Same Sins Separate Paths (Chapter 38)
by Anthony J. Mungin
Casting aside all else that was going on around me, my eyes drifted from the obituaries and became glued to the newspaper article's headline, which conveniently read: HATTIE MAE WATKINS BURNED BY HER OWN FIRY PASSION.
The article revealed that there was a fire back in 86'. The perpetrators were three boys who's acquaintance I had the pleasure of making a long time ago--Kyle Stevens, Jessie Turner, Julius "Smiley" Matthews. They all confessed unremorsefully to burning Watkins' little hut to the ground. Hattie Mae's lifeless body was found among the burnt rubble. She had gotten a taste of hell, albeit a milder version.
I was taken aback by the sight of my comrades' names in print, yet consumed with exhilaration over what they had accomplished. I was grateful back then and more so now for my brief friendship with Stevens, Turner, and Matthews. Alas, our meeting up was just for that one day in Yammasee.
Their perilous act had paven the way for my emancipation from a lifelong affliction. Sad thing is, it seemed unlikely my getting the chance to express my undying gratitude. In any event, I viewed them now, not just as friends but also as liberators.
The newspaper article publicized that all three had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the end result of Watkins' perversions and the horrendous sexual acts that she perpetrated upon them. Realizing the consequences charging the boys might have for his political aspirations, a Beaufort District Attorney adamantly refused to pursue the case. No one, not the judge, not even the media rebutted his decision.
The three boys were released within twelve hours of being picked up. Preceding their departure was a strong recommendation for continued psychiatric treatment. Poor souls, I thought.
"Are you lost down there?" The voice of Jones sang out, jolting me back into the here and now. At that moment, I heard the footsteps of the de-energized little man walking away. Presumably, he was departing with his ego bruised and his tail tucked between his legs. Indisputably, Jones had eaten his lunch; writing him off just as she had done several other low-down, no-account, good-for-nothing, wannabe contenders.
"No," I said, gradually making my ascent. In the process, I managed to slip one of the obituaries inside the pocket of my blue sports coat for safekeeping, my own little sacred memoir.
"You dropped something and I was down here getting it for you." Unrepentant of my devilish acts, I snapped upright like a pop tart out of a toaster oven. A half smile stretched wide across my face probably signified that I had been up to no good.
Jones fixed me with an odd stare. Her anomalous gaze turned into a withering glance as I handed over her belongings. One, cold, contemptuous fleeting look was all it took to completely wipe that shit eating grin off of my mug.
"I...I...I'm sorry for your loss," I said, my lying swifter and more cunning than a group of merchant marines engaged in a gleeful moment of swapping the most horrific tales. It was the only lie I could muster up at that moment to soften the scowl on Jones' face.
Need-less-to say, this was a cheap maneuver on my part. I was no more sympathetic about Hattie Mae's demise than a rattler is about the squealing rodent clutched between its protractible jaws. This being the case, my opposition to my very own trumped-up story was probably evident.
"Just give it here!" Jones said with a lot of attitude. Lunging forward, she snatched the obituary and her news article from my grasp. She glared at me like I had touched her in a forbidden place. A place previously bruised and probably still stinging from another's illicit contact. Her bitter surveillance turned from me and landed down on the obituary bearing her sister's repugnant face.
She gawked at the paper with even more antipathy than I had witnessed before. I discerned then that the deep-seated hatred had traveled long and far; from the pit of her aching soul to the base of her dejected eyes, settling there like pooled blood. The atrocities that spawned her hate could fill novels.
By this time, anyone who would dare diagnose what ailed Mamie Jones as a case of lamenting over her sister's death was in my estimation a money grubbing quack, at best. It hardly took an astute brain surgeon to recognize that there was no love lost between the two sisters. Not a drop!
The back and forth stare down between me, Mamie, and Hattie Mae's lifeless photo continued for a few seconds, Mamie looking at me, then down at Hattie Mae, then back at me. Then, listlessly, Jones plopped back down in her chair as if depleted of all known resources. The wind was no longer beneath her sail.
Hattie Mae had stripped her of something dear, I could tell that much. I speculated to myself whether this strife involved an unfaithful lover or an endless rivalry for daddy's affection, with Mamie suffering the brutal catastrophe of being tagged "daddy's little girl."
As a final thought, I surmised about whether Mae had acted out her deviant behaviors on her own sibling, like she had done me, Stevens, Turner, and Matthews, years ago.
My and Mamie's eyes met again like a pointy hook latch dangling from a screen door. She peered deep into my soul as if on the brink of some new discovery. I figured the motive for this stare down either to be her attempt at finding solace, a sign of her authentication of the strange connection between us, or both.
Whatever the case, this whole entire scene had taken on an eerie, surreal quality for at that moment we seemed to be co-conspirators on one accord, with pegs too deep to uproot.
In an uncanny, supernatural kind of way, it seemed Jones could sense in me, despite my unvaried expression and absent any visible allusion of discord, that I had likewise been robbed by her thieving sister of something precious.
Absent all other visible signs, she may have detected the resurrected hurt hovering in my eyes despite any effort on my part to conceal it. Perplexingly, I could detect similar things about her. And it was now as clear as ice in glasses that it wasn't me she harbored ill feelings toward. I was not her enemy, just another casualty of her personal war. Maybe now even a kindred spirit.
In that split second, I knew through some omen that she too had come to grips with the veracity that her dead sister, Hattie Mae, was yet still kindling a firestorm inside of her.
The obituary had revealed that two younger sisters, Mamie, who was 23 at the time and her slightly older sister, Winifred Jones Enfume, 25, survived Watkins, 34.
The Beaufort Chronicle depicted Winifred as a snooty little brat, with big hopes and tall dreams. Losing herself in the arms of a compassionate, well to do Nigerian, Winifred scammed her way out of the backwoods. Living abroad with her other half, Nigel Enfume, she had invariably placed herself off limits to Mamie and Hattie Mae.
Mamie and Hattie Mae's relationship had always been strained for reasons the article did not delve into. I would dare say now that the split involved a myriad of the most obscene, unsavory, illicit acts to have ever been levied by one human being onto another.
Hattie Mae was widowed for over 20 years after her late drunken husband, Oliver Watkins, met his end (killed while trying to cross a railroad track).
As fate would have it, no children were ever born to the union. Hattie Mae was conceivably barren and this probability was evidence enough for me that someone up above was indeed looking out.
SILENCE HAVING BEEN our golden voice, a true spokesman of our individual calamity, it seemed as if Mamie and I had resolved now to hold our own separate vigil, her seated there on her screeching little throne, me standing on the weak and wobbly legs of a newborn colt. My hands rested on the counter, crisscrossing each other in submission to the will of some paranormal force that had guided us to this path.
Feasibly, it was this same indistinguishable compulsion that abruptly coerced the uncloaking of my clandestine history. Though words were not needed, I was being compelled to dispense them. I obliged begrudgingly, yet still assured I was not telling Mamie Jones much that she did not already know.
My ties to Beaufort S.C. could straightway be summed up in a few intimate details: the place, a Podunk town stuck in quagmire, it's occupants, some of the most unseemly characters known to mankind, it's cultural diversity, nonexistent¨in particular, the ebony race was a damn near endangered species in that little place behind God's back. My unabridged description of an exposed, hairy, naked, fat chance, treacherous lot was a perfect segue way into the details of my and Sexton's second visit to Hattie Mae's rat infested love nest.
To validate my firsthand knowledge of and contact with Mamie's sister, I enumerated the naked truths about a number of Watkins's telltale signs: the diseased leg, her booze guzzling habits, her smock fitting peignoir, the number running, her foul mouth, inelegant character, not to count her immoralistic behaviors. As I suspected, none of it had struck a chord of surprise in Mamie.
Having unveiled the specifics of my and Hattie Mae's acquaintance, I disclosed the multitude of sins Hattie Mae had committed in one devilish feat.
Careful to include the most exhaustive minutiae, I divulged how Hattie Mae had stolen my youth with each swipe of her scaly, mutilated hands across my private parts. Detailing the gory specifics, I revealed how, with each manipulation of my sparsely developed manhood into her sister's foul, depraved temple, Hattie Mae Watkins had cursed me with a fate worse than death.
Mamie stared at me dry and detached, fixing me with the reticent orb of a golden eagle. Her appearance and posture remained stoic. But though she seemed languid, instinct told me that internally, terror was eating away at her resolve.
What happened then confounded me. Mamie placed her warm, now soothing mahogany colored hands¨the same hands that had fiercely ushered people from her presence¨across mine and in a voice softer than a light feather brushing up against one's cheek, she uttered, "You don't need ta say anymo'...I know what she done...I know, and, um so sorry." Her oval face, now a stream of tears, was stricken with grief, even more so than I had witnessed before.
It was now crystally clear to me that Mamie had maiden knowledge of Mae's yen for little boys. Perhaps maybe she even caught her sister in the act of appeasing it.
I concluded then that in her frail little mind, Mamie must have consummated that doing nothing to thwart the misery caused by her sister made her an accomplice, no better than the person behind the act. Nonetheless, in my eyes Mamie had more than earned her repentance. In truth, I now viewed Mamie Jones as my own messenger from God come to reassure me that Hattie Mae's evil acts had not been overlooked, nor gone unpunished.
In the end, Hattie Mae got exactly what she deserved. My only hope was that all the boys she violated passed before her bloodshot eyes as she drew her last painful breath.