And then you see it again.  The fire going out.  Aaron’s body but ash.  The pages of David’s journal dying embers that float up for an instant before becoming soggy with rain drops and falling.  The blackened tree.  That Texas Mountain Laurel that once held a tree house.  You see Benjy’s face upturned to the rain.  His hands reaching up to it.  And so you’ve seen the before and after.  On this Friday the first day of April.  And now Benjy has returned.  He’s returned to Maddie’s room his clothes wet, to confront her with what he did what she had him do, and as he climbs the fire escape a far off whistle.  Another train crossing the Sabine.

Maddie is sitting on the edge of the bed.  Still in a night gown.  She hasn’t dressed.  A guitar is on her lap and lying on the bed beside her is sheet music.  A song.  You see the title:  Woman on a Train.


I’m back.


You’re all wet…  You caught me.  I’m trying to play a song your father wrote.  He left the sheet music here.  Along with this guitar.  Do you recognize it?  He bought it for you.  On your seventh birthday.  He found it in a pawn shop, his father’s pawn shop.  It’s the one thing he took from the funeral when his father died back in ’55.  He said you never touched it so when your mother packed up to take Dulcy to Sunset he left it here…  I think I have the first few chords, but I’m struggling with the rest…  He writes a lot about trains, doesn’t he?


Trains…?  I never wanted it.  I remember I wanted a dog instead…


You’re all wet.  Let me dry you off.

Maddie puts the guitar on the bed and rises to walk past Benjy to the bathroom for a towel.  Benjy grabs her wrist as she passes.  He twists it and leads her back to the bed.  He twists it to an angle that makes her fall back on it.  He lets go and grabs the guitar.  He walks to the door and braces the handle by putting the arm of the guitar through.  Then he walks back to the bed and stands before Maddie where she sits holding her wrist.


You hurt me.


You know you forgot something about moves.  You forgot the endgame.  The last move.  What happens after.  That’s what I see.  Not all the moves it takes to win or lose, but the last move after the winning and losing is over.  And is it?  Is it the last move?  Or is there another?


What are you talking about?


The father.  The father to Dulcy’s child.


Oh that…  I was only teasing about that.


Well I wasn’t…

Benjy backhands her.  Maddie raises her arm and Benjy strikes her with the other hand.  This time with enough force to make her fall back even further and lie prostrate flat on her back on the bed.  She laughs as she tries to inch away pulling her legs up to scoot away from him, but Benjy grabs her between her legs and drags her back.  He strikes her again two more times never letting go of his grip.


Is this it?  Is this what you tease me with?  You’re right.  I was killer before I ever entered this world.  And do you know what that means?  I’m damned.  I’ve always been damned.  For something my father did.  And this is how I’ll get his blessing.  How I’ll steal it.  By taking it away from you.  Taking you with me… No…  I don’t care when I hear my own voice.  You can’t care if you’re really going to listen.  I don’t hear you or my father—my mother.  I don’t hear the sadness of my past in theirs, or my sister in what she’s expecting.  Something clicked.  It’s clicked here in a place I’ve been, but I’m here now…  I don’t love you, Maddie, and now I know I don’t need to though I thought I did—to love me.  Why do I have to love what my father has loved?  Something clicked so I don’t care.  And what is this?  What drug is this in my mind?  Where is my faith if it’s not in my own voice? I’m hungry and I know that now, but I don’t want to eat.  I want to remember.  Not being in your bed but what led me there. For who is the father?  Who is the father to her father?  The truth is I needn’t prove anything—it’s an act of Nature—to this my sister is proof.  The truth that the privacy of your own head is enough if you believe it.  What has been etched there has been etched long ago and going over it only makes you think there are new grooves.  That same laugh at yourself in the mirror when you know you’re full of shit, or full of new life…  When you know what’s on your mind—what’s on my mind—what’s insured by greed.  Your next move…  Not the love of anyone or anything else, but a happy ending…  No… I’m taking you with me for if I am damned I won’t die damned alone.  My voice will be heard.  Even as it blasphemes.  And people will listen.  They will listen and care for the damned are beautiful in their knowing it.  In their knowing and not to surrender.  Not to die out in a whimper to eternity…  You bitch!  I’ll do what my father was afraid to do—what most men are afraid to do.  I will cast you in your place…

Benjy strikes her again still holding her between her legs, and this time Maddie screams.  She screams for help.  It’s heard downstairs in the bar.  The owner hears it.  He and a few other men climb the stairs and knock on the door.  They hear Maddie scream again.  The owner tries the door, but it is braced by David’s guitar.  The guitar he gave his son on his seventh birthday.  He has to break open the door and the guitar on the other side busts into pieces.  The owner stands with the men behind him.  He sees Benjy on top of Maddie in the bed.  Holding her hands and trying to muffle her mouth.



What is it Sean?


Go get the sheriff.   We have a black man here that’s forgotten his place.

And the rest in tableau.  Benjy rushing the fire escape down to his car.  His escape to the Sabine to cross back to Louisiana.  To return to Sunset where his sister is almost full term.  Back to where his mother and father are.  To where David is.  And you see it almost in that span of twenty-five years.  You remember and see Johnny and Nina making their own escape from a roadhouse back in 1941.  David bracing a door there as well.  All that happened in voice overs from the previous mind movies and what happened in between.  David and Johnny’s time as prison guards after Nina’s murder.  After Popovitch’s abuse of power.  The time in the war.  Wintertime in Bastogne and David defeating the Goliath.  The West Bank and David’s first recordings in New Orleans in 1945.  A picture of David and Bethany on stage singing together.  You see Marie Toussaint’s toothless grin as she urges Bethany to push.  Benjy being born holding the umbilical cord around his brother’s neck.  Dulcinea’s birth.  Then you see the tree house.  That Texas Mountain Laurel, and kissing cousins at play in their roles.  The next day their first day of school.  And then that tree on fire.  Aaron’s body hanging there and in retrospect that body hanging from a ceiling fan by a guitar string back in Biloxi in ’41.  But now it’s Friday, the first of April, 1966.  Benjy making his getaway.  The bridge across the Sabine wet from a spring downpour.  White men chasing him.  He loses control.  A crash into a tree just on the other side.  A mulberry tree.  Benjy catapulted through the windshield and hanging there.  His head caught in a branch.  His neck broken.  The tableau ended.  The only thing left that fatal turnaround.  That antithetic parallelism.  The repetitive whispers of a chorus.  The voices indiscriminate and without color.  Bemoaning the house of David.  The home of the Blues…

You see the back of a Model T Ford.  The back window as it drives over the next hill.  Leaving a crossroads behind.  And the lonesome tree there.  No bird.  The back of David’s head.  Centered perfectly.  No music.  No sound.  As it and the car disappears.


And I knew it wouldn’t hold them, but I did it anyway—after seeing that car—what it reminded me of.  Like it had already happened.  Because it had happened before…  No, I didn’t need that guitar no more.  I knew it before I did it, and somehow I knew I knew I would know—ya know?  That feeling you get sometimes about how time really works.  Your whole life already happened… making it happen… so it can happen.  Like your death is in your birth, and your birth is in your death. That line we perceive in between somehow curving in on itself—parabolic—parallels meeting somehow because they begin and end the same—in something lasting forever…  It was like I was seeing myself in a mirror, in broken glass, but it was someone else being me, and yet I still knew it was me, it being already a memory, a memory of something going to happen…

Hix Calix!



Did you hear John Hurt play the “Creole Bell,”
“Spanish Fandango” that he loved so well?
And did you love John Hurt? Did you shake his hand?
Did you hear him sing his “Candy Man?”

                    –Tom Paxton

     Let us go back now.  Back to 1955.  To the time of David’s father’s death—Horace Threnody.  The man folks called Duke…