AFTERWORD I BY PAT LITTLEDOG Away from Home Iwaited almost a year for someone to take Vernon’s belongings. Once or twice a week I would go to his cottage and watch television. But nobody came. Or wrote. Or even called. Not his sister, not his brother, not even his son, who lived in the house in Waco, where Vernon used to live, almost 150 miles away from my house. Where he had died suddenly, with me. Where the relatives had come hastily to take him away. And then finally one day my daughter, Brook, said that she would take me to Waco to the cemetery. Her son Corey would go too, since second grade was out early that day; Tamara, my daughter-in-law, also wanted to go. It took me at least a week to decide what to do with Vernon’s belongings, but when Brook arrived in a rental truck, I was ready. We loaded the truck with nine or ten bagsmostly clothes, but papers and photographs, books and books-ontape, as well. It was cold and the sky was gray, but it wasn’t raining. When we got to Waco we got lost near the famous projects that Vernon once told me was the heart of the black side of town. It was already after three. Brook pulled out the map and soon we turned onto Dearborn. The houses were small, but they all had trees and were freshly paintedall except one. I wasn’t really sure that anyone still lived there. The front porch roof sagged; the windows were shut tight. Other than a barking dog behind a wire fence in the back yard, there was no sign of life. I spotted a mailbox. I had written Tim, Vernon’s son, to say that we were coming. But the mailbox was empty. Just then a car drove up to the next house, and a black woman, about 40, in a white uniform got out. “Excuse me!” I called to her. “Does Timothy still live here?” “Yes;’ she said, pausing. “Yes, he does.” She told me that he worked nearby, at a barbershop in back of a liquor store. While she gave me directions, Brook and Tamara hauled out the bags and left them on the porch. Even if it rained, they wouldn’t get wet. When we got to the barbershop, we found that it was locked. The man behind the counter at the liquor store assured me that Tim still worked there and would be right back. Then he picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Hey, Tim, you’ve got a customer?’ “I’m not a customer;’ I said, as I turned toward Tamara. Brook had already walked out with Corey. \(He was able to read the sign: “Unlawful to enterAnyworry that by the time we reached the cemetery it would be too late; somebody would have locked the gate. But the man at the counter insisted that Tim would be five minutes at the most, and Brook didn’t want to leave without seeing Tim: “I wouldn’t want to just drop some bags off at his place and not say hello to him?’ So I waited outside. I noticed the StopN-Go across the street, then tried to peek in the barbershop. All I could see was the bottom of two barber chairs. On the outside wall you could make out a faded sign, “T. Wayne.” Inside, the light was bright; the black-and-white linoleum was sparkling clean. It wasn’t long before an old white Cadillac drove up and Tim got out. He was about the same age as Brookbut darker than Vernon and more muscular. “Hey!” I gave him a hug. “It’s good to see you. “Good to see you, too.” “I don’t know if you know Tamara my daughter-in-lawmy oldest son Morgan’s wife.” I wanted to mention Brook and Corey, too, but somehow they had disappeared while Tamara and Tim shook hands. “We just left some bags of Vernon’s over at your house.” “I know. I just got finished putting them inside. There’s a lot of improvements I’m going to make on the house you know.” He unlocked the door to the barbershop and we went inside. “Now see, I have an envelope for you. It’s right on top of the bag where I put some other paperslike the taxes for instance” “Yesthe taxes…” “The legal papers, too, with lots of handwritten notes of Vernon’s, and some of mine, toolike the house getting paid off and belonging to Vernon, Freddie and Glenda,” I told him. “Oh, I’ve thought a lot about it. But I’ve realized that Freddie and Glenda didn’t want to have anything to do with it any more, so I decided to give it to you.” He looked a bit pained, a bit stricken, but also a tiny bit proud. Maybe it was the responsibility of all those papers. He walked inside and as he did, a customer followed and sat down. Tim began to put a towel around the man’s shoulders. “Do you have much to say?” he asked. “Because I’m with a client now. “I’m getting married in July.” He began to cut. “And I want to make improvements in the house so I can rent it out.” It was almost four by the time we got to the cemetery. It was very windy; what had started out as a faint drizzle had turned into a cold, icy rain. Brook drove slowly past the myriad graves and their little stone markers until we reached a mausoleum. There must have been at least 50 vaults. I remembered the mausoleumthat’s where Vernon’s friends and family had brought him last year. I remembered the exact spot where they placed his coffin. And I remember that at the time I was pleased that it was two vaults above ground. But the space was empty. And Vernon? Where was he? “I am looking for the grave of Vernon MacFarland, who died about a year ago;” I told the middle-aged woman behind MAY 13, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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