Humor Non-Fiction posted February 5, 2018

This work has reached the exceptional level
A recollection of a visit by an uncle and aunt

A Lion in the Hallway

by Henry King

Not long after World War II rationing had ended, an uncle and aunt visited my family in El Paso. They lived on a dry land farm outside of Big Spring. The farm had no running water. A tank was filled by a squeaking, grease-starved windmill. A two-hole outhouse stank, down the hill and fifty yards away from the house. A Sears and Roebuck catalog was snagged on a hook for personal cleanliness and hygiene. There was electricity. I don't recall what type of fuel was used to cook or heat.

Two milk cows and a mule swatted flies with their tails in the corral attached to the barn. A flock of chickens and several black and white speckled Guinea hens scratched and pecked around the barn, corral and coop.

The money crops were short staple cotton and sorghum. Alfalfa was the rotation crop. My aunt grew okra, beans and peas along the fence row. She maintained a kitchen garden that held tomatoes, squash, corn, potatoes and turnips in neat beds. The garden had to be guarded from being overrun by the chickens and cows.

My uncle rolled his own cigarettes with what most people called PA, Prince Albert. I believe my aunt sniffed snuff. She would put her hand in her apron pocket, move her little finger to her nose and sniff. She didn't dip, because there was no telltale stain at the corner of her mouth. Both had stained teeth. I thought it was from them using tobacco. Later I learned the stains were caused by fluoride and iron suspended in the water they drank.

Uncle wore bib overalls. Auntie sewed her own dresses. The dress material looked similar to the material used in the bags of flour sold at the grocery store. My mom used the bags for dish towels.

Our visitors arrived Friday. They moved into my sisters' room, at the end of the hall across from the bathroom. The two youngest girls moved into my mom's and dad's room across the hall from me. My oldest sister, two years younger than I, moved in with me. A hall to the kitchen separated my room from the bathroom.

Early Saturday morning my sister woke me whispering, "I have to go to the bathroom but there is a lion in the hallway."

The roaring scared me. Now, I understood why she was whispering. She didn't want to get the lion's attention. The roars were as loud as that of the lions during feeding time at Washington Park Zoo.

Why, I wondered, haven't my mom or dad heard it? Maybe, the lion ate them?

Carefully, trying not to make too much noise, I crawled out the window to knock on my parent's window. There was no response. The roaring sounded like it came from their bedroom. It was so loud, they had to be dead.

Back in my bedroom, my sister was trying to quietly move the bed to block the door. I helped move the bed and whispered to her, "We have to call the police."

"We can't get to the phone. The lion is in the kitchen. Can't you hear it?"

I could hear the cabinet doors rattling. I thought the lion was still hungry and looking for something else to eat.

It was too early for the store to be open across the street. The milkman hadn't arrived, and the neighbors were still asleep.

All of the sudden, like a ray of sunshine breaking through stormy skies, from the kitchen, "Coffee's ready!" My mom's voice.

The lion's roars dampened to snuffles and snorts.

Pushing the bed away from the door my sister and I ran into the kitchen to hug mom. There was dad, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. Apparently, the roaring woke them earlier than it did my sister.

The lion's roars were my uncle and aunt snoring in tandem. My sister and I had never before heard anyone snore.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


I thank Raoul D'Harmental for offering the glorious picture of a lion roaring. It fits perfectly with my story.

This is one of my coming-of-age and family description stories I am putting in a book to my, currently, sixteen great grandchildren. I have submitted it for publication consideration to Chrysalis, Literary Arts Journal, El Paso Community College, El Paso, Texas.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Raoul D'Harmental at

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© Copyright 2018. Henry King All rights reserved.
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