Chapter Seven

When they’d all eaten, Susan Arnoldy clapped her hands long enough to get everyone’s attention to start charades. They played until the grand finale, which was Mr. Cannon’s much perfected parody of Samuel Bolton’s demonstration of a thinned turkey crop, helium-filled and set loose to sail to the ceiling. As familiar as both the demonstration and imitation were to everybody in New Harmony, Mr. Cannon’s turkey performance was still so uncanny that gales of laughter swept the room, and there was more laughter when John’s father said it looked as if, this time, the turkey had gotten goosed. Afterwards, Mary and her friends did their shadow play, and there was more eating and more singing, and Mr. Cannon, still flushed from his charades success, played the fiddle with John’s father. The little girls danced and whirled until they fell in a sleepy heap on the rug. The boys went outside to climb trees in the dark. John, listening to their shouts, knew that the party would go on much longer. There would be popcorn and apple bobbing and ghost stories, but he was leaving early in the morning, and so he got up and went around the room to make his thanks and farewells.

He was almost at the door with his parents and Kate when Levi’s father stopped him. “If you can wait a second, I’ve got something to show you,” he said. He went to the coat tree and fished in his pocket. Then, with Mr. Wilsey’s help, he moved a lamp down to the table and opened a homemade map. “I’ve been there often, John,” he said pointing, “here where you’re going to General Grant’s army. It’s just Tennessee land and a few houses near the river bank. There’s a log church over here that’s small and not marked. I’ve been there too. I’ll be damned, though, if I can remember the name. It means something like peace. Something like the place of peace.”

John nodded his thanks. He took the folded up map Mr. Thrailkill pressed on him, and he’d gone out the door behind his mother, whose thick hair sheened glinty-gray and lovely no matter what the light, and he was gazing up at the wide band of stars that stretched clear across the sky and all the way to Tennessee when he heard Mr. Thrailkill calling after him.

“I’ve got it, John,” he said. “The name of that church is Shiloh.”


Permanent link to this article: