Cecil

Thirty to thirty five people at best.  Surprising.  The pastor seemed  salt of the earth. Lanky and bearded.  Lincoln.  He had ambled through the requisite prayers and then a quote from Walden.

And this next piece is one Cheryl come up with. It’s from Our Town:

We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.

So now if anyone would like to speak.”

A four second pause. Kenneth stood in the front row and the pastor stepped away from the mike.

“”My dad was the toughest guy I ever knew. But anybody who was around our house could tell, from the number of cats, dogs, birds, mice, donkeys…well… that he liked animals. Even some humans. He had a list. Ones he didn’t like. And if you were on it you didn’t get off. He only called the doctor twice before he was seventy years old. First, when both he and Mom had the flu. The doctor came. House call. He got better, and I remember him saying “That would’ve killed a weaker man.”  Second time a cow had kicked him and broken a few ribs. House call. The doctor wrapped him up tight and he went out and milked. So I tried to think of a good story and this is what I came up with:

One morning in January when I was twelve we were making some extra money trapping muskrats. It was one of those cold, clear mornings, and I seem to remember it was ten below…could have been colder….but still and cold. The neighbor kid, Barry, and Dad and I, hiked across the swamp to the spring pond to set some traps. It was the only time Barry ever went with us, and, well, you’ll know why at the end of the story. We had two dogs with us – Smokey, a black spaniel mix of some sort, and Lady-bug, a worthless little beagle. But we loved her.

The pond had ice on it, but it was a spring pond so it wasn’t completely frozen over, and as soon as we got there the two dogs ran straight out onto the ice and fell through, in the middle of the pond.  I remember thinking “This is not good,” and I remember Barry and me running to the other side of the pond, where the open water was. The dogs were trapped, but they broke ice with every try to climb onto it, and the open water was closer than the shore they had departed from.

  We called and whistled and clapped to encourage the dogs to break through and swim to us, and at some point I looked back across to where Dad was and he was at the edge of the pond wearing nothing but his boxers. He had a club, which I guess maybe he had cut with his hatchet, and he was wading into the pond, toward the dogs, smashing the ice in front of him with the club. Luckily, I guess, the dogs broke through the ice and were able to swim to us boys, because by the time that happened Dad was about up to his armpits and still smashing the ice. Pretty close to swimming. By the time we got back to the other side he had his clothes back on. He was just putting his coat over his head when we got there, and all he said was  “Let’s go.”  I’m pretty sure that mile run across the swamp was the only thing that kept him from freezing to death.

So that’s it.””

Kenneth stepped away and the pastor took his place.

“Anyone else?”

2 responses to this post.

  1. No Brit could have written this story. For one thing no Brit is ever that stoic, traps muskrats, goes out when it’s ten below, has ever seen a spring pond, owns anything resembling a club.

    But there’s more. This is a yearning American story. I suspect more people in the US work in offices than on farms. Yet many office workers who have never escaped the burbs somehow believe that stories like this form part of their background. In a sense this is true because they want it to be true. Making a mess of a spreadsheet they convince themselves (if only in their daydreams) that they could saw straight, fashion a leg-splint for an animal, and shoot a squirrel through the eye to preserve its pelt.

    This is well-written because it’s hard to do action that stays connected. And this is. Also there’s an admirable absence of emotive adjectives. Great stuff, MikeM.

    Elsewhere today I asked the question: isn’t all fiction deception? This story may be true but that doesn’t matter. It has a rhythm and a sense of persuasion that tends to emerge from written artifice (carefully controlled). And if that sounds dubious – aren’t all Brits dubious? – let me stress it’s intended as compliment.

    Reply

    • Thanks Robbie. This was as close to verbatim as I could come on the requiem. Format was the only challenge, and the ending was obvious. Only a fool would have followed, and Trump wasn’t there.

      Reply

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