Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

A Connecticut Yankee in Kit Carson Court

Jason Huskey

Pa 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.

Pa 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.

They 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.

"The 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?"

"Now, George," Ma said, carrying butter beans to the table. "Don't be harrassin' Mr. Green like that."

"If you don't mind me saying so, George, your wife has prepared a delicious dinner. You really have, Miss."

I heard Pa grumble something into his napkin, then say, "Not at all. 'Bout the only thing she can do right."

"I'm sure she can do more than cook, Sir."

"Oh, she can, but this 'bout the only thing she does good." Pa coughed. "So, what brings a bright-lookin' northerner down South?"

"I just came to see the sights."

"Somethin' 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?"

"No, Sir. I'm just down here to look after a little business in Gatlinburg."

"An' you jus stop here?" Pa slurped from his glass. "You got a helluva sense of direction, Mr. Green."

Ma dished out some butter beans to the old Yankee and asked him his business.

"Your cooking is heavenly, Miss," he said. "You sure know your way around the kitchen."

Pa said something to the man that I didn't catch. He said it under his breath.

"Now, Pa," Mama said, "Mr. Green's jus bein' kindly to me. Don't go takin' a-fense to..."

"I 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.

"Yes, Sir," said the man. "Yes, Ma'am."

"Anyways, ol' Em here knows I'm only kiddin' her 'bout everything. She knows I'd do anything for her."

The old Yankee here said something quiet-like, and it got a good chuckle from Pa.

Ma 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.

About eight-fifteen, though, with the sun just about swallowed, I heard Ma screaming from inside room number three.

Pa 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!"

I'm 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.

I 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.

Pa 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.

"Go wake yo ma, and get you some breakfast," he said, his hairy chest sagging. "Looks like we gon' be out here all day refillin' the trench."

I 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?"

Pa 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."

I 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 of me.


Jason 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.

© Jason Huskey

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012