Nita Moore enjoys writing poetry, historical fiction and (now that she’s a grandmother), children’s stories. Professionally, she is owner of Nita Moore Massage Therapy for more than 20 years. Originally from Horicon, daughter Don and Jeanez Miescke, she now lives in Fond du Lac.
Publisher’s note: We are delighted to present for you a poem Old Angus Goes A’Courtin’ a wonderful story by Nita Moore. We will publish weekly installments each Wednesday until complete. Today please enjoy part four …
Old Angus Goes A’Courtin’
© Nita Moore 2019
Now properly seated at table and chairs,
The two ice cream funyuns did not see the glares
Of the middle-aged “pie princess” widow named Grace,
How the weed of suspicion now grew on her face.
Without knowing why, she was stressed to the max.
She decided to breathe, and examine the facts:
A man meets me once, falls in love with my pies,
Does a radical makeover (the perfect disguise),
Then, unannounced, he shows up at my gate
As Captain McCharming — he must want a date!
A million collisions went on in her brain —
There’s a strange man in my house and he could be insane!
“Come join us, Grace,” called Angus McCray,
“We’re missing your company, aren’t we Miss May?”
“That’s not my name,” the girl waved with her spoon.
And Grace might have muttered she’d be over soon.
While curling a scoop of three-flavored ice cream,
Grace resolved to just listen and flow with the scene:
“I’m Ginger Penelope Margaret McFee!
My birthday was yesterday. Now I am three!”
“Well, now, Little Miss, that’s a name and a half!
Why, it’s almost like wearing a ten gallon hat!”
“That’s silly, Mister. My name’s not a hat!”
“Are you sure?” said the man. And then they both laughed.
“Can you keep a secret between you and me?”
“Can Granna know, too? She keeps better than me.”
“What’s this about secrets?” Grace turned and drew near.
“It’s my name,” confessed Angus and he leaned toward their ears.
“One of my names I hid, back in the day;
It was not worth the trouble to plainly display.
“See, when I was a boy, I was bullied and hit
Whenever my middle name happened to slip.
“Now I’m a grown-up and don’t carry that shame
Since I learned that my grand da had carried that name.
“Away back in Scotland lived Carroll McCray,
A hardworkin’ scrappin’ young lad of his day,
“A bull of a man in Great War Number Two,
Who came home to his family, tested and true.
“So this secret I tell you is not a shameful regret;
It’s more like a gift to kind friends that I’ve met.
“I trust you to honor my full family name,
And I’d like to you know Angus Carroll McCray.
“Some friends call me Gus, just by the way.”
The silence in the room held the hum of a fan,
The slow draining drip from a colander pan,
The wittering tick of a whirly-gig duck
Winging madly in place by an ornament buck
Who stood at attention while his mate dipped her head
To sniff at the petals in the front flowerbed.
Birds cheer-upped gaily from the dark shade of trees,
And a buzzing cicada sawed through with her Z-eees.
All of this was perceived in the span of one breath,
And much more not yet known had occurred in that rest.
Grace’s troubles had stalled while this story was told,
And her spoon was still poised over the treat in her bowl.
The ice cream had softened its three-colored stripes,
And oddly, Gus appeared not so black to her white.
Finally driving her spoon into the dribbling mound,
She pondered these things in the sweetness she found.
When at last she looked up, she met Gus’s blue eyes —
From her blur came a stir and a shock of surprise!
“Well .. ,” stammered Grace, “I don’t know what to say.”
A good-natured smile and a wink flashed her way.
A wee voice piped up and stole attention away.
“Mister Gus?” said the girl, “Call me Penny, okay?”
“Just Penny? That’s it? Hmm, let’s think about that.
With so many beautiful names in your hat? —
“What if names were like lights in the dome of the sky,
And the dome’s like a hat full of stars you can try.”
Angus arced overhead with a sweep of his hand,
And conjured the cosmos in the whirl of the fan.
Every eye followed skyward as he painted the scene,
Of twilight and midnight, a star-spangled dream.
“You’ve got plenty of time to try on who you are,
To try this name or that before this one’s your star.”
“Or maybe it’s two stars together, or maybe all three;
You might try Ginger Penny, and the next day G.P.
“Then there’s all of the Margarets: Maggie, Margie, and Meg.
Maybe Penelope doesn’t suit you, but you’ve always liked Peg.
“Out of all of the stars that you wear in your crown,
There’s a light that shines brightest when you make that sound.
“The sound of a name that means just who you are,
A musical shiver of light in your heart.”
The point of his finger came down from above.
It circled her head like the sail of a dove,
Then righted before her like a candle at rest,
Then made like a bee and buzzed toward her chest.
She jumped and squealed and came back to earth.
Grace marveled this magic and chuckled with mirth.
Not waiting for comment, Gus rose from his chair.
“Ladies,” he said as he bowed to the pair,
“I reckon I’d better get back to the farm;
If I know my old hound, he’ll be raising alarm.
“He’s been spoiled by the attentions of a lonely old man
And these new social notions he can’t understand.”
“So, you have a farm?”
“You have a dog?”
A chorus of questions begged epilogue.
“I’m renting the land to a young man named Mac —
Terrence McDonald, as a matter of fact.
“He manages cows and a small herd of sheep,
And seventeen acres for pasture and feed.
“He’s got two boys, and I help when I can,
For the most part nowadays, I’m a retired man.”
“But your dog,” prodded Penny, “tell me, what about him?”
“Ah, yes,” replied Gus, “that dog’s my old friend.”
“He’s a long-faced, floppy-eared blue tick hound,
The very best huntin’ dog I ever found.
“The runt of a litter of pedigreed pups,
For a little wee thing, he sure made a fuss!
“He tagged along closely when I did my chores,
And when I sorted the laundry in piles on the floor,
“He loved rollin’ ‘round in my smelly old socks.
So when he whined in his sleep, I threw a few in his box.
“His box had a blanket and my old wind-up clock —
All puppies are calmed by that tickity-tock.”
“But why?” bleated Penny, completely enthralled.
“I suppose,” offered Gus, “it’s a sound he recalls.
“What sound do you hear when your Mom holds you tight?
When you want to feel safe in the dark of the night?
“Thump-thump, thump-thump …now isn’t that right?
The girl looked at Gran and climbed into her lap,
She snuggled in close and heard thump-thump and pit-pat.
Her lips spread wide, then gave a big yawn.
Granna’s hand rubbed her back, and it wouldn’t take long
To sing Penny to sleep with that heart beat song.
“Maybe sometime you and Gran can visit my place.
His eyes fell on Penny, then lifted to Grace.
“I’m out on Route 4, five miles to the east.
My hound dog Ol’ Blue is a gentle old beast.
“If you toss him a ball, he’ll play catch ‘til he drops,
And Mac’s herding dog Jess is a marvel to watch!
“That lively young collie can turn sheep on a dime,
And there’s no better protector, come lambing time.
“Why, I seen him discourage a wily ol’ fox,
And chase after a coyote while nippin’ his socks!
“And I haven’t even mentioned my mare, Goldie Locks —”
“Thank you,” cut in Grace, “another time, perhaps,”
Unloading the little girl off of her lap.
“Can we go? Can we go, Granna, out to the farm?!”
Pleaded three-year old Penny now yanking her arm.
“Not today,” said her Gran, as sweet as you please.
“You may ask Mom and Daddy, and then we will see.”
The girl groaned displeasure, and Gus ruffled her hair.
He took up his suit coat hung over the chair.
“It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Grace; I hope to see you again.”
“You are kind,” she replied, avoiding his hand.
“Come Ginger Penny, let’s show the man out.”
“No-o-o!” wailed the girl, and she started to pout.
She grabbed at the suit coat slung over his arm,
Hoping to keep him or be dragged to the farm.
But the jacket pulled free and fell to the ground,
And Penny fell with it, tumbling down.
“Penelope!” scolded Gran, “what’s gotten into you?”
“No harm done,” put in Gus. “There now,” his voice soothed.
“I’ll not have fussin’ on my account, you two.”
He took up the hand of the whimpering lump,
Who swiped at her eyes and looked like a grump.
“Can I show you a picture I keep in the truck?”
She followed him mutely past the whirly-gig duck.
Grace snatched up the jacket and followed behind,
Flapping and slapping what dirt she could find.
She took on this duty with vehement flare,
While muttering to herself in the wake of the pair.
“I know it’s not right that I harbor regret;
My Penny would have loved her granddaddy Ted,
If her star had dawned before his light had set.”
In an unconscious movement, she held the coat to her chest
And turned toward the sun sinking low in the west.
Then up welled a tear that slipped down her cheek,
“I miss you old man, every day of the week.”
These words that she uttered nobody heard,
Save the one soul beloved and the great mother earth.
to be continued …