Connecticut Yankee in Kit Carson Court
was up in the kitchen fixing himself a sandwich, when Mr. Green
drove his old, sky blue Catalina off Highway 441 and into the
lot. I was back behind our tenement, 'bout a foot and a half down
in the mud, when I seen him come on up to the front porch. Pa
had me diggin' a trench for the shitter he was thinking of installing,
but my shovel stopped a-slopping when I heard the old Yankee here
knocking on the door.
met the man with a laugh, taking his time to remind me that "The
trench ain't gon' dig itself, Boy!" Then he and the old Yank
here went inside the office and settled on room number three.
Pa invited the man to supper. "Grown-ups only," he yelled.
I had to keep on digging my trench, and the mud only got harder
the deeper I dug. The color of it appeared bloody about my ankles.
all had a hearty supper 'round six-thirty. I was alongside the
back of the kitchen, listening to every word, when Pa broke bread
with the man.
last time I reckon we done had us a Yankee 'round here,"
Pa said, one side of his mouth stuffed with food, "he done
burnt down every house he seen. I suppose we'll get none of that
from you, will we, Mr. Green?"
George," Ma said, carrying butter beans to the table. "Don't
be harrassin' Mr. Green like that."
you don't mind me saying so, George, your wife has prepared a
delicious dinner. You really have, Miss."
heard Pa grumble something into his napkin, then say, "Not
at all. 'Bout the only thing she can do right."
sure she can do more than cook, Sir."
she can, but this 'bout the only thing she does good." Pa
coughed. "So, what brings a bright-lookin' northerner down
just came to see the sights."
tell me you down here looking for something else. People don't
jus show up in a poor-ass place like this. You work for the gove'nment?"
Sir. I'm just down here to look after a little business in Gatlinburg."
you jus stop here?" Pa slurped from his glass. "You
got a helluva sense of direction, Mr. Green."
dished out some butter beans to the old Yankee and asked him his
cooking is heavenly, Miss," he said. "You sure know
your way around the kitchen."
said something to the man that I didn't catch. He said it under
Pa," Mama said, "Mr. Green's jus bein' kindly to me.
Don't go takin' a-fense to..."
know. I's jus givin' the ol' yank a pull. Ain't that right, Mr.
Green?" It weren't no pull, though. I know when Pa gets a
feeling circulating, and he got him one there at the table.
Sir," said the man. "Yes, Ma'am."
ol' Em here knows I'm only kiddin' her 'bout everything. She knows
I'd do anything for her."
old Yankee here said something quiet-like, and it got a good chuckle
asked them if they wanted some more, and the table fell silent.
* * *
I was still digging at the mud, when Ma and the Yank went for
a walk after supper was over. I thought Pa was laying down or
something, so I just kept on shoveling the mud out onto the dead
grass, never minding the two of them.
eight-fifteen, though, with the sun just about swallowed, I heard
Ma screaming from inside room number three.
done heard it, too, and he cursed ev'ry step he took towards the
man's door. Pa's thick fist pounded on the oak. He cussed the
old Yankee worse than any ol' stray. "Open the door, goddammit!"
he yelled. "I'ma break her down!"
not sure what happened next, just heard glass break, a couple
dull slaps, and a loud thump on the floor from over here in the
ditch; heard Pa ask Mama again and again: "Are ya sure? Are
ya sure, Em?" I never once went to see what all the fuss
was about, just figured it was grown-ups only as usual and went
on up into the house to eat.
* * *
At about four-thirty in the morning, a knock came on the wall
above my bed. Pa patted my face and whispered, "Trench ain't
gon' dig itself, Boy." His thick frame hovered over me in
the pale moonlight. Pa's hand smelled of the red clay.
lay there in bed a moment before moving, imagining what he had
done. Staggering to my feet, I could already hear him back out
there digging. With each grunt out of Pa's coarse throat, the
rusted head of the dull mattocks smacked slopping kisses with
the stiff mud.
stood shirtless in the moonlight, the old Yankee, our first guest
in over a week, off to the side and unaware of our shoveling.
About six-thirty, Pa pulled me out of the hole we'd dug.
wake yo ma, and get you some breakfast," he said, his hairy
chest sagging. "Looks like we gon' be out here all day refillin'
was too tired to think and asked the only thing that had come
to my mind. "You mean we ain't gonna put in the shitter?"
didn't answer me right away. He just stared at the old Yankee
facedown in the mud in front of him. "Jus git somethin' ta
eat, Jackson, before he wakes up."
can't say for sure, but I do believe that was the first time Pa
ever called me by my given name and me not being in trouble. As
I walked back to our tenement, I turned back and saw something
unfamiliar in Pa's face. Under his thick eyebrows and heavy eyes--under
his swollen cheeks cracking in the just born sunlight--under his
beard matted with sweat and the red mud, I could see he was proud
Huskey has been writing fiction and poetry since his youth
and finds just enough comfort in these arts to offset the amount
of dust gathering on his BA in English from Longwood University.
He is currently working on a collection of interconnected short
stories from which this story comes. His work has appeared in
The Dos Passos Review, Underground Voices, JMWW,
and is forthcoming in the Valparaiso Poetry Review.