News from Ellenboro, 6/1/2012

With summer school is in full swing, David is beginning to regret having signed up for both Math and English at the same time. The workload is nearly full-time…for summer school. However, he buckles down, determined not to let the work get the best of him. If I can’t do summer school now, he thinks, what will I do later, when things get really tough?

Afternoon classes are the order of the day, and he heads into his math class at three o’clock, ready to attack Introductory Algebra for the next two hours. It’s not that he doesn’t know it; it’s just been a while since high school, and things slip from your grasp when you don’t use them every day. Some of the concepts are harder to grasp than others, and when those come along, he sits down at the dining room table with Dad. The book and videos are usually helpful, but in this case they’ve let him down, so Dave calls in the big guns. They sit for nearly two hours filling sheets of paper with scrawls that are hardly legible to anyone else, but they know exactly what each squiggle means, and Dad is determined to help David understand exactly why each answer is what it is.

David is about to go into town, and Jed wants to ride with him. After putting on his sandals and strapping in his seat, they’re ready to hit the road. Jed chatters aimlessly for the first five or ten minutes as they ride down the road toward Ellenboro. As they get closer to the train track in town, however, a definite theme emerges from his verbal meanderings. “I like trucks, David, because they’re stronger and faster than trains.” “Really, Jed.” “Yeah, and they’re more faster than vans, too.” David nods approvingly…at least the kid has his heart in the right place. “That’s cool buddy…so what about cars? Do you like them too?” Jed nods as he states, “Yeah, but not more than trucks…they’re pretty cool though.” As the car bumps over the train tracks, Jed asks, “So where you have to go?”

“I’m going to make a payment, and then I’m going to Lowe’s,” David replies. Jed’s grin widens. “Lowe’s is my favorite store.” That’s my boy, David thinks to himself. The favorite store question settled, Jed returns to the truck theme. “I like Punch Bugs too, but they’re not stronger than trucks. Trucks are the strongest…except for little trucks. Even Punch Bugs are stronger than little trucks. See, cars are more stronger than little trucks, because little trucks are supposed to be cars, eventually.” At that, David explodes into laughter, and Jed cracks up at David laughing. For the next five minutes, as they continue toward Forest City, the boys laugh at each other’s laughter.

The lady who keeps the books where David bought his car is also an old friend of his mother’s, and she is truly amazed at how big Jed has grown since she saw them last, asking incredulously, “Wow, this is Jed?” “Yes ma’am,” Jed replies, “I’m Jed.” She smiles at David and then asks, “So he’s not the youngest?” David smiles in return. “No ma’am…Jonny just turned one last September.” Mrs. Sanney shakes her head as she writes out the receipt and hands David his copy. “Tell your mother I said hello. Y’all take care now.”

Later, they finally make it to Lowe’s. As they’re heading toward the checkout counter, David gives Jed the merchandise and tells him he can purchase it. Feeling like a big boy, Jed walks up to the counter and dismantles the clerk with a huge grin, then slaps the mower belt down on the counter. Playing along, the lady rings it up and tells Jed the total. Even at four, Jed is well aware of the immense power of plastic, and immediately reaches for the MasterCard, not realizing that that’s not how David intends to pay for this particular purchase. The clerk smiles covertly as David reaches down and shows Jed what to use: “Here buddy, give her the green paper there. Yeah, the cash…use that.” Jed’s eyes widen. “You mean they take that here?”

Jed gives the cashier the money, and she gives him the change. The boys walk out to the car together, and as they head home, Jed again regales David with tales of the greatest exploits that never happened. David just smiles—hey, I still remember being five years old and telling whoppers!

Dad and Josiah are still working nearly full-time at the farm, and they’ve once again enlisted (no, pressed—the kids didn’t volunteer) the younger children into helping keep the weeds at bay on the four acres of crops they currently have planted there.  The sun is growing still warmer with every passing day, and the boys spend hours sweating profusely as they chop the weeds with their hoes, grumbling under their breath at the dust that rises from the parched earth. A cooling rain begins to fall, and Joseph and Nathan are delighted when Dad calls, “Okay boys, we’ve been rained out. Let’s pack it in!” Of course, the rain will soon stop falling, and the next day they’ll be back out in the field chopping weeds, but for now they are celebrating their freedom and dancing in the rain.

As evening comes on, David sits down with his computer and begins to go back over his essay for English. The teacher has complimented him on the style in which he wrote, but she also said that it was too long, so he’s got to figure out a way to cut a page and a half of material out without stripping it of all detail. It’s a ticklish task, and he’ll be up until after midnight, wracking his brain for the most concise way to state what he wants to communicate. At last, he finishes and turns his attention to other projects: letters, journal entries, and blog posts that are clamoring to be written. Before long, he’ll put the light out and go to sleep.

The crickets are singing in the tall grass outside the house, and from the nearby creek, a spring peeper trills as he searches for a mate. The cicadas will be out before long, and their raucous chirruping will add to the serenade of the night. Anyone who thinks the countryside is completely silent has never sat outside and listened to the night voices.

Up in downtown Ellenboro, a State Trooper pulls into the parking lot of a building—once a store—that is now for sale. He’s here to keep the peace, to establish a presence that will discourage would-be wrongdoers from breaking the law. He’s here to keep an eye on people passing through and make sure they obey the 35 mph posted speed limit. As he sits just on the other side of the second traffic light, he’s also waiting.

Waiting for someone to sneeze…and run ‘em both.


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