Howard Brice had a soft spot for my mother.
He’d plug wedges in watermelons for
our family to taste. He’d drawl, No good; no sale.
Brice’s Mercantile was one of only
two grocery stores in the county seat
(population 397) in that remote Texas Hill Country.
Saturdays, my mother, whom people said was
more beautiful than Jacqueline Kennedy,
piled the four of us into a ’58 station wagon
—no seat belts nor air conditioning—
to drive thirteen miles past sheep and goats,
summer camps and tourist cabins
to the tiny market on the courthouse square.
When we pulled in, we kids tumbled out
to race through the screen door.
Not yet ten, I was entrusted to order our
usual three pounds of hamburger. When
I approached the lighted case, Mr. Brice
sang out, how is Miss Ann today? We talked
about the great white Pyrenees puppy
he had given us. Raw, red meat squirmed
from his grinder. He swept a quivering pink pile
to weigh on a silver scale, wrapped it
in white paper, flourished the price with
a black wax pen, then slid the bulging
package gently to me. I thanked him
as I had been taught, found my mother
with our little brother in her overflowing buggy, then joined my sisters
at the candy counter. That Saturday
was July 20, 1963. At checkout,
we asked Mr. Brice for cardboard boxes
to make our pinhole projectors. On
our way out, we passed San Antonio
papers which headlined the President
and Mrs. Kennedy’s pending trip
to Dallas.But on that day, in the gravel lot
of a small town’s grocer, a family
turned its back to the sky
to watch the moon slide across the sun.
Page 31, An Eclipse and a Butcher. Awarded Emerging Voice through Syzygy poetry contest through The Jasper Project.