glint

The following account may or may not be true.

Along a dirt road in central Louisiana walks a man with a child slung over his shoulder.

The child is about eight years old. Like his father, he is dressed in worn and patched denim overalls. Also like his father, he is quite thin. Cornbread and black-eyed peas form the largest portion of their regular diet; they occasionally get meat when the father shoots a squirrel.

The boy has not eaten anything this particular morning, because he is barely conscious. He has since toddlerhood been subject to frequent nosebleeds, but they usually dry up quickly. However, since he sneezed three days ago, a steady trickle has been issuing from his right nostril and none of the customary remedies have stopped it. So, when the sun rose this morning, the man picked up the boy and began the twelve mile walk to the nearest town with a doctor. The man is walking because there is no wagon and no horse or mule to pull it if there were. The boy's nose is packed with cloth, but the blood has soaked through and at regular intervals a drop of blood falls into a footprint.

It is a quiet walk. The boy, usually something of a chatterer, is too dazed to speak. The man does not say much at any time. The loudest sounds are the birds and the breeze brushing through the pine needles.

Louisiana warms up quickly in the spring, but it is early enough in the day for the moist air to be fresh and sweet rather than oppressive. The newly risen sun sparkles on the pines. The boy notices the glint on the dew in the treetops and then realizes with mild surprise that he is on eye level with them. He looks down and sees the dust on top of his father's hat and himself, flung over his father's right shoulder, arms and head dangling, mouth slack and ribs moving in a quick shallow rhythm. He shifts his gaze again and sees thick treetops in every direction.

The boy is the fourth of six children, all born in rapid succession and crowded into a series of two room shacks near whatever sawmill can provide employment for their father. The boy cannot recall a time before this when he had the undivided attention of the man now carrying him down the road. How long have they been walking? He checks the position of the sun in the sky and gazes directly at it for several moments before he realizes that doing so doesn't bother him at all.

The man pauses in the road and shifts his slight burden from one shoulder to the other. Two thin faces brush against each other. The boy opens his eyes.

*

For various reasons, I'm doing NaBloPoMo in October this year. The October theme is HAUNTED, so I'm writing about things that haunt me: stories (truth and fiction) that I've heard or read, things I've done or haven't done (the accounts of which may or may not be true), problematic philosophical concepts, and so forth.

1 comment:

M. Robert Turnage said...

My guess is that they are on their way to eat some pig's feet. After all, this is Louisiana.