Four Names

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n a little plot of land, in the middle of no-damn-where, stood a small house. One that leaned a little to the left, as though it sipped too much whiskey. If you walked inside, you would’ve seen four names etched into a wood baseboard, crudely.

Sam put the names there.

It was during the Christmas of 1928, a particularly cold year. The same year the movie-house played the world’s first Mickey Mouse cartoon. And it was the same year he lost his daddy, too.

To earn money, seventeen-year-old Sam got a job on a nearby farm. He worked in exchange for loaves of bread and bags of hominy. But, the bread didn’t do Sam any good. His younger brother and sister were the ones who needed it.

That holiday season, the doctor told Sam if he didn’t eat something substantial, he’d soon turn into a pine tree. Then, the doc slipped Sam a dollar.

Without skipping a beat, Sam took his dollar, and bought a damn chicken. Feathers and all. He kept it alive until Christmas morning. And, I understand when the feast was over, not a single fiber of flesh remained on a nary a bone.

After supper, Sam told his siblings he had a gift for them.

“Gift?” they shouted, almost peeing on themselves.

“What?” his mother said. “Why, we don’t even have a tree.”

Sam displayed the four names, freshly carved into the wood. “See,” declared Sam. “We do have gifts.”

“But,” his sister said. “It’s just our names.”

“No it ain’t,” said Sam. “Those are four souls, a family. We belong to one another, we’re each other’s gift.”

Sixty-five years later, Sam would tell this story to his grandson.

And now, his grandson has just told it to you.