I worry that Mother’s not in the hospital. A few days ago I heard Aunt Nolie tell Mother, “Elnora, it’d be a whole hellova lot safer if ye had that baby in the hospital like ye did Cono.” They talked about the Great Depression that sat on our shoulders and wouldn’t get off. They said it makes us hungrier than usual and poorer than we’ve ever been.
“Hospitals cost money, Nolie. We don’t have no money fer a hospital.”
Mother’s folks, Ma and Pa, say it’s because of President Hoover that we don’t have no money. Others say it’s because we ain’t had rain in a coon’s age. That all the crops; cotton, corn and maize have turned into a dust that you could just as easy blow away like a fly acrost the lonely couple of peas sitting on your plate. A farmer and his family, like Ma and Pa, can’t live on dust and since there’s no money around to gamble with, a man like my father can’t collect none.
I hear another scream from the bedroom. Dad shifts his weight from one foot to the other. It’s hot out, so he keeps rolling up his sleeves even though there’s nowhere else for them to go. He won’t take his shirt off though. Even though we’re not in town, he says that taking your shirt off in public is “uncouth,” no matter how hot it is. Whatever “uncouth” means. He lights another Camel. I stir a little faster.
I start thinking that unless they figure out how to catch up with me, I’ll always be older than the baby coming out of my mother. I like that. I like the idea of being older than somebody. It makes me feel bigger and more important than what I am. Also, I don’t need nobody else telling me what to do.
Just before I start feeling too big for my britches, I hear the huff and whirl of an engine pulling in. I must have dozed off for a while. I open my eyes and squint into the headlamps of the familiar flatbed grain truck. The engine stops. The headlamps turn off. Aunt Nolie jumps out of the driver’s side and walks over to us. She’s still wearing the red dress she left in a few hours ago. I look for Uncle Joe. I hear him before I see him. He’s stretched out in the back of the truck; sucking in hard air and trying to force it back out again.
“Any word yet, Wayne?” Aunt Nolie asks Dad, tussling my towhead at the same time.
“I’ll jes’t go on in and check,” she calls over her shoulder, as she wiggles and waggles her rear end off to Mother’s bedroom.
Aunt Nolie is a tough booger and it’s good to have her on my side. She can kick anybody’s ass from now into tomorrow. She said one time that she’d rather fight than talk, but she does plenty of both. She’s not quite as skinny as Mother, her hair’s not as black and she’s not nearly as pretty. But she speaks her mind so you don’t have to guess what’s on it.
I stir the dirt some more. Dad’s still staring at something in the dark, something far away that I can’t see. I’m only two and a half years old, so I’d much rather be stirring at something I can see, than staring at something I can’t. “Doodle bug, doodle bug please come out…..”
I keep twirling my stick, the one that’s magic and will make doodle bugs come out; the stick that will show me a magic place and will grow me a baby brother or sister.
Before I have time to get comfortable again, Aunt Nolie comes outside and kneels down beside me. She stares her watery eyes into my tired ones saying real quiet-like, “Cono, ye got yerself a baby sister.”
I feel my eyes pop out and my chin drop down. I’m not real sure what to do next, seeing as how I’ve never had a baby sister before. Stuff is stuck in my throat, way in the back, where I can’t get to without choking.
Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper by C. Dennis-Willingham
Daily word prompt: Anticipate
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