Perhaps He'll Someday Chair a Few Committees after All

By Horton, D. Seth | Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Perhaps He'll Someday Chair a Few Committees after All


Horton, D. Seth, Pennsylvania Literary Journal


(James Knox Polk)

Throughout the fall of 1812, Mr. Samuel Polk did what he had always done with his farms: terrorized slaves and made money. The surrounding woods offered a certain degree of hardness, and the plan (formed years ago upon arrival in Tennessee) was to push his family as far as the future would take them. His favorite direction was forward.

Once the harvest had run its course, he told his son that it was time to pass some grit onto the next generation. This was his way of talking about the upcoming surgery without talking about the upcoming surgery.

Despite the danger hardening up his insides, young James was eager to please. Secretly, he expected his body to quit living for him soon. Briars had always found a way to burrow deep into his skin. A sickly and unpopular boy, he could have served as a model for what psychologists would later term the insecurity principle.

Mrs. Polk wiped away the tears from her son's eyes with a coat stained in just the right places. Believing in that which couldn't be tested, she had recently discovered that self-administered haircuts were not a good idea. In her defense, nobody looked good out on the frontier. She waved goodbye to them both, thereby breaking whatever kind of contract she had initially agreed to with her husband.

En route, Mr. Polk pointed out to his increasingly dour son how every single tree swayed with great interest. They threw scraps of biscuit at the orphans on the sides of the road. It was cold and getting colder, and in another month or two their frowns would be frozen permanently across their faces, which is how the hours got strung up and around together. James's chewed lips were a lesson in the unintended costs that arise with the use of inferior substitutes.

From an exterior point-of-view, Doctor McDowell was no expert in interior design. The sheriff had even fined him recently for a failure to maintain basic aesthetic standards. …

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