4. A Beginning.
When his brothers reach him, Lucky is well rested after the year in prison.
His – vacation - has sanded away his harsh edges. Jeremiah wonders what it is that Lucky has left behind. They travel light. They will avoid spotlights and limelight.
In the bosom of two hills, they set up in a small cabin.
The music is unsteady. Only Elijah plays the songs exactly as they were. His life is nothing but routine and routines. He plays like clockwork, mechanical and unfeeling.
Lucky’s violin no longer soars, no longer peaks, no longer surges across the horizon. Lucky’s soulful, doleful moaning violin, well, he does not so much as play as ache. There weren’t nothing playful about it.
It sobs. It plows. It grinds along the surface. It moans, it dies.
It can no longer summon the rain.
Jeremiah plays in stops and starts.
He drifts to the entrance of the cabin as smoke. He lights up. He sighs.
The tall trees shrink as they march to the horizon.
Lucky is silent. Prison has changed him. Perhaps, it hasn’t.
Jeremiah wonders if Elijah is doping Lucky. In the few days since Lucky left the prison, he has been subdued, sedated. He seems to have lost interest in everything the world holds. He flips his coin. He breathes. Inhale, exhale.
Elijah ain’t moved. His sticks repeat and return, reviewing sounds, songs, phrases and phrasing, desperate to prove he will not be beaten.
At his cruelest, Jeremiah could insist that the only emotion that music produces in Elijah is frustration.
- We’re wasting time, brothers. We could be working.
Jeremiah turns on Elijah.
- I don’t want to work.
- We need to practice.
- We need to play.
- No, we need discipline, we haven’t-
Jeremiah silences him with volume.
And he plays.
And as Elijah tried to construct the songs in the same way, the conditions were not the same.
Before, they crept along the coast - now Jeremiah had torn them away, and they soared, travelling distant lands, absorbing the furious rhythms of the Pacific, the wildness of small whiskey-soaked Irish islets and the playfulness of Cajuns, all caught like salt on the wind... A complexity that was unimaginable just four seasons ago.
Elijah trots after them, pounding, teasing and beating his drums until he is a part of them, not apart from them.
When they finish playing, they are drenched, hungry and gaunt.
It has gone dark and light again. Elijah and Lucky look at Jeremiah.
A year is a long time. What has he done?
The night is black and present and towers over them.
Lucky and Jeremiah are fast asleep.
Elijah listens to their breathing.
He walks to the entrance of the cabin and the sky opens over the clearing.
The rain is glorified mist that fills the air.
He shuts his eyes and lets the water slowly soak through him.
He can feel the dust from the mines within his ribs.
He flicks a glance to his brothers and staggers a few steps out into the night.
The tumor inside him spreads its wings and he spurts and coughs. Blood. Whatever is in his stomach is spreading. He clears his lungs the best he can.
There is a thought that is lingering just behind him that he has been unwilling to face head on. That he is happy.
The rain has settled in.
He goes to light another cigarette and then decides against it.
He is happy.
He has always loved heavy rains. Growing up, he’d fall asleep knowing his father and brothers were all sheltered. Even as he moved out, he felt the rain brought them together under a shared sky.
But he has no energy for whimsy. He is happy. He can’t put a finger on it, perhaps he doesn’t want to, but being with his brothers, on the road, it feels truly like home. He is shivering now. The rain has drenched him through.
His lungs are lighter. He thinks of Ameliene and Jeannie. His wife – and their little girl. He will sleep soon. But not yet.
The rain has settled in.
Elijah has a feeling of hope as he and his brothers march on, closer and closer to Ameliene.
The cloud hangs on the mountains, like smoke fills a tavern.
They leave the little cabin cocooned in the pines.
They skitter down raw rock, scattering stone and pebble below them.
There is a drop. Jeremiah takes it first, without thought.
Lucky jumps second without fear.
Elijah follows without hesitation.
As he hits the sopping ground, he does something that Jeremiah has never seen before. Then dread rushes–
- You alright Elijah?
- Of course.
Jeremiah’s eyes dig deep.
- Why? - Eljiah feigns innocent.
- You winced.
- I winced?
- I’ve seen you take a brick to the head and smile blood.
- I’m fine.
Jeremiah is unconvinced, but says nothing.
Elijah braces himself again, there is something inside him, unsolid.
He worries he will lose it, miscarry and hemorrhage blood onto the dirt.
He carries what is within him and the secret of it.
He knows that this privacy cannot last, but he does not want pity. He cannot carry anything more. He would nurse the demon inside him. He would help it grow. He has no choice.
Jeremiah trudged behind him in silence.
He knows what is growing inside his brother, but Elijah’s pride is a stallion that would drag the three of them across plains. He wonders if Elijah knows what has been taken from Jeremiah.
Lucky marches, crunches onward. He tries to be only of the moment. The sound of scoria beneath his feet. The sack digging into his back. The light dancing between the trees.
And yet the thought of seeing their Papa, and then seeing Ameliene, it is the traveling light that drags him onward.
They will have to play soon. Jeremiah is the only one with money; folded and scrunched and tucked throughout his pockets, merged with the scraps of paper, small stones, broken jewelry, old notes…
Jeremiah breaks Lucky out of his thoughts.
- My feet fucking ache.
- I told you to bind your feet.
- It ain’t that Ely.
- It wouldn’t have hurt though.
- It wouldn’t have hurt, but a lot of things wouldn’t have hurt. Kickin’ a dog don’t hurt, don’t mean it’s gonna help.
- Jesus… Jeremiah. We’re nearly at the station.
- We bout due a break anyway. Walkin an hour and a half.
- We only been walkin an hour.
- We been walkin over an hour brother.
- Just over an hour.
- What do you think Lucky.
Jeremiah’s is not a question.
- I think about one hour and 15 minutes.
- See it ain’t an hour, Elijah pounces.
- It’s not an hour and a half neither.
- I’m sitting down.
Jeremiah plonks himself down, shivering and tears off his bloodied boots.
- I told you to bind em.
- I ain’t bindin em.
- You adjustin em that’s the same.
- It ain’t the same.
- Might as well be.
And so it goes.
Lucky drifts down the path.
The clouds run through the tops of the trees, like fingers through wheat.