Delma mashes her little nose up against the window of the car. I stay quiet, thinking about what lays ahead, something I don’t yet know about. I try to picture it, a town with gypsum snow under the ground, a town where Dad is happy, a town where….
“Where we goin’, Cono?” Delma whispers.
“I ain’t so sure Sis, but it’ll be someplace good ‘cause looky here, we’re ridin’ in a four-door automobile!”
She turns away from me then and keeps pressing her little nose up against the window until she finally gives in to sleeping on Mother’s lap. At least we are together, Delma and me. It’s just another place that I plan to watch over her. I want to keep her close by, so nobody can snatch her away again. As long as I can do that, it doesn’t make no difference where we are.
The car keeps humming slowly down the highway. I try to sleep but I can’t. Instead, I think about Mr. Ed Rotan and decide right then and there that “Cono, Texas” has a real good ring to it. Cono, Texas won’t just have snow gypsum under the ground and a railroad on top of it. It’ll have oil underground and derricks on the top, pumping night and day. I call them jacks “grasshoppers” because that’s just what they look like when they’re pumping up and down. They’re grasshoppers trying to hop away, but they’re stuck and have to settle for hopping up and down in the same place.
My town will have at least two good cafés that serve T-bone steaks and tea iced in clean tin jars, free to me since it’s my town.
My mind leaves Cono, Texas and I think again on Ranger, the town where I learned how to brush my teeth, where Ma and Pa have a farm and a house that you’ll always want to go back to, where Polo takes me anywhere I want to go. Ranger is about haircuts that teach you about boxing and about boxing that teaches you to keep standing up. It’s a town where a Tiger can stir the ground and make you a little sister.
Oh yeah. The town of Ranger teaches you that goats freeze, but hands burn.
I go back to the comfort of Cono, Texas, off the poor list and high on the hog. I don’t quite know what to expect, but I sure do like this red brick highway leading to someplace new. I’m thinking that everything’s going to be “copacetic,” like bright colorful times might be ahead, like we’re following a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
But I don’t know nothin’ from nothin’.
Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper by C. Dennis-Willingham