Ronald’s wife lived up to her name. Ada a true southern belle that had been living a hard life. She met us at the front door. Her hair pulled back in a tight bun and a weather-beaten face that may have come from to much life.
Josh had contacted her earlier with no response.
“Well I knew you’d be by, after Ronald’s death in front of the Sheriff. I should have come to Ina’s funeral today. Your here to find out why Ronald was on the receiving end of your mother’s wrath.”
She stepped into the kitchen and brought was a tray of tea and some pictures.
“The picture is of my son James. Ronald was his stepfather. My first husband was killed two years after we were married in a moonshine still explosion. You have to understand this was back about nineteen fifty. I had just found out I was pregnant. Ronald knew my family and he owed my Dad some money. Dad told him he’d let the debt go if he married me. Back in those days Ronald was a decent looking man. He was good to me and treated James like his own. He was strict.” Taking a drink of tea. She looked around her neat but sparsely furnished living room before she continued.
” James had learning disabilities. He had trouble making friends. That was why I was so thrilled when he made friends with Roberta. She was a sweet girl. She often would show up and help me in the garden. She began to like James. She helped him learn to read better than I could.Sometime after that they got together. She was about sixteen and James about eighteen.”
She played at the the hem of the old blouse she had on. Her face seemed to dissolve from a hearty farm wife to a shriveled old woman as she whispered,
“When Ronald found out he went crazy he called Roberta all kinds of names James told him to, Shut up, this my baby and I want it.
The kids were sitting on the old wagon. I watched from the window. I had been on the receiving end of Ronald’s wrath. I saw Ronald back hand James. He kept hitting James he couldn’t stop. James fell off the wagon and hit his head on a pile of rocks. Ronald didn’t stop even then, he stomped my son to death. Roberta was screaming and she ran. I guess that’s when she went out of her mind.”
We sat there for a long time not saying a word. Josh shook his head. “I never knew who my father was. I don’t know that they knew for sure.
She handed Josh a picture of James. He looked like James except he was darker. “You can have that if you want it. I have another.”
We got up to go. Josh turned to the woman. “Where is my father buried?”
The tears in the woman’s eyes, “I don’t know but I think down in the bottoms there’s an old cabin down there. Ronald told me one time that he’d buried my boy under that cabin.”
Josh nodded, “Well Thank you for your time. Miss Ada how did you stay with Ronald knowing what you know?”
“The man cheated my son out of life and me from knowing my grandchild. I stayed with him for one reason. I wanted to make his life a living Hell. He never got to touch me again. I shouldn’t say this but I enjoyed watching him burn. Which makes me as bad as him.” Her lips composed a thin line as the tears started to roll down her cheeks.
“No Grandmother, it makes you human.”
Josh planned his Aunt Ina’s funeral for the following Thursday. It dawned a gray muggy day. Very much a typical day for a funeral. As sweet as Ina was very few people showed up to pay their respects. A few ladies from the local homemakers, and church. Not one of the woman’s sisters. Nelda, and Imagene were still in the area.
The sheriff, Josh, and I sat waiting for the flames and charges with Roberta to come out of them. She never showed.
Some one else did though. About half way through the ceremony a rosebud appeared at the casket. Then a cold draft settled over me. It took a hold of my hand. But a chill that could have been a child’s hand seeking comfort. I didn’t move through the ceramony. Even walking out later I could feel that little cold hand in mine.
After I got outside “Sammy is that you?” There was a gentle squeeze. And before I could ask anything else my purse came open and the chill was gone.
I didn’t have time to see what was in my purse. I snapped the purse shut as I heard Josh calling me.
“I promise I will check later Sammy.” The latch came open and closed as if he was agreeable to that.
Josh took my hand to help me in the car. He looked at me funny before saying “Your hand is so cold.”
“I had a visitor in the funeral. Sammy has put something in my purse. I told him I would check later.”
It was while I changed after getting home that afternoon. That I checked on the purse. There was a piece of flat bark with what looked like crude markings on it or a childish scrawl.
“She is hurting people. She only sees her pain. She feels scared and mad. She sings to her son. Pretty music. I fall asleep listening.”
Josh showed up about ten minutes later to take me with him to see Ronald’s wife.
Handing the bark to him as he entered. He read it. “Well at least she has her good points. Wonder if we can get her to take care of Sammy then neither one would be alone.”