Monday, 31 May 2010

Stormy Monday

And finally you get to put the record on the turntable, it spins in limbo for a perfect second, followed by the moment of truth, needle into groove, and finally sound. What then occurs is so often anticlimactic that it drives a rational man to the depths of despair. Bah! The whole musical world is packed with simpletons and charlatans, with few a genius or loony tune joker in between.
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: A Tale of These Times

Three in the morning, 31 October 1933. The height of a foul Mississippi storm.

Jed Guinn lies on his cot. Jed is stiff and cold. Stiff as a board; cold as slate.

His wife, lying beside, jack-knifes double and screams. Her pain stops for a minute; she collapses like a dropped puppet. She moans, a hoarse grovel, a guttural hymn of penitence to the Lord. It is not enough. He sends down another blistering shaft.

She jack-knifes double and screams. 

Jed Guinn lies on his cot. Jed is stiff and cold. Stiff as a board; cold as slate. He has a blanket knotted around his middle, damp and dirty. He has an ancient fear in his eyes. Jed stares into the blackness.

A crack of lightning. A window bursts open. Curtains rent. Needles of rain prick his face.

Low thunder rolls. Shelterbelt thrashes. Wind slaps and kicks. Roof groans. Dripping willow tendrils, restive,  whip the door.

Harriet Guinn's pain comes back. It comes screaming in low, over the trees. She howls. She rasps. She spits blood. It drizzles the pillow.

Jed jerks. Jed spasms. Jed can't bear it. He sits up and tenderly feels her side. She flinches. 

"I'm going for help, honey."

Jed strikes a flint. Jed lights a lamp. Jed slides into his boots. Fly-screen slaps.

An old Terraplane motor car squats by the fence. It is six inches deep in mud. The rain howls in. Jed hobbles. Jed makes the car. Jed squeezes behind the wheel.

“Come on, baby,” he growls.

The midnight express thunders by. It's going to San Antone and it's hauling tail. Its horn wails; it cuts the highway. Steel wheels pound. Steel rails clatter. The rain lashes.

Cries from the house cut through. Harriet screams.

An electrical snap. Sonic boom. Lightning cracks the sky. A momentary flash of daylight. A man on a horse by the gate.

Jed double-takes: The horseman is gone.

The tail end of the express train whips past. Its horn brays. The thunder subsides. The rails clatter. The clatter dissolves. It's gone to San Antone. The hard rain beats. 

Cries from the house cut through. Harriet screams. 

The Terraplane grumbles. The Terraplane shakes. It buzzes. The wiper swats the windshield. The wiper does no good. Jed wipes at the inside with a rag. The rag makes it worse.

Deep in the tempest, a horse whinnies and stamps. Jedd double-takes. There is nothing to see. The rain gushes. The wind blasts. The mud runs. The engine dies. The horseman is gone.

Cries from the house cut through. Jed winces. Jed pleads. Jed lunges out. Jed drags his bad leg. Jed limps across the yard. Jed makes the house.

Harriet is balled up on the cot, wet and dark. She has the storm engraved on her face.

Jed brushes her cheek. Harriet flinches. Jed wipes a wisp of hair from her face. She winces.  Jed scoops her up and lunges for the door.

The rain whips. The wind drives. Dripping willow tendrils whip the door.

Jed hushes. Jed lunges. Jed limps across the glutinous yard. Jed makes the car.

The Terraplane shudders and pulls away. In the squalid light, only the twin blades of the railroad glint.

Jed re-takes: The horseman is gone.  The car moves out, the headlamps fade, the rails go black, and all that remains is thunder and rain.

The great white mare shakes its mane. Spray flies. She snorts. She stamps. Her rider watches. He pulls his hat brim low. He pulls an axe. It's double headed. The handle is short. He flexes. He brings it down. The black blade flashes. The axe blade bites. It bites hard. The axe holds fast. The rider lets go. The white horse turns. The reins cracks. The horse thunders away through the mud.

The horseman is gone.

The axe blade is sunk deep into a chinaberry tree. It glints darkly.

No comments:

Post a Comment