At age eight, listening to the hushed fragments of conversation at the farm in Mississippi, some images enlarged by my imagination become fixed so strongly they bleed into sleep.
Long ago, Allen Brister, my Great Uncle, Mama Cothern's brother, is an alcoholic, who when he spends the night at his sister's raises the upstairs window and urinates slowly on the tin roof of the porch, hoping his relatives below will think it is rain. Strikingly handsome in his youth, three-piece suit, early photographs belie the disheveled, rheumy look I remember. Uncle Allen manages to kill his wife Vera during a dense fog while she is riding on the front fender of a 1935 Dodge with a dim flashlight so Allen can see the edge of the gravel road. She is crushed between the automobile and the ditch when the car runs off the road. Sleeping upstairs in the cold, in the same bed Uncle Allen slept in years before, I am always afraid Aunt Vera will be standing at the bottom of the stairs during my family's short Christmas visits at Mama Cothern's house. Not ghost or imagination. But there. Nude. Her left breast gone from the accident. Scarred body. Bloodless wounds. Staring up the stairs at me.