Brothers by Steve Batson
Bullets whizzed by Ellis' head as he ducked behind the small bolder beside the barn. He
missed me, he though as he jumped up to return fire. The splash of red caused the
light to fade but it did not go away completely.
Then came the voice, "next time I shoot you stay dead and I won't have to hit you
with no dirt clod to prove the point. "
"I'm a'gonna kill you Hez Batson," Ellis said as he groggily swung at the
swimming image of the boy before him.
"Ellis . . . Hez . . . get up to the crib and get that corn down here 'fore I call
Ma. Get to it. Fish is waiting" Tol hollered.
Hez and Ellis headed back up out of sight and got the old and worn split oak basket and
filled it with corn. They headed back toward Tol down at the hog lot and barn. "Tol,
Hez is always throwing stuff and I'm gonna stomp him in the dirt if'n he don't quit
it," Ellis offered.
"Well you isn't no gem yourself," Hez offered, "If'n you'd play right I
wouldn't be a throwin' nothin'."
Tol took the corn and fed the stock. "Nothing to be said" he explained,
"You young'ns always goin' on with foolishness." Tol liked the way it sounded
just like Ma Brookshire. "Now go on up to the cabin and get the pole . . . fishin'
time is here."
Hez and Ellis headed to the cabin where the old woman sat in a bent oak rocker. Like
nothing ever seen today, she and rocker were one. They seemed to grow from the ground like
an ancient and wise tree. "You boys finish up?" she asked.
"Reckon so," they offered.
"Com'ere boys," and she reached an ancient hand out and tossed the heads
gently. "God is good that I get to see so much love right fore I cross over Jordan.
Ellis Hall, Hez Batson, and Tol Brookshire, my three favorite grandsons all together on
such a beautiful day. You boys, get your pole and go catch some trout. Fire will be in the
hearth when you get back and I reckon there'll be a fried apple pie or two hid round about
for you three. Y'all bring old granny a trout or two you here?"
She sat down and rocked as Ellis and Hez raced off with the poles and Tol joined them.
Them two is joined together at the waist, she thought. Reckon they'll see their share
of life and death for time comes to them the way it's done come to me. She reached out to
the rail of the porch and got down the only book in the house. A cheap and old Bible,
paper turned to brown long since. She flipped through the pages till she found what she
sought . . . "In my father house are many mansions . . . " Ma Brookshire read no
more. Quickly in a blazing flash of silence she was no longer in an old rocker on the
front porch of a cabin but in a mansion made of gold.
Ellis and Hez looked down from the hill at the line in the distance. They could not
believe they had so far to go. In silence they plodded on toward their goal. Such a long
way. Sounds crowded in and moved on. Ellis didn't think he had ever seen anything like it
and Hez looked at him and nodded his agreement. Long ago the need for words between them
had ceased. On they moved, men pushing in on them from the sides, a canopy of gray against
a blue sky, bright patches of red with blue stripes . . . all of it . . . stretching out
In a run now they remained silent. They looked quickly from side to side forever
checking on each other. Locusts and Osage orange reached out to them and tore at ragged
clothing and tough bare feet and naked legs. Blood ran down their legs and arms and into
their eyes. Hez saw the works and the dirt and jumped. He landed on a man long dead and
looked right for Ellis. He saw J.D. Cooper on the next set of works with the flag but
where was Ellis. He turned around and looked back.
Dern him Hez thought. There he is . . . sitting in the middle of the field
playing marbles . . . just like him . . . could never keep his mind on anything. Hez
jumped back over the works and ran back to Ellis who was playing with a small poke. Three
marbles fell out in his hand. "Look Hez, remember these? Tol had nine, gave you three
and me three and he kept three the day Ma Brookshire died. You got yours? Let's shoot a
game. Sure wish Tol was here now. He'd know what to . . . " the voice trailed off.
Hez looked deep in the eyes of Ellis as he sat down beside him and took out his poke.
He reached over and cradled Ellis' head in his lap. "No time" was all he said.
Hez began to rock Ellis and together they thought, "In my Fathers house are many
mansions . . ."
Above Travelers Rest off a main road that is filled with speeding cars, that carry
mindless people, on a journey to nowhere lies a forgotten church yard. If you spend enough
time there you can find it . . . a simple stone marked in a simple manner. It holds two
names and two dates of death. It says simply, "Ellis Hall and Hez Batson, Together in
life . . . Together in death . . . Killed Franklin, Tennessee, November, 1864."
If you care to journey over the mountain to Franklin, in the cemetery there you will
find where they rest and no man knows who is buried in which grave but that is another
story. All that is important today is that they died as they lived . . . together, and the
knowledge that they live on . . . together. "In my Fathers house are many mansions. I
go to prepare a place for you and I will come again . . ." so mote it be.
About the author - Steve Batson
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