Ashes to Ashes

It was Mother who told me about Gene dying. Dad had found out when he was in town but gave Mother the job of breaking the news to me.

“Cono,” she said, “I got some bad news fer ye.”

I thought that maybe we’d have to move away again, away from Ike. Or that Delma was sick again.

“Yer little friend Gene has died, gone to heaven.”

I remember staring at her for the longest time. I remember going to Uncle Joe’s funeral and hearing about Wort Reynolds going to heaven without a head. But this was different. This was MY friend. This was Gene Davis who was only a year older than me.

“He went to Roby to the hospital ‘cause he had a pain in his side.”

I saw Gene and me playing checkers, riding on his mare, making up stories.

“It was a bad appendix, burst before the doctors could git to it.”

I thought Dad was right about one thing. Doctors were good for nothing’s. Couldn’t fix Dad, couldn’t fix Gene.

“Mother?”

“Yeah?”

“When Uncle Joe died, why’d they say ‘ashes to ashes’?”

“I ain’t real sure, Cono. I think it has te do with the fact that we were born nothin’ and go right on back te bein’ nothin’.”

“So now Gene’s jes’t nothin?” I asked, getting upset that the world was going to pretend he never existed.

“Nah, he’s somethin’ alright. He’s jes’t back to being part of the Texas Soil ’sall.”

“That ain’t so bad, is it?”

“Nothin’ wrong with that.”

“But I don’t get te see him again?”

“Afraid not, Cono. I’m sorry,” she said.

And I still am.

I go into my room and pull out my box of specials. There’s the old lace from a boxing glove, the time when Gene put together that fight for me; my first fight with real gloves.

At school and in front of everybody Mr. Green says, “Cono found out that he’s lost a good friend. His name was Gene Davis and he lived in Rotan. Cono, I just want to tell you how sorry we are.”

I nod my head and look down at my desk.

I don’t quite understand it, doesn’t make no sense whatsoever that Gene is dead. I want to see him again. I want to laugh with him. I want him to pull me behind his mare in the red wagon. I want to beat him at checkers.

Mr. Green has told me I can do anything I want. He says I can. He says he knows I can. So I decide to write Gene a letter, send it up to God Jesus to give to him.

 

daily prompt: Soil

Shootin’ Sunshine

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Cono Dennis, my father

Here I go again, on the way back to Sweetwater. Not to get a donkey but to shoot Sunshine, My Only Sunshine.

Driving down the highway, Aunt Nolie doesn’t talk much, at least not with her mouth. She clutches that steering wheel like she’s about to squeeze all the Texas sand and Grit out of it and that’s a whole conversation in itself.

We finally get to Sweetwater and park in front of the Lucky Star Bar.

“Cono, ye wait right here.”

“OK,” I say, since I’ve already met the woman, who’s about to be shot anyway.

I sit in the car, again. I watch the people come and go, again, except this time, the ones that had been going were coming and the ones that had been coming were now going. I wait for the sound of a gunshot, the sound I’ve become familiar with when I hunt with my dad. I wait alright ‘cause there’s nothing else for me to do.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

daily word prompt: Grit

Missing the country-side

Electric streetcar rails made circular patterns on the paved intersections of busy streets while the trolley’s bells deafened my rural ears. Businesses of every kind lined up one after another, many sharing common walls. Women wore feathers and stuffed birds attached to their hats and paraded them down the street like migrating nests. Barouche carriages transported men and women in their finery. At least the clamor and Jangle of wagons pulled by tried horses reminded me of home.

I set my luggage down and rubbed my tired arms.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, 1901

daily word prompt: Jangle

Ain’t no room for belly achin’

 

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Cono’s Ma and Pa

The windows are open and the summer breeze floats across my bed like a puff of air that puckers and ends up whistling out a happy tune. Anything bad that might have happened during the day has been blown on through. I hear the sound of the train chugging by ever so often. The kaPluck, kaplunk of the oil wells pump like they’re helping to push the blood through my veins. That’s when I start to get sleepy.

And when I hear that nicker that Polo makes?  I know I’m almost out like Lottie’s eye.    Tomorrow, I’ll ride him like a wild Indian.

The morning shows up and knocks on my window like a redbird pecking at his own reflection and I know that Pa has already put in a half of days of work. Pa’s a real good man and a real good farmer. Gallasses help to hold up his pants, since he got ruptured on a bucking horse early on. Pa said, “That horse swallered his head n’all. I must’a had the reins too tight.” Pa keeps going like nothing ever happened. He doesn’t believe in “bellyaching.” He says, “Thar ain’t no room fer it.” The sound of no bellyaching is music to my ears. That’s one thing I’m glad there ain’t no room for.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

Pluck- daily word prompt

School’s out, but …

“Class dismissed.”

After Miss Primrose’s words, the students Dash outside to breathe in the real world.

“Scoot? Want to go to the swimming hole to look for Frank? If he’s there, we can’t stay long. Your Mama will have a hissy fit if we’re late coming home.”

His eyes light up. “Grab your muskets, boys!” he shouts. Then, for the first time today, he pulls out his blues harp. As he plays, his cheeks puff out and suck in, puff out, and suck in like what I picture a blowfish doing.

As we walk to the swimming hole, I think about my birthday even though I don’t want to. Without Mama, it wouldn’t even be a birthday. It would be a few friends, a cake and presents without promise. Now I have to talk to The Secret Keepers, Miss Helen or Miss Delores. If they know where Mama is, maybe they can send word that I refuse to turn twelve without her.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

daily word prompt: Dash

Afraid of differences

 

I was four when I learned of my deformity. Before that, my left hand, different from my right, was still mine. It was part of me until, later, it defined me.

Mom had taken me to the playground. A Sunny day, the air filled with the happy squeals of children playing on the merry-go-round and zooming down slides, or swinging high enough to grab birds by their wings.

Bucket in hand, I chose the sandbox as my first stop. I knew the two girls already playing there were older. I liked playing with older girls. As an only child, my conversations with others were more advanced than my age.

“Want to share my shovel?” I asked the girl with the cinnamon colored hair.

“Okay.” Then, she stared at my left hand. She whispered something to her friend. Both stared.

The pig-tailed girl crinkled her nose. Red hair laughed and held her nose. “Let’s go before that happens to us.”

I looked at Mom sitting on the bench along side the sandbox. She had tears in eyes.

“Why don’t they like me, Mom?”

“Because they’re superficial. They only look at the surface of a person without getting to know them.”

“Mom?”

“See how, on your right hand, all fingers can spread apart?”

“I know.”

“Now look at your left hand.”

“I know.” I spread the fingers I could but my middle and ring fingers are melded together as if one large digit.

“Well, both hands belong to my beautiful Gracie. Your left hand is one of the many things that make you different and special. Everybody’s different one way or the other. But we all have similarities, too.

“They don’t like me because I only have four fingers on this hand,” I say, holding it up.

Mom shrugs. “Some people are afraid of differences. But true friends, people who love you won’t even think about the difference in your left hand. Like Sissy.”

My cousin Sissy has known me her whole life. She held my left hand all the time and didn’t care.

Back then, on that playground, Mom made me feel even more loved, differences and all.

But at age four, even after the pep talk, I didn’t know I’d have to endure the stares, the gasps and ugly comments.

Sunny

Fear

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photo credit

I blamed my restless sleep on the killer who remained a mere Illusion lurking in the dark.

Never in my life had I been so scared. Last night the waves of maelstrom pulled me under and made it hard to breathe. Seeing Sadie bloodied on Mrs. Carver’s porch was bad enough. Thinking of Aunt Amelia in danger ripped ribbons of terror throughout my limbs. When I knew she was unharmed, and nausea had passed, I had asked my waiting driver to summon Sheriff Tobin. He arrived fifteen minutes later at the crime scene but after that, he never came to the bordello. I wondered why.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily photo prompt: Illusion