I didn’t find out what Matt had done until some time after he had done it. But the story has stuck with me. I’m sharing it with you, dear reader, because it’s lovely.
We moved into the house on Julia Street in the summer of 1976. I was five years old. My brother, Matt, was three. Our family had driven from Tennessee to the Mississippi Coast to make our home in Bay St. Louis, where our Daddy had been called to start a church. The house we were renting was just three houses down from the bay. It was a wood-frame single story house with a screened-in porch on the front.
As the grown-ups moved furniture out of a moving van and into the house, we children played outside. The yard was mostly dirt and sand from what I can remember. So in the August heat and humidity, it didn’t take long for us to get dirty and sweaty. I remember my brother’s wet head. I remember the dripping sweat drip drawing lines down the sides of his face.
Next door to our house was another wood-frame house that looked like ours. A friendly, older couple lived in it. Our parents knew the neighbors but Matt had never seen them before.
Maybe Matt didn’t know which house was ours. Maybe he didn’t care. But what my dirty and sweaty three-year-old brother did know was that he needed a drink of water.
And he wasn’t too grown up or too proud or too particular to ask for it.
My thirsty little brother climbed the steps to the neighbors’ porch, opened the screen door and kept walking, through their living room and into their kitchen, where he stopped. Looking up into the face of the lady next door, he asked, “Can I have a drink of water?”
She filled a glass and gave him a drink. She welcomed that child. She welcomed the Lord.
April Pickle lives under a green roof with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and teaches journalism and literature at a university-model high school. One cold day, when April was in the fourth grade, she closed the car door on her winter coat and, unbeknownst to her or her father, prevented the door from latching all the way. Half a mile down the road, her daddy turned a corner, the door flew open, and she fell out. Thanks to the thickness of the coat, she was unharmed.