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Tennessee or Bust - Part 6 - The End

Posted by Admin on September 8, 2015 at 5:40 PM

WAKE UP CALL

 

Mona made pallets on the floor for us that night. It sure felt better than droning through the hot desert night with your hands grown to a steering wheel and your eyes about ready to turn backwards in your head. Not even the excitement of being reunited with family could keep me awake that night.

I awoke at the crack of dawn the next morning. I was sure it was the crack of dawn, because I heard it crack. However, when I opened my eyes all I could see was a bunch of red and purple and yellow neon stars flying around, so I thought it must still be night. I blinked my eyes a couple of times and the stars gradually faded away. I became aware that I was lying on my back on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, and it was broad daylight.

I heard a guttural baby chuckle, and looked back over my head. There stood Bobby, who was Mona’s baby at the time. The happy little toddler was wearing a soggy diaper and swinging a baby bottle by the nipple, rocking back and forth from one fat little bare foot to another. He was drooling a big, wide grin. When he saw me open my eyes, he squatted and raised his bottle over his head, holding it by the nipple. Then he brought his bottle of milk down hard with both hands – right in the center of my forehead. It connected with a sound not unlike the busting of a ripe watermelon over your knee, and suddenly it went night again.

When I finally fought my way back to consciousness Bobby was gone, thank God. I guess he figured I was too hard to wake up.

I recovered in time to make it to the table for breakfast, and then Mona loaded us up in her car for the final run into Tennessee. When we crossed the Mississippi River bridge at Memphis and saw that sign halfway over that said “Tennessee State Line” me and Mick straightened everybody’s hair with a wild rebel yell. Dog of I had ever seen so much green trees and grass in my life as I saw along that river bank.

That night the little house at Five Points where we grew up was alive with the sounds of laughter and conversation. After Mama had made over us and fed us, we sat up late bringing each other up to date on all the news. I had to tell them all about California and college. Then, while Mick regaled them with stories of Navy life, I went outside, closing the screen door softly behind me. The cool night air felt good to my flushed face. I breathed deep of the smell of the woods. Somewhere in their shadowy depths a whippoorwill called. I strolled out to the edge of the road and leaned against the old silverleaf tree. I stood there a long time, unthinking, just looking out into the endless night. For two years I had not been out of sight of millions of electric lights that never went out. Here, for as far as I could see, except for the house behind me not a single light broke the darkness. Only the stars. Only the stars…

I felt a long pent up tension begin to ease, like a slowly released breath. Something comfortable seemed to turn over inside me and fall into place.

I was home.

I turned my face up to the starry sky and let the grateful tears come, burning the tiredness from my eyes.

 

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