Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chapter 14 - Rachael and Redemption

August 1948

The cove woke up slowly on Saturday mornings. Solomon and Ma sat on the porch after breakfast as friends, neighbors, and patients visited a while and then left. Some stopped for an informal consult, but most just wanted to shoot the breeze. The phone rang, and Ma went inside to answer. Solomon sat in a rocking chair watching a neighbor deadhead the petunias along his sidewalk.

Ma came back outside and said, “That was Mrs. Hamilton.” Mrs. Hamilton had taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grades at Rooster Cove School for more than twenty years. Solomon had fond memories of the years he’d spent in her classroom.

“Do ye remember Ora Hicks’ girl, Rachel?” Ma asked him.

“The fifteen year old?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said, “she’s fourteen. She’s the one that’s retarded. Mrs. Hamilton is on the way over to talk to us about her.”

“The only time I’ve ever seen her is when we’ve delivered Ora’s babies.” He thought about it a while and said, “Come to think of it, I didn’t see her last year when Ora had the girl. The last time I saw Rachael must have been what...four years ago when the boy was born? She seemed to be a sweet child. She was shy.”

“Yeah, that’s the last time I seen her too,” Ma said. “I remember deliverin’ her. It was a normal birth and the little girl wuz fine. Then when she wuz eighteen months old, she got diphtheria. I went with Doc Wall to help out with her. Her fever was so high she wuz havin’ seizures. It left her with brain damage. After that, Doc Wall and me went all around in the hollers to vaccinate kids for diphtheria.”

Mrs. Hamilton drove up in the yard and parked her car. She had gained quite a few pounds since Solomon had been in her class. She held on to the banister to pull herself up the front steps. She smiled real big, “Morning, Patsy…Solomon, how’s this hot weather treatin’ you?”

Ma and Solomon stood up to greet her. She hugged Ma Patsy, and then she got up on her tiptoes and hugged Solomon. She remembered the day that he’d predicted the birth of her son, Homer. That was her first experience with his psychic abilities. He was ten years old that day and just a little squirt. He’d put his little hands on her belly and said, “You’ll have a boy in the spring.” And what a shocker that was. He was right! She hadn’t even missed her period yet, and here’s this child predicting her son’s birth. Eleven years later she had to stand on her tiptoes to hug him. He was one of her all time favorite students.

Solomon offered Mrs. Hamilton his rocker as he moved over to the porch swing.

Mrs. Hamilton carried a folder in her hand. She dropped into the rocker and said, “I can’t remember when I’ve been so disturbed about something.” She took out the picture that Ruth had drawn of her family. Solomon got up to look over Ma’s shoulder. Mrs. Hamilton pointed to the girl standing on the red splash of paint. “Ruth Hicks drew this picture. She told me that her eighteen year old brother, Turtle, is sexually abusing this child.”

Ma looked surprised. “She said that?”

“Well, she said that he was messin’ with Rachael. It was after he’d tried to touch Ruth down there, and she’d told him not to do it. He told her that Rachael liked it.” Mrs. Hamilton seemed disgusted with her words.

“Oooh no,” Ma said, “bless her heart.”

Solomon clinched his teeth. His jaw muscles quivered.

Ma Patsy pointed to the red splash of color, “Is this supposed to be blood?”

Mrs. Hamilton said, “Yes, Ruth said that the child has an ‘issue of blood’ like the woman in the Bible.”

Ma Patsy said, “She’s fourteen. I’d expect her to be havin’ periods”

Mrs. Hamilton said, “Now her sister Ruth’s only ten years old, so she may not know what she’s talking about, but she told me it’s not like ‘the curse.’ That’s what she called it. She said Rachael bleeds all the time and the family can’t stand to be around her because she stinks. They make her sleep on the back porch with the dogs.”

Ma Patsy gasped, “That’s awful!”

“That’s what I thought too,” Mrs. Hamilton said, “and she’ll be pregnant if her brother’s messing with her like that, if she’s not already.” She looked at Solomon for his reactions.

He was staring off beyond the mountains. He cut his eyes at his old teacher when he sensed that she was watching him. “I’ll go talk to Alfred and Ora about her,” he said. “I need to see her, and I’ll get Turtle off alone and talk to him. I’ll find out what’s going on.”

“Please don’t let Turtle know that Ruth is behind this. I just don’t trust him. Even when he was in my class, he was a hateful child,” Mrs. Hamilton warned.

“I’ll be careful not to let him know,” Solomon said.

Solomon was raised in Rooster Cove. He knew how independent people were, especially those that lived in the hollows. They stayed to themselves because they liked things that way. They didn’t care to have people coming around asking about their personal business. They didn’t mind telling anybody to mind their own business, and they didn’t mind pointing a shotgun at an unwelcome visitor either.

Ever since Grady Watson had come to the clinic talking about the Mortimer Demon, Solomon had been meaning to find out more about it. Turtle would probably be happy to tell the story, and Solomon figured he could make up some excuse to talk to Turtle’s mother. Maybe he could see Rachael. He’d be able to tell a lot about what was going on with her just by being in her presence. He knew things about people. They didn’t have to tell him.

Rachael sat squatting in the cave with her arms wrapped around her legs. She rocked back and forth watching the beast. The goat-man had carried her to his lair and put her down against the back wall. His back was to her as he aimlessly toyed with the glowing coals of a fire that he’d built in the center of the cave. Its flames cast writhing shadows on the walls. The beast occasionally turned to look at Rachael. Sadness lurked in his face.

Rachael’s eyes scanned the darkness for a way out. She saw none. Her six-year-old mind made it impossible for her to fathom the evil in the minds of others. She was accustomed to indifference from her family and cruelty from Turtle, but she didn’t understand any of it. She’d learned to keep to herself. Her friends were the family dogs and the animals she played with in the woods. She had an uncanny rapport with them. She respected the predators. She knew to stay back from them. But the others, the deer, the squirrels, rabbits, birds, chipmunks, all of those…had no fear of Rachael. She could walk right up to any of them and touch them.

Rachael felt confused about the goat-man. He was part animal. He had cloven hoofs. She didn’t know of any animals with cloven hoofs that killed to eat meat. Did that mean she could trust him? It was the human part of him that frightened her. And yet the human part of him seemed so sad that she felt sorry for him. Tears welled up in her eyes, and her tummy growled from hunger. Her lower lip quivered. She closed her eyes and cried silently.

“Raaachaeeel," a female voice crooned.

Rachael’s eyes snapped open. There before her…hovering above the floor of the cave was a glowing creature of light with wings partially extended. Downy white feathers seesawed as they floated to the floor of the cave. Rachael picked up a feather and smiled twisting it between her fingers.

The goat-man stumbled backwards away from the creature of light. He tilted his head in curiosity. The beautiful winged being ignored him.

Rachael eyes lit up, “Are ye a angel?”

The lovely creature settled down on the cavern floor. She bent over and placed a fingertip under Rachael’s chin. The angelic being pursed her lips and blew a powder pink cloud out of her mouth into Rachael’s face. Tiny pink tendrils entered Rachael’s nostrils and her mouth, which dropped open as if she were in a deep sleep. A transparent form arose out of Rachael’s body. It hovered for a moment still attached to her by a silvery cord. Then Rachael’s magnificent spirit body stood up.

The angelic creature dropped to her knees before Rachael’s spirit and said, “Behold an innocent one.”

Rachael’s spirit placed a hand on the angelic creature’s head and said, “Arise, Sarah.”

Sarah O’Hara stood up. The luminosity and beauty of Rachael’s spirit body astounded her. “But I am not worthy of thy presence,” Sarah said.

Rachael’s spirit said, “You guide Solomon and his mother. Your work is important. Your blessings and growth will be in keeping with your work and your compassion.”

The goat-man quivered as he tried to hide himself in the crevasses of the stone walls. He saw the two shining creatures. He knew they would not acknowledge the presence of a low life brute like himself. He longed to be able to speak to them, but he knew it was not permitted.

Rachael’s spirit body glided across the cave to where the goat-man cowered. It was as if she were on a cushion of air. The silvery cord floated behind her. It was attached to the back of the neck of the child sleeping on the floor of the cave. She stood over the goat-man.

He was trembling when he blurted out, “I’m sorry. I…I didn’t know who the girl was. I’m a wretched beast, and I’m not very smart.”

“Never underestimate the station of the innocent ones,” Rachael’s spirit said to him. “Why were you hanging around Turtle?”

“Uh…uh…because he makes me think of myself before I died,” the goat-man said. “I watch him.”

“And why do you watch him?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I can see his evil rule him,” the goat-man said. “I can’t stop him, but I can see his dirty, ugly thoughts like a black cloud dripping on him and everything and everybody around him. I figure I had the same nasty black cloud around me before I died.”

Rachael’s radiant spirit said, “Yes, you injured your soul many times while you were attached to your earth body. Would you like to atone for some of the things you did?”

“More than anything in all of God’s worlds,” he responded.

She scooped something out of the air with her hand. She opened her hand and blew sparkling green dust over the goat-man. It settled in his hair and glistened on his skin. He smiled for the first time since long before he had died. She said, “From henceforth, you shall be the protector of my earth body. And you know the rules, you may scare Turtle, but you may not harm him.”

“Oh yes, thank you, thank you. How can I ever begin to thank you?” he said.

“Don’t thank me, thank God,” she responded.

Solomon drove his truck up the logging road to Mortimer Hollow. He parked at the end and walked up the path to Alfred Hicks’ place. Chickens scattered as he neared the house. The hound dogs caught his scent and barked. There was no sign of life. How can nine people live here with no sign of any of them? He thought to himself.

“Alfred!” Solomon shouted, “Anybody home?”

Four hounds circled him sniffing at his legs. Wagging tails let him know they were friendly. Ora came out on the porch. “Morning, Solomon,” she said. She looked annoyed.

“Morning Ora, I was beginning to think nobody was home.”

“We home,” she replied.

She’s on guard about something, Solomon thought.

Ora sat down on the steps, and Solomon sat down with her. “How’s the new baby?

“She’s fine.”

Ruth Hicks came to the screen door and stood watching Solomon. “Whatcha doing out here, Solomon?”

“Oh, just visiting,” he said.

“Seems strange, I never seen you visit ceptin’ if Mama’s havin’ a baby,” Ruth said. “You ain’t havin’ no baby, is ye Mama?”

Ora glared at Ruth.

Solomon said, “To tell you the truth, I heard a story about the Mortimer Demon from a patient a while back, and Ma said you folks might know something about it.”

The baby cried inside the house, and Solomon asked, “Ora, can I have a drink of water?” He figured that would get him into the house where he might see Rachael.

She said, “Yeah, come on in.”

Solomon followed Ora into her kitchen. Della, Alfred’s mother, sat at the kitchen table shelling peas. “How are you, Miz Della?”

“Fine as frog hair,” she replied.

He smiled and nodded, “That’s good. That’s good.”

One year old Carrie was in a playpen. She had pulled herself up and was crying to be picked up. She looked fat and healthy. Her rosy cheeks glistened with the tears streaming down her face. A glob of snot rolled down her upper lip and disappeared into her mouth. Two little white teeth stuck out of her bottom gums. Ora handed Solomon a cup of water and said, “Have a seat.”

Ora picked up her baby and pulled a chair away from the table. She pulled up her blouse and unbuttoned the flap on her nursing brassiere. Baby Carrie eagerly latched on to her nipple. Ora held her blouse away from Carrie’s face while she suckled. She pressed her forearm against her other breast as she felt her milk let down. Carrie’s tiny fingers played with Ora’ nursing bra as her mouth tugged on the nipple.

Ora’s two boys came running down the stairs. The little one fussed because he couldn’t keep up with his brother. Sam was seven years old and Tom was four. Solomon had helped Ma birth Ora’s last three babies. She had been a witness to the maturing of Solomon’s midwifery techniques.

“Where’s Turtle and Rachael?” Solomon asked.

Sam said, “Rachael’s gone,” before Ora could stop him.

Solomon repeated, “She’s gone! Where’d she go?”

Ora interrupted quickly, “Sam, shut yer mouth. You don’t know what yer talkin’ about.”

Sam sulked off. “I do too,” he said.

Ora looked at Solomon and said, “Alfred and Turtle is looking for her. She run off last night.”

“Do they have any idea where she got to?” Solomon asked. He felt a dreadful concern for her. He had sensed that something was wrong as soon as he’d gotten to the house half an hour ago.

Della looked up from her shelling, “I told ‘um to leave her be. She’s got a demon like Jesus cast out. She acts like my grandma adder the demon got thu with her.”

“What are you talking about?” Solomon asked.

“I knowed the demon been messin’ with her when she got a issue a blood. That’s what it done to my grandma too,” Della said.

“Della, I’ve never heard of anything like that in the Bible,” Solomon said to her.

“I can’t read, but it be in Mark Chapter Five,” Della said. “Preacher Moss read it to me. Jesus cast out that woman’s demons and thowed ‘um into pigs.” Della had put two stories together to create her own story.

“Does Preacher Moss think Rachael has a demon?” Solomon asked.

Della said, “He hain’t seen her yet. He said he’d come pray fer her, but we got to find her first.”

“Has she ever gone off like this before?” Solomon asked.

“She does it reg’lar,” Ora responded.

“When you say Rachael has an issue of blood, are you talking about menstruation?” Solomon asked.

Ora shook her head, “No, she got the curse when she was twelve. It ain’t like that. It don’t stop.”

Solomon felt annoyed. “Don’t you think it might have been a good idea to have her examined?”

“Twern’t no use. Hit’s a demon…like in the Bible,” Della said.

Solomon tried to appeal to Rachael’s mother. “Ora, there are a lot of things it could be, and I don’t think a demon is one of them. Who was the last one to see Rachael?”

“Turtle seen her up at the crick yesterdy,” Ora said. “Do ye know where Bristle Crick waterfall is?”

Solomon said, “Yes.”

“Right below the waterfall is where Turtle hangs out. He seen her there yesterdy.”

Solomon shuttered to think what Turtle had been doing there with Rachael. Solomon put his hands in his pockets so he could clinch his fists without anybody seeing that he was about to burst with anger. He said, “I think I’ll walk up there and see if I run into Alfred and Turtle. Maybe I can help them look for Rachael.”

“That’s mighty nice of ye, Solomon,” Della said sourly.

Solomon knew these mountains like he knew the back of his hand. He knew exactly where Turtle had taken Rachael. As he walked the path to Bristle Creek waterfall, Solomon sensed Rachael’s fear. He was like a bloodhound on the scent of rasp, sniffing out the epidermal cells and oils that a person shed. The grass Solomon crushed beneath his feet testified to the torment she had suffered. He walked faster sending out tendrils of psychic energy searching for the lost girl.

He heard voices ahead of him on the trail. Keep cool, he said to himself. He knew it would be hard to keep from throttling Turtle for what he’d done to Rachael. He stopped in his tracks and waited for Alfred and Turtle to get to him.

They weren’t paying attention. Turtle told a joke and Alfred’s guffaw echoed down the trail. They were almost on him before they saw him. “Son of a bitch man, what you doing out here?” Alfred blurted out.

Turtle yapped like a dog and staggered backwards. He said, “Shit man, ye skeered the piss outta me.”

Solomon stood in the middle of the path looking down at what he considered trash. He didn’t smile. “I’m looking for Rachael,” he said.

Turtle said, “She ain’t up there, man. We already looked.”

“I’ll look again,” Solomon said.

“Suit yerself,” Alfred said.

As Alfred and Turtle passed him on the trail, Solomon heard Turtle mutter under his breath, “Knock yerself out, shit for brains.”

Alfred and Turtle hadn’t gone far up the trail. They wanted Ora to think they’d been looking for Rachael. Turtle knew that he didn’t want to run up on that goat-man ever again. He told his dad about how he’d seen it carry Rachael off. Alfred was content to let the beast have her.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

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