’ whatever ’tis is so wholly and holy a-MAZ-in’, y’jest cain’t he’p but set up and take notice!  Ain’t nobody in they right mind would ever do such a thing as a’slappin’ none o’they kin, specially not they mama, an’ ‘specially not one who bakes Chocolate Cake like MY Mama!)

Well, here’s how it happened.  Grandpap and Daddy, they headed off early to market, ‘fore sunrise.  Had a few head finished ration, made sale weight, and off they went to the sale down to Kansas City.  Cattle prices was a premium down there, but the trip’s like to take all day and late into the blackened darkness of night.

So they ain’t near.

Linc,  the oldest of we Goodwell children, he lit out after breakfast (an’ he ain’t likely to never miss hisself a meal!) down to the county fairgrounds.  Hear tell, Judge McClintock, who ain’t a real judge but did study law over to Columbia and has his own office down to the Denton County Courthouse, well, he got him some wild ponies what may be showin’ up at the next rodeo.  Brother Lincoln, he’d be there the whole day through, gaugin’ his ride and a’countin’ his prizes at the next doin’s.

So he ain’t near.

Big brother Lawrence, the biggest of we Goodwell children, him and his buddies, ‘long with Livvie who jest likes to sashay ’round Lawrence’s buddies, they had them a picnic planned down to the river.  Lawrence, handsome and devil-may-care, he’s always bein’ invited to some shindig ‘r other.  And Luce, she follered ‘long behind, seein’ she’s jest nosy.

So they ain’t near.

Little sister Loreen, she’s rode the Goodwell hand-me-down bicycle down to the library in town, a’helpin’ mean ol’ librarian Miss Crow sort child’erns books and such.  She’s took a shine to Loreen.  Reckon it’s since Loreen, she’ll wrap up some flah’ers in a wet rag and tell Miss Crow how she admires her collection.

So she ain’t near.

As fer Lawton and Louis, why, at aged seven, they jest don’t add up to a hillock o’beans.  They’ll liable not to show up fer hours, pokin’ a stick in some hole down to the crick hour upon hour.

So they ain’t near, least I can tell.

So whilst I was a’doin’ my chores out to the barn, I all of a sudden smelt me the aroma o’ that Chocolate Cake a’burblin’ and a’bakin’ , waftin’ out the winders and driftin’ all the way to where I was pitchin’ hay.  Well, and I kid you not, I hightailed it to the back porch right now!

Out o’ courtesy, I worshed my hands quick as a lick out to the pump, even stuck my head under the icy flow fer good measure, then took them back steps in a solitary leap and burst full on through the screen door.

And there she sat, purty as a picture, fresh from the oven and hardly cooled at all, three foot-wide rounds of purely heaven on earth.  Mama stood off to the corner, a’stirrin’ a big ol’ bowl o’ that prize-winnin’ chocolate icin’, she’s known fer, little smile on her face.

I kin’ hardly breathe.  The aroma’s doin’ somersaults in my head, and my mouth and my stomach, they’s screamin’ fer a piece!

Mama, she’s always said we was kinder-ed spirits, and she knows from the beginnin’ o’ my beginnin’ my preference is warm cake ‘fore the frostin’ commences.

That don’t always set well with the rest o’ the Goodwells when a piece goes missin’ ‘fore the frostin’ been slicked on, so it don’t happen too often.

But this day, THIS day!  I’m all there is!

Could it be Mama’s done this here jest fer me?

Now.  It ain’t my birthday.  (That comes jest follerin’ Christmas.  Ain’t never no big doin’s that day, seein’ it’s Jesus’ birthday time, too and he counts a heck o’lot more’n me, pardon my French.).

An’ I ain’t been particular good.  Nor bad neither.

But when Mama widens her smile, bobs her head to-ward the fork a’restin’ solo on a paper napkin on the table, I reckon it’s jest because….

And that there?  That’d be good enough f’me!

And reckon the rest o’ the Goodwells will be enjoyin’ themselves a two-layer cake ‘stead o’three!

 

*********

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s of a country boy)

“By Hook or by Crook”

This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

And I’m still among the livin’, but I shore don’t know how much longer that’ll be the case.

 

My destiny rests in God’s hands, and them of Sister Beane, Eleanor Lucille Beane, newly discovered fearsome better half of preacher Zebulon Magruder Beane, down to the Holy Pentecostal Church of the Saints.  Been a whit closer to a week than not since I ‘pproached her with the learnin’s from my sinful eavesdroppin’ down to the Feed and Seed nigh on one month past.

That she took after me with her gardenin’ shears leads me to believe she wudn’t jest then  a’practicin’ Christian charity.  How-some-ever, fact is, may truly be she is now, as I ain’t seen hide nor hair of neither her nor Brother Beane nor E-vangelist Lyle P.T. Wendzel, them last two being the ones from who I heard them a’schemin’ to split the generous offerin’s of the believers.

I’ll admit to discoverin’ I had me this rash, a small one but it come in handy for my purposes.  (The thin coughin’ spell I manufactured didn’t set well with Mama) Much as I struggled to join the family this here past week at the revival down to the church ever’ evenin’, I found I jest wudn’t up to it.  Mama,  she’s been lookin’ at me sideways, but she ain’t questioned me.  My honest-to-goodness pained appearance, while prob’ly not the result of any rash, give her pause.  She’s laid the back of her hand more’n once to my forehead checkin’ to see if I’d a temper’ture.  She seemed satisfied when she ‘llowed me to stay home from the doin’s down to the church.

I been satisfied, my ownself.

But this cain’t be over, can it?   I sneak peaks over my shoulder reg’lar, but truth be told, reg’lar is gettin’ more and ir-reg’lar, and as time is a’passin’, why, I get to thinkin’ jest maybe my confessin’ to Sister Beane got the wheels a’ rollin’ and may how she put the kay-bosh on whatever tomfoolery them so-called “Men of God” had them hatched.

Or, not.  And I look over my shoulder yet another time.

 

Now here’s a quandry fer you:  Can a bein’ say “I tol’ you so” to his ownself?

‘Cause if I can, I shore am, I kid you not!

 

Not even one hour prior to this here moment, not even one, I’d jest come in from some hoein’ out to the garden, ’round Mama’s tomaters and greens.  We got us some robust black soil, but just below the surface lies hardened red Missouri clay.  Got t’keep after it.  Needs loosenin’ ever so often to keep them roots a’diggin’ deep, keep things a growin’ and keep dinner on the Goodwell table.

Well, here I come in, happy as one o’ them clamdiggers, done worshed up from the pump out by the smokehouse, well my arms up to my rolled sleeve.  Seemed sufficient.  I seem to recall I was a hummin’ a little tune from the Grand Ol’ Opry Hour from Saturday night’s broadcast.  That Roy Acuff at the War Memorial Auditorium out there to Nashville does have hisself a way.

So I’m a’walzin’ in from the back porch into the kitchen, a’hopin’ there might me some o’ Mama’s biscuits basketed on the oil cloth-covered table, left from breakfast or from midday dinner, and clearly my attention was NOT over my shoulder.  Well, over my shoulder was not where the trouble had landed.  No, sir.   Where my attention  should o’been was in the livin’ room up front of the house, where Mama received comp’ny and visitors and the like.

I’m slidin’ my eyes ’round the kitchen, distracted from anything but searchin’ for myself sustenance of any kind, bein’ as I AM a growin’ boy and Mama and Daddy and Grandpap near always chuckle at my heapin’ dinner plates.

What to my wonderin’ ears doth resound but a po-lite little Mama cough.  She got herself a visitor and she wants me to know it.

I stop dead in my tracks.  Time and the tickin’ of the grandfather clock on the wall plumb stopped dead, as well.

Judgement day.

Now, it ain’t like we live in a mansion.  Ever’body clear to the next county would o’heard me a’stompin’ up the back steps and heard the slammin’ of the patched screen door and heard my stomach a grumblin’ for a bite.

It was step up or lay down and die.

Well, being a Goodwell, it was only step up.  No other option.

But that don’t make it easy.

Girdin’ my loins, and knowin’ the probability of a tongue-lashin’ and worst lay in my future, I suck in a big ol’ gulp o’ air and step through the threshold to the front room filled with all the finery Mama sees fit to share.

But none o’ that catches my eye.  Only thing grabs me is the white-worshed look on Mama’s face….

…..and the weasely sneer on that of Lyle P.T. Wendzel.

“What do you say, there, Liam? ” his voice oily, next to a whisper.

“What’s new with you?”

*******