“You shouldn’t be here.”

“I had to see you…”

“Do you think your mother would agree?”

And he’s come out from hiding now.  They all stand in the garden.  Denny by his car, but no longer sitting on his front bumper.  Sissy in the middle of what grew there, holding her bible.  And Bethany, turned away from Denny’s gaze, his smile, to look at Jeremy.  The way of the sunlight drawing out his deformity, his disproportional head.  He’s not in a suit like Denny.  He’s wearing the clothes of a farmer and a straw hat.  A hat he’s taken off, holding it in his hands in front of him, turning it nervously.  The music, Sissy’s music, the only thing breaking the silence for a moment.  Jeremy looks behind him and then turns back, acknowledging it.

“You know I’ve always liked this music.  At first I thought I liked it because you liked it, but now I know, I know why I like it.  Better than the hymns my mother makes me sing in church.”

“I don’t care, Jeremy…”

“Wait… let me finish—I need to tell you something.  Something I should have told you when we were thirteen, when we took those walks…  funny how hard it is to put into words though my feelings are so sure of it.  I guess I just know what’s ugly now, and what’s true.  You were true.  What we were was true… and my mother’s wrong, ugly—dead inside—I see that now…  I mean what’s more ugly?  A clean house and souls living in it afraid to make a mess, judging others for making a mess, or a house that may be a little dirty, but people love each other in it?  That’s what I know now, Bethany.  How hypocrites live in fear.  They’re afraid to do what they want and then what they want becomes ugly, perverted, quoting scripture only when it behooves them…  I think really we’re all really noble inside, born noble creatures, but then we come along with these—‘thou shalt not do this’, ‘thou shalt not do that’, instead of ‘do what thou wilt’—and we kill what’s noble inside us, and what we prohibit just becomes what we want anyway, but now we’re afraid of it, afraid of others doing it, and we clean our houses, our outside, trying to make them spotless because inside spiritually we’re dead.  Our souls are dirty.  And that’s why I like these songs you listen to, better than any prayers or hymns sung in church because when I hear them I don’t feel dead inside like I do with those prayers said before a meal.  They don’t remind me of lies.  They aren’t sinful—they’re true, true about what we are and what we lose in life.  And I lost you because I thought I needed God and now I see how wrong I was…  It’s the people with a little dirt in there house that know how to love, know God better than anyone talkin’ ‘bout heaven because they ain’t afraid of the dirt.  The dirt don’t mean nothin’ unless you’re digging it…  And I miss you…  I miss your dirt.”

“What’s this boy goin’ on about?”  Denny drops his cigarette and steps on it with his pointed shoe, grinding it into the ground.

“You hush now!  Let her answer.”  Sissy folds her arms, her bible clasped to her breast.

“Jeremy…”

“This man is bad!  He sold somethin’.  He sold somethin’ to William.  He told me, and I saw him on it…  some people ain’t hypocrites, Bethany, but they ain’t alive neither.  They don’t feel nothin’, neither fear nor good or bad.  Maybe they didn’t like people telling them they couldn’t do this or that, and instead of tryin’ to be phony leastways they just get mean.  Mean and angry ‘bout all the lies.  They get so angry and mean they can’t see the truth no more… this man is bad, Bethany.  I don’t want you goin’ near him!”

“Boy you better mind your tongue ‘fore I mind it for you…”

And that’s when Jeremy drops his straw hat and rushes him.  He runs through Sissy’s garden and tackles Denny at the waist, Denny with just enough time to sidestep a bit and grab Jeremy about the neck as they both go down to the ground.

“You  men stop it now!  This ain’t the way!”  Sissy running for a broom she has by her back door.  She comes back with it and begins beating them with it as they roll around on the ground.

“Stop it!  Just stop it!”  Bethany gets in between Sissy with her broom and Jeremy and Denny on the ground.

Denny is on top of Jeremy now.  Landing punches on him, bloodying his nose and lips.

“You just take it!  Come on boy!  Take it!  You asked for it, didn’t ya!”

“Stop!  You’re hurting him!”  Bethany pulls Denny off.

Denny brushes off her hands and stands up.  He picks his hat up and walks back to his car and sits on the driver’s side running board, dusting it off.

There are tears in Jeremy’s eyes.  Tears of rage and shame.  He gets up and wipes the blood from his nose, looking at Bethany, his eyes full of pain.

“I’m sorry…  You’re right—I shouldn’t have come.  But I had to tell you, and now I did.  I’ve done that.”

The music is the only thing again breaking the silence.  A low moan and then the guitar on the lower frets, playing in a minor key.  Jeremy walks back to where he dropped his hat.  He walks around the garden this time, not through it.  He doesn’t look back are turn around again as he walks away.

And that was it I guess.  Our closure.  The closure I sought five years back when we were both thirteen.  I never saw him again after that.  He went on to seminary and married a girl from church, and after that spring with Denny I went to New Orleans, with my grandmother Bridgette and William.  I went there to sing, and sing I did.  Maybe some of it in my voice after—that last sight of Jeremy walking away, reminding me of those partings we had at my father’s mailbox, when he asked to hold my hand, always looking down, smiling shyly, how after our walks he was always looking down at my bare and dirty feet, with that smile he had…

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