by Susan Sims Moody
Susan Sims Moody writes: “The character you meet below appears in my just-published novel, Flatlands.
The second part of this piece is the beginning of my second novel, which continues the family story.”
Although the backbone of winter was decidedly broken, the ides of March in Bedford still meant a black sky when Davis Sanford began the day. Coupled with the monsoons that had plagued the area for more than a week, the sky was darker than usual.
When his alarm clock sounded at a quarter past five, Davis begrudgingly dragged himself from the flannel sheets between his down comforter and feather bed and made his way to the shower for an extra-long eye-opener.
The day prior had been spent pulling wires for a security system in an eight-thousand-square-foot home under construction in Clarksdale. The drive there and back had been insult to injury.
Hot water pounded between his shoulder blades, turning his skin pink. The bathroom was dark; he had not bothered to turn on a light. Today’s itinerary was more of the same, finishing the job he had started.
He would feel a welcome sense of satisfaction when the job was done. This was his first real customer -- a customer who actually had enough belongings to warrant a security system. The job would mean a good reference, finally.
As he mentally outlined what he had to accomplish that day, he fumbled for soap, for a razor, for shampoo. As he rinsed the final suds from his thinning hair, he was surprised to hear the phone ringing in the next room. Somebody’s dead, he thought as he snapped the towel down from the shower curtain rod and quickly wrapped it around his waist.
A white glow came through the eastern window, but the sun was still far from peeking over the horizon. Tripping over the blue jeans that lay where they had fallen the night before, he stumbled to the bedside table. He grabbed the phone.
“Hello?” he said, plopping onto the edge of the bed.
”Davis?” a female voice from the other end questioned.
“Jennifer?” he asked, concern in his voice.
”Annie,” the reply came.
”Annie,” he said, trying to place the name. The fog lifted. “Annie. Who’s dead, Annie?” he asked his only cousin on his father’s side.
”Not yet, but I figure it won’t be long. Pawpaw.”
”Where is he?” Davis asked, drying his ears on the corner of the sheet.
”Mercy General. I’m watching him on my shift, but there’s not much left to do. They’re talking hospice. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, before they let him go home.”
”Okay,” Davis said. He began re-arranging the next few days in his mind. There was silence between them.
Annie broke it. “Davis?”
”I’ll be there. How’s my father taking it?”
”Fine, I guess.”
”You figure he was gonna call me?” Davis asked Annie of his father’s intentions.
”Nah. But I called.”
”Well then,” Annie said. “I have to go. I’m pulling into the parking lot now. Call me on this number when you get on the road, okay?”
“All right. I figure I can get out of here by four. I’d come sooner, but . . . “
“I’ll keep him alive 'til you get here, okay? Just come as soon as you can.”
Okay. I’ll be there by six-thirty, seven at the latest.”
”I’ll see you,” Annie said. “Love you.”
”You, too,” he said and hung up the phone.
Bobby Jack Sanford was Frank and Cora Sanford’s second child and Davis’s father. Named for Bobby Jackson, the Crimson Tide’s leading rusher in 1958, as an adult Bobby Jack preferred to be called “Bob.” His mother and father flatly refused. He tolerated the situation, as three ex-wives had called him much worse over the course of his life.
Bobby Jack had married Davis’s mom right out of college. She already had one child, a boy, and they very quickly conceived Davis. That marriage had lasted almost eight years before she could no longer tolerate the late nights and lewd women that Bobby Jack had a habit of keeping. When Davis was seven years old, she packed herself and the two boys up and headed back home to the Delta.
Davis came back for a month each summer, for Thanksgiving, and for Christmas. The winter holiday was a high time at Sanfords’ Mossy Horn Sanctuary. The running of the dogs was scheduled for the first available day of each season: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.
The summer months were spent working under the tutelage of Marcus, repairing ladder stands, filling automatic feeders, and running the tractor on one food plot after another. Until he turned fifteen, that was the ritual.
However, the summer of Davis’s fifteenth year had been spent at Parkwood Hospital in Olive Branch, drying out from alcohol. The summer after his junior year, he was back, learning how to live without cocaine. Bobby Jack had rescinded his standing invitation after that.
Realistically, Bobby Jack didn’t have time for either a good teenaged boy or a bad one. By the time Davis was a senior at Pillow Academy in Greenwood, Bobby Jack was on divorce number three. His own addiction to Booker’s, uncut and unfiltered Kentucky whiskey, made him that much more uncomfortable around Davis, especially the cleaned-up version.
Bobby Jack’s current unwed state was one that he had vowed to keep. Although Mississippi law provided for equitable division of assets based on marital contribution, the “standard of living” caveat had burned him three times on alimony payments. Besides, his tenure at Mississippi State in the school of accounting gave him license to peruse the coed offerings, with a new batch to choose from every August. The freshman accounting students called him “Dr. Bob” behind his back, as his reputation preceded him. Those with interest made themselves known, and there were more than enough to keep him busy . . .
Susan Sims Moody is a native Mississippian, hailing from Southaven. She is a graduate of Southaven High School and Mississippi State University where she received a BA in communication. She is most highly influenced by other Mississippi writers such as Eudora Welty, Ellen Douglas and Willie Morris.
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