Shorty (Short Story)

Kids were fascinated by the way Shorty got around East End.   In those days, the only paved road in our part of town was Highway 50, unless you count the short road up the hill to the Gospel Tabernacle.  The remainder of roads were mud tracks, sometimes covered with what they called red-dog, the rose-colored residue from the burned-out slate dumps down at Minden.  On these, cutting back and forth across what was once the Rhodes place, we regularly stubbed our toes if we went barefoot on our bikes, and new cars were turned into rattle traps in a few months.  In the winter the depressions were yellow slime pits, or frozen plates between the jagged edges of red dog.

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Mayfair Burning

It was the Great Depression, and we, like all our neighbors, were forever short of cash money.  It was pinto beans and mashed potatoes all week, and on Sunday stringy meat which made my teeth shift in my gums.  It was burnt bacon and pan biscuits for my father’s breakfast, and flour gravy over biscuits for ours.  Mother did the best she could, and our clothes were well mended but faded from many boiling washtubs.  Old Mrs. Reiner delivered the milk in quart mason jars. She wore knee-high rubber boots and pulled a child’s wagon from her farm a mile up the clay road.

 By the time I was ten, my brother seven, and our sister five, we were sent away on Saturday afternoons to see a double feature movie, a couple of cartoons, and a Batman serial.  We were given eleven cents each for the tickets, and an extra nickel for sweets. Five cents went nowhere at the concession inside the theater, whereas at one of the grocery stores along the way a penny would buy enough whip licorice in red and black to make a cat-o’-nine-tails, a roll of candy coins in all flavors, and little peppery hearts for Sue.

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