Waiting at Purgatory Gate
This land has a spirit dwellin' on it. I seen him on many an occasion. Most often in the fine weather, and I surely can’t figure out why that is. I call the spirit Zephyr after some dusty ol’ Greek god my Auntie Tess told me about; god of the west-comin’ wind, and because he just drifts along real slow- like. I seen him waft along the patchwork of footpaths, on through to the cotton fields and into the woods beyond. All dreamy, he'll linger a spell and slowly sink 'til the soft breeze picks him right up again. Reminds me of a wisp of that low-lying fog that hovers on the river early mornings come April.
This spirit just floats along, aimless-like with no real point to it that I can see. Funny thing is that he’s a reclinin’ spirit - not an upright spirit like a body’s used to seeing. This spirit-man seems to be fast asleep. You’ll see him floating by, slow as Christmas, feet first, fists curled up around his head - just like he’s a-snoozin’ away in his very own bed. His eyes is always closed too and the left one seems so swollen and puffy that I doubt it would open even if it wanted to. I reckon this here spirit got a good whuppin’ and that’s what sent him to the beyond. There’s other signs of that too; his shirt is bloody and tore up in so many places, you can’t rightly call it a shirt no more. And he got himself a bloody gash that goes in a curve from his bottom lip clear across his face and disappears into his soft wooly hair. He looks mighty peaceable though, considerin’ what he musta been through. He’s an amazing sight all in all. When I see him a-comin’, I stop what I’m doin’ and stare slack- jawed as he drifts on by - just like I was watchin’ a parade.
He floats at all manner of elevations too, it don’t seem to matter to him. Sometimes I see him being carried by some invisible current way up high between the trees - kinda blowin’ back and forth like he’s in a hammock on a summer afternoon - he slides way on up there with only the acorns and rascal squirrels for company. One time, I thought I was going to trip over him, he was a-floatin' so close to the ground. Right outside the chicken coop; I ‘bout fell over to see him floatin’ practically on the doorstep as he was. That time he just startled me but there was the one time he did nearabout scare the livin’ Jesus outta me and that was one day many years ago now. I was collecting the honey from the hives I keep in a little clearing in the woods behind the burned up stables. I kept noticin' something outta the corner of my eye. A back-and- forth kinda swingin’ thing up in Ol' Big Oak. Now, I was trying to ignore it because when you’re taking honey from bees, you gotta stay fixed on what you’re doin’ or you’re asking for trouble. But the swinging kept on, so I finally looked up and Lord, what I saw ‘scairt me so that I lit out as fast as a duck on a June bug. It was Zephyr. There he was - same dreamin’ face, same tore-up slave’s clothes, same bloody head and he was a-hangin' from the biggest branch of Ol' Big Oak just like a man who’d been freshly strung up.
After that, I remained wary a spell and tried avoidin’ him awhile. If I saw him floatin' towards me, I’d find somethin’ needed tendin’ indoors and steer clear away from him. He don’t seem to go indoors - maybe there just ain’t enough breeze to float him on in and that’s fine with me. One time I did find him halfway ‘cross the property in one of them old burned-up slave shacks that’s mostly still standin’ on the lower field. It was after a mighty crashin’ rainstorm and I reckon he just got blowed in there, that’s all - it ain't like there’s a door left on it or anything. Well, mostly old Zephyr don’t bother me none. He’s surely a quiet spirit. He don’t go in for hootin’ and hollerin’ or rattlin’ chains or none of that stuff. I guess the place is a little less lonesome with him a-floatin’ around even though he don’t talk to me none.
It’s in the wintertime I don’t see much of him which is ironic ‘cause I really could use me the company then. The bees and the chickens is all sluggish-like and there’s not so much for me to do around here. I don't take up and leave the place to go to town but once a week with my eggs and sometimes my honey. I don't much like the townfolk a-starrin’ at my face and and whisperin’ to each other as I pass as if I can't hear ‘em. Since they's starin’ so hard, you'd think that they could see plainly that I got ears, same as every other body has.
One winter, bein' time was weighin' on me, I got a little itchy and all curious about the origins of my spirit-man. I started messin’ through my daddy and mama’s remainin’ papers and such. There weren’t much left as it was all mostly burned up in the fire same as they was. I was just a baby when the war came and then the fire and they was gone so soon, I don’t rightly know if there was ever any notion of any spirits ‘round Purgatory Gate. Anyway, I didn’t find any papers that I could make out with the mention of any such thing. Still, I persisted and when I took my eggs into town that week to sell to Mr.O’Shane, I tried to bring up the subject real easy-like. Since my own daddy and mama died and everyone else either ran or burned too, I’d had to depend on certain people of the town to fill in what should have rightly been my own memories of the place. Usually, Mr. O’Shane was good for a possible fact or two but you had to pick them facts right out of a whole barrel full of fibs and made-up stuff. Anyway, Mr. O’Shane tells me some long, spun-out story ‘bout how he and Missus O’Shane had to “exercise” the spirit of an old in’jun woman right out of their own bedroom with a about a pound of salt and some water that been talked over by a preacher. But then he lets slip a few facts about Purgatory Gate: He told me that back in the day, there was talk of the practice of the dark arts in the slave shacks right there on the lower field. (My daddy at the time ownin’ mostly all the slaves in this here county; and them slaves mostly come to just get sold on again). Mostly they was just a-waitin’ here to get traded on to some new master. It was from the comin’s and goin’s of these slaves and the waitin’ in between that the place got the nickname of “Purgatory Gate”. Others says it’s on account of the mighty iron gate that greets a body upon arrivin’ here. My daddy’s daddy had that big ol’ gate made special and it there sure ain’t like it ‘round these parts. It’s heavy and black and whittled through with ugly faces of ungodly critters and such. Come upon that gate and you’re bound to think you done arrived at the portal of hell itself. Either way, somehow that name stuck real good and nobody ‘round here calls this land by her honest, rightly name which is “Rose Briar”. Personally, I think Rose Briar is much nicer a name.)
Mr. O’Shane said that due to all the Voodoo and stuff and on account of a curse conjured up by one slave in particular, name o’ Georgie, there was spooky goings on right in that same summer the war came and then the fire. This here slave, Georgie was accused of putting a curse on all the cotton crops in the whole of the county. Mr. O’Shane said that he knew it was true too, on account of all the cotton just plain failed that year. No other explanation. Plenty of crop weather - no weevils - just up and failed - whole county. Well, Mr. O’Shane said that when my daddy learnt it was one of his own slaves that was responsible for the disaster - he had him beaten and strung up right there on Ol' Big Oak. Mr. O’Shane said that all the plantation owners in the whole county come out to see this Georgie a-hangin’ from Big Oak - just so’s they’d know their troubles was over. Well, o’ course, I’ll never know how much of what Mr O’Shane said was facts and how much was fibbin’, but I surely did see my own spirit-man a-hangin’ from that very same Big Oak and that’s a fact. Seeing old Zephyr’s peaceable face, I just can’t believe he’d ever be jumping around some fire spewin’ out Voodoo curses on some blameless ol’cotton plants. I decided right there that it weren’t likely my spirit-man and I never even thought to call him Georgie. He's still Zephyr to me.
Well, Mr. O’Shane and his missus, Hattie has always been good natured to me and were the only townfolk to show me some kindness after the war and the artless fire that took my parents and left most of me. I was no taller than a butter churn then and my face burnt all to hell. They’s the ones who took me in and got me doctored up. They’s the ones who wrote to my daddy’s sister Tess who come and lived with me at Purgatory Gate. They’s also the ones who told me the amazin’ story of how I was found after the fire fast asleep under the old sycamore tree. I was burnt up pretty bad and nobody could figure how (me bein’ a baby and all), I got outta the nursery, clear down the staircase, out the doors and halfway ‘cross the plantation. It was a mystery and surely a miracle said Mr. O’Shane. Seems like folks around here was too busy a-tryin’ to figure out who done start the damnable fire to even take note of the miracle event. Some says they seen some renegade scoundrel Yankees and them Yankees was know’d to be raisin’ Cain ‘round these parts. Others say the slaves just up and burnt it all by way of revenge ‘gainst Purgatory Gate for the hangin’ of Georgie.
Anyway, Auntie Tess was my official guardian even though she was half blind herself and crippled as an old dog. She was nice enough to me, mostly left me alone. She didn’t know much about the ways of children. Truth is, I did more takin’ care of her than ever she did of me, right up until she died when I was still rightly a young girl. Turns out that was a favor of sorts, ‘cause I learnt straight away ‘bout runnin’ Purgatory Gate. I learnt how to mend and paint the fences and the chicken coops to keep the rot off ‘em and I learnt myself all about bees and how to raise ‘em and then steal their honey right out from under ‘em without them ever being the wiser. I learnt how to tend the vegetable garden and the milkin’ cows and how to keep the rascal fox out of the chicken coop. I learnt a lot of things but I was a wild thing for sure.
Auntie Tess could never abide my unruly disposition. She bein’ already older ‘n dirt when she come to Purgatory Gate, was mostly feeble in her attempts to reign in my crude, unladylike ways. Auntie Tess put a lot o’ stock in book learnin’ and she spent long hours a-quotin’ this one and that one about the virtues I was sorely lackin’. She tried her darnedest, old biddy that she was, to settle me into a more genteel-like version of myself. Sometimes I feel kinda bad that she never did make much headway in that battle, seein’ it meant so much to her and all. Eventually, I did learn me little bit of this ‘n that. I can read some but I can’t write much more’n my own name which is Belle Fleur. It was Auntie Tess with her book learnin’ that told me “Belle Fleur” was the fancy French words for “beautiful flower”. I sometimes wonder if my daddy and mama wherever on the other side they may be, are aware just what a cruel irony that namin’ turned out to be. Seeing that the very same fire that took them took most of my face along too. 'Bout the only part of a flower that my face has any resemblance to that I can see is the faded brown knot of the onion bulbs I plant each spring. The left side droops down in ribbons of scarred-up flesh that looks like it’s still a-meltin’. My mouth pulls back hard on the left and I have the look of a bobcat barin’ it’s teeth. All brown and runny - my left eye don’t nearly close a-right at all and in summer it’s a plague to me. It gets so to itchin’ and swelling that I have to press a hot poultice of mashed huckleberries and nettle to it ‘bout half the day. Even then, I pray for the sweet relief of the pus that runs out that means the pain will soon run out too. Not even by Mr. O’Shane’s loose version of things, could I be considered no “beautiful flower”. My hands and arms were pretty much ruint too in the damnable fire. Swirls of living flesh are twisted up with rivers of scars - long, puckered and pink. They are hard, dead-looking things but they’s usable enough and every day I thank the creator for that mercy.
Even on the hottest dog-day of August I keep my arms a-covered up and not just on account of the deformity. I got another reason to hide ‘em. One day, when I was a just a little thing and a-sittin’ in the bath, I got to lookin’ at my face and arms and the rest of my God-given body. I realized somethin’ of shockin’ notice - all the skin on me that weren’t burned and pink and slick as a peeled onion was a soft milky-tea brown. Finding this a curious thing, I tried to scrub away at it - but it weren’t dirty and so the soft creamy brown stayed. Auntie Tess told me to hush up - that I was just toasted by the fire like your sweet ear of corn is if’n you leave it in the stove too long. It stayed a mystery to me ‘cause I knew that my daddy and mama and Auntie Tess too were as white and pink as any magnolia petal. Anyway, it never did add up to nothin’ ‘cause I kept myself covered up like a sack of flour and wasn’t nobody ever lookin’ at my face for long. With no aspirations to being courted, married off or even invited to a sewing circle, Auntie Tess had a tough row to hoe in convincin’ me that I needed to learn my manners and pick up some lady-like ways. I loved to scandalize her in summers with my bare feet and by hacking off my heavy black hair with the self-same shears I used to dispatch the eatin’ chickens. She would lament over my eternal soul and over the crude ways I was learnin’ from the field hands that come to bring in the little bit of cotton we had left in those days.
Truth was, I found more kinship in those field hands than I ever did in Auntie Tess. I followed them around unmercifully and they was happy to let me be and happy to let spill their stories of the damnations that was brought upon them by the scoundrel Yankees and then the scalawags and carpetbaggers that come after. These were some sad stories no doubt, but they told ‘em in the best of humor whilst passin’ round the jug. Most of them boys had been a-soldierin’ and had yarns to spin that would surely curl your hair. Sometimes they’d bring me sweets and I would share ‘em right around to show I thought them my friends. Never once did any of ‘em look sideways at my ruint face or say unkindly things. Seems to me they was more educated than the “so-called” mannerly “citified” folks o’ the town. Truth be told, mostly they ignored me and I would just watch ‘em working the fields in the hot sun and fall asleep under the sycamore tree to the sound of they's singin’.
Auntie Tess was always distrustful of those boys and she never could abide their roughshod ways. She blamed them for wrongly turnin’ me away from her high-falutin’ hopes for me. Well, it all come to an end one evenin’ in April that year when the last of the cotton was picked. We woke up to a ruckus near the cow barn. It was one of them boys - name of Hog Hatcher and he was in a loose state - so drunk he could hardly stand up without pitchin’ to and fro’. As he swayed there in the moonlight, it was clear that he had our old milk cow, Bessie, harnessed up and was fixin’ to light out with her. Quick as greased lightnin’, Auntie Tess had daddy’s old rifle trained on that boy’s head from inside our bedroom window. She coulda shot him too, but she aimed for the tangle of buttonbush along the cow lot fence. The gun went off with a loud “crack” and lit up ol’ Hog’s face which was wearin’ an expression of shock and weariness - both. Well, he took off a-runnin’ with Auntie Tess hollerin’ to him never to darken Purgatory Gate again and calling him an “egg-suckin’ dog” and "no-good hayseed". Well, that boy was dumb as a bucket of rocks, ‘cause he and his fellas had done picked the last of the cotton that very day but none of ‘em ever come back for their rightly wages. ‘Course, it mighta been the luckiest day of that ol’ boy’s life. I’ll never know if’n Auntie Tess was truly meanin’ to miss that shot or her old dim eyes just wasn’t up to the task. I can tell you another thing, it were a long time afore that cow gave off any milk fit for anything but the churn.
I sure did miss the sorry stories of those field hands and their easy ways but Auntie Tess had stories too. Stories that was squeezed between the the fat bindings of old leather books. Stories about the long-ago Greek people, their gods and lady-gods and all the mean-spirited trickery they got up to. Sometimes she’d read from her own daddy’s bible and those stories were about how the God of the Israelites would smite this one and that one for payin’ him no mind. Funny thing is, it seems all these gods - the Great Jehova and the wicked pagan ones all wanted one thing above all. They all wanted the blood of the innocents. Seems to me the clever people who worshiped them learnt how to plaster them very same innocents all over with their own sins and bad-doin’s so that when the golden axe come down, those sins would run right out in a dark spill of blood. Auntie Tess called it "bein' a scape-goat”. On those evenings, Auntie Tess would sit in the porch rocker and I’d lay out beside her holding the poultice to my sore, festering eye. With my good one I’d watch the sun turn the river six shades of red and swat at the pesky skeeters. Sometimes we’d have us syrupy lemonade and sometimes we’d have us some of Missus O’Shane’s dandelion wine that she liked to call her “port”. Auntie Tess would be pushin’ her spectacles further and further down her nose until she couldn’t rightly see at all and then she’d announce it was time to get us along to the “feather ball”.
It was that very month of April after the last of the cotton come in and ol’ Hog Hatcher was fixin’ to relieve us of our Bessie, that I seen Zyphyr for the very first time. He was drifitin’ along outside the washin’ house - a long lazy curl of dark smoke. I squinted my eyes until he come into focus and I swear my heart skipped beatin’. I never really was ‘scairt of him after that. Bein’ a curious soul, I become just flat out nosy ‘bout his comin’s and goin’s and I followed him around all that day and the next. It was that next evenin’ that Auntie Tess was readin’ us ‘bout one of them Greek gods - name of Zephyrus - god of the west wind and the comin’ of fine weather. Funny thing was, and my jaw just ‘bout fell open when she said it; them old Roman people claimed this same wind-god took on himself to be the special protector of flowers. Now bein’ my own name meant “beautiful flower” and my spirit man floated about all day on that very wind, I took up right there that this was some kinda omen and I named my spirit-man “Zephyr”.
Livin' at Purgatory Gate in them days, same as now, meant living in the little brick guest house set a ways behind the burnt scar of the big house. It’s so long ago now that I don’t ever remember livin’ in that big house. The guest house is small but surely fine enough and in fact is ‘bout the only building that ain’t toredown by the fire. Anyways, I learnt all a body needs to know about running this place and I sure ain’t learnt anything much beyond that.
Auntie Tess got it in her head once that I should be started to school in the next town over and learn me some countin’ and spellin’ and such. I knew in my gut that it wouldn’t work out but I went and let her get me all excited about it. I let her tie blue ribbons in my hair and fancy me up in one of her old gingham dresses that had be taken in about a mile. I loved that dress. It was cornflower blue just like the ribbons and it had tiny pearl buttons running straight down the front with a shiny blue sash that kept untying itself no matter how tight a body made the bow. When the day for school came, I got myself seated on Mr. O’Shane’s little pony-trap nervous as a hen who's just seen the cat slip on into the chicken coop. Mr. O’Shane dropped me off in front of the little schoolhouse on his way to John Morgan’s Mill where he bought his flour and such.
At first, it weren’t too bad. The teacher, Miss Bonnie was the most lovely thing I’d seen in all my young life. When she put her graceful arm around me and said my name to the class, I nearly swooned at being touched so and because my mind all of a sudden brought up pictures of my own dead mother. For a long time now, I couldn’t conjure up my own mother’s face anymore - was like I’d lost the thread of it somehow and that vexed me so. So it took me aback that the soft touch of this stranger-woman would bring it on quick as that. I could feel the eyes of the children a-starin’ at me like they always did but I was just too tore-up inside to pay any notice.
I enjoyed those couple hours of schoolin’ pretty well and I was even able to draw me a couple of letters that didn’t look too bad. The letters O and D. I still practice them to this day and I’ve even taught myself a few more.
The trouble come around twelve o’clock when all us children was supposed to go outside and play a spell. Those who’d brought their dinner could eat it under the willow trees that stood all along the banks of the rushin' stream out behind the schoolhouse. The boys were playing at pushing each other and climbing way up into the trees. The girls was mostly bunched together sittin’ on the stream bank stitching little pictures into small pieces of cloth. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I climbed onto a big flat rock that was warmin’ in the sun and carefully spread my blue and white skirt out around me. I was busy thinking how nice I must look perched there in my finery and I had an eye on Miss Bonnie who could be seen through the window of the schoolhouse. She was sittin’ at her desk, head bent over something. Every once in a while she’d raise one of those graceful arms to take a bite out of something that looked like a big round peach.
I was thinking how I wished I’d brought me a peach and about asking Auntie Tess if she had any small pieces of cloth and some of that needle stuff. Maybe I could learn to sit prettily on the stream bank and sew like the other girls.
Suddenly I felt myself being lightly pelted with small pebbles from every side. I looked up and didn’t see a soul but I heard one of the girls snicker and then get hushed real quick-like. All of a sudden, those pebbles started to come fast and furious and I realized they was a-comin from inside the willow trees. The boys had all climbed a mess of trees and were just peltin’ away at me. I could feel the blood drain outta my face and my knees go kinda weak. I was preparin’ myself to march right into the schoolhouse and tell Miss Bonnie when I felt my arms grabbed from behind. Then the boys were all around me, jeerin’ and laughin’ at my burned up face. They was comparin’ descriptions of just how ugly I was - trying to outdo each other with their cleverness. The only description I really heard had something to do with somebody’s mother’s prize pig and what come outta her after birthing a whole litter. I heard that one real clear ‘cause they all found it particularly hilarious and they kept up repeatin’ it over ‘n over. Meanwhile, some of them boys got to flinging pebbles again only now they wasn’t so particular about the size they picked up and I was a much closer target. None of ‘em hurt too bad until the one that knocked my teeth out and I didn’t even see that one a-comin’. I was watching Miss Bonnie runnin’ towards us, soppin’ mad, when all of a sudden, I found myself a-sittin’ right on the ground with blood streaming all over my blue and white gingham.
I can still remember Miss Bonnie’s beautiful, tragic face and the look of worry cut acrost it for me. She even had tears in her pale green eyes as she hollered at those boys and called them shameful dogs and a lot of other names. She held my head to her chest and I could smell the warm scent of lavender mixed with the sharpness of cinnamon. Well, that ended my school career right there in one day and I reckon I’ll never see those teeth again. It don’t matter though, I got a glimpse of those liquid green eyes and I never did feel any pain after that.
I never told Auntie Tess but I took and burnt that blue and white gingham dress with the pearl buttons that very day behind the old shacks in the lower field. The only thing I kept was the blue sash to remember Miss Bonnie by. Auntie Tess never did ask me about it but I did find the remains of those buttons lined up perfectly like little burned-up soldiers across the kitchen windowsill a few days later. I figure that musta been Zephyr’s handiwork because Auntie Tess could never have managed the walk to the lower fields never mind see anything so small as little pearl buttons in the ashes.
I still have that old blue sash with the stains of my very own blood folded into the creases. Eventually, I did learn me some reading, but I swear, it was like poor ol’ Auntie Tess was pulling them same teeth that was already clean knocked out by them boys. After the school ruination, I knew that the world had a lot more people like those boys than it did like Miss Bonnie, so I resigned myself to live my life out right here at Purgatory Gate. That’s been alright with me and must be with other folks too, ‘cause nobody come a-lookin’ for me in all these years. It’s a rare day when a body hears the groanin’ of that mighty black gate.
I do admit that sometimes I feel like the last pea at pea time especially since Ol' Auntie Tess up and died. I still do love the smell of lavender and I buy me some whenever Old Man O’Shane has some in his store. I take me a small bunch of that lavender and I wrap it up carefully in the blue silk of the sash and I hold it right close against me as I fall asleep at night. Sometimes I dream of her tragic face and how the tenderness in her eyes was there just for me. Even though it was many years ago, I can still feel myself drowning in those tender eyes.
Sometimes, the face of my own dead mother swims before me too, even though in my wide awake state, I can’t hardly remember how she looked no more. I dream about other things too. Sometimes I dream about the fire. Even though I was no more'n a baby at the time, it comes back to me clear as day. The dream always follows its own set course: Firstly, I am in the big house and I am laying on my back in a cradle draped so thick in mosquito netting that I can’t rightly see through it. Then, the scream of a woman- far away and then the drawn out terrible screams of a man - much closer. Then comes the smoke and like a vile serpent it fills my baby nose and mouth. I see the netting light up with fire and I throw up my baby arms to keep it off'n me. Then I seem to blink into blackness and sometimes the dream ends right there. Other times though, I blink outta that blackness again and I’m aware of movin’ ... driftin’. I’m movin’ down the long sweep of the center staircase and I’m a-fightin’ that blackness. At some point I’m aware that I’m bein’ carried - that I’m tucked under an arm like the way you’d hold a chicken or a cat. It’s a man’s arm and strong and it’s holding me so tightly that sometimes I wake up with my ribs a-screamin’. I don’t ever seem to see this man’s face - either on account of the smoke or because I can’t seem to cock my baby head ‘round. I can feel us a-floatin’ outta the house and over the cobblestone courtyard. We drift down the little dirt road that leads to the cotton fields and I can smell the honeysuckle that grows to this day on the cookin’ cabin down near the slave shacks. If I make it all the way through without startlin’ awake - the dream always ends up the same - I’m being gently placed between the cool mossy roots of the ol' sycamore tree.
Old Auntie Tess died these many years ago now. I found her a-sitting in her rockin' chair on the porch like she always did - a half-shucked basket of peas spilled out on the floor at her feet and a look of marvel on her wrinkled old face. I always supposed she found some kind of glory in her partin’ moments even though I never saw her glorified while she walked this earth. Truth is, I never even saw her smile before that moment.
I set down every detail of her dead face in my mind so’s I could always remember that look of peace. I’m sure hoping that’s how it is for all of us - all the tribulations fall away in a blaze of red like the maple setting free it's leaves on a windy day in the fall of the year. I’m surely hopin’ too, that in the moment we finally leave this place, we have revealed to us a glory that makes our poor wearied senses forget everything that come before.
It sure makes me wonder though, why poor Ol' Zephyr weren’t afforded that kind of partin’. Near as I can tell, weren’t afforded a moment like drowning in the sweetness of Miss Bonnie’s eyes. Afforded one simple kindness that can help you to rise above just long enough to make it on through.
Now, I ain’t no bible woman - never have been. Some of them stories Auntie Tess would tell me, well, I’m thinkin’ she didn’t quite get right, ‘cause they was filled with all kinds of crazy-folk stuff. I never did understand a single story and I surely never found nothin’ useful in ‘em. Had a preacher here one time, ‘bout a year ago. Came walkin’ right up to the house like he’s invited or somethin’. Long greasy hair - sleazy-dog looks. He stared at my face with a revulsion as bad as any of the townfolk. Then he starts tellin’ me ‘bout the “sins of the fathers” and such stuff and nonsense. And ‘bout how I needed to plead with his god for the grace of redemption. I run him off the property with Daddy’s old rifle even though it ain’t had any bullets in it since Hog Hatcher. He never come back nor has any other preacher talking crazy-folk talk which is more than fine with me.
Seems to me they only want one thing above all - and that's the blood of the innocents. They want to see that blood pouring clean out in the hope that it’ll take their own damnable sins away with it.
So now it’s just me and Zephyr livin’ here at Purgatory Gate and the occasional skin-and-bones stray mongrel. I look out for Zephyr, watch his comin’s and goin's and I think he does the same for me, too.
I got a feelin’ he might be waitin’ for me. Waitin’ for me to cross on over with him. Waitin’ for our eyes to finally be opened in that glory moment that I surely hope is comin’for us.