I scraped a dead
kitten off the road yesterday morning—a calico only a few
days old. Over the years I’ve scraped all manner of dead
things off the two-lane highway at the end of my drive—raccoons
and rattlesnakes and most species of abandoned house pets—and
I’ve buried them all behind the old stone barn.
to the day’s burial, I drove the DeSoto into town, stopping
for breakfast at Irma’s, where Irma herownself served me
coffee thick as river mud, shared gossip about the preacher’s
daughter putting on weight like a milk cow, and talked about
Billy Roberts getting him a football scholarship to Texas
Our town didn’t
have much, but we did have high school football. Seventeen
straight trips to the state semi-finals had college coaches
recruiting our boys. Them that were recruited played their
four years, a few graduated, but, except for Wayne Earl Trout’s
two years in the Canadian Football League back in ‘90-’91,
none ever went pro. Most of the boys came back home where
the high school displayed their football trophies in a glass
case just inside the front door and their social status was
determined by whether or not their team took the state championship
during their varsity season.
remained the ticket out for a few of the boys. Doug Wilkins
stayed in Bryan after college and has him a used car lot
he advertises on late-night television. Milford Bates is
selling insurance up in Dallas and Denny Delacroix probably
did best of all. He got him a stunt man job out in Hollywood
and we all watch for his name in the credits when we get
to the movies over at the dollar theater.
“Full scholarship,” Irma
told me after laying down a plate of greasy eggs and greasier
bacon. “My cousin is so proud of that damn boy of his, you’d
think he’s gonna bust a gut ever time he mentions the boy’s
“Says his boy’s
gonna be the first one to go pro,” she said. She refilled
my coffee. “Real pro. NFL.”
“He’s got the
arm,” I agreed. I’d seen him play. “Could be the next Roger
“Long as he keeps
his head on straight,” she said. “Don’t do nothing stupid
like Leroy Ledbetter.”
Two years earlier,
Leroy Ledbetter had been our first boy recruited by a major
out-of-state college. Halfway through his first season, him
and another boy got liquored up and skinned some tomcat they
found behind the dorm and figured to be feral. Turned out
the cat belonged to the Dean of the Business School and Leroy’s
back home now after spending six months in jail on a cruelty-to-animals
I finished the
bacon, sopped up the last of the eggs with a corner of my
toast, and inquired about Irma’s weekend plans, thinking
we might catch the dollar show together if she’s of a mind.
I hitched up my pants and strode on over to the hardware
store where Ernie Ledbetter—Leroy’s second cousin and second-team
All-District Defensive Tackle during his senior year—helped
me select a new shovel for scraping up the dead. Nobody ever
talked about it, but I think everbody knew I’d do the right
thing by whatever I found at the end of my drive.
We talked about
the high school football team’s chances the coming year.
sharp,” I said. “Most of last year’s starters are back.”
“We gonna put
any points on the board?” Ernie asked. “We ain’t got no quarterback.
A&M’s got him.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe
it’s time we all went back to church, started praying for
“You seen the
preacher’s daughter?” he asked. “She’s swoll up like a puffer
I told him I hadn’t
seen the girl since end of the school year.
“Damn shame, too,” he
said. “Girl had a figure like an hourglass. Shame to see
her losing it, start looking like all the other women round
enough to be your daughter,” I said.
“I seen the way
all the boys used to look at her. She didn’t hardly walk
down the street without ever boy in town panting after her.” Ernie
shook his head. “Damn shame the way she’s let herself go.”
We talked of other
people we knew, then Ernie rang up my purchase and saw me
to the door.
I walked down
the street, carrying my new shovel and an earful of gossip,
headed back to my DeSoto. I stopped when I heard shouting
coming from behind Trout’s Package Liquor.
“You can’t do
this to me,” said a male voice. “Not now. Not after everything
A female voice
responded. “Do it to you? You did it to me!”
I couldn’t understand
what the male voice said, but the female voice responded, “You
think it’ll be easy around here for me? It’ll be…oh, God,
it’s happening again. I can’t take the pain.”
“You have to,” the
male voice said. “We ain’t got a choice.”
A truck engine
fired up and I heard exhaust rumble through a pair of headers.
Then tires squealed and a blood-red Dodge Dakota shot around
the corner, a burly teenaged boy in a letterman jacket behind
the wheel, a teenaged girl nearly glued to his arm.
I watched the
truck disappear down the road, past Wilkins Television and
Small Appliance Repair, and around the bend south of town.
Then I threw the shovel in the back of DeSoto and drove home.
A few minutes
past three a.m., I awoke to the sound of rumbling headers
down near the end of my drive. I heard a truck door slam
and then heard tires squealing. I listened to the truck’s
headers echo through the night until they finally faded away
in the distance.
I scraped a dead
baby off the road this morning—a Caucasian child only a few
hours old—and carried it on the end of my new shovel around
back of the old stone barn. As I dug a fresh hole next to
the previous day’s kitten, I wondered how long it would be
until the preacher’s daughter regained her figure and Billy
Roberts threw his first touchdown pass for A&M.