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

That rare gift of laughter

One Thanksgiving when we lived in the Tourist Court, we had enough food for Mother to make a real meal, but it was Pooch who landed on Plymouth Rock. We didn’t have money to buy a turkey, but somehow Mother got hold of an old hen to cook. She baked it for most of the morning, even making cornbread dressing to go with it, which, for her, was like pulling a cart full of lead. She set the food on the kitchen table to let it cool while we went to the drug store to get Dad his medicine. Seeing as how it was Thanksgiving, the drug store was closed and Dad had to rely on his refrigerated liquid medicine to make it through the day.

When we got back home, Dad opened the door and what we saw made my mother want to spit cactus needles. There on our kitchen table laid scattered bones where our chicken used to be and only half of what used to be a whole pan of dressing.

We looked around the corner into the bedroom. Lying on Mother and Dad’s bed, head on a pillow and wearing a smile that stretched from Rotan to Sweetwater, was Pooch. We were the three bears coming home to find out that our porridge had been eaten, but this time, not by a little blonde-haired girl but a Curbstone Setter with an eyepatch.

Pooch’s smile disappeared when he caught sight of Mother spitting fire from her eyeballs, and coming at him with a big broom in her hand. Once those straw bristles touched his butt, he was out the door lickety split.

We ate the leftover dressing and the pinto beans, which had been safe from the theiveing on top of the stove. Mother’s teeth were so clenched with madness, I’m still not sure how she got anything into her mouth. Dad, on the other hand, was trying not to laugh, and he looked like he was enjoying every bite of the scant Portions.

“Ain’t it surprisin’ how full we can get without eatin’ meat?” Dad says stuffing more beans into his mouth, his eyes pushed into a squint by his smiling cheeks.

“It ain’t funny, Wayne,” Mother says.

We all stayed quiet for a bit so Dad could concentrate on keeping his food in and his laugh from coming out. Then he mumbled out loud, “Guess we’re not saving any leftovers for Pooch.”

I couldn’t help it. I had to stick my head under the table and hold my breath to try to keep my own laugh from spewing across the table.

Dad leaned back in his chair, pushed his plate away, patted his belly, and said, “I ate so much I think I got a little pooch.” That’s all it took. My sides started to split right along with Dad’s. Delma giggled, and Mother, although she tried to hide it, was starting a grin all her own.

Pooch didn’t show up until later that night, when everything was calm again and the chicken and dressing had settled nicely in his belly.

Even though we had beans, cornbread, and dressing for Thanksgiving, it was Pooch who really celebrated the feast of the pilgrims. And, I think because of that, Pooch had given us a rare gift around the supper table: laughter.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper (for those who have enjoyed these excerpts, remember you can order the novel on Amazon. 

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Daily word prompt:Portion

Ya gotta get to know a fella ‘fore you say you don’t like him

Pa always tells me, “Cono, if ye don’t like somebody, it’s jes’t ’cause you hadn’t got to know him well enough’s all.” That sounds like something H. would say.

“Hey, Gene. Ye want to meet a real colored man?” I ask.

“Sure, I do. Who is he?”

So I tell him what I know. I tell him about the man with dark skin and kind eyes. I tell him how he looked at me like I was a real person and not just a stupid little kid.

The next day after school, I take Gene to the barbershop.

“Hi, Mr. H.,” I say.

“Hey there Little Dennis, what you know good?”

“This here’s my friend, Gene.”

“Well, it’s a real pleasure to know ya, Gene,” and he sticks out his hand for Gene to shake. Gene waits a second, stares at H.’s big brown hand, then pumps it up and down like the handle on a water well.

“Well, now that’s a mighty fine handshake ye got there young fella. Ya play any football?”

“No sir, not really. I jes’t throw the ball around a bit’s all.”

“Gene’s real good at throwing the football, H.”

“I can tell that, I shorly can. Besides my wife, Teresa, that’s one thing I love. I love that game ’a football.”

“Why don’t ye play then?” I ask.

“Well, I s’pose that window has closed down on me already, but I been going over to the Yellowhammers’ to watch them practice. They’ve started to let me be their water boy. I sure like it, too.”

“Maybe we kin watch a game with ye sometime,” says Gene.

“Anytime, boys. I’d like that. Uh-huh, shorly would.”

“Ya like shinin’ shoes?” asks Gene.

“Shor I do. I get to talk ta all the folks. Real nice folks here in Rotan.”

The barber’s door jingles as a man walks in. He’s got enough fat on him he could be two people instead of one. After he takes off his cowboy hat and hangs it on a hook, he props up his booted feet on the footrest of the barber’s chair, and says, “Shoe shine, boy.”

“Yes, sir, it’d be my pleasure. Ya better look out now, yer shoes ’re gonna be shinin’ to the next county in jus’ a few minutes.”

The fat man doesn’t say anything. He just opens his newspaper and starts to read while H. starts to Buff his shoes.

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

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The real H. Govan

Click the H. Govan link to read more about this amazing man.

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

The searching-for-a-penny-in-your-poop kind of Lifestyle

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Dad can catch a housefly in one hand without blinking, so it shouldn’t have surprised me none that his open palm slams fast across my face.

As I put my hand to my face he says, “Oh fer cryin’ out loud, Cono! I’ll swannin’, ye bit the your new toothbrush in two! Can’t ye do…”

I don’t hear the rest of what he’s saying. He’s walking away from me shaking his head back and forth. Half of my face stinging like it’s been resting on a yeller-jacket’s nest. The other half just feels sorry. How can you build up something so high, just to watch it fall down so hard? With the brush part still inside my mouth and its handle still in my hand, I think maybe I’m not so big after all. I guess I’ve found the baby Devil’s Claw after all. It’s me. I’m the baby.

I think about what I’m supposed to do with these two pieces. Maybe I can just swaller the brush part that’s not doing anything, but napping on my tongue. At least then, half of my dumbness will be covered up. Then again, Ma is always saying to me, “Cono, ye need to ‘member that anythin’ ye swaller is gonna have te come out the other end.” She reminds me about this all the time, ever since she saw me swaller a penny. No sir, she won’t let me forget about that penny. I’d picked it up off Ma’s night table, looked at it, sniffed it and after licking that penny, it just slid down my throat as easy as ice cream.

When Ma saw that penny go in my mouth and not come back out the same way, she said, “Times bein’ hard, ye gotta look at yer ba’ll movement ev’ry time ye do one. Don’t use the outhouse. Go in the fields. When ye find it, clean it off real good and hand it over to yer Mother. She needs it a whole lot more’n yer belly does.” I knew she was right. No one has much money. Most folks around here are six pennies shy of a nickel.

I watched each poop that turned up. I waited hoping it had melted and I’d already peed it out, but that didn’t happen. A few days later, when I saw that penny come out, I stared at it for a while. I just didn’t have it in me to pick it out of my poop and clean it off.

Every few days Ma would ask, “Find that penny yet, Cono?”

“No ma’m,” I’d say, “Must be makin’ its way back up.”

Now if I would have swallered that penny in front of Ike, he would have grinned and tilted his head to the side and said, “Well, aren’t you smart!” Then we both would have laughed and that would have been the end of it. Except, that ain’t the way it happened. It was Ma who saw me swaller that penny.

A few days later, Pa took me to Adam’s Grocers to get us some cheese and crackers like we always do on a Saturday. We sat on the breezy side of the house and watched the nighttime roll over to our part of town. It was so quiet, that when we opened our cheese and crackers, our crunching sounded like a two-man band. And when the music of summer bugs joined in? We were better than a revival choir.

“See this tooth right here?” Pa says jabbing his finger on a back tooth.

“Yeah?”

He puts that finger up to his nose, sniffs it and says, “It shor’ do stink!” Pa sure is funny sometimes.

Spitting out a cracker crumb with his tongue and a puff of air, Pa reached into his pocket, pulled something out and said, “Here ye go, Cono. I think this is yer’n.” I looked down and smiled at his open palm. There, sitting smack dab in the middle of his calloused farm hand was a shiny penny.

“Thanks Pa,” I said, staring at its purpose.

“Mm, hmm,” said Pa. “Ever’thin’s copacetic, ain’t it Cono?”

“It sure is Pa,” I said. Pa loves that word, “copacetic.” He told me “copacetic” means that things are tasting good on your tongue and that everything’s going to be alright.

I put the penny in my pocket to keep it safe while I ate my crackers. When we’d finished eating and as the sun was getting further and further away from the day, I ran into the house and saying real loud to my mother so Ma could hear, “Mother, I think this is yer’n.”

From my novel, No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story. (available on Amazon)

Lifestyle

Measuring up

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Cono, my father, age 14

You don’t really know much when you’re born, but that’s where it starts, alright, whether you like it or not. When you’re just a little suckling pig on your mamma’s teat, all you really want to know is that the teat will keep filling up so you can start suckling all over again. Once you reckon the food’s always gonna be there, you move on to wondering whether you’re gonna be kept safe from harm and warm when it’s cold. As you get a little older, you find out that maybe there isn’t always going to be enough to eat after all, and you won’t always be warm either. This is especially true if you grew up during the Great Depression in Texas, in the western part, where any stranger is sized up from boot to hat, if, that is, they’re lucky enough to own both.

Texans trust themselves first and foremost, and then maybe one or two of their kinfolk, as long as they’ve found that trust to be right as rain, if the sun can set on their words. I grew up trying to figure out who was in which category, who I could trust and who to never turn my back on. There was a lot of line crossing. I learned what I know from watching those who crossed over and the others who stayed on their own side.

I did both.

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

Measure

Dad ain’t pleased and I’m payin’ for it

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photo credit

Dad’s been drinking. He sways his way over to me with a look on his sorry-ass face that says, “Ya best answer this next question the way I wanna here it. Where’s Zexie?” He didn’t ask where Pooch was. He could see him lying in the shade by the house.

“What?” I say, trying to keep my axe swinging in the right direction.

“I said where’s Zexie?” he yells.

Unlike Dad, time is standing still and sober like at the picture show, when the film has snapped and nobody knows what to do with themselves. All I know is, I’d been doing what I was told. I was chopping and sharpening, chopping and sharpening all day, the sharpening part being my idea. I have enough wood stacked up to make it through a blizzard.

I say back to him, “I don’t know, haven’t seen her. Been chopping wood all day.”

“Get the gun,” he says. “We’ll follow the trap line. See if she got caught up.” I run inside and get the single shot .22 off the chester drawers and run to catch up with Dad.

Sure enough, Zexie is lying in the first trap we come to, poor little thing. She’s been gnawing on her own leg to get out of that trap. I know I didn’t have anything to do with it. Dad set that goddamn trap, not me. I was only doing what I was told.

Dad pulls the trap open and picks her up, cradling her in one arm like a baby. Then he walks over and slaps the living hell out of me with the other. I stumble back but this time, I don’t fall. I make myself stand up straight.

Dad sure does like dogs.

He hands me the .22 to carry back and starts walking towards the house. Just as I’m thinking, “Don’t turn around you sorry son of a bitch ’cause I’m gonna shoot you in the back of the head,” he turns back around, grabs the .22 right out of my hand, and take the bullets out.

“Here,” he says, and hands the pistol back to me.

He doesn’t trust me, and I don’t trust him. That’s about the sum of it.

I know exactly how it feels to be caught in a trap, and I’ll be damned if I gotta gnaw off my foot to get out of this one. I also know there’s a way to have supper without feeling poisoned. I just have to figure out where that is and which direction I need to go to get there. I’d follow those railroad tracks anywhere about now.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Author note: This is a true story and I need to tell my readers that Zexie recovered.

Pleased