Letter to a dead friend

In the 1930’s, a sad seven-year old Cono writes a letter to his deceased friend.


Cono with his little sister

Dear Gene,

            I hate it that you’re dead and that those stupid doctors in Roby couldn’t fix you to save your life. We had more things to do, you and me. More wars to fight with the other boys in the neighborhood and more of our own fights to have just between the two of us, the ones that were so much fun but made us dog-tired and bruised afterward. Even though you were just a little older, but a lot littler, you always got the best of me. We never gave up. You’d just say, “Cono, ye tired yet?”

            “Yeah,” I’d say.

            “How bout’s you and me stop fightin’ for the day?”

            “OK,” I’d say.

            And that’s what we’d do. We’d get up, dust off our britches and stop for the day. But we’d never give up. Boys in Rotan, Texas never give up. That’s what you said.

         Don’t feel bad about being dead. I think some of us are dead, when we’re still alive anyway. Or maybe it’s just that some of us aren’t completely born yet, like we’re waiting for a little peace and quiet to show up so we can take our first real breath.

         I’m sorry I couldn’t make you better and I’m sorry that nobody could take me to visit you in the hospital. Maybe if you had been in there a little longer, I could have found a ride. I know you never gave up, so there must have been something else that caught your eye.

         Things are growing on me Gene and I’m not talking about inches or new hairs. Things are crawling under my skin. I’m feeling antsy and mad and even a little bit not like myself. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone were to holler, “Cono!” and I’d just keep going the other direction thinking my name was George or something. My hands clench more often than they used to. My teeth do too. Just the other day, I caught myself staring in the bathroom mirror. I was about to brush my teeth, but my jawbones were moving in and out and I realized I was clamping down so hard with my grinders that a tooth brush didn’t have a chance to get in to do its job.

         I’m writing to you Gene, Fishing all my words outta my truth bucket. And when I’m done? I’ll send this letter up to God Jesus, so he can read it to you. Better yet, maybe I’ll go someplace real quiet, where nobody else on this earth can hear. And I’ll talk real loud, so you can hear me all the way up in heaven. And if someone else up there happens to hear? It’s okay. I know they won’t tell anyone since they’re dead too. Besides, you’ll know it’s me. I’ll be the one flicking marbles with my pocket knife!  

            I sure wish you could tell me what it’s like up there. When I went to the revivals with the Allridge boys, they told me that Jesus has made a room for dead people and you’ll get to live there forever with Him. What does your room look like?

            I wanna know if you’ve made any friends and if Jesus lets you wrestle and fight with them like we used to do for fun. The revivalists say that we’ll get to meet our loved ones again when we die. But what if I die when I’m a hundred and I get there and you’re still only eleven years old. Are you gonna sit on my lap and tell me Jesus stories? Ha Ha. It’s good to know that you have a room up there in heaven, although I’m not sure I believe everything they tell me at those revivals.

         Gene, I want to kill my Dad. Send him right up there to heaven, where maybe you can teach him a few things, like how to be nice to me. But then, I guess it would be too late. Unless, he was Jesus and got alive again to came back to do something good. That’ll be the day.

         Anyhow, I sure hope you’re real happy up there. I hope you get to throw the football and play checkers and flick marbles. And say? If you see my Uncle Joe and our friend Wort Reynolds, tell them I say, “Hello.”

         Your friend,


         P.S. – Wort’s the one without the head.

(Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper)


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