When Aubrey Patterson was three years old, his father took the family to
Kansas where some of the father's people were prospering. The sky goes all the
way up to God napping on his throne, the father's brother had written from
Kansas, and you can get much before he wakes up. The father borrowed money from
family and friends for train tickets and a few new clothes, thinking, knowing,
he would be able to pay them back with Kansas money before a year or so had gone
by. Pay them all back, son, Aubrey's father said moments before he died, some
twelve years after the family had boarded the train from Kansas and returned to
Virginia with not much more to their names than bile. And with the clarity of a
mind seeing death, his father, Miles, reeled off the names of all those he owed
money to, commencing with the man to whom he owed the most.
Aubrey's two older sisters married not long after the family returned to
Virginia and moved with their husbands to other farms in Arlington County.
TheyMiles, the mother, Essie, and Aubreylived mostly from hand to mouth, but
they did not go without. Aubrey's sisters and their husbands were generous, and
the three of them, in their little house on their little piece of land with a
garden and chickens and two cows, were surrounded by country people just as
generous who had known the family when they had had a brighter sun.
The foregoing is excerpted from All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without
written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York,
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