by Lorin Cranford

Oh, won't it ever stop! That dumm ol' October wind goes right through ma bones. Ma eyelids weigh a ton. But I can't sleep. Tomorrow's gonna be a hard 'en. I need rest! Milton, Bob, Jack, and the others are sleeping well. Why can't I?

Look at Ma. So broken now. She used to be pretty. She's had to work hard all her life and ain't never had nothin'. Now she's ugly and broken down. How she wanted a home so she could raise a family decently. I remember Bob bein' born. So hard for her. Lucky we was in the Valley. At least, the weather was warm. Weren't no doctor though. Just Pa. She had a hard time with Bob. That old shack sure weren't much of a place to care for a new baby. She never griped. Better'n this ol' bridge.

Anything's better'n here. Nothin' but hard concrete. Those walls-- cold, mean, just like a prison!

I remember that time in Pecos. There, we had four walls and a roof over our head. Boy, did we make the money! That cotton was really thick. In one day, I raked in 25 bucks! By Saturday night I was ready to live it up. All slicked up we hit town to party! Things was a goin' all right til Jack got drunk. Then he wanted to fight. He would have to pick on the sheriff's son. Boy, did that bust up the dance! Man, it broke our pocket books too! Should have left him in jail. That rat! He's been the cause of many fast get-aways from town. Just ain't never learned to leave fightin' alone. Guess he's got to have some excitement, though. Sure ain't none in a cotton patch!

The fire's dying. Better find another log. Pa said this one would last all night. He didn't count on it being a little green. Maybe I can go up the creek bed a little ways. There's got to be a good one up there. The moon's sure bright tonight. Had better watch ma step! This ol' creek's full of snakes. You don't never know when one's goin' to jump out at you. These cotton-mouths don't warn like those rattlers in the field!

Shuuu! What's that commotion 'round the bend? Look at that, would ya! An ol' mamma-coon and her little 'ens. Tryin' to teach 'em to catch fish. Boy, she's quick! That big old catfish -- he didn't have a prayer! Maybe I ought to learn somethin' from her? Watch it, junior. You'd better pay attention to your ma. You ain't gonna a get away from her, fellow. She's bigger and quicker. Ya gotta do what she wants.

Say, I'd better find that log. The fire's gona' go out on me. Pa'll bust my hide! There's got to be a bunch dry wood around here. That dry spell last summer really killed the trees. This'en 'll do. Got to break it down some though. Sure wish this was ol' man Upton's kid. That fake. Thinks he's so much better'n me. Just cause his pa owns a lot of land! I'd like to break his neck! He comes struttin' out in the field talkin' about his new fancy car. An' how he's goin' a be a big farmer. An' never have to work so hard. He makes me sick! Some day I'll show him! I'll get away from this miserable life! I'm gonna make me some real money. Then, he'll treat me better'n a wet-back "migrant" worker.

Dream on, ol' boy! Dream, that's all you gonna ever do. Pa wanted things too! He didn't get 'em! What makes you think you can? You any better'n Pa?

Better hurry on back to the bridge. Gotta get some shut-eye. Upton wants his north field finished tomorrow.

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The Bridge, 27 August 1996