Eamon and Alistair (A Tragedy in Alphabetical Parts)

Alistair Abelforce was extremely proud of her Christian name, Alistair, though it rightly belonged to a boy, and not to a girl such as herself, who was, in fact, more fitting of a name like Annabelle, or perhaps Anna-Louise.

Born underneath a crooked willow tree to a mother who sought to begin a life within the mess of nature, Alistair experienced her first tragedy early, when her mother fell asleep after having given birth and never woke up, probably due to exposure, which really isn’t a bad way to go, or so the science books say.

Contrary to what most northern folk believe, the United State of Alistair’s birth – that state being Alabama – is not overrun with Confederate guerillas and hill-billies, but is actually quite civilized in some parts, including, but not limited to, the area near Alistair’s willow tree and her mother’s slumped corpse.

Destiny would have it that scarcely three hours after Alistair’s mother had lost consciousness a traveling toy salesman cam a-put-putting down the nearby winding road in his truck, which was badly in need of a new muffler, and would have moved faster if drawn by horses.

Eamon Abelforce was the salesman’s name, though he was not Irish, but liked to think he was, and so, in an attempt to uphold a vicious stereotype, willingly assumed a drinking habit, which was precisely the reason for his inebriation at that very moment.

Foggy of eye but good of ear, Eamon was able to hear the gurgles and coos of lonely little Alistair, awaiting her death underneath the crooked willow tree.

Good as man he was, Eamon knew that leaving the babe to the shifty Alabama spirit was out of the question, so he stopped his truck with three pumps of the brake pedal, hopped out, and stumbled over to where mother and child lay, such a tragic sight it was.

He’d never actually been close to a babe before, Eamon, at least not in his adult life, and the added factor of his drunkenness did nothing beneficial to his initial meeting with little Alistair, so it’s really no surprise that as he held her, like some sort of alien artifact, he mistook her for a boy, naming her Alistair on the spot, after his grandfather, long-deceased, who’d been half-Cherokee and, while alive, had allowed Eamon to work on his farm as a boy – the memories of those times being some of the best that Eamon possessed.

Incidentally, Eamon was rather a paranoid fellow, this particular characteristic a result to his shameful drinking.

Just as Eamon was about to return to his truck with his squirming bunch of curiosity, he noticed Alistair’s mother, as if for the first time, and realized to a passerby he would at that moment appear as a wrong-doer of the worst extraction, for a drunken man with a dead woman at his feet didn’t make for a pretty picture, except perhaps to an electric chair, which was always hungry for such scenes.

Kind and gentle as he could, Eamon committed the body of Alistair’s mother to the black earth, having dug a hole beside the crooked willow with ten toy shovels taken from the back of his truck – ten of them having been used because they were toys and kept breaking, one after another, courtesy of the Alabama soil.

Leaving that place with a mix of confusion and happiness in his heart, Eamon climbed into his truck with the babe, but did not drive, for he was not safe with so much booze bubbling inside him, and he had to now consider that he was in charge of two instead of one.

Many hours passed, and soon Eamon was straight enough to drive, so drive he did, down the winding Alabama road, towards a sun that set far too quickly, and left a night rife with uncertainty.

Never separated for a day, together Eamon and the babe stayed out on the road going from house to house selling toys, ‘til the babe was no longer a babe, but a toddler dear, and then a young girl who could appreciate the uniqueness of her name.

Outside of Eamon she didn’t talk to other people much, so nobody could tell her that Alistair was a name meant for a boy, but it wouldn’t have mattered any if somebody had, for Alistair’s attention was devoted to something else entirely, specifically a toy.

Plastic ponies and paper parasols interested Alistair none, though in his truck Eamon carried plenty.

Quite the opposite was Alistair’s interest, in fact, it being a jack-in-the-box, of which Eamon only had one, and one he could never sell, but that was all right, for try as he might he couldn’t make his adopted daughter like anything else.

Ribbon-clad little clown popped from its home when tune had cranked enough, though what Alistair couldn’t understand was what the clown did when it hid ‘neath the lid, with no light and no air; nothing to do besides lay scrunched and wait for freedom – a very important thing, most definitely, but disguised as play it was, and this puzzled Alistair greatly, but she was only a little girl after all.

There seemed no other possibility than that of a fantastical paradise kept ‘twixt the four walls of the toy, in which the clown stayed, perfectly sane and happy.

Understandably, such a thing could not be seen when the lid was open, which was quite the frustration for Alistair, for it she certainly wanted to see, and could only manage to live a distracted life if her absurd wish remained denied.

Very much the determined scamp, Alistair decided to grab her dream by its nanny-goat beard and drag it down and through the earth until it became a reality: six abandoned mattresses found in one of Alabama’s infamous landfills; three buckets of paint to decorate the thing, courtesy of Eamon, of course; one able-bodied man (Eamon again) to assist in the construction, wielding tools a child could never wield effectively, so that a gigantic jack-in-the-box might be built, or rather a stable for an imaginary pony, for that was the little fib little Alistair told to get what she wanted and keep it a secret all at once.

Whilst resting after a light day of work on one Wednesday evening, Eamon decided to build the box; his hands no longer quivered to the tune of drink, and his eyes were no longer dulled to a miserable blur, so he was able to recognize a crooked willow, very similar to that which had observed Alistair’s slimy entrance, as the perfect place for this box, and indeed it was, for Eamon held the belief, as told by his beloved grandfather, that ponies (especially those of the imaginary variety) were attracted to willow trees for reasons no human could explain; the box was built without trouble, for it really wasn’t a very difficult task, at least not for Eamon, who’d been made hard and physically competent from years on the road selling toys.

Xylophone music, trapped on a dusty tape, would call Alistair from her gaily-coloured cube hold, for it sounded very much like jack-in-the-box music, and she would undoubtedly need it, for she’d snuck into the box later that same night, prepared to enjoy the fantasy paradise afforded only to jack-in-the-box residents.

Young children, unfortunately, are often forgetful, and poor Alistair, who’d brought a tape player with her into the box, forgot the tape in the truck, where it lay underneath a sizeable collection of Irish fiddle music; no xylophone melody was ever played, no fantasy world was to be seen, and Eamon, who hadn’t a clue as to where his adopted daughter had gone, searched the Alabama hills in vain while the charge of his heart slowly suffocated, alone and hot she was.

Zero tolerance is reserved for child murderers, especially in those southern states, especially in Alabama, so it’s no surprise that when the authorities eventually found the mattress cube, and the shriveled body inside, they immediately connected the tragedy to Eamon’s truck, parked very near to the crooked willow tree, and abandoned in Eamon’s panic; the electric chair enjoyed this scene very much, for it meant a new seat on its tongue, and so that’s where Eamon ended up, but he endured it all like a man, as a man should, because he’d quit drinking.


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