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Authors: Chadwick Wall

Water Lessons (40 page)

BOOK: Water Lessons
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"You don't have to say a word, Jimmy. I know your heart, son. And it is good. My brother would want what's best for you. And you know I do, too. May the wind be at your back, son."

Jim thanked him.

"But I'll hold something against you if you don't visit. Don'tcha know, I'm ya old Irish uncle, Jimmy boy."

Dewey stood and extended a hand. What a man old Dewey had been. And his manager had made it a point not to mention Maureen. No doubt he knew nothing of his niece's infidelity. Maureen could never admit a fault, much less a cardinal betrayal.

And it was a good thing Jim heard no word from her. He had spent that weekend visiting with friends: Liam, Case, Duff, Tim, Jack, Father Ben, Patrick, the men in the shop. Bryce did not answer his phone.

Luckily he could depend on Reverend Ward. The preacher, though young, was wise enough to sense the hurt in his friend's voice.

"Jim, I've been meaning to catch up. Look, what are your lunch plans today? Tanya and I are takin' you out to an old familiar place I think you'll like."

By noon, Jim found himself doing the last thing one would expect to be doing on a Monday in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts—savoring collards, fried okra, candied yams, and black eyed peas with diced smoked ham, while listening to Fats Domino.

"Sure you thought this through? Now, Jim?" Reverend Ward said, his face solemn as he leaned slightly forward over his plate toward Jim.

"I have," Jim said softly.

Jim explained how he had phoned the movers days ago, mere hours after he left Maureen. He resigned at the brokerage that morning, and the movers arrived at nine o'clock. In a hushed, humiliated, but faintly relieved tone, Jim told the Reverend and Tanya of the shocking email.

The conversation soon turned to brighter, more important things.

"Jim, the charity work you've offered is a great thing, a good thing, with the folks down at Bethesda Baptist, even though we could use you up here with us. Those guys down there—I know ’em. They're hurtin'. They could use an ol' Luzianna boy lendin' em a hand!"

"Really, Jim," Tanya said, her eyes the picture of pathos.

"And I'll admit, Jim, I didn't think you'd take so easy to life up here. You're a Luzianna man, and you missed it too much to stay away. I have a feeling your destiny lies down there. Go finish that first novel."

"I suspect you're right, Reverend."

"Call me Cordell, Jim. And I think mine does lie up here in Boston. And a little bit in 'Nawlins, too. Tanya and I both."

The grinning pastor put his arm around his wife. "We'll catch you down there from time to time, doing mission work. But years from now, you'll increasingly appreciate how special a place Boston is. And one of the greatest things about this nation… is this region."

"I actually agree with that," Jim said.

"Now, you did often take things too seriously here," Cordell said. "But I knew all along you'd be happier closer to your roots. You're not meant to be a denizen of the big city."

The waiter arrived with the bill. Jim tried to snatch it. The Reverend and Tanya argued with him back and forth over it, but Cordell insisted.

"You win, you win," Jim said. "My treat, next time I'm up here. Or when y'all are down in the Crescent City, Reverend."

Cordell laid cash on the table and they walked out the door. "Remember, not Reverend," he told Jim. "Cordell, my friend. Cordell!"

He stretched out a hand to him. Jim shook it firmly, then hugged Cordell and Tanya goodbye. Minutes later, Jim rolled west in his old Chevy truck along Interstate 90—the Massachusetts Turnpike—on what he knew would be a very long but exciting road home.

It would be a quiet journey, too. Two days later, just at the point of crossing south over the Georgia line on Interstate 24, Jim received a text from Maureen. No apologies, only a demand that he meet her at Sonsie that night at eight.

Jim hurled the phone, along with an unopened bottle of bourbon, through the passenger's open window into the Tennessee River.

At twilight the next day, he pulled onto the long oyster shell drive, through the dense tract of magnolias, sweetgum, thick longleaf pines, white oaks, live oaks, and cypress, the latter two dripping with Spanish moss. The words of his preacher friend echoed in his ears:

"You're a Luzianna man. And you missed it too much to stay away. I have a feeling your destiny lies down there."

Jim parked his truck alongside the tin-roofed Acadian cottage, his passenger door facing its front door. The weeping yet smiling gray-haired man and the pale, black-haired woman who once gave him life burst onto the porch. They stood, embracing each other, waiting for him to emerge from the truck. Smiling at him with narrowed eyes, just next to them, stood his brother Paul.

Suddenly Jim froze, his gaze directed through his windshield for nearly half a minute. Far down the long horseshoe drive, side by side, stood two unmistakable figures. They stared back at him, grinning slightly, their chins raised. Freddy "Foghorn" Beasley and Commodore Walter Henretty waved once and nodded. Walter in his formal Navy Captain's uniform. Freddy in his
guayabera
, linen pants,
guaraches
, and porkpie hat.

Jim gave a start and wiped his eyes.

Then they turned—and with Walter draping a relaxed arm on Freddy's shoulder—walked and vanished around the bend into eternity.

   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and raised in New Orleans and its suburbs—and working and residing there during Katrina—Chad has written for the
New Orleans Times-Picayune
,
The Sewanee Purple
,
The Riverside Reader
,
The Baton Rouge Advocate
, and most recently
Austin.com
. After years living in many cities and regions, he counts himself lucky enough to reside in the laid-back yet vibrant, friendly, and creative city of Austin. Here he spends many of his days and nights either holed up like a hermit, reading or writing away—or prowling around, investigating all of the live music, delicious cuisine, and cultural hotspots he can find.

BOOK: Water Lessons
11.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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