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Authors: G. M. Frazier

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A Death On The Wolf

BOOK: A Death On The Wolf
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A Death On The Wolf
A DEATH ON
THE WOLF

 

G. M. FRAZIER

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by G. M. Frazier

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.

 

Cover photo of the Wolf River by Mike Kennedy.

 

For Daddy

1930 – 1984

 

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

 

1 Corinthians 13:11, KJV

 

PART ONE

 

Chapter 1

The Summer of 69

 

The summer I turned sixteen I shot a man. It was 1969. Neal Armstrong walked on the moon. Hurricane Camille destroyed our farm. And I shot a man.

I grew up near the town of Bells Ferry, Mississippi, on the Wolf River, about twenty miles north of Pass Christian. The farm house we lived in was a modest white frame structure built by my mother’s parents. My father was an ex-Marine, a widower, and a millwright at the carbolineum plant in Bells Ferry. My mother died in 1963 giving birth to my sister, Sachet. I was supposed to be a junior—Patrick Lemuel Gody, Jr.—but my mother prevailed upon my father at the hospital to give me her maiden name, Nelson, so Patrick was relegated to second place on my birth certificate. As for the surname, our ancestors were French and came to this country in the eighteenth century. They settled around New Orleans, and our family name had originally been spelled “Godet” but got Anglicized sometime after the family migrated into southern Mississippi.

It was summertime, and from May until September my days would be marked by the routines only family farm living offers. There was always grass to mow, weeds in the garden, pine needles to rake, a cow to milk, peripatetic goats to round up, okra to pick, tomato vines to stick and tie, potatoes to dig, corn to shuck, beans to snap, and a hundred other chores. Add to all that the part time job I had taken at Dick’s ESSO station in town, usually working three afternoons a week. But life wasn’t all work, as there was always ample opportunity for a quick swim in the Wolf River, which was less than a mile down the road from our house. Frankie Thompson was my best friend, just four months younger than I, and because his family ran a small dairy farm, he was as busy as I was during the summer. But we usually managed to get away for an hour or two nearly every afternoon for a swim in the cool dark waters of the spring-fed Wolf. Our spot on the river was “secret,” a pristine white sand beach not visible from the road and shaded by the trees where we swam and occasionally pitched a tent for camp-outs. Frankie and I had cut a path to it through the woods back in the fourth grade, and so far no one outside our circle of friends and family had discovered it—that we knew of.

With the exception of my job at the ESSO station, the summer of 1969 had begun like every other summer I could remember since starting school. Now that July had rolled around, and my routine was set, I assumed it would run its course and finish like all my summers that had come before it. I could not have been more wrong. This was to be my summer of endings and beginnings. A summer of life. A summer of love. A summer of loss. A summer of death.

— — —

On this first Monday in July, I was in charge of preparing dinner for Sachet and myself. Daddy rarely got home from work before six o’clock, so our Aunt Charity normally saw to our meals in the evenings—except on Tuesdays (her bridge night) and the first Monday of each month (her Eastern Star meeting). As I took the loaf of bread out of the pantry, I glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall by the ice box. It was almost 6:30. My sister was sitting over at the table, so I took the bread, grape jelly, and peanut butter over there and began making her sandwich.

As I began spreading the jelly on the bread, Sachet said, “I don’t like it like that.”


Sash, this is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m putting the jelly on the bread. What is there not to like?”


You’re putting it on thick,” she said. “I like the jelly to be thin and the peanut butter to be thick.”

I looked at my sister. Our house was not air conditioned, and the big fan over in the corner was blowing her long blond hair around her face in soft swirls. Over the course of her five and a half years on this earth, I had made Sachet dozens, maybe hundreds, of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I had come to expect some complaint about this or that, but she had never made me aware of this requirement. I took the knife and scraped some of the jelly off. “Better?” I asked.

She nodded, then said, “Do you think they’re really going to the moon?”


Yes,” I replied, “they’re really going to the moon.”

The launch of Apollo 11 was just a little over a week away, and given that every S-IC booster of the Saturn V rocket was assembled down at Michoud in New Orleans, and then test fired at NASA’s Mississippi Test Facility outside of Picayune, the event was as big a deal around here as it was in Houston or Cape Kennedy. Daddy’s brother, my Uncle Rick, worked at MTF. He was an engineer and worked for NASA, but I wasn’t sure what he did. He was able to get us guest passes to the test firings, which were something to see, hear, and feel. Of course, everyone within fifty miles of MTF heard and felt the thunderous roar of those five F-1 engines when they would light off during a booster test. In fact, the last test left a crack in one of the windows in the principal’s office at my school.

I was now spreading peanut butter on the other slice of bread. I watched my sister’s green eyes as they followed the knife’s every movement from the jar to the bread. She was carefully scrutinizing my culinary skills, ever ready to offer a criticism should I not perform to perfection.


Aunt Charity says people were not meant to go to the moon,” Sachet said. “She says God won’t like it.”

I finished the final assembly of Sachet’s sandwich, placed it on a paper plate, and then slid it across the table to her. “Aunt Charity is an old fuddy-duddy,” I said. I went over to the junk drawer in the kitchen and got a rubber band.


How old is Aunt Charity?” my sister asked as I started pulling her hair back to get it out of her face.

I had to stop and think about her question. “She’ll be forty in November,” I said, and fastened the rubber band around the pony tail.

Aunt Charity was Mama’s twin, and Mama was thirty-four when she died. Mama had two sisters: her twin, Charity, and their older sister, Faith. Mama’s name was Hope, and she was the middle of the three sisters: Faith, Hope, and Charity. Even though Mama and Aunt Charity were twins, she was, by a few minutes, the oldest. Aunt Faith lived up north somewhere with her second husband. Mama’s funeral was the last time I had seen her, and my only recollection of her almost six years later was the smell of cigarettes and stale White Shoulders.


Do you want milk or tea to drink?” I asked Sachet.


Milk,” she said.

I went over to the ice box, got the pitcher of cold milk and poured Sachet a glass.


Aren’t you going to eat?” she asked me as I set the glass in front of her.


I’m not hungry,” I replied.


You’d have to eat if Aunt Charity was here. She’d make you.”


She’s not here. And if she were, you wouldn’t be eating that.” I pointed to the sandwich. The only time we could eat like this was when Aunt Charity was away. And heaven help us if she found out Daddy had taken us into town to eat at the Colonel Dixie, the only hamburger joint in Bells Ferry. The Bobby Dean Diner in town was fine, but the Colonel Dixie was off limits as far as our aunt was concerned.

Sachet took her first bite of the sandwich and I waited for the inevitable critique I knew would be forthcoming. But she just chewed and chewed and then took a gulp of milk. I replaced the pitcher of milk in the ice box and decided to leave well enough alone and not ask her how the sandwich was.


Mama will be forty in November, too,” Sachet said.


If she were still alive,” I said.


So me and Mama and Aunt Charity have the same birthday?”


Yes.”


And I’ll be six.”


Yes.”


So Mama died on my birthday and her birthday and Aunt Charity’s birthday.”


Eat your sandwich,” I said. This was an exchange my sister and I had had many times.


If Mama and Aunt Charity were twins, how come Aunt Charity doesn’t look like Mama in the pictures?”

I pulled out the chair at the table and sat down across from Sachet. This was a new inquiry that was taking this familiar conversation into uncharted territory. There was no way I could explain the genetics, which I wasn’t even sure of myself, but I knew if I didn’t give my sister an answer (and one she’d be satisfied with), I’d be dealing with this issue until bedtime. “Some twins are identical and some aren’t,” I offered.


What’s ‘identical’ mean?”


That means they look exactly alike.”


Oh.” She took another bite of her sandwich and chewed. “Do you still remember Mama?” she mumbled through the goo in her mouth.


Yes.”


Do you miss her?”


Yes.”


Me, too.”

I could have easily pointed out the obvious to my sister, but I knew what Sachet meant. She didn’t miss Mama; she missed having a mother. It’s a terrible thing to lose your mother when you’re ten years old—but maybe worse still to have to grow up without one at all. Aunt Charity had stepped in to fill the void from the day Daddy brought Sachet home from the hospital, but it wasn’t the same. I knew it. Sachet knew it. And I suppose, most of all, Daddy knew it.

BOOK: A Death On The Wolf
13.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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