Aim
work up our patriotism. After all, lots of people were being drafted. Sergeant York’s story was intended to make all of us want to fight the Germans.
    When I got home, I set up a pasteboard target on the side of Pop’s shed. Seeing Sergeant York shoot made me want to practice my aim. Only problem was, when I went for the BB gun I remembered I’d given all my BBs away during the army maneuvers.
    I sat on the sweet potato crate and ran my hands over that gun. It was one of those surprises Pop showed up with for no reason at all—one day, back when I was seven and he had a good year working at the cotton gin over in Blackburn.
    Those were the days when I tagged along after him like Ann Fay after Leroy. Back then he put up that porch swing so the three of us could sit there on Sunday evenings.
    We’d listen to the sound of the colored choir singing in the church next door. Daddy would sing along. “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger, traveling through thisworld of woe, yet there’s no sickness, toil, nor danger in that bright land to which I go …”
    I hoped he was happy in that bright land. Because one thing for sure—this world he left behind was full of woe.

18
CHRISTMAS
    December 1941
    The newspapers and radio were asking people to cut down on travel over Christmas. That way we’d be saving gasoline for the war effort. But Uncle Tag called and suggested we take the train to China Grove. Momma sent me to the Hinkle sisters’ house to call him back.
    â€œI’m sorry we can’t come,” I told him. “Momma feels uneasy with the war on. She wants to stick close to home.”
    Uncle Tag was quiet for a minute. “Maybe next year, then.” I could hear in his voice that he knew her real reason. “I’m sorry about what happened at Thanksgiving,” he said.
    â€œI know. Maybe next year Momma will be over it.” I hoped she would. I remembered spending Christmas with Momma’s people back before Pop started drinking. I wasn’t ready to give up on them, even if I was offended by Vinnie acting drunk like Axel Bledsoe.
    Because of the gasoline situation, the Honeycutts decided not to visit Ann Fay’s Mamaw and Papaw inGeorgia. So Momma invited them to eat Christmas dinner with us.
    Come Christmas morning, Granddaddy was singing before he lifted his head off the pillow. “God rest ye merry gentlemen …” I sure wished I could load him in a car and drive him over to Brookford. Why couldn’t the aunts take their father off our hands for one day out of the year?
    The Honeycutts showed up at twelve o’clock noon. Driving up the lane right behind them was Miss Pauline’s Plymouth.
    â€œMomma! You didn’t invite the Hinkle sisters?”
    â€œThey’re our neighbors too.”
    â€œAnd Miss Hinkle is my teacher.”
    â€œShe won’t be giving quizzes today.”
    It was too late for me to argue. In no time the house was filled with neighbors. I carried everybody’s coats to Momma’s bed. I almost never went into her room. It had always seemed like a private place just for her and Pop. But now I wanted to stay there in that quiet space. It wasn’t anything fancy, but the quilt on her bed and the curtains she’d made for the windows made it seem like something almost grand. Her sewing machine sat there waiting for Christmas to be over so she could go back to working on clothes she was making for the Red Cross to give to soldiers’ families.
    There was a bureau with a side of drawers for Momma and one for Pop. I slid open Pop’s top drawer.His handkerchiefs were there, folded into squares, large blue ones for weekdays and smaller white ones for Sundays. Momma kept his socks and his drawers in neat piles too. And there was a cigar there. Pop didn’t smoke much, except when he was out playing poker. And then he most always came home drunk.
    I picked up that cigar and breathed

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