Too much spur

Dad says that Mr. Posey “is richer’n four feet up a bull’s butt.” But he doesn’t act anything like Uncle Will McCleskey. He’d never pull me off a horse with a walking stick, even if he had one.

Most of the time, we even get to have supper with them and since Mr. Posey talks almost as slow as Hoover, supper conversations take a long time. At least Dad isn’t doing us any harm while we’re here. Mr. Posey doesn’t go off half-cocked like Dad does. He doesn’t hit his wife or Hoover, so I guess Dad doesn’t want to be the only one who clobbers two outta three of his family members.

Hoover asked me to ride out with him on a couple of their horses. I was supposed to be chopping wood, but the idea of riding sounded like chocolate cake. We had a good time riding around their property. It made me think of riding with Ike, the sound of hooves, the click of his left cheek. I sure do miss him.

We were trotting along just fine until my horse swallowed his head and threw me off into a prickly pear cactus. I landed on my right hand and it smarted something awful.

“Cono,” said Hoover, “ I…think….you… gave…him…just…a little….too much…spur.” And right then, my laughter took over my pain.

Since then, I’ve been trying to hide my bad hand from Dad so he won’t catch on that I’d played hooky from my wood chopping. For the last couple of days I’ve even been chopping wood with my left hand until my right one starts to feel better. It’s safer that way.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper by C. Dennis-Willingham

Prickle- daily word prompt

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

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

My kidnapped baby sister

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Cono, age four

My insides feel shaky. I know all this nose blowing is my fault. I run to my room and get Tiger Stick and run back outside to sit in the dirt. Tiger and me dig around and around in that dry soil, hoping we’ll dig deep enough to find Delma. Then I fill the hole with the water from my own eyes.

I go back in and see Aunt Nolie loading up her coffee with more sugar. She clinks her spoon round and round the coffee cup just like I did with Tiger in the front yard. Her eyes stare inside the cup like they’re waiting for an answer to jump out and into the saucer.

“Let’s call up Cleave Barnes,” says Aunt Nolie. “If anybody can help, it’ll be Cleave.”

“Why Cleave?” asks Mother, lighting another cigarette.

“Cleave’s earned his money robbin’ banks.” She turns to me and says, “Cono, he doesn’t do it all the time and never around Ranger.” She back to talking to me again.

Then back to Mother she says, “Remember, he’s the one who taught Wayne how to use a gun.”

Aunt Nolie turns to me again and says, “He hardly ever took it with him on a robbery ‘cause he never wanted to hurt nobody. He jes’t needed the money s’all.” She keeps on.

“But he learned how to be real smart in his scoutin’ and escapin’ from the law. So, if someone’s gonna Commit a crime, all Cleave has te do is think like a criminal.”

Mother goes straight to the phone and calls Cleave. A few more cups of coffee later there’s a knock on the door, a sound more like a present than the banging of knuckles on a wooden door.

Mother opens the door fast, like she’s trying to shoo out a family of rats before they run back into the walls. Cleave walks in and gives her a little pat on the back. He didn’t look at all like the wild animal with scary eyes and holding on to scars fitting for a robber’s badge. He’s shorter than my Dad’s five foot eleven inches. His arms are skinny of muscle too. I can’t see how he’s gonna help at all. Dad could whup him faster than a heart beats at the first sign of trouble.

Cleave gives a hat’s off greeting and sits at the table taking the cup of coffee that Aunt Nolie gives him. He offers Mother another cigarette before lighting his own.

After listening to the kidnapping story, he makes one short click on the left side of his cheek like Ike does when he’s pondering something. I like that. I like that a lot. He might be good at finding my baby sister after all.

Finally, he says, “Don’t you worry none, Elnora. If he’s anywhere nearby, we’ll find him, and we’ll get yer baby back.”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily word prompt: Commit

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.