“And you know what I’ve learned?  I’ve learned to be mean for you to be nice to me…”

Then there’s his look.  A look if incredulity.  And hers—a blank expression.  A moment of reverse.  A trip of the tongue.  As he thinks:  Maybe it’s not what I thought.  What I dreamed.  I am thirty, and now maybe it is not what I thought.  The coincidences.  I am not dreaming them.  They are dreaming me.  And I not lost.  But like I know the puppeteer…  I am not lost.   What I once remembered, what I saw in her eyes when she loved me—I am there. I am there in that unfinding unrealizable quest that is love.   I am in her eyes just as she is in mine.  And she will find no other man like me…

Maybe at that same time in times, as Bethany speaks to David.  After he comforted her.  Richard born already dead.  Benjamin Threnody in a cradle next to their bed.  At the same time she’s remembering.  Remembering the face of Marie Toussaint, her one good eye focused, saying:

“Go on now.  Get your divorce.  You’re right.  He ain’t never gonna make you no money.  Let him be alone in it.  And maybe you can—you can be new again with all  the memories you were born and raised with….  Free to come and go as you please.  You don’t have to remember nothin’.  Leastways none of the guilt, which you never owned to begin with cuz I’ve known since you were a little chil’, and you ain’t never felt guilty, which is a good thing, a good way to survive the poison…  But promise me this.  I’ve seen my days now, and I ain’t got many nights left.  But let me birth one more.  Let me birth one more of your children.  Let me see your daughter…”

And another voice.  Maybe also in that time of times.  Perhaps the echo of the howl of a hound in the background.  Bridgette attending to Frenchie’s wounds.  Bailed out of jail now, patched up in the prison infirmary, but still the loss of vision in one eye.  They have come home from the funeral, but the body to be buried in New Orleans.  David already having a plot there.  And Bridgette thinking:  I can’t believe she just watched.  Our own daughter.  She watched as he was beaten…  Funny how it all fades.  Even my temper—it lasts but a short while.  He still looks handsome.  Handsome for an old man all battered and bruised.  And it just seems like it was yesterday.  Those summer nights when he came callin’ to my door.  But that too—it all fades.  And I guess what I’m left with now what I want to wake up to, what I want to see in my bed of a mornin’.  Whether I wake up cursin’…  or see a best friend…

He dreamed it in his prime—David did.  But maybe his voice doesn’t matter anymore.  Not even the richness of the patterns—the range of it.  No, his story and Bethany’s not over, just the children now.  What follows now the words of Marcus.  The grandson of Bethany’s niece.  He died in 2007, just a year before I heard that voice—David’s voice—those first recordings of him.  He died at the age of nineteen—he hung himself in the shower room of the Alton psychiatric ward—but not before leaving his Bible.  A Bible his mother gave me.  And it shows the family tree.  The chronology of what started as the Lebeau family and how it merged with the story of David Threnody’s son Ben.  It was a rather funny looking Bible.  Most of the pages were torn out.  Replaces with folded papers that held the words of his memoir—a retelling of the story his grandmother told him—Gabrielle, or Gabby—Bethany’s niece.  The story of what happened between Ben and her brother, Aaron.  How it involved Bethany and David’s daughter.  For when he comforted her she conceived.  They still divorced—that goes without saying—they merely made it legal, and after Richard’s death, Bethany stayed in Hemphill to raise Ben and follow through with her second pregnancy.  David returned to New Orleans for a short while.  Visiting the headstone of his firstborn every day.  He didn’t return to his father’s pawn shop.  He didn’t return to East St. Louis.  The apartment he and Bethany had in Soulard emptied out, most of it going to Bethany and David taking nothing from it.  And after a while David moved to Austin, where he could play his music, where he could still play the Blues, and still be close to his children.  For even though their divorce was finalized before Bethany gave birth, David still spent much of his time with her—they remained friends, like it or not because of the children they had to be friends.  And in November 1948 she was born—Bethany and David’s daughter, Ben Threnody’s younger sister.  They named her Dulcinea.

24

Well, now, there’s two, there’s two trains running…

–Muddy Waters

            Now Bethany had a brother, and he had two children about the same time Benjamin and Dulcinea Threnody were born.  One was named Gabrielle, but folks called her Gabby.  The other named Aaron…

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