by Claude Jones
Jamie sat on the road bank, looking at the gravel rocks that kept the red clay of the roadbed from being a mud hole. The rocks that made it possible for the school bus to pass, the mailman to bring the welfare check and an occasional trip to town hurt Jamie’s bare feet as he walked aimlessly toward where the power company was cutting right of way under their lines on Louis Cruse’s place. Some of the rocks were smooth and round, almost translucent, others were rounded but not symmetrical, brown and plain, some jagged, sharp, just right for splitting toes and puncturing soles of unshod feet.
Jamie imagined giant hydraulic front-end loaders piercing gravel beds, breaking rocks intended to be rounded and smooth. He wondered if he would ever be sitting on the seat of one of the yellow monsters, controlling all that power, face blackened by diesel smoke.
Jamie’s mind snapped to the present as he heard his aunt calling “time to eat.” Jamie looked at her as she turned from the sagging front porch; he could see the lines that etched her face, lines not just from age, but years of working crops in the torture of the Mississippi heat, rising before daylight every day to milk cows, tend stock, feed chickens, then returning to the house to prepare breakfast for the family before anyone else was out of bed. Where did she get the drive, the initiative to raise a boy, not hers, after she had given her whole life to raising her own family, now long moved to town to VCR’s and big screen TV's. Why did she agree to let Jamie stay with her while his mother got settled in at her new job in Huntsville? It had been five months now; Jamie had begun to wonder just how settled his Mother would have to get before he could go live with her.
He had been so excited when his mother had told about Huntsville; he could hardly wait until he could be near the Space Travel Museum and rocket production plants. He imagined himself as pilot and space explorer, not as kicking rocks along red dirt roads.
Jamie entered the house to the smell of thickened potatoes, blackeyed peas and cornbread. Meals were the one part of living with Aunt Lizzie that made up for the inadequacies of his life that he knew other boys of twelve did not have to endure. How alone he felt at school when the crowd of boys he longed to be a part of talked of movies seen on VCRs and sports seen on cable channels, of shoes with pumps and CD's in their rooms.
“Jamie, don’t eat so fast, there’s plenty,” scolded Aunt Lizzie.
“I bet when I get to Huntsville with Mama, we'll eat at Wendy’s every night. You know how she hates to cook. Have you heard from her, Aunt Lizzie?”
“No, but I’m sure we will anytime now, Jamie.”
Even though Jamie wanted to believe, he could tell by Aunt Lizzie’s expression and tone of voice, his mother might never come for him. Aunt Lizzie’s face softened. “Jamie, you just have to do your best in life, wherever you are.”
“Yes’m, I know,” Jamie responded.
With a full stomach, Jamie helped Aunt Lizzie clear the table. He listened as she hummed “In the Sweet By and By.” Jamie thought, She and I both want to go home.
Where was home for him? Aunt Lizzie had a clear picture of her longing; she wanted to be with Uncle Fred in God’s Heaven, getting to know her stillborn son, never forgotten. Jamie wished for a clear vision instead of only dreams, dreams drawn from short visits and sightings of nearby families and friends. Why did he have only dreams when so many were living his dreams and they took them for granted with no appreciation?
Aunt Lizzie’s voice interrupted Jamie’s brooding. “Jamie, you are a special young man; anything you want is within you. You control your future; you can change circumstances that may come between you and your dreams.”
Jamie’s eyes brightened. “How do you know all that, Aunt Lizzie?”
Jamie encircled her with his arms, feeling both the frailty and strength of her.
“Aunt Lizzie, I only hope I can do as much good in this world as you have. Thank you for loving me.”
Claude Jones writes:
"I have lived all my life in Pontotoc, Mississippi -- raised on a farm where we milked cows, raised cotton, corn, and had a peach orchard. I've worked for Pontototc Electric Power for 31 years. My wife Ann and I have two sons, both are pharmacists, and we have two grandchildren."
Who Has The Edge?
Two Poems - II
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