So he turned from the mirror and forgot what he looked like. And maybe he looked at a painting instead. You can’t believe what you see—no you can’t. Not in that first instant not until you’re told what it is. Then it becomes it. I guess to Charlie the truth was a matter of time intervals. Dependent on who was servin’ the booze. And like all of us he found a certain satisfaction when some things were right on time. He was romantic in a way. Larger than life. Which makes me wonder now after years of tellin’ it if I’m up to the story if maybe I need to take a look in a mirror and stare for as long as it takes to know where my freedom comes from because where you can know good and evil paradise ain’t far from it as I’m sure any snake would know and somethin’ in us I don’t know some urge in me wants to admire him wants to root for him as if if that could be my identity so be it and let the women come runnin’ like the basis of any good story any good yarn you’re gonna tell for it’s more than just one simple plot following only one main character like life like anything we regard larger than life the stories are interwoven and yet no matter what we want it to be emotionally satisfying optimistic we want the boy to get the girl that’s how we want it to end. But after years of tellin’ it I’m not sure who Charlie’s woman was I mean I know who he loved and you have their stories but if I’m gonna tell this like a romance like he was some modern day Robin Hood who stuck it to the rich in order to give to the poor if he was really that kind of man a man who could look away like that and forget a man who can be what a man thinks a woman wants I just wonder and I have to pause sometimes when I come to this part of the story—I have to wonder what he thought he looked like naked—not in the sense stripped down naked like how they do when they take you off to prison (Charlie knew the procedure that formality very well when he was taken into custody maybe he was even smiling that last time as the guards hurried him over to Franklin County) I’m not talking in a physical sense like when you’re stripped down and searched I just mean naked like how in the story it says their eyes were opened and I don’t know I take that to mean when you’re standing in front of somebody you love and they see you and you see them—I just wonder if he ever had that. He might have had no faith in cause and effect but in my experience when you have that and a child follows, well, it gives ya a whole new insight into freedom, and evil is another world… I see you looking at it. I have myself when I’ve been in this room alone wondering what I’m going to say to people who come here wanting to know about Charlie Birger and this jail the things collected here that make you think of some sweeping grand era like you’ve seen in the movies like you can hear the crackle in some old jazz record as the time-stilted images of black and white flappers dance a jig in some cotton club bathtub gin speakeasy and the men in the cigarette smoke have their hair slicked back—the Roaring Twenties the Jazz Age—seems so far away but it’s right here in this room in these things collected from its past, and you can’t help it but say they too probably wanted the boy to get the girl that’s how they wanted it. Even when the feuding families don’t think so. And that painting, well, if the stories are true it came from the Shady Rest—it survived the bombing and burning just like Charlie Birger survived. But not his wife not his unborn child. It’s a woman and a cat and I myself wondered if that was it if that was what Birger looked at and didn’t forget turning away—yes I’ve stared at it a good long time. I wasn’t the one that was told but some say there’s even something underneath it. That another painting lies beneath…

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