a m e l i a g r a y
Thoughts While Strolling
Harry Austin Clapp, creator of "Thoughts," a column that ran in this newspaper every week for a score or more years, died at the age of 79, at his home in Collegeport, Saturday, December 25th at 10 o'clock following an illness of several months. Traveller, explorer, engineer, writer, philosopher, real estate man, Harry Austin Clapp rounded out a full and complete life before he passed quietly away.
The Daily Tribune (Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas) December 27, 1937
Recent rain great for crops and makes the figs glisten and show
The people of the town have never seen such a warm rain. Fat raindrops make the figs glow, showing the people of the town a new color of green that they've never known before, a green which they call Fig. The townspeople say that this rain is the beginning of things. That year, five families name their first-born sons Fig.
Oscar Chapin growing a ninety-pound watermelon.
Or is the watermelon growing Oscar Chapin? The neighbors begin to wonder. He sits all day by the watermelon, on the ground next to the watermelon in its wooden crate lined with old rags. He takes an eyedropper of water every ten minutes to strategic areas of the ground, under which he says he can feel the root growing. Oscar Chapin claims this watermelon has given him new eyes.
Train crew go to Kingsville with the engine.
Everyone makes a big fuss about it and rightly so, as it takes twenty strong men to lift the train diesel engine into the auto that will transport it to Kingsville. They also travel by train, which makes some of the townspeople think philosophical thoughts about building a train so strong that no train can transport its engine. Likely a train of this nature would need to be constructed in Galveston.
Jim Hale better train his dog.
That dog runs the perimeter of Hale's yard, treading the ground until he makes a ditch. Dog says, "Hey, come over here." When you do, that damn dog gives you a recipe for lemon bars which omits egg yolks and disappoints you sincerely.
Found a dirty face powder puff in my mailbox.
If I were a younger man, I would suspect intrigue from the daughters of the farmer next door. Surely they would have left it as a token from their girl-friend, who felt tender emotions for me. As a younger man, I would contemplate this while holding the dirty face powder puff under my nose and breathing in a heaven's scent of woman's skin. As an old man, I suspect a group of rowdy boys.
Seth Corse suffering from "tizit" in the back.
What happens is this: we tell the young boy, Seth Corse, he has a beetle on his back. The boy turns round and round and says "tizit, tizit?" All in attendance laugh mightily. This is a game we play on Thursdays.
The Come-Inn afloat with water Saturday.
Nothing but trouble for landlord Gus Franzen. Buckets and extra towels were loaned across the land to ease cleanup for the waterlocked sops at the Come-Inn. The building lifted clean off the foundation as if someone cut the concrete with a blade. When Franzen flung open the door in the morning he was greeted by a boy named Fig who was floating on a dinner table.
Freshly graded roads impassable.
Even when you don't walk the full length of a freshly graded road, you must stand at the edge of the work and smell the tar and earth. Half of the crew sickened themselves with drink in Kingsville and did not arrive home in time to operate the static roller, which means the road itself is rough enough to cut the soles of your feet through your shoes if you're foolish enough to walk over it. Passing traffic will compact the road into grooves like a pack of running dogs. I must take a shortcut through the neighbor's pasture.
School board holding a meeting and electing teachers for the next year.
Women are intoxicating and cruel.
Emmitt Chiles is now a member of the ancient order of grandfathers. Came Saturday, and a nine pound boy.
Brought the new family a pan of lemon bars. They observed the strange color and texture of the custard filling and told me Thank you Harry, would you like to see the baby? Humiliation radiated from all in the room. Even the baby felt its first wave of humiliation, spreading across his face like the fever that would eventually claim him. That damn dog.
Worms feedin on the cotton crop. Time to use a wormacide.
On the back of the wormacide bottle there is one warning: Do not plunge your hands into the dark earth and hold them still until nature renews its movement and you feel the delicate pulse of thousands of worms through your fingertips and across your palms. Such a feeling will make it very difficult to use this wormacide.
By parcel post—twenty-five Jersey Black Giant chicks from Ohio. Arrived one hundred per cent.
Open the manila envelope and the chicks come tumbling out, covered in their own excrement and feeling betrayed but alive, cry to the heavens, alive after a long and difficult journey, the world around them tinged with gold. They are granted five hours of freedom before they are locked in the coop out back.
The sun is trying in vain to peep between the heavy clouds.
One understands the feeling, thinking back with some shame to a dress heavy like soaking wet lead, like a velvet bag full of bullets. Everything you touch turns to fire.
Turn them over and tickle them, the young boys say to the girls. After much conversing and screeching, one brave girl picks up a slick frog, green as a fig. She flips it over so delicately in her small palm that the boys stop their shoving and feel strange for watching. The girl extends one slender finger and runs it slowly up and down the frog's exposed belly. When the frog urinates on her, she looks at the boys with loathing. She will later go on to swallow two goldfish alive.
A goose on the slough ranch sounds its rasping call.
The ugliest image in the area. People come from far afield to observe it and feel better about their own lives. On this morning I see a man leaning on his auto, smoking a cigarette and observing the slough ranch goose. The man flicks his cigarette into the wet ditch and drives on.
The something that makes an onion grow; an auto run; a man move and act; a bird sing—where is it generated? Anyone answer?
In the smallest chamber of the heart: Desire.
The mourning dove made her nest in the low tide ground. Foolish bird. your eggs are now covered with water. The oriole's nest swinging high in a tree is safe and dry.
The foolish oriole, lemon-colored, swings at the wind's mercy and prays for her eggs. It is a wise mourning dove who drowns her eggs before they hatch, for the nature of the mourning dove is to perch on a branch above the low tide ground and grieve the swamp.
The latest fad from Paree is to tie a black silk ribbon around your ankle. For girls only, of course.
A language is born: the manner in which the black silk ribbon is tied determines the personality of the girl who ties it. A half-hitch means she is searching for a kind gentleman to walk her to the market. A sheep-shank means she is a scurrilous woman who wishes to entrap a gentleman with kind words. A figure-of-eight means the time has come for sober discussions regarding the future. The children steal a black silk ribbon and tie it round a frog.
Two and half miles of cement laid on the Collegeport road in less than three weeks is some progress. Thus does our "nine-foot sidewalk" grows.
The sidewalk grows unobserved, save for the men building it. Once it is there, everyone walks on it, assuming it has always been. It has not always been.
Rosalie and her sister buying candy.
Rosalie and her sister enchant all who fall under their gaze. Their pockets are stuffed with peppermint sticks. A flock of orioles groom their brunette hair. Black ribbons tied in timber hitch knots flutter from their ankles. The bloom of youth!
The extra engine crew eating breakfast at the Come-Inn.
The boys are back from Kingsville and tired from the journey but Gus Franzen puts them directly to work, shoring up the building's foundation and repairing the wooden slats around the door. The men blot their faces with rags under the shade tree out back and lay the load of sopping rags in rows to dry. Gus Franzen serves them lemonade and promises to have their rags cleaned before the next dinner service.
Old Sport coming home for an extra meal.
Proprietors of local restaurants wave to him as he walks, saying Hello, Emmitt, care for a drink? A moment off your feet? They know that if they get Old Sport in, they won't have to sell another plate for the rest of the night. He'll eat a porterhouse steak before he sits down. The proprietors claim he eats more than the President, though this claim is unsubstantiated. Today, Old Sport waves them all off. He goes home and sits across the table from his new grandson. Together, they eat creamed peas. These happy days will not last.
Buckshot catching a rabbit.
Naming a dog Buckshot seems a cruel thing, like telling the dog he will never be as effective as his namesake. Such an insult is similar to giving a boy the name of his father.
A mocking bird bringing material for a nest. A little late, but it will soon house four eggs.
A little late, thinks the mocking bird, settling down over her doomed eggs. Her mate brings the sliced-off top of a strawberry for her. He perches on the side of the nest and watches her eat the rare treat. He watches the strawberry, which he still tastes on his beak. He watches the eggs upon which his mate sits. A little late, he says. A little late, she responds. It becomes part of their call to one another: A-little-late! A-little-late!
A big crane walking in the slough.
The big crane resolved to kill the goose when he got it alone. He walked the slough for hours, moving slowly from his nest across the field to the spot where the goose would be sounding its rasping call. When he arrives, the big crane sees the goose is not alone. In fact, the goose has an entire audience of pitiable folk. A family with young children watches, mouths agape. Three men stand in a group with their cigarettes. A young woman sits in the passenger seat of an auto, weeping. The big crane, not given to sentimentality, turns and walks home.
A road runner hastening across the new road grade.
A road that slices through shoes leaves no trace on the bird. It is a magical bird on a magical road, the kind of road that chooses its travelers instead of the other way around. This road dreams of becoming less traveled. Orioles flock to the road and line up in rows on either side. They dive after bugs flying off windshields as the autos paint a deep insult of two matching grooved tracks. The road groans and is compressed.
Way off yonder a dog howls.
That damn dog is laughing.
The recent heavy rain insures a good crop so says Gus Franzen.
Gus Franzen stands before his ruined Come-Inn, which inspectors determined was a danger to the public. Workers come from Galveston with notices and boards, stepping over rows of rags. They shutter the place far more efficiently than he ever ran it. Gus Franzen watches them work. After the men are gone, he collects the rags and puts them in a basket.
AMELIA GRAY lives in Austin, Texas. Her writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, DIAGRAM, and Caketrain, among others. She is the author of AM/PM, published by Featherproof Books, and Museum of the Weird, which is due Fall 2010 through Fiction Collective 2.
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