Pikesville to the Stone House

by Paula Kane

It was time for my father, Thomas Cleary, to come home from work. I stood in my favorite spot, my head just even with the top of the gate, and looked through the pickets. I felt safe and hidden as I watched my father cross Alphonse to Sherwood Street and come toward the house. There was something wrong in the way he walked and it had been that way and getting worse now for months. It was a slight hesitation every other step, as if he had to think hard about where his foot would go and when it would meet the pavement. If you drew a straight line, in twenty paces he would have veered slightly off to the right or left, which he would then correct with an odd jumpy side step. His thin pale hands hung slack at the ends of his long arms and even though from this distance I couldn’t see it, I knew they moved in a fine tremor like the powdery wings of a captured moth held inside your hands.

As he came closer I could see the painful boils that had recently appeared on his neck. He stopped and stood motionless in the gutter on Sherwood, looking up at the closed door of our house. My father liked to look up at the house every day before he came into the side yard to clean up. But that day I thought my father was looking at the door as if he had not seen it every day of my life, as if today, he would enter another world when he passed through it.

We sat down on the back steps, and he unlaced and pulled off his dirty work boots. He squinted at the low sun. “I want you to stay outside for a little while tonight until I can talk to your mother. I’ll come get you when it’s time for supper.”

With his free hand, he threw open the milled screen door, dropped his boots in the small mud room, and walked through to the kitchen, but not before I slipped in unseen behind him.

I ducked into the pantry just off the mud room, one of my favorite places to hide. It had two little pass-through windows; the one to the front room was kept closed unless we had company to visit, but the one to the kitchen my mother always kept open. It was a cool and shady room, not as full as usual, but still with a good amount of tinned foods and the jars of fruit and tomatoes, jams and cordials my mother canned and bottled in the summer. There were sacks of turnips, potatoes, and coffee under the window and I stood on them to peek into the kitchen.

My mother had papered the kitchen in a pattern of alternating pink stripes and flowers, and my father had painted the tall beadboard cabinets a pale glossy yellow. It was always a warm and rosy room at that time of day.

My mother had her back to me. She had stopped ironing and stood motionless looking out the open window over the deep porcelain sink and drainboard into the backyard. Yards of white cotton billowed over the large board set up in front of her. On the table was a stack of crisp shirts for my father, and another of perfectly folded spotless sheets. There were two black flat irons heating on the laundry stove, and the one in her hand that she had set on its foot at the end of the board, and seemed to have forgotten. It was hot in the kitchen and her hair had frizzed out a little from the tight braids circling her head, creating a red-gold aura against the sinking sun. She had rolled the sleeves of her white cotton blouse above her elbows, and her other hand she held at the waist of her long dark skirt as if she had a pain in her side.

My father had pulled a slat back chair from the table and sat in it tilted back against the wall. Thin and bare-chested, hair still damp, his hands hung fluttering between his splayed knees.

“No, no Thomas. You’re not going back there. We’re not,” my mother said without turning around. My father rocked forward setting the chair and his stocking feet on the ground.

“We don’t have a choice, Ivy.”

“What do you mean? Why?”

“They fired me today.”

My mother turned around and looked at him.

“I can’t hold the brush still anymore. I can’t stand on the scaffold without shaking and making it sound like a bag of bones. Today Schmidt was watching me and he saw me jerk and slash a big streak of red right through the lettering on one of the new cars. I’d worked on it for days when it should have taken hours. It’s ruined; the whole thing will have to be repainted. He said I had to go.”

“How can they do that to you? You’ve been there for years and it’s their fault you’re sick. Don’t they know you have a family?” Her hands held strained at her sides now.

“It’s not the first time. It happens to a lot of men who’ve painted as long as I have, and they all had families too. It’s a matter of money to Schmidt and the rest of them.”

“And what about us?”

My father didn’t say anything.

My mother’s mouth pinched together in the way I knew made tiny lines all around it. “But Thomas, oh my god. Not Rosewood.”

“Where then? There aren’t any jobs, and even less for someone with the name Cleary, unless it’s the streetcar sheds, the rail yards, or the quarry. I can’t hold a brush, or a spade, and painting or gardening is the only work I’ve ever known. Jesus, Ivy, you know I can hardly walk. Now I’m having trouble even thinking straight sometimes.”

My mother swayed a little on her feet.

“I went to see Doctor Merriwaite at Rosewood last month. He says I can never paint again; I can’t be around the lead. I have to rest to let the lead work its way out of my bones.”

“Doctor Merriwaite, Doctor Merriwaite.” She gritted her teeth.

“He said he’d give me back my old job and we’d have a house of our own on the edge of the grounds. I won’t have to work the farm, only the grounds and maintenance. You and Connaught won’t have to be involved with the inmates.”

She rubbed her hand over her mouth, then looked around the kitchen Tears rolled down her face. “We’ll lose the house.”

“We can stay on for a few more months. I’ll get my strength back, but then the bank will take it back.” He walked toward my mother and put his arms around her shoulders. “It will be all right Ivy; it’s not as bad as you’ve heard.”

I scrambled down and out the back door.

In September we borrowed a rattling, slat-sided Model T truck to move us and the bits of furniture and belongings we were able to salvage from the Pikesville house to the house waiting for us at Rosewood. My father was getting a little stronger, walking a little more steadily, shaking a little less day by day, as the lead crept slowly out of his bones, blood, and brain. Knowing he was still weak, a few of the men from the paint shed came and helped my father load up the great fan-shaped wrought-iron bedstead my parents slept in each night, my small wooden one, the bluebird dishes from County Offaly, which my mother had carefully packed one by one in excelsior, our bedding, linens, odds and ends. Dust went, humiliated, into a wicker basket with latches, but Coal stayed with me in the bed of the truck. Mr. Reed, who asked me to call him Hitch and drove the truck, gave me a boost up into the back.

Some of the neighbors and their kids stood on their porches or wandered down their sidewalks to the curb, but didn’t come any further to say goodbye. I saw Billy Camden and Anthony standing at the edge of the Sclafani’s yard. Billy unwrapped a big red jawbreaker and crammed it into his mouth, then tossed the cellophane on the ground. Mary was on their front steps with her mother.

Hitch nodded to my father when they were all packed up then climbed behind the wheel of the truck. My father turned and paused in the street to look for my mother. She had been standing motionless on the porch facing the front door for a while. She seemed almost frozen there in her long, camel-colored duster and pinned-down straw hat. At her side she held the large black skeleton key in her hand.

“It’s all done now, Ivy,” my father called to her.

“I’m coming, Thomas. I just have to lock up.” Her voice came back faintly to us.

In a moment she turned the key in the lock then slipped it through the brass letter slot in the door. I heard it clatter on the floor inside. She came down the steps to my father and he handed her quickly inside the truck next to Hitch. She turned once to look through the truck’s oblong back window for me and nodded, then settled into the middle of the worn leather bench seat. She stared straight ahead over the long hood of the truck like there was something just in front of us to keep an eye on. My father put a blanket over her legs and set Dust’s basket in her lap. He climbed up on the running board and looked over the cab checking the distribution of the load and tie downs one more time.

“Ready, Connaught?”

“Yes, Da.”

“Well, stay put and keep hold of that dog. We’ll be there before you know it.”

He thumped the top of the cab, smiled at me, then disappeared inside in one quick movement. I sat with Coal, my hand through his collar, my legs dangling over the edge of the roped-off tailgate. As we slowly pulled away, Billy and Anthony came running into the street behind the truck.

“Look, the Clearys are finally clearing out!” Anthony yelled.

“Yea, everybody,” Billy tried to speak loud and clear around the jawbreaker but his words were a little garbled. “Li’l’ Tussie Red cough, cough,” he shammed, “goin’ back where hay, cough, cough, belong-zgh,” and then he was coughing for real, grabbing at his throat. He made a sucking noise that sounded almost exactly like the whoop of whooping cough I remembered so well, as he turned a little blue around the lips. Anthony pounded his back wildly and I watched as the little red ball popped out of Billy’s mouth, bounced across the street and rolled into the black drain of the storm sewer. That was the last thing I remember from Sherwood Street in Pikesville, Billy doubled over panting with Anthony whaling on his back and then, as we passed, Mary lifted her hand and waved.

We drove out Reisterstown Road where everything I had known up until that day faded away quickly. A few miles out there were no more neighborhoods. The houses grew farther and farther apart and soon there was only the occasional farmhouse. The trees became thicker, older, moving closer and closer to the road. We turned onto Greenspring then north on Garrison Forest Road into deep shadow, and the pavement ended. The truck’s balloon tires churned through gravel, kicking up little gray and white stones that pinged off the underside of the fenders and beat dully against my corduroy pant legs. The road dipped and climbed between deep banks of fern and long Timothy grass. Overhead large trees—oak, chestnut, beech, and sugar maple—met in an arch forming a thick leafy canopy. Early spiked red-star or golden-eye leaves would float down singly, or in a quick shower to settle on the road or the tops of Coal’s and my head. Coal would bark and snap, trying to snag one out of the air.

The swaying of the truck made me feel lightheaded, everything rushing by in a blur of blue-greens and dappled sunlight. It was like looking down a long worm tunnel to what we had left behind while we kept moving forward, into the future.

Before we left the Pikesville house my father talked to me a little about Rosewood. But it was my mother who told me about what had happened there. She told me about what my father had done, and why there would always be “a job for him and a place for us” even now, when there were so few jobs for anyone, and for the Irish, there were even fewer. INNA and NINA, Irish Need Not Apply, and No Irish Need Apply, were still found posted on factory gates, or hanging in shop windows.

My mother had never worked at Rosewood, but she knew the story by heart. Of course everyone at Rosewood did, she said, but her late younger brother, my Uncle Harry, had been on the staff there at the time, and he told it to her word for word how it happened.

Doctor Merriwaite’s office at Rosewood was always dark, as my mother told it, and I know for a fact it was, because I was there many times myself. I saw him over the years for the many small accidents and sicknesses of childhood, the grippe, summer complaint, stitches from a tomahawk wound, removal of the Robin Hood arrow, and lastly for my GI physical in ’42.

All the walls were paneled in dark oak and there were heavy green brocade drapes at the large windows. The drapes were always open in the daytime creating a square of brilliant white against which it was hard to see the Doctor’s face. After noon, they were always closed and everything was in darkness, except for a pool of yellow light on the desk and another on the smoky cracked surface of a big oil painting. There was a huge dark cherry desk and examining table. The table, a long couch, and two large chairs were upholstered in Oxblood leather. Doctor Merriwaite had a matching cherry desk chair that he could lean backward, forward, and swivel around in. When he examined you he would roll from his desk to the examining table and back, walking and standing as little as possible because of his weight. Don’t want to wear out the old pins and have to buy a new set any sooner than I need to, he’d say to me, and to everyone he examined, and wink.

There was a dark green, baize blotter on the desk and a reading lamp with a bottle-green shade that hovered over the pool of light it created, like a baguette emerald lit from within. On the blotter was a desk set with many pieces to it, but I only remember a few: a stamp dispenser, a sponge holder, a buffer, and a long, thin, very sharp-looking letter knife. Like all the other pieces, the letter opener had a small, elliptical, jade stone, which was set neatly in the hilt like a bright green eye. Over the years, Doctor Merriwaite would let me hold the knife for a moment whenever I came to see him.

There was some kind of Persian carpet on the floor, but I don’t know what it looked like because it was always too dark to see the pattern. The old painting over the exam table took up most of the wall. Although there was a little light over it, close up it was hard to make out the images. Years of pipe smoke and dirt obscured the detail. But from a distance, you could tell it was a young boy, sick in bed, with half a dozen serious men in dark suits and heavy beards standing beside the bed looking down at him. Over them floated a pale image of a woman in a dingy white dress. I always thought she was a nun, but my mother told me she was an angel, guarding the boy’s life and if he did not recover, Saints protect us, his soul.

It had happened there in Doctor Merriwaite’s office, late in the evening. Doctor Merriwaite was always a big man; he had a paunch and wore a mustache. He laughed a lot and liked to joke with you when you went to see him. Why, I can see all the way to China when I look in your ear, young man. There’s a little Mandarin in one of those pointy hats and long queues in there, he’s waving at me, after he’d taken a spider out of my ear, or I think he may live yet Missus Cleary, that is if we don’t have to amputate that leg, after three stitches from falling on a rock and cutting my knee. Staff loved him and always said he looked a bit like Teddy Roosevelt. When I went to Holy Rood School and had my first history book, I wondered why they had a picture of Doctor Merriwaite charging up San Juan Hill. He liked to smoke a pipe, drink red whiskey in the evening, and he loved flowers. He always had them in the office for the inmates.

That evening, my father was bringing a few blooming stems to Doctor Merriwaite, white and pale-pink apple and deeper rosy quince, he had pruned from the orchard. He was assistant groundskeeper then, in his mid-twenties and unmarried. He did all the pruning of the trees and shrubs, and the keeping of the lawns and paths. He knew Doctor Merriwaite appreciated flowers, as he himself did, and often brought him what was in bloom. It was after sundown when he finished for the day, but he knew Doctor Merriwaite often stayed late, a bottle on the desk and a pipe in hand.

My father entered the big gray granite hospital building where Doctor Merriwaite’s office was. It was quiet and dim as he climbed to the second floor, the stone stairs worn down smooth in the center by fifty years of treading feet. Inmates in the infirmary ward were settled for the night and if not, their cries were heard, coming down muffled from the floor above. Some of the staff were at supper in the dining hall. Most had gone home for the day, leaving only a skeleton crew for night shift on the ward. He walked down the long empty hall toward the office. He could see light shining through the frosted pane of glass in the door creating a pale yellow square on the gray marble floor. Doctor Merriwaite was in. My father read the familiar name in reverse then noticed something else. There were other shadows in the square of light, movement, two shapes, a struggle. My father dropped the cuttings on the floor and silently turned the door handle. Opening the door a tiny crack he could see that a bottle lay overturned on the desk, whiskey darkening the blotter in a growing stain. Doctor Merriwaite’s gold wire-rim glasses lay crushed and bent on the carpet.

Then Doctor Merriwaite came spinning around the room in and out of the pools of light like a top. A dark figure behind him controlled his gyrations with one arm held tightly around his neck; its other hand held something to the doctor’s throat. As they revolved back to face my father he could see the doctor’s face straining and dark and then, a flash of green eye, the letter knife, pressing against his windpipe. A few drops of blood slid from the tip of the knife down the blade, blotted out the jade in the hilt, then pattered onto his white shirtfront. Again they turned clumsily away but my father stepped quietly up behind the inmate, because that is who he was, an inmate, a dangerous man when the mood was on him, as it often was, my mother said.

Now my father was not big or heavily muscled, but he was fairly tall for an Irishman and wiry-strong from hard work with his hands in and out of doors, so he quickly took hold of both of the man’s wrists, twisting them backward and up. The knife dropped silently onto the carpet. Then my father hit the inmate hard from behind dropping all his weight and force into the bend of the man’s knees. The inmate crumpled forward and fell like a heavy tree. My father held him pinned to the floor while Doctor Merriwaite stood above them gasping and holding his bleeding throat.

A few years later when my father was to leave Rosewood to get married and begin a new life and a new job as a painter with the Baltimore Transit Company, Doctor Merriwaite called him to his office. The doctor offered my father a cigar, which he declined, and a parting glass of whiskey, which he drained. My father had brought Doctor Merriwaite a last armful of jonquils, daffodils, and long-stem tulips that were in bloom.

“That was a fine thing you did for me that day Thomas,” said Doctor Merriwaite. “I’ll never forget it. You saved my life I’m sure.”

My father said something to the effect that any man would have done the same.

“I don’t know if that’s true,” said Doctor Merriwaite. “But I want you to know that while I can never repay you, if you ever find yourself in need of a position, you will always have one here, waiting for you, at Rosewood.” Then he offered my father his hand.

My father gave him the flowers, shook his hand, and honestly thanked him for his promise. As he left though, he hoped he would never have to return to Rosewood again.

I heard the truck downshift to a lower gear. I stood up and held on to one of the upright stakes and stretched over the side, straining forward, trying to see what was happening.

“There it is,” my father called. He pointed across my mother and Hitch to the left side of the road. Their heads rotated to follow the direction of his finger.

Set back off the road was a square, two-story house partially obscured by tall pines. Hitch turned the truck into the short, deeply rutted dirt drive and cut the engine. The doors creaked open and they all got out. I stood up on the tailgate, as they formed a line in front of the truck: Hitch with his work-gloved hands on his hips, my father tilting his dark head slowly from one side to the other, and my mother, with the cat basket still cradled in her arms. In a moment she dropped the basket. Dust let out a yowl from inside as my mother covered her face with her hands and sobbed.

My father patted her shoulder, “Now Ivy, it’s not all that bad.”

“Naw, not so bad, Missus,” Hitch chimed in. But I saw him scratch his head, then look at my father.

My father shook out his handkerchief and dabbed at my mother’s tears.

From where I stood I could see that in the long grass, Virginia creeper, and what looked like poison ivy, were everywhere. The yard was full of trash: old newspapers, rusty tins of half-eaten food, an enamel basin with no bottom, and a twisted clothes wringer lying on its side. The house had rickety, paint-peeling wooden steps that led up to a small porch. A thriving crop of goldenrod grew through a hole in one of the boards. The front screen door hung lopsided on one hinge, and a few of the windows were either cracked or broken out completely. But the first floor was built from dark-gray quarried stone and all the angles stood straight and true. The upper story had weathered, cedar shake shingles; a few were missing, but most were in good condition. The roof was sound black slate, and the ridgeline was straight as an arrow. There were big trees, pines and oak, growing close up and all the way around the house, as far as I could see.

“It’s true, the last tenant gave her some hard use, but just look at the lovely stone work,” my father was saying. “It will never cause us a day’s trouble and there’s a fine roof to keep out the rain. That doesn’t need touching. Those shingles will take the paint nicely and last a lifetime, longer than we will ourselves, Ivy.” He laughed and nudged her in the ribs.

My mother had stopped crying and tucked my father’s handkerchief into her coat sleeve. “Let’s go in,” she said evenly and stepped forward.

“There, that’s better, girl.” My father turned, grinned, and waved me down. “Come inside, Connaught, and see your new home.”

I put Coal on a rope lead and we jumped down from the truck bed to follow the three of them in through the plain, unlocked front door. I knew my father and Hitch had taken my mother through to see the kitchen, which would be at the back of the house, so I loosed Coal and started to explore.

It was a simple house. On the first floor a small dining room on the right, a small parlor on the left, a central hall, with the kitchen at the back, and a staircase to the upper floor at the front. As I looked into every room I saw the same thing, trash all over, like someone had been camping out there, paint and wallpaper peeling from the walls. All the floors were dark wood but worn and scarred. There was a dusty fireplace in the dining room, a wood stove in the parlor. I ran up the wide stairs, Coal bounding behind me, and paused at the top.

On the left there was a bathroom with a big claw foot tub stained and dark from iron. Down the narrow hall, at the front of the house there was a large bedroom I knew would be my parents’. At the back was a smaller room. I opened the scarred door slowly as it creaked on sagging hinges. I stepped inside and found a small black stone lying on the floor and a hole in the window that looked out on the back yard. I picked up the stone and walked to the window.

Off in the distance, past some fields, were several widely scattered big buildings. They looked a little like the few grand houses I’d see in Baltimore, but it was getting cool and a mist was starting to rise so I couldn’t really tell what they were. The yard itself was overgrown and not as big as the yard at the Pikesville house, but there was an old oak tree in the center and it was taller and broader than the cherry had been. It had a few low branches that would be perfect for a swing. Just beyond the barrier of pines at the back of the yard was a mown field. Farther away there appeared to be a worn straight path that stood out from the grass. I was wondering where it went when I realized that it was one side of a baseball diamond.

I dropped the little stone back through the hole in the window, ran downstairs through the front door around the side of the house and into the back yard, vaulting trash and abandoned junk all along the way. I circled the oak, then jumped up and grabbed a low branch and swung back and forth until momentum brought me to a slow stop. Coal pivoted around below me barking his head off. I dropped to the ground, ruffled his fur and walked with him to the back edge of the yard. There was an old fence there, but I could see part of the diamond clearly and if I stood on my toes, I could just see the wire mesh backstop.

I gave out a whoop and ran to the back-stoop door that led into a dusty spider-infested summer kitchen. My parents had finished touring the house and had returned to the main kitchen. I could hear them talking as I opened the door and went in.

“Not a spark of electricity,” my mother said.

“No, but there’s a good well and plenty of running water.” He turned on the tap and a weak stream of iron-stained water flowed out. He turned it off. “Look, Connaught and I will put it all to rights, Ivy. Won’t we?” he asked, turning to me.

“Sure Da. You’ll see, it will be lovely Mum, grand.” I nodded at her.

My mother was staring with a blank look on her face at the few cabinets that hung crazily on the dirty walls. She dragged a gloved fingertip through a layer of dust on a warped countertop and held it up.

“Now when have you ever been afraid of a little dirt, Ivy?”

“Ah, if only it was the dirt,” she said, “but then there is the other too, as you well know, Thomas.”

My father turned away and frowned. I went up to him and tugged at his coat.

“Da, I’ve found my room, in the back at the top of the stairs and there’s a baseball field out there.” I pointed to the back yard.

“Well have you, and is there? Did it slip my mind to tell you about that field, I wonder?” he said. A bit of a smile returned around the corners of his mouth.

My mother was unpinning her hat and unbuttoning her coat. Her red-gold hair glowed in the dingy room.

“Done is done,” she said as she stripped off one glove then the other. “If Connaught has found a room,” she said, smiling at me, “then we must make the best of it, and we might as well start now. Thomas, Hitch, unload the beds first, we’ll need a place to sleep tonight. Connaught, get the bedding.” She sighed. “I’ll see if I can get this place clean enough to fix a meal.”

It only took an hour or two to cart our belongings into the house. I carried the small things while my father and Hitch moved the heavy objects and furniture. My mother spent her time in the kitchen cleaning like a madwoman. We set the beds up but left everything else stacked in a big pile in the parlor until the whole house could be well cleaned and some repairs made. Hitch shook hands with my father and me, wished us well, and drove away.

I set up Coal and Dust’s house, fed them both, and staked Coal’s run nearby. I went inside to ask my mother if I could go for a short walk. It was still light, but since there was no electricity she had unpacked and lit two kerosene hurricane lamps, which stood on the table where she worked. She was slicing thick slabs of cold beef for sandwiches. Soda bread, butter, apples, and cold sweetened tea with milk sat on the table in a hamper she had brought with us from Pikesville. She stopped working for a moment and straightened up. She’d found an apron, tied it on and held the cutting knife loosely in her hand. She pushed a strand of hair back into the rosy cloud of it atop her head, pointing the knife at me.

“Don’t go far and be back in fifteen minutes to eat with your father. It’ll be a cold supper tonight. I don’t trust that stove until he cleans the chimney out and takes a look at it. At least we’ll have water to wash with tonight, even if it is cold.”

I barely heard her last words as I ran out the front door, jumped the front steps, and was down the short drive in a heartbeat. There was no one on the road in either direction as far as I could see. For no good reason, I decided to go left onto Garrison Forest Road. As I ambled along I felt oddly free and independent. I kicked at gravel with the toe of my worn shoes or threw stones to see how far they would go. The trees were thick on both sides of the road and there was a deep ditch on either side with shallow water in the bottom. Occasionally I could see through the trees on the left to the open fields where the baseball diamond had been. Birds flitted in and out of the trees, coming home to roost for the night, and a handful of crows sat in the top branches of one of the pines and jeered at me as I passed by.

I knew I had gone about as far as I could and needed to start back, when I saw a rough stone wall on the left. It led up to a sturdy, square, stone post and had a twin on the other side of a narrow lane paved in cinders. It was like an open gate and in the twilight I realized someone had walked onto that lane in front of me. He was standing only a stone’s throw away from me. There was some kind of sign behind him that I couldn’t read because his body was blocking most of it.

I took a few steps forward and I could see that he was taller than I was but I couldn’t decide if he was a youngish man or an old-looking boy. He wore heavy jeans cinched in hard at the waist by a belt that was too long for him and heavy, worn work boots. His blue work shirt was stuffed unevenly into his pants. On his left hand, he wore an old round catcher’s mitt, as big as a horse collar, and he held his large head at an odd angle over the glove. I could tell that one side of his head was slightly swollen, the skin looked thin and bluish, and that his hair grew sparse there.

He tossed the ball clumsily into the air only a few inches above the glove, and caught it several times, but then he threw it just a little higher and missed. I wondered how anyone could miss an easy catch like that with such an enormous glove. The ball hit the ground and rolled to a stop at my feet. I stooped to pick it up and he looked at me, but didn’t. It was hard to tell where his eyes were focused. I tossed the ball underhand, as light and true as I could, back toward him and I heard it snick in the pocket. He looked at me, and this time I could tell he was looking because he smiled a lopsided smile, but even as he did, the ball fell out of the glove onto the dirty cinders. He bent over to pick it up, then placed it carefully back in the pocket. He covered the ball with his other hand, as if it were an egg, and then, without a word, ambled away in the direction of the big buildings I had seen earlier. Now I could see the sign clearly and read it easily.


Paula Kane grew up in Ohio, but has lived mostly in the South as an adult. She has a background in art, and worked as a midwife and in public health. She started writing in 2001, through the Great Smokies Writing Program. She lives near Canton, North Carolina, in an old farmhouse near the woods.

About Pikesville to the Stone House—This piece is an excerpt from a longer work/novel in progress, with the working title of Tussie Red.