Mar 6, 2007

The disciple of Moses

She said his name as a question. She said she tried to call. He said he didn't have a phone. She said she wanted to talk to him about those years with that man. She said I want to know. I want to know how you came to know him and what you thought of him then and what you think of him now. She said I want to know your story. She said I want to talk to you. She smiled. Her white teeth embarrassed him.

His hair was sticking up.

He put his hand on his head and he rubbed it. He watched the little bits of hair and dead skin fall through the light between him and the woman and fall down to the unpainted porch. Each bit caught the light and fell. Fell like lighting.

Everyone knew how it ended for Brother Joel. But some of them knew that that was all they knew and some of them wanted to know what came before. Sometimes they found Jeremy Lee and they asked him. He lived in a double wide about a mile after the highway ended. He lived in a mobile home with a half-built porch. The porch was unpainted and a box of ten-penny nails was set by the front door. The gray cardboard was wet and withering back to show the speckles of rust bumping up on the clump of nails.

There were some calls, in the first days after the news. Before he got rid of the phone. Mostly, they were just saying what they thought of the scandal, that they thought it was a scandal and they thought it was a scandal that there was a scandal and they said: you're a horrible person. Sometimes, though, they called him to say they didn't believe any of it.

They would have called Brother Joel, they said, but they didn't have his number and could he let him know they were praying for him and wanted him to fight the good fight. No one knew where Brother Joel was now. No one knew where you'd go now, after a fall like that. They thought he might know but he didn't.

They called to say support and prayer and blessings and beware of Satan's snares. They called to say God damn you to hell and you deserve to die and go be with your Satan.

Didn't really matter what they were trying to say, what way they thought about the thing. They all found their way back to Satan. All of them at some point got around to that.

Which made sense, he thought.

The woman from the magazine found him on a Tuesday. Last Tuesday. It was almost five years now, since the news.

She didn't mention Satan. She wore a small gold cross around her neck, the kind that might be religious or might just be jewelry. She came on Tuesday at noon and he was asleep because he slept days. She was at the door next to the nails and he opened it, surprised at the sun. Surprised at the woman standing there. He was wearing, he realized when he opened the door, sweat pants and nothing else.

She said I want to know your story and she smiled. She said when's the last you heard from him.

He said no, no, go away. He said another day, maybe, not right now. Please, leave please. It's not a good time. Another time. Come back later.

He had a spider plant in the window that needed watering. He watered it and he watched her through the window and she drove away. I could have told her, he though. Maybe. I could have gone through it and maybe she would have understood. How would she have understood? We don't understand and we were there.

The plant didn't need watering. It was dead. The brown was half way down the leaves. The water ran through the dirt without pausing and flushed out of the holes in the bottom of the pot and he didn't have a bowl under there to catch it. Which must mean he had never watered it. The water went through and spilled out dirty onto his feet and his floor.

Part 1. Part 2.