I grabbed my little sister’s button nose and held out my hand to show her my thumb tucked between my two fingers.
“Cono, I’ve done told ya I was too big fer that!” Delma yelled and stomped her little feet in the dirt.
Instead of kicking me in the shins as usual, she picked up a stave from the ground and hit me right square between the eyes. She could tell by the look on my red face that I was madder than a hornet.
“Ya better start runnin’, Delma Jean, ’cause I’m comin’ after ya, and I’m gonna whoop ya!”
She ran those deer legs of hers right straight to the outhouse and got there just in time to lock herself in.
“I’m gonna push this outhouse right over on ya, Delma Jean!” I said, banging on the old cedar door.
I stood outside that smelly outhouse, listening for what she was gonna say next. Then I listened some more. When I didn’t hear anything, I said, “OK. Well, when ya come out, I’ll be right here waitin’. Then ya can see this knot between my eyes that’s growin’ into a real-life unicorn horn.”
I thought for sure she’d come out right then to see for herself. But she didn’t. I tiptoed away and went on about my business. I pretended that my new horn was a badge of courage, which I guess it was if you had yourself a little sister like Delma.
I can’t say for sure how long she stayed in there, but she knew that I wouldn’t spank her. And, of course, I’d never push a stinky old outhouse over with her in it.
Delma showed up for our quiet suppertime more clammed up than usual. I put an elbow on the table and used my left hand to hide the goose egg on my forehead. I didn’t want Delma to see it any more than I wanted Mother and Dad to. Then with my righthand, I ate my supper in silence like everybody else. Several times I caught Delma staring between my fingers trying to get a peek at my bump.
Later that night, Delma told me she didn’t mean to put a horn between my eyes. I told her it didn’t matter, that it didn’t really hurt anyhow.
By the next morning, my badge of courage was almost completely sucked back into my skull. Even though nobody else could see it, I reckoned it was still in there somewhere. And that’s where I decided I’d keep it from then on, next to the other ones I got elsewhere.
— Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, a novel about my father growing up in west Texas during the Great Depression.
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