Roger Pinckney’s Bedside Table

The bed faces sunrise and the sea. On one side is a table for a left handed man. It’s of heart pine timber, local longleaf, gone now from our island woods. Cut down, hauled to the river, rafted up and towed away by huffing steam tugs long before I was born. Shipmast yellow pines remain. Eighty feet tall, they whistle sad secrets of sea breeze while their shadows mark the passing of our days.

There are books on that table and a single drawer beneath them. The march of books marks my days too: Seven Centuries of Verse, All the Pretty Horses, Walden, A Sand County Almanac, The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, and a biography of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who never lost a cavalry fight. But the top book remains the same, The King James Version. I’m continuously inspired by the Old Testament’s thunderous poetry, and I hold the Gospel in my heart as a vision of hope in a badly broken world.

And beneath the books, in the single drawer atop my socks and my great-great grandfather’s Mexican War medals, is a big-ass pistol, which I took to sleeping with several years ago, when I led a raggedy band of locals into federal court to challenge plans for a high rise condo along the beach. It’s a deadly weapon, yes, but a lot less dangerous than the books I read.