Every story is a thread in the fabric of mankind.

The Ellis County courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas. It saw a lot of men coming and going. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford.
The Ellis County courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas. It has seen a lot of people coming and going. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford.

 

HERS WAS NOT a great story.

Hers was not a story anyone would remember.

But everyone has a story.

And each is a thread in the fabric of mankind.

***

She was sitting alone in a park beside the courthouse when I saw her.

Don’t know how old she was, or how young.

Didn’t matter.

She was a stranger in town.

I knew.

It was a small town.

I didn’t know all of the names.

I did know the faces.

And her’s was a new one.

She wore jeans and boots, a red checkered shirt, and her dark hair had been pulled back into a ponytail. A large leather purse sat beside the bench. It might have been a suitcase.

“Driving though?” I asked.

“Walking.”

“Where are you from?”

“Back East.”

“Where you headed?”

“Out West.”

“Got a job?”

She shook her head.

“Going to see my daddy,” she said.

“If you’re close, I can drive you the rest of the way,” I said.

“Arizona.”

She wasn’t close.

“It’s gonna take you a while,” I said.

“I got time.”

“How about your daddy?”

“He’s not going anywhere.”

She pulled a faded snapshot out of her shirt pocket, handed it to me, and I was looking into the face of a soldier boy.

He couldn’t have been older than twenty.

He was smiling.

He had a firm jaw.

He had determined eyes.

He had one stripe on his sleeve.

The photograph was old and faded. It carried a touch of yellow.

“Which war?” I asked.

“Vietnam.”

“He come home?”

“In a box.” The woman shrugged. “I never knew him.”

“Where is he buried?”

“Cottonwood.”

“Was that his home?”

“That’s where his mama lived.”

“How about his wife.”

“She cashed his checks and gave me a picture.”

“She ever talk about him?”

“She cried a lot.”

“You go to Cottonwood often?” I asked.

She looked away sadly and gazed out across face of the old gothic courthouse.

“Never been.”

“I guess it’s about time.”

“I’ve got something to tell him,” the woman said.

“It must be important,” I said.

“It is.”

She stood, and for the first time I saw her smile.

“It’s taken me a long time,” she said.

I nodded.

“Nobody said I could do it.”

I nodded again.”

“I graduated from college this month,” she said.

She began walking across the square, headed for the highway.

In the distance, I saw a lot of eighteen-wheelers rolling west.

Twelve minutes later, I saw one of them stop.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Little Lies.

Little Lies Final Cover LL Mar 13

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