Past ain’t passed

The door swung open.  Peter Bingham looked down on me with an expression that hinted at a grin.  He wore a light beige suit and a speckled tie, a departure from his casual bus station attire.  This time he actually looked the part of administator for the Calvert Family Trust.

‘Jackson,’ he said.  ‘We’ve been expecting you.’  He led me into his apartment, which was as Spartan as my grandfather’s house.  The blank white walls went without artwork.  A single ironclad window let some light in from the south.  A worn striped couch and two matching chairs interrupted the otherwise empty living room.  One of the chairs was inhabited by an old man who was deteriorating into the upholstery.

‘Weldon,’ Peter said, bending over to touch him on the shoulder.  ‘Weldon, Jackson Calvert is here.’ 

‘Jackson!’ From sunken sockets his eyes became visible like the sun burning through heavy cloud cover.

‘This is Weldon Lamb,’ Peter said to me.  ‘He and your grandfather were lifelong friends.’ 

‘Hi there.’  I waved, feeling awkward as a little boy.  Weldon Lamb made no sign of getting up.  I sank into the couch.  Peter sat in the other chair, beside Weldon.

As the story went, Weldon Lamb and Jefferson Calvert had shared the same playpen as toddlers and had worked together for Poscataw County as adults.  Weldon knew everything there was to know about Jefferson Calvert.  Since he was a year older than my grandfather, I’m sure Weldon never dreamed he’d outlast his friend by fifteen years. He seemed tired of life. A light shove to his fragile chest would knock him backwards into the grave. 

Jackson is interested in family history,’ Peter explained.  Weldon nodded.  He wetted his lips and his mouth hung open but the first words were a long time coming.

‘Finest man I ever met,’ he said, finally.  I leaned forward, expecting more, but instead Weldon’s lips came together in a crusted pucker.  Peter touched him on the knee.

‘I believe that Jackson is interested in Jefferson’s career.’  He looked to me for confirmation and I nodded.  I considered the aging redhead, questioning why he was taking such an interest. He had called the house and suggested this introduction. It may help you find what you’re looking for.  It all seemed sketch to me but I wasn’t afraid to try, so here I was….

‘Those were the golden years,’ Weldon said slowly, his voice borrowed from a scratchy phonograph record.  ‘That was when Poscataw was like it should be—best damn county in Mississippi.’

‘What did you do for the county?’ I said.

‘What was that?’ Weldon leaned toward me and cupped his hand around a hairy ear.

‘Jackson was asking what you did for the county,’ Peter said before answering for Weldon.  ‘He worked for the court.  He was a clerk.’ 

‘We kept a firm watch, let me tell you,’ Weldon added. 

‘I’m sure you did.’

‘Nothing went on in this county we didn’t already know about it.’ 

‘You have other questions than that, don’t you Jackson?’  Peter’s mouth curled into a smile.  When I didn’t ask Peter posed his own question.

Tell Jackson about the digging.’

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