Monthly Archives: April 2016

Davy Crockett’s Butterfly Chapter Five

Davy could not endure Jesse Cheek any longer. For sure, he was a good man—he paid four dollars for the trip from Morristown—but his weary eyes penetrated Davy’s soul. When Cheek asked if Davy wanted to wait around Front Royal for a few weeks and then accompany him on the trip back to Tennessee he flashed a broad smile and said yes. He did not mean it. That night Davy pretended to sleep under the wagon while Cheek slumbered above him. He slipped away, taking the trail south. Davy walked until he could not hold his eyes open any longer. He settled under a large spruce tree, listened to cricket song and worried about what to do next. Confusion numbed his brain. The heavy scent of evergreen was everywhere. All he knew for sure as deep sleep overcame him was that he was on the move.
Morning light came through spruce bough and awakened Davy who sat up rubbing his eyes and realized how hungry he was. In a while he heard clomping cattle hooves and gentle lowing. Speeding his step Davy soon saw a small group of cows ambling along and a man riding the horse pulled a small wagon. Davy trotted up beside the man, a short, stocky fellow maybe in his early twenties.
“Hello, sir,” Davy said with a big smile.
“Fine mornin’, ain’t it?”
“That calf there is wanderin’.”
Davy ran over to slap the calf on the rump, causing it to lope back to its mother. “I know all about herdin’.”
“You don’t say.”
“Ma and pa need the money,” he said with purpose, hanging his head. “Times are tough, sir, and I git hired out all the time.”
“I ain’t got no money to hire nobody.”
“Oh, I’m on my way home. I don’t want to git stuck on another drive right now.”
“That’s good.”
“Where you goin’?”
“That’s the way I’m headed. Morristown.” Davy walked a while without talking. “I hope ma is all right. She was coughin’ real bad when I left.” Nothing more was said for the next few miles. When a cow strayed, Davy prodded it back in line. His stomach growled. “I guess you ate before you broke camp this mornin’.”
“That’s good.” Another mile in silence went by as Davy continued to show his skills in moving cattle with efficiency down a trail Struggling not to sigh out loud, he was about to give up and move on down the road by himself.
“Johnnycake’s in the back of the wagon. Go git it.”
The next days passed with few words, many miles and plain, sturdy food. They continued through the Shenandoah Valley. Soon Davy realized the man stayed on his horse all the time while he had to walk to herd the cattle. As he looked at it, he was doing all the work. This fellow, this man with a paunch and a smug look on his round face, just sat there the entire time and didn’t do a thing to keep the calves in line. A feeling in his gut told Davy this was not fair.
“These rocks git mighty hard on the feet.”
His companion did not answer but kept his eyes on the path ahead.
“I reckon your backside must be gittin’ mighty sore from all that ridin’.” Silence met Davy’s observations. He decided he was not going to abide this. At the next river crossing, the Rappahannock, they passed another wagon going north. Davy right away liked the appearance of the man. He was older than his current companion, and he walked beside his team of oxen, flicking their hindquarters with a leather whip. A black trimmed beard covered his pale face, and small lines surrounded his light gray eyes.
“Good day to you, gentlemen,” the man called out.
“Hello, sir,” Davy replied with a ready grin.
“God bless,” he said nodding with a smile.
The man on the horse ignored the greetings. Davy glanced at him and then back at the man with the black beard.
“Don’t pay him no mind, sir. He’s a good man, but don’t talk much.”
“God gives us voices to keep our fellow men company,” he said as he passed the wagon and cattle.
Davy’s head whipped back and forth a few times, and then he turned on his heal, splashing across the river to the wagon rolling north. “Hello, sir. You need some help?”


David walked into the Gibson County Chancery court with Abner at his side. In front of him were two sets of unfriendly faces—the Patton relatives contesting the will of patriarch Robert Patton and his own family, Elizabeth and their three children. The court clerk John Wesley Crockett, his eldest son from his first marriage, strode into the room. David thought his son looked none too pleased with the proceedings. John Wesley was not a large man, but like his father had a demeanor that demanded attention.
Unlike almost forty years earlier, David could not switch midstream to run away from unpleasant companions. He had to stay and listen to all they had to say.
In eighteen thirty-one David and Elizabeth traveled to visit her father Robert Patton in Buncombe County, North Carolina, west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Robert Patton was nearly ninety years old and growing week in body and mind. The Pattons were good people. They donated land for the first Presbyterian Church in the county. Soft of voice and kind of eye, the old man had a special place in David’s heart. He was not a drunk and did not beat his children, So David did not mind when Elizabeth wanted to bring him back to their home in West Tennessee.
“We object to this will,” William Edmondson said, “because it was obviously a connivance of David Crockett and his wife Elizabeth to keep Robert Patton drunk while living in their home the last year of his life and making him write a will favoring them.”
Edmondson was the brother of the man who questioned David’s motives at the Democratic Party meeting. If William Edmondson had not been married to his wife’s sister, David would have beaten the tar out of him.
“That’s a lie!” William Patton yelled from the corner.
David liked his nephew. It was a shame the boy’s father recently died of the pox. A fine young man like that should not have to grow up without a father, he thought.
“They took good care of grandpa, which was more than you did!” William continued.
“Your father would take a switch to you for talkin’ to us like that!” Edmondson retorted.
“My pa’s dead,” William said in a bad temper. “Leave him out of this. Besides, I can’t git my inheritance from grandpa while you’re stirrin’ up all this fuss.”
“William Patton makes a valid point,” John Wesley said. “What evidence do you have to establish your claim that the original will had been changed after Mr. Patton moved to West Tennessee?”
He sure talked good, David thought about his son. John Wesley got his gift of gab from him. John Wesley married well. His wife’s father was a judge in Memphis and taught him to be a lawyer.
“I’m not sayin’ my wife’s sister did anythin’ wrong,” Edmondson replied, looking down. “She’s a good, carin’ woman who deserves better that she’s got in life.”
That was a slap in the face, David decided. He had always done right by his wife and his children, at least he thought he had done the best he could. Whether they thought so, well, that was another matter. He looked across the room at Elizabeth and his three children, Robert, Sissy and Matilda. David stared into her eyes to figure out what she was thinking or how she felt. Elizabeth was mighty good at keeping her feelings to herself. When he built his cabin at the Rutherford Fork of the Obion River in Weakley County she chose to take her children to be near her family in Gibson County, the same family who was now contesting the will. He never understood why she did not move with him and he did not have the courage to ask.
A chair scraped the floor, bringing David’s thoughts back to the court proceeding. He saw Hance McWhorter lift his massive body and lean forward.
“My wife’s father only left us ten dollars,” he said in a raspy voice. “And the Edmondsons only got ten dollars.”
“Didn’t you borrow three thousand dollars a few years ago from the old man?” Abner asked. “And you didn’t pay it back?”
“Well, we needed the money.” Edmondson looked down and shuffled his feet. “And, durn it, Sarah deserved it.”
“Of course, she did,” Abner said, nodding in agreement. He then turned to McWhorter. “And you, Hance, did you and Ann git an extra three hundred acres back when Robert Patton divided up some land between the children?”
“That was a court mistake,” McWhorter said in a huff. “I don’t see why we should git hurt ‘cause the court made a mistake.” He sniffed. “Besides, Ann deserves her share jest like the rest of ‘em.”
“Jest like Elizabeth and Margaret deserve it, too. And their brother George.”
“By the way,” John Wesley interjected, “where is George Patton?”
“He’s in North Carolina,” McWhorter answered with a rasp.
“Does he object to the will?” John Wesley asked.
“We don’t know,” Edmonson said. “He ain’t got back to us yet.”
“I wouldn’t think he would,” Abner said with a smile. “He got an equal portion to the Burgins and the Crocketts.”
“Is that so?” John Wesley looked at Edmondson.
“I reckon,” he replied.
“Well, the court is not going to make another mistake.” John Wesley leaned back in his chair. “I’m not making any decision until I hear from George Patton.”
“But he ain’t here,”Edmondson said in protest.
“How are we supposed to git ‘im here?” McWhorter asked.
“That’s your problem.” John Wesley rapped his gavel and stood. “I am done.” He looked at his father and gave him a diffident nod and walked out.
The Edmondsons and McWhorters grumbled among themselves as they left the room. David shook hands with William.
“Thanks for standin’ up for us, William.”
“Aw, that’s the least I could do,” he replied with a shy smile.
“And you done won the day, Abner,” David said and slapped him on the back.
After Abner and his wife Margaret and William left, decided he needed to walk across the room to his family, but he found his legs unwilling to move. Then he realized the decision was longer his to make, because they were coming toward him. Following the habits developed when he was a boy in Morristown, he had an intense desire to run away.


Dave took the California Street exit off Interstate 35 and drove into Gainesville. At the first traffic light, he looked over at an old, run-down ice cream shop. When he was eighteen Dave brought Allan home from the Wichita Falls state mental hospital after the first of many commitments. Dave remembered how he bravely thought his brother was better. Perhaps Allan would be able to hold a job. Maybe life would work out for him, maybe. Allan told him to stop at the ice cream shop. Air went out of Dave’s lungs when Allan ordered two double scoop cones and started licking them both at the same time.
“I’ve got to put some weight on. They don’t feed you anything at the mental hospital.”
Dave remembered a group of guys from his high school that sat in the corner and sniggered and pointed at Allan. Maybe Allan would never be any better, he admitted to himself. He ushered his brother out of the shop as quickly as possible and opened the car door for him.
“Daddy isn’t home yet, is he?”
“I dread—oh, he’s such a sweet old man. At least Vince isn’t here.” Ice cream dripped down on his hands, and Allan hungrily licked it up. “Always thought he was so tough. Big tough Vince had to join the Marines. I hope the Viet Cong kills him.”
Dave shook his head to forget that day as the light turned green and he continued down California Street toward downtown. As he passed the courthouse he glanced down a side street at the county jail.
“Vince,” he mumbled, thinking of another day. It was two years after bringing Allan home from the mental hospital. He had to drive Vince home from jail. Dave was finishing two years at the junior college and saving his money to go to East Texas State University. Vince called him and told him to go to the bank, withdraw five hundred dollars and bring it to the jail. He waited in the lobby for his brother to come through a large thick door accompanied by a deputy.
“Did you bring the money?”
“Yeah.” Dave felt the same embarrassment as he had at the ice cream shop, although this time no one was in the room sniggering.
“Okay. Give it to the cashier, and let’s get out of here.”
This was not the first time Vince had been in jail for drunk driving, but this was the first time Vince had called him instead of their father to bail him out.
“Are you sure dad will give me the money?” Dave asked, stammering. “I mean, five hundred dollars is a lot of money.”
“Just give the cashier the damn money and let’s get the hell out of here.”
After his day in court, Vince came home with a big grin on his face.
“”I talked the judge into reducing the fine from the five hundred dollar bail to three hundred and fifty because it had come from my brother who needed it for college.” Vince handed over one hundred. “I kept fifty for doing you such a good favor.”
Not out of jail a week and Vince was drunk again. Part of the fifty went, to buy beer. Dave never held any illusions about Vince. He knew he was a drunk and would always be a drunk.
Finally he pulled into the driveway of his father’s house with dark brown siding and white roof shingles. The bushes were overgrown and the overall look of the house was shabby. With a heavy sigh, he got out of his car and pulled out his suitcase.
“Puppy Crockett? Is that you?” an old woman called out.
Dave walked a few steps toward the neighbor’s white clapboard house where a fat gray-haired woman leaned forward in a rocking chair on her front porch.
“Yes, Mrs. Burch, how are you?”
“Moving back home?”
“No, Mrs. Burch, I’m in for the funeral.”
“I heard about it on the radio. I didn’t even know they’d let him out of the mental hospital that last time.”
“I didn’t either.”
“The last time I saw him he looked awful. Half of his teeth rotted out. And his hair had turned white.”
“I hadn’t seen him the last few years.”
“You look good, Puppy.”
“Oh.” Dave smiled. “I try to take care of myself.”
“Well, it was nice talking to you, Puppy.” She leaned back in her chair and began rocking.
Dave took his bad and walked across the lawn of uncut weeds to the porch. Stepping with care around a rotted plank, he reached the open front door and heard a baseball game blasting from the television. Suddenly a primeval urge wrenched his gut, an old feeling, even older than his own life, to run away.

Cancer Chronicles 45

Only my wife Janet could hurt my feelings.
Well, my son and my daughter are pretty good at hurting my feelings too.
When I get my feelings hurt I get very quiet. Also involved is a thing called “the look” which was the only tool of punishment that ever worked with my daughter when she was growing up. She had a quick apology and usually tears were involved. My son did not forgive me for making him move to Florida away from his friends when he was a teen-ager. During those he didn’t care if he hurt my feelings or not. It was not until he was in his early twenties that he realized that sometimes we have to make decisions that are not going to make everybody happy. After that, he noticed when I was too quiet and made amends.
Not only could Janet hurt my feelings she was the only one who didn’t have to apologize. After a while I informed her why I was upset and then I let go of it. When she knew the storm had passed, she gave me a hug, and all was well again. Well, cancer took all that away.
The point is that only the people who truly love you have the ability to reach down into your heart and squeeze it until you cry. Anyone else who thinks he has hurt my feelings is wrong because I am not emotionally invested in that person. What that person has done is made me mad. By trying to pass off their bad behavior as hurting my feelings, these people are saying they didn’t do anything wrong.
When my family hurts my feelings, I know I have the responsibility to forgive them because I love them. However, I don’t let anyone else get away without a giving a sincere, honest apology. No one knows how to apologize. Any statement of alleged contrition that involved the words “if” or “but” is not an apology. I may smile and act like I don’t mind, but the dent in our relationship is still there.
These days, however, I really wish Janet was still here to hurt my feelings. I miss the make-up hugs.

Sins of the Family Chapter Five

“President Jimmy Carter is back in Washington after a tour of South Korea,” Bob read to himself from the teletype. “Hope it was a good trip,” he muttered to himself. “He needs all the help he can get at the polls.”
Bob glanced from the Associated Press machine when he heard his telephone ring desk. Rushing back to his desk he picked it up the receiver and smiled when he heard Jill’s voice.
“Hi, I was hoping you’d call.”
“Oh, Bob. It’s terrible. Dad just called.” She sounded as though she were about to cry.
“What happened?” He furrowed his brow.
“Grandpa’s in trouble.”
“The immigration service. They say he was a Nazi. They want to deport him.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll meet with you and your parents tonight. I know someone who can help.”
“Grandma’s practically hysterical.”
“How about your mom?”
“She’s holding up.” Jill paused. “No drinking yet.”
“That’s good. How are you?”
“Stunned more than anything else,” she said, “except—all my life I’ve had this strange feeling as though my folks were waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“And this is the shoe.”
That evening Bob picked up Jill at her apartment to go to her parents’ home in a rich suburb of Knoxville. Her father Ed answered the door and led them into his living room filled with dark woods and leather furniture. He was tall and handsome with no gray in his full head of blond hair.
“Is mom still okay?” Jill said in subdued tones.
“Of course.” Her father smiled. “Why shouldn’t she?”
After they sat, Ed cleared his throat and began to explain the situation.
“Seems this woman from dad’s hometown filed this complaint. She’s been looking for him since the end of World War II. Hired an investigator to go from country to country. ”
Jill’s mother Carol entered from the kitchen with a tray of coffee cups.
“I thought we’d need plenty of caffeine to figure this one out.” She was an elegant, tall woman with beautiful dark brown hair, thick and curly. She leaned over to kiss Jill on the forehead. “Hi, honey.” She touched her cheek to Bob’s. “Thanks for helping, Bob.”
He glanced at Jill, who was sighing in relief. He had not detected any alcohol on her breath and, apparently, neither had Jill, though Carol’s obsession with coffee made Bob think she was in need of something strong to control her nerves.
“You’d think after all these years in the car business I’d know a good lawyer, but I don’t.”
“That’s because an honest man doesn’t need a lawyer,” Carol said as she set down the tray and sat close to her husband on the sofa.
“I met this lawyer last year when I was covering a murder trial,” Bob said. “Jeff Holt. I got to know him very well. He said he liked the way I reported the facts on his client.”
“Isn’t he the one who tries to prove the victim deserved to die?” Jill frowned.
“He’s very persuasive,” Bob replied.
“He sounds like someone you get when you’re guilty.” She shook her head.
“That’s just it, Jill.” Her father put his hand on Carol’s arm. “Your grandfather was a member of the Nazi party. And I think he was an officer in the Gestapo.”
“How do you know?” Jill’s eyes widened with surprise.
“He doesn’t know,” her mother said, picking up her coffee.
“Okay, I don’t know for sure.” Glancing away, Ed ducked his head. “But it’s the only thing that makes sense. It explains so much about why we came to this country and why mom and dad are the way they are.”
“What things?” Bob said, his journalistic instincts beginning to take over.
“My earliest memories were of growing up in Bavaria and then, when I was about twelve, moving a lot, first to Switzerland, then England and finally here. Life settled down, and I enjoyed working in mom and dad’s shop.” He smiled. “It was fun. I still carve for a hobby. It’s relaxing.”
“You used to love the wooden toys your father made for Christmas,” Carol said.
“But school was different.” Ed sighed.
“These mountain children clearly let him know what being blond, blue-eyed and speaking with a German accent meant in the late forties in the United States of America, the winner of the war,” Carol said in a somber tone. “It meant bloody noses and shame.”
“Well, you know how kids can be.” He waved his hand to dismiss the memory.
“Children can be cruel,” Bob said.
“People are cruel,” Carol corrected him with a hint of sadness. “Children are more obvious, that’s all.”
“When I was fifteen or so I discovered libraries,” he continued. “Libraries are wonderful places. They tell you people and places that your parents don’t want to talk about.”
“Even now he reads more than I do.” Carol took a long sip of coffee.
“Mom thought it was great I was interested in books. She wouldn’t have been so overjoyed if she’d known what I was looking for.” Ed stood and walked over to his fireplace and fingered the carving on the mantle.
“He did that too,” Carol said.
“I combined what mom told me about their past with what I read.”
“Greta’s version of the family history,” his wife interjected, “was that Heinrich was a policeman in Bavaria during World War II and that Heinrich’s father was mayor of Oberbach.”
“One of the books said all the mayors were appointed by the Nazi party.” Ed turned to look at the others. “That led me to believe grandpa was a Nazi too. Being a second son, dad didn’t get any part of his family farm so he had to become a woodcutter.”
“Heinrich carved the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen,” Carol said. “Before his stroke, his shop was filled with customers.”
“Cutting trees can’t be that profitable so the logical thing would be to align yourself with the people who could get you money.”
“It’s not much different today, is it?” Bob said, trying to sympathize.
“I figured out he was a Gestapo agent became mom said dad was a policeman in Munich who came back to Oberbach frequently on business. A cop on the beat wouldn’t leave town unless he had authority, and being a Gestapo agent would give him that authority. When I first put all the pieces together, I was sick to my stomach. I mean, I really hated my father.” Ed went back to the sofa and sat by Jill. “And I was ashamed. The kids from school knew we were from Germany, but they never really knew for sure about the other stuff. I did, and I hated it.”
“Oh, Dad.” Jill leaned over and hugged her father.
“You get over things like that.” Ed smiled. “Once kids start growing up, get into high school, they don’t care about things like that. I was on the football team, and that’s all the kids cared about then.” He looked at Carol and smiled. “When you have someone love you like Carol, you think better of yourself.” He reached over and squeezed her hand. “And I started looking at dad differently too.”
Carol took her hand away to steady her cup as she drank the coffee.
“I mean,” he continued, “I figure now he did what he did to get ahead. And, good grief, that’s what we all do, isn’t it?”
“Sure,” Bob replied in a weak voice, putting his hands together in front of his mouth.
“Well, maybe not,” he said. Tears began to fill his eyes, and Carol put her arms around him. “I knew this was going to happen some day.”
“Don’t worry, dear,” Carol said, consoling him. “I’m sure this lawyer Bob mentioned will help.”
“We’ve got to leave,” Jill said as she stood and pulled Bob up by his shoulder.
“I’m sorry.” Ed looked up at them, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I never wanted to break down like this in front of you.”
“Dad, I understand.” She went to her father, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. “You don’t have to apologize.”
“It’s the way he was raised,” Carol said, rubbing Ed’s back. “Men were taught never to show any emotion.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever loved you more or been more proud of you than right now.” Jill kissed him on the cheek and smiled.
“Thanks.” Ed returned her smile, putting his big golden-tanned hand to her face.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Smith,” Bob said. “I’ll talk to Jeff Holt tomorrow.”
“Jill,” Carol said, “I want you to know something.”
They turned to her. Bob noticed how she clutched her hands and how her fingernails were bitten into the quick.
“I know sometimes it seems I don’t get along with your grandparents,” she said slowly and then paused. “Not seems. I really don’t get along with them.”
“Mom, you don’t have to tell me this, not right now. I understand.”
“Do you understand?” Carol looked deep into Jill’s eyes. “I hope you do.” She glanced down. “If it were just them, I’d be glad to see them shipped off and never have to put up with them again. But your father loves his parents.” Her eyes narrowed in an attempt to compose herself. “As he should. Everyone should love their parents the way he loves them.”
“And you love him all the more for it.” Jill touched her mother’s hands.
“I love your father so much that I’ll do anything to make him happy, even ensure that the two people who make my life miserable stay in this country forever.”
“And that’s why I love you so much,” Jill said, kissing her mother.
The next day later Bob and Jill met with Jeff Holt, a bear of a man with a distinct mountain twang to his deep voice. They sat on the edge of their chairs in his office explaining the deportation case.
“My father is Ed Smith, the car dealer,” Jill said. “He’s agreed to pay all legal expenses.”
“Is that Big Ed, East Tennessee Chevrolet sales leader?”
She smiled and nodded.
“Then let’s get cracking,” Jeff said, grinning with confidence.
That night Bob and Jill took Jeff to the Schmidts’ home, and Ed and Carol greeted them at the door.
“So you’re Big Ed, the Chevy king?” Jeff pumped Ed’s hand.
After introductions, Ed called his mother from the shop.
“Did you have a chance to talk to your parents?” Bob asked him as they waited for Greta to appear. “They do understand Jeff’s on their side, don’t they?”
“I tried my best.” He shook her head.
“Ah, my Edward,” Greta said with her best mother’s pride as she entered the living room. She stopped short. “Oh, Carol.” She glanced at Ed. “You didn’t tell me she was coming too.”
“I thought you knew Carol always goes everywhere with me, Mom.” Ed tried to direct Greta to Jeff. “I want to introduce…”
Greta pulled away and went to Carol, her hand extended and her face covered with a false grin.
“Carol. It’s a surprise to see you. It’s been such a long time.”
“I wanted to show my support at this time of family crisis.”
“Family crisis? What family crisis? This is no crisis. It is just another of life’s little problems. You always worry too much about things. But, then, your people always fret too…”
Ed grabbed his mother by the shoulders and turned her to Jeff.
“Mom, I want you to meet Jeff Holt, the lawyer who’s going to help us with our little problem.”
“My,” Greta said, surveying Jeff’s mass, “aren’t you a healthy man.”
“Thank you kindly, ma’am. It’s mighty kind of you to notice.”
“And where do your people come from?”
“My folks have lived in the hollers of these old mountains so long they forgot where the boat came from.”
“Mom, go get dad,” Ed said, again trying to draw his mother away.
After she left the room, Ed look to Jeff and shook his head.
“I have to apologize for mom.”
“No need. I can deal with all types of folks slicker than a greased pig.”
Greta and Heinrich entered, and he headed for his favorite easy chair.
“What is this?” Heinrich said as he settled into his chair. “A party?”
“Remember, Dad.” Ed went to him and leaned over. “I told you I was bringing over a lawyer to help us with this immigration business.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot.”
“Jeff Holt, Mr. Schmidt.” He stepped forward and extended his hand. “A pleasure to meet you.”
“You eat too much, young man.” Heinrich ignored the gesture.
“You sure got that right, Mr. Schmidt.” Jeff smiled as he dropped his hand without ceremony. “Now if you don’t mind we’ll get settled down here and get to business so we can leave you alone as fast as we can.”
“You talk funny, too.” Heinrich had a clever little smile on his lips and a suspicious glint in his eyes.
“Nothing gets passed you, does it, Mr. Schmidt?” Jeff laughed as he sat on the sofa. “I’d pay a fancy professor to make me talk better, but I can’t afford it.”
“Jeff is a good man, Dad.” Ed sat next to Jeff and put his hand on his shoulder. “I trust him.”
“Okay, down to business.” Jeff looked Heinrich straight in the eye. “It seems this woman Eva Moeller says you were a Gestapo agent in charge of bringing the woodcutters guild in line with the Nazi party.”
“I knew Eva Moeller.” Greta leaned in between Heinrich and Jeff. “She was such a vain woman, thought she was so beautiful. Always bragging about her husband, Hans. She thought he was so handsome.”
“Mrs. Moeller says you killed her husband.” Jeff stared at Heinrich, the hillbilly act fading away. Now he had become the professional courtroom attorney and showed he would not abide with further evasion.
“These Southerners, I can’t understand how they talk.” Heinrich looked away with a smile.
“I remember when Hans Moeller died,” Greta interjected, her eyes frantic. “He was a big beer drinker, yes, he was, and he went out late one night and fell down a hillside and knocked himself out and bears, they came up and clawed him to death. They couldn’t recognize him at all.”
Joan appeared in the door to the shop.
“Mrs. Schmidt, someone was asking about–”
“Don’t you know to knock?” Greta turned to storm toward the salesclerk whose eyes widened in fear.
“I’ve never knocked before when I came to ask a question.”
“That’s a lie. I’d never allow someone into my private quarters without knocking. You know that.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that–”
“You better not be spying on me. I don’t like people spying on me.”
“Mom, Joan just has a question about business.” Ed intervened, putting his arms around his mother and smiled at the clerk. “What is it?”
“Someone asked about the large gnome carving in the corner.”
“The price tag is on it,” Greta said, her chin sticking out.
“But they’re offering a lower price.”
“We don’t bargain. That is the price.” Greta turned away.
“Thanks for checking with us on it, though, Joan.” Ed smiled again.
“Thank you, Mr. Smith,” she said and retreated to the store.
“Mr. Schmidt,” Jeff resumed, “do you remember Hans Moeller?”
“These Southerners, they need to learn to speak English good,” Heinrich said in his thick German accent.
“I remember Hans Moeller,” Greta said, her brow knitted as she searched for words. “He was a braggart. He wore the bird feathers, yes he did, and he gave them to Eva and she wore them too, yes she did.”
“Bird feathers?” Jeff looked at Ed and frowned.
“Killing birds on game preserves of rich, absentee landowners was considered quite a bravado thing to do,” Ed explained. “And to wear bird feathers in your hat showed you weren’t afraid of rich people, so to speak.”
“Yes, I wore the bird feathers.” Heinrich nodded.
“No, Heinrich,” Greta corrected him her voice rising. “You didn’t wear the bird feathers. That was bad. That was breaking the law. You didn’t break the law. Hans, he was bad, he broke the law.”
“Mrs. Schmidt, I’m not saying your husband is a bad man,” Jeff said choosing his words with care. “I’m on your side. I believe your husband is a good man.”
“No.” Greta shook her head, her eyes brimmed with tears. “My world, it’s changing too fast.”
“Mrs. Schmidt?” Bob put his hands on Greta’s shoulders and could feel her trembling. “Everything is going to be fine. Don’t worry.” Glancing at Jill, he continued, “I think Jill’s becoming too nervous about all this. Why don’t we take her into the kitchen, and you can slice a piece of that strudel you made. I can smell it all the way in here.”
“Yes, Grandma,” Jill said, taking Greta by the arm. “And a cup of coffee too.”
“I can make coffee,” Carol offered, her voice dropping in volume.
“No.” Greta shook her head with vigor. “I make special coffee. You don’t know anything about it.”
“Very well.” Carol’s eyes hardened. She glanced at Ed. “I think I’ll wait in the car.”
As Carol left, Greta looked around in amazement.
“What did I say? All I said was I had special coffee I wanted to fix for her and she runs out of the house. The least little thing sets her off. She’s so sensitive, just like all her people–”
“Grandma,” Jill interrupted. “I’d feel a lot better with a cup of your special coffee.”
“Well, if you think you need it.” Greta returned her attention to Jill, smiled and patted her hand. “There’s no need to be nervous,” Greta said, hugging Jill around the shoulders. “This nice young man here will take care of your grandfather. See? There’s nothing to be nervous about.”
Greta padded out with Jill on her arm. Jeff watched them and smiled.
“Yes, Mrs. Schmidt, we’re going to prove to the whole world your husband didn’t do any of those terrible things Mrs. Moeller claims. We will prove your husband is a good man.”
“You’re going to prove I’m a good man?” Heinrich looked at him with a mischievous smile.
“Yes, but we’re going to need help.” Jeff pulled out a pad and pen from his pocket. “The other side will have their witnesses, and we will need our witnesses.”
“Everyone from Oberbach back then is dead.”
“Surely not everyone,” Jeff said.
“How about Uncle Rudolf?” Ed asked. “And mom’s sister Helga and her husband.”
“It takes money to bring people to America.” Heinrich shook his head.
“I have money.” Ed put his hand on his father’s shoulder. “I owe it to you to do all I can.”
“If you wish.” Heinrich shrugged and assessed Jeff with a smirk. “Yes, young man, you’d be much stronger if you lost weight, worked hard with your muscles.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Eleven

The conductor nudged Ward Lamon who slumped deeper into his train car bench. “Washington City, sir. This is your stop.”
Lamon jumped and looked up, his eyes and mind in a blur. “What? Oh. Yes. Thank you.”
His memories of the last twenty-four hours were vague. The man and woman who had been living in the Executive Mansion admitted to him they were imposters, but they would not say anything beyond that. The man lied to him and said Lincoln was being held at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Lamon thought he lied so the woman could be transported away from Washington. But the woman refused to go, in a fit of loyalty to Tad Lincoln.
Then late last night—or was it early this morning—Lamon heard the news the President was dead. Was it the real President who was assassinated or was it the imposter? Where were the Lincolns while the imposters were in the White House? Where were the Lincolns now? Why was he misdirected to Baltimore? It was all so confusing.
A dull headache kept him from thinking clearly. He had seen too much, heard too much, drunk too much.
From the train station, Lamon hailed a carriage to his hotel. Crowds filled the streets, milling about seemingly without purpose. He watched men hang black bunting from windows and doorways. No one spoke. Only the rolling wheels crunching on cobblestones and the occasional neighing of horses broke the silence. Lamon’s intention was to wash up, change clothes and go immediately to the Executive Mansion; instead, once he was inside his room, Lamon collapsed on the bed. When he awoke, he looked at his pocket watch. It was 3:00 in the afternoon.
By the time he reached the Executive Mansion and walked up the steps, Lamon’s mind cleared. He knew the questions to ask, but he did not know who to ask them of.. Thomas Pendel met him at the door.
“It’s so good to see you, sir.” Pendel shook his hand. “Mrs. Lincoln needs you.”
“So it’s true, Thomas? The President is dead? The real President is dead?”
Pendel hesitated. “I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Lamon. There is only one Mr. Lincoln.” He began walking up the stairs.
“Are you telling me you didn’t realize the man and woman in the White House for the past two and a half years were imposters?” Lamon stepped quickly to catch up with Pendel.
“Mrs. Lincoln is in her parlor.” On the second floor he turned down the hall toward the Lincolns’ private rooms. “She’s inconsolable.”
Lamon grabbed Pendel by his elbow. “Are you that frightened?”
“I am an old man, sir.” He firmly removed Lamon’s hand. “I fear very little. But I know, above all else, a man cannot rage against a storm.” Pendel opened a door. “Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Lamon is here to see you.”
She rushed toward him and took Lamon by the hand to lead him to the settee as Pendel stepped back and closed the door. She sat and patted the cushion next to her. Lamon observed her moist cheeks loose hairs around her face.
“Please have a seat, Mr. Lamon. I know you must be as devastated as I am. I will never forget the nights you slept outside Mr. Lincoln’s bedroom door.” She leaned into him to whisper, “It was that devil Stanton, you know.”
“Yes, I do know. I believe you.”
“Thank, God, someone believes me.” Her hands went to her face. “Mr. Johnson was here this morning.” She shook her head. “I told him we were held in the basement all that time. He doesn’t believe me. I can tell.” Mrs. Lincoln looked him straight in the eyes. “I was beginning to doubt my own sanity.”
“Do you know when the imposters left?”
“Sometime last night, probably after we went to the theater.”
“I blame myself, Mrs. Lincoln,” Lamon blurted. “The imposter told me the President was being held at Fort McHenry. I left immediately for Baltimore. I felt so foolish when I realized he wasn’t there.”
She leaned back and looked at him as though she were seeing him for the first time and did not like what she saw.
“That’s right. You weren’t here. Why weren’t you here?”
“Mr. Stanton said you and the President were being held in a safe place because of assassination threats. He said it was for your own good.”
“And you believed that devil? I thought you would know better than that.”
“I should have.”
“You should have torn the White House down stone by stone until you found us.”
“But I didn’t know for sure you were even still in the mansion.” Lamon was at a loss for words. He could not believe she doubted him. “I was told you were in Baltimore!” he interjected, defending his inexplicable absence to the grieving widow.
“Are you are in league with that devil at this very moment? Did he send you here to spy on me?”
Lamon paused to consider her face. Mrs. Lincoln’s full cheeks flushed and her little mouth alternately pinched shut and blew out heated breath. She glared at him and then looked around the room, as though searching for another person lurking in the shadows. Her hands shook and her feet shuffled. She was insane, he decided. She knew the truth, and it had driven her insane. Lamon stood and bowed.
“I apologize for my shortcomings, Mrs. Lincoln,” he mumbled and turned toward the door.
“How dare you think you could fool me? I am not a fool! You go tell that devil I am not a fool!”
What was Lamon to do? The one person who could substantiate his suspicions was stark raving mad. By association, he possibly could be considered mad also. What was it that Pendel said? He knew better than to rage against a storm? But that was all Lamon knew to do—rage on and on until the storm subsided and justice was done.
At the bottom of the stairs he remembered she said they had been in the basement. That’s where the manservant and the cook lived. They should know what happened. Lamon took the backstairs down. He saw the manservant walk into a room with a bucket and a mop. Lamon followed him into the room where he saw a billiards table and boxes stacked around the walls.
“What are you mopping?” Lamon asked.
“Nothing, sir. Just mopping.”
Lamon extended his hand. “I’m Ward Lamon. But, of course, you know that. I’m the president’s personal bodyguard. And your name?”
“The floor looks clean, Cleotis.”
“I know, sir. I just feel like mopping.”
“Leave my husband alone,” a firm woman’s voice called out from the doorway. “You white folks have taken everything away. So just leave us alone.”
Lamon walked to her, looked at her swollen belly and smiled. “When is the baby due?”
“None of your business.”
“Phebe, I think we all got to learn to be polite to each other. Is that too much to ask, to be polite?”
Lamon walked back to Cleotis. “Didn’t there used to be another butler here? What was his name?”
“Mr. Pendel is the only butler I know of, sir.”
“He’s the head butler. You’re a butler too. I seem to remember a younger man than you, oh say, in 1862.”
“I’ve been here the whole time, Mr. Lamon, sir.”
“Whole what time?” His instincts as a lawyer were coming to the surface.
“The whole time Mr. Lincoln has been President, sir.”
“Can you prove it?”
“Can you prove he hasn’t?” Phebe stepped in between Lamon and Cleotis. “People who ask questions don’t live long, least ways not around here.”
“Woman, I warned you. You’re saying too much.” Cleotis sounded more anxious than angry, Lamon thought.
“Saying too much about what?” he persisted.
“Nothing, sir.” Cleotis bent over to pick up the bucket. “Excuse me, sir, I’ve got to get some clean water.”
Phebe pursed her lips as she looked at Lamon. “Yes sir, people can get mighty dead asking too many questions.”
Deciding not to pursue the interrogation, Lamon went back upstairs, the straw mats crunching beneath his feet. As he entered the main hall, he saw Stanton coming down the stairs. Lamon presumed he had been to the autopsy room to oversee any discoveries being made by the surgeons. Their eyes met briefly. Stanton stopped and then hurried to the front door. Lamon followed down the steps to the revolving gate between the Executive Mansion and the Department of War building.
“Mr. Secretary!” he called out. “I haven’t seen you in a long time. Please pause a moment so we can speak.”
Stanton frowned. “Well, make it quick. Can’t you see I am in a hurry? We have a conspiracy to solve!”
“Do you have any favorable information to lead you to the assassins?” Lamon asked, trying to sound friendly.
“Yes,” Stanton replied. “We think it was some actor and his rabble-rousing friends.”
“Is it the same man whom you suspected two and a half years ago? You remember, when you placed the president and his wife in a secret location?”
“What?” Stanton’s eyebrows went up.
“You told me in 1862 that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln had been removed from the Executive Mansion to a secret location to protect them from an assassination attempt. You had found two people who looked like the Lincolns to take their place. Why did you let them return unless you thought the danger had passed and obviously it had not?”
“The intelligence we had at hand suggested otherwise. The nation needed its leader back where he belonged,” Stanton explained, his lips pinching together when he was finished.
“Why would you allow him to go to the theater when you knew danger existed?” Lamon pursued his questioning.
“I told you we thought it was safe.”
“But it wasn’t safe. The president is dead.”
“I won’t subject myself to such an interrogation,” Stanton said in a huff.
“By the way, what happened to the man and woman who impersonated the Lincolns?”
“They went home.”
“And where was that?”
“I don’t remember.” Flustered, Stanton paused to compose himself. He then wagged a fat finger at the earnest questioner. “Listen here. You had better keep that story to yourself. People will think you are crazy if you insist on repeating it. Like people think Mrs. Lincoln is crazy.”

Jonathan and Mina in Romantic Transylvania

I am a great fan of the original Universal Studios monster movies from the 1930s. Nothing could beat the atmosphere of the black and white photography of ethereal other worlds shrouded in shadows. The best scenes of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi were those in his castle in Transylvania. Wouldn’t it be fun if the entire story were told in the dusty, cobweb-covered main hall with its magnificent huge winding staircase? And that story is so familiar to everyone it’s hard to take it seriously anymore. That’s why I’ve set my novella in Dracula’s castle and played the whole thing for laughs.
Sunset was hours ago.
The joint was jumping in Count Dracula’s castle in the wilds of Transylvania. You wouldn’t believe the shenanigans going on in the game room. It used to be a grand dining hall until Dracula brought in his latest three brides. They were centuries younger than him and had different ideas about having a good time, which included a trapeze, trampoline, dining tables padded with feather mattresses and a large vat of rendered animal fat.
Because of his advanced age, Dracula tended to sleep in quite a bit after the last rays of daylight had disappeared. Visitors banged the huge iron knocker on the front door, which roused him from his coffin in the dirt-floored basement. He stretched, yawned and scratched the hair in his palms before climbing the stairs and entering the main hall through an intricately woven through worn tapestry hanging over the basement door.
Taking his time, Dracula walked to the bottom step of this grand staircase where he took an aristocratic pose. The banging continued, which aggravated him to no end. Placing his hands on his hips, he called out, “Isn’t anyone going to answer the door?”
Loud naughty laughter emanating from behind the double doors to the game room drew his attention. The doors flew open, and Salacia, one of Dracula’s new wives, appeared wearing a shroud which barely covered her more provocative body parts and snarled, “Get it yourself! We’re busy!”
Slammed the doors shut and another round of raucous laughter erupted. Dracula stamped his foot and wrapped his satiny black cape close around his body.
“Count Dracula, Prince of Darkness, and I have to open my own front door! What’s the use of having three wives if you have to open your own front door?” More giggles bubbled from behind the double doors. He sneered in its direction. “Brazen hussies!”
More pounding at the front door returned his mind to the business at hand.
“All right! All right! You’re making enough noise to wake the dead!” He paused to laugh. “Too late! I’m already up!”
Opening the door, Dracula ran back to the stair case to resume his dramatic stance on the bottom step. Mina Seward, young and beautiful but dressed very prudishly with a collar up to her jaw, and her hair in a tight bun, entered with her hand outstretched to shake the hand of the master of the manor.
“I’m so very pleased to meet….” Her voice trailed off, she almost lost her balance as she discovered there was no one there to accept her greeting. However, Mina recovered quickly and smiled when she noticed her host on the staircase. “Oh, there you are. “I’m so very pleased—“
“Good evening,” Dracula interrupted her and bowed deeply.
Following Mina was Dr. Van Helsing, an elderly bearded man, who had a steamer trunk on his back and a small valise in one hand. He was not an unattractive man considering his advanced years and the fact that at this moment his eyes were bulging from the excessive weight he was carrying. His knees began to tremble.
“Terribly foggy, don’t you think?” Mina inquired politely about the weather. “Anyway, I’m so very pleased—“
“I am Count Dr. Dracula,” he interrupted her again.
Van Helsing first went to his knees and then bent over to balance himself on the floor with both his hands and knees.
“Yes, I assumed you were. As I was saying, I’m so very pleased—“
“I bid you welcome,” the count interrupted a third time.
“Help,” Van Helsing whispered.
Mina’s unflappable British comportment began to get flapped. She repeated very quickly, “I’m so very pleased to make your acquaintance.” She breathed deeply and returned to speaking normally. “There. I finally got it all out. I am Mina Seward, and this gentleman….” Her voice trailed off once more as she turned to introduce Van Helsing to find he had disappeared.
“Help,” the professor pleaded, gasping for air. At this point he had collapsed on his face, the trunk forcing his torso into the dusty stone floor.
“Oh fiddlesticks,” she exclaimed in exasperation, “Where has he gone?”
“Help.” The old man’s voice whimpered.
Dracula gracefully alit the stairs and approached Mina, waving his hand in Van Helsing’s direction. “I assume you are referring to the gentleman on the floor under the steamer trunk.”
Mina quickly regarded her companion. She looked quickly a second time to make sure she understood what she beheld. “What a ghastly place to take a nap.”
“I am not napping,” the old man wheezed.
“Then mind your manners, professor,” she lectured in a crisp tone. “The count is waiting to greet you.” When Van Helsing did not respond immediately, Mina turned to smile at Dracula. “This is Dr. Van Helsing, a friend of the family.”
With great difficulty—and a moan—Van Helsing rolled the trunk off his back, stood and offered an unsteady hand to the count.
“I bid you welcome, Dr. Van Helsing, a name known even in the hinterlands of Transylvania.”
The two men exchanged formal bows and engaged in a firm and courteous handshake, ruined at the last moment because the professor began giggling.
“Pardon me,” he explained, returning to his usual solemn composure, “but the hair in your palm tickles.”
Dracula withdrew his hand and hid it behind his back in a huff. “Forgive me. I forgot to shave when I arose.”
Mina, always nervous in awkward moments—and this was definitely an awkward moment—stepped between the two men. “Thank you for allowing us to drop in unannounced. After Jonathan’s last letter, we were quite concerned.”
“Of course. And your journey must have been fatiguing.” Dracula motioned to an elegant long divan in the center of the entrance hall. “Please, have a seat.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Van Helsing plopped on the divan which created a huge billow of dust to upsurge. “My God! When was the last time you cleaned this place?”
Mina’s eyes fluttered. “Why, Dr. Van Helsing! Spring cleaning season doesn’t begin for another week!”
“Miss Seward?” Dracula smiled and pointed again to the divan.
“Thank you, count.” Mina walked over to where Van Helsing sat, paused to consider the cloud of filth still floating over his head and turned away. “On second thought, I’d rather stand, thank you.”
“Whatever.” Dracula could not conceal his pique.
“Jonathan had written several letters since his law firm sent him here to settle your financial matters and arrange for your passage to England.”
The count resumed his elegant affability. “Yes, Mr. Harker has been most helpful.”
“His first letters were his usual, very level-headed, very business-like self,” she continued.
“Would you care for some wine?” the count asked.
“Yes,” Van Helsing responded quickly. “I’ve got to have something to get this dust out of my throat.”
“It’s very old wine,” Dracula said.
“The older the better.” He tried to stifle a cough.
Mina stepped forward and wrinkled her brow. “Dr. Van Helsing, do you think it’s wise to imbibe before we eat?”
“I take it you don’t wish to have a glass, Miss Seward?” the count asked.
“Of course not.” Her eyebrows shot up.
“Don’t try to impose your Victorian prudery on me, girl,” Van Helsing shot back. “I have to drink something or else I’m going to have one of my hacking episodes.”
“As you wish, professor.” Dracula went to an elaborate cabinet by the staircase and pulled a wine bottle from a shelf to pour into a delicate crystal goblet.
Mina took a few steps his way to continue her discourse on Jonathan. “I began to wonder about my fiancé when in his last letter he said you had three wives—three very lovely wives—who were driving you up the wall. He said he was sure of it because he saw you crawling up a wall one night.”
Trying to ignore her, the count served the professor his wine. “Mr. Harker has a vivid imagination. Here’s your drink, doctor.”
“Jonathan has no imagination at all,” Mina relied, just the least bit offended. “That’s why I love him so.”
Van Helsing sipped the wine, nodded, acted rejuvenated and gave Dracula a sly look. “Perfect.” He stood and began to inspect the interior décor of the entrance hall. “What an interesting place you have here, count.”
“Thank you.” He bowed.
The professor went to the tapestry hanging next to the staircase. “This is fascinating.”
“Thank you, again.”
“You usually only see tapestries like this in castles hundreds of years old.” Van Helsing ran his fingers lightly over the weaving.
“Castle Dracula is indeed ancient.” The count smiled tightly, careful not to reveal his teeth or formidable fangs.
The professor began to lift the tapestry. “I’ve always wondered how these tapestries were hung.”
Dracula, eager not to have the door to the basement and his coffin revealed, rushed over to Van Helsing to push the tapestry down. “Very, very carefully. That’s how tapestries are hung.”
The old German doctor chuckled to himself as he appraised the Transylvanian who obviously was in a great deal of social discomfort. He sipped on his wine and sauntered back to the sofa. As he sat, another cloud of dust rose to circle his head. “As I said, this wine is perfect. You must have some.”
“I never drink wine.” Dracula stiffened.
“Good for you, Count Dracula,” Mina chirped. “You see, Dr. Van Helsing, English aren’t the only prudes. Transylvanians are prudes also. Isn’t that right, count?”
He shook his head in confusion. “This word prude is not familiar to me. Forgive me, my English vocabulary is not what it should be.”
“That’s quite all right.” She paused and ten approached Dracula. “As I was saying about Jonathan’s letter, it seemed so very odd that he should say you had three wives. Oh, you’re not one of these American people who have all the wives, what are they called?”
Van Helsing lifted his glass to drain the last drops of wine. “Mormons.”
“I’m not familiar with this word Mormon either.” He turned to Mina. “But I assure you, I am not one.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Mina replied with a sigh. “Anyway, I was discussing the letter with father when Dr. Van Helsing dropped by and became quite agitated over the contents of the letter. He said Jonathan’s soul was in mortal danger, and that we must come to Transylvania immediately.”
Dracula laughed lightly. “Mr. Harker’s soul is not in mortal danger here in Castle Dracula. Nor is he being held here against his well, if that thought has crossed your mind.”
Van Helsing stood and straightened his German shoulders. “Frankly, the thought has crossed my mind.”
“Would you care for another glass of wine, doctor?”
“No.” He extended the goblet, upside down, to his host. “One glass refreshed me. A second would only cloud my capacity for reason.”
Dracula snatched the glass and returned it to the cabinet. “How unfortunate.”
“I put it to you forthwith.” Van Helsing walked around the sofa to confront the count face to face. “Is Jonathan Harker being held here against his will?”
“Ask him yourself.” He pointed to the double doors where licentious giggling emanated. “Mr. Harker is in there. You may call for him yourself.”
Mina hesitantly went to the doors and tapped lightly. “Jonathan? Are you in there? It’s Mina, darling.”

Davy Crockett’s Butterfly Chapter Four

Front Royal was the end of the month-long cattle drive, and by that time Davy had become an accomplished marksman, learning to load power and bullets fast and with efficiency. He smiled often and nodded with enthusiasm when Cheek instructed him. Davy wished his father had been as kind, wise and tolerant as Cheek, but he found himself growing more silent. Cheek knew his secret that he was a liar. On the day they herded the cattle into large corrals on the edge of town, Davy was exhilarated to find himself surrounded by other boys apprenticed to livestock merchants. They were drawn to his ready laugh and sparkle in his brown eyes.
“You from Tennessee?” one of them asked. “I ain’t never been south of Front Royal.”
“Oh sure,” Davy said, slapping a calf’s flank causing it to scamper to its mother. I’ve been all over Virginia.”
“You seen Natural Bridge?” a blond-headed boy asked.
“I’d give my eye teeth to see Natural Bridge,” a large sweaty-faced boy added.
“It ain’t much,” Davy said with the air of a seasoned traveler. “I mean the first time you see it, it can make the hair on your neck stand on end, but the second time it kinda gits to be old hat, you know.”
A man with an intimidating black beard walked up and growled, “Less talkin’. More workin’.”
Scrambling away, the other boys grabbed bales of hay and buckets of water. Davy continued prodding the cattle through the gates. By noon, he sat under a large oak tree crumbling a hunk of johnnycake into a wooden tankard of buttermilk and sucking it down. The other boys joined him with their lunch pails.
“You seen a lot of stuff, ain’t you?” the blond-haired boy asked as he chewed on a cold baked sweet potato.
“I seen my share,” Davy said, relishing the attention.
“What’d you like best?” the sweaty boy asked.
“I supposed Monticello.”
“Monty who?” The large boy twisted his sweaty face in confusion.
“Monticello,” Davy repeated. “It’s the home of Vice-President Jefferson at Charlottesville.”
“That’s a funny name,” the blond-haired boy said.
“Mr. Jefferson’s a might smart man,” Davy replied, his chin a little elevated. “I’m sure he had a good reason for namin’ his house Monticello. He’s been on boats all the way to Europe. Maybe it’s the name of a place there.”
“I reckon.” The boy hung his head.
Davy drank more buttermilk from his tankard. He did not like empty space in a conversation. He wanted to see their eyes widen again.
“He’s goin’ to run for president, you know.”
“How would you know that?” A dark-haired boy looked up from his cold chicken leg and squinted.
“He told me so himself.”
“You talked to Thomas Jefferson?” the boy said as he bit into his chicken.
“We was waterin’ the cattle down by this creek when Mr. Jefferson rode upon this Appaloosa mare. He stopped and asked where we was from and where we was goin’.” He looked off at the full cattle pen. “I could tell he was upset about somethin’.”
“How could you tell that?” the blond-haired boy asked.
“He bit his lip. Folks always bite their lips when they’re frettin’ about problems and they don’t even know they’re doin’ it. So I said, “It ain’t none of my business, Mr. Vice-President, sir, but I can tell you got somethin’ terrible on your mind. Maybe if you told a poor li’l mountain boy what it is, you can figger it out, and I won’t tell nobody what you say.”
“I’d be too afeared to ask a man anythin’ like that,” the sweaty boy said.
“He makes you feel like a friend. He was kinda easy to talk to.” Davy paused to smile with shrewdness and nod at the others. “That’s what a good politician is supposed to do, make you feel like his friend.”
“What did he say,” the blond-haired boy asked.
“He didn’t know if he should run for president. I told him to make sure of what he was aimin’ at and then go ahead and shoot.”
“Shoot what?” the sweaty boy said.
“Shoot for bein’ president. The worse that could happen is that he’d have to stand up to his lick log.”
“How did he take bein’ told what to do by a wet-behind-the-ears boy?” The dark-haired boy chomped his chicken leg.
“Why, he jest patted me on the back and said, ‘Thank you kindly, young man.’”
“Git back to work!” the man with the wicked beard shouted, causing the boys to scatter again.
“Mind you, watch who runs for president next time,” Davy called after them.
“And who might that be?”
Davy jumped when he heard the mild voice behind him. Looking up, he saw Cheek who smiled with benevolence.
“Oh, I reckon I should git to it, too,” he jumped up and put his tankard away in the wagon.
As they sauntered back to the corral filled with mooing livestock, Cheek planted his sinewy arm around Davy’s slender shoulder and bent over to his ear. “Like I told you, I know your pa.” His voice, low and calm, was nonjudgmental but serious. “I know he drinks too much and has a mean streak. I don’t blame you for runnin’ off, and I don’t blame you for lyin’ about it. Now about that Thomas Jefferson yarn, you’d been in a heap of shame if I’d spoken up there and told those young men we didn’t come anywhere close to Monticello, let alone see the vice-president himself. If I was you I’d stick with the truth.” He paused to smile in sympathy. “But if you feel like you gotta tell a whopper or you’ll bust your gut, make it a big one so folks will git a good laugh out of it.”
Cheek stepped up his pace, leaving Davy standing by himself on the dusty street. He shuddered, his mind stripped naked when Cheek examined his soul and found nothing but deceit dressed with a ready grin and ruddy cheeks.

As he stood on his porch a crisp September morning, David decide he had not changed much since he was thirteen. He still did not like having his soul laid bare. As he went about his life in Rutherford Station he saw the people staring at him, recognizing him for what he was, an old man, defeated with nothing left but a jug of whiskey and a passel of tall tales. David could not forget what Sam Houston told him that night under the stars. Texas was his for the taking. He could be a leader again. He could be the hero again. He could be a man again. He wanted to return to Washington as an honorable representative from the new state of Texas. On his way to be sworn in he would stop by Jackson’s house outside of Nashville, stand over his decrepit enemy’s mass of rotting flesh and laugh at him for growing old and useless while David was still a vibrant man of action.
Growing old, he repeated to himself, feeling his midsection, once taut and flat and now fleshy and expanding. He could see gray fleck in his brown hair and beard. Aches wracked his back in the morning air, and his knees buckled from time to time as he tromped through the woods. He was going to be fifty on his next birthday. That was an age many men considered as the beginning of the end. Soon he’d be the one in the rocking chair on the front porch where young men would come to point and laugh at him. No, he thought shaking his head; no one was going to laugh at him, unless he laughed first.
He decided he was going to Texas, just as Sam Houston told him. All that was left for him to do was say good-bye to family, which he had done many times before and would not be hard to do again. He had a heap of family to say good-bye to now. When he moved to West Tennessee his sisters, Betsy, Jane and Sally and their families followed him, and he was glad. His sisters always held a special place in his heart they had cuddled and comforted him when his father beat him. His brother Joseph and his family also moved to Gibson County, but he did not feel as close to him, remembering how Joseph disappeared when David was getting beat. He felt the same way about his other brother Wilson who stayed in the East Tennessee mountains. Less said about him the better.
David’s son John Wesley lived in Gibson County and was already a lawyer, clerk and master of county chancery court and a teacher at a local academy, all by the age of twenty-eight. David was proud of his son and would miss him except for the fact that John Wesley had been swept up in the New Awakening, saved and was determined to save him from his drunken ways.
His drunken ways, David thought as his eyes strayed to a grave not far from the porch. Walking over to the funeral plot he read the name, Rebecca Hawkins Crockett. His mother died that summer and he still mourned for her. She had lived with him the last year since his father died. His parents came west with the rest of the family and moved from the homes of Betsy, to Jane and then Sally. Each sister could only endure their father’s drunken behavior for a few months at a time. David refused to be part of that state of affairs. Even though he wanted to be with his mother, he hated his father and did not cry when he died. The last year did not make up the time he lost with his mother, but he appreciated the evenings they shared on the porch staring at sunsets. They did not talk; his mother never talked much, but the serene silence spoke volumes.
His father was the drunk, David told himself, and he only enjoyed his liquor. He stopped drinking when it was important; his father never stopped. John Wesley was smart, but he was wrong—David was not a drunk. His father was a drunk, and he was nothing like his father. He hated his father and if he were a drunk he would have to hate himself. He felt a catch in his throat because he knew, in the deepest recesses of his dark heart, he did loathe himself.
“David!” Abner called out as he rode up. “Gotta letter for you!”
Turning and walking back to the porch, he ran his fingers over his eyes and forced a smile on his leathered face. He did not like the look in Abner’s eyes as he handed him the envelope.
“I’ve already opened mine,” he said. “We’re bein’ sued by the kinfolk.”


Dave drove his new Jaguar out of Waco unhappy with his current state of affairs. He knew Tiffany could look into his dark soul and see all of his lies, just like the lies of David Crockett had been laid bare. He knew his father would look into his soul and see a man who ran away from his small sons just to be with a pretty young woman. His brother Vince would look into his soul and see the same gutless wonder he always disdained.
Most of all, Dave hated going back to his hometown of Gainesville. No small town could have been more beautiful. It lay in a small valley between two tributaries of the Trinity River. Built at the height of the cotton, oil and cattle boom, Gainesville had an imposing courthouse with its high silvery dome. Its tree-lined streets were filled with Victorian mansions. Its people, however, were small-minded and judgmental. Well, he corrected himself, not all of them. Mrs. Dody was always nice to him, and while none of his teachers were inspirational they were not unkind. No, Dave had to admit, it was not the people he dreaded confronting. It was the memories.
As Dave topped a hill, he saw the skyscrapers of Dallas in the distance.
Just drop me off at Frankiebell’s.
Dave’s eyes widened as he looked to the passenger seat to see Allan sitting there, puffing on a cigarette. “What are you doing here?”
I said I wanted to go to Frankiebell’s. Are you going deaf?
Dave looked back to the road, blinking his eyes and shaking his head. Allan was dead. Mrs. Dody said so. The Dallas Morning News, for God’s sake, said he was dead. Then what was he doing in the front seat of Dave’s car? Was Dave finally succumbing to the family illness? Was he finally going insane?
“You always had me drive you into Dallas so you go to that bar,” he mumbled.
Don’t use that tone of voice about Frankiebell’s. It caters to a special clientele.
“You were drawn like a moth to a flame.” In his mind Dave could see the warehouse and Allan falling asleep with is cigarette carelessly lolling out of his nicotine-stained fingers and lighting the mattress.
I was a bartender. Everyone said I was a good bartender.
“A fire,” Dave continued to mumble. “An all-consuming, life-taking fire.”
You’re talking nonsense. Are you going to take me to Frankiebell’s or not?
“I’ve got to get home.”
Well, if you’re so anxious to get home, let’s go fast.
Allan reached over and placed his foot on top of Dave’s on the gas pedal and pressed down.
“Allan! No! What are you doing?”
Throwing back his head Allan laughed like a maniac. Dave tried to knock his foot off, for a moment losing control of the car and swerving over a lane. Car horns blared all around him until he was able to regain control, pull off the side of the road and stop. Panting, Dave looked over at the passenger seat which was now empty. Allan was gone; perhaps he had never been there. Everyone always said Dave had way too much imagination, too much imagination for his own good.
“Jerk!” a motorist yelled out of his window as he whizzed by.
Dave composed himself and returned to the slow lane of traffic. A Seven Eleven convenience store caught his eye, and he pulled off the highway and into the parking lot. Inside he bought a copy of the Dallas Morning News. On the front page was an article about the United States’ decision not to go to the Summer Olympics in Moscow. Dave flipped to the local news section and saw the headline, “Transient dies in warehouse fire.” Thirty-six point type, he noticed. Dave had written many thirty-six point type headlines. An important story for that size of type, he mused, more important than anything Allan Crockett had ever done in his life.
Further up Interstate 35, as he crossed the line into Cooke County, Davy became tenser knowing he was almost home. At one point he held his breath as he spotted a man walking alongside the road. From the back he looked like Allan, the same black hair, frighteningly pale skin, rounded shoulders and walking with that familiar swish, with a cigarette dangling from his fingers. Again Dave swerved off the road to stop and look back at the walker. It was not Allan, but a younger man with a masculine growth of beard. Sighing and shaking his head, he pulled back onto the highway. Dave slowed as he mounted a high knoll which overlooked his hometown of Gainesville, its courthouse dome glistening in the August sun.

Cancer Chronicles Forty-Four

I’ve have two dreams of Janet, and I can’t wait to have another.
In the first one she comes through a door and says, “I’m here.” Her hair was dark, and she looked like she hadn’t been through the ravages of cancer.
The shock of seeing her woke me up, even though it was a wondrously happy dream. A few days later I had another one. She looked like she did in the first dream, her hair not streaked by gray hair and her face young and fresh. I kept telling her she didn’t have wrinkles anymore. Her body went from being like it was when she was young to being how it looked after the double mastectomy and recovery. I thought she looked adorable, cute as a speckled pup.
Also in the second dream we were hosting a block party for our neighborhood. Oddly enough, all the guests were not anyone we knew. But it was obviously we were entertaining young people may not have had this much fun before. Before I knew it, a DJ was lowered from a helicopter. He congratulated us for having the best block party in his radio station’s contest and gave us several thousand dollars.
Without talking to Janet, I realized she had arranged for the party and knew the radio station was having the contest. I also knew she had done the whole thing to win the money so she could give it to our new neighborhood. This didn’t surprise me in the least bit because she had been a probation officer for thirty years and she loved helping out all kinds of people who were in trouble. She understood the importance of helping families with children before they got entangled in the judicial system.
I was overwhelmed by having Janet back and knowing she not only came back for me but also to continue helping the people she had helped all her life. I broke down into tears I was so happy. But when I woke up I knew I still hadn’t cried, but I was very very happy. Who knew she could perform magic?
I wonder what she’ll do in my next dream?

Sins of the Family Chapter Four

John Ross sat in the judge’s chambers at a table across from his aged parents, but he did not know who they were. To him, they were just old people, a broken-down, stooped-shouldered, empty-eyed Cherokee who long ago forfeited his soul to white men, and a fragile, thin woman with streaked gray hair and tears in her eyes.
“Why is she crying?”
The judge cleared his throat and opened a thick folder as the old couple held each other’s hands tightly. He licked his thumb and began flipping through the pages.
“This won’t take long, Mr. and Mrs. Ross.”
He looked familiar, but John could not quite remember where they had met, perhaps in this room, this cold impersonal, wood-paneled room with many books and a poor oil painting of Maggie Valley. The urge for a smoke overcame John. He was about to reach for a cigarette when he noticed a large white man dressed in some sort uniform next to him.
“May I smoke?”
“Yes.” The judge smiled.
John took a cigarette out and placed it between his fingers which were brown from nicotine. First he looked to the guard for a light, but the man just ignored him.
John turned to the other side to see a bald-headed man in a three-piece suit. He smiled kindly at John and offered a lit match, which he took without acknowledgement. This man also looked familiar, but John could not quite place him. This feeling of not owning his past was driving John mad. No, he corrected himself, angry. He was angry, not mad, no matter what anyone else thought.
“Your son’s case history is well documented.” The judge patted a fat file. “In fact, I remember visiting with him a couple times myself.”
Mrs. Ross began to sob. Her husband put his thick old arm around her heaving shoulders, trying to comfort her. Her tears only made John more irritable. Pulling out another cigarette, John lit it from the first and began to rub out the first in a nearby ashtray. The rubbing evolved into a thumping and then into a definite tom-tom beat. Mr. Ross looked up in despair.
“For God’s sake, can’t you make him stop that?”
The guard leaned over and placed a meaty hand on John’s shoulder. John glanced in irritation at him and then at the judge before stopping his beat. Gazing off into space, John felt the drum beat continuing in his head. He disregarded the judge’s questions to the old man.
“Mr. Ross, when did your son receive the head injury?”
“Well, he was twelve, I think. He walked by this boy watching my…”
John began a tom-tom beat in the ashtray.
“There he goes again. Judge, can’t you make him stop?”
John glared at him and bit into his knuckles until blood materialized which he licked from his hand.
“There he goes again, Martha. Can’t you make him stop?”
“Johnny, dear, don’t hurt yourself like that.” She reached across the table. “We don’t want to see you hurt yourself.”
He gazed with indifference at her.
“Then the boy—he couldn’t have been more than eight or so—took this toy tomahawk and hit John with it in the forehead,” Mr. Ross said. “He was just playing. He didn’t mean no harm.”
“It was a real rock,” Mrs. Ross said. “They shouldn’t sell things like that.”
“Like I said, it wasn’t the boy’s fault.”
John winced as the memory came back to him.
“The boy started crying when he saw the blood,” Mr. Ross said.
“It was his fault,” Mrs. Ross blurted. “The stupid…” She caught herself and covered her mouth with her handkerchief. “The dear little boy should have been raised better. His parents should have never given him the tomahawk.”
“It doesn’t make any difference now,” her husband said.
John started thumping the tray once more.
“Johnny was in the hospital for a week.” Mrs. Ross held her handkerchief to her face to catch the tears rolling down her cheeks. “And that boy, his family didn’t pay a thing. They just walked away.”
“The publicity would have been bad for the reservation,” Mr. Ross said. “People wouldn’t come around if they had a notion we were going to take them to court for every little thing.”
“This wasn’t a little thing,” she replied in an intense tone.
“Well, it didn’t seem to bother John none,” his father said.
“Yes, it seems his teen-aged years passed without incident.” The judge nodded and looked through the file.
John’s hand continued to thump until the guard grabbed his arm. Giving the man a withering glare, John retreated to the time which the judge said passed without incident. What did he know? John remembered in a different way. His neck turned red and hot with mortification over the recollection of the Sunday school class where his father ridiculed him in front of the other boys. It was the same crimson warmth he suffered sitting there as these people discussed his life.
“He attacked someone in Knoxville later,” the judge said.
Smoke swirled around John’s head. This was his future they were discussing, so he should have a word to say about it.
“If he hadn’t been hit in the head, that wouldn’t have happened,” Mrs. Ross interjected.
“We don’t know for sure the knock in the head did it, Martha.” He looked at the bald man in the suit. “Ain’t that right, doc?”
“You’re talking about me, aren’t you?”
“Yes, we are, Mr. Ross.” The judge looked at him and smiled. “Do you have something to say?”
“Yes.” He knew his experiences better than anyone, he reasoned. “I was on a crew building an office complex in downtown. It was a good job. I liked that job. Except for the white men.”
“You don’t like white men?” the judge asked.
“Would you like someone who hit you in the head?” Mrs. Ross said.
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“Black men, they’re all right. They understand injustice. They understand oppression. They hope someday their bondage will end.” John paused. “But they didn’t understand I was going to lead them to the Promised Land.”
“Oh no,” Mr. Ross said, rolling his eyes, “not that again.”
“They were too blind to see that I am Moses.”
“So you think you’re Moses?” the judge said.
“I am Moses.”
“What happened next, Mr. Ross?”
“I had been drinking.” John sat back. “People said whiskey would make the pain go away. It didn’t. I decided I needed to accept my heritage and renounce white culture. I sat on my apartment floor, chanting sounds only understood by Yo He Wa.”
“Yo He Wa?” the judge asked.
“That’s the name of the Cherokee god,” Mrs. Ross said.
“I ignored the banging at my door while I contemplated the knife I held in my hand and how it glistened in the candle light. But the cursing and banging continued so I went to the door, with my hand raised for battle.”
“The man at the door sustained minor injuries, I see here,” the judge said.
“I had to protect my heritage.”
Closing the file, the judge turned toward John’s parents.
“I don’t think there’s much doubt that your son needs to be committed to the North Carolina State Mental Hospital in Morganton. We tried out patient counseling and he stopped going. He refused to take the medication prescribed for him. He needs the supervision.”
“It’s not his fault. Some boy hits him and he’s the one that gets locked up. It isn’t fair.” Mrs. Ross began to cry again.
“Now, Martha.” Her husband put his arm around her. “You know it’s for the best.”
“Dr. Harold Lippincott will take him to the state facility at Morganton today,” the judge said.
John looked at the doctor. That was where he remembered seeing him, at the hospital. This white man would not enslave him.
“Don’t worry,” Harold said. “He’ll be well cared for, Mrs. Ross.”
Yes, he remembered the doctor’s voice. They had talked before. John did not think he was very smart. The doctor did not comprehend that John was meant to free all oppressed people.
“Come on.” The guard pulled John up by his arm.
“Don’t hurt him,” Mrs. Ross pleaded through tears.
“The van is waiting,” Harold said.
John concentrated on the old woman’s face as the guard pulled him toward the door. He wondered why this woman was crying for him, or why she would care.
“Good-bye, John,” she said. “Try to be good.”
Yes, he knew who that was. He knew who would cry for him and who would care for him so much.
Jill laughed to the point her voice went up at least an octave as she fumbled with her keys in her purse outside her apartment near the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville as Bob rubbed her shoulders.
“I tried to warn you about meeting my parents.”
“They weren’t so bad.” He leaned in to kiss her on the neck and breathe in her scent.
Jill unlocked her door and led him in. It had comfortable but not cheap furniture, and its walls were decorated with theater production posters. She glanced at her watch.
“Oh good, we’re in time for my favorite news show.”
They sat on the sofa, and Bob put his arm around Jill as she used the remote control to turn on the television to Channel Forty-three. Bob’s face came on the screen.
“There he is.” Jill snuggled into Bob’s side.
“…after a private hearing in Judge David Johnson’s chambers at the Bryson City courthouse. Ross was in police custody on charges of assault with a lethal weapon.”
“The reporter’s so cute.” Jill put her arms around his waist. “I wonder if he has a girlfriend.”
“Next week Channel Forty-three will examine the effects of childhood head injuries on adults, particularly upon native Americans in modern society. This is Bob Meade.”
As the station went to commercial Bob and Jill kissed, holding each other with enthusiasm. After a few moments they parted.
“It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few short weeks. You’ve completely changed my life.” He looked into her eyes and smiled before kissing her once more. A lock of his dark hair fell across his forehead.
“Do you know who you look like when your hair comes down into your face like that?” Jill giggled. “Rudolph Valentino.”
“How would you know what Rudolph Valentino looked like when he was kissing a girl?”
“I’m educated. I had a class in silent movies.”
The news returned, and now Bob was standing in front of a comfortable two-story colonial style house.
“Boone, North Carolina, police are still investigating the mysterious death of long-time community philanthropist Thelma Scoggins who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs days ago.”
“How sad.” Jill frowned.
“Official cause of death has been cited as heart attack, but police report a large bruise on the side of her face and that her bedroom had been rifled through as though by burglars, but there was no sign of forced entry.”
The picture switched to an elderly man.
“This is Harvey Nunn, Mrs. Scoggins’ neighbor.”
“Thelma was always taking in transients and letting them sleep in the room above the garage for doing yard work. The last time I saw her take someone in was right before they found her body. It was two teen-aged boys.”
“Have you given the authorities a description?”
“They were white, dark hair. Dark eyes. Funny squat noses. One was strong and about six foot. The other was shorter and skinny. They didn’t look very bright.”
“Now you can turn it off.” Bob nuzzled Jill.
She clicked off the television, and they resumed kissing. After several minutes she settled her head on his chest.
“I’m sorry about my mother.”
“Why?” Bob smiled. “Your mom was a very good hostess. She was very bubbly.”
“Bubbly is right.” Sighing, she sat up and looked into his eyes. “Are you being nice or didn’t you notice my mother was drunk?”
“Yes, I am nice, and no, I didn’t notice.”
“I’ve been told my mother never drank before she married dad.”
“He doesn’t seem like the type to drive someone to drink.”
“He isn’t. My grandparents are. My mother’s maiden name was Stone. It wasn’t until after marriage that my grandmother found out her family name was really Stein.”
“Your grandparents are bigots. My dad’s a bigot too. You learn to live with it.”
“That’s the problem. Mom joined the Lutheran church, never mentions her family was from Germany and was Jewish, and smiles a lot at grandma. But Schmidts don’t forget or forgive.”
“Forgive? Forgive what?”
“If mom could figure that one out maybe she wouldn’t drink so much.”
“It must be hard growing up with an alcoholic parent.”
“You had a hard time growing up too, didn’t you?” Jill looked at him with affection.
Bob wondered if this was the time to let Jill know about his parents, about why it was so difficult to return his father’s calls.
“I’ve been at your apartment when you’ve listened to your messages from the answering machine.” Jill glanced away. “And you never seemed anxious to return the ones from your father.”
“A little story.” He held her close. “When I was ten years old, I overheard a conversation between my mom and dad on Christmas eve. She told him to be sure to take off early from work that night. It was an order.”
“And he didn’t take kindly to orders from womenfolk.”
“Right. He said the tobacco warehouse paid time and a half if he worked late on Christmas Eve. She said spending time with his son was more important than a few extra dollars.”
“Nothing’s more important than a few extra dollars,” Jill said with a smile. “I’ve heard that one before.”
“Anyway, mom started complaining about how she didn’t feel good, and Dad said she never felt good, and that it was just her nerves. She wanted to go to a specialist in Knoxville, but dad thought it was a waste of money.”
“I don’t want to interrupt, but did he ever feel guilty later, when she developed cancer?”
“If he did he never told me.” Bob shook his head. “He said she was using feeling bad to get money out of him to buy me a Christmas present. The argument degenerated from there so I left the house.”
“You poor thing. You probably had to leave the house a lot.”
“You know this story, don’t you?”
“Variation Two: leaving the house when mommy’s drunk.” Jill looked up at him and smiled with sympathy. “I’m sorry. I keep interrupting.”
“That’s all right. Anyway, that afternoon mom gave me a few dollars to buy them presents. I don’t remember what I got. After I wrapped them and put them under the tree, mom scurried into the room all in a tizzy, grabbed me by my hand and headed for the door.”
“Don’t tell me,” she said. “Your father didn’t show up.”
“I remember it like it was yesterday. To be a lady who was in early stages of terminal illness she had a grip like a vice. As hard as I tried I couldn’t get away as we marched into the tobacco warehouse and stomped up to dad and the other workers. She demanded he give her money so she could—in her words—buy my Christmas.” Bob looked at Jill with sad, pleading eyes. “You can’t buy Christmas. You buy presents, but you can never buy Christmas.”
“Oh my God,” Jill said with a gasp. “Grandpa used that expression too. I hate it.”
“Dad drawled, ‘Well, Bobby, how much is it going to cost me to buy you Christmas?’ I stammered around, and then mom accused dad of making me cry. I tried to tell her I wasn’t crying, but she wouldn’t be denied. ‘You’ve hurt his feelings,’ she said. ‘You know how easy his feelings get hurt.’”
Jill wrinkled her brow in compassion and touched Bob’s face.
“Dad pulled a bill; I don’t remember how much it was, from his wallet and tossed it at mom. ‘Oh good grief,’ he said, ‘take it and get him out of here.’ The bill landed on the dirt floor between mom and me. She told me to pick it up. I picked it up, trying to ignore the laughter from dad and his friends, and we walked out slowly, with what I’m sure my mother thought was dignity.”
“This December,” Jill said, kissing him on the cheek, “you’re going to have such a Christmas, you won’t ever think of that one again.”
“Maybe that wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened in my family. Maybe it’s what everybody goes through.”
“No, not everybody goes through that.”
“Thank you.” He smiled and hugged her. “I was afraid you’d say, ‘Is that all?’”
They kissed with intensity and for a long time. Finally Bob buried his face in her lightly scented hair.
“We’ve known each other for such a short time, but it seems like I’ve known you forever. I think that’s what people say when they’re…”
“When they’re in love.”

Booth’s Revenge Chapter Ten

A group of dirty, long-haired bearded men grinned, revealing mouths with scattered brown teeth, at Andrew Johnson who lay in his bed at the Kirkwood Hotel. Off to the side were the girls who laughed at him that day on the road to Greeneville.
“You think you’re smart enough to be president? You can’t even read or write!”
“You’re just a smelly old boy in ragged clothes, and that’s all you’ll ever be.”
“You’re a drunk!”
“You’re poor as snot!”
His nostrils flared with the stench of cow shit and hog piss. Johnson looked around and found his body mired in a mud bog slowly sinking. He tried to scream but nothing came out. Mud crept in around the corners of his mouth. All he heard was laughter.
Johnson’s body shook violently until he awoke shouting, “No!” Looking around he realized he was in the Kirkwood Hotel in Washington City. His body was drenched in sweat. He sighed, realizing it had been a nightmare. He was not still in the pig sty in Tennessee but was the Vice-President of the United States. How long would he suffer from those dreams? How can a man with such horrible visions in his sleep become President of the United States? Perhaps when his wife Eliza joined him in the White House, she would give him confidence.
Struggling, he went to the washstand to splash water on his face. He observed himself in the mirror and remembered how Stanton reacted when he arrived at the boarding house to see President Lincoln. Stanton looked as though he had seen a ghost. His gut told him that Stanton had expected him to be dead.
The words “They said” swirled in Johnson’s mind, remembering what the assassin said at his door earlier in the evening. Was Stanton the one who masterminded the shooting of Lincoln and the stabbing of Seward? Johnson could not prove anything, but he was sure Stanton was capable of everything. A knock at the door stirred him from his thoughts.
“We have most solemn news, Mr. Johnson,” Preston King called out.
“Please let us in,” James Lane added.
After Johnson opened the door, King put his hand on his shoulder. “President Lincoln died at 7:22 this morning.”
“You look like a mess,” Lane blurted. “Of course, it’s understandable, considering the situation.”
“I only look this bad on nights the President has been shot and killed.” Johnson shut the door.
King laughed and slapped Johnson on the back. “You always have a joke for any occasion, Mr. Vice-President—I mean, Mr. President—I mean…”
“Stop being a jackass, King,” Lane interjected. He took a note from his pocket and handed it to Johnson. “This is from the Cabinet. Mr. Chase will be here at 10 a.m. to swear you in as president.”
“Do you have another suit of clothing, sir?” King said, going to the armoire in the corner. “We want you to look your best when the Chief Justice arrives.”
“Yes,” Johnson replied, running his hands through his hair. “I should change clothes.” What should one wear to such a tragic occasion, Johnson wondered, considering the wrinkled possibilities stored in the armoire.
“Smile!” Lane ordered suddenly.
Frowning while he considered telling the Kansas senator that was a damned fool thing to say, Johnson reluctantly turned the corners of his mouth up.
“No, I mean show me your teeth,” Lane corrected himself.
Johnson was not any more pleased with this order as the previous one. No one had talked to him like this since he was a child. He swallowed his pride and pulled back his lips to expose his teeth.
“Hmph, you better brush them,” Lane insisted.
“Oh, yes, this is much better,” King said, pulling a black suit from the armoire. “I believe this is the one you wore to the inauguration, isn’t it?”
“You’re not planning on dressing me, are you?” Johnson’s patience wore thin. “I don’t get naked in front of nobody.”
“Of course, not, Mr. Vice-President,” King replied with a guffaw. “What were we thinking? We only have your best interests at heart, I assure you.”
“We’ll leave,” Lane said, “but don’t forget to brush those teeth.”
‘Gentlemen, I am completely in control of myself. This is indeed a stressful time, but I think I am up to the challenge.”
“Of course, you are, Mr. Vice-President.”
“Oh,” Lane mumbled, pulling a small bottle of whiskey out of his pocket, “this is for you, to settle your nerves. Mr. Stanton thought….”
“We thought you might need it,” King interrupted, patting Lane on the shoulder.
Johnson’s eyes widened. “Mr. Stanton? Did he send you over here?”
“The Cabinet as a whole made the decision, sir,” King replied, taking the bottle from Lane and extending it to Johnson. “Here, this will do you good.”
He did not take the bottle. “But you talked directly to Mr. Stanton. All this was his idea, wasn’t it?”
“If you want to get technical, yes, it was Mr. Stanton,” Lane conceded, “but I’m sure he was speaking for the entire Cabinet. We all are concerned for your wellbeing, Mr. Johnson.”
“Please take it, sir.” King pushed the bottle closer to him.
“I appreciate your concern,” Johnson replied, accepting the whiskey from King. He pulled out his pocket watch. “Mr. Chase will be here soon, gentlemen, and I must prepare myself.” He pushed them toward the door.
“Yes sir, we want you to present yourself in the best way possible,” King said.
Opening the door, Johnson extended his hand to the exit. King and Lane bowed and walked into the hall. “Please report back to Mr. Stanton that I am doing well. Will you do that for me?”
Both men blinked, and their smiles faded a moment.
“Of course, sir.”
Anything you say, sir.”
After closing the door, Johnson cursed under his breath. “Damn Stanton. He’s out to get me. He’d love to see me repeat my drunken stupor of Inauguration Day. But it isn’t going to happen. Not to me. Not twice.”
As he angrily considered how Stanton was setting him up, a sudden thought that the whiskey might be poisoned flickered across his mind. “Stanton is insidious,” he mumbled to himself as he strode straight the window, opened it and threw the offending bottle of booze onto the street. “Damn fools. I thought King and Lane were smarter than that.”
Johnson quickly changed his clothing and followed Lane’s advice, brushing his teeth vigorously.
Salmon Chase knocked at the door right at 10:00 and informed Johnson that members of the Cabinet would be arriving soon. Within minutes Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch, Attorney General James Speed and several members of Congress were in his room seated and waiting. There was little conversation as most of the thoughts were of the President who had died just three hours earlier.
He noticed that Stanton had not taken time from his duties to attend the ceremony. It was just as well, Johnson decided, although it might be amusing to see Stanton’s reaction when he realized I was not drunk.
Chase rose from his seat, motioning for Johnson to approach. Chase then administered the oath, and shook Johnson’s hand ceremoniously.
“May God support, guide, and bless you in your arduous duties,” the Chief Justice said in a loud solemn voice.
Johnson supposed Chase wanted the others to hear him clearly, so they could accurately quote him later. He wanted the press to report he was calm, grave and looking in remarkably good health.
“I can’t promise much,” he said to the witnesses. “I will follow the example set by Mr. Lincoln, God bless him.” After a round of polite applause, he added, “Oh, and tell the other Cabinet members we should have a meeting as soon as possible.”
“At the White House?” McCulloch asked.
“No, no. Leave Mrs. Lincoln to her grief.”
“I can arrange a room at the Treasury,” McCulloch offered.
“Very good.”
Johnson followed the men out of the hotel and hailed a carriage to the Treasury building which was close to the White House.
Passing the Executive Mansion, Johnson decided impulsively to stop to pay his respects to Mrs. Lincoln. It was the right thing to do, he reasoned. Probably. Maybe. If only his wife were here to guide him in these awkward social customs, he would feel much better.
At the door, a guard ushered him in and escorted him to the First Family’s private quarters on the second floor.
Soldiers milled around the second floor hall, seeming to be unsure of themselves. Were they waiting for orders? Didn’t they know their responsibilities on this solemn occasion? Were they posted to defend the Republic against more assassins? Were they purely ceremonial functionaries? Johnson’s mind was racing with the possibilities.
The escort officer conducted him to Lincoln’s office, and motioned for him to enter.
Johnson noticed the crowd outside a door at the other end of the hall.
“What’s going on down there?”
“That’s where the doctors are doing the autopsy, sir,” the guard replied in a low voice.
“The autopsy? You mean Mr. Lincoln’s body is here?”
“Yes, sir.”
“My God, how is Mrs. Lincoln holding up, knowing her husband is in the next room like that?”
“It’s not for me to say, sir.”
Before he could reply to the escort, Johnson heard a dress rustling inside the darkened room.
“Mr. Johnson,” Mrs. Lincoln whispered, peeking into the hall. “Please come in.”
He walked into the office, and Mrs. Lincoln shut the door behind him. She went to him and extended her tiny, gloved hand. Johnson smiled as he observed her face. She seemed calmer than the previous evening at the boardinghouse.
“I hope I am not intruding, ma’am.”
“No, I’m glad to see a friendly face,” she replied. “My husband always liked you. He had confidence in you.”
“I appreciate that, ma’am.”
Mrs. Lincoln looked around the room. “Don’t trust anyone, Mr. Johnson. Especially not that devil, Edwin Stanton.”
“Don’t worry about that, ma’am. I know how devious Mr. Stanton can be.”
She leaned into him. “No, you don’t. You cannot conceive of what that man is capable. He held us captive, Mr. Johnson, in the White House basement for two and a half years. And on the very night we were released he had my husband murdered.”
“The White House basement?”
“Yes, that devil imprisoned us. He found a man and woman in prison who looked like us and put them in the White House. Could you not tell the difference?”
Johnson had only met Lincoln a few times in his life. They had a nice long conversation before Lincoln appointed him the military governor of Tennessee in March of 1862. The times they met after that Lincoln seemed distant and distracted, but Johnson dismissed the change to the pressures of war.
“Have you told anyone else about this—this allegation?”
“It’s not an allegation. It’s the truth. I dare not say anything or else they will think me mad. But you believe me, don’t you? You will be my defender, won’t you, Mr. Johnson?”
“Mary, where are you, dear?”
Johnson turned to see Thomas Pendel, the White House butler. Pendel was wearing Lincoln’s clothing.
“You must return to your bedroom, my dear. This way, down our private hall. Don’t you remember? Too many people in the house right now. We must have our privacy. We decided to seclude ourselves today, remember?”
Mrs. Lincoln rushed to Pendel, hugging him.
“Of course, darling. You always know best.” She took Pendel’s face in her hands and kissed him on the lips. “I had this terrible dream. We were in the basement, and then at the theater, and then someone shot you. But it was a terrible dream, wasn’t it, Mr. Lincoln?”
“You mustn’t rattle on so, Mary. Mr. Johnson wouldn’t understand.”
She turned and curtsied. “Excuse me, sir. I must do as my dear husband says. I need my rest.”
After she left the room, Pendel walked up to Johnson.
“You must understand, sir. Mrs. Lincoln is in a delicate condition at this moment. I thought if I wore Mr. Lincoln’s clothing, it would give her comfort. The doctors did not want her interrupting the autopsy, you see, and so I thought if I could create the illusion of normalcy….” His voice trailed off as he looked back at the door. “Even Master Tad needed comforting. I stayed by his bedside all last night.”
“So, do you believe her story?” Johnson asked. “About the abduction? Could they have possibly been in the basement for two and a half years?”
“The Lincolns are good people,” Pendel replied. “They have been through enough grief.”
“But do you believe they were in the basement for two and a half years?”
Without answering, Pendel turned abruptly, calling back over his shoulder as he exited, “Mrs. Lincoln needs me now.”
Perplexed, Johnson decided to leave for the Treasury. He had delayed the Cabinet meeting too long. He returned to his carriage and thought about Pendel’s reaction. The butler avoided answering the question directly. Why? Was he afraid for his safety and that of the Lincoln family? Did he not know about the abduction? Or maybe he did now, but could not bring himself to talk about it. Johnson shook his head to clear such swirling thoughts as he entered the room at the Treasury for the Cabinet meeting.
Sitting at the end of the table was Stanton, who showed no intention of moving. Johnson took his seat at the other end. As he looked around the room, he wondered if it had actually just been twenty-four hours ago, that he had been with this exact group of men. Only at that time Abraham Lincoln was alive and in charge of the meeting. General Ulysses Grant had been in attendance but not today. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Interior John Usher, Treasury Secretary Hugh McColloch, Postmaster General William Dennison, Attorney General James Speed and Interior Secretary James Harlan were all back, staring at him. Johnson supposed they wondered if he were drunk as he had been at the Inaufural.
“I recommend that Chief Clerk of the State Department be appointed temporary Secretary of State since neither Mr. Seward nor his son are capable of the duties at the time,” Stanton said, shuffling through his papers.
Johnson had forgotten. Frederick Seward had been at the previous meeting, substituting for his father. Now he was suffering from stab wounds from the attack on his father.
“Yes, I think that would be most appropriate,” Johnson said just above a whisper.
“What is most important at this time,” Stanton continued in an imperious tone and showing no desire to relinquish the floor, “is that we have no intention of being intimidated by the forceful yet clumsy attempts of the former Confederate government to alter our plans of Reconstruction.”
“That is not your responsibility to make any statement of the kind,” Welles replied. “Isn’t that so, Mr. Speed? As the leading Constitutional scholar around this table, don’t you agree that any statements must come from the President?”
The Attorney General cleared his throat. “Of course, Mr. Welles. Mr. Johnson is now head of state. We all—at least many of us—attended the swearing in of President Johnson in his hotel room no more than an hour ago.”
“I don’t know if Mr. Johnson is informed enough to make any statements at this time,” Stanton said, removing his glasses and ceremoniously wiping them with a handkerchief.
“Whether he is informed adequately or not is not the point,” Welles stressed. “He is the President.”
“Yes, I am.” Johnson finally found his voice. “And I have no intention of changing the policy of Mr. Lincoln. He said many times we should treat the Confederate States gently, and I see no reason to change that approach.”
“Of course, being from a Confederate state, you would be expected to say that,” Stanton said.
“That is quite enough, sir!” Welles replied in a huff.
“Thank you, Mr. Welles,” Johnson interrupted in his best diplomatic tone. “I am quite capable of defending myself. I am beginning to feel this is an inopportune time to conduct this meeting. Emotions are riding high. I believe the best action at this time is for us all to concentrate on our specific constitutionally defined jobs.”
“Well said, Mr. President,” Speed said.
After he adjourned the meeting, Johnson gently took Welles by the elbow to pull him into a far corner of the room away from the other Cabinet members who were mumbling among themselves near the door. They watched as Stanton quickly gathered together papers in his leather case and strode out of the room. The cluster of Cabinet members standing by the door parted to let him exit in silence.
“He seems distracted.” Johnson chose his words with care.
“Hell, he’s the same son of a bitch he’s always been,” Welles replied.
Johnson wondered if this were a good time to mention Mrs. Lincoln’s allegations about lookalikes in the White House. Had Welles noticed any difference in the behavior of the president during the last two and a half years? Perhaps he should not broach such a fantastic subject right now. After all, only yesterday Welles had observed his own irrational, drunken behavior.
Welles put his arm around Johnson’s shoulder and turned him away from the other men.
“Take my advice,” he whispered. “Fire Stanton while you can.”

Davy Crockett’s Butterfly Chapter Three

Jesse Cheek smiled at Davy who was shivering. “You’re a good man, Master Crockett. Not too many thirteen-year-old boys volunteer to apprentice themselves out to help their families.” He paused. “Maybe we should go back to the tavern, work out the details for the trip and let your ma know where you’re going to be for the next six weeks.”
“We can’t go back.” Davy stepped forward and shook his head, his mind racing. “Pa’s dreadful sick. Got the pox. You ever had the pox?”
“I don’t remember.”
“A grown man gits fearful sick with the pox while a child takes it jest fine with no problems. You’re a grown man. The pox could lay you low.”
“So you don’t think I should talk to your folks?”
“I don’t want you to come down with the pox.”
“I appreciate your concern. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to take you along. Your pa knows me well. He knows I’ll treat you right.” Chuckling, Cheek turned, cracked his whip above the pair of oxen pulling his large Conestoga wagon and said “get up.”
Davy ducked his head and fell in line with the herd, poking slow heifers in their sides to keep them on track. After another hour on the trail, they stopped, set up camp and started a fire. Cheek pulled a sack from his wagon and passed out hard tack and strips of dried venison to Davy and the two other men on his crew. They all slurped water from the same ladle in the bucket.
“Gotta name, boy?” one of the men asked.
“Davy Crockett, sir. And what’s yours, if you don’t mind me askin’?”
“Thomas Harkness.” He smiled, revealing a mouth with only four or five brown teeth. Thomas appeared to be in his thirties, with a thick brow and hammy shoulders.
“I’m Grey Jones.” The other man said in a high voice unsuitable for such a tough-looking brutish fellow.
“What’s a boy like you doin’ out here on the trail like this?” Thomas asked, gnawing on a hard biscuit.
“Jest doin’ my duty to feed my brothers and sisters,” Davy replied, his eyes looking sad as they wandered off into the darkness. “Pa’s mighty sick, so weak he can hardly stand.”
“My pa had that,” Grey chimed in. “Died within a few days. Ma never did good after that.”
“I know,” Davy said with a sigh. “It’s an awful burden for a young man to bear. Probably won’t have no life of my own, jest always work hard to feed the family.”
“That’s me,” Grey offered, biting off and sucking on a strip of venison. “I stayed and tended ma ‘til she died; by then, I was too old to learn a real trade.” He swallowed with a wince and a groan. “’Tis a shame.”
“Well, morning will be here soon,” Cheek announced as he stood and kicked dirt onto the fire.
He climbed into his wagon, and the other three crawled under the wagon. Grey and Thomas offered to share their bedding with Davy but he shook his head bravely and said he was used to sleeping on the ground. They said good-night, rolled over and immediately began to snore. Davy ran his finger along the iron bands of the big wooden wheels and thanked God he did not have to fall asleep crying with blisters on his back from his father’s cudgel. He was safe for now, but he still missed his mother and his sisters. He fell asleep crying after all.
In the next few days Davy worked hard, keeping his eye trained on everything going on around him. He anticipated chores and did them before he was asked. As fall arrived, the leaves turned gold and red. The nights became colder. He shivered uncontrollably but did not complain. Cheek patted him on the back and made sure he got his fair share of butterfat which warmed the body. Only time he asked for something was when they passed through Rogersville. Davy wanted to go to the graveyard behind the Hawkins County courthouse to see the tombstones of his grandparents.
“You mean you never knew ‘em?” Thomas asked in a whisper.
“How’d they die?” Grey asked in his high squeaky voice.
“Injuns killed ‘em.”
“Durn shame,” Thomas commented, putting his hand on Davy’s shoulder.
Davy felt a knot in his throat and tears welling in his eyes, so he clenched his jaw and tightened his lips. He did not want the men to see him cry. Davy hated it when he cried. Men did not do things like that.
For a while they followed the Holstein River, and Davy recognized most of the land from his last trip in the spring. He liked the lush valley wherein the town of Abingdon was nestled.
“The Indians say would never settle here,” Cheek said, “because the ancient ones said living here was so easy it would make them lazy. You know what happened to Adam and Eve? Had it too easy in the Garden of Eden. Started out lying to God and got kicked out,” Cheek said as they bought fresh supplies at the Abingdon general store. “What do you think about that, Davy?”
“I think it makes a good story.”
“You like telling stories, don’t you, Davy?”
“Sure.” He looked down. “Don’t everybody?”
“Not as much as you.” Cheek laughed and headed out the door.
Davy decided Cheek was not as nice a man as he first thought. He tried to make himself not tell any stories for the next few days but he felt like he was about to explode. When they reached the Shenandoah Valley and were sitting around a crackling campfire Davy could not hold it in any longer.
“I was up this way last spring. Right over there, on that hill.” He pointed into the darkness. “We was bone tired after a hard day on the trail tryin’ to keep in line some particularly stubborn calves.” Thomas and Grey grunted and nodded in recognition. They were bone tired too. “We pitched camp and started up a pot of squirrel stew. I shot ‘em myself jest ‘fore the sun set. It smelt fine. It smelt so fine that an ol’ black b’ar ambled up to the fire. The other men jest sat, sort of in shock, I suppose. And a couple of them, I tell you, screamed like girls. I grabbed one of their flintlocks since it was plain they warn’t goin’ to use it and loaded powder and bullet and swung it up to take aim. Now, gentlemen, I can’t right tell you how I found the sense to shoot ‘cause that ol’ b’ar rared up on his hind feet and was aroarin’. The next thing I heard was the rifle go pow, caught ‘im—caught ‘im right here.” Davy lifted his left arm and pointed six inches below his arm pit. “I dropped ‘im in his tracks and he never flinched.”
“So you kilt yo’rself a b’ar,” Grey said in awe.
Cheek laughed from his seat back in the shadows. “Time to get to sleep men. Morning will be here before you know it.” Thomas and Grey rolled under the wagon and Davy was about to join them when Cheek called out, “Help me put this here fire out, won’t you, Davy?”
As they kicked dirt into the flames, Cheek said softly, “So you know how to shoot good?”
“Purty good, I think,” Davy replied.
Cheek laughed and put his arm on Davy’s shoulder. “How’d you like for me to show you some of my tricks with a rifle?”
“I’d like that. Davy beamed and then added with modesty, “I guess I got a little lucky with that b’ar.”
For the next several days as they traveled up the valley toward Charlottesville Cheek let Davy shoot squirrels and rabbits with his .30 caliber rifle.
“You have a good eye, even as the day’s light fades. Your hand is steady. Just remember, make sure of your target then squeeze the trigger. Don’t jerk it. If you’re sure of your target then even if it runs into the shadows you can follow it and shoot.”
“Be sure I’m right,” David said in reflection, “and then go ahead.”
When Davy’s finger tightened on the trigger, Cheek yelled in his ear, causing him to jump and jerk his rifle skywards.
“Why’d you do that for?” You made me miss it.”
“It’s a lesson on concentration. You got to concentrate on the target no matter what happens. One day Indians might attack and you got to be ready to defend yourself no matter how scared you are.”
Davy continued to hone his shooting skills as the herd moved north along the Shenandoah Valley. One day Cheek nudged him and pointed. “Do you know who lives on that hill?”
“He should,” Thomas said, ambling up. “You was here last spring, right?”
“Sure was.” Davy looked up the hill. “But Mr. Siler didn’t say nothin’ about where we was at, only talked cattle.”
“The vice-president lives up there,” Cheek said. “Who know who that is?” He paused only a moment. “Thomas Jefferson. He calls his home Monticello.”
“Oh.” Davy felt his neck burn from embarrassed. He really did not know much.
“He’s probably up there right now,’ Cheek continued, as he poked one of the cows to make it stay on track. “That’d make a good story, wouldn’t it, Davy, to say you met the vice-president of the United States?”
“Yes, it would.” A smile flickered across Davy’s lips.


A smile flickered across David Crockett’s lips those many years later in the Rutherford Station tavern as he basked in the laughter and applause of the young men. Then one young man, Joe Studdard, with long straggly reddish yellow hair put his arm around David’s shoulder, leaned in and belched at full volume, smelling of stale, ill-brewed ale.
“Come on, Davy—“
“David,” he interrupted. “Nobody’s called me Davy since I was a youngin’. When was the last time anyone ever called you Joey? You’re Joe now. You’re a man.”
“Like I was sayin’, Davy,” Joe continued, his eyes glazed over, “tell us what you really think. You’re pissed as hell, ain’t ya?”
“You’re right.” David looked ahead and slurped from his mug. “I’m pissed as hell.”
“And you hate Andy Jackson,” the young man punched David in the shoulder to make his point.
“I right liked Ol’ Hickory when he was a general,” David said, pausing to take another drink. “He was kinda like the pa I always wanted. Tough, honest, fair.”
“But now he’s president, he ain’t your idea of a pa, is he?”
“And you hate ‘im?”
“Sure I hate ‘im now. He’s goin’ to hell for all the bad things he’s done.”
“Well, it’s time to go, David,” Abner said, pulling him away.
David did not remember much after that. The ride home was pretty much a haze. The next thing of which he was aware was a tap on his feet.
“Come on, David, time to git up,” Abner said.
David focused his eyes on the foot of the bed. There stood his friend Abner and William Patton, Elizabeth’s nephew. David smiled. He liked the boy. He was roughhewed but friendly. William’s father died recently and the boy took up with David real fast.
“I got more bad news,” Abner said. “Gibson County Democrat Committee wants to talk to you at the tavern. We’ll be there, David. “We won’t let nothin’ happen to you.”
“Well, what on earth do they want?” David moaned and slid down among the quilts.
“Sam’ll be there too, Uncle David,” William said.
David smiled at the mention of Sam Houston. He was the only man who could match him tall story for tall story. Besides, he reminded himself, he was not a little boy anymore who had to be afraid of grown men. His father was dead. David was the old man now. Sitting up, he grinned. “Reckon I can stand up to my lick log.”
When they arrived at Rutherford Station tavern, David looked around the room to see a crowd of unsmiling faces. They were supporters of Andrew Jackson and did not like the fact that David had gone his own way while in Congress.
“Thank you for coming,” Robert Edmundson said. He was the justice and a firm Huntsman loyalist. His steel gray eyes were lost on his pallid face. “Good of you to meet with us.”
“I didn’t have nothin’ better to do than git beat up by a bunch of politicians.”
Several men laughed. David always knew how to make men laugh.
“Let’s git down to it,” Edmundson said. “What are your intentions?”
“What do you mean?”
“You goin’ to fight the canvass?” Constable Anslem Fussell interrupted, leaning forward. Fussell was fat, short and grumpy.
“Good,” Fussell said.
“Not that it’d do much good.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” Fussell shot back.
“Now, Anslem,” Edmundson said. “No need to be unfriendly.”
Fussell huffed as he crossed his arms across his chest.
“I’m real friendly,” David replied.
“You could cause a heap of trouble if you had a mind to,” Fussell said.
“It was your own fault you lost, you know,” John Needham said, piping up from the back. He was an old war buddy of Huntsman and was always jealous of David because he told the best stories back at camp when the battle was done. “You forgot where you came from.”
Several others mumbled in agreement.
“You spent all your time in New York rather than in West Tennessee,” a voice called out.
“And we didn’t git none of that cheap land like you said we was,” Fussell said.
Of all the comments that one hurt the most. In each of his three terms in Congress, David introduced legislation to allow public sale of government lands in West Tennessee at affordable prices. Each time he was voted down.
“That ain’t fair!” David snapped. “It warn’t my fault if my bill got killed each time!”
“But we didn’t git no land!” Needham shot back. “And you promised!”
“But the rich folks, they was the ones who killed it. They wanted to be able to buy the land for themselves and make you people become tenant farmers!”
“Always blame somebody else,” Fussell said with a smirk. “We may be poor, but we ain’t dumb.”
“You cared more about the damn Injuns than about us!” Needham said.
“Andy wanted to run ‘em off their lands! That ain’t fair!” David could feel his neck turn red in anger. The very Cherokee who fought with Jackson and the Tennessee volunteers were the ones being displaced.
“To hell with the Injuns!” Needham yelled.
Just then the door floor flew open and a man in a leather leggings and jacket stomped in and put his hands on his hips, towering over everybody.
“To hell with you, John! I bet you’ve been shootin’ your mouth off too, Anslem! Time for all of you to shut up!”
“We want to know what David plans to do, Sam,” Edmundson said.
“David’s goin’ huntin’ with me, that’s what he’s goin’ to do,” Sam Houston replied, putting his arm around his friend’s shoulder. “And that’s that. If anybody has a quarrel with that they can meet me outside.”
The next day David and Same hunted in the cane breaks of the Obion River valley along with Abner and William. Their eyes trained to spot white-tailed deer, wild boar or bear. The air was cold with oncoming autumn breezes. David stopped and his nostrils flared. Beaver scent filled the air. Looking down he spied the webbed hind paw prints of beaver tracks. Then he saw a mound and noticed an amber liquid which he knew was the source of the smell. His head jerked toward the sound of splashing, and he swung his flintlock up.
All rifles pointed to the nearby pond. They shot as clan of beaver swam away. Sloshing through the water they picked off their prey. One beaver was dead, and David and Sam quickly crushed the skulls of the wounded with the butts of their rifles. That night they singed the hair off the carcasses over the open fire and washed the bodies in the river, scraping the skin off on the rocks
“Mighty good eatin’,” William said as he bit into the roasted beaver meat.
“Makes my belly feel good,” Sam added, washing down a mouthful with a swig from the whiskey jug. “Yeah, all that beaver fat’s goin’ to keep us mighty warm tonight.”
David kept quiet as he ate. The long day of hunting in the canes had worn him out more than he wanted to admit to his hunting buddies. As the stars came out he and the others lay back and once again David grew melancholy at the great expanse of nothingness.
“My God, ain’t that purty,” William said with a sigh.
“Makes you feel kinda small, don’t it?” Abner added.
“Damn right it makes me feel small,” David grumbled. “Small and like I was nothin’.”
“Aw, David, git over it,” Abner said softly.
Sam belched and turned to David. “You need to go to Texas with me.”
They had been friends since Sam was governor of Tennessee. Sam divorced his wife after only three months of marriage. Folks did not take kindly to that sort of behavior, and Sam had to resign as governor. He then disappeared among the Arkansas Cherokee and took a common law wife. He recently left her to start a new life in Texas. Neither man understood women very well, David decided, which was why they were such good friends.
“You’re younger than me, Sam. I’m gittin’ to the age where I don’t have it in me to start over.”
“You still got it in you.” Sam wagged his finger at him. “Don’t try to fool me.” He paused to look seriously at David. “One day Texas’ll be part of the United States.”
“Mexico might have somethin’ to say about that,” he replied.
“It don’t matter what Mexico wants. It’s what the people of Texas want.”
“I thought the people of Texas was Mexicans,” David said with a bemused look. “And Indians. A few folk from Spain.”
“Not anymore.” Sam sipped more whiskey. “There’s more Tennesseans in Texas than in Tennessee anymore. Alabamans too. Tar Heels. Texas is for men like us, David.”
“And what would I do in Texas?”
“Why, you’d be David Crockett!” He winked. “You wouldn’t have no trouble gittin’ elected. Then when Texas becomes a state, well, Washington would be in your hands ag’in.”
David looked over at Abner who was tossing some twigs onto the fire.
“What about it, Abner?”
“Looks like we’re goin’ to Texas, don’t it?”

“I have to go to Gainesville,” Dave told Tiffany. Just like his ancestor David Crockett a century before him had to go to Texas, he had to go to his hometown.
Tiffany began toweling off. “Hey, I’ll go with you. I’ve never met your family. This is as good a time as any.” Tiffany pulled up her panties and started to put on her bra. “I’ve driven past Gainesville many times on my way to Oklahoma City but I never got off the highway. It looks like a pretty little town.”
“No,” he said in a blank tone.
She stopped, turned to look at him with an arched brow and asked, “Why not?”
Dave stared at the shower stall where the water still pelted down. His mind raced. He could not think of a thing to say. Tiffany was so beautiful, lithe, with a delicate bone structure. She had been brought up in the closed Southern Baptist culture of Waco’s wealthiest families. At their wedding he had heard whispers from elderly church matrons about their little Tiffany, only twenty-two, marrying a divorced man in his thirties. It made no difference the year was nineteen eighty. As far as Waco, Texas, was concerned, time stopped in nineteen twenty. People did not divorce. And they certainly did not have brothers who were homosexuals. No words came out, only a deep sign.
“Very well.” She finished hooking her bra strap and left the bathroom.
He listened for her to dress and go out the door. He stood, went back into the shower, rinsed the soap out of his hair and then dried off. He stared at himself in the mirror as he brushed his teeth and shaved. No one in Gainesville would have believed chubby little Puppy would have slimmed into a tolerable looking man. He had paid for his own braces, spent many hours in a tanning booth and ate very little to give his face a lean look instead of the round puffy cheeks he had as a child. He bent over to put in his contact lenses, blinked them into place and reached for a tube of skin cream from which he squeezed a bad to rub around his eyes.
Stepping back, he squared his shoulders and tightened his abdomen muscles and considered whether or not he had time to run through his calisthenics routine but decided he should hurry along. Instead he went to his walk-in closet, picked a khaki-colored pair of ironed slacks and a light blue cotton shirt.
After putting on a pair of suede loafers, Dave looked over at the telephone, sighed and reached for it, dialed a number and waited for an answer. When a female voice answered, he frowned. He did not want to talk to his former mother-in-law.
“Mrs. Martin, may I speak to Linda?”
She did not reply. “It’s for you.” Her voice was blank and distant.
He always liked the warm lilt of his ex-wife’s voice.
“It’s Dave.”
“Well, hi there.” No resentment tinged her reply.
“Allan’s dead.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Tell the boys I won’t be able to take them camping this weekend.”
“Of course I will. They’ll understand.” Linda paused. “Are you all right?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“If you like, I’ll call them to the phone.”
Dave looked up and saw Tiffany standing in the door. His eyes widened and he sputtered into the receiver. “Gotta go.” His voice lowered. “Tell the boys I love them.” He hung up.
“That was Linda, wasn’t it?”
“Your father’s dead, and you don’t want to tell me.”
Smiling, he stood to take Tiffany in his arms. “No, of course not. You’ve got the biggest imagination of any girl I’ve ever known.”
“Well, why call Linda if he’s only sick?” She pulled away and narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, Tiffany,” he replied in a sad, weary tone, trying to think of a credible lie, one that would make David Crockett proud. “He’s real sick, and Linda has always been fond of the old man.”
Tiffany shook her head. “No, it’s more than that. I can tell. You can tell Linda, but you can’t tell me.”
“That’s not true.” He continued to stare at her. He knew that she would realize he was lying if he looked away.
“It makes me so mad. You’ve never taken me to meet your family. Anytime you’re upset you’re on the phone to Linda.” She stopped to put her hand over her mouth to compose herself. Lowering her hand, Tiffany turned to leave. “I’ll call daddy and tell him you won’t be into work for the next few days.”