Best not judge one’s motivations. Not others not even your own. Someday you’ll be old. Someday you’ll be dying. Folks say like birth that’s the one thing you do alone. But you’re not alone. In every moment someone’s dyin’ and bein’ born. In time you’ll know that outward appearances are one thing–that’s not what we judge that’s a given the putative slant of perception we have to this world–what we judge is the motivations of these appearances. Influenced by our own… Do you trust me? You’re husband’s an artist–ain’t he?

He don’t make no money at it.

Anything you don’t do for yourself ain’t worth much. Let alone money… This girl I want to tell you about she didn’t come from money. But she had love. She loved a puppy. Her father worked maintenance grave yard shift at the power plant. Found an ol’ bitch hound nestled in an abandoned coal shaft that hadn’t weaned her litter yet. He was the runt havin’ a hard time at it gettin’ the milk. The father took him home and this girl loved him. Named him Sam… Well now they rented from a family in town. Landlord had a daughter. She saw Sam and wanted him. Had a fit when her father said no. But the poor girl’s father–well they had doctor bills–it was a bad winter. The landlord offered money and the poor girl’s father accepted. He didn’t see his daughter’s tears. She cried alone cried herself to sleep that night… As for Sam, well, he was loved at first, but soon the town girl grew bored with him. Her fancy settled on a new boy in school. One day the boy wrote her a poem. The price the dog. When the father found out he was mad. He’d paid money for that dog. Told her if she didn’t want the dog why had he taken it from his tenant. He found the boy and got the dog back. She felt humiliated. How would the new boy see her now? Especially after that poem? Instead of being sorry the town girl took it out on the dog. One day while walking him ‘long the river (draggin him probably) she came to an ol’ cypress tree (they grow along the river where I’m from) and took the rope she was using as a leash flung it over one of the low-hanging branches stretchin’ it so poor Sam couldn’t touch his hind legs to the ground. After she was finished she left him there left him there with his tongue hangin’ out. Swayin’ with the Spanish moss. She did it a stone’s throw away from where her father’s tenant lived where the poor girl lived… The next mornin’ that girl found him found her puppy Sam. Overnight the animals had at him. One of the eyes were popped out of its socket…

My God! Bethany said. What a wretched girl! Taking from the poor from somebody who loved and doin’ that!
Yes indeed. Isn’t that so. And what do you think should have happened to her?
She should have been punished! She don’t deserve no puppy. No poem neither…
Ain’t that strange that you should say that… For she wasn’t. She escaped back to the warm safe security of her father’s house. And the boy forgave her. He didn’t begrudge the poem. She even slept good that night. No puppy Sam licking her face messin’ up her bed…
But that poor girl…
Yes that poor girl. Could’ve been anyone of us I ‘spose. Could’ve been me. Could’ve been you. That’s where our sympathy lies at least. But what if any one of us was that other girl. The girl who killed that dog?
I would never!
Would you…? I noticed there’s white circle don’t quite fit your wedding band.

To this Bethany suddenly grew self-conscious. She wasn’t in the story now. She was the story. That strange conversion from make-believe to what is real. The sun was beating down hot now. She could smell her skin and it smelled like sunshine. Not far off along the benches in front of the St. Louis Cathedral she heard the steady thump of a tuba in a street-performing brass band.

I was married before.
I see and is he dead?
Yes. He is dead.
Don’t mean to pry. Funny how seeds are planted. Put in the dirt and must struggle upward to the water and the light… Don’t you worry none. I can tell you ain’t no town girl. I can see it in your hands. But let me ask you this. Your husband now–is he a good artist?
Yes. He is good.
Just can’t go by appearances. Can we? I’m sure he’ll be back soon. I’m sure he made the right choice. He’ll come back with what you’re looking for…