512 Words

Fleeing Miss Horace

Lad Moore

Daddy was the hardest working man I ever knew or even heard about. Sometimes he tilled his vineyards with a hoe in one hand and a pick in the other. His arms were like Popeye's---big as watermelons. His words were about the same size.

* * *

That Friday night we listened to "Amos 'n Andy" on the radio and Daddy said it was bedtime---reminding me we had a load of peaches to haul the next day.

I was stricken with radio slapstick comedy as I lay under the summer quilt that Momma weighted me down with. The Kingfish had rattled off some good lines---like the one about simonizing his watch with Andy's.

As I lay there it occurred to me that the laundry box of Tide on the kitchen counter read "idiot,"---spelled backwards. I laughed out loud---trying to muffle the noise with my feather pillow. First, Daddy warned me to be quiet. I giggled on. Then he entered my room---just a shadow in his nightshirt and nightcap---something Santa might sleep in. But in his hand was his tired leather belt, not the reins to a sleigh. He brandished it a couple of times---swatting the palm of his mitt-sized hand. Magically the box said Tide again and my joke dissolved in the darkness.

I loved our farm with its acres of orchards and vineyards. Daddy fenced it with barbwire, five feet high. The fence was to keep animals out, but it kept me out too---until I was five. Then I learned how to climb the stiles---wooden ladders shaped like an a-frame that straddled the fence.

In five-year-old innocence I asked, "Daddy, why can't cows and pigs climb like I do to get in? It's real easy, they could just lift one hoof above another."

"As a rule, cows stay off ladders," he said, "they just sit around chewing their cud, waiting to grow their wings." Cows and pigs with wings! That prospect was funnier than my Tide joke. I laughed, but I wasn't absolutely sure he was kidding.

* * *

When I was seventeen, I fell in love with Miss Horace, who was our neighbor Clyde Oberman's semi-beautiful daughter. It was a feisty courtship, and Mr. Oberman threw bricks at me the last time I came to call on her.

We decided to elope---our only hope of being together.

Midnight came on the night of the plan. I moved daddy's ladder under her bedroom window. Miss Horace tossed out an overstuffed duffel bag, then stepped out onto the ladder. It creaked and groaned from her substantial size. I read somewhere you're not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. But as I steadied the ladder, I saw everything. Her skirt billowed out like the filled sail of a brigantine. The sight of all that weighty paraphernalia under there terrified me.

Suddenly, Daddy's words poured over me like warm concrete. "As a rule, cows stay off ladders."

I'm the one that grew wings. I was still running at sunup.

Copyright ©2001 Lad Moore. All Rights Reserved.

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February, 2001
Issue #58

512 Words