Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
 print preview


Our laughing gas party was postponed due to Elijah’s untimely death, so for want of better amusement, a dozen or so of us gathered along the riverbank to watch Sally Longstreet’s brother blow himself to smithereens. Would that Elijah had been there to see it, had not his fondness for horses got the best of him. So much has to do with a mother’s training, I dare say. The same proverb could equally apply to William L. As a boy, he’d tuck himself away in a henhouse for nights on end, conjuring up contraptions with little more than a spoon and corn husk. And, indeed, this was all twirling around my mind as the man posed such a question to the shoreline: “What merry hearted fellows will accompany me into the untrod waters of steam propulsion?” There were no takers, but this scarcely daunted William who, clad in thigh-high boots and feathered cap, trudged out alone to his awaiting cataclysm, anchored feet away in the oystery waters. Ah, poor William. It didn’t help that he had pandered to our small-town reverend’s sympathies, until, at last, the good man kowtowed to his pleadings for a public audience. Ladies on every pew let out a deep-throated sigh the Sunday morning William ascended the pulpit to wax on in great length as to the genius of his latest contrivance. I confess I would have humored him and, were it not for my catching him once in his grandmother’s silk twill and cotton stockings, surely joined him aboard that rickety wood monstrosity. Some ventures, however highfalutin, are worth risking life and limb. Sadly William’s wasn’t one of them, though when he seemed to steer the thing merrily upstream, I followed him in a skiff, just to be safe.  end  

return to top