Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Guinns in Toccopola

There is a picture of the Guinns in Toccopola. A journalistic record. It is pre-spring, the year of our Lord, 1933. Walt Mitchell and Truman Lyon are the real deal. They are journos in the field. Mitchell takes pictures, Lyon writes words. They work freelance. They tag-team the South. They work on assignment. Their assignment is crime. They track the reportage. Reportage takes time. They call their piece Prose and Cons: Reporting Crime in America. They sell it to Millions magazine. It makes the cover, February 1933.

Mitchell and Lyon are the real deal. The real deal hits the road. They go far and wide. They come through Toccopola and run out of gas. They stop a few days. Lyon take copious notes. They leave no stone unturned. Mitchell take lots of pictures. All kinds of stuff.

Mitchell is Snap-happy, Lyon verbose. Lyon gregarious, Mitchell morose. Lyon sows wild oats, Mitch keeps his close.

Harriet sees Lyon. Lyon clocks. They hit it off. Opportunity knocks. There's repartee. Lyon sets up an interview. Lyon prepares to take notes. Mitchell prepares to take pictures. He runs out of film. He runs to the truck. He runs into Jed. He runs out of luck. The interview stops. The boys beat a retreat.

Lyon: snooped round her door. Howled at the moon. Begged her scraps. Harriet gave nothing.

Mitchell took snaps.

The writers got bored. The writers moved on. They packed up their stuff. The writers were gone.

They left a memento. They marked out their time. A sepia portrait. A record in time.

The portrait reveals: Jed is wiry. Dark-featured. Clear eyes. They're pale. They're almost hidden in sunken sockets.  Jed is naked to the waist.  Jed is filthy from the field. Jed is fully six foot, but narrow. Jed lacks heft. Jed has an abundance of bones.  Jed has an abundance of scars. Jed is stitched up from his belt buckle to his ribcage.

The portrait reveals: Harriet Guinn is tall. She's willowy. She has olive skin. She has long black hair. The ghost of a smile plays on her lips. Harriet looks down. Harriet averts her eyes. Harriet is demure. Harriet is uneasy with the camera in her house. Harriet's mother was a Cherokee beauty. Harriet's father was a redheaded brawler from County Kerry.

Harriet was gentle. Harriet was volatile. Harriet had two speeds. Harriet could blow like a volcano - hot, fast and infernal. She could be still like a deep pool - cool, clear, dark and eternal.

The portrait reveals: Harriet has her mother's looks.

The portrait does not reveal: Harriet has her father's temper.  It comes on as fast as a late summer hurricane. It is gone just as fast. Same sort of damage.

The portrait does not reveal: Harriet Guinn is pregnant.

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