“We’re gonna teach the angels how to fly.” So uttered June Montgomery one second before she died in a car crash at the end of the book, “CigarBox.” There was some literary license taken in that book. Through all the edits over the years, the final version is vastly different from the first draft, but there is a back story within the pages that has remained constant, and a central character who was a real person, silently growing up in the shadow of events swirling around him. The truth behind CigarBox boiled down to a simple ring, and a little boy who never forgot.
In the late nineties a young woman, her three-year-old son, and two girlfriends were racing across Jonesboro, Arkansas to a Christmas party. They apparently ran through a stop sign, crossing into the path of an SUV, which slammed into the side of their small car, killing the mother, one of her friends, and pitching the baby out through a side window, skidding him across the highway, bouncing him off a chain link fence, finally depositing in a field with two broken legs. The car spun and objects within it flew out into the road. One particular object was a cigar box, resting on the seat. Inside were pictures, letters, and then there was a ring. The first responders gathered up as much as they could, removed the dead, and the cigar box.
His parents were divorced. His father was staying with us in Texas. It was a bitter divorce; with all the frills you’d expect on “Dallas.” We got the call at noon, during Christmas dinner. The information was confused, and we were sure little Michael was dead, as was his mother. I stayed back in Texas to maintain the house, but everyone else rushed to Arkansas. When they got there the doctors told them that the baby, while being scraped up a bit, and with two broken legs, was going to be fine. There was no logical explanation as to how he got out of the car during the impact. The doctors said he just flew across that highway like Mighty Mouse. The baby became known as “Mighty.” Mighty came home to Texas, as did the cigar box.
Mighty’s dad became a police officer. He tried to join the Marines, but a bad ear kept him out. Later he would go to the Middle East to fight terrorists as a private contractor. He could hear terrorists just fine with his right ear. We raised Mighty in the big house at Berry Creek. He walked slightly bow legged, due to his injuries, and he loved to eat. In later years it was hard to get that boy up for school, and if you didn’t stay right on him he’d miss that bus every time. On the shelf of the study sat the cigar box. Our family was Catholic. In the second year of my marriage to Mighty’s grandmother I had become Catholic. I wanted the four boys we were raising to have a good moral structure, and I found that attending Mass provided for that need. My boys fell right into the flow of the church. They had Father Everette, and all the people there, and Sunday was actually fun. My wife was divorced from Mighty’s grandfather in Arkansas, and the family was filled with hate. I had two boys, and she had two, and there was much animosity between them, animosity that remains until this day, but Mighty didn’t know about all that.
Years and tears went by, my wife’s son Bobby died, my son Timmy turned to drugs and went to prison, Wilbur did well in the Navy, but he lived in California so we rarely saw him, and Michael went over to Afghanistan to find Bin Laden. A girl named Jackie came and went, and there were five new little guys, but in spite of Jackie’s story there was another one, one we didn’t talk about, and on the shelf, in the study, was the cigar box. And so it came to pass, between my wife’s heart attack, and Jackie’s legal problems the family was torn apart. The house in Berry Creek was reduced to “empty chairs.” But, Little Mighty grew. We hardly noticed little Mighty quietly growing up, not attracting much attention to himself. He loved to run up to the Country Club where there was a concession stand that served burgers outside, and Mighty had an open account. I had been very strong in my faith, but after all that happened I fell away. I still believed in God, but all the trappings of the Church were not as important to me anymore. I never questioned what had happened, I just adjusted and went on. I grew very used to being alone. Women can have emotional problems, men are not afforded that luxury.
Mighty eventually moved into his father’s new house about sixty miles away. While his dad worked his job overseas, he lived with his dad’s girlfriend. I don’t know her, but I understand the anger of the years has rested on he Her now, so the animosity lives on. Mighty began to go to the Church. Then, quietly, he began to take his classes. Then, he brought the family together to witness his confirmation. They all stopped and watched as Mighty made his mark on the family. During that ceremony, he showed my now ex-wife a ring. I wasn’t there. I’m very distant from the family now, and haven’t been to church in years. The hate finally won, and my thirty years of marriage dissolved like cotton candy. The ring he showed her was a simple thing. A little silver thing with a cross on it. He told her, “Grandpa gave me this when I was a little boy. I saved it for this day.” Then, he slipped it onto his finger. I didn’t tell him where that ring came from. During the confusion of that awful Christmas I opened the cigar box on my desk. Inside were simple things. A lock of hair, a child’s drawing, and a little silver ring. I had never seen it before, but I kept it in a desk drawer until the boy was old enough to keep up with it because I suspected that someone else had worn it on that eventful day so long ago in Arkansas.
Mighty recently completed his USMC basic, and went to his assignment with the Corps. On his finger was a little silver ring with a cross on it. A gift from his mother, before she taught the angels how to fly. And, Mighty’s gift to me, from a little boy who never forgot. The cigar box has long ago been lost, but no matter. “June Montgomery” made her mark.