25 October 2011

Poor Boy - Good 'Un

(Excerpted from The Pultenham County Sketchbook, by Tom Andrews)

Caddick Black was not, as you might have imagined, an ordinary pea-picker. Caddick was in possession of a talent – some would call it a power – that made it unimaginable that he should spend all his days in a dusty field. You sit down right there for just a bit and I might be able to explain this to you.

We'll see.

Back before they put in that big old containment facility down near Blanchers, Caddick's family owned a few acres and they farmed a bit, sure, and they had themselves some hogs. Caddick's little sister was a skinny little thing that got kind of funny in the head and got to the point where she wouldn't eat almost nothing at all. For months, the better part of a year, I bet, she ate nothing but saltine crackers with cinnamon sugar on them. Oh, my, yes, it sounds kind of nice, I suppose, but there ain't much that a few saltines and some cinnamon sugar gonna' do for a body, you know what I mean? Well, his sister just ate that and she kinda' withered away, I guess you might say. In the end it was pneumonia that got her, but we all knew that the pneumonia only came about because of that constant diet not fit for a sparrow, let alone a young girl.

After they buried Caddick's sister, Mrs. Black (their momma), well she kind of got a little funny too. Some say it had to do with guilt and remorse over her daughter dyin' so young, and really that would be reason enough, don't you think? Sure you do. Well, after Mrs. Black got taken away to that place in Cotton City for a good long rest, Caddick was alone, seein' as how his daddy had drunk himself into the grave a few years prior. Caddick was maybe 16 or 17 or so, but he really had no abilities other than being able to just keep himself alive.

But like I said, he had a talent. Or some might call it a power.

When the autumn rains came and that Black homestead started getting a little leaky and the muddy rains started pushin' hard through the door and through the windows and right into Caddick's heart, well, he kind of went missin'. Some said that they saw lights go on in the house every now and again over that winter, and Dyke Cartwright said he saw a woman dash in and out of the house and speed away in a waiting automobile, but aside from that, no one saw that Caddick Black.

Dyke bought the fields the next summer, but not before a certain Candace Black, a dirty dancer from Cotton City, came to empty that house out and set a torch to it. That old clapboard shack just burned to the ground like it was a dry palm frond. Burned to the ground along with a lot of memories, I imagine. Candace, a tall, tall dancer with a low voice and strong hands, drove back to Cotton City and disappeared from the Pultenham County radar screen forever. No one spoke about it much. No one really even raised an eyebrow, even if they were fairly certain what was goin' on.

I done heard that a couple years later the dancer named Candace got gunned down by an angry man in Cotton City, after the angry man realized what was goin' on. So I guess there were some who raised eyebrows and some who had to speak about it. But it was always the wrong folks who were doing the raisin' and the speakin'. The wrong folk got to realizin' the truth, as well.

The wrong folk as far as Caddick was concerned, leastaways.”

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