Readin’ the Bible before I die

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The next morning the doctor handed me two little yellow pills and said, “Here’s your breakfast.” Then he left me in a chair that leaned back. I waited there until my head started to feel fuzzy, like I was sitting at the bottom of a well looking up towards the light of the sky.

“Cono, are you ready?” I stared up through the well and saw the long-nosed face of the man talking to me, the man in the white coat who made a little Loop out of some kind of wire and pulled one, then two tonsils from the back of my throat. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, he decided that my adenoids weren’t doing me any good, so he yanked them out too. Fuzzy or not, I felt every damn bit of it.

He laid a pack of ice on my neck for a while and told me to go home and get some rest. I did. I rested for a whole week because I got sicker than a dog and not because I forgot to cover up my hiney. I got a bad fever and thought for sure I was gonna die. That’s when I picked up that Bible. I remembered Ma saying, “Cono, thar ain’t nothin’ wrong with readin’ the Bible.” Plus, I thought that if I was about to die, I might as well find out who was going to open up the Pearly Gates to let me in.

Once I got through all that “beggetting” stuff, it wasn’t a bad read. I didn’t understand much of it since there were so many people to keep up with. I got the gist of most of it though. But I was still trying to figure out why it said “an eye for an eye” one minute and “turn the other cheek” the next.

During that week, Delma came in once with a pot on her head and stared at me sober as a judge.

“Delma, ye need te get yerself a better lookin’ hat.” She laughed and left the room probably thinking she made me feel better. I guess in a way she did.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily prompt: Loop

Robbers in my kitchen

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Cono and his sister, Delma

Dad clenched his fist and his jaw at the same time. “Show me a woman with long nails and I’ll show ya a lazy woman.” Mother ignores his comment but finishes up, putting the lid back on.

“Damn that shit stinks,” he says, staring at the polish Bottle. “Ya’ll go on to bed now,” he tells Delma and me.

“But it ain’t…”

“I said git to bed!”

“It’s early Wayne…”

“I’m havin’ company, Elnora. You need to go on too. I’m havin’ a business meetin’.”

Delma and I go to our room and she has no trouble falling asleep. For me it’s just too early and my body and head want more things to do.

After a little while, I hear men’s voices come in through our door. I hear Dad tell them to sit down at the table. I hear the sound of coffee brewing on the stove.

“I don’t want any part of it, Earl,” says Dad.

“But Marshal Dry will be in on it and he’ll make sure we get in and out of there without a hitch, ain’t that right J.D.?”

Then I knew who was sitting at my dinner table, the very table I’d sat under just the night before. It was Mr. J.D. Eckles himself, the outlaw from Ranger and Joe and Earl Adams, the outlaws from Rotan. I peek out of the little hole in my door and get to see pieces of their faces.

J.D. says, “Williams Drug Store is across from the bank. When we’re done with that, I can back up my truck and load up the narcotics.”

Now I know what they’re planning to do. They’re planning to rob our town’s bank, the bank where H. works. I picture H. just doing his job, cleaning and sweeping, when men come in with guns ready to shoot. I don’t like it. Not one iota.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story

Daily word prompt: Bottle

Time to separate the sheep from the goats

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Met by only the dark, I’m finally off the train. I walk the fifteen minutes to the house, all the while grateful for the time to stretch my legs. I’m eager to see Mother, Sis and Pooch, but my hands sweat when I think about seeing Dad again. It’s not because he can beat me anymore, I know he can’t. It’s because I’ve promised myself to show him a thing or two from a man’s perspective, this man’s perspective. I want him to know he’s done us wrong over the years and I want him to be accountable for it. It’s time to separate the sheep from the goats.

The house looks the same. I stare at the window, the one I’d escaped from. I see the light shining in the kitchen window. I smooth out the wrinkles in my Uniform as best I can. I take a deep breath and walk into the house.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily Word Prompt: Uniform

Cono’s impression of Uncle No-Account

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photo credit

There’d been a bull on top of Aunt Nolie last night and now he was sitting on a bar stool kissing the woman next to him smack-dab on her red lips.

“Cono, this here’s Sunshine.”

I know that song, “You are my Sunshine, My Only Sunshine.” I figured that song was named after her. She has short blond hair and looks like she hadn’t missed a meal in a while. Not that she’s fat, but she has more meat on her bones than most gals I see.

“Well, hello there, Cono,” she says giving me a little wink.

“Hello,” I say, turning back to look at No-Account and giving him my best “you’re a no-account” stare.

“Cono,” he says, “Ye go on over there and sit at an empty table, and I’ll get ye a sody pop. Sunshine and me are gonna talk some business fer a minute.”

No-Account gives Sunshine a pinch on her round butt and she lets out a stupid sounding noise that’s something between a squeal and a giggle.

Sitting there by myself doesn’t stop me from staring, disgusted-like at their carryings-on. She whispers in his ear, he gives her a little smooch, he whispers in her ear, she lets out another harebrained giggle. I get so fed up my belly starts to twist around and I think I might just puke. Standing up I say, “I’m gonna wait in the truck.” And that’s what I do ’cause neither of those fools leave a good Impression on me. They leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I look around the truck, but I don’t see any rope. That sorry son of a bitch never intended to buy me a donkey.

I watch people go in and come out and think about the loser I’m with, the jackass full of bullcorn. My hard-earned-honest-days-work-seed-selling money had gone straight toward something to do with that blonde-hair giggly-eye winker named “Sunshine.”

No-Account finally gets back into the truck and starts jawing again about more things that don’t make no sense. The difference is, this time he’s swerving around the road like a drunk man, which he is.

“Damn” he says when we almost go off the road, “What was that in the street?”

I don’t answer. Even Dad could drive better than this. I just keep sitting and feeling like a stool pigeon, a stool pigeon that has to hold on to the door handle just in case it needs to jump out.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

Daily Word Prompt: Impression

A bullet past an ear

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Cono and his grandfather, Ike

Further up on the right is another house. It looks kinda like an old Wayne Dennis house, falling down on one side. Car parts litter the front yard.

“Who lives there?” I say.

“Oh, some damn white man,” says Ike.

“Still like that Cherokee part ’a ye, huh Ike?”

“Damn straight.”

We get to the bar and meet Andres, Ike’s friend. “This here’s my grandson, Cono,” Ike says.

“Pleasure,” I say, shaking his hand.

The three of us sit down at a table for four and a short little old lady in a Pink uniform comes over to take our order.

“Bring us three Pearl beers,” says Ike.

“No beer fer me,” I say.

“Still not a drinker, Cono?”

“Still not,” I say.

“Sody Pop then?”

I turn to the waitress and say, “Ye got Nehi Grape?”

She nods and says, “Be right back.”

For eleven o’clock in the morning the place is busy. The early lunch crowd has come in. Andres starts to talk while Ike listens. And I’ll be damned, Ike’s twirling his index finger around his thumb. They say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This is one habit Dad’s pulled down from his father, but as far as I can see, and unfortunately, the only one.

Ike starts to talk but Andres keeps saying, “What are you saying? I can’t hear.”

Finally, after gulping down his beer, Andres says, “Hell, let’s go someplace quiet where we can talk.” I pull out my wallet to pay but Ike says, “Put that away, Cono. You need ta save yer money.” I do as I’m told, grateful of the man beside me who appreciates my hard work.

Ike and me gulp down our drinks and head down the street to a little dive of a bar, a place that doesn’t sell food.

“This is better,” says Andres. We all sit down at a table and order another round from the bartender, the only person working here.

In the middle of cow talk, a man with a black mustache that matches the color of his eyes opens the door, pulls out a pistol, and shoots a bullet right past Ike’s ears and into the mirror behind the bar. The bartender pulls out his shotgun, aims it at the shooter and says, “Jose, you drop that gun right now. This ain’t no way to settle a bar tab.” The man backs down and yells something I don’t understand, and then he leaves.

As cool as a cucumber, Ike clicks the left side of his cheek, turns to Andres and says, “Ye got another quiet place ye wanna go?”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

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“Gotta protect yerself at all times”

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I see Dad when he eyeballs the Tombstone, staring at him like he’s already pinned him in a corner. They dance around each other like feral cats waiting to pounce on a rat. Even though I can see Better now, I don’t get what they’re doing. They look like they’re play fighting.

“What’s happenin?” I ask Aunt Nolie, who’s followed me up closer to the ring.

“The Tombstone is throwin’ a few jabs.”

“What ’er jabs’?”

“Well, see, a jab ain’t usually a hard punch, but it lets the other fella know yer in the game. Jabs kinda make the other fella pay attention. They’re holdin’ their gloves up by their heads ’cause in boxin’, ye gotta protect yerself at all times.”

The Tombstone jabs, trying to get Dad’s attention. Dad’s smiling like he’s watching a funny picture show. Aunt Nolie tells me more. The Tombstone throws another jab, then a straight right, but Dad easily ducks under it and comes up with a left hook to the jaw.

“Well, lookie there, he’s done it,” says Aunt Nolie.

The Tombstone went down fast, laid out flat on his back, out like Lottie’s eye. The fight is over before the first bell had a chance to ding. Dad had been paying attention alright.

The Ranger folks, some who like Dad and some who don’t, hoot and holler that one of their own just beat a stranger, a foreigner on Ranger soil. My dad is a hero.

Dad doesn’t brag though. He smiles without his teeth showing while he stares down at the bloodied man. The referee counts to ten. The Tombstone twitches his eyeballs. Knowing he’s not dead, the referee raises Dad’s right hand up in the air and declares him the winner.

Walking home, I think about how good it was to see Dad do something good like that, something Better than drinking Pearl beer and ignoring me.

The next morning I ask, “Were ye scared Dad?”

“Naw, I ain’t afraid ’a nothing. Besides, that pissant couldn’t fight the gnats off his butt.” I laugh at the picture of the Tombstone trying to swat gnats off his hind-end while wearing bandages on both hands.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story

 

A tough memory

Early one morning, when my son was a teenager, I got a call from a police officer. They’d arrested him. My husband and I met them on location where I saw my son sitting in the back of a police car. It was one of the worst days of my life. It was too hard to even look at him.

He had been with another kid he didn’t know well. Together they “tagged” a high school.

That evening I painted this. It pretty much explained what I was feeling at the time.

Today, my son is a loving husband and father. I count my blessings every day!

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Danger