It seems like something of a milestone, not that I have so much to say but rather I have stayed somewhat persistent and sharing my insanity with the world and nobody has broke out the pitchforks yet. Even more surprisingly I have had people consistently drop by and talk with me and share their thoughts and good will, which I find even more amazing.
So I will throw up a short story I wrote a while ago. No it isn’t Violence Breeds Violence, Repression Breeds Retaliation, it is a much shorter story. I wrote this in honor of my grandparents that have passed, this is my little homage to them. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for tuning in.
Lament of Vicksburg
The sun was going down and a glove of temperate colors filled the sky as they slowly faded into night. The nasty swamp heat filled every southern state with mosquitoes and Mississippi was certainly no exception. The Mississippi River birthed mosquitoes so big they could be the state bird. The locals of Vicksburg paid no mind to the nasty devils though. They just took the heat and the flying suckers in stride; after all, it was just another summer day coming to an end and the night beginning.
A landslide of coughing and obscenities filtered into the air. “Missy, bring me the medicine already will ya,” moaned a voice in between fits of rage and helplessness.
“I don’t appreciate your tone,” said a matter-of-fact voice from the kitchen.
“Ya don’t hear me coughing in here, what is the matter with ya? I think I’m dying and you‘re in there fixin Thanksgiving dinner. Are ya trying to kill me, “croaked Butch as he suffered another coughing spell.
“You’re lucky I married you. If I knew back then I’d be spending the rest of my life taking care of your sorry hide, I would have married that farmer boy down the street from daddy’s,” Missy said, entering the bedroom.
“I ain’t going to a doctor,” Butch said, ignoring Missy’s comment about their marriage. “They ain’t no different now than they were in the war,” Butch snarled as he took the medicine from Missy’s hand. “I got shrapnel in my back from one of those German tater masher grenades. The medic said –.“
“Well that is your own fault, you should have gone to a doctor right away instead of waiting ‘til you got home like an idiot. That grenade must have damaged your senses, because you have got to be dumber than a bag of hammers to have not gone right away. Now those shards are stuck in your back,” Missy said in an accusing voice. “What if one of those shards has finally made it into your lungs Butch? You ain’t young anymore, and I ain’t taking any chances.”
Butch started to cough again and failed to suppress it.
Missy put her hand on her hip and glared at Butch, a position and look every wife comes stock with. “Your cough is getting worse. Tomorrow you’re going to the doctor, end of story.”
“I ain’t going to no doctor, just keep giving me that medicine and I’ll get through it,” Butch ignited into another coughing episode.
“I’ve never heard your cough so bad. The medicine is almost gone anyhow; I only had a little left over from last time I was sick. This isn’t up to you anymore.”
“I ain’t going to no doc-.“
“Lie down and get some sleep, I’m tired of your coughing, and I’m taking you to the doctor tomorrow. We ain’t waiting ‘til it is too late,” Missy said in a very stern voice. “You would do well with some sleep, so lie down and shut up!”
Butch knew he had lost the fight, not only from fifty years of marriage but also because he was too tired and weak. He mumbled something and got comfortable. Sleep was circling his body like a vulture, and he couldn’t fight it much longer.
Missy pulled the sheets up to his shoulders and laid her hand on his cheek. “The Lawrence Welk Show is coming on; holler if you need me” she said, and turned off the light on her way out.
Butch smiled when she left the room. Even in her old age, she still had fight left in her. Her touch was enough to give him comfort, even when he didn’t want it. He sidled into the bed a little more and embraced the welcoming arms of sleep with a big grin. He knew he had married the right woman.
Missy entered the living room and turned on the television as she walked to the couch. She sat down and flipped it to the weather channel. “As the warm front moves in, we can expect to see the high around 103 degrees tomorrow. So if you have any plans outside, make sure you drink plenty of water and stay in the shade. In fact all week we are going-.” Missy cut the weather man off and changed the channel to The Lawrence Welk Show.
Even with the glow of musical nostalgia filling the room, Missy didn’t pay attention to the television. She stared out the window, her mind was on her husband. Fear gripped her, and she worried deeply about him. It upset her that even with Butch sick, she was still acting ugly to him. She knew she could be pushy and mean at times, but she did love him. She wanted to run into the bedroom to squeeze him and tell Butch that she loved him, but he was asleep. Missy continued to stare out the window in deep concern. It was silly to think, but it was always at the back of her mind, hiding in the dark. Life was starting to take more from her then it gave, but she knew it was death that they came for. She had seen them only once before when she was younger.
Missy remembered when she and Butch first moved to Vicklan Street. Their next-door neighbors, The Donalds, had a little girl about eight years old, named Abigail. A few months into Missy and Butch’s new life, Abigail had taken ill. Her parents gave her medicine and weren’t to concerned because children were always sick with something. Poor little Abigail didn’t get any better, her weak body had fought with all it could muster but nothing changed. It got so bad that when her cough became deep and strained, she started to up-chuck blood and break into cold sweats. Nobody said it, but everyone knew what that meant, the whooping cough was going to take another young soul.
The doctors said there wasn’t anything they could do for her besides help with the pain. Mr. and Mrs. Donald dealt with their breaking hearts differently. Mr. Donald spent most his time in the garage piddling around, while Mrs. Donald was always next to Abigail’s bed in case she needed something. They started fighting a lot and yelling at each other for silly things that anyone passing by the house could hear. The neighborhood helped around the Donald’s house, taking turns fixing them supper and bringing them fresh laundry. Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Donald stopped talking to each other.
One day Mr. Donald was outside tinkering with the car, and a couple of the neighborhood wives were inside gabbing away trying to help out with dinner. That’s when Mr. Donald ran inside hollering. “THEY’RE COMING! PLEASE FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD HIDE MY BABY!” Missy thought he was just having another episode, but he ran into Abigail’s bedroom and slammed the door. She could hear the sound of furniture being moved.
Mr. Donald had lost his darn mind, Missy thought. Next thing she knew, everybody around her started making a huge fuss and locking windows and doors. Somebody pointed and shouted, “THEY’RE HERE!” Missy was left standing by the dinner table wondering why everybody was jumpier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
She started towards the window to have a look for herself when she was pulled back by a couple of the women. “What is wrong with ya’ll? “ Missy screeched. Have ya’ll lost your mi-,” Missy saw two old, leathery men, one white and one black, move past the window and onto the porch. The way everybody was acting she waited for the door to burst open, but all that she heard was the twine of a guitar being put into tune. “All right, that’s enough, ya’ll had me really scared.” Missy tried to break free of the bad joke, but they held on tight.
“What in the worl-“when a graveled voice in song cut her off. The air was filled with what sounded like old-timey blues music. The song wrapped around her, as if she had heard it before. The song was like a story of their lives:
Things are hard, no matter where you go
People can’t find a heaven, they just walk door to door
It is bad enough dancing above the grave
Folks ain’t got nothing for you, there is nothing to pay
So keep the heart warm and your soul it will soon save
As they continued to sing, the crying in the bedroom got louder and louder. Some of the women around Missy had started to cry. She watched in awe as the singing stopped, and everybody around her started to spread out away from the bedroom door. Everyone waited in silence as Missy waited in confusion.
She looked out the window but saw no one. She turned to ask what had happened and where the singers went, but the bedroom door opened, and out came Mr. Donald. His face was red and tears were running down his cheeks. Nobody said anything, but everybody knew what had come to pass, except Missy. Missy managed to creak out a “Wha-“when Mr. Donald said it. With a flat lifeless voice he said, “My baby is gone.”
Nobody knows where they come from or where they go after they have finished their songs. Only one thing is known: they only sing when somebody is about to die. Maybe they were angels sent to ease the suffering of the dying, or maybe they were demons sent to swallow up the innocent, no one really knows.
The television seemed louder than before as it brought Missy back to reality with Myron Floren going to town on his accordion. I’m overreacting, she thought, he is just sick. He has been down before, why am I worried now? It was years ago, I haven’t seen them since. Death still pulled on her heart so she decided to focus on all the good things in her life. She thought about her wedding day, her daughters, her grandchildren, her friends, Butch, and all the joys that a full life had blessed her with.
Missy watched the rest of The Lawrence Welk Show and tried to forget where her wondering mind was pulling her. When she couldn’t stand it any longer, she went and laid down next to Butch. Mildly amused by his snoring she couldn’t help but smile. With a new sense of elation, she relaxed and felt deep down in her soul that nothing was going to happen to Butch tonight. After some time, she yawned and felt sleep’s embrace upon her, she got beneath the covers and welcomed her dream’s embrace.
Butch awoke feeling weight in the bed, he knew without thinking Missy was in the bed too. After years of marriage, this had become a matter of fact. With a stretch and a mild obscenity, Butch moved his legs over the edge of the bed. In the wake and silence of the morning, he then heard soft guitar strumming and singing from outside. As the fuzziness of sleep left Butch, a realization crept up his spine. He turned as the music stopped and looked at his wife of fifty years. Missy was not breathing; she lay on her side in the covers with a smile on her face.