Thursday, December 13, 2007

Home Again (4)

by Rocky Macy

(Part 4 of 5)

Ephram was fully awake and had Comfort and the baby gathered at his side on the old bed.  They were staring in disbelief at the scrawny boy standing before the hearth and his sobbing young mate cowered in their doorway.  Ephram had often spoken of the “strangeness” that the Lord had chosen to visit upon them, but this night was clearly the strangest that they had encountered since they had stood silently watching their eldest, Samuel, bury their butchered remains.
“Oh, dear husband, whatever is happening?”  Comfort, always the family rock, was as near to being in a panic as Ephram had ever seen her. “That child is hungry, but he can’t see the stew pot.”
“Perhaps the Lord has used the aromas of your wonderful cooking to lead His lost lambs to us.” Ephram rose from the bed and walked over next to the boy. “Look at this lad, dear wife. He is so like our Jeremiah.”
“There is a strong resemblance, but he is older, closer to being a man.”
“Mama, who are they?”  It was Thomas peering over the edge of the loft. “Can I come down?"
“No!” Comfort snapped. “Stay where you are until we know what is going on.”
“But I need to pee.”
Ephram reached up and pulled his youngest son from the loft. “Come here, then. Our guests seem to be more bewildered than we are.”  He stepped through the apparition in the doorway and out into the night where his son could relieve himself.  When father and son came back into the cabin, the boy, Bud, had settled himself on the floor next to his mate. The young couple looked as if they, too, had spent a week hunting in the woods with no luck and few provisions.  Ephram found himself feeling as one with them. He lifted Thomas back up to the loft and then crawled into his own bed. “It would seem, dear wife, that there is little we can do in this situation other than to wait until the Lord calls us to act.”
*  *  *  *  *
“We’ve got to go back, Bud.  You need a doctor.”
“We ain’t going back. We can’t, not now.” The boy leaned his head onto her shoulder and clutched at his stomach with a trembling fist. “I think maybe I tore something loose inside when we hit that deer.”
“I’m going to walk back out to the highway and try to stop somebody. We’ve got to get you to a hospital.”
“No, Jessie! Leave me be. If I go to a hospital, they’ll send me to jail. I’ll be alright in a bit.”
“We just stole a car, Bud. We’ll get us a lawyer and pay for the car.” Jessie was crying softly as she ran her fingers through Bud’s stringy and bloody hair.  “We’ll both work and pay for the car.”
The boy raised his head and stared into her teary eyes.  “It won’t work that way, Jessie.”
“Yes it will.  I’ll work real hard. We can make it the right way, Bud. I know we can.”
The boy curled up almost placing himself entirely within the girl’s embrace. “I ain’t been honest with you, Jessie.”  The tears that were flowing freely now were his, leaving the girl to hold tight and give him what physical comfort she could.  “I’m going to die, Jessie, and I’m going to Hell.”
“Oh, Bud, don’t talk like that! We stole a car and…”
“I stole the car, Jessie.  You told me not to do it.”
“We stole it. We did it, Bud, and we’re going to make things right with that old man.”
“It’s too late.”
“No, it’s not.”
“The old man is dead.”
“No!” She pushed him away.  “He ain’t dead, Bud.  He wasn’t even home.  You said he wasn’t home!”
“He was there, Jessie. He was there and I killed him.”
“No!  No!  You didn’t kill no one!”
“He was there, Jessie.  I told him to give me the keys and he just laughed in my face.  The stupid old shit laughed at me, you know, like he was something special and I was just some piece of crap kid who was only good for washing his damned car and mowing his stupid grass!”
“I don’t believe any of this, Bud!”
“The old bastard laughed at me. He laughed and he laughed until I picked up a table knife and jammed it into his throat.  And you know what, Jessie?  The look on his face when he knew he was a dead man was worth every minute that I’ll spend in Hell.”
“Oh, Bud.”  She quietly took him back into her arms and they slowly laid down and sobbed as one on the dirt floor.
*  *  *  *  *
Jeremiah and Thomas were both sitting on the edge of the loft watching the scene below. Comfort was up tending to Abiah’s needs, and Ephram was sitting cross-legged at the foot of the bed close to where the young couple lay. He was obviously deeply troubled about the scene that was unfolding on the floor of their cabin.  Jeremiah chose that moment to break his father’s concentration.  “He’s a killer, Pa.  He’s a killer just like them soldiers that killed us.”
“No, son.  He’s a boy not much older than you.”
“The soldiers weren’t much more than boys either,” Comfort reminded her husband.  “Foolish boys drunk on liquor and the power of guns.  Boys that should have still been at home chopping wood and milking, not off being corrupted by a war.”
“What do you suppose has corrupted this lad, dear wife?"
“Husband, I know not.  But corrupted he is.  Perhaps the Lord has chosen to leave us in this world so that we will not be tainted by what lies beyond our lovely valley.”
The couple on the floor began to quietly move to the rhythm of a music that the cabin’s inhabitants could not hear. Very slowly the boy brought his hand up beneath the girl’s shirt and started to knead her breasts. As soon as Comfort saw what was about to happen, she sharply told Jeremiah and Thomas to return to their blankets.
“But, Ma!” Jeremiah wailed. “This is the first time we’ve seen anybody else in almost forever.”
“Back by the wall and cover up. Things may happen that you don’t need to be seeing.”  Even as Comfort spoke Bud was validating her concerns as he slowly began to unbutton Jessie’s shirt.  “And you, my curious husband, kindly turn your back on this matter as well.”
“But, Ma!” Ephram said, mischievously mocking the plea of his son.
“Turn around now!” She snapped – and turn he did.
*  *  *  *  *
“No, Bud.”
“Please, Jessie.”
“It just don’t feel right.  Not here, not now.”
“I’m going to die, Jessie. I think that I’m dying now, but if I don’t die here, the state is going to hang me dead.”
“Oh, Bud.”
Her shirt was completely open now and the boy was slowly massaging her bare breasts. “This will be my last time, our last time. Jessie, please.”
And knowing from somewhere deep within her soul that the words he spoke were true, the girl relented.

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