The Box
Mark Tate

I didn't know my father well. He died in 1905 from emphysema. Mother stayed in the house a few years, and then went to live in Glendale with her sister Dorothy. As soon as they could, my brothers and sisters moved to the four corners of the nation. I moved to New York to take my first job as a copyboy at The Post. Mom wanted nothing to do with New York. When she died in October, she left me the small two-bedroom house on one acre near Plano, Texas.

I found their bible in a box wrapped in dust in the attic. Folded into the back of the bible was a yellowed page listing the names of our family's sons who fought in the Confederate Army. After forty-four years, the paper was brittle and I opened it slowly. At the bottom of the list were my uncle's names, Lee and Duane.

When I studied history in school, I had asked my father about our family in the war. "My older brothers went to war. I never saw them again," was about all I could get out of him. After questions, he was very quiet.

At the bottom of the box lay another folded paper. A brief, faded entry: It was said they were escapees of the penal colony, the two of them chained together, tracked along the river by northern soldiers. . . buried in the same grave. . . a cross, no names. . .

First published: February, 2004