Mountains of Memories
Copyright © 2015 by Parker Sheaffer
A couple of years passed and Lucas began to notice something curious. Les, who was the same age as him, was growing taller and even had a little bit of a beard. He was filling out and turning into a man, but Lucas seemed to be unchanged. He didn't look any different than he had two years earlier. His legs and chest were still hairless and there wasn't a hint of whiskers on his chin. He was the same height, five feet, two inches, and still wore the same clothes. He wasn't the only one to notice, either.
One day, after church, Mr. Johnson took him aside and had him stand back to back with Les.
"You better get some growin' done, boy. Lookie here how Les is growed a good foot taller 'n you".
Actually, Les was only a couple of inches taller. Mr. Johnson always liked to stretch the truth.
Lucas was embarrassed and said nothing, but other people had been watching and listening.
At first, his brothers only teased him about being a runt, but when two more years passed and Lucas still looked fourteen their concerns about something being wrong grew stronger and they again began to whisper about witchcraft.
People wanted to know what evil he had done that he wasn't growing up.
"Did ye sell your soul to the Devil?" someone asked one day, only half joking.
Lucas tried to laugh but his Pa gave him a frightened look. The talk got around, rumors started and folks began to keep a suspicious eye on him.
Another year passed and then another. By that time it was obvious to everyone that something was wrong with Lucas. He should be well into manhood but he still looked fourteen. Not only had he not grown, he hadn't changed at all. The other boys his age had thick beards, those that didn't shave them, while Lucas' skin was still smooth as buttermilk.
The preacher started to come around and one day he asked if there were any sins that Lucas wanted to get off his conscience. He even dropped a Bible in Lucas' lap and looked disappointed when the boy didn't scream in pain at the touch of something holy, never mind that Lucas was in his church every Sunday.
It was getting to be too much for both him and his family. The superstitious and ignorant neighbors began to shun the bunch of them and whispers followed them whenever they left the farm.
Lucas was scared, too. He didn't know why he wasn't growing up but he suspected that is was something the demons had done to him. Some sort of magic like everyone said and sometimes he felt like he would burst from holding in the fear and anxiety. It was impossible to try and explain his dilemma with anyone because if people knew about the demons they might actually stone him to death so he had to keep everything tightly bound inside him even if the dreadful secret was making him sick.
Finally his father sat down with him and the rest of the family one evening at the table.
He said, "Son, now you know that we all love you and want to do right by you, but you gotta know too that it's all… well, it ain't natural. It ain't right that you ain't growin' none and nobody knows why. They's all suspectin' though and they don't like it. They're scared. Now we'll all stand by you 'cause we're family but folks… well, folks want you to go away. Now, I got twenty dollars here that I saved up and we took up some money from the neighbors to help you. We got forty-five dollars altogether and that ought to take care of you for a while. You're more'n twenty years old, a man, even if you don't look it, and you ought to be able to take care of yourself."
His brothers were nodding but his Ma and sister just sat there staring at the table, quietly crying.
Lucas didn't know what to say. He hated the neighbors for chasing him off, but at the same time he wanted to go. Life was becoming unbearable here and also the urge to travel and get out of these mountains into an exciting future, was very alluring.
It didn't take much deciding, so Lucas took one last look at the green fields, the clear rushing creek and the dark hemlocks that towered over their cabin and with the few belongings he owned in a burlap sack he set out on foot for Knoxville. Les never even said good-bye.
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