Expectations by Truman Dayon Godwin - Read Online
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A young boy grows up during the difficult days of the Great Depression, where he faces many problems and choices that conflict with his perception of what he and other people might normally EXPECT. From his own unique experiences, and by observing people's actions and behavior, he recognizes the anomalies inherent in EXPECTATIONS, which make life unpredictable, funny, and often interesting. His study of expectations lead him to develop a happy philosophy that makes him strong in dealing with his young years in difficult and oftentimes sad situations.

Published: Truman Godwin on
ISBN: 9781465805508
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Expectations - Truman Dayon Godwin

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Chapter I.

The dog came into the front yard where we were playing. It looked like any of the numerous dogs that roamed the neighborhood, but there was something about it, an aura that came through to me somehow, yet evaded my brother nearby. He continued to play with Trixie's puppies and seemed unconcerned about the approaching mongrel.

Grab the puppies and run! I yelled. That dog is mad!

The two of us managed to scoop up the four puppies and dash to the safety of the high porch in front of our house.

Danny, how do you know it's mad? Larry, my older brother, asked. It's not foaming at the mouth.

I just know, I said. I couldn't explain my certainty or the feeling that evoked it, nor was I going to admit any doubt. There was a sibling rivalry between us which entered into our every action. We had a competition of sorts that pervaded our relationship, and any admission by one to the other of being wrong was unthinkable.

Trixie, the Spitz mother of the pups, rushed out to meet the stray. A growling, biting battle ensued and the mongrel retreated in defeat, then Trixie returned to the cardboard box on the porch where we had placed the pups. She crawled in with them, bloody and trembling, and nuzzled each one with her black, wet nose. Satisfied they were safe, she stretched out on her side among them. Her eyes, still flashing with anger and fear, were squinched with pain and exuding tears that made a wet line through the soft white fluff of her face.

My mother heard the commotion and came out to investigate. The boards of the porch creaked under her chubby, five-foot body, and her long, black hair streamed behind her in the breeze that whipped around the corner of the house. Her face showed the perpetual concern she'd developed in caring for four sons and a daughter.

What's all the racket about? she asked.

We explained what happened, and she said, I expect you'd better stay away from Trixie and those pups. Don't touch! Understand?

We gulped and nodded that we did, although we didn't, but in that year, 1937, we were like most kids--trained in unquestioning obedience. It never occurred to us to do anything but what we were told, or even to question an order.

While we stood there, looking at each other in bewilderment and trying to grasp the significance of the edict, two men carrying rifles entered our yard. We were curious, but not afraid, because men who carried guns openly in the daytime were never a threat; and since we lived on the outskirts, it was not uncommon to see hunters pass by toting firearms.

Have you seen a brown dog, white spots on its sides? one of them asked as they neared the porch.

There was a dog here, my mother answered. Didn't see what color it was myself, but the boys did.

That was the color, Larry and I said, almost simultaneously.

It went that way, I said, pointing to the north.

Anybody get near it?

I hurriedly told them what happened. They listened carefully, and when I finished they looked at each other gravely then talked with each other so we couldn't hear.

Finally one of them said, You're lucky! That dog done bit two kids, and we think it's mad. Whole neighborhood’s out looking for it. You'd best stay in 'til we kill it. They left then, heading north.

I expect we'd better do what they advised, Mother said, and led us inside.

Less than an hour later, Dad and my oldest brother, Marvin, came home for lunch. After they'd been told of the morning's events, a discussion arose concerning the fate of Trixie and her pups.

Dad's right leg was six inches shorter than his left as a result of childhood polio. Also, he liked to eat and to drink beer, which contributed to the excess weight that favored his mid-section. The combination of the rotund body and short leg produced a unique motion when he walked--a right-side dip with a left-side sway, and if one could overcome whatever compassionate feelings arose, there was a certain fascination--almost comical at times--in watching him walk.

So on the particular day I watched as he dip-clumped, dip-clumped about the living room, wobbling as he clumped, and gesturing wildly with his hands and arms while discussing the necessity of destroying Trixie and her pups. I didn't understand all he reasons--that Trixie had been bitten and would therefore become rabid, and that she'd already infected the pups. I expected him to know what he was talking about. I didn't understand Marvin's argument--that the pups hadn't been bitten and could be spared if bathed good, but I expected him to know what he was talking about, too. And when my mother joined in with her favorite word, I expect your dad's right; we'll have to destroy them all, I suddenly became aware that there were too many expectations in life.

In the end, our tears and Marvin's persuasiveness saved the pups, but it was a sad time nevertheless, for Trixie was shot to prevent further tragedy. The other dog was found and destroyed, and its head was sent to Austin, Texas, where it was examined. It proved to be rabid, and the two children who were bitten had to take a long series of painful shots for protection against rabies.

I was six years old at the time. The experience of losing a dearly loved pet was traumatic, and we all felt a lot of sympathy for the children who were bitten. But it was the beginning of an adventure for me, an exciting, often troubling, quest which led me into the labyrinth of human emotions--all because I asked myself, Why do people expect so much of the time?

Chapter II.

In the months following Trixie's tragic death, I gave much thought to expectations. The economic realities of our family life in the midst of a depression prevented us from enjoying the ownership of luxuries like a dictionary, but the public library in Vernon, Texas, where we lived was a constant source of enlightenment for those motivated enough to use it.

Every day after school, Larry and I went to town where the branch office of the Wichita Falls Daily Times was located. We always got ten papers each, then roamed the streets until we sold them all. Our regular beat was a nine-square-block area surrounding the courthouse in the center of town. The library was located on the northeast corner of the route, across from the Royal Cafe on one side and the Bailey Hotel on the other. When sales were slow we sometimes went there to read, or to look at pictures using hand-held viewers provided by the library.

One day I sold my papers before Larry sold his, so I decided to go by the library. I got the dictionary and looked up the word which pervaded my mind and imagination. The definition seemed complex and filled with all sorts of ramifications, but I finally sorted out what I concluded was the main thought: expect - looking for as due, proper, or necessary; probability of occurrence...

I mulled this over for awhile, then looked at a few pictures. The time slipped by, and it was almost dark when I left. Home was sixteen blocks away, so it would be quite dark when I got there. The thought made me uncomfortable because our parents always expected us home before dark; that was an unwritten rule. Violations were dealt with quickly and in a manner that conformed to the traditional discipline of the times--a switch on the seat, or a board on the behind, whichever was closest at hand.

So I hurried through town, down snuff street, the spit-and-whittle, domino bar area. When I got to the northwest edge of the town where numerous fruit stands dotted the area, it was already dark. As I approached one of the fruit stands I heard voices, and there in front, illumined by a nearby street light, was a crowd of about six boys. Two of them were the Seaver brothers, bullies who always worked together to beat on me or Larry if they caught either of us alone.

Their backs were to me, and beyond them I saw Larry. He was backed up against the chicken wire front of the closed fruit stand, fists up and a come-and-get me look on his face. His skinny frame barely hid the center post of the wire enclosure directly behind him. It was light enough for me to see his narrow jaws and his dark, flashing eyes. His sharp chin, held up in defiance, made an excellent target, and I decided I had to act quickly.

We'd faced many situations like this together, sometimes standing back-to-back while slugging away at our attackers. But we were separated now, and I expected the Seavers and their cronies to take every advantage of that.

The word expected flashed through my mind. Suddenly I thought, What if I do something unexpected? Then I thought, But what?

I studied the situation and made some hurried plans. They hadn't seen me yet, so I sneaked to the rear of the fruit stand and climbed up on top. I planned to run down the sloping top of the stand, about forty feet from back to front, then jump down right in front of them. I knew they'd back off once Larry and I joined up because bullies are basically cowards who run from a reasonably fair fight.

It didn't work that way, however. As I ran down the sloping roof, gaining speed near the front, I was almost prepared to make my heroic jump into battle when the bottom fell out--literally. The front four feet of the roof turned out to be canvas tacked to wooden beams which extended beyond the solid roof. I fell through it with a loud rip and hit the ground with a heavy thud right next to Larry. Everything blurred for a moment, but when my focus returned, I was looking up at our enemies whose mouths gaped in astonishment.

There was a snicker, then a giggle, and in less than a minute they were all convulsed in laughter. They pointed at me and laughed so hard tears came to their eyes, and they forgot their malicious intent--at least for a few minutes.

Larry and I took the opportunity to make our exit, and when we were two blocks toward home we looked back. The gang straggled around under a street lamp, but they were wandering off in a different direction, apparently satisfied with having a good laugh.

They wanted my paper money, Larry said.

Did they get it?

Of course not! He acted insulted. It would have been the first time for anyone to take our money, although it was often tried.

As we walked home he said, Boy, I'm sure glad you came when you did. They didn't expect you to come dropping in like that.

There was that word again.

Chapter III.

When winter came early in 1939, we knew it was going to be a hard one. The cold, north wind came whistling through like a freight train, bringing with it snow and ice. The garden we'd planted in the spring on our two-acre plot of land was wiped out by pests and dry weather, so there was nothing put by for the winter. The railroad laid off a number of men, among them my dad, so our prospects for the winter were bleak.

Marvin worked at a dairy after school and on weekends. Margie, my sister, also worked after school at a drug store. Larry and I sold papers on weekdays after school and shined shoes on Saturdays. Dad worked where he could at odd jobs, but nothing permanent came his way.

The news in the papers we sold was even more dismal than the weather. Some fellow named Adolph Hitler seemed to be having his way in Europe, and as we hawked our papers, we related the hottest events in our sales pitch, and our papers usually sold quickly.

I was learning more about expectations, and I had already concluded that they were building blocks in relationships. I had firsthand proof of that in my own family. Mother expected certain things of Dad, and if he didn't deliver, she'd let him know about it. I expected certain things from my sister, and other things from each of my brothers. They expected certain things from me, and it seemed to me that harmony depended on everyone living within the limits of those expectations.

One of the things we all expected was the family get-togethers at night after supper. During the week, when there were chores to do and homework to complete, the interludes were short but enjoyable. On Saturday nights, we sometimes spent many hours together in the warmth of our living room, and usually there was a visitor or two present. One of the regular visitors was a man named Jerry Winfield. He always brought his guitar. Dad played the mandolin, so the two of them would usually entertain us with good music.

Jerry had cancer. Part of his face had been eaten away, and the right side of his nose was in the process of dropping off in pieces. Each time I saw him there seemed to be less of it than before. It was a meat-red open sore that you could smell if you got close enough. But Jerry was a fine fellow with an optimistic outlook, for he always talked in terms of getting well. He was also an excellent musician.

On the Saturday night before Christmas week he came by for a visit. Mother worked at the community center