I’ve seen some strange things in my life.  Live long enough your idealism goes with your innocence, and late in the game you don’t wonder anymore how funny time is.  You can’t lose your temper over it.  That night my son came home with Bethany’s husband shot was a time where you couldn’t think ahead, a time when you couldn’t look back—it was just fast—time was fast  and slow.  So much was in that first minute, when the door opened, that it wasn’t a minute.  It was so full that it spilled over and was in slow motion though everything happened so fast.  The door opened and life and death was there.  Strangers and those somewhat familiar to me yet altered somehow entered the room, amidst shouts, my son covered in blood, Pete’s blood—a home so quiet, Bethany and I waiting, knowing what we were waiting on, suddenly in an uproar.  And in an instant I knew why she was so nervous, more nervous than usual, looking at the clock, but I didn’t have time to reflect on it until later—in the drive through the night William and I took back to Hemphill.  Leaving Bethany with a man I’d just met…  Pete was still alive when they came through that door.  They laid him on the floor, and his bloodstained hand reached out to Bethany.  He couldn’t talk, coughing up black blood, but his eyes—I’ll never forget his eyes—how they looked at his wife.  I saw his last moments, and that’s what’s strange.  I suddenly pictured that rooster, waking up that day Bethany was born, cursing, looking out that window and seeing a rooster crowing on top a cow’s back.  And I saw how Bethany looked at her dying husband, how she took his bloody hand and held it, how the emptiness of death wasn’t in his eyes, but in hers, her lover standing over them, a dark shadow with his back turned to me, how I saw her eyes look up at him, how they reflected him like glass.  That’s what strange.  Because I just didn’t see someone dying.  I saw something being born.  I saw their union…

 It didn’t come out ‘til later.  What I didn’t know until it happened told to me by my son in our quick escape back to Texas.  He behind the wheel of Pete’s car, an old Ford he purchased after the war, talking to me to calm me down, explaining what happened in his own shortened breath and that thudded heartbeat you hear in your ears after fear and adrenaline, after that hangover from drinking alcohol where it’s still in your blood being metabolized by your liver—what I felt when I wasn’t drinking cough syrup, when the pills and the laudanum wore off, and I was awake, wide awake on that darkened road we took out of New Orleans, Pete’s body in the trunk, William assuring me we’d get rid of it, tied to a stone and sunk in the Sabine when we crossed it near dawn…  The fragmented pieces came together, the hints I might have foreseen revealed, and a story appeared.  A story about some old man from this musician, David’s, past and a deal gone bad in that meeting under the bridge.  Law enforcement showing up because of a tip.  Because of this old man or Bethany’s lover unclear at first, but as I pieced it together in my mind, from what my son told me, the horror of the deception became a lucid awareness as the car entered Texas, as I helped William with the body, the headlights shining on the shore of the Sabine in that darkest part of night just before sunrise, gray-pink light appearing on the horizon above the tree line as we rolled the body into the water, watching it float for a moment with the current before it sank below the surface.  Our shaking hands as I took a nip from a cough syrup bottle, as William handed me a pill, both of us having a hard time swallowing.

I knew Bethany had a lover, but I didn’t know who until that night.  And his friend was white.  As was apparently the old man that showed up when the cards where on the table in the meeting William set up with some men from Dauphine he knew from back in the day when Bethany’s first lover, Denny, was in our lives.  Several pounds of marijuana and a suitcase full of money exposed for a trade my son was setting up to get a shipment of pills and morphine for Pete.  The old man coming out of nowhere after Bethany’s lover showed up with his friend, after everything was out in the open, and that’s when the cops came.  The rest hazy, happening so fast, but William remembers the old man holding a knife to the friend’s throat, I saw the cut on his neck when they brought Pete’s body in, the old man talking some strange language to David, the men from Dauphine opening gunfire on the cops, and maybe it was a ricochet, a stray bullet, but it got the old man in the head, and Pete was just in between, apparently confronting Bethany’s lover, oblivious of the bullets in the crossfire, maybe confused why the old man was there, when one got him in the chest.

And I didn’t piece it all together—why the cops where there, why the old man was there, why David Threnody was there, and his friend, his name I found out to be Johnny Tribout—I didn’t know for sure why they were all there until Bethany sent me a letter, addressed to her father’s house in Hemphill, the postmark showing it came from the West Bank, from Algiers, where her lover, David, stayed.  Apparently that strange language my son heard that night was Russian.  And it wasn’t just cops that showed up at that meeting under Huey P. Long Bridge, it was men from the State Department, at least that’s what David told her.  How he brought his friend along, Johnny Tribout, because that old man (she referred to him as a man named Popovitch) wanted to meet him, wanted something from him, some closure to something from his past, something about David’s guitar, something about a string on it—I don’t know—which is why he brought a knife to a gunfight, leaving a scar on Johnny’s neck for his effort.  That’s why they were able to escape, how they were able to bring Pete’s body back to our house in the 9th Ward, and why William and I weren’t followed, how we were able to escape back to Texas, drowning Pete’s body.  She told me David was questioned after, the men from Dauphine not killed, arrested, the contraband and money confiscated, and David just got slapped with a night in jail for the homegrown they found in the SP rail yard not far from his house, his assistance and whatever his involvement with this man named Popovitch sealed away in the records, the newspapers just reporting a drug bust without my son or the Bloodwood name mentioned, without Pete Southhouse’s name mentioned.

That’s what happened.  Once we made it back to Hemphill my son reunited with his wife, his daughter (my granddaughter, like Bethany was my granddaughter) just starting to talk, just able to say the word, “Daddy”.  William moved back in with his wife and got himself a steady job, our days muling drugs over, and I found myself back in that cabin built by my son-in-law, Bethany’s father, though I don’t see nothin’ strange out that window no more.  Nothin’ bein’ born or dyin’.  I just see myself out that window now.  My reflection.  Waiting.  And sometimes I hear it.  I hear the birds a singin’.  Makes me almost wake up a day without it.  Remembering my old man.  Makes me almost wake up a day without cursin’…


20

Go tell that long tongue liar/Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down

                        –Elvis Presley

 

Bethany’s grandmother might have stopped cursing.  Being late in the game and baffled by that long talk with time and love, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have to answer.  It didn’t mean David Threnody didn’t have to answer.  And it was that same question as always.  That same question that led to other questions.  The first and the last.  That same question he heard as a child talking to sleep.  That same question as to how he would answer.  Answer to his name…

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