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Amanda L. Ball
I clicked the turn signal up to signify that I was going to make a right turn from State Highway 94 to Farm to Market road 4864. I don't know why I bothered to signal, because there were no other cars in sight. That, in itself wasn't unusual. This area of east Texas was sparsely populated with dairy farmers and chicken farmers, and wooded tracts of land and ticks and chiggers.
As I drove down the hill toward the corner where my great aunt and great uncle used to have a small country store, I was swept with a feeling of nostalgia. This was my place, and I understood the language of the people. Oh, they spoke English, all right, but I had grown up here, and I knew their customs and local expressions. I hadn't been home in twenty years. I was aching to find an old crony and hear the soft round tones of east Texas speech.
Five miles down a curving two-lane blacktop, I slowed as I neared my Uncle Greece's house. He had built his house in the side of a hill, in the middle of a forest of slash pine. I can still remember being small and standing in his front yard and stomping on sweet gum balls.
I checked my rear view mirror. There were no cars behind me, so I slowed to a crawl. I couldn't see Uncle Greece or Aunt Tudie out in their yard. They must be in the house or in town today. I sped back up.
About a mile down the road, there were two cars which weren't moving. One, a blue Taurus, was sitting at the side of the road, and the other, a Grand Prix made in the 70's, sat in my lane. I pulled up to them and looked around. I couldn't see anything unusual. The cars weren't damaged, so I didn't think there had been an accident. I couldn't see any flat tires, nor puddles of oil or water. The cars were just abandoned. Assuming these drivers had had car trouble, they would have walked to a closeby house. I hadn't seen anyone at my Uncle Greece's house, so the drivers must have walked on up the road to my cousin Bo's house. Bo is Uncle Greece's son, and he and his family live in a house that they built at the top of the next hill. Their house was beautiful, but I hated their driveway. Since the house sits at the top of a hill, it's impossible to see the cars that are approaching from the other side of the hill. That's also the intersection for Farm to Market road 316, which goes down the hill to the right, toward my house. My nose wasn't runny, which was odd. My nose is always runny when I'm here. I think it's because of all the pine trees and cedar trees and ragweed.
I drove slowly looking for the drivers of the two cars. It was about two miles to Bo's house, up a long grade, and it would be a hard walk. I scanned the road and the ditches, but I didn't see anyone.
At the top of Cater Hill, I signaled for a left to turn into Bo's driveway. I rolled down my window to listen for any approaching cars. When I didn't see or hear anything, I turned left into the driveway. There was still no sign of the drivers of the two cars. At Bo's house, I honked the horn. Then I sat and waited. No one came.
That wasn't right. Someone should be here. Bo raised thousands of chickens in his state of the art chicken houses. Someone was always here. There was too much work to do for everyone to be away.
Puzzled, I left Bo's driveway, and pulled back out onto the two-lane blacktop. Again, there were no cars. That was odd.
I turned the car to go down the hill toward my land and my family's old house. I drove past the land that my late Grandfather had left to me. We had leased the land to a farmer for hay. The meadow needed to be shredded and baled. I wondered why it hadn't been done yet.
Across the road, on my left, was old Mrs. Brown's house. She was an elderly lady who had lived there for years. Our families were the oldest of friends. Mrs. Brown, funny, but I couldn't seem to remember her given name, kept dairy cows on her land, which gave her a little extra money. I drove slowly down the road. Her dairy cows were standing at the barn, mooing as if they were in pain. I could see why. They hadn't been milked in at least two days. Her hired hand ought to be shot for not taking care of the animals. When I saw him, I was going to give him a piece of my mind. I wished I could remember who she told me she had hired. Mrs. Brown was too old and in too bad of health to care for the cows herself.
Half a mile down the road was my house. It was old and badly in need of repair. I hoped to have time to fix it up while I was here. The yard hadn't been mowed in weeks. I had a contract with a local mowing service, but now I could tell they had been taking my money and not performing their work. It was yet another thing I'd have to straighten out. But I didn't know how to get ahold of them.
I made a mental note to ask my brother Steve about it when I got to his farm. Just around the curve from my house, I could hear a car coming. I scooted my car over to the right as far as it would go. These blacktop roads were not even two lanes wide. There wasn't yellow paint on them. You just had to make room for whatever vehicle you met on the road.
As I got closer, I could see that this car was taking up the whole road. It must be a 'ferriner', I thought. Ferriner is our local term for someone who doesn't know our customs. Here in east Texas, courtesy dictated that you not take up the whole road. I drove on the grass on the right of way to get around the car. It was running, but I couldn't see a driver. That seemed strange, and I put my car in park and got out to look. The car was empty. I didn't know if I should shut it off or not. Better not. There might be a problem with the car I didn't know about. Besides, my brain was fuzzy, and I couldn't tell how to shut the car off. I left it still running. I drove on down the road. Funny, but I couldn't seem to feel my feet touching the pedals. This was puzzling. I hadn't seen a living soul for miles. People weren't at their houses. Animals hadn't been cared for, and work hadn't been done. I wondered what could possibly be going on.
I drove into Steve's driveway and parked my car. The kids swing set swings were blowing in the breeze. Steve's front door was wide open, and a raccoon scampered out of the house. I got out of my car and looked around. Something was very, very wrong. I was expected here. They should be waiting for me.
I turned to look at the house again. I wanted to call out my brother's name, but I couldn't remember it. I had to get out of here. I had to go for help. But I couldn't remember where to go, or why. I knew I was standing, but I couldn't feel my feet or legs. Then I couldn't feel my hands, even though I was staring straight at them. Then.... I knew no more.