Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 8 - Ruby and the Red-Light District

March 1948

Solomon had expected the chamber to be interesting, but he found it to be miraculous and mystifying. Ma had never shared with him the things that happened in there. It was something you had to experience, and even then, it was hard to believe.

After Ma went to bed, Solomon sat alone in the dark stillness. As his rocking chair squeaked, a mocking bird answered. The telephone rang at ten thirty-five. Solomon ran in the house trying to catch it before it woke Ma. “Solomon here,” he answered.

A woman on the other end said, “This here’s Ruby Dawson. I’m Pearl McGee’s granddaughter. I hate to bother ye, but…I’m hurt, and…,” she hesitated, “I need to git home. If’n ye can hep me, I’d be beholden to ye.”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“In front of the pool hall on Trade Street in Black Fort,” she said.

“I’m on the way. I’ll be in a blue pick-up.”

“Thank ye, sir. I’ll be a waitin’ on ye.”

Ma came down stairs to find out what the late phone call was all about.

Solomon told her, “It was Ruby Dawson. What do you know about her?”

“Ruby would be in her early twenties, I suspect,” Ma said. “She’s Frankie’s girl. You know, Pearl’s boy that moved to Memphis. I heard that she dropped out of school and married some criminal when she was fifteen. I think his name was Duke Dawson. They had two kids afore he got sent to prison for robbin’ a fancy house in Memphis. Ruby left their two kids with Duke’s folks. Then she got pregnant agin, and she come back to Rooster Cove fer her grandma to fix it. That was a couple months ago.”

Solomon grabbed the truck keys and said, “She needs a ride home. Don’t wait up for me.” If Black Fort had a red-light district, Trade Street would be it. From police reports in the newspaper, shootings, stabbings, and rapes were regular near the pool hall.

Solomon didn’t remember ever meeting Ruby. He knew that her Grandma Pearl had had eight children, and they’d all had big families. One or the other of them lived with Pearl all the time. Two would move in, and one would move out. That kind of math meant that the McGee place was crowded most of the time.

When Solomon pulled up in front of the pool hall, Ruby was standing on the sidewalk with another woman. They both looked like prostitutes. Ruby limped over to the truck. Her spiked high heels made walking a challenge. A little white purse banged against her knees as she walked. Her white halter-top emphasized her large breasts, and her thin red short shorts left nothing to the imagination.

Solomon got out of the truck and went over to her. There was dried blood in her hair and road-rash down her left side. Her left cheek was puffing up and turning blue. A bruise on her thigh had turned deep purple as blood accumulated under the skin.

“What happened?” Solomon asked.

“I fell,” she sneered.

“It looks like you fell out of a car, or was it a motorcycle?

“It wuz a car,” she said, “and I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Solomon lifted her long black hair and touched her cervical spine. He walked his fingertips down the length of her spine. No deformity, he thought. He turned her so he could see her eyes in the light over the pool hall. Her pupils were dilated. “What have you taken?” he asked her.

“I ain’t took nothing,” she snapped at him.

“Well, your pupils are dilated from drugs or a head injury. Which one is it?”

“Okay, okay, I’m a little high,” she said, “git off my ass.”

“You called me to come help, remember?” Solomon opened the truck door for her. He grabbed an old sheet and tore off two pieces. “I’ll be right back,” he said heading for the pool hall for some ice to make ice packs for her. The woman on the street winked at him as he walked past her.

They were halfway to Rooster Cove, when Ruby sat up and rolled the window down. She stuck her face into the wind.

“Feeling sick?” he asked.

She nodded yes.

Solomon hurriedly pulled over to the shoulder of the road. Don’t you puke in my truck, he thought.

Ruby opened the door and got out. She teeter-tottered on the spiked high heels and then bent over with her hands on her knees. She vomited in waves. When it seemed that she’d stopped, Solomon said, “Ready to go?”

“Yeah,” she said climbing back in the truck. She leaned over on the door frame and slept the rest of the way to Rooster Cove.

Solomon drove the truck up the old logging road to Deer Lick Hollow as far as he could go. Driving over the ruts woke Ruby. They were still a quarter mile from her house when he parked the truck in front of Jerry Banks’ cabin. It was past midnight, but the lights were on in the cabin. Jerry was a paraplegic. He’d been injured on Omaha Beach in the Battle of Normandy during World War II.

Ruby sat up and opened her door. “Ye don’t have to go any further,” she said.

“I know,” he said following her, “I intend to see you home safe.”

As they neared the house, Solomon saw a dim light in an upstairs bedroom. Someone was still up. The power lines didn’t go this far up the hollow. Pearl used kerosene lamps at night.

Ruby said to him, “Go on now. I don’t want Grandma to see ye.”

Solomon watched her hobble across the yard and up the front steps. Pearl’s dogs came out from under the house. They barked briefly until they saw it was Ruby.

Solomon blinked his eyes. “What the...?” In the moonlight a shining filament stretched from him all the way over to Ruby on the front porch. He squinted trying to make out what the strange phenomenon was. There was more than one filament. It was more like a pure white silk ribbon between them. Moonlight glinted off ribbons of the same diaphanous material reaching up to the second story window.

As Ruby opened the front door, the fabric folded back on itself. It appeared to be caught when the door slammed shut, but the fibers quickly worked their way to the center of the door apparently passing through the molecules of the door.

Solomon reached for the ribbon of fibers extending from the middle of his chest. They were attached at his solar plexus. His fingers passed through it. He turned around so the moonlight shown directly on the source. That was when he realized how far-reaching the fibers spread. They spun off in all directions. At the same time, an extensive network of them flowed into him. They entered somewhere near the base of his skull.

He smiled at this revelation. We’re all connected, he thought to himself.

The sound of a man’s voice filled his head. Ethereal music accompanied the words he heard. “Yes, Solomon, we are all connected. Mankind is one. The unity of the human race is not something to be attained. Our oneness already exists.”

“We are one,” Solomon repeated softly.

“Yes,” the voice replied, “we are one. This, Solomon, is your first key. Rejoice!”

The moon was brilliant tonight as Solomon walked back down the path. Occasionally he’d see the eyes of some critter staring at him from the dark woods. Pearl’s dogs had disturbed all the dogs in the hollow. A cacophony of barks, yelps, yaps, and howls echoed through the hollows.

“We are one,” Solomon repeated to the critters.

Lights were off in Jerry’s cabin when Solomon passed it again, but he observed that a gossamer ribbon delicately twined from him through the trees and into Jerry’s cabin. Solomon smiled as he thought, we are one.

It was half past one when Solomon walked into his house. He tried to be quiet so he wouldn’t wake Ma. He felt dusty so he ran a tub of bath water. He slipped into the water and watched the steam rise off it. The sound of the dripping faucet echoed in the bathroom. His mind swirled with thoughts about what he’d seen in the chamber tonight and on the hillside in Deer Lick Hollow. He slid down immersing himself in the water, and then he sat up. I baptize thee, he thought.

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

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