Pa muttered something about new beginnings, and, louder, how he hoped we were done with killing. That word echoed shrieks and wailing in the canyon of my memory, but I dutifully ignored those unwelcome reverberations and repeated what Mother had said.
“Life feeds on life and the new consumes the old.”
“So say your philosophers but mine have a different way of looking at things,” Pa said, cut his eyes at me quick, and then leaned forward, hands maybe gripping tighter like he had to rein the wagon in.
“What’s that?” I asked, wanting to know, sure, but welcoming any distraction from the stupor induced by the long, desultory miles we’d gone and had to go. Pa didn’t answer. Sometimes he didn’t. Maybe he saw the past like ghostly shapes in the billowing red clouds our passage dusted up. Or maybe his thoughts, like mine, snagged on shrieks and wailing, fires and blood, hastily leaving town—after all, like Mother said, Pa was sensitive. She also says I need to be careful or I’ll turn out just like him, but she doesn’t know how wrong she is.
Mother was sleeping in the back of the wagon with my little sister; snug under eiderdown quilts saved from the Old Country. Most of our family’s possessions had been confiscated before exile, but such losses were minor whines--mere sentences--when compared with the novel-length complaint that was The Tale of Leaving Thee Old Country. It was a bedtime story of persecution and woe read from hand-me-down memories by Unreliable Narrators. Note the capitalization.
When we’d discussed such a protagonist in English Class, I’d thought first of Mother reading Thee Tale. The smile that had stolen my lips must have been sinister for it prompted the instructor to ask what crime I was committing in thought. I had mumbled, “Nothing,” while thinking that the Unreliable Narrator may be a perfectly acceptable literary device but try living with one of flesh and blood and a litany of complaints about how things aren’t now like they used to be.
I suppose that instructor, Mr. Brown, is dead, because he isn’t with our caravan, one of the faces colored orange-white by supper’s fire-light. Pity. English had been my favorite class and, while Mother insisted we keep up our studies as we traveled, I missed the camaraderie of my mates, the give and take with Learning, instructors the bouts referees. I was also best in class, eleventh year, but being best in something that no longer exists is tea with no water.
“Monster!” Pa shouted.
go to "The Lonesome Gods"