I wanted to see John Peter real bad, get the story straight from the horse's mouth about poor Millie Grady's dead body showing up in his box-spring. He'd never paid any attention to her. He wasn't one of those goons that made fun of her either. John Peter wasn't a joiner; he was an individual, a sensitive artistic type. Some of the goons called him queer but the only thing queer about John Peter were his ears. They were too big for his head. I imagine he was going to grow into them one day and be kind of cute, the kind of cute that lets a man get away with almost anything, like my daddy.
There were lots of cars at his house and I didn't think I'd be too welcomed if I marched in there and gave the sheriff my character reference on John Peter, about him crying over a dead frog so how could he possibly murder anyone? I wasn't going to get to him that day though, he was probably being finger printed down at the county jail so I took myself to Piper Hill.
The oddest thing is how much humor Millie would have found in her body being stuffed inside John Peter's box-spring. Out of all the boys in the world John Peter gets blamed for doing her in and she and I both know he's the last person we'd suspect of killing her. She hardly even knew him. I wished she could tell me who did this to her. I wonder why the dead can't talk, look at all the crimes we'd solve if the damn dead would just Ouija board us our answers, or tell all those weird psychic people who killed 'em.
I lied back in the grass, I couldn't even read. I wanted to commune with Millie. I just didn't understand what had happened to her and why it happened. She never did anything to anyone. I started thinking 'bout our time together and her telling me that she missed not having a mama. I told her she was probably better off but she didn't believe me. "Thanks for trying to make me feel better," she'd said. Hell, it was the truth as I knew it.
She didn't have any siblings either so her poor father was going to be terribly alone. I felt badly for him and helpless about Millie. Feeling helpless is an awful feeling, it's like you're useless to prevent something awful from happening. I knew I'd bear this burden for a long time. But what could I have done to prevent her murder? Probably nothing, but maybe I could bring some justice by trying to find out who did it. Maybe I could bring some peace.
I had my eyes closed for about ten minutes and kept seeing Millie's face behind the lids of my eyes. I made her a silent promise that I'd seek justice and that she would not be forgotten. I swore I'd visit her grave every week and tell her everything that was going on without her. When I opened my eyes I thought I was hallucinating, but over the hill who do I see coming toward me but John Peter, he didn't look none too happy either but at least, he hadn't been locked up.
Instead of saying anything, he just flopped down on the grass and looked off. The two of us never hungered for words between us but now we were both at a loss. Finally, I took a handful of dirt and threw it at him. All he did was brush it off his pant leg and stare at me. In normal times he would have chased me all the way over to Lake Murray and dunked me in.
"It wasn’t my fault this happened," he said.
I couldn't tell if he was angry or bewildered or both 'cause he started to laugh. I just sat there in silence wondering where in the hell he was finding the humor in this but it was probably a really nervous laugh.
"Ain't this a fucked up world?" He started shaking his head up and down like he didn't give a good goddamn who agreed with him, he sure as hell thought it was a fucked up world.
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