A Good Man is Hard to Find – Intermediate Level
The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some people she knew in east Tennessee, and was trying everything she could think of to change Bailey’s mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of a magazine.
“Now look here, Bailey,” she said, “see here, read this.” She stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other shaking the newspaper at his bald head. “This man that calls himself The Misfit has escaped from prison and headed toward Florida. You read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that running around in it. I couldn’t answer to myself if I did.”
Bailey didn’t look up from his reading, so she turned around and faced the children’s mother. She was a young woman in trousers. Her face was round and kind-looking, and was tied around with a green scarf that had two points on the top like rabbit’s ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby out of a jar.
“The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and broaden their minds. They have never have been to east Tennessee.”
The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her. John Wesley, the heavily built eight-year-old boy with glasses, said, “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why don’t you stay at home?” He and the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the floor.
“She wouldn’t stay at home to be queen for a day,” June Star said without raising her yellow head.
“Yes and what would you do if this man, The Misfit, caught you?” the grandmother asked.
“I’d hit him in the face,” John Wesley said.
“She wouldn’t stay at home for a million dollars,” June Star said. “Afraid she’d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go.”
“All right, Miss,” the grandmother said. “Just remember that the next time you want me to curl your hair.”
June Star said her hair was naturally curly.
The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go. She had her big black suitcase in one corner, and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn’t want the cat to be left alone in the house for three days. She thought he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of her gas burners and accidentally gas himself. Her son, Bailey, didn’t like to arrive at a motel with a cat.
She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children’s mother and the baby sat in front. They left Atlanta at eight forty-five with the mileage on the car at 55,890. The grandmother wrote this down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty minutes to get out of the city.
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children’s mother still had on trousers and still had her head tied up in a green scarf. The grandmother had on a navy blue sailor hat with white flowers on the side and a navy blue dress with a small white dots in the print. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.
She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, neither too hot nor too cold. Then she reminded Bailey that the speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour. She said that the police hid themselves behind small groups of trees and the advertising signs beside the road and waited Then they sped out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed out interesting details of the scenery. The children were reading comic books and their mother had gone back to sleep.
“Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much,” John Wesley said.
“If I were a little boy,” said the grandmother, “I wouldn’t talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains and Georgia has the hills.”
“Tennessee is just a place for stupid mountain people,” John Wesley said, “and Georgia is a terrible state too.”
“You said it,” June Star said.
“In my time,” said the grandmother, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the pretty little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a rough house made from sheets of wood, iron, and plastic. “Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?” she asked and they all turned and looked at the little boy out of the back window. He waved
“He didn’t have any trousers on,” June Star said.
“He probably didn’t have any,” the grandmother explained. “Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, I’d paint that picture,” she said.
The children exchanged comic books.
The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children’s mother passed him over the front seat to her. She sat him on her knee and lifted him up and down on it, and told him about the things they were passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth round one. Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. “Look at the graveyard!” the grandmother said, pointing it out. “That was the old family burying ground. It belonged to the cotton farm.”
“Where’s the graveyard?” John Wesley asked.
“Gone With the Wind” said the grandmother. “Ha. Ha.”
When the children finished all the comic books they had brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother would not let the children throw the box and the papers out the window. When there was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, a car. June Star said he didn’t play fair, and they began to hit each other over the grandmother.
The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and waved her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she was a young lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking man and a gentleman. He brought her a watermelon every Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E.A.T. Well, one Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon and there was nobody at home. He left it next to the front door and returned to Jasper. But she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E.A.T.!
John Wesley thought this story was very funny and he laughed and laughed, but June Star didn’t think it was any good. She said she wouldn’t marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentle man and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out. He died only a few years ago, a very wealthy man.
They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches. The Tower was a part filling station and dance hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy, Georgia. A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on the building and for miles up and down the highway. TRY RED SAMMY’S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE FAMOUS RED SAMMY’S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH THE HAPPY LAUGH. A RETURNED SOLDIER! RED SAMMY’S YOUR MAN!
Red Sammy was lying on the ground outside The Tower with his head under a truck. A gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a small tree, talked loudly to itself nearby. The monkey sprang back into the tree and climbed to the top as soon as he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward him.
Inside, The Tower was a long dark room. There was a counter at one end, tables at the other end, and dancing space in the middle. They all sat down at a wooden table next to the music machine. Red Sam’s wife was a tall woman with hair and eyes lighter than her skin, which was brown from the sun. She came and took their order. The children’s mother put a coin in the machine and played “The Tennessee Waltz.” The grandmother said that song always made her want to dance. She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but he gave her an angry look. He didn’t have a naturally sunny character like she did and trips made him nervous. The grandmother’s brown eyes were very bright. She moved her head from side to side and pretended she was dancing in her chair. June Star said play something she could tap dance to, so the children’s mother put in another coin and played a fast number. June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and did her tap steps.
“Ain’t she pretty?” Red Sam’s wife said, leaning over the counter. “Would you like to come be my little girl?”
“No I certainly wouldn’t,” June Star said. “I wouldn’t live in an ugly old place like this for a million dollars!” and she ran back to the table.
“Ain’t she pretty?” the woman repeated, smiling politely.
“That was very rude!” said the grandmother angrily.
Red Sam came in and told his wife to stop talking and hurry up with these people’s order. His brown work trousers reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them. He came over and sat down at a table nearby and let out a sigh. “You can’t win,” he said. “You can’t win,” and he wiped his sweating red face off with a gray handkerchief. “These days you don’t know who to trust,” he said. “Ain’t that the truth?”
“People are certainly not nice like they used to be,” said the grandmother.
“Two men come in here last week,” Red Sammy said, “driving a badly damaged old car. But it was a good one and these boys looked all right to me. Said they worked at the cotton factory and I let them charge the gas they bought. Now why did I do that?”
“Because you’re a good man!” the grandmother said at once.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Red Sam said, as if it suddenly occurred to him that this must be the answer.
His wife brought the orders, carrying the five plates all at once without a tray, two in each hand and one balanced on her arm. “There isn’t anyone in this green world of God’s that you can trust,” she said. “And I don’t count anybody out of that, not anybody,” she repeated, looking at Red Sammy.
“Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that’s escaped?” asked the grandmother.
“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he didn’t attack this place right here,” said the woman. “If he hears about it being here, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him. If he hears it’s got two cents in the cash register, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he…”
“That’ll do,” Red Sam said. “Go bring these people their Coca-Colas,” and the woman went off to get the rest of the order.
“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy said. “Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your door unlocked. Not any more.”
He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady said that in her opinion Europe was the cause of all the problems in the country. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money. Red Sam said it was no use talking about it, she was exactly right. The children ran outside into the white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one carefully between his teeth as if it were very delicious.
They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grandmother tried to sleep but kept waking up every few minutes. Outside of Toombsboro she talked about an old cotton farm that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was a tree lined road leading up to it. On either side in front were seats blocked off with climbing plants where you could sit down with the man courting you after a walk in the garden.
She remembered exactly which road to turn off to get to it, but knew that Bailey would not want to lose any time looking at an old house. But the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if it had changed. “There was a secret door in this house,” she said, telling a clever lie but wishing that it were true. “The story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when the Northern Army came through, but it was never found…”
“Hey!” John Wesley said. “Let’s go see it! We’ll find it! We’ll tap on all the walls and find it! Who lives there? Where do you turn off? Hey Pop, can’t we turn off there?”
“We never have seen a house with a secret door!” June Star cried. “Let’s go to the house with the secret door! Hey Pop, can’t we go see the house with the secret door!”
“It’s not far from here, I know,” the grandmother said. “It wouldn’t take over twenty minutes.”
Bailey was looking straight ahead, his mouth closed tightly. “No,” he said.
The children began to shout and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret door. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat. June Star hung over her mother’s shoulder and cried desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation. She said that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows.
“All right!” he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. “Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.”
“It would be very educational for them,” the grandmother said softly.
“All right,” Bailey said, “but get this! This is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time.”
“The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile back,” the grandmother directed. “I marked it when we passed.”
“A dirt road,” Bailey said as if in pain.
After they had turned around and were headed toward the dirt road, the grandmother remembered other points about the house. She told of the beautiful glass over the front door and the candle lamps in the hall. John Wesley said that the secret door was probably in the fireplace.
“You can’t go inside this house,” Bailey said. “You don’t know who lives there.”
“While you all talk to the people in front, I’ll run around behind and get in a window,” John Wesley suggested.
“We’ll all stay in the car,” his mother said.
They turned onto the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a cloud of pink dust. The grandmother told them about the times when there were no paved roads and a day’s journey was thirty miles. The dirt road was hilly and dangerous. There were places where the surface had been washed away, and sharp bends with a drop on one side. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the blue tops of trees for miles around. The next minute, they would be at the bottom with trees coated in dust looking down on them.
“This place had better turn up in a minute,” Bailey said, “or I’m going to turn around.”
The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months.
“It’s not much farther,” the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so shocking that she turned red in the face, her eyes opened wide and her feet jumped up, upsetting her suitcase in the corner. The moment the suitcase moved, the newspaper she had put over the basket rose with a cry and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey’s shoulder.
The children were thrown to the floor and their mother, holding the baby tightly, was thrown out the door onto the ground. The old lady was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once and landed on its wheels in a ditch off the side of the road. Bailey remained in the driver’s seat with the cat holding on tightly to his shoulder.
As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and legs, they climbed out of the car, shouting, “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” The grandmother was curled up in the front, hoping she was hurt so that Bailey’s anger would not come down on her all at once. The horrible thought she had had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so well was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.
Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and threw it out the window against the side of a tree. Then he got out of the car and started looking for the children’s mother. She was sitting against the side of the red ditch, holding the screaming baby, but she only had a cut down her face and a broken shoulder. “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed in wild delight.
“But nobody’s killed,” June Star said with disappointment as the grandmother slowly climbed out of the car. Her hat was still on her head but the flowers were gone. They all sat down in the ditch, except the children, to get over the shock. They were all shaking. Bailey had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots designed in it, and his face was as yellow as the shirt.
“Maybe a car will come along,” said the children’s mother.
“I believe I have hurt something inside,” said the grandmother, holding her side, but no one answered her. The grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house was in Tennessee.
The road was about ten feet above and they could see only the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the people inside were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was big and black, and looked as if it had been badly damaged. There were three men in it.
It came to a stop just over them. For some minutes, the driver looked down to where they were sitting. His face was expressionless and he didn’t speak. Then he turned his head and said something to the other two and they got out. One was a fat boy in black trousers and a red sweatshirt with a silver horse design on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of them and stood staring, his mouth partly open in a kind of loose smile. The other had on brown pants and a blue striped coat and a gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most of his face. He came around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke.
The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it, looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two. His hair was just beginning to gray and the glasses that he was wearing gave him an educated look. He had a long, wrinkled face and wasn’t wearing a shirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun. The two boys also had guns.
“We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed.
The grandmother had the strange feeling that the man with the glasses was someone she knew. His face was as familiar to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not remember who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come down the side of the ditch, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn’t slip. He had on light-brown and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles were red and thin. “Good afternoon,” he said. “I see you all have a little problem.”
“We turned over twice!” said the grandmother.
“Once”, he corrected. “We saw it happen. Try their car and see will it run, Hiram,” he said quietly to the boy with the gray hat.
“What have you got that gun for?” John Wesley asked. “What are going to do with that gun?”
“Lady,” the man said to the children’s mother, “would you mind calling those children to sit down by you? Children make me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there where you are.”
“What are you telling US what to do for?” June Star asked.
Behind them the line of woods looked like a dark open mouth. “Come here,” said their mother.
“Look here now,” Bailey began suddenly, “we’re in trouble! We’re in…”
The grandmother screamed. She got quickly to her feet and stood staring. “You’re The Misfit!” she said. “I recognized you at once!”
“Yes,” the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known. “But it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn’t recognized me.”
Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his mother that shocked even the children. The old lady began to cry and The Misfit reddened.
“Lady,” he said, “don’t you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he doesn’t mean. I don’t reckon he meant to talk to you that way.”
“You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” the grandmother said and removed a clean handkerchief from her pocket and began to tap at her eyes with it.
The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and made a little hole and then covered it up again. “I would hate to have to,” he said.
“Listen,” the grandmother almost screamed, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”
“Yes lady,” he said, “finest people in the world.” When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. “God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was solid gold,” he said. The boy with the red sweatshirt had come around behind them and was standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted down on the ground. “Watch them children, Bobby Lee,” he said. “You know they make me nervous.” He looked at the six of them sitting closely together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed as if he couldn’t think of anything to say. “Ain’t a cloud in the sky,” he remarked, looking up at it. “Don’t see the sun but don’t see any cloud either.”
“Yes, it’s a beautiful day,” said the grandmother. “Listen,” she said, “you shouldn’t call yourself The Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell.”
“Quiet!” Bailey shouted. “Quiet! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!” He was sitting in the position of a runner about to jump forward to begin a race but he didn’t move.
“Thank you for that, lady,” The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the handle of his gun.
“It’ll take a half a hour to fix this here car,” Hiram called.
“Well,” The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey and John Wesley, “first you and Bobby Lee get them to step over there with you.”
“The boys want to ask you something,” he said to Bailey. “Would you mind stepping back in those woods there with them?”
“Listen,” Bailey began, “we’re in real trouble here! Nobody realizes what this is…” and his voice cracked. His eyes were as blue and bright as the parrots in his shirt and he remained perfectly still.
Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old man. John Wesley caught hold of his father’s hand and Bobby Lee followed. They went off toward the woods and just as they reached the dark edge, Bailey turned. Supporting himself against a gray tree, he shouted, “I’ll be back in a minute, Mamma, wait for me!”
“Come back here now!” his mother cried but they all disappeared into the woods.
“Bailey Boy!” the grandmother called in a sad voice but she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground in front of her. “I just know you’re a good man,” she said desperately. “You’re not a bit common!”
“No, I ain’t a good man,” The Misfit said after a second, as if he had thought about her statement carefully. “But I ain’t the worst in the world either. My daddy said I was different to my brothers and sisters. ‘You know,’ Daddy said, ‘there’s some that can live their whole life without asking about it and there’s others that have to know why it is. This boy is one of those that have to know. He’s going to be into everything!'”
He put on his black hat and looked up suddenly, and then away deep into the woods as if he were embarrassed again. “I’m sorry I don’t have on a shirt before you ladies,” he said. “We buried the clothes that we had on when we escaped and we’re just making do until we can get better. We borrowed these from some people we met,” he explained.
“That’s perfectly all right,” the grandmother said. “Maybe Bailey has an extra shirt in his suitcase.”
“I’ll look and see directly,” The Misfit said.
“Where are they taking him?” the children’s mother screamed.
“Daddy was a card himself,” The Misfit said. “You couldn’t put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the police though. Just had the way of handling them.”
“You could be honest too if you’d only try,” said the grandmother. “Think how wonderful it would be to settle down and live a comfortable life and not have to think about somebody chasing you all the time.”
The Misfit kept drawing in the ground with the handle of his gun, as if he were thinking about it. “Yes, somebody is always after you,” he said softly.
The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulders were just behind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him. “Do you ever pray?” she asked.
He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat move between his shoulders. “No,” he said.
There was a gun shot from the woods, followed closely by another. Then silence. The old lady’s head turned quickly. She could hear the wind move through the tree tops like a long satisfied breath. “Bailey Boy!” she called.
“I was a church singer for a while,” The Misfit said. “I’ve been most everything. Been in the armed services, both land and sea. Been twice married. Been an undertaker, worked on the railroads, farmed Mother Earth. Been in a tornado, seen a man burnt alive once.” He looked up at the children’s mother and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white and their eyes glassy. “I have even seen a woman whipped,” he said.
“Pray, pray,” the grandmother began, “pray, pray…”
“I never was a bad boy that I remember,” The Misfit said in an almost dreamy voice. “But somewhere along the line I did something wrong and got sent to prison. I was buried alive,” and he looked up and held her attention to him by not looking away.
“That’s when you should have started to pray,” she said. “What did you do to get sent to prison that first time?”
“Turn to the right, it was a wall,” The Misfit said, looking up again at the cloudless sky. “Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I did, lady. I sat there and sat there, trying to remember what it was I did. Once in a while, I would think it was coming to me, but it never has.”
“Maybe they put you in by mistake,” the old lady said uncertainly.
“No,” he said. “It wasn’t a mistake. They had the papers on me.”
“You must have stolen something,” she said.
“Nobody had anything I wanted,” laughed The Misfit. “A head doctor at the prison said that what I had did was to kill my daddy. But I knew that for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen-nineteen of the flu and I never had a thing to do with it. He was buried in the graveyard at Mount Hopewell Baptist church. You can go there and see for yourself.”
“If you would pray,” the old lady said, “Jesus would help you.”
“That’s right,” The Misfit said.
“Well then, why don’t you pray?” she asked shaking with delight suddenly.
“I don’t want any help,” he said. “I’m doing all right by myself.”
Bobby Lee and Hiram came walking slowly back from the woods. Bobby Lee was pulling a yellow shirt behind him with bright blue parrots in it.
“Throw me that shirt, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. The shirt came flying at him and landed on his shoulder and he put it on. The grandmother couldn’t name what the shirt reminded her of. “No, lady,” The Misfit said while he was buttoning it up, “I found out the crime doesn’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car. Sooner or later you’re going to forget what it was you did and just be punished for it.”
The children’s mother had begun to make noises as if she couldn’t get her breath and was going to be sick. “Lady,” he asked, “would you and that little girl like to step off over there with Bobby Lee and Hiram and join your husband?”
“Yes, thank you,” the mother said softly. Her left arm was hanging helplessly by her side and she was holding the baby, who had gone to sleep, in the other. “Help that lady up, Hiram,” The Misfit said as she struggled to climb out of the ditch, “and Bobby Lee, you hold onto that little girl’s hand.”
“I don’t want to hold hands with him,” June Star said. “He reminds me of a pig.”
The fat boy’s face turned red. He laughed and caught her by the arm and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and her mother.
Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There was nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, “Jesus. Jesus,” meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing.
“Yes, The Misfit said as if he agreed. “Jesus showed that everything is off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime. They could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course,” he said, “they never showed me my papers. That’s why I sign myself now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything you do and keep a copy of it. Then you’ll know what you did and you can compare the crime to the punishment and see if they match. Then in the end you’ll have something to prove you ain’t been treated right. I call myself The Misfit,” he said, “because I can’t make all that I have done wrong fit what all the punishment I have gone through.”
There was a loud scream from the woods, followed closely by a gun shot. “Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a lot and another isn’t punished at all?”
“Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”
“Lady,” The Misfit said, looking past her far into the woods, “there never was a body that gave the undertaker a tip.”
There were two more gun shots and the grandmother raised her head and called, “Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!” as if her heart would break.
“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued. “And He shouldn’t have done it. He showed everything off balance. If He did what He said, then there’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him. And if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left. The best way to do this is by killing somebody, or burning down his house, or doing something else mean to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said in an angry voice.
“Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,” the old lady said quietly, not knowing what she was saying. She felt sick inside and sank down in the ditch with her legs under her.
“I wasn’t there so I can’t say He didn’t,” The Misfit said. “I wish I had been there,” he said, hitting the ground with his fist. “It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had of been there I would have known. Listen lady,” he said in a high voice, “if I had been there I would have known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.” His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for a moment.
She saw the man’s face held close to her own as if he were going to cry and she said, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them.
Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood over the ditch. They looked down at the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a pool of blood. Her legs were crossed under her like a child’s and her face was smiling up at the cloudless sky.
Without his glasses, The skin around The Misfit’s pale eyes was red, giving him a harmless look. “Take her off and throw her where you threw the others,” he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing itself against his leg.
“She was a talker, wasn’t she?” Bobby Lee said, coming back down the ditch.
“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if there had been somebody to shoot her every minute of her life.”
“Some fun!” Bobby Lee said.
“Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. “There’s no real pleasure in life.”