It was always the strangest of little towns, neither being a 100 miles from somewhere or a 100 from anywhere else. Folks mostly found it by accident is what I’m saying, no one ever really went looking for it. It was like a large hole in a road on a dark night – you just kind of just fell into it.
That’s not to say that once you got there you were disappointed or anything – it was just that Little River was the last town you visited before falling off the end of the world.
The war of the north against the south had taken place a little ways down the road – neither the soldiers nor the shelling had ever really troubled the little town. In case you folks ain’t too sure where that little town resides – well it’s in South Carolina – just over the border from its northerly sister. Folks would pass it on the way to Charleston or up to Raleigh and never know, nor care, that the place existed.
It would have probably stayed that way had it not been for a family from New York state traveling back home in their huge automobile. They had been vacationing (as they say nowadays) in that great state of Georgia and had decided to take their time traveling north.
Some ways outside of Myrtle Beach, the old car started to jump and shudder like it was trying to do a dance of something. It finally gave up just outside of Little River – God bless its well-polished over-worked engine.
The father of the family, a mister Logan Berry (yep, he’d heard them all) had walked a short distance to a store to use the telephone and call for help.
“They are saying they will be here when they arrive,” said Mister Berry on his return.
“Whatever does that mean?” Asked his wife and, as usual, Logan just shrugged his shoulders, because he’d found that shrugging your shoulder never got a man misunderstood. Folks just interpreted it to mean whatever they wanted.
“Well if that’s their answer, then that’s their answer,” said his wife as if they all understood what was happening. Although to be fair to everyone concerned, Misses Berry wasn’t the happiest woman in the world. She had a frown on her that could melt cheese.
Mister Berry sat on the edge of his automobile entertaining his family with a harmonica which, I should say, he always carried with him. His darling wife thought it a common thing to play and had dearly wished that he had learned to play the violin or something that was in keeping with their station as a family of some wealth and distinction in Albany.
The family had a little girl called Amy and a boy, a year or so older, called Eugene. Now ‘Gene and Amy loved nothing better than to dance to their daddy’s music – and here they were skipping, and hollering, and jumping like the poor Albany kids would do. Misses Berry just tutted and shook her head.
The family had a little dog called Hoover (just like the dam) who also liked the sound of the harmonica as it meant he was let loose to jump and bark with the rest of his kin. It was in the middle of a toe-tapping tune that a large truck heading north, tooted as it passed, causing little Hoover to shoot off into the woods next to the road. This pleased Misses Berry as it meant that they could call a halt to the family looking common and instead go searching for their little dog.
They all split up, even although the mother had insisted that Amy stay close to ‘Gene – and that was why on that summer’s evening, Amy Berry found herself walking down the old dirt road to Little River.
She thought she heard a rustling from the undergrowth and shouted out ‘Hoover’ at quite a noise. “Hoover,” she shouted. “Hoover”.
It was just then that a soldier, or at least that’s what Amy thought he was, jumped out of the bushes and told her to keep quiet.
Amy asked why she should be quiet when she was looking for her little lost dog.
“’Cause they is all around, that’s ‘cause.”
“Who is all around?” Asked Amy.
“Why, the enemy,” said the soldier. “The enemy”.
And with that he ducked down and signaled to Amy to do the same.
“I will not,” said Amy. “My mom told me never to listen to boys ‘cause they is stupid”.
Amy had been on this Earth twelve summers and the soldier couldn’t have been much older than her. Except for maybe his eyes, they seemed as old as time and gave the impression they were looking out on a different world.
When the soldier was satisfied that the enemy weren’t nearby, he stood and introduced himself to the young girl.
“Ma name is Zachary James, and I bid you a hello.”
Amy gave him a strange look on account of his strange way of talking.
“How old are you?” Asked Amy.
“I ain’t too sure but I was born in Charleston on a Monday in 1848. Wettest day ever there was, my Ma said.”
“Why if you ain’t the most stupidest kid, I ever did meet. 1848? That would make you…”
And Amy started counting on her fingers but soon run out of them.
“Well I do believe the year is now 1863, at least it was the last time I was home. Ain’t nothin’ tellin’ me it’s anythin’ else,” he said, defiantly.
Amy thought he might be a bit crazy and decided not to upset him anymore. She felt she’d need to get on looking for her little ‘Hoover’ and to just ignore the stupid boy pretending to be a soldier.
“I’m just going to go on looking for my little dog, if you don’t mind,” said Amy.
“Is this him?” Asked Zach.
And sure enough when Amy looked over, there was Zach holding little Hoover. Amy couldn’t thank Zach enough, except when it came to handing over the dog.
“I wants a kiss,” said Zach.
Amy shuddered at the thought, but decided it was a fair reward for getting the dog back.
When she’d kissed Zach, she wiped her lips with the back of her hands. Zach was grinning from ear to ear.
“Now let me grant you a wish,” he said, curiously.
Amy asked him what he meant and Zach told her that she could wish for anything in the world. She thought about this and that and then the idea sparked.
“I wish that my mother was the happiest person in the world.”
“Sure,” said Amy.
“Then it’s done.”
Amy turned to shield her eyes from the sun and when she looked again, Zach had gone.
Amy held tightly onto little Hoover as she made her way back to the road. It was what she saw when she got there that she gave her the biggest of surprises. Her father was kissing a younger woman, who was most definitely not her mother.
Her father looked up and smiled at Amy.
“Hey, great you got the dog.”
Amy looked around. “Where Mom?”
Her father and the younger woman looked at each other and laughed.
“Stop with the joking.”
“I ain’t joking,” said Amy.
“You know your mother and I split up years ago and she went to live with that rich guy in New York.
From what I hear she’s mighty happy.”
I guess you got to be real careful what you wish for.
bobby stevenson 2017