John drains his cup of chocolate and fills it to the brim with whiskey.
"My mama. She looked after me, fed me with a shot glass when I was a baby, learned to hold me only in certain ways, to help me eat and breathe. It was my mama who taught me diligence. She worked with me, teaching me to read, and teaching me to speak long long kind hours, with piano as a break. She was so patient, so encouraging, my mama. And as a baby
I learned to work on everything so hard I reached the point of unlikeliness. And by the time I was ten, I could talk properly. And she taught me yet, until I went to school. It was the war and there was no good school until I was fourteen. My mama gave me everything good that I am."
He looks up, something distressed and restless still after so long. He laces his fingers for a moment and rests his forehead on them, supported above his elbows on the table. It is not a characteristic gesture. But he looks up and recovers, repeating himself as if it is something he tells himself.
"My mama gave me everything good that I am. You know, I've only told one person about her, since. She made me books to teach me. She told me stories, sang me songs of long ago, long ago then and so long ago now. She taught piano, and back then, when there were no entertainments, that meant so much more. All the town would gather around my mama and we would sing. And she helped the poor people always, visited the sick, looked after everyone. She was so gracious and kind always, even to the very desperate people, and courteous. Especially them. Beggars and travellers. People who lived in shacks with no land."
He wipes his eyes. "She gave me God. When she died... When she died... She wrote me a letter - she was so careful and loved me so." John opens a leather folder in his inside pocket and takes out a piece of paper. The writing is faded, faintly brown and elaborate, the paper cracked with too much folding, and it has very old fingermarks and blots, and a few newer ones. The outside of it is worn, the writing gone altogether. It is, in fact, completely unreadable.
"I was angry and proud, and she wanted me to be good, to be... with God. My papa's church said there would be salvation for all who simply believed. But my mama had always held that one had to be good. To contemplate Jesus and sacrifice oneself for God. What one wants for what is best. My mama wanted me to be good and to be with God. And after that I went to her church instead, that she had to leave when she married my papa..." John's eyes blaze in old anger at that and his fists clench briefly even yet, but he swallows and continues. "My mama was... a Lady. Everything good. And everything good that I am, she gave to me. I suppose... I also inherited this curse of pulmonary weakness from her - her consumption. But everyone has burdens. When she died... I cared for her, in her illness. She kept all of us, so many of us those terrible war years. Oh, of course I was 'man of the house,' but it was she who kept us. She taught me so gently, to be good, and to Want
to be good. I just want her to be proud of me. When I see her again. My mama."
John wipes his red eyes and looks up. His whiskey is gone.Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 640
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Nulli Virtute Secundus