Miniatures) Uncle Jean
Jean had a 3rd grade education, and never really
said a whole lot. He was my mother’s uncle, so that’s
how we’d address him.
When he did speak, it was always in the past tense;
his stories were generally plain and very simple—
almost nonchalant, and yet, some of them were damn
serious in content.
All of his tales were centered on railroad lines
like the Arkansas Western, Kansas City Southern, L&N,
Southern Pacific and even the most obscure of them
being the Maine Central.
For those of us who listened, they seemed
so surreal and unapproachable.
And then he interweaved that one particular and unforgettable
story, about how he went on the bum with his father;
sometime after the 1929 stock market crash.
He talked about riding the Illinois Central,
and how his father took sick.
He then proceeded to tell us about how he died
in his arms coughing up blood, and two days later,
how he buried him under a pile of rocks near a trestle.
Jean said, it was real peaceful, a place the dead could call
their own, and then he stopped talking.
Richard D. Houff was the editor of Heeltap Magazine and Pariah Press, from 1986 to
2010. He has had over twenty books published in both poetry and prose. His work has
appeared in numerous magazines and periodicals, both nationally, and throughout