Thursday, March 11, 2010

From Life's Bone: Another Must Read!

What Goes Around, Comes Around.
by Dan Smith

As usual, Wednesday morning found me walking, a cup of coffee in each hand, down the long corridor of Mockingbird Manor. The air was the same as always. A mixture of antiseptic solutions and linoleum wax. Arthur Johnson would be sitting, as always, by the window in his room. I would sit down beside him, and help him with his coffee since his hands had become too shaky to hold the cup. At the age of 89, time had whittled him down to a rather frail and gaunt figure, but I knew enough about his life to know that he had once been a strong and powerful man. The kind of man people often speak of as though a symbol of a by-gone era. Life in the Appalachian mountains required a certain hardiness that outsiders can seldom even imagine.

"They don't make people like him anymore", was the way one of the nurses put it.

I liked to listen to Arthur Johnson's reminiscences, his stories so different from any I could tell about my own life. And one story intrigued me more than any other. The story of Lacy, and what happened some many years ago. There was still so much to know about this time in Arthur's life. It wasn't that my questions went unanswered, it was that Arthur's mind seemed to wander around aimlessly among the many years of his life. Today, in asking him to tell me more about Lacy, he reached once again for the old weathered brown wallet that sat on his bed-side table. He had showed me her picture many times before. But it seemed to be his way of beginning to talk about her; to begin with the photo. It was a smudged and well-handled piece of paper. And not really a photo at all. It was a crudely hand-drawn picture of a woman's face. Lacy's face. She had curly long hair.

"Remember that night she came to your house?" I asked, trying to direct him to where he had last left off in his telling of the tale. He nodded, his eyes fixed in a gaze down to his hands helplessly resting on his knees, his bony, big-knuckled fingers trembling with the endless flutter of the palsy, or Parkinson's, as they now called it.

"She was a sight, alright", he mumbled. "All beat up. Her eyes so swoll up and bruised, I could hardly bear to look. It was her uncle what done it. T'weren't the first time either." He fell into a silent stare out the window at the wooded hillside across the way.

"Did you try to take care of her, Arthur?" I asked quietly.

He nodded. "Had to. Kept her hid a coupla days. She had a coupla broke ribs, far as I could tell. That was the last time I ever saw her."

I sat there for a few minutes staring out the window. Trying to see what he might be seeing in that far away look on his face.

"Did she die?" I said quietly.

He made a small sneering, snorting sound and shook his head. "She jus' flat disappeared. Ever'body figured she'd 'bout had enough. I reckon I had a different way of seein' it though."

"What do you think happened to her, Arthur?"

He glanced over at me. "It ain't about what I think. It's about what I know."

I took a deep breath. This is much further into the story than we had ever gotten before.

"Did her uncle have something to do with it?" I asked, leaning toward him to look into his eyes. He nodded. "Did they catch him?" I asked.

"Naw. Weren't nobody to catch."

"What do you mean, Arthur?" He sat silent again, staring out the window.

"Her uncle, he jus'....." , his voice trailed away.

"He just what, Arthur?" He turned to stare at me. "What happened to her uncle, Arthur?"

His mouth slowly formed a thin brown crooked smile. "He jus' flat disappeared too." I stared into his eyes, searching for some sign to tell me that what I was thinking was true.

"Do you know what happened to him, Arthur?" He nodded and looked back out the window, and then down again at his trembling hands.

"He went away. Real far away. He went some place not of this earth." He let out a long sigh, and then turned to look at me with that same thin smile. "He went to hell. That's where he went. Let's jus' leave it at that." I nodded.

So, that was how the story ended. I went to see him many more times before he died. We never spoke of Lacy or her uncle again.

If you would like to read more of Dan's stories check out the archives of his Blogs: Life's Bone and Mything Links. You will not be disappointed.

1 comment:

mythopolis said...

Hi! thanks for posting this. It's fiction, of course. But when I was making daily visits to a nursing home to see my mother, I was always intrigued by many elderly people there, and wondered about their unique life history.