Twice Born A Vagabond
A Novel [Copr. 2008]
By D. DeWitt Thomas
Rawley Ferron is an interesting character. If I try to help him then he treats me like an idiot. He takes advantage of me at every opportunity and that's why I love him because if I didn't I am sure that nobody else would. Rawley is one who personifies good intentions gone awry. Being one who thinks more spontaneously, like Rawley does, he usually maintains the art of instinctive and intuitive decision making, a skill that most of us have sacrificed on the alter of false pretense and pre-fabricated Orwellian group-think notions. Am I on time? Am I early or late? Am I ok? Are you or not? According to what standard? Rawley invents great schemes that never seem to materialize. I would guess you would say he is a dreamer. Rawley is a do-er, but not for them, the watchers, though he tries to stay busy because he doesn't want them to know what he is doing.
Rawley and I were born in a small town on the edge of the woods on the Catawba River in the piedmont Carolinas. Our role models are mostly Pentecostal preachers, bass fishermen, banjo pickers, and bankers. Rawley was the third and unexpected child of a father, Zachariah, who from the day Rawley was born, felt as though he had been put upon with the greatest of all inconveniences. On the surface, Zach, Rawley's father, was a kind and generous person, but in truth, underneath the surface, he was a person of the sort who always expected...no demanded that things to go "his way".
He was a perfectionist who expected perfection from everyone around him including Rawley.
"Stop being silly, Rawley," said the housekeeper as he marched through the kitchen, dining room, and toward the stairs where the Negro in her service closet was busy polishing the sterling silver always on Thursdays. Then Rawley marched up the stairs banging and clanging pot lids together that he had taken from the drawer under the stove. The loud music boomed from the radio. He stomped his feet at every step then he commanded the parade back toward the kitchen where he grabbed an apple and as he was chomping and stomping up the steps again his mother shouted, "I hate it when you do that! It gives me one of my migrain headaches. Stop it, right now, I mean it." She called for the maid as she reached for the cut crystal bell beside her bed and rang it as she shouted, "I am getting another one of my migrain headaches, bring me my pills." She shouted for Rawley's father. "Zach, where are my pills?," She yelled again to the maid downstairs but this time Zach shouted back from the porch where he was reading the morning paper before leaving for work at the hospital, "You must have taken them already. I will get another bottle from the hospital pharmacy today at work if you still have any refills left on your prescription." Rawley, feeling that he had sufficiently disturbed everyone enough, quit banging, singing, marching, and dancing and prepared to meet the school bus. He heard his mother say, "Don't forget your overshoes and hurry or you will be late for the school bus and remember, come straight home from school today because you have to practise your piano lessons for tomorrow.", she prompted, "and don't forget tomorrow is Saturday when you have your horseback riding lessons."
Rawley climbed onto the bus and took his seat next to me. As he sat down, his eyes began to water and his face was flushed and swelled. "That bastard." sobbed Raleigh. "Why do you let them keep treating you like that?" I asked. "No matter what you do, it's never good enough." I continued. The driver turned to look to make sure everyone was in their seats on the old rusty yellow school bus as he slowly pressed down on the gas pedal and pulled onto the road. "Are you going to let them control you for the rest of your life?" I asked. "Are you going to let them keep treating you like a puppet?" He did't answer and stared out of the window.
Rawley's mother came from a long line of Southern cotton planters dating back to colonial times. Her family was well placed in the community and owned nineteen cotton seed oil gins. Rawley's father was considered with high esteem and it was a feather in his cap to be married into her family along with a degree from Duke University. He was financially successful and treated well as a result of being well placed as the Administrator of the local hospital through the connection with her family. Both of Rawley's older brothers had conformed to their father's expectations of perfection in sports, academics, and society but Rawley's just didn't match up.
He squirmed in his seat next to me on the bus as we arrived at school. Rawley was similar in some ways to his father's personality in that he was a skilled manipulator. It was hard to tell if he was sincerely upset or if he just wanted pity because he felt sorry for himself. He continued sobbing.
"Why do you think he is sending you eight-hundred miles away to military school?" I prodded. With his bottom lip protruding, he answered, "Because at Culver Military Academy, I will become a refined, educated, and polished young gentleman," he said, "where I will be instilled with morals and ethics and will become self disciplined."
"No!", I shouted, "he is sending you there to get rid of you because you are in the way." Shocked by this response, Rawley asked, "In the way of what?" "In the way of his career, his success, his position in life. He's got his eyes set on great things for the future and you are not a part of it."
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