Friday, September 10, 2010

Granddaddy and the dead man

Freewriting . . . .

Haven Kimmel—“A Girl Named Zippy,” p. 38

“I thanked her for rescuing me by bringing her her favorite lunch: MoonPie and a Pepsi, and she wasn’t mad at me at all.”

Granddaddy was old and blind when he told us the story for the first time. He was old and blind but his brain was just fine and he remembered things way back to when he was a boy. Mama said that sometimes old people get a bit tetched and they forget what happened a few minutes ago but they remember everything from when they were little. But Granddaddy wasn’t like that at all. Mama said he just saved the story until the time was right. Granddaddy said it was summer and he was about 11 or 12 years old. Bubbie Link, the county sheriff, came by Granddaddy’s house early in the morning and asked him for his help with a hard job. Granddaddy said he was feeling strong and grown-up and thought there was no job too hard for him until he heard what the job was. There was a dead man down at the inlet and Bubbie needed his help bringing in the body. It was foggy at first light. Bubbie and Granddaddy went down to the beach and got Bessie, Granddaddy’s rowboat. They pulled the boat into the Bay and Bubbie rowed down the shore and up the inlet that separated Granddaddy’s beach from Breezy Point. Down the inlet, before the marshes, there was a rickety wooden bridge that crossed the inlet from one side to the other. There was a man’s body hanging upside down from the bridge—one foot caught between the wooden slats of the bridge and his head in the water. Bubbie said he thought the man was a drifter, probably drunk, who had tried to cross the bridge during the night, fell through the bridge, got his foot caught, and drowned in the brackish water trying to free himself. Granddaddy said the man was wearing a soggy woolen coat, brown pants, and lace-up boots with holes in the bottom. His long hair was flowing in the water. Bubbie got up on the bridge while Granddaddy kept the rowboat under the body. When Bubbie released the man’s foot from between the wooden slats, the body fell with a thud into the rowboat. Bubbie rowed the boat back to shore and they laid the man’s body on the sand. Granddaddy said he never knew the man’s name or where he was from, but remembered seeing his body through the fog and remembered the man’s hair flowing in the water. Early one morning last week I needed to row old Bessie down the inlet to pick up some crab pots. As I rowed down the inlet I thought about Granddaddy’s story and I was grateful that the old wooden bridge was gone so I didn’t have to picture the drifter with his foot stuck in the bridge and his head in the water. Still, it was foggy like the morning Granddaddy got the body and I knew that the inlet would always make me think of the dead man. I got the crab pots and was rowing back when the wood around the oar lock split and somehow I managed to drop one of the oars in the water and it floated away in the current. The harder I tried to reach it, rowing with one oar, the faster it moved from my reach until it was gone. I couldn’t get the dead man out of my head and with one oar I couldn’t row out of the inlet fast enough. I heard the putt-putt of a small outboard engine and big fat crazy old Miss Dixon came through the fog up the inlet. Miss Dixon scared all of us kids because she could be mean as a snake and I thought she’d be mad to have to rescue me, but she just chuckled when she saw the fix I was in. She said nothing and attached a line to old Bessie and towed me back to shore. I thanked her for rescuing me by bringing her her favorite lunch: MoonPie and a Pepsi, and she wasn’t mad at me at all.

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