“You still think you need help, white man?”

Popovitch pulls the capo out of his pocket, reaching up from her doorstep where he’s standing to hand it to her.  The old witch doesn’t take it and just smiles.  Her door not open all the way.  Her head peering out of the crack.  The spectacles she’s wearing low on her nose, and she croons her neck to look through them at the article in Popovitch’s hand.  Her stringy white hair still hanging limp below the black hat on her head.

“Well come on in then.  Looks like you’ve been given somethin’.  And why is that?  Why you feel safe when somethin’s given to ya?  Like you can give it up because it’s been given.  God is good—yes he is…  It blows your mind when bad happens.  After it happens.  And you know why—he, he!”

Popovitch follows her again back to the room where she does her business.  She doesn’t so much as walk as shuffle.  Like she has a bad knee or a bad ankle.  But she doesn’t use a cane and Popovitch wonders why.

“Let me feed my bird while you tells me what you want.  Shame to keep a bird all caged up—I know.  But he’s my friend.  Keeps me company.  I even taught him a few words.  Want to hear them?  Yes, little bird!  If he could talk and tell ya all that’s gone on in this room!  Make your ears burn—he, he!  If all you did is listen like him you wouldn’t be so lonely.  Funny how we talk just to hear ourselves.  We is social creatures—aren’t we?”

She has a bag, a small grain sack, full of hardened corn kernels and seeds.  She pours some in her hand and reaches through the wires of the cage, letting the bird peck them one at a time from between her gnarled fingers, her nails long and dirty.  The room is dark with the heavy red curtains.  She is a shadow with her back turned to Popovitch, and she remains a shadow as she turns to him.

“Now, let me see what you got for me.  I trust you met him—the man you wanted to meet?  He gave it to you—didn’t he?”

“Yes, with a message…”

“Oh, I’m sure…  Why else would he have given it to ya?”

The old woman takes the capo, unfolding the dollar bill, raising her spectacles to read the black lettering on the back.

“You can tell a lot about a person by how they write.  Not the words—the message—the handwriting.  This man writes like he’s a child…”

“Can you tell me what will happen if I go to this meeting.  If I go to the place he indicates?”

“You already know you’re gonna go.  So why should I tell ya?”

“Rose from the dead!  Rose from the dead!”

The parakeet shrieks, spreading its wings and flapping them, its long tail feathers splayed as its clawed feet hop and reattach to its perch.

“Hah!  I told you this bird speaks.  Just gotta let it think it’s part of the human flock…  Yes!  Put a mirror in there with it it’ll just chirp like other birds.  But surround it with humans it’ll talk like a human…  I cover him every morning and talk to him.  Just like I’m talking to you now—he, he!”

“What will happen?  What will happen if I go to meet this man?”

“What will happen?  What you want to happen!  We ain’t just hustling flowers here.  Flowers don’t just spring up from nothin’.  They grow on top of somethin’.  Thing is what you is.  Are you on top?  Or the bottom?  This man—this musician—you heard his songs?”


“I ‘spose he just wants forgiveness.  Just like you do.  But he sings it.  You just listen.  So why is it?  Why is it you’s lonely, but he isn’t?  Yes… we’s social creatures.  He does it for a woman.  What you doin’ it for?”

“Maybe I just want it to end…”

“Ain’t no song ends unless it begins.  You haven’t even started.  That’s why he’s the better man.  That’s why he’s gonna get the better of you.  It’s easy to judge.  Not so easy to be judged.  And that’s why you’re gonna go.  It’s your time.  It’s time for you to know what you really are.  I hate to be the bringer of bad news—I really do—I think you had a good heart once, but that secret, what you thought was always a secret, only God can help you with that now…  Go.  Go and find your peace.”

And it’s been long enough.  Long enough to tell finally what happened.  William Bloodwood had arranged the meeting.  The meeting that would transpire along the River Road under Huey P. Long bridge.  A connection with some men he met while muling for Denny.  What brought him to New Orleans bringing his mother, Bethany, and Pete Southhouse.  A trade that would lead to another trade.  Bethany knowing about it because she was Pete’s wife, telling David about it.  And I’m not sure how to tell it.  Maybe Bridgette should—William’s mother.  In that raspy, imagined voice from chain-smoking that sounds like David Threnody’s first recordings.  What she saw, just as she’d seen that rooster crowing on top a cow’s back that started this story of Bethany, a closure that began with Bethany’s birth and the dark lover she knew she would find.  Maybe she should tell it.  What happened when her son came home to their house in the 9th Ward where Bethany was waiting with Pete Southhouse’s dead body, how she first laid eyes on David and his friend Johnny Tribout, a fresh cut on his neck.  The story of how Popovitch died…