Chapter Three, by Christy Vance Dunovant
When Granddaddy went to old Doc Boggs to get stitched up, nobody ever asked questions. Doc just went to work stitching. If anybody in Butner County had ever heard tell of Rady, they didn’t never speak of him. Jimmy thought it was probably best that way, seeing as how he didn’t know what he would say, anyhow.
He didn’t remember anyone telling him to keep quiet, but somehow he just knew they didn’t talk about Rady outside the house. Neither did they talk about Granddaddy’s visits to the sick or Grandma’s way of always knowing when it was time for Granddaddy to call on them.
Jimmy’s eyes watered. He missed Grandma something fierce. She was the only one who could calm Granddaddy when Jimmy did wrong. She was the only one that Rady hadn’t brought bad things down on. She had been his secret hope for getting off the farm and out of Butner County. What would he do now?
Jimmy kicked a rock along the dusty road, wiped sweat off his upper lip, and squinted his eyes against the sun. He looked for a shady spot to stop for a drink of water from his canteen, but there was none. Finally, he was on his way to school. Somehow, he had to make up his work and figure out how to finish the term right. And how to escape the farm without Rady bringing trouble down on him.
Jimmy dropped to the ground and turned his head every which way, looking for the source of the voice. He hunched his shoulders down over his knees, drawing his body as close down to the ground as he could. He could see nothing but acres of dry, brown weeds.
“My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.”
Jimmy jumped again at the sound of the voice. He looked over both shoulders. No one was in sight. Hellfire, now he was imagining things. Hearing voices. Jimmy shivered. Black clouds hid the sun and goose bumps covered Jimmy’s arms.
“The terrors of death are fallen upon me,” the voice again broke the stillness.
“Why me, Lord?” Jimmy cried. “Who are you? What do you want? Leave me be! Get thee behind me, Satan!”
Lighting flashed across the sky, suddenly dark with black clouds. Jimmy ran toward the broke-down oak near the curve in the road. He threw himself on the brown grass and folded his arms over his head.
“Lord,” he prayed, “I know there are no ghosts but the Holy Spirit. Please, Lord, deliver me from the devil. Lord, you know I never mean to do bad. Please, Lord, deliver me from evil.”
Lightning flashed so bright Jimmy could see it through closed eyes. Rain dropped onto the meager leaves of the oak and Jimmy’s tears pooled on the hard, red clay beneath him. Rain soaked his clothes and ran over the oilcloth he’d carefully wrapped around his books.
When Jimmy opened his eyes, the grass underneath him felt soft and thick. He moved one arm away from his head and peeked at the tree above. Mint-green leaf buds covered the oak branches sprouting from a now-straight trunk. The black clouds were gone and a cool spring breeze rustled the leaves.
“Lord Jesus, what have I done now?” Jimmy choked and coughed and breathed in the dust covering his shirt. He rolled over his side and lifted himself to his feet. The dusty road was lined with daisies and black-eyed Susans. Lush, green grass and purple clover buds covered the meadows.
Jimmy dropped to his knees and the words rushed from his mouth. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.”
His rusty Timex had stopped at 7:15. How long had he lain on the grass? The sun showed it to be early yet, so maybe he could still get to school on time. Jimmy ran the last mile, trying to ignore the panic in his gut.
A good spring rain, is all it was. Nothing but a spring rain to perk the land up a bit. He should give thanks for the rain on the corn field he and granddaddy had sowed last week. A good crop could buy him some time to figure his plans. Somehow, there had to be a way out.