Heads or Tails
Nantucket was a poor name to hang on a kid, Great-grandpa Billy thought, but they hadn’t asked his opinion. Cynthia had insisted on the name saying he was conceived in Nantucket and it was a fitting way to remember her honeymoon with Quaid. Sure glad they didn’t stay in Bucksnort, Billy thought.
Billy’s wife had named their only son Clarence and every generation since had strayed farther in the naming department.
Sitting in the shade of the front porch Billy was whittling a turtle out of a block of pine. His legs hung over the edge of the elevated porch above a pile of shavings on the ground. Tuck was asleep on a blanket close by. Cynthia had rushed to town to buy diapers saying she could get there and back quicker if Billy didn’t mind baby-sitting. Of course, he didn’t. A great-grandson was special. He was delighted Cynthia and Quaid had come for the weekend.
He heard Clarence’s rattle-trap pickup bouncing over the ruts in the lane across the Klein grass pasture behind the house. After the motor wheezed to a stop, doors banged shut. Clarence, Quaid and Buster came walking around the house on the path by the Peace rose bushes. The two men plopped tiredly on the porch, their soiled and sweat-stained clothing testifying to a morning of labor.
Buster, a Catahoula cow dog, sniffed Tuck, and then backed quickly away and curled up on the far side of the porch, upwind.
“Hi! Grandpa” Quaid said. “Were you talking to Tuck? I don’t think he heard you. He’s sleeping.”
“’Hello, Quaid” Billy said, nodding at his grandson. “I’m sure he didn’t. I was just saying a prayer over him same as I prayed for you and your dad. I still pray for you, you know? I was telling Tuck some things; sort of putting it in his subconscious mind.”
“What was that?” Clarence asked his dad. “Anything we need to know?”
“Well, son, I was just thinking. It hasn’t been two months since Tuck got here. He was enjoying it just fine being all secure floating in warm water and getting all he wanted to eat. That was all he ever knew. And then one day he gets shoved out. The un-knit bones in his head get all scrunched up and mis-shaped getting pushed down the birth canal. When he gets into this world someone pops him on the butt and he breaths air for the first time, a squalling and a bawling. He didn’t want to come, that’s for sure.
“You didn’t either, you know. None of us did. Now that you are here, would you want to go back?”
“If Quaid and I have to doctor any more cows this week, we both would” Clarence said, wiping a suspicious stain on his arm with a sweat-soaked bandana.
“Sitting and whittling you think about things,” Billy said. “You can’t do that when you’re working all day. At my age I won’t be around much longer. I could check-out soon or in a few years, only the good Lord knows. I expect when that time comes I won’t want to go any more than Tuck wanted to get born. There are dying pains, just like birthing pains, usually.
“But here’s what I think: When I pass from here I expect I’ll never want to come back any more than Tuck wishes he were back in his mother’s womb. I’m not in a hurry to leave but it will be okay when I do.”
“Wow! Grandpa” Quaid said, “Tuck really turned your thinking-box on.”
“Well, you remember and pass it on to Tuck. He’ll not likely remember me. The youngest of four generations seldom gets old enough to do much with the oldest. The heritage I leave with you is what my daddy gave me that he got from his father. He introduced me to the Lord. You two have a responsibility to raise Tuck and keep this family’s heritage alive.”
“That we will, Dad” Clarence said, as Quaid nodded in agreement.
“Something else I can tell you” Billy said. “You better hope Cynthia gets back soon or you two can flip a nickel to see who changes Tucks diaper.”
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