Pet peeve……

See it for what it is, enjoy it for the beauty it adds to your life, and grow from it.

Have you ever had to do a literary criticism?  Ever had to put into words what a poem or piece of written work means?  I always hated them.  A Facebook friend posted a quote from the book “The Outsiders” earlier today.  I decided I wanted to be sure I had the right book.  S. E. Hinton’s work was a wonderful read in Junior High.  (Thank you Mrs. Lupia!!)  The site that came up confirmed I was correct but it is one of those sites that you ask a literary master questions about stuff like that.  Kids of all ages, apparently doing homework, were asking about the quote, ‘Stay gold Ponyboy, Stay gold’.  The literary idiot did actually give them some good advice but then sent them looking to the actual poem in reference.  Robert Frost, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’.  The critics on this link were all adults hemming and hawing over this incredible little poem.  I hated doing criticisms because each person reads into any work their own experiences, their upbringings, their station in life, their heart and of course their egos.  It is like religions and the bible, everyone takes pieces to suit their own purpose.  I don’t know how many times I did the research to see what some high fluting, educated idiot said a work was about.  Don’t get me wrong I love to read criticisms, they make you think.  Then most professors want to smack you over your findings because they have their own ideas of what a work means.   Sometimes it is just the reading of a poem or work that is the purpose.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it in the poem “The Day is Done”:

‘Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.’

I don’t want people dissecting what I write…take it at face value, let it’s words touch your soul, cross your lips, and sooth your mind.   I live life the same way, looking at each person for their being and their actions.  I don’t try to define them, read them like a poem and enjoy the rhyme of their being.

By the way for those of you who have never read Frost’s poem:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.


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I

Standing in front of the mirror Abbi searched her own eyes for the soul inside.  Looking deep into the ocean blue eyes that looked back at her.  These were the only eyes that didn’t seem to hold a soul.  They were the only set of eyes on the planet that she didn’t feel their every vibration.  There was a peace there, a quiet, gentle peacefulness that  made perfect sense.

What else did she see in the mirror?  Nothing.  Abbi had looked there for ages it seemed.  She aged like everyone else, her make-up perfect, the gold hoops dangling just right, she didn’t see all that.  She knew it existed but it wasn’t important.  In order for her to see the world as she did, the physical being of herself was never visible.  Instead, she saw the world as souls.  They didn’t have a color, a sex, clothing, scars, or anything that was physical.  She had long ago quit looking at people in that way.

It wasn’t to say that she didn’t notice how uncomfortable most people are in whatever clothes they wear.  The clothing makes the man…how many times has that been voiced.  People are not comfortable in their own skin much less anything they use to cover it.  Humans judge what they can see and touch.  They miss anything deeper.

Abbi sat in the car watching people walk by.  They tugged at the side of their pants, the hem of their shirts.  They ran their hands through their hair because when they looked in the mirror before exiting the car and there were hairs out of place.  People wore clothing that didn’t fit, either too big or too small.  Too big to hide the skin they live in or too small to trick themselves into thinking that they were smaller than they really are.  High heals to make them taller, slouched to make them shorter.  A hat or scarf to hide the hair that couldn’t be tamed.  All of the things that they felt made them stick out in a crowd.  Anything that another person could see and judge makes them uncomfortable.

She stepped out of the car and wondered off to class.  As she sat in class, she watched her classmates.  Listened to their voices as they answered questions from the professor.  That same fear crept into them their too.  Instead of trying to learn, they were more concerned about what people saw and judged.  There are students that want to answer every question to prove how much they know.  There are students they prefer to not be called upon at all for fear of getting the wrong answer.  Judgments.

She had spent the past twenty years trying to get a piece of paper that stated she was educated.  To prove to the world that she had done something, learned something, accomplished something.  Over that same time span she had failed to realize that every day she had learned something new.  She had lived.  She didn’t have to prove anything to anyone but herself.  She truly hated universities.  She hated the mass amount of people and all the input.  She loved learning, if only it could happen alone.

She could feel each and every soul as she entered a room.  She always tried to sit as close to the door as possible so that if the volume got to great she could quietly escape.  The bigger the class the harder it was for her to concentrate.  The perfect example was last semester.  Geology class was a medium sized class, no way of sitting near a door, she sat in the middle of the class.  A class that was a mixed medium of students.  There were students that had a calling for the field, some that had to have a credit for science, and some that just showed up.  Dr. Ward was a new teacher that had a vast experience in the field, he loved and had an incredible passion for the topic.  He hated that not every student shared his passion.  She had chosen the class for several reasons, first on that list was she needed one more science credit.  But her love of nature and the outdoors had also drawn her to the subject.  One of the grade requirements was to have a face to face meeting with Dr. Ward.  She had put it off until the very last week possible.  Knocking on the office door, she felt her face flush, her blood pressure rising, her heart beating fast.  Her grades were not the best in the class, she knew the material but when it came to sitting in front of a test it all looked like Greek.  He had proven over and over in class that she knew the material.  As much as she hated to be called on, or asked to show others what she knew he seemed to insist upon it.  Sometimes to the point that she wondered if he was trying to pick on her.  The office door opened and Dr. Ward stood there laughing.  “Thought you were never going to come for a visit, Abbi.”  They chatted of rocks, of water, of volcanoes.  They chatted of school experiences.  “You know, I do pick on you in class.  You have so much to offer but you seem to hide it.”    I probably do she said.  I hate crowds.  “You hear them too don’t you?” he said.    ” You hear the thoughts that run through their heads and their hearts, don’t you?   I have always heard them too.  I hate this class because there are people in there that just do not care one way or another.  I pick on you because I can hear your answer.  I know it is right and I know that you know what you are doing.”    Abbi looked at him in awe.  “I have watched you taking a test, and I think I can help.  Will you endure something next week?”  She looked at him timidly, “Yes, I can do that.”

The following week, sitting there knowing all the information that would be on the test she waited for what she would have to endure.  Abbi looked at the questions.  She read the test from start to finish before beginning to answer.  Answering one in the very middle that didn’t look as Greek as the rest to put herself on the right mind set and jar something loose to finish the test.  She answered all she could when she noticed the dean of the department step into the room.  She gathered up her things and turned the green sheets in on the desk.  As she did Dr. Ward picked it up and began reading.  As she walked out the door he followed her.  “Wait up! I want to talk to you.” he said with the green pages still in his hand.  “Get your pencil back out and follow me.”  She did as she was told and followed him out onto the back patio.  There was a small table and chairs set up.  They sat.  ” For each question on the test, I want you to read it aloud.  Then read to me your answer.”  She could feel the rise in her blood pressure as she began to read.  She read the first question and her answer.  “That is part of an answer, now tell me why you think that is the answer.”  With every question as she explained in incredible detail what she knew.  He sat and asked more and more questions.  He gave her the quiet, to think.  The only thoughts were those of her own, the gentle soul across from her and the great outdoors.  The longer she sat there the calmer she became and the answers were easy.  She handed him the green pages again and he read through them.  A soft smile crossed his face.  “You aced it.”  he said.  ” I had to know if you were like I thought.  Computer labs drive you bonkers don’t they?  It as if your heart and head can’t concentrate there, right?  It is as if all the judgments that every person in the room feels becomes focused towards you isn’t it?”  he asked softly.  She had felt it for years.  A tear escaped her eye as she looked into his young face.  “I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong on a college campus.  I love learning but why does it have to be so hard?  The information isn’t hard it is the concentration that is hard.” Abbi said softly.

” I too have often felt that way.  That is why I chose to work in nature.  Away from the hum of the computers, away from the hum of other’s thoughts, their fears, their desires.  Coming out of the field and into a classroom brought back all of the same struggles.  I get angry with the class, but it isn’t always something that they say or do out loud.  It is more the bombardment of their thoughts.  Most of them just want to impress me enough to pass the class.  They have no interest in what is beyond that.” he stated.  “Every once in a blue moon, I catch a thought of someone that really wants to learn.  You are one of those blue moon people.  In more than one way, first you want to absorb the knowledge, but you are also a kindred spirit.  You don’t have to have a professor standing in front of you to learn, that is why books are written.  That is why pictures are taken.  You have the ability of doing both.”

Dr. Ward  rose and walked toward the door, as he opened it, he looked back.  “Knowing what you know right now, you are more educated than most people will ever be.  You know that you have a gift and now it is time to take that gift and teach others.  It isn’t something you need a degree for.  It isn’t something that any university will give you.”

Abbi climbed in her old rattle-trap car and set out down the open road toward home.  The hundred mile drive that she made back and forth every day gave her plenty of thought time.  She could roll the windows down on pretty Texas days and let the wind blow through her hair while the radio blasted her ears.  Today even the few channels on the radio that she could get clearly did nothing but annoy her.  She turned it off and drove in the cool fall air in silence, letting her mind wander at will.  The drive home was always nearly as rushed as the drive to school.  Getting to class on time in the mornings created the rush then and the two men at the house that needed her care caused it in the evening.

She didn’t see the small towns as she passed through them, she didn’t see the cotton fields as she passed them, she didn’t notice the traffic on the road, and she sure didn’t remember pulling into the roadside park and turning off the car.  When she began to notice her surroundings the sun was low in the sky and her cell phone was blasting away.  The park was between Ballinger and the Coleman cut off.  She quickly answered the phone to a woman’s voice.

“Where are you?  Are you okay?” her best friend asked.  “I have been calling you for over an hour and not getting an answer.  For awhile I figured that you were in the middle of no where but I know that spot only lasts for about half an hour.  What is wrong?”

“No, nothing is wrong.  I just had the radio blasting and didn’t hear you.  I am fine just late getting home.” Abbi lied.  Still over half an hour from home she knew that she would be speeding to try and make up time.  Where had she let her mind go?  What had engulfed her so completely?  As she drove she thought back to what she had been thinking.

The dream had plagued her most of her life.  It was so real and she was always sitting so close to the action.  It was a story she had been told years ago.  One that she had little detail about but through her dreams it was as if she knew it all.  She knew every detail of the murder, she knew every detail of every person involved in it.  Their feelings, their heartbreak, their physical reactions  she knew the whole thing.  It was as if had become part of the very fiber of her being.  She had tried to write it down once, in a fiction class her first semester at Texas Tech.  It was so emotionally draining that she spent two weeks in bed with a migraine.

She often wondered if her imagination had created the details, if she was dreaming up the unknowns of the story.  But they seemed so real.  It was a story that she had spent a life time fighting the results of and fighting the dreams about.  Abbi had vowed to stomp out the evil that plagued her family.  That had caused so many people heartache and pain for so long.

She left college again after that semester.  Life had once again become too busy to allow the extra time for school.  The words that Dr. Ward  told her that day had stuck.  As she went about her day to day life, taking care of the men and the chores at hand she often let her mind wonder.  How was she supposed to teach that?  How was she supposed to teach anyone what really needed to be?  For nearly a year she had tried to put into words the things that needed to be taught.  She wanted to explain it the one way that she thought she could.  In the written word.

Abbi looked into those eyes again.  She had not realized  the changes that were taking place, the words  she sought were not words but actions.  It would take writing about her own actions, her own experiences, and taking pictures that captured something deeper to free herself and teach what love was.

To teach that it isn’t about a body, it is about a soul.  The thing she was supposed to be imparting was that it is all about the inside.  Not having ever seen someone by their body, she had always only seen and heard the gentle vibrations of a person’s soul.  She didn’t understand the concept of hate.  Abbi didn’t understand how to hate someone for the color of their skin, or who they loved, or what monetary possessions they had.  She didn’t understand the fear of being yourself.  Now she had the task of teaching others to do the same.

II

Four friends piled into the 1928 Dodge Sedan, both couples had been friends for a long time.  The driver and his front seat passenger were Pat and Diana.  Pat was a young man of 21 with white blonde hair and chiseled good looks.  He was fun to be around but had a knack for wanting to be the center of attention. Pat’s father worked for the railroad and he had never had to lift a finger for anything that he had.   Diana and Pat had dated for two years.  They were a very striking couple, opposites in all manner.  Diana was a slender waif of a woman, her coal black hair was long and straight.  Her ivory skin was soft and smooth, her dark brown eyes were large and always seemed to be shocked.  She was a quiet, almost shy girl.  Diana had grown up on a farm just south of town, working as hard as her brothers.  The young couple as odd as they were meshed.  She allowed him to shine while she quietly stood behind him.  His strength.

The couple in the back seat were just as different.  Maise was 19.  He was tall and lanky.  Muscular from hard work.image

His dark auburn hair curled around his ears.  He had grown up on a farm south of Union.  Working the land that his brothers had plowed with a team of white mules.  He was quiet spoken but had an incredible spark of life in him.  His father and step-mother had recently moved to Oklahoma and the reason for the outing was his visit home.  Ruby sat by his side.  She was short and petite.  She was the oldest girl of 6 children.  Her father worked for the railroad and her mother sewed for the public.  A colorful family, Ruby was no different.  She had ridden with the local motor cycle club, she was mouthy and full of spunk.  Her waist length black hair and dark brown eyes seemed stark against her pale skin.  At sixteen she lived quite a life already.  She and Maise had dated the year before he left.

The four sat in the car with the windows down in the summer heat of Texas.  Ruby was the last one to get into the car, she leaned over and whispered into Pat’s ear.  Both of them seemed to agree and laugh at the quiet joke between the two.  Pat headed the car down 7th Street toward the flats.  Pulling into the drive of a run down shambles of a house, he and Ruby got out of the car and headed for the door.  “Are you sure that he wants this done today?” Pat asked as the door opened.  The mirror image of Ruby in a man’s body answered the question as he let the two inside, ” Yes today.”  Pat and Ruby’s two uncles loaded the back of the Dodge with boxes filled with bottles of booze.  Ruby’s grandfather gave her a list of what had been loaded and handed her two bottles for the drive.  The local bootlegger knew that family was trusted for big deliveries and that the two bottles kept the four of them from drinking his profit.

Back in the car, Diana tucked herself up under Pat’s arm.  “Where are we going with all that?” she crooned.  “I didn’t know that this was going to be a business outing.  I thought we were just going to spend the day together and welcome Maisy home.”

Pat let his hand fall upon her chest and laughed.  He steered the car toward FM 400, heading south out of town.  “It is all the same.”

Ruby tried to curl into the arms of Maise in the back seat.  He was distant and cold.  He kept his hands to himself and turned his head to watch the sights out the window.  “Why?  Why do we have to do this today?”  his voice was filled with anger.  “I come to town to spend time with my friends and we have to do something that I don’t believe in.”  He looked at the woman beside him with distaste in his baby blue eyes.  Moving to Oklahoma and given him the freedom to leave her.  To be out of the situation that he had found himself in.  “You know that I hate what your grandfather does.  You know that I don’t like to have anything to do with his business.” he said it trying to be stern and keep the anger from showing.

Ruby lifted his arm and put it around her.  She leaned up and kissed him softly on the cheek.  “I thought that we could kill two birds with one stone.  Making this delivery gives us somewhere to go, pays for us to go, and gets the delivery done.”  she laughed while she said it.  True to herself, she had finagled what she wanted once again.  “I just want to spend time with you, to show you how much I love you.” she crooned.

The Dodge rattled along the road, passing the freshly plowed cotton fields.  Farmers were busy in the fields planting seeds.  They would stop for a moment when they heard the sound of the automobile and look up and wave at the four in the car.  Maise wondered if his two brothers had plowed any of these fields this year.  He knew that with them both having taken jobs on the railroad that they were not plowing full time.  He would have to ask when he returned tonight.  They had passed Southland and as they went off the Caprock near Post, the mood in the car had relaxed.  Maise let his arm around Ruby relax and let her nuzzle up close to him.  Pat and Diana sat close and talked about the fields, the adventures that they had had since Maise was gone, and about the future.  Ruby and Maise began to talk about what they had been doing since they had parted.  Ruby told Maise of her adventures riding motorcycles.  Of riding on the back of Buddy’s cycle standing up as they drove down into the canyon north of Slaton.  “Oh Maise, I wish you had of seen me!  I was so brave.  It was so exciting!!”  She went on and on about how wonderful a time she had.  Maise listened with amusement.   He was sure that her personality allowed such things.  Most girls still wore dresses but he had seen Ruby in men’s pants more than once.  It did not surprise him to think that she had done such masculine acts as riding straddled a motorcycle.  With each story Ruby told, he was more sure that his decision not to take the job with his brothers had been the right one.  That leaving Slaton and the girl under his arm was the right thing to do.

The car rattled to a stop in Post.  The four got out at the edge of the playa lake and Pat opened the first bottle that was given to them.  The four sat on the grass laughing and talking while the drank the whiskey.  Pat and Maise left the girls sitting on the grass to walk around the lake.  They had not really had a chance to talk since Pat had picked Maise up that morning.  Walking along the waters edge the two men skipped stones on the top of the water like they had done when they where kids.  “So, how is Oklahoma?”  Pat asked.  “What are you planning on doing up there anyway?  Is your dad still working for the city there?”

“I have been working at the local gas station and I have applied to the local college to go to school.” Maise answered.  ” I want to be a vet.  I talked to the local vet, John Wittergaurten.  He is going to help me and let me work for him to learn.  Pat the best thing I ever did was to leave Slaton.  I don’t love her, she and her family turns my stomach.”

“She hasn’t really thought much about you while you were gone I don’t think.  There have been a couple of guys hanging around.  I think she is over you Bud.  I only asked her to come along because you said in your letter that you needed to see her to be sure.  When I asked her if she wanted to come along she said that there was something that she urgently needed to talk to you about but that you did not let her have your address.  She said she sent you two letters to hold at the post office but that both were returned.”  Pat had a seriousness in his voice.  “She did not tell me what the urgent news was.”

The two finished off the bottle as they walked in silence the last leg around the lake.  The girls were still sitting on the grass giggling when they walked up.  All four of them sat talking and laughing for a long while until the sun was past midday high.  They returned to the car and headed back out onto the dirt road.  Watching the miles of mesquite and barbed wire fence pass, Maise kept wondering what was so urgent for Ruby to tell him.  The buzz of the whiskey began to wear off and his mind began to clear.  The heat of the spring day, the rattle rattle of the car and the hum of the motor had lulled the four into a peaceful quietness.

As they neared Snyder, Pat turned the Dodge down a county road.  The dirt from the road boiled up behind the back tires and the windows went up.  Two miles off the main highway and a big two story house loomed on a hill top.  White wash fencing around a lush green yard, the driveway circled the house to make deliveries easier.  Most people parked out back anyway to keep their cars from being seen from the roadway.  Big old elm trees circled the house to help hide its patrons.  Pat pulled up close to the back door and honked his horn three times.  Two big muscular black men came up from the barn.  Ruby got out of the back seat and hugged each in turn.  Pat got out and opened the back of the car so it could be unloaded.  He and Maise grabbed a box and headed in the back door.  The rest of the boxes would be unloaded and taken to the barn to be watered down.  Inside the back door the kitchen didn’t smell of home cooking.  It smelled of liquor and stale tobacco.  Glasses lined the cabinets as Mamie stood at the sink washing them.  Maise sat down his box on the table and put his arms around the kind black woman that stood at the sink filled with hot boiling water.

“I sure have missed you Ms. Mamie.  How have you been?”  Maise crooned in her ear.  The woman cackled with delight at the young boy.  “What you means how i be?  You see all this dirty glasses, how you think I be?  I be tired, boy.”  her loud voice boomed with delight.  “Now you better get on in the parlor and says hi to Mizz Maudie.” she popped him playfully with a towel just as Maise moved toward the swinging kitchen door.  He loved Mamie.  She was the one bright spot that he had found today.  His memory of her was always of her singing loud in the kitchen of Mizz Maudie’s.  He joined the others in the parlor with Mizz Maudie.

“Good Lord Boy!!  I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age” Maudie’s loud voice boomed.  “Come sit next to me on this divan.”  Maise parked where he had been told and let the buxom woman take him in her arms.  Nuzzling his head dead center of her voluptuous breast.  Maudie was Ruby’s aunt.  She had been the Madam in the hotel in Slaton when it caught fire.  She had moved to Snyder into the big white house right after that.  Her brother kept the spirits flowing and Maudie kept the women working.  “Where have you been keeping yourself boy?  I figured I would be attending a wedding before now!”  she boomed it looking at her niece sitting across from her and smiled.  Ruby’s face showed her no response at all.  The bell in the hall rang indicating visitors at the door.  Maudie rose, “Have to go to work for a bit kiddies.  You make yourselves comfortable here in the parlor and have a drink or two.  I will be back as soon as I get business tended to.”  she said as she closed the sliding doors into the entrance hall.

The four of them sat and talked and drank with the girls that were not busy.  There were old ones that had been with Maudie since Slaton but Maise noticed that there had been quite the influx of new women too.  Pat and Ruby seemed to know them all.  The more they drank and partied, the more he noticed that Pat touched Ruby in places only someone that had loved her would.  He looked at Diana.  She sat on the settee in front of the window sipping on her drink quietly.  Her face was like stone.  A sadness had come over her and she gazed out the window for long periods of time.  The women had turned on the phonograph and all were dancing and singing to the music.  Maise asked Diana if she would dance with him but she declined so he found a new girl that couldn’t have been much older than sixteen to dance with.  The shattering of glass told him something was wrong and he ducked just as the broken whiskey bottle would have hit the back of his head.  The scream came from his dance partner as the broken bottle cut a deep gash on her cheek as it sailed past.  He reached in his pocket and pulled the handkerchief and quickly covered the cut to stop the bleeding.  Looking around for the source of the broken bottle, Ruby stood alone in the middle of the room.  Lightening seeming to be coming from her angry eyes.

Maudie having heard the commotion entered the room in a huff and flurry, Mamie on her heels.  “Get out!!  Get out of my house!!” she screamed that them.  Three bodies scrambled.  Diana the first to exit, followed by Pat dragging Ruby with him.  Maise stood still, holding the kerchief in place and moving the young girl towards the settee that Diana had occupied.  Surrounded instantly by Maudie, Mamie, and the rest of the girls in the room.  He talked softly to the girl, “It is going to be okay.  I will fix it so that it doesn’t leave a scar.  Mamie get me the sewing kit you keep in the kitchen, white thread and a small needle.  Maudie, I need a bottle of alcohol.”  As he spoke the women set into motion.  The blood had quit flowing and he took the kerchief off her cheek.  It was deep enough that a few stitches were going to be needed.  When the women returned with his request, he quietly went to work.  He pored the whiskey into the cut.  He threaded the needle and began to sew.  Very small stitches, stitches that his mother would have been proud of being sewn into a quilt.  When he was finished he turned the bottle up and drank long and deep.  “Maudie, I am so sorry.  I don’t know what came over her.”

“Boy, you better get before you say something you don’t want me to know.  Remember this boy, I love you.  You are a good man Maise.”  Maudie always knew what to say.  Mamie grabbed him with tears in her eyes as he passed her.  “Take care boy.”  she cried as she said it.

Pat had already started the car and was heading down the drive when Maise caught up with them.  Having to run to catch them, he opened the door and got into the back seat with a still fuming Ruby.  A fist with a punch of a man hit him in the face.  “I hate you!!  I hate you!!” she screamed.  “How could the father of my baby be caught dancing with a whore??  What kind of father does that??” she screamed.  Maise didn’t know if it was the punch to the face of the punch of her words that hit him so hard in the stomach.

“What are you talking about?  I have not been in town for two months!!  It can not be my child!!  But by the way you and Pat looked back there it could sure be his!!!”  Maise spat the words at her.  The punch this time was that of a man.  Being in the front seat and hitting him over the seat, it was off from its target and hit him hard in the side of the head.  Knocking him down in the floorboard.  Maise laid there in semi consciousness listening to the others in the car.  Soft sobs from the front seat told him that Diana was crying and by the sound that she was not in the arm of Pat but closer to the door on her side.  Ruby and Pat were talking in angry tones.  “You have to, you owe me that much.” Ruby exclaimed.

Maise felt the car come to a stop after a long time.  He felt the hands around his ankles as Pat pulled him from the car out onto a dirt road.  He felt his head hit the running board as he cleared the car door.  Pat stood him against the car.  “Buddy, I hate to do this.  You were my best friend.”  Then a searing blow to his head knocked him out again.  When he came to, he had no clear idea of where he was but he knew that his whole body hurt.

A soft voice that he recognized was talking somewhere above him.  How had his oldest brother found him?  “Bud?  Is that you Bud?” Maise asked in a voice that he didn’t know.  “Bud? How did you find me out here?”  Gordon took his baby brother’s hand this time.  “I am here Whiz.”  his soft voice crooned.  “I didn’t find you Whiz, you have been in a horrible accident.  You are in the hospital in Slaton Whiz.”  Maise was confused.  How had he been in an accident?  How did he get to the hospital?  He pulled his brother close to his mouth.  Whispering,  Maise said, “No accident.  Murder.”

III

Had it been that Maise was just confused?  Gordon stood battling the hot tears that streamed from his powder blue eyes.  Holding Maise’s hand he began to look at his brother’s injuries.  His face and head looked horrid.  There was blood and dirt caked in his auburn hair, but there seemed to be tire tracks across his forehead.  There was a big bloody hole on the side of his head.  Gordon lifted the sheet to see the rest of his brothers body.  There were tire tracks across his chest and two sets across his legs.  He had bruises across his chest and cuts and lacerations everywhere.  His left arm was broken as was his right leg.  There was just too much internal damage for Maise to live.  The bright lights of the country hospital surgery room were giving Gordon a headache.  He placed his brother’s hand in the middle of his chest and turned to walk away.

As he entered the little waiting room, he was faced with having to tell his father and brother that Maise was gone.  Looking into the eyes that mirrored his own, the hurt in his father broke him to tears.  Holding the older man, Maise’s voice whispered in his ear again.  “Murder..”  He looked out the window of the waiting room over his father’s shoulder still wondering what Maise meant.

A gentle tap on his shoulder brought him back to the here and now.  He turned to find himself looking eye to eye with a state trooper.  “I hate to interrupt, Mr. Holt but I really need to talk to you about your brother’s death,” the officer said softly.  His eyes were all business with no compassion.  The room began to spin and Gordon took hold of the officers arm to steady himself as the man reached to help.

Walking along the corridor, the Catholic hospital seemed eerily quiet.  The men’s footfalls echoed with each step.  The old night air hit Gordon square in the face as the officer opened the glass doors onto the massive porch.  Stepping out into the night Gordon looked down the many steps to the ground below to see many police cars and a throng of officers talking to a small group.  He turned back to look the officer in the face again.  His eyes had changed, they were full of compassion and hurt.  “I am officer Charles.  I went to high school with Maise.  I want to start by telling you how sorry I am about this and I wish I didn’t have to speak to you about all this.”  he said in a strained voice.

“Why are you interested in Maise’s death?  I assume you are not here just as an old chum.” Gordon said.

“No, I wish it was as just that.  We got a call from doctor Payne.  He told us that he thought that this wasn’t an accident.  He said that Maise’s injuries did not match the story the three friends told when they brought him in.”  he looked out over the side of the porch, down to the drive below.  “I have seen the injuries myself and I am in agreement of that analysis.  There were too many tire tracks for it to have been a simple accident, Gordon.  The kids told the hospital that he had been hit by the car while he leaned out on the running board to check the tire,” his voice was now all business as he spoke.  “They said that they had all been drinking throughout the day and that they were coming back from Post and decided to take the long way back home.  Pat said that he had decided to go by a friends house north of Southland and that they were out by the creek when it happened.”

” I have known these kids all their lives.  I can’t say that I always agreed with Maise’s choice of running buddies, but are you suggesting that they killed him? They are his friends and he dated Ruby.”  Gordon was having a hard time comprehending this idea.

“There is more.  Ruby claims that they were getting married, that she is having his baby.” Charles spat these last words.  He knew her family well in his business and could not easily hide his distaste for her.  Charles eyed the man in front of him, he watched as Gordon took in the last information.  He placed his hand on the man’s shoulder knowing that this was hard to take in all at once.

All Gordon could think of was walking straight down the enormous stair case and ask Pat, Diana, and Ruby for himself.  To look into their eyes and see the truth.  To shake them by the shoulders if he had to, he wanted the truth.  Gordon took a step toward the staircase and was stopped by Charles’ hand on his arm.  He turned toward him, ” I just want to ask for the truth.”

“Not now, let us do our work.  Let the police handle this.  The chief placed a call to the FBI.  They have more experience at this type of thing.”  Charles said with false hope.

Gordon walked past toward the glass door, as he opened it he looked back at the grounds.  ” I will give you your time, but at some point I will talk to them.  Now I have a family to take care of.”  He walked the corridor this time only his footsteps echoed.  A few minutes alone to digest the information that he had been given before facing his father and brother again.  How was he to explain all this to them.  How was he going to tell them that their beloved Maise was murdered?  As he passed the chapel, he stopped and went inside.  The dark little chapel, with candles lit down front.  The stained glass windows were still beautiful in the glow of the candles.  The cross, the statue of the virgin, the pews, the kneelers, all reminded him that he was at Mercy Hospital.  The nun praying down front stood quietly and crossed herself before facing Gordon.  She closed the distance between them holding him as the tears began to fall.  She prayed for him softly as she let his emotions escape.  He thanked her softly when he recomposed and hugged her in earnest.

He walked back into the waiting room, his brother, his father, and his step mom rose to meet him.  He held each in turn giving wholly of his self to them.  He sat down in the old wooden chair and motioned them close around.  As they sat in the dimly lit room with the night beyond the windows, he began to explain all that he had learned.  He described all that he had seen.  He told them of looking at Maise’s injuries and of his brother’s final words.  They talked deep into the night, waiting to find out when they could take Maise for burial.  A short time before the sun would kiss the horizon beyond the cotton fields outside they stepped out into the brisk dark air.  The darkness engulfed them into its cold arms.