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Family Matters

By David Gardiner



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Dear Mama

I reckin I owe you an explanatin and this here is it. The first thing I want to say is that you wernt never a bad Mama and Papa werent never a bad Papa. You was the best Mom and Dad any girl ever had an you tawt me wrong from rite an I knew full well what I done was wrong an I done it anyway. Me myself, I done it, nothin to do with you. I knew what I was doin an I wen right ahead an done it.
        Ive kept quiet ni on two years an not said nothing becase of i was afraid of what papa an you would say an what other folks would say. Along with evrey thing else I am a coward.
        So heres the truth. Tell the truth an shame the devil you used to say when I was litlle an you was right.
        I reckin you knowd all along that Billy Joe an me had somthin goin on. Evreybody else round here knowd so why wouldnt you know? You an Papa never thought much of Billly Joe. Papa said he never had a lick of sense and maybe that was true but he wasnt no retard. Billy Joe worked that farm his Pop give him up on Chocktaw Ridge with just his own hands from he was 18 yeares old and always grew enuf to get by even tho the land up there was nevre even near as good as what we got, an he could rede an rite an do his numbers as good as the next person only he was kind of soft an not much good at lokin out for himself. Werent no bad bone in Billy Joes body. He always treated me reel nice and respecful, even after hed slept with me few times. Sorry for talkin plain but I reckin this aint the time to mince words.
        I know you remembir that time two sumers back when Billy Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Folks thought hed gon a bit crazy. Well mabe he had but there was reasons why he'd gon crazy. Most times things happen for a reson. I don't ned to remind you ether that ever since that day things has gone reel bad for this famly. Pappa got that viris and passed away an brotheer Ned married Becky Thompson and bought that no-good hardwere store in Tupelo an ther marriage is dam near on the rocks already. An the crops near failed two seasons in a row. An I know you been pinin since papa pased away an lettin things get on top of you. Aint nothin whatever went right for this famly ever since that day. Ive had no heart in anything myself ether. I aint hardly slept since then with nitemares an aint hardly et ether an just been feelin terble all the time. All I want to do is wander round on Choctaw Ridge, maybe say a few prayers, pik a few flowers. A right pair the two of us was its a wonder anythin atall got done on the farm, last cuple years.
        Well now its time for me to do a bit of unburdenin an im reel sorry that i have to upset you like this but i reckin things cant get mush worse anyhow an its likly better this hole thing is out in the open, at least no secrets between you an me. Old Doc Ransom used to say there was a deal of folks secrets hed be caryin with him to the grave. Carryin secrets ant easy an Im not strong enouf to do it no more.
        Doyou remembir a few months before Billy Joe died his sister Charlene had a big bust up with there dad an got thron out of the house cause she was goin to have a baby? I'm shure you do. Folks talked about it alot. Well Billy Joe an me was seein one another at the time an I was workin in Anarine at the Four Eyed Jack. So I agred to do Charlene an Billy Joe a favor. Charlene wanted to let her mom know she was OK only she dint want ether of them to know where she was so what happined was she holed up with her brother in the Chocktaw Ridge farm an pretendid to her Dad that she had found a rooming house an a job in Anarene. She rote her Mom some letters an I posted them in Anarene an the retern adress was the plase one of the other girls lived in Anarene so I got the leters from Charlenes mom an passed them on to Charlene. Any time her dad visted Billy Joe at Chocktaw Ridge she hid out in the barn or some plase so that he wount see her. It only happined a couple times. Evrey body thout she was in Anarene but she was with Billy Joe all the time. She told her mom shed moved to Anarne cause it was a big town with morein 2 thousend poeple in it so nobody woud know her ther. It was a prety smart story. I told Billy Joe he outo get her a doctor or somethin cause a girl cant just give birth to a baby like a mare drops a foal in fac even that can be pretty scary an risky. But Charlene dint want nobody else around, not even me reely i think. It tooke me a long time to work out why.
        Turns out the reasen Charlene an Billy Joe dint want nobody else involved was Charlene reckind the baby was Billy Joes child and that was an aful sin an they could never hold ther heads up agan if it got out an if there Pop found out he would like as not kill the to of them.
        I was a mitet shocked when Billy Joe told me about that an I hardly even believed him an im not sure I believe him an Charlene evin now. Anyhow he said the two of them usd to fool aruond from when they was kids an usd to creep into each others bedrooms. There folks caught them couple times but dint know how far ited got to. I reckin thats why his dad bought him the farm on Chocktaw Ridge to get him out of the house an away from Charlene. I dont ritly know how Charlene MacAllister could evin tell whuse kid it was cause evreybody in school new shed tried out more boys that the Anarene Tigres Football Club but she said it was likley his an sure enuf when i saw that babyiI reckind she was morin likley rite. It was an ugly litle criter with a screwedup fase and it hardley moved an dint cry atall even onse. That child wernt right, like when Stenny had the five pups an one was small an week an had to be drownded.
        I wasnt ther when Charlene had her kid caus it come a mite sooner en we was expecin an Billy Joe was on his own with her an i reckin he paniked a bit. Charlene was in an aful state screamin fit to wake the dead when th baby finly come an their was blood all over the plase evn hit the seeling Billy Joe sed. he cut the cord with his hunting knife cause hed heard you was suposed to do that but he said the blood just kep comin an comin an he count find no way to stop it an Charlene just lost all her strenth an was dead inside of about half an hour. The day after he beried her someplace up their an he never told me where an I never asked. He burnt all the beding an the matres an him an me tride to cleen the blood of the room best we culd.
        Well you can magen how Billy Joe felt casue he was a reel gentle soul an he loved his sister morein anybodey elce I ever knew. He was gibberin like a madman, sayin how hed kiled Charlne with that huntin knife an how he was fixin to use it on himself. It was crazy talk. The way I saw it even Doc Ransom count of saved Charlene her insides mustive been tore up pretty bad. Well I had felings for Billy Joe like I siad an I tride to do the best I coud to make him feel better. That tiny kid was near dead, she was harlly movin an her breathin sound awful. I told Billy Joe there wernt no point trin to do nothin for her, most kind thing would be to put her out of her misery. First we bapetised her an giv her the name Mary casue that was the most holy an innicint name ether of us knew. Billy Joes folks is Roman Cathlic an he reckind anyboey could bapetise a baby, dint have to be no preecher. It made him fel bit better an I didnt argue. When wed done that we took her to the middle of the Tallahatchie Bridge an put her in one of them brown net onion bags that dont rot an tide a big rock to it. We sead a prayer, then we held her out over the raling an let go the bag. She fell reel slow. must of been ten seconds before she hit the water. Went under strate way. Dint suffer. Just like Stennys runt pup. After it was done Billy Joe jus stood their. I count get him away from them ralings. He still had the hunting knife an he got it out an picked up a bit of stick from the ground an start whittlin. He just went on an on whittlin it into a point, sharper an sharper, an he woldnt say nothin. In fact I don't think he said a single word to me after that, or like as not anybody else ether. Billy Joe just stood their whittlin an lookin into the water all that way down. Next I heard hed jumped over an done himself in. You know all the rest.
        Ive had nighmares ever since that day. Bin scared to close my eyes at nite cause of what im goin to dream. Guess it musta been even worse for Billy Joe. Wernt no way Billy Joe could of brought up that kid even if shed been normal. His pop woulda found out pretty soon an it all woulda come out an like as not thed a kiled Billy Joe. Either his pop or the neigbor folks up their. Wernt like it was a normal child. A child born of a brother an a sister is an abomnation. It says so in the bible I think. Wouldnt of lived anyhow. All we done was put it out of its misery. That was what I said to Billy Joe an what I said to myself to but I knue rite well it wernt true. Mary MacAllister was a humin bein with a solel same as you or me. What we done was murder, coldblooded.
        So now you know why this famly has had a curce ever sinse that day. The Lord is angery with me an he has a rite to be angery. Hes waitin for me to own up to what I done an to pay the prise.
        Ive got to meet my maker an give an acount of my life an then itel all be over an you an Ned an Becky can get on with your lives an their wont be no curse. Thingsel be just fine again. So now Ive got to make my last journey to the Tallahatchie Bridge. Dont wory none bout me Mama. It cant be no worse on the other side than it is on this one. An God is all merciful. Even Judas Skariot got forgiven cordin to Brother Taylor. Say a prayer for me Mama. Its not so bad. In just a half an hour or so Im goin to be out of my misery like Stennys pup an Mary an Charlene an Billy Joe.
        I just ask one thing. This here is family matters. I dont want nobody else readin it but you an nether would Billy Joe or Charlene. An when youv red it I want you to burn it. Pleese dont let me down Mama.
        Good bye Mama. Throw a few flowers over the raling of the Tallahatchie Bridge for us now and then. Aint much thats beautiful an innicint in this world cept flowers.



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