Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Era (02/03/11)
TITLE: In The Days So Long Ago
By Loren T. Lowery
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“His mother named him Absalom. She did so believing God must look more favorably on those bearing Biblical names. A goodly woman, absent of husband and literate mind, confessed to her only child that she’d once heard the name spoken by a traveling preacher.
If Absalom - as many others might – had given faith to the adage that one’s given name influences the outcome of their character, he may have had reason for concern. But as he knew little of what preachers might say and even less of his father, his name did not disquiet him. It was just who he was.
The first hint of morning was simmering orange just over the towering, moss-draped Cyprus tress along the banks of the Mississippi Delta. Mosquitoes, seemingly birthed in the ever rising mist of the river, clogged the humid air with a lazy southern hum.
Bare footed, bare chested, Absalom tested the leather straps binding his river raft together. The leather, dried under a week of summer’s sun, bit into the skin of the crudely hewn logs. Its bite was deep, exposing white marrow against the bark and Absalom nodded with satisfaction at its hold.
A noise sounded behind him. He looked up to catch the flight of a crane escaping into a hole in the canopy of the everglades, its feathers gold in the peeking dawn over its stretching head. It called back as if for others to follow. None did.
Another sound, the slashing of tail and snap of jaw and splashing water; the high keel of death following. The crane’s mate did not follow soon enough.
Breathing deep, Absalom grasped the handle of a knife sheaved at his waste. His eyes and ears keen to any approach. In a few moments, he relaxed and tossed a cotton bindle into the center of his craft. Without need for prompting, his mongrel dog, Bo, jumped beside it, sat and wagged his tail expectantly.
For the first time that morning, Absalom smiled. He wadded waste deep into the Mississippi, heaved himself up upon his raft; and, with the aid of a long pole, launched the two of them into the muddy bayou.
Along the bank, a water moccasin, hiding in the branches of a willow, dropped into the river and seemed to follow in their wake.”
“Don’t stop now, Grandma…” Chad started
“Did the snake get them?” his sister, Shelby, interrupted.
“I like Bo best.” Travis added.
“What happened to his mother?” Shelby went on, “And why’d he run away?”
“Absalom was your stepfather, wasn’t he?” Chad said. “How come he didn’t know his daddy?” His faced flamed as if he thought he might already know.
“Absalom was our great, great grandfather; Granny has a picture of him on her bureau.” Shelby added. “He was a pilot in a war. I think he was handsome.”
Alta watched their upturned faces. Her eyes glanced over their shoulders, to the TV in the corner, the DVD’s CD’s, and video games strewn on the floor. Eventually, she asked, “So many things to do, you sure you want me to go on?”
“Are you kidding?”
She smiled. “Back in your mother’s day it was a Princess Phone and eight track tapes that tried to rob her of story time. But they never did.” Her voice turned wistful. “It’s peaceful knowing some things never change from one generation to another.” She nodded and continued her story:
“The snake tuckered out in the pull of the bank’s tide and slithered back to shore. Tides and currents can do that. In a way, they are like lies. They can pull you off course before you even notice.
Sad as it might be, a man has to learn to mistrust things that pull him too easily. By age ten, Absalom had already learned that a man’s tongue was often first cousin to the currents.
Absalom spent the entire day on the river, sharing bits of cheese and bread with Bo. Come night Absalom saw something that made him stand in amazement.
Floating over the water, a paddle boat, gleaming white under the moon. Music and lights broke through its portals and spilled into the river. It seemed motionless except for foam rising and falling from its aft.
Suddenly a dark form upon the railing called out to him, 'Hail, who goes there?'”
She paused. Time conquered - grandkids listening raptly – love of stories never changed.
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