The Bavarian Gate By John Dalmas

The Bavarian Gate

By John Dalmas

The Bavarian Gate

By John Dalmas


Growing to Fit


Washington County, Indiana

Curtis Macurdy gazed out the window of the truck at a field lowed and disked. Near the far end, someone, presumably his father, was walking behind the horse-drawn spike-tooth, readying the ground for drilling. Beyond stood the house Curtis had grown up in, the barn nearby, sheds, corncrib, and the ancient white oak that spread across the front yard.

“That’s the place,” he told the driver. “Just drop me off at the corner.” He felt uncomfortable about his homecoming; had since he’d gotten off the train at Volinia.

The driver slowed, turning west on the township road. “Might as lief take you to your door,” he said. “Ain’t no trouble.” Along the roads, the maples, tuliptrees, elms had all been tinged with the fresh pale green of opening buds, but the yard oak, bare as February, showed no sign yet of wakening. The driver pulled into the driveway and stopped. “My thanks,” Macurdy said, and taking the coin purse from his pocket, removed a fifty-cent piece.

The man waved it off. “That’s half a day’s pay, and this ain’t been more’n a couple miles out of my way.”

Macurdy nodded, put the coin back, and shook the man’s hand. “Thanks,” he said. “I’m obliged to you. ” Taking his suitcase from the seat, he got out, slammed the door, and waved as the driver left. Then he walked to the house. Place needs paint, he told himself. Hard times.

He opened the back door without knocking, took off his jacket and hung it on one of the back hall hooks. “Charley?” his mother’s voice called.

“Nope.” He stepped into the kitchen. The rawboned woman had turned from the big black kitchen stove. Seeing him, her eyes widened, her mouth half opening. For a moment he thought she might fall down, or worse, weep, but she recovered herself.

“Curtis!” she cried. “Blessed Jesus! It’s you!” They embraced, then talked, she asking how he was, how long he planned to stay, her questioning marked more by what she didn’t ask than what she did, as if fearing what he might tell her. His answers were brief. He had no plans yet, he said. If needed, he might stay the summer, and maybe through harvest.

His own questions were simply to catch up on the state of the family. Nothing had greatly changed, she told him, except that the price of everything had fallen, both for what they sold and what they bought. Max and Julie were still farming, and Frank had got promoted to shop foreman at Dellmon’s Chevrolet, though they paid him less than when he’d started there as a mechanic, four years earlier.

And Charley had hired a man to help with the farming. “Your dad’s not as young as he was,” she added.

After a few minutes, Curtis put his jacket back on and went out to the field. Charley Macurdy saw him, and stopping the team, walked over, both his aura and his face showing a difficult mix of emotions-mainly joy and uncertainty, Curtis thought. And worry. Curtis was just now realizing what it was like for his parents, this return of a youngest son, who’d left with his bride, bought a farm in Illinois, then abruptly dropped out of sight, never writing for three years.

“Curtis!” Charley said, and reached out a hard-callused hand. “Good Godl It’s so good to see you again, son!” Then, startling Curtis, his father hugged him, hard arms clasping him against a hard chest. Perhaps, Curtis thought, he didn’t want him to see the moisture in his eyes.

For a while they stood talking in the chill late-April breeze, his father as careful in his questioning as his mother had been. Like Edna, Charley feared the answers; most questions could wait till they’d got used to each other again. Curbs was welcome to stay as long as he’d like, Charley told him, but there wouldn’t be much money in it. “Especially not while I’m paying a hand,” he said, adding ruefully: “Not that I pay Ferris much; not what he’s worth. He’s been with us three years now, and it wouldn’t be right to just cut him loose all of a sudden.”

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