Issue 7, Fall-Winter 1954-1955
They piled into the truck and started on the thirteen miles over the hard rutted dirt roads to the highway. The high sideboards with the straw still in between the cracks banged wildly from side to side, jerking back and forth the two girls who sat on the boxes at the end of the truck, holding to the sides with one hand and onto the skirts of their prim pink satin dresses with the other. They finally reached the highway and stopped, the steam hissing up in the top of the radiator; they waited, resting, while the clean shaven man behind the wheel craned his neck this way and that inside the clean starched collar, then shifted into first, jolted up over the hump in the highway and made the long laborious turn toward town, the tin on the hood rattling ominously, the sideboards beginning to sway rhythmically again.
The occupants in the back of the truck began shifting their weights for the new sensation over the paved roads. The two girls in their pink dresses, looking almost like twins, straightened themselves and their skirts, and Polly Ann, the youngest of the two, reached back and put her hand on the top of the head of the six-year-old Maddie Claude to keep her from bouncing, giving the child a hunched squat look but not helping much otherwise as the truck still jolted and her legs still bounced up and down, the heels of her shoes clicking sharply on the bottom. Seth stood at the front of the truck his straw Panama hat sitting clockwise on his head, not holding on or balancing himself but chewing nonchalantly on a match stick, his legs in the pinstripe pants weaving back and forth almost imperceptibly, his body motionless, like a bird on a limb in a high wind. Jonny stood beside him, a small edition of himself coming up to about his shoulders, watching Seth and trying himself not to hold on but finally letting one hand steal out to the wabbling sideboards and the other to the brim of his own straw hat. The hat was too big for him; it came down over his hair and formed a line running just above the eyebrows and the top of his ears so that he seemed to be staring at you out of a deep hole, and no matter how much he tightened the muscles in his forehead, the wind kept catching under the brim so that he finally had no other choice than to reach up and shamefully hold onto it.
They headed on down the highway, the truck settling down to a steady rattle and hissing, the dirt in the bottom bouncing slightly from the small jolts in the road. Tom Hamilton gripped onto the vibrating wheel, wrapping his big knuckled fingers all the way around it, his lean gaunt face staring ahead statuesquely like an unbearded Abraham Lincoln; only the lower portion of his faced moved chewing on his tobacco. He held intently to the wheel as if trying to prove to himself that he actually had control over the truck when it was moving while his wife Mamie sat huddled up next to him, her manly hands with the blunt nails resting on the baby’s stomach. Her round, boneless looking face stared blankly ahead as if she were already in town pricing the food at the store. She sat silently leaving a large gap between herself and the short squat man at her side, Albert, her husband’s brother, who always smelled of tobacco and whiskey and breathed in a wheezing sound and looked far more like her than he did his own brother; he sat there now wheezing and humming to himself and looking around at the fields and at the road and at the front of the truck, his small blue eyes darting from side to side. They joggled along the road and rose up slightly with the rolls in the pavement, the three of them and the baby all lifting up suddenly with the same expressions on their faces, holding the same positions, rising up into the air and down again as if they had never moved, the way a juggler can throw balls in the air and have them suspended in the same formation—they hit, rose up, came down, bounced a few more times never moving, staring straight ahead.
They had just strained up one hill and started down it, seeing Callville in the distance, when the Model A came into sight. It was about a half a mile ahead of them at the time and they could see the black heads inside of it, its high top, the right rear wheel wabbling frantically on a loose axle. They gained on it, the truck coming down the hill and getting some speed behind it. Tom Hamilton let his foot down slowly, giving the motor a different sound but with no immediate change in speed; his brogan shoe mashed it to the floorboard and his jaw moved faster, slowed up, moved faster again; his wife held the baby up and juggled her and Albert twisted in his seat, his eye on the wabbling wheel, and quit humming for a few seconds. They gained slowly, the Model A looking motionless in front of them as if it were sitting there and shaking all over like a wet dog. Seth moved his mouth, flipping the match stick over to the other side of his lips so that somehow his hat seemed to be cocked even more than before; Jonny began chewing on a straw as if it were gum, holding on to the sideboards with both hands now. Tom Hamilton pressed his foot hard against the excelerator; he then twisted the wheel with great deliberation, moving his shoulders as if it were a manly struggle, and held it there waiting for the truck to respond. Finally it jerked over and headed for the center line, the steering wheel bumping and knocking now. He turned it back and leveled out on the left hand side of the road, pulling out some fifty feet behind the Model A, settling down for the long trip around it.