The other day, I stopped by the home of Miss Bessie, that’s what she was called among the few folks who still knew her. As I turned the key and shut off the engine, a holy silence settled over the old homestead. A light breeze stirred the Spanish moss and in the distance a lonely dove called out its mournful tones.
“Coo, coo, coo.”
I stepped from my car, walked the short space from where I’d parked underneath a massive live-oak, to the porch lined with clay pots boasting Boston ferns and Pansies. With each step, my heels crunched the gravel like some rude child chewing with his mouth open.
I put my foot upon the first step of the porch; it groaned under my weight, but held. The hollow sound of each footfall resonated but went unnoticed by the spider holding vigil over the unopened entrance.
The light tapping on Miss Bessie’s door brought the usual response … silence. I wasn’t surprised as Miss Bessie’s hearing had long forsaken her. With care, I pushed the weathered door open; it creaked under its weight and scraped the pine-heart floor like bear claws. A shiver ran the length of my spine and I shuttered. It’s okay. It’s just the door.
“Miss Bessie?” I called.
Glancing around, I stepped inside. Light from the morning sun filtered through the lace curtains giving the sitting-room a soft illumination. Particles of dust drifted in lazy circles in and out of the shafts of golden rays which penetrated the yellowed shades.
The aging clock on the mantle, no longer beating out its rhythmic cadence, was the only indication that something wasn’t….normal.
I took a halting breath and knew … Pushing deeper, I found Miss Bessie sitting in her old rocking chair on the back porch. To look at her you would think she was either asleep or in deep prayer. Her hands were folded, her head bowed, a few strands of grizzled hair which escaped her hair net, hung loosely across her peaceful forehead. Her tattered Bible lay open on her lap. Gnarled fingers, locked in fervent prayer, sat lightly on its yellowed pages. Across her knees stretched an old worn quilt. Its raggedy fringes stopped just high enough to reveal her feet covered with a pair of darned socks, one loosely gathered around her ankle, the other pulled as high as it would go.
One look and I knew. The worn rocking chair, which had been her support in life, had become the chariot that had carried her to glory in the small hours of morning. In some shameful way, I envied her. She had fought the good fight and won the victory. For me, my journey was somewhere within the long dash, which held two dates apart.
I don’t go by Miss Bessie’s house anymore. However, rumor has it, if you pass by her former residence about the time the upper branches of the old live-oak play catch with the first rays of sun light, you can hear a faint humming as Miss Bessie’s voice wafts through the morning air.
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