The shift between good and evil in a man’s heart is unknowable. We like to think there is a map to it. A destination, a declaration in the instant it happens.
Life rarely telegraphs itself so willingly. When I was young, I believed my father to be a good man. To this day, I still am searching for the truth.
According to my mother, being faithful to God and His will was what made a man good. She told me that when Eddy disappeared about three years ago.
After our private funeral on the farm, she told me about the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Abraham took his son Isaac up to a mountain. Without telling the boy, he meant to sacrifice him to God.
The Spirit of God had come and commanded that Isaac be sacrificed and Abraham was faithful to the Will. So, he bound his son to the great altar.
God saw the great faith Abraham had and sent a messenger down just before he cut the boys throat and burn the body, for God loved the smell of burning flesh and bone.
The Messenger halted Abraham’s dagger and told him to take on the ram instead. Cut and burn the ram until Jesus comes.
Abraham kept the path. Then Isaac.
Soon it would be up to me.
But I never wanted trouble. Then again... I can't tell how many people in this world ever really want any trouble to begin with. It ain't my place to tell just what people want or should do.
Nope. Not after what I did. But I've paid for it and deserve everything awful that has happened since.
All of it.
On April 26th, 1958, my father, Judd Dixon, hired some extra hands to finish planting the rest of the peanut crop.
That way, he could show me something out in the woods that balmy Saturday morning. I remember being very excited about that day.
Secrets have a tendency to do that, of course. Ever since my older brother Eddy went missing, Dad had been rather distant.
He had this foreign look in his eyes like he was being operated for some far off radio signals. Dad wasn't perfect by any means, but I knew he loved me. Not because of his words...
but because of what he taught me. And ultimately, what he did for me.
Late in the night before the day which ruined my life, I couldn't sleep. It kept its distance as if on some ancient part of my mind—or soul—knew and waited for him. Expecting him.
Is such a thing possible? These days, I believe so. The world has mysteries which will break a sane man's tethers to reality.
He stumbled into my room. Light spilled from the doorway behind him, contaminating my dark room.
At first, I only saw his silhouette. It loomed over me like the Mummy from the movies I heard about.
At the time, I had only seen pictures of them in books, but that's what I thought of when I saw his shadowed form towering over me in the middle of the night.
The Mummy wrapped up to hide its blackened rotting skin and meat. The cloth isn't white anymore. It's stained yellow and brown. Corruption bleeding through...
time reveals all of who and what we are.
"Reid," He nearly shouted. When he leaned in, his breath smelled like a distillery gone bad. In a whisper, "Reid... son. Come on out to the porch."
Despite the darkness, I could see how bleary his eyes were. Glassy and half crazed. Peering into them caused an icy chill in my blood.
"Gonna need to get dressed?" I asked. I didn't think so, but when dad came in with whiskey on his breath, you kept your options open.
"Nah..." He muttered before walking out of the room. "C'mon now."
I came out to the porch and dad stood next to my mother sitting in her rocking chair. She passed a bottle of Jim Bean to my dad who took a good swig of it.
He grimaced and blew out air like he could breath fire. He studied me with his grey green eyes as I stood in front of the screen door confused. I had never seen my mother drink.
Joann Dixon was a staunch Baptist. No dancin', and no boozin', dad would prod at her. She never found it funny.
Their faces carried grim expressions. Mom wouldn't look at me. She stared into the void of a moonless Texas night.
Mom's rocking chair creaked rhythmically with the bugs serenading a star dusted sky. The three of us quiet, afraid to speak first.
"What they teach you about them crows and this town at that school, boy?" Dad finally asked, his eyes went out to into the night, bloodshot and hard.
"Nothin outside of what they tell us in town, sir." My voice trembled, unsure what this had to do with anything.
He grunted then nodded. "Go on, I wanna make sure you know what I reckon ya know."
I shrugged, "They dunno why they're here. It's kinda like that one place with the swallows? Except the crows just kinda stay here. Right?"
Dad scoffed and my mother's pale hand dashed to grab his. She must have been holding it tight. Her knuckles where white and shook.
"Yeah... s'bout right..." he shook his head. I didn't know it then, but dad was staring out at the woods across the road from our farmhouse.
He gazed out to spot where the trees parted so naturally, you'd almost never see it, unless you were looking for it. The dirt path across the way.
The dirt path in which I had been instructed since the day I could walk to never go down. The same path which kept me awake at night wondering why I was not allowed.
I could go anywhere except for that damned dirt path. I thought that was because of Eddy.
A feeling wormed its way into my heart telling me, That's where he went missing! No good comes from that path! Eddy's ghost haunts it!
The foolishness in growing old is underestimating the power of youthful intuition.
"That may be true, yet. May be true... but it may not be, Reid. Folkestone got more mysteries than the Bible has miracles...
Maybe a few people know the truth about the crows and this cut of land, but most don't. Never will. And they shouldn't. I ain't gonna sit here an pretend that I know, cuz I don't.
But I know more than most..."
A pit of unease opened up inside my gut. I could feel myself wanting to fall inside of it. Fall inside so I would never have to know what my father spoke of. His voice held no joy.
He sounded dead. Inside and out.
"You're ten years old now, son. Old enough to come with me, tomarruh. We gotta take care of some yearly business with a—family friend. He lives on down that dirt path over yonder—"
"—But I ain't allow—"
"S'alright now, boy. I'm decent enough guide. And I know the way. Ain't a thing to worry about. It's perfectly safe—"
A demonic howl shrieked from the far off woods across the way. My parent's faces tightened in on themselves and regarded the direction of it.
I must have looked absolutely terrified because my dad started to laugh.
"That's a good sound tonight." He ruffled my hair with his wrinkled hand. "Means tomarruh will be easier. I set some traps to catch a wild boar, maybe two. You'll see." He smiled.
It was the first smile I saw from him since Eddy disappeared. "Tomarruh will be serious work, but I will be showing ya something incredibly important.
And you cannot tell anyone about what we do down that way. Not even mother, understand?"
I gaped at him.
"S'why she's sittin here. So that way, she won't let you talk about it neither. She'll know ya went with me if I say it now, with her here now. Ya hear me?"
"Yessir." I nodded, not understanding at all.
"S'why we're talkin about it this late an out on the porch so Mary don't hear us. She can't know either. Ya understand?"
"Yessir." I nodded again. I still didn't.
"Good. You're fine young man. I'm proud of you. Get some sleep, Reid."
I did as he asked. Although, the sleep did not come easy. That boar haunted the night with its terrible screeching howls. I kept thinking of it caught in my dad's trap.
Caught screaming and probably bleeding. I believed it wanted us to hear, for us to remain sleepless until the light of day. Finally though, I did dream.
I dreamed of the path. And of Eddy.
If a pig yells loud enough…
That morning of April 26, 1958, mom and Mary left early to go into town. With heavy dreams still swirling about my groggy head, I sat at the table. Dad was frying up some bacon on the skillet.
He set down a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon. I asked him if he wanted to say the blessing for our meal together.
Dad looked out the window for a long time.
"After today, Reid, when we come back from walkin that dirt path... if you still believe in God—or a loving merciful one—you're either in denial or you're plumb soft in the fuckin head."
He bit into his sausage and didn't speak again until both our plates were clean.
To be continued in The Dirt Path 2