Big White Bird

“It’s hot as hell,” says Lonnie.

“Sure is,” agrees Bill.

Virgil says nothing. It bothers him that Lonnie said the word “hell.” He’s certain that once Lonnie is dead he’ll find out first-hand if hell really is as hot as Mississippi. In the meantime, Lonnie specializes in saying bad words. He’s even smoked cigarettes a couple of times.

Virgil struggles with the plow. He’s only seven so it’s way too big for him. Even so, he’s not about to ask the older boys for help.

“I got an idea, says Lonnie, pushing sweaty bangs from his forehead. Let’s plow naked.”

The other two grin in agreement. Without a word they shuck off their overalls and throw them under a nearby tree. When they get back to work Virgil thinks about the arrowheads he’s found in this exact same field. He imagines himself as a Naked Wild Indian. Being a church-going Baptist, he worries a little about what would happen if they got caught. His concern doesn’t last long though. The grown people have plenty of their own work to do.

“Hey Virg,” Bill hollers after awhile. “Come on back to the house! It’s time to eat!”

Virgil runs over to get dressed but his clothes are gone. He decides he must have gotten mixed up and left them someplace else.

Lonnie looks at him sadly, points to a nearby pine, and says, “Sorry. A big white bird come up and carried your clothes into that damn tree.”

The boy studies his clothes hanging from the faraway branch. It’s pretty high, but Virgil decides he’d rather scrub his bare skin against the bark than risk a whipping. So up he goes. Virgil looks like a little pink monkey as he scrambles up, trying to let only his hands and the soles of his feet touch the tree. As you’ve already guessed, this takes him awhile.

At last he reaches the branch that holds his clothes. It’s skinny, a twig really. He just has to give it a couple of thumps and his overalls tumble to the ground.

Virgil smiles. It’s pretty up there and the piney air smells good. Best of all, he didn’t get too scraped up.

Then he overhears Bill and Lonnie laughing like crazy. Only then does it occur to the boy that there may never have been a big white bird after all.

Karen Peacock