“ONCE UPON a time a long, long time ago, a good knight loped gently over the plain on his faithful horse, and this good knight felt badly in his heart because he had a terrible deed to face….”
Papa told me that story. I was five. He told me many stories. His face always smiled. His face was always tired.
The knight came over the green fields. He went into a forest. Everything was dark and scary. He was looking for the Green Knight. The Green Knight had let him chop off his head. It rolled on the floor of King Arthur’s castle like a bright green and hairy ball. But the Green Knight picked up his head. He got on his green horse.
“‘I’ll be waiting for you to come to me in a year and a day for your return blow,’ the Green Knight said, and he galloped away. Now Sir Gawain, for that was the good knight’s name, had to let the Green Knight chop his head off….”
* * *
Here is the house. It is white and red. Papa says red is more dura…dura…lasts longer.
The trees in the grove are green and brown.
The road is dusty. When the buggies and wagons go by, the dust hangs in the air. I cough.
Papa and Mama and me and Oliver and Lorenzo and Horace live there. There was another Lorenzo. He died. Papa said that the name hadn’t been used up. That’s why Lorenzo is Lorenzo.
* * *
Rock of ages, cleft for me;
Let me hide, myself in thee.
* * *
He sang me to sleep with that song.
“Sleep time, little Jim,” he said. “Close your eyes. Nod your little head.”
And I pretended to close my eyes.
Then I came awake.
Mama made biscuits for breakfast. I poured syrup on them. The syrup came from Papa’s store on the first floor of the Green Mountain House. I used to watch the men play dominoes. They sat by the stove in the winter and they played dominoes.
I liked the store.
Then Papa got sick and lost it.
We went on a trip and Papa got a farm in a bunch of trees and Lorenzo teased me and hid among them and I couldn’t find him and then Celinda was born and Lydia was born and
* * *
Lor, Lor, my pretty little Pink,
Lor, Lor I say,
* * *
We had a hidden cellar where Negroes used to hide when the bad men came looking for them. It was filled with hay so they could sleep on it.
“Your Uncle Aaron was at Bunker Hill when the British attacked. And there they stood, brave men holding their fire until Israel Putnam shouted out, ‘Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!’ And Aaron held his fire, kneeling there as the Redcoats marched up the hill…”
* * *
Old Dan Tucker was a fine ol’ man,
Washed his face in a frying pan,
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
Died with a toothache in his heel.
Copyright © 2004 by Randy Lee Eickhoff