Subcutaneous Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 78

midity. “How long will that take, you think?” I asked. It was July and I’d learned that he worked when his mood suited him. “I’m taking my time on this one. Might be the last one I do.” I broke the rule and looked at him. “Why’s that? There’re more stones down by the big willow that could stand to be refreshed. If you’re looking for work.” He shook his head and, for the first time, sounded tired. “I got blood coming out of me. When I stool. It’s been doing that for a while. And I don’t feel so good no more.” The warmth of the day drew him to pull off his knit cap and I noticed gray hair curling in his scalp and pathetic beard. “You ought to see a doctor. That sounds serious.” “I believe it is. I don’t need no doctor to say so.” Then I didn’t see him again for a while. I’d gone a month before without seeing him before, but I probably should have gone calling when the fall passed. Winter brought a lot of snow. When it melted in March, I finally made the hike through the woods to his cottage, surrounded by the memory of a yard dotted with saplings, gray clapboards, and it appeared from the outside that his roof was barely slowing down the rain. I rapped on his front door and it sagged open a little, hinges complaining. “Hello!” I yelled, good and loud, because I recall his father owning a shotgun. I pushed my way in, through a cluttered kitchen, past a woodstove radiating heat and, in a back bedroom found Charles on a soiled mattress on the floor, and I could see his arm was crudely splinted. The heat didn’t quite reach and when I spoke my breath frosted. “How long has your arm been broken?” He pulled himself up gradually, wincing. “Last month. It’ll heal. I’ve broken it before. But it slows me down.” It was black and blue and swollen and I think I saw the start of blood poisoning. I didn’t let him argue, I used my new cellular phone to call for an ambulance. It took them half an hour. He mumbled to me, as they put him in the gurney, “You ain’t welcome here no more.” Three weeks later I found a note in my mailbox, to come to his cottage, and he apologized when I arrived. “Turns out I did need some doctoring. I need some help moving the new stone in position.” His broken arm was still mending. I helped him do a final polish with a car polisher. “You got power up here?” “Uh-huh.” “Why don’t you have a heater? Or a fridge?” “Can’t run em all.” He smiled, showing some teeth in need of pulling, and pointed at the source of his power. A red extension cord snaked out of the window and disappeared into the woods. “Who you stealing power from?” I asked, smiling with curiosity. “You.” I’d forgotten I had an outside outlet. Sally had asked for it. “So that’s why the bill went up.” The stone, red marble, was beautiful. Cut to resemble a page turned in a book, what would have cost folks some serious money, with a mirror finish, and ‘Missy Dutton’ in an elegant scroll with dates and her final epitaph. ‘Accused of witchcraft, died on this spot. May she be remembered’. “That’s some damn nice work, Charles.” With the hammer he’d had to swing to shape the stone that way, I had an idea how he’d broken his arm. Using a hand cart we got the stone into the bed of my truck and drove it to Missy’s grave. Even on a rainy day it shone. “That there is beautiful. I can’t help feeling she would be pleased to look down and see it,” I said by way of benediction, God willing her perch be overhead. A picture of that stone would have been nice, but in hindsight it was better unrecorded. *** The mulatto woman watched them approach her rough cabin. “I see you, Abraham, and you Caleb. And who else ye got? Oh, the Reverend Mennan, my dear friend,” she taunted him. “And old Mr. Wright has also given up his bed for tonight’s mischief.” In torchlight she shone; Missy was beautiful, and even dressed in a simple dress, the flames from the torches seemed to make a halo around her head. Her Caribbean voice still with its cadence after years in the north country. “Mr. Burkett, if you visiting tonight should I presume tomorrow I will be free for other visitors?” Even now, I would lay with her. “Keep your tongue quiet, witch! The Devil delights in telling lies, boys, remember that!” Abraham stepped forward and faced the men. "Don’t listen to her!” If only Missy had been hard worn by her life, if only her parents hadn’t given her such flawless skin and elegant bone structure. She turned now from confronting them to step inside her cabin where she was raising two daughters and a son, this with no man her husband. There was much gossip in the village over who had fathered her progeny, lighter-skinned than she. Missy stepped out again. “So what is your business tonight, gentlemen? I don’t usually have the honor of so many men calling at the same time.” “Witch! Whore!” yelled Melvin, shouldering his musket. Caleb pushed his son’s musket barrel down. “Do you know the whereabouts of Margaret Cannon?” he asked her, sternly. “Surely you know she has gone missing. “Now how would I know that? I am not welcome in your church, nor in your homes,” said Missy. “I ain’t seen no children tonight but my own. And they are awakened by all your noise. Is that all the business you got with me?” They looked at each other, unsure of the next step. Before Abraham again seized control, Reverend Mennan ste