When I was born, my mum named me Forrest, because of General Nathan Bedford Forrest who fought in the Civil War. Mum always said we were kin[1] to General Forrest's family somehow.

 

And he was a great man, she said, except when he started up the Ku Klux Klan after the war was over. Even my grandma said they were no-goods. Which I would tend to agree with, because down here, the Grand Exalted Pishposh, or whatever he calls himself, operates a gun store in town. Once, when I was maybe twelve years old, I was walking by there and looking in the window. He got a big hangman's noose[2] inside. When he saw me watching, he put it around his own neck and jerk it up like he was hanged and let his tongue stick out. That scared me. I ran off and hid in a parking lot behind some cars till somebody call the police and they come and take me home to my mum. So whatever else old General Forrest did, starting up that Klan thing was not a good idea — any idiot could tell you that. Nonetheless, that's how I got my name.

 

My mum is a really fine person. Everybody says that. My daddy, he got killed just after I was born, so I’ve never known him. He worked in the docks as a longshoreman. One day a crane was taking a big net with bananas off one of the United Fruit Company boats, something broke and the bananas fell down on my daddy and squashed him flat as a pancake. Once I heard some men talking about the accident— they said it was a mess, half ton of all bananas and my daddy squished underneath. I don't care for bananas much, except for banana pudding. I like that.

My mum got a little pension from the United Fruit person, that’s why she rented some rooms at our house, so we got by[3] okay. When I was little, she kept me inside a lot.  So the other kids wouldn't bother me. In summer afternoons, when it was really hot, she used to put me down in the living room, drew the curtains, so it was dark and cool. Then she brought me a jug of lemonade. She'd set there and talk to me, just talk on about nothing in particular, like a person talks to a dog or cat, but I got used to it and liked it because her voice made me feel real safe an nice.

At first, when I was growing up, she'd let me go out and play with everybody, but then she found out they were teasing me. One day a boy hit me in the back with a stick while they were chasing me and it left a horrible scar. After that, she told me not to play with boys anymore. I tried to play with girls but that wasn't much better, because they all ran away from me.

My mum thought it would be good for me to go to the public school because maybe it would help me to be like everybody else. But after I had been there a little they came and told Mum that I shouldn’t be there with everybody else. They let me finish out first grade though.

 

[1] Kin - (of a person) related - related, close, connected with

[2] A noose - a loop with a running knot, tightening as the rope or wire is pulled and used to trap animals or hang people - coil, hoop, ring

[3] To get by -  to manage with difficulty to live or accomplish something - manage, cope, survive

Tell this story as if you were:

  • Forrest’s mother;

  • Children who he tried to play with;

  • Their roomer.