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.
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No Man's Land
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