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Long Walk Home

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Dust emerged and swirled around like a dirty cloud that wasn't lovely enough for the azure sky. That car sped by, throwing gravel everywhere. We don't see many automobiles at the end of Mellon road. Most turn around at the barn well before getting to my house because they're either sightseeing or lost. "He must've been in a hurry," I thought as I tried to brush the dirt from my hair. All of that wind sure wasn't helping much either. If I'd stood in one place long enough, my older sister, Susan, would eventually write, "wash me," on the back of my neck.

Rain is all the old folks ever talk about in the country. Often, I'd overhear the grownups saying, "We sure could use some rain." It was the standard greeting when we'd make a trip to Hilltop Market. Mom would ask Mr. Wayne how he was, and he'd respond by saying, "We sure could use some rain, Mrs. Faith." Uncle Neb dropped by yesterday to see us and said, "I sure wish it would rain." It's a slightly different variation, but it means the same thing.

Zina, my cousin, stopped by to visit with Susan. I learned to stay out of their way a long time ago if I knew what was good for me. Either of them standing next to me looked like André The Giant beside Gary Coleman. Often I would end up pinned to the ground while one would rub something disgusting in my face. They weren't picky as long as it smelled rancid or at least looked gross. It was the hand I was dealt, so I lived my best life.

"We're leaving, and don't follow us," Susan yelled as she and Zina headed up the road on foot. Of course, this is an invitation to any kid looking to walk on the wild side. Once they made it as far as the cattle gap, I could follow safely behind without detection. The shed provided good cover as I made my way up the road, trying to keep enough distance between us. Getting caught wasn't an option because that would surely end badly for me. They'd walk a few yards, and I would move like a calm wind blowing helicopter seeds quietly through the atmosphere.

My suspicions were on high alert when they stopped to say hi to our neighbor, Franky, on the way to their destination. They kept looking back in my direction and laughing about something. Impossible, no way did they notice me! They'd have to have bionic ears to catch me making any noise at that distance. Sure enough, the girls began screaming, and I had a decision to make. I could turn around now or trudge forward into inevitable discomfort. Life is short, and little brothers only live once, so, I would create my destiny today. My decision is final, and nothing will stop my adventure.

The two ended up at my aunt's, where my mom was born in 1933. It was strange to think about birth in a regular old house. But that's what she told me, and it happened over forty years ago when everything was weird anyway. Before I could cross the road and crash the party, Susan's voice in the distance yelled out, "you're in trouble now, boy." It was bad enough to be in trouble, but when followed by the word 'boy,' it meant extreme conditions were approaching. An example would be when Mom caught me eating the chocolate icing leaving only cake behind, and said, "boy, you are in trouble." A minor offense like not going to bed right away only justified her saying, "get to bed before you get in trouble." Yeah, 'boy' at the beginning or end is never a good sign.

(Listen to me tell the story here)

Before I could even plan my escape, the cards had already fallen, and I was doomed. Mom's ginormous Lincoln pulled up and parked behind me; she was mad. Sucking it up, I approached the passenger door, ready to take my punishment like a man. To my surprise, the door didn't open, and she never intended to let me in. Through the crack in the window, she explained, "I had no idea where you ran off to, and I was worried sick. You don't know how to listen, so I'll let you think about your mistake on the long walk home in front of the car, boy." Yep, there it was, those three letters that haunt my very soul. My instructions were to start moving while she turned the car around.

I figured she'd let me have a ride when we got out of the sight of Susan and Zina, nope. When I'd look back for a bit of mercy, Mom would only frown and strongly encourage me to keep walking. So I did. About halfway home, we ran into Uncle Neb. My advice was to wait while the adults finished talking. My uncle first said, "Looks like rain today," and when Mom explained the situation, he followed up with a resounding, "boy!" My mother drove while I walked some more.

Once we arrived home, I found out the hike would be my only punishment for running off. Relieved, I sat on the porch and gave my dog Ginger a good pat on the head. The old girl and I both jumped when thunderstruck and lightning streaked across the Tennessee sky. A raindrop splashed on my knee, revealing the only clean spot on my body. I saw more drops begin to fall in the dirt causing tiny puffs to explode into the air. Smiling, I looked at Ginger and said, "good, we sure can use the rain."

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