I waited until it got dark so I could say the magic words. I kept looking out the window but I couldn’t see any stars. My grandma said “little bit, what are you looking for?” I said “stars.” My grandma said “well, there aren’t any stars out tonight.” I said “why not?” She said “because the clouds are covering them.”
I said “but I have to see a star so my snowman will come to life!” Then I said “oh, no. I wasn’t supposed to tell anybody” and started to cry. My grandma asked me why I thought my snowman would come to life if I saw a star. I told her that old Joe had told me I had to say the magic words on a star to make it come to life.
She smiled and said “well, sometimes they aren’t supposed to come to life.” I was still crying and said “but I wanted it to.” My grandma put her arms around me and said “I know you did” and wiped away my tears.
She said “it’s time for bed now so go to sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning.” She tucked me in and gave me the usual tickle as she said good night.
Sometime that night, I woke up to what I thought were screams. I remember laying in my bed, just listening. I eventually went back to sleep and the next morning, I asked my grandma if she heard anything last night.
She said she hadn’t. I told her I thought I heard somebody screaming. She said “no, you must have been dreaming.”
I went into the living room and I heard my grandma and grandpa talking very quietly in the kitchen.
My grandmas’ cousin Martha lived at the top of the hill and would sometimes walk down to visit with my grandma. I was drawing a picture of my snowman for old Joe and cousin Martha knocked on the door.
My grandma said “Lord have mercy! Come in the house and get warm.”
Cousin Martha came in, took off her coat and hat and asked my grandma if she “had heard the screaming last night.” My grandma said she had. I looked at her and said “you told me you didn’t hear it.” My grandma waved her hand like she was telling me to be quiet.
They went into the kitchen and when I followed them, my grandma told me to go back into the front room and finish my picture.
Cousin Martha didn’t stay very long and after she left, I told my grandma that I was going to take old Joes’ picture to him. My grandma said “not today, little bit.” I asked her why and she said “not today.” I got mad and said “I want to go see old Joe.” My grandma said “not today, Abby.”
When my grandma called me Abby, I knew she was serious. I started crying but my grandma wouldn’t change her mind. When crying didn’t work, I pouted. My grandma said “you can pout all you want to but you’re just going to have to get over it.”
The next day, I asked my grandma again if I could go see old Joe. Her answer was the same. “Not today, little bit.” I flung myself onto the sofa, crossed my arms and started pouting again. My grandma said “you better be careful. You’re liable to trip over that bottom lip.” She giggled but I didn’t. I was mad.
This went on for weeks and weeks. I missed old Joe and I wanted to see him. I wanted to show him my picture. I was becoming more and more belligerent and my grandma actually had to swat me on my fanny once because I was pitching such a fit.
One day my grandma and grandpa told me to come sit down. They said “little bit, Joe has gone away.” I started crying and said “where did he go?” They said “he went home.”
I said “oh, okay. Can I go see him now?” My grandma said “no, child. He’s gone to Heaven.” I remembered what old Joe had told me about his mama and daddy and my mama and daddy. I said “is Heaven where the Heavenly Father lives?” My grandma said “yes. He’s up there with all of his friends and his mama and daddy.” I said “and with my mama and daddy, too.” My grandma smiled and said “yes, with them, too.”
I grew up and moved away but I never forgot old Joe. He was buried in what was known as “the paupers’ cemetery.” When I visit my hometown, I always go see old Joe. I put flowers on his grave and talk to him for a while. I tell him that I remember all the stories he told me. I tell him how much I miss him. I tell him how much he meant to me. I tell him that I will never forget him.
It was years before I found out that the screams I heard that one night, were coming from old Joe. He was being beaten to death.