by Edgar Carroll
The old woman sat watching for him every day from dawn to nightfall, her rocking chair rattling across the uneven boards of her long front porch. She’d stop rocking now and again and peer down the winding dirt road toward the far end of the holler. Her son Horace had called her from Mobile and said he was coming home. His voice sounded eerily like his father’s, and for one confused moment the old woman had thought it was her dead husband. But then she remembered his passing, remembered burying him years back.
When Gerty finally saw Horace coming, she rose from her chair and stood transfixed. He was still so far away he seemed to be standing still. Just a distant featureless speck on the roadway, but in her heart she knew who it was.
The withered old woman had been sitting there rocking for days, migrating with the shade as the sun trekked along its daily path. She’d thought of trying to crochet something, but her arthritis was too bad, her knuckles swelled and twisted. She wanted a drink, but it’d been three years, now and her fear of going back to drinking overpowered her need.
Her daughter, Twila, had come over the day before and sat with Gerty on the porch. Gerty told her Horace had called and was on his way home. Twila stood up and trudged to the edge of the porch and turned back again to the old woman.
“You do remember what happened last time he was home, don’t ye?”
“He says he’s changed, Twila. He’s quit dranking and ain’t been in no trouble since he got out of jail a year ago.” Gerty studied Twila’s face. “He says he goes to church ever Sunday.”
“And you believed that crap?”
“Mama, he’s said all this a hundred times before.”
The old woman got up and went to Twila, held Twila’s face in her hands. “He’s my child, Twila. My blood kin. Just like you. No matter what your children do, you can’t turn ye back on ‘em.”
The old woman wrestled with her thoughts as she walked down off the porch and through the high, unkept grass by the barbed-wire fence. She hobbled out to the dirt road and headed down it, peering at the figure coming up the holler. He was still a ways off and hard to make out.
Her youngest son’s face leapt into her mind.
“I come home and my front door was standing wide open,” Billy’d said, two days back. “The door of my trailer was tore nyelly off it’s hinges, where Horace’d pried it open with a dang crow bar. I knew then all my stuff was gone. My TV, my radio, my guns, everything. You can’t relax or have no kind of life when he’s around. I wanted to kill him. Now I just hope he’ll stay gone, so I don’t have to. I got my wife and baby to think about now.”
“But he says he’s changed,” she said to her son, Billy, who wasn’t
there. She stood in the dirt road watching Horace inch his way toward
her. She suddenly wanted to run to him like the man in the Bible did when
his prodigal came home, but she made herself wait.
Gerty turned and hobbled back to the house. She got all her money and her wedding ring and wrapped them up and dropped them down in the front of her underwear and she headed back toward the road.
“A woman’s younguns ought not make her worry like this,” she said. “A
woman ought not let ‘em.”
Edgar Carroll is a lifelong building contractor who found a love for writing while attending night classes at Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author of The Sins of the Father which is available on Amazon.com. Along with writing short stories, he is presently penning another novel. When he's not writing or working, he's coaching baseball. Ed lives near Nashville.
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