… You can’t feel guilty and love yourself.  It takes the taste out of everything—the joy.  It’s negativity—negation—it’s when you sense disapproval, and pretty soon you don’t know what came first—the guilt or the lack of love.  I don’t think David ever got what he needed out of his parents.  When we came to St. Louis after our first year of marriage, after a year in New Orleans, scraping by on musician’s wages, odd jobs David could find, he came home to meet his parents, and I met his parents—I sat down to dinner with Duke and Cleota, and I saw it there even in the table manners.  Something withholding.  An air of disapproval.  In how they commented on the wasted food on his plate.  Money he owed.  Even in going about the business of his father’s pawn shop, his ideas on inventory and turning the trade of the merchandise into good will for the community—this even met with hesitation, doubt.  It was like he had to earn his love, and this is always paid in guilt.  Whether he got his father’s blessing, his mother’s love—I don’t know—I know they loved him, in their own way, but his father didn’t understand his music, and his mother couldn’t stop praying to save his soul, that Christian assumption that your soul needed saving, and maybe that’s where his pain started.  That seed to not love himself, as the guilt ate at him.  It’s a sad thing when someone you want to love you instead makes you feel guilty, when they make you feel like something’s wrong with you.  And that’s the nasty thing about love sometimes, what happens in relationships—the price of it—when someone loved you but they don’t love you no more, and you’re always reminded of that, in having children with them…  I don’t feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I wasn’t raised that way.  And David knew that.  He knew me, and maybe by then he knew a little about himself.  Maybe he knew it wasn’t just that ride at a crossroads in Mississippi, his music what it always was—a plea for forgiveness.  Maybe he knew from knowing me the emptiness of that plea, he knew the expression of this was beautiful—the truth that he didn’t have to be forgiven—it was there in every song… And I guess I just have to let him go.  I have to set him free—I have to set David free.  I have to let him love what he wants to love, and feel the guilt he was born with.  My fears—my fears for this child, the children to be born—answers he must face on his own.  With maybe his guitar helping him.  And it’s funny.  Love on the rocks—it ain’t no big surprise.  And freedom, our independence—maybe you only know it, really know it—when you set something else free.  And I know that now.  I know it being a mother.  A wife and a mother…

It was Bethany that brought up divorce.  The hints of it were in that hot summer, that long, hot summer of 1947, because the heat gets to everybody in the end.  The hints were there in her birth, in what her grandmother witnessed looking out that window the morning she was born in the summer of 1923, in what Bridgette saw that night in New Orleans twenty-three years later when she had to bury Pete Southouse’s body in the Sabine River on her flight back to Hemphill with her son William Bloodwood—Marie Toussaint the mid-wife present in that baptism of rooster blood, and present again at the birth of Bethany’s twins. And the hints became answers after Bethany’s troubled pregnancy, after David’s struggles with making money, and when their firstborn died leaving Ben without a brother, Bethany went to Marie Toussaint again for advice, looking for it there, looking for her answers in chicken bones… Some people just think you’re dumb.  You’re dumb in helping them.  They think they’re smarter than you—better—because you helped them when they wanted it.  They used you in the name of their survival.   They’re that far gone—that far gone in pride.  And that’s why you need that poison, that poison an old voodoo woman told Bethany about after her broken love affair with Denny, in her memory of the ride she took back in 1942, in that other hot summer before she turned nineteen, a pawned ring and a car disappearing over the Sabine River—you need that medicine, that bad medicine.  You need guilt just as much as you need love.  You need it to be human.  To feel it in the death of a child…

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