The Rev kept coming to visit, almost every day. He started bringing other kinds
of things to read to me besides Kipling. Sometimes he left books for me to read,
and sometimes I read them. He mentioned once that I seemed more content. I
didn't figure I should tell him why.
He called me son once in a while, I got used to it. So, OK, so maybe I started to
like it a little bit. He was OK for an old guy. He wouldn'ta lasted a week where I
grew up, but I guess he did all right in Bisbee.
I started walking a little, down the block and back was about as far as I could
manage at first. Lynnie was at the shop a lot, so the Rev went with me. People
would wave as they went by, and the Rev would tell me who they were, and
some of the gossip-the tame stuff, anyway. After three weeks or so, I was
walking 5 blocks and back.
The sling came off my arm, the tube came out of my cheek; the doc said he wanted
to wait a little longer to unfasten my jaw.
It was after one of our walks, sitting on the steps in front of the house, that
the Rev got curious again.
"The first day I met you, son, I asked you if you'd killed anyone. Do you remember?"
"I've been trying to wait until you're fully recovered to ask you any more-I know
how difficult it is to try to explain when you have to write everything….But it's
been bothering me….You seem like such a nice young man……"
"You seem so casual about it. During the war I could hardly stand to fire my gun
Oh, at targets, I could do that, but at people….I just couldn't. Doesn't it
bother you at all that you've taken lives, even if it was in self-defense?"
I was tempted to be a smart-ass, but it seemed so important to the old guy that I
just couldn't. I took a moment to consider.
"But how do you justify to yourself the taking of human lives, even if….I'm sorry,
I know this is impossible…..I guess I'll just have to wait…"
He looked up from the paper slowly. "Bud….every person is a child of God….every
life is valuable…."
I shook my head. GARBAGE. Almost before he had time to read that, I grabbed the
notebook back. LET GOD HAVE THEM.
"There is no one that's irredeemable, son."
I pointed at him, I gestured at the town. WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
It took him a minute to understand what I was trying to say. "Yes, I've lived
here in Bisbee most of my life, and perhaps I haven't had the experiences you've
That was for damn sure.
"-but people are the same everywhere, son, they're all doing the best they can---"
NO. I slapped the notebook to make sure he knew I meant it. NO.
"Bud….that almost sounds as if you believe there are people that don't deserve to
I think he thought that would shock me, that I would have to back down. But this
was something I knew about. I just nodded.
He didn't have anything to say to that. Why had he asked me this? It was just
upsetting him. And I wasn't sure I could make him understand.
"Only God has the right to judge, son."
His forehead wrinkled. "Where…..where….is God? Is that what you mean?"
"He's everywhere, he's here with us always."
I shook my head. WHEN PEOPLE BLEED.
"When we're in trouble, when we're in pain, he's there for us, we just have to call
I shook my head, and pointed to myself. This was more complicated, he didn't want
to understand anyway, not really---I took the notebook and set it in my lap.
NEVER SEEN GOD THERE. WAIT FOR GOD TO BRING JUSTICE, THE SCUM DO IT AGAIN.
I gave him the notebook.
"So….you bring the justice?"
I shouldn't be talking to him like this, I knew it. He lived in a different world,
a different life. He liked me for some reason; why did I want to screw that up?
"So you're the judge and the jury?"
Or was it me he liked? Who did he think he came to visit every day here on
the porch? Who was it he thought he was getting to know? The mute that lived with
little Lynnie, the silent man who did nothing but read and nod and smile? The
invalid that he could read to, and tell his very clean jokes to, and call son? He
didn't know me. He didn't know anything about me, or my life.
Suddenly it seemed important that he did. I didn't have any illusions. Once he
knew anything about me, the real me, he'd probably drop me like a hot potato. Who
could blame him? But at least I wouldn't be conning him. As long as I was honest,
whatever he thought would be his choice, and he'd be thinking it about ME, not some
pretend son he made up in his head.
Even with all that, it was still a really stupid thing to do, but, you know me, I
did it anyway.
Lynn pulled up in the driveway while the Rev was thinking about those two words.
He stood up as she walked up to the porch.
"Hi, you two," she said.
"Are you telling me," the Rev said, "that I've been sitting next to a killer these
past weeks? A murderer?" He looked ill. "My God."
He wasn't gonna be calling me son anymore, was he?
He took a step backward, then another step.
Yeah, his reaction was just about what I expected. Though I guess in the back of
my mind I'd been kinda hoping…….well. He is who he is, just like I am.
No point in dragging it out. I gathered up the books sitting next to my chair that
belonged to him, and made a tidy pile. Then I gathered up the rest from the table
and made another pile. Easy for him to pick up and haul home. The notebook I closed
up, carried with me into the house, and threw in the trash.
I didn't expect him to follow me.
"What gives you the right to judge? When did you become all-knowing? You're a
murderer--what if I decided you didn't deserve to live?"
I could see in his face it was a serious question. OK, come on, then, dammit.
I grabbed him by the coat and pushed and pulled him with me up the stairs into the
bedroom. I took my gun and the shells out of the drawer, loaded the damn thing, and
shoved it into his hand. Then I gave him a push.
He looked down at it and then up at me. Lynn stood in the doorway, her hands over
her mouth. She looked like she might cry. I wished I could tell her I was sorry;
I knew she loved the old man. I jerked my head to tell her to leave. I didn't think
the old man would shoot, but you never could tell, he was pretty upset. Of course
she wouldn't go.
The Rev put the gun down carefully on top of the dresser.
"No. You see, I'm not a killer. Or an executioner. I'm sorry, Lynnie, I'm so
sorry….I need to go…I really….I need to think about this for a while, my dear…I can't
believe I could have been so taken in…..so deceived….."
He went out the door, stopping once to look back at me, and then patting Lynn on the
arm as he passed her. He still looked ill, but he wasn't angry, I don't think;
he looked bewildered more than anything else.
"…. Bud…….how did that happen?"
I sat on the edge of the bed. After a minute, Lynn sat down beside me. "Oh, baby,
you're gonna miss him."