I woke up early in the morning because I had a crick in my neck. I sat up and rubbed on it a while. I held the top of my head with one hand and turned my neck ever which way tryna get it loose.
When I laid back down, I lay on my back and was surprised at how much better it felt. It was then I remembered that I had been sleeping on my side ever since Mama died four years ago. For some reason, after she died, I couldn't sleep on my back without thinking I couldn't breathe.
I lost a lot sleep because of it and eventually had to go to see Doc Anderson who gave me some sleeping medicine and told me to sleep on my side. I was still taking the medicine whenever I got worried although Guinnie kept telling me not too. She even got Thurman on me about it. I took the last of it before I got in the truck to leave. Thurman tossed the empty brown bottle in the flames of the cabin.
Laying on my back for a change felt damn good. I took the bottom of my left foot and placed it on the calf muscle of my right leg. It was something I had done in childhood whenever I felt anxious about sleeping. I forgotten all about that I even done it.
Something relaxed in me. I thought it might be all the pent up energy in my body finally getting the freedom to flow. On the way to California, Thurman had been telling me about some of the stuff that them people over on China side of the world thought about things. He said that sometimes they would sit on the ground and try to control their breathing in order to let the energy flow freely around their body.
I told him that if most of the people I knew had to think about their breathing, they would probably forget how and die. He was on a roll talking about it though and didn't much like my stab at humor. When he ignored it, I repeated it.
"I said if most of the people I know had to think about their breathing, they would die."
"I heard you the first time; I didn't think it was particularly funny."
"You a lie. You know that shit was funny. You just mad cause I made a joke while you was talking serious."
"As usual you was making light of a serious subject."
"Well tell me, what's so damn hard about breathing? Every idiot I know can do it."
" Then why you still side sleeping for; think I done forgot that? Sides, it wasn't just about just breathing. It was about figuring out how control your breathing in order to free your mind up of all the clutter ."
"Now ya saying my mind is cluttered?"
"Naw, what I'm saying is you full of shit." He clammed up after saying that and didn't say nothing else for an hour or two.
I had to admit though, that turning over flat on my back in the bed did something good. And if I had to admit that, then I had to admit that maybe Thurman and them Asian people were on to something. I thought it could have been the energy getting loose inside me and maybe taking out some of that clutter that Thurman had been talking about.
I also had to admit that I had been moping around in a storm cloud ever since Mama took sick. After she died, Papa didn't have much use for this here world no how. Hell, he didn't have any friends to speak of, never did, and I suspect he was pretty lonely. Giving Mama and us boys hell had been his whole life for the better part of forty years. With Mama gone, and Thurman and I grown too big to take his sass, he might just have ran out of a reason to live.
He died barely a year later. Then Stewie, and then Guinnie. The once beautiful land of Oklahoma suddenly turned Egyptian with plague after plague being visited upon my family. I most surely learned to understand all the anger, hopelessness, sorrow, and rage of them Bible times when dead frogs, blood, locusts, and the Angel of Death swept across the Nile lands.
After we had stayed in Sacramento a couple of days and thought that we had saw whatever we need to see there, Thurman and I had driven over toward the coast to get ourselves a look-see at the Pacific Ocean. We had heard so much about it when we were young we really didn't know what to expect. Aunt Jean had even written Mama once telling her that the sunsets over the ocean must have been the reason that God had created the world and everything in it.
We found our self a place to park on cliff overlooking the ocean near a spot named Half Moon Bay. While we were looking at it, Thurman couldn't contain hisself and started prattling on about this feller named Francis Drake. Oh yeah, make that, SIR Francis Drake. Thurm sure did put a lot of faith in that Sir at the beginning of his name. Said it was given to him by Queen Elizabeth herself.
But the news only made me mad, "Goddamn it Thurman. We are standing here looking at the most awe inspiring thing I probably ever seen, and you keep goin on about some English feller with a girl's name. You amaze me some times. Normally, it's you staring all googly eyed at something like this." The sun was starting to sink out over the ocean and I was starting to realize that Aunt Jean's letter to Mama didn't do the scene justice. The sun setting was turning the sky into all kinds of purty colors I had never seen before. Sunsets in Oklahoma were pretty too, but this here was wondrous beyond words to describe. I pointed out toward the beautiful horizon.
Needless to say, Thurman got pissed, "That right? I bet you rank it right up there Hilda Spring's ass? I'm surprised you didn't say it's just a big bunch of water." He turned red. I understood that he was just embarrassed that I had cut him off on that Drake guy. " Tell me Mr. Most Inspiring Thing I Ever Did See what does it make you think about?"
I thought about it for a minute, but couldn't come up with a reply. We had backed the truck right up against edge of small cliff. The tailgate was down, and we were sitting on it on one of Mama's quilts, eating salted crackers and cheddar cheese, and sipping on a couple of Coca-Colas. I kept looking backwards over my shoulder towards the road the whole time.
Thurman noticed and asked, "Whadda you keep looking over your shoulder for, Junior? You reminding me of Old Billy Randolph with that old crooked neck of his."
I shrugged, " I don't rightly know. I guess I'm waiting for the Pharaoh's army to show up and drag our sorry asses back kicking and screaming to Oklahoma."
Thurman was first stunned, then started to laugh but stopped before he got it out. He looked at me, quickly turned and looked out at the ocean and took a drink off his soda pop. Something about what I had said struck a chord, "Damn it, Junior. That actually made some sense in a seriously dumbass way."
I was just starting to get use to him laughing at the things I said, I was caught completely off guard by his second hand complement. I didn't know what else to say, so I said, "Whadda we do, if they show up?"
He took another sip and thought about it some more, " Well, since Moses ain't sitting here eating crackers with us, I think we'd be seriously fucked.
I nodded and tossed a piece of cracker to a seagull that was eyeing it hard. "Then let's hope they don't show up then."
We sat there till the sun went down and the sky turned black. They didn't show up that day, or the next, and we finally made our way to Uncle Bill and Aunt Jean's house where we were received with a shit load of kisses, hugs, and open arms. It was great to see family especially Aunt Jean. She had taken care of both of us once when Mama was sick, and we had formed a very strong attachment.
She had only had one baby, and it died after six months. Uncle Bill had a son by a previous marriage, but he was bad news and was always locked up somewheres. She gave Thurman and me all that extra love that she'd been saving for her own children.
She cooked us up a whopper of a home cooked meal with bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, greens, and taters. Uncle Bill even broke out a jar of shine he'd been saving for a special occasion. After eating, we sat up talked and laughed for hours about old times. Uncle Bill had to work the next day, so he hugged us both and stumbled off to bed. Aunt Jean and us went into the kitchen, sat down, and talked real low for more than an hour more.
It all reminded me of how I didn't want to go home after Mama had gotten better. It was hard to leave all the love in that house and go back into the gloom and doom of a bitter father and mother trying her best but too weak to withstand the worst of it. I was always ashamed of that feeling because I knew how hard it was on Mama trying to protect us from Papa's random rages. I always went out of my way to try to make Mama smile at least once a day and to lighten her load whenever possible.
Watching Aunt Jean talk and laugh while she was telling us a story about how she accidentally let loose a fart in church while everybody else was praying, reminded me of my efforts to bring Mama joy and that feeling of guilt that had prompted them. I made out like I needed to get something from the other room to keep her and Thurman from seeing me cry.
Later that nigh, as we both lay in dark trying to sleep, Thurman asked me a question, "Billy, I been laying here thinking. We didn't do nothing wrong. We was victims as much of anything. Why would we have to worry that the whole of Pharaoh's army be after us?"
The power of those words hit me hard and made my chest jerk. I had felt guilty my whole damn life and never really understood why. I always figured it must have something to do with some sin or another. I rolled over to face him, ' Bible says we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
"Yeah, but a whole damn army of Egyptians?"
I thought about it, then said, " You know, we never did pay Old Man Jewell for that mule we took."
I was more than a little surprised when he answered, "That's what you think. I took that mule back to him fore we left, gave him ten dollahs, and told him it was Pinky's fault we took it in the first place."
I smiled to myself in the dark. " Hell, it might be Pinky chasing us then."
"Whew!" he put on sounding relieved, " Thadda be great. Pinky ain't got enough sense to find his way out of Oklahoma much less lead an army."