Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Table Where the Rich People Sit, Byrd Baylor (and Peter Parnall)

If you could see us sitting here at our old, homemade, scratched-up wooden table, you'd know that we aren't rich.
But my father is trying to tell us we are. Doesn't he notice my worn-out shoes? Or that my little brother has patches on the pants he wears to the first grade? And why does he think that old rattle-trap truck is parked outside the door?
"You can't fool me," I say. "We're poor. Would rich people sit at a table like this?"
My mother sort of pats the table and she says, "Well we're rich and we sit here every day."
They look surprised. You can see they never think about the things we need.

Right here, I might as well admit that my parents have some strange ideas about working.

They think the only jobs worth having are jobs outdoors.

They want cliffs or canyons or desert or mountains around them wherever they work. They even want a good view of the sky.

They always work together, and their favorite thing is panning gold—piling us into that beat-up truck and heading for the rocky desert hills or back in some narrow mountain gully where all the roads are just coyote trails.So we start with twenty thousand dollars.

That’s how much my father says it’s worth to him to work outdoors, where he can see sky all day and feel the wind and smell rain an hour before it’s really raining.
He says it’s worth that much to be where (if he feels like singing) he can sing out loud and no one will mind.
I have just written twenty thousand when my mother says, “You’d better make that thirty thousand because it’s worth at least another ten to hear coyotes howling back in the hills.”
So I write thirty thousand.

Then she remembers that they like to see long distances and faraway mountains that change color about ten times a day.
“That’s worth another five thousand dollars to me,” she says.

We all say seven dollars doesn’t seem to be enough. We talk him into making it five thousand.

Now my paper says four million and sixty thousand dollars —and we haven’t even started counting actual cash.

To tell the truth, the cash part doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
I suggest it shouldn’t even be on a list of our kind of riches.

So the meeting is over.

The rest of them have gone outside to see the new sliver of moon. But I’m still sitting here at our nice homemade kitchen table with one cookie left on my mother’s good blue-flowered plate, and I’m writing this book about us.

I kind of pat the table and I’m glad it’s ours.

1 comment:

  1. Hey...lovely, but not complete, its missing a bit in the middle!