NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 80

fiction / excerpt one (Chapters 1-3) Lou Walker Road wasn’t long enough. It wasn’t paved. A simple ginger-tinted dust track, formed by wheels and horse hooves traveling to and from the brick house my father built on bargain land in 1933, dead-ended at a patch of woods where plum and pecan trees dotted the border. Beyond that is where we stepped in with our boots to get firewood, fencepost wood, walking sticks — any kind of stick… for any purpose thought up after handling and considering a shape. Find a bowed, flexible branch and all of a sudden you imagine that you have lost the ability to use a hand — your hand falls off. You become salamander-like, able to regenerate a limb resembling an extra-long okra clipper. Those were the days, as they say. I do not quite understand why this is said so often. I suppose some speakers of these words are looking back to something lost, something changed unfavorably, and so the words begin a lament. Those woods, and the pasture across Lou Walker, and the rolling hills back-dropping the brick house — a combined nine hundred-ninety-two acres, is what I think about when I think about home. It’s what I think about when recalling childhood. The blue house sat at the opposite end of Lou Walker, at the corner formed by the intersecting 109 Highway. The only reason I went past the blue house was school, and to carry my mother’s jarred preserves to Red’s, or haul Old Man’s okra to town. Canebrake was that kind of town. The kind of town people farm… or clean house, or maintain the side of the road along u.s. 80, or work at Donavan’s, which was the soap plant in Greenville, or McMullan’s, which was the denim factory. There were schoolteachers, a doctor, some plumbers and house painters, like any other place has. But most of the people farmed. Not everyone got to farm a place they called their own. Some farmed a place too large for the owners to farm it themselves, or a place Old Man say owned by a person too educated or too lazy, too old, maimed, or senseless to roll up his sleeves. Since I had stayed nearer to the house than away from it, the closest one to me growing up was Rita, until I was twelve nearing thirteen. I was the youngest — October twenty-first 1944 — and she was eleven months before, November sixth 1943. People joked that she had paved the way for me. She helped with mathematics, taught me how to understand Wordsworth and Edgar Allen Poe, in the days when they and Shakespeare, Dickens and Hawthorne were the only writers at South Red Creek that were taught using the books they wrote. So Rita was all-knowing, as far as I was concerned. She knew all about life science too, and got out in the dirt with me, right at the edge of the woods near the house and the plum trees, and called out, not only the names of insects and creatures that we dug out or pulled down from a branch, but their genera as well. My mother used to say that we were joined at the hip… I and Rita… and I could definitely see that. But anywhere away from Lou Walker Road nobody ever guessed we were related. We’d pass each other out at school and it’d be like nobody was there. We’d ride the bus to and fro, and regard one another in such a way that the people who had been from other parts of town were surprised, when they finally found out that we were siblings. I was not aware that it had happened, that we had been moving along in a manner odd to conventional intra-family relationships, until she was calling me self-centered- selfish-thoughtless-egotistical- narcissistic — all those things… most of which I had to look up. We were adults, when she pulled me to the side in order to explain how I had no right to complain how things had turned out. By Quincy Flowers Canebrake: A Novel