DEAD WALKING AND INNIS
For a long time, since they came back from France, and since Garnett left in a red-hot huff, Adelyn had felt dead inside. Her heart worked still, but the heart that cared lay withered. Her soul wandered between here and somewhere else as she walked the rough terrain where the unpaved roads cut into deep ruts, and she got her new shoes all dusty. Adelyn passed over onto the greenest grass anyone will ever find outside Savannah. Under the shade of old oaks hung with moss, the dew maintained a sweet wetness that bathed her shoes until they were rid of the dust of Georgia clay.
She thought of her husband, saying aloud, “Garnett’s away; he’s cut himself out of my life.” Propelled to keep on moving, she realized how disheveled she would look to her mother as she climbed one hill after another with no thought to the dirt and mud under her feet. Mama would have a fit, telling her, yelling at her, like she always did.
Missus Jackson grabbed Adelyn long enough to dab the remaining dew off her shoes with a long handkerchief before Adelyn’s wandering began again. June 1931, and everything slowed as the hot, humid air took hold and wouldn’t let go again till late fall. All the while, Adelyn stood like a store mannequin, wooden and listless, while her mother fussed about her hair. She could almost cry. At times, her spirit sought out hope, and so, on a Sunday, Adelyn floated into church. The priest laid the thin wafer, Body and Blood, on her tongue. She didn’t feel it.
Her walking, roaming, riding, and driving took her past the neighbors, with them all lingering on their wide verandas, drinks in hand.
Throughout that summer day on the hammock with Innis, Adelyn took to riding Ramses, him loving the hot days as they galloped and then rested near the creek. With Garnett gone up north, and out west, and anywhere but home, she ran away from his absence on Ramses’s back. “Will he finally miss me and come home?”
“Good as dead,” she said of her absent husband to Mama at the noonday dinner, after the disturbing visit from Innis. She pictured Garnett with that loose-hipped walk of his, more suited to home than a city. “Always meeting people in harsh places full of pushing crowds and loud-talking men.”
Mama pushed at her hand as it rested on the tablecloth. “You hush with all that nonsense.” Her mother did not want to think anything bad between Garnett and her daughter, for the sake of their children, for the sake of the inheritance that would be Garnett’s, the children’s, and yes, Adelyn’s. Her mother would wait, the southern country way. “It’ll sort itself out.” She said this in a nervous whisper.
They all sat at the table for the midday meal, her mother and father, Aunt Grace, Mama’s sister, and Uncle Tyree, her husband. And Adelyn’s two sons, who looked up from picking at their food, and smiled across the table at their pretty young mother.
Her thoughts flew back as quickly to Innis, how tall and beautiful he looked for that brief moment in the hammock. She blushed remembering his hands on her. And Garnett, his brother and her husband? Garnett had turned out to be wild. Adelyn’s eyes swept the large dining room, her gaze resting on his photo on the mantle over the unlit fireplace. Adelyn could see it clearly, as though she held it in her hand. For a moment, she sensed Garnett’s spirit sitting next to her, his eyes that curious amber green, and his hair dusty colored, with highlights of red throughout. She looked around, to see everything in the room near and farther away, clear and sharp. Her eyesight keener now, realizing it sharpened after she woke from the nap and the dream of Innis. Did I dream of him after all—one moment yes, the other no.
The photo held Innis’s image, in the background, as dark as Garnett was fair. Her boys had a touch of red in their hair, too.
Watching her boys now, she grew sad for neglecting them. Her mother read her thoughts. “All that walking and climbing. Pay some mind to those little ones.” She said this while pouring more lemonade for Tyler, the youngest boy. Adelyn defended them running wild all that summer, careless and scraggly, no shoes on them most of the time. “Maybe it didn’t hurt them to be so wild, Mama, like their daddy.”
Her oldest boy, Trey, asked her, “Mama, when’s Daddy coming home?”
“Friday, Sugar. He’ll be here Friday afternoon.” Yes, her deadened soul had most to do with Garnett’s ways. As it did to the loss of Innis.
Mama stirred her coffee with a little demitasse spoon and complained mostly to herself and a little to her daughter, “You still set on driving down to the train station for Garnett Friday?”
Adelyn looked up to see the boys sliding off their chairs, ready to escape, “Trey, Tyler. Come on back. You can cool down some in a bath before you run out in that hot weather.” She turned back to her mother. “You know I plan to drive down to Savannah.” Will he want to see me? The family continued with their chicken dinner while Adelyn fell back into her thoughts of Innis, contemplating what would have happened if she had married him, had he lived. But is he dead? She felt strongly that he occupied an in-between-place, remembering the hammock and his hands on her body, forcing her to come alive.
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