A Poetic Justice

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TiffanyLuckey
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A Poetic Justice

Postby TiffanyLuckey » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:38 pm

“Are you sure this is where you grew up? This place gives me the creeps. It looks like it’s been condemned since the Truman administration.” Beverley refused to step out of the car. “Let’s get out of here before we’re arrested for trespassing.”

“I’ll only be a minute. I just want to look around.” Jack walked past a condemned sign hanging by one nail, its faded letters impotent. No one in the town of Council Corners dared enter the derelict house. A murder, even one committed long ago, tends to portend all manner of superstition, as if the walls of a house could absorb evil like a sponge and hold tightly to its malignancy.

A gnarled willow lay on the ground split down the middle, its knotted branches woven into the grass. Jack climbed the weeping willow as a small boy, finding refuge in a high crotch of the tree when words flew like daggers between the walls in the miserable house. Voices carried through open windows and up the willow, but Jack learned to shield himself with Mother Goose. When overwhelmed, he chanted poems he’d memorized over and over in an endless loop. Poems like "Simple Simon" or "Peter Piper" or any other cadence stronger than the rising din.

The pulse of each rhyme took Jack away to a quiet, ordered world with nothing to fear. But even Mother Goose could not protect him from the echo of gunshots. When he heard the loud bang followed by another loud bang, Jack nearly fell from the tree. The sound cut through the air with such brutal force that Jack heard it still as he stood among the decaying tree branches. The reverberation haunted his sleep in spite of hours of therapy and the passage of time.

After the shots that day, Jack chanted with such fervor and clung to the tree with such tenacity that he could not know that the arguments had stopped. Jack did not remember being pulled from the tree and eventually releasing his bear-hug, the willow’s convoluted bark imprinted on his cheek. Jack never entered the house again, nor did he want to, but since he and Beverley were passing through Council Corners, he reasoned that it wouldn’t hurt to see his childhood home and the old willow.

Jack stood before the prostrate tree, its branches spread in righteous contrition, atoning for the sins of the house. Seeing the back of the condemned house with its boarded up windows and insidious wisteria vine wrapped around the chimney, Jack’s chest went tight and he wished he’d brought matches and a can of gas. The house mocked Jack, and worst of all, it mocked the willow where Jack once found refuge. The fact that the house still stood while the tree lay in decay made Jack want to scream. It was blatantly unfair. The tree did nothing wrong. It held no responsibility for what happened years before.

Jack tenderly touched the dry branches and the trunk of the tree hoping to find closure from the contemptuous memories of his parent’s violent end. Instead of peace, Jack’s mouth went dry, his heart began to race and he felt like a small boy once again overwhelmed by the world, hiding in the arms of a tree.

“No, you have no power over me,” Jack said to the house, fighting a familiar angst peppered with surprising anger.

The tree lay dead, but Jack smiled as he thought of one final impromptu connection he could have with the derelict house. He’d hoped for a cathartic event but knew in his heart that was wishful thinking. No, Jack’s last rite did little more than release a building pressure, but it also served as poetic justice. He walked over to the corner of the house, unzipped his pants and aimed an arcing stream over the rotting clapboards while reciting:

There were once two cats of Kilkenny,
Each thought there was one cat too many;
So they fought and they fit,
And they scratched and they bit,
Till, excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats, there weren’t any.

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