Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not sure if this was published, so I'm splashing it out there.

INDIGENOUS WISDOM KEEPER

They told me if I visited, asked too many questions, he’d kill me. I didn’t believe them.

He was the wisdom keeper in Carlyle County, and a woman was missing. I have duty to consider, as did Harry Trimble, who couldn’t be more dead. Three years this spring.

Carlyle’s wisdom keeper had one tooth. A front tooth. Larger than it should have been, not food worn, as most are, but still thick, as if this one tooth had just took over all the other teeth along the gumline. He was wrapped in a thin sheet when I sat down to talk, but removed it when I removed my campaign hat. It seemed every bone in his body pushed through to the skin and his eyes were fixed and glazed, full of pupil and without color. He looked worse than some bodies I’ve found.

He never entered his house. The day I saw him, he was on the front porch, just like they told me he’d be. Rusted nails and other fixtures I couldn’t place held wire screen in place around the porch. On the south end was his bed and the north end his photo album, which I never had the chance to see. It’s where I talked with him about Eve Redding, a young girl gone missing so long someone finally mentioned the wisdom keeper and got my interest up.

We talked for ten minutes. And in those ten minutes, the wisdom keeper prayed four times. He never entered the house. Not that day, and, as he said, not one day since Claudia gave him what I would call the burden, but the keeper called love. When he prayed, he prayed to Claudia.

She passed twelve years ago. What I would think were the strangest things, bothered him most of all, he said. The small things. A napkin used the morning before the afternoon she stopped smiling. A hair, curved like a cocked snake and stuck, once wet and now fixed, near the drain in the bathroom sink. It was too much pain to see those things now, he said. Too much hurt in a world already plenty hard enough.

For all those years he’d lived on the fringes of his home. The porch during warm months and a tool shed with a coal stove in the winter. Harry Trimble met with him in the month of April, as anyone interested can find on his tombstone.

There was an investigation, which I had no part in being new to the sheriff’s department then. The wisdom keeper watched the officers pick apart every inch of his property without emotion. Only when they entered the home did the sheriff and two others have to restrain him. Somewhere there’s a file at the station that details what was found in the house, but I didn’t read it before leaving. Hindsight being twenty twenty, and all that.

Eve Redding couldn’t be more dead, like Trimble. That’s what I learned at a price. Always a price. Claudia’s love was a powerful thing, the keeper’s burden a poisoned well of knowledge. My duty an albatross.

I’m sure there’s a file somewhere. Read it.

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