“Jesus!” I said, gasping at the weight. The hired man chuckled.
“Better call on someone closer,” he said.
In a foul mood, I trudged into the house.
Later that afternoon, we helped Mama hang some pictures. My sorry mood persisted. But let’s picture the entryway.
After the covered front porch, inside the front door, the small hallway is paneled in dark-varnished wood. Coming in, to the left of the doorway upon the wall once hung the first telephone, a large black box with a cone sticking out, and a cup-shaped receiver hanging on a hook beside the black box.
You lifted the receiver and held it to your ear. You spoke into the cone sticking out of the front of the box. And to ring the operator, so as to be connected to your party, you turned the crank on the left side, which rang a bell far away.
To the left, a doorway led into the parlor, seldom used, with a glass-front bookcase, a tightly-packed little sofa with wooden trim, a very fancy wooden table with a round top and a little carved lip around the top, and an upright piano, possibly never tuned in its lifetime.
To the right, a doorway led into the … what would I call it? It was the room where grandfather’s lean-back chair sat. Here he read the paper, and in the late day, taking a rest, if awakened from his snoring, he’d deny it. “Asleep?” he said. “I wasn’t asleep. I was only resting my eyes.”
Before you and to the right, an elaborate carved wooden piece which has a seat below and great hooks above for hanging coats.
Before you and to the left, a stairway led to a landing, and from there to the second floor. The wooden panelling was only waist-high, and above was a yellowed wallpaper on which were isolated scenes of a lovely cottage beside the road, and a carriage pulled by prancing horses. My grandmother had a motto hanging here, telling about living in a house by the side of the road and being a friend to man. This seemed very wonderful to me as a child.
But now, age 26, I was far too smart, far too wise, far too knowledgeable. In fact, I just about knew everything. Which is why I was so stupid.
I held up a picture to the wall upon the stairway. It showed a wolf standing upon a wintry hill, coat ruffled by the cold wind, gazing down upon a snug cabin in the hollow below, its windows glowing with warmth. My mother said she wanted it more to the left, then more to the right, then back to the left, then more to the right.
Tired and irritable, I set the picture down, and pulled a pencil from my shirt pocket.
“Let me see if I’ve got this right,” I said. I crudely drew a big rectangle with the pencil upon the wallpaper. “You want it right about there?” My mother’s face fell; tears hovered.
I had ruined the wallpaper. There was no replacing it. A little part of the past had crumbled away.