LITTLE JACK HORNER

By Kaitlin Juhl

 

Little Jack Horner Little Jack Horner

Sat in a corner, Eating a mincemeat pie.

He stuck in his thumb,

And pulled out a plumb,

And said “What a good boy am I!”

 

He never did have no chance in this here world. Can’t think of a more unlucky feller’ ta tell ya’ll the truth n’ as I sit here, wipin’ dem tears from my eyes, I wish I woulda’ spoken up when I had the chance. Not that I didn’ try er’ anythin’, dem tawn folk won’t listen ta an ol’ geezer like me. Such a small little grave marker, nothin’ fancy, can’t afford no granite slate or marble angel. Nope, just a lil’ ol’ stone with a message carved in, “Jack W. Horner, 1990-1999”. He ain’t even got a message or title like “son” or “cousin” but that’s cause he ain’t got no real family. Nope, Jack was no lucky feller’, no siree. I never did get no real story ta where exactly he came from or why he showed up. He just appeared one day at my neighbor’s home, saw him walkin’ up dem steps with some lady all dressed up n fancy. I figured he was just vistin’, a nephew of that there man across the street from me. Never did like that feller’ much. Just kinda kept ta himself n’ was real sketchy around us town folk. I found out just a couple days after, that there boy was no nephew. Nope, foster kid; momma died givin’ birth n’ her kid ended up in the state’s hands. Put him in an orphanage in Midland for seven years. Not sure how he got in the hands of Mr. Evans there across that street from me, guess the state thought that that there man deserved a kid like Jack. Boy did the government ever pick a wronger’ feller’ ta raise a kid. Didn’ start out that way though, not that I saw or any other town folk saw at least. Kid seemed happy just ta be in a home. But while I sat at my home, starin’ out my front winder’ of my house, I saw the whole thing unravel. Bein’ retired n’ widowed, I ain’t got no other plans for my days. Just sittin’, sittin’ n’ watchin’.

 

That there boy Jack, he walked ta elementary e’rey mornin’ durin’ the work week at 7:30 a.m. sharp. Walked out that front door of Mr. Evan’s house with a tiny lil’ back pack in his hands dead set on getting’ ta the school right on time. It was early fall here in Texas, so I liked ta keep the winders’ open at my house, also let me hear everythin’ goin’ on in the neighborhood. I ain’t no nosey feller’, I just get bored, gives me somethin’ ta do, watchin’ other people that is. People watchin’, somethin’ other people shoulda done, they coulda saved that there lil’ boys life. But anyway, back ta my story. Lil’ Jack comes on home at 3:00 p.m. n’ walks in ta Mr. Evans house. Aaron Evans wouldn’t get home till 4:00 p.m. though. Don’ know what that kid Jack did in the meantime. Figured he just sat n’ watched cartoons like all lil’ kids do.

 

I was watchin’ one day out my winder’ to see him leave, like I do e’ery day, n’ I saw Jack forgot his jacket that he usually wore ta school. That’s the first time I noticed dem bruises. He had a nice shiner on his upper arm. Big one, like someone grabbed him real hard. I didn’t think nothin’ of it n’ a few more weeks passed by before I noticed anythin’ else. The next thing I noticed though was how skinny that there Jack was gettin’. I mean young boys are growin’ n’ I don’ know I guess it coulda been that but it looked like lil’ Jack wasn’ gettin’ no food, skinnier than twig. So, I decided that that day I would invite that boy Jack over n’ give him some of my mincemeat pie I had sittin’ round’. I wasn’ eatin’ it any too fast n’ ya know he looked like he needed it more than me. Gotta’ put some meat on dem bones.

 

At round’ 3:00 p.m., when Jack was about home, I walked outside n’ asked him if he wanted to step in for a minute n’ have a bite of pie. Boy did he e’er look so happy; ne’er seen such an excited feller’. I handed him a plate of mincemeat pie n he sat at the corner table eatin’ it lookin’ happy as e’er. He dug right in, stuck his hands in the pie n e’erythin’. He was just so darn hungry he didn’ even want a fork. That there boy had three pieces of pie, stuck his thumb in one n’ pulled out a plumb, I ne’er seen such a smile on anyone’s face. He muttered somethin’ about bein’ a good boy under his breath, just like he was tryna’ convince himself it was the truth. Other than that, lil’ Jack didn’ talk much, just ate n’ smiled. But we did kinda’ lose track of time, before we knew it, Aaron Evans was pullin’ up in his driveway. That boy Jack turned ghostly white. I wasn’ sure why exactly but all da sudden he got up n’ ran outside. That’s when I figured out how that boy got his bruises. Mr. Evans came back out of the house, grabbed the boy by the arm n’ threw him down on the sidewalk. He drew his hand back n’ slapped the boy across the face. I was so stunned I didn’ say nothin’, shoulda, but I thought my eyes done deceived me. Couldn’ believe someone could do such a thing ta such an innocent lil’ boy.

 

The next day I done tried to get that boy Jack to come over again for more pie, promisin’ I’d get him home on time, or maybe hide him all together, but he refused. I saw that boy get tinier n’ tinier n’ more n’ more bruises showin’ up e’ery day over the next couple weeks. But I didn’ say nothin’ n’ when I did try to tell people I thought Mr. Evans was fishy, dem town folk just ignored me. Finally I had it one day; I decided ta bring the food over ta his house while Mr. Evans was still on his way home. That boy Jack slowly opened the door n’ didn’ say one word, just stared at me. Lookin’ at me like I was a stranger, but yet that longin’ look for an escape, for someone ta come along n’ just take him somewhere else. I handed him a whole mincemeat pie, waitin’ for that smile he showed the last time he ate it, but he ne’er did, not even one lil’ smirk. He slowly closed the door, n’ I wandered back on over ta my house. Sat in front of the winder’ for a while till Mr. Evans got home, I did. But as it got darker, I began ta dose off in my lazy boy, till I was woken with a sudden sharp scream from across the street. Other neighbors musta heard too, cause the hogs showed up a few minutes later talkin’ bout a domestic disturbance. They hauled Mr. Evan’s out in handcuffs n’ I knew right away somethin’ was wrong. I walked as fast as I could over ta the house ta see for myself what happened n’ if lil’ Jack Horner was gonna be okay. Unfortunately, by the time I got ta the sidewalk, they was pullin that boys body out on a stretcher. A white sheet was placed over him. I just walked back ta my house after that, I coundn’ bear ta stand there any longer.

 

Jack Horner’s funeral was a couple days later. I couldn’ bring myself ta go. Nope sat in my chair n’ stared out the winder’, almost waitin’ ta see that lil’ boy walk out the front door of Mr. Evans house. He never did though, nope he was gone. I walked ta the cemetery a couple days after he’d been placed in the ground n’ paid my respect. On my way back, I musta’ paced back n’ forth in front of Aaron Evan’s house ten times. Well that’s when I noticed the flag on his mailbox was up. Obviously mail hadn’ came there in a few days, due ta all the caution tape surroundin’ the house. So bein the nosey neighbor I am, I done opened up that box. Funny thing is though, I found a note, addressed to me in a scribble of a handwritin’. I brought it back ta my house, hands shakin’ the whole time. Couldn’t open it for days, I knew who it was from. I finally got the courage to read what it said…

 

“Thank you for the mincemeat pie.

I couldn’t say anything cause’ my

Foster dad said I can’t talk to no one.

The pies were very good.

My favorite part is the plumb.

It reminds me that there’s something

Sweet left in this world.”

 

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© Steve Taft