Authors: David Adams Richards
“But not the real pain,” she added.
Teresa was standing beside the bed. Finally she said, “Mommie, tell him.”
Cynthia put her hand on my shoulder and tears streamed from her eyes. In a way all of us were joined at that moment.
I am not much for displays of emotion but I said nothing. I looked at her and her face was burning with tears. I stared at the cross on her neck, as if I was ashamed of everything in my life. It was what I had to focus on to keep from rushing away. Cynthia squeezed my hand as she spoke.
“Teresa May — has your Percy’s heart,” she whispered. “She would be dead now if she had not gotten it. There was no way for her or little Percy to know how it would come about — was there?”
Teresa took my hand and placed it under her blouse, so I could feel his heart. I kept my hand there and listened and felt a pain throughout my body, for Percy’s unfathomable love and sadness.
I left them and went back home. John Delano told me about you, Mr. Terrieux, how you left the police force because you almost drowned that child. I was compelled to see you. I did not know you lived in the same building as our Mathew Pit until two nights ago.
But I want you to know you did the right thing. That if you had to walk along that brook and save that man a thousand times, or tens of thousands, you would do it. It was a universal duty given to you. I want you to know that, overall, it has been a life of joy. Of joy unending. Of Autumn and Percy and Elly McGowan. Who am I to ask for any of it over?
Lyle, sitting before him, speaking for the last nine or ten hours, was dressed in a blue sports jacket and a pair of blue dress pants; as was mentioned, having the appearance of a tavern bouncer. He wore a ring on the index finger of his right hand, which could be used in any street fight. Terrieux had met many people who looked like him all his life; and yet not one like him. Not one with that brilliance and that compassion.
Terrieux had interrupted a few times in the several hours. Once to clarify a point about the fire at Oyster River bar, and the amount of herbicide dumped, for it was Terrieux who had arrested Lyle’s grandfather. It was Terrieux’s patrol car Roy Henderson had crawled into that fateful day to fall asleep.
After everything had been said, Lyle’s face exhibited a tenderness. Saying even more that tenderness is a commodity of valiant people.
The boy had come at noon. Now it was the middle of the night. Snow fell down over the grey streets and covered every side house and roof in a bath of white.
Lyle went to sleep at the table. And left the next morning without saying another word.
Terrieux slept most of the next day. Then he got up, and for the first time in ten years did not go to the tavern. A week later, still without a drink, he drove north to visit the Henderson house.
The lane was rocky and overgrown, and the little house was even smaller than he had imagined. The door was unlocked, though no one was home. Snow hugged the ditches and the spaces between the rocks and trees. He could not help going inside. Here he saw the books, just as they had been described to him, and the cot where Elly had lain.
How could anyone live through winter here?
After a while he went upstairs and into Autumn’s bedroom. There was a chair with a faded white dress lying across it. A pair of worn black leather shoes were sitting in the closet. On the corner window sill with its chipped paint sat a pair of girl’s pink glasses from another age.
He walked across the short hallway and opened the boys’ bedroom door. Percy’s bed was made; a picture of Scupper Pit sat on his mantel. In Lyle’s corner was a recent newspaper account of McVicer’s Works paying restitution; and that the company was worth some nineteen million. Terrieux stayed in the room for more than ten minutes, and a feeling of being in a sacred place overcame him. He quietly left the house.
Arron Brook gurgled away below the sloping ledge. There was a smell of snow in the low grey sky. There was not a sound of a bird. Behind the house, enclosed by a small, weathered fence, was Percy’s grave. He had brought flowers for it. As he rose, he had the uncomfortable feeling that Lyle was watching him.
He left the small house, the yard, the remnants of Elly’s garden. He drove to the church, where Mathew Pit’s funeral was taking place that afternoon. He went inside, and sat in a pew, staring at the oak coffin. He noticed a woman with her back to him. He realized it was Cynthia Pit. He stared at the stained-glass window showing the ascension of an angel into the sky.
He left before the service finished and sat for a while in his car, smoking and watching the snow fall over the gravestones.
Then he drove on, toward Tabusintac, where his ex-wife lived with her second husband. He felt he must visit her again before it was too late. Though divorced for years, he tried to make amends that day by telling her about Percy and Autumn. He smiled a great gullible smile and kissed her cheek. But his wife was lonely, living in a large house overlooking the bay. Her husband was often away in Montreal because of company duties. There was talk of a secretary. She spoke of arthritis, and asked why God had been so cruel.
who destroyed my life — I won’t
you that,” she said in spite.
He said nothing more. He drove back to Saint John later that night. He still lives in the Empire Hotel, and drinks too much in the tavern across the street.
In June, Lyle was seen walking the hills looking down at the faraway road. In July, children ran from him if they saw the knife marks across his arms and chest. Some nights Griffin Porier found him along the highway drinking, and would drive him to the top of his lane. Lyle would not allow him to drive down it.
After a while he lived as a hermit and was never seen except far up the river, on occasion, with a fly rod and a small butt bug, seeking the trout he remembered from his childhood.
In early October he boarded up the house and disappeared with a few possessions. And though there is great interest, no one can find out where it is he has gone.
I would like to thank my editors, Maya Mavjee, and Martha Kanya-Forstner.
I would especially like to thank my agent, Anne McDermid, my wife, Peggy, and our children, John Thomas and Anton.
Copyright © David Adams Richards 2000
Doubleday Canada hardcover edition published 2000
Anchor Canada paperback edition published 2001
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National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Richards, David Adams, 1950-
Mercy among the children
PS8585.I17M47 2001 C813′.54 C2001-930563-X
Published in Canada by
Anchor Canada, a division of
Random House of Canada Limited
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This is a work of fiction; the characters and settings found within are imaginary composites and do not refer to actual persons or places.
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