- Kimmo in the Pisgah
Click for larger view
View full resolution
[End Page 26]
The man we called Great-Uncle Kimmy lived three-quarters of his life alone in a cabin perched on a mountainside so steep that if you stepped wrong in anger or in drink [End Page 27] you'd wind up in the creek bed deep at the bottom of the holler. There lay the remains (he said) of a Model A Ford, a hundred-year-old still, and two commercial-grade highway lawn mowers. If you wound up down there, you'd never be found, but it wouldn't matter because you'd be dead. No one and nothing (he said) ever went down into the bottom of that holler besides the things meant to by nature, and nothing not meant to go there by nature ever came out.
The man we called Great-Uncle Kimmy was also the difference between what became of me and what became of Kate, forget what anybody else says.
In October, a month after I turned fifteen, my grandmother dragged me by the shirt from the juvenile courthouse. I only ever called my grandmother "Grandmother," and not because she was kindly and lavender-smelling. She was a scrawny old witch who didn't deserve to be called anything nicer. My nose was broken and throbbing (never, goddamnit, never fall asleep in a girl's bedroom), and Grandmother kept her claws in me as she made a call from the pay phone in the hall. Her conversation was shorter, I think, than she expected it to be.
"Hell, no," she said, "I'm not going to bring a blanket. We're coming out there now. You can figure out about a damn blanket. If I have to look at his smart-ass face one more minute, I think I'm going to just kill him and get it done with."
Then she hauled me out to her crappy sedan and drove south and west through two or three small towns, past the last Walmart and the last ranch houses and up the mountain. Up the winding road along the crest where the day-trippers brought their motorcycles and expensive cars, up where the overlooks got higher and higher and the views got wider and wider and you couldn't see another road for miles.
About two miles and three forks down a steep gravel road was where Kimmy parked his late-model white F150 all-wheel drive. Nice truck, I was thinking when Grandmother stopped and told me to get out. Just like that, with the clothes on my back and a few bucks in my pocket.
"You got to walk from here," she said.
"You'll figure it out. Or wait until Kimmy comes down to get you."
She pulled an angry three-point turn and took off.
"Fuck you," I muttered. [End Page 28]
Someone had put up one of those numbers so the 9-1-1 people can find you, and I figured that must be the way to Kimmy's. I huffed up the path, craving a smoke. I had half a pack in my back pocket that Grandmother hadn't known or cared about—least of my problems at the time, the cigs—and after a few minutes I sat on the ground and lit one. It didn't agree with my lungs, which were heaving to pull some damn oxygen out of the mountain air. I saved the butt, though, because who freaking knew when I'd get to buy another pack. The path forked, and I called out, "Uncle Kimmy?"—but I didn't hear anything besides a kind of dull roar. I followed the roar, and when the path forked two more times, I followed it two more times.
Then, where you abso-fucking-lutely could not imagine would be a cabin, there was a cabin. A tight, square-looking two-room cabin with a couple of windows and a stone chimney, set back against a high outcropping of rock.
"Anybody home?" I yelled and got a clanging from around back in answer.
A shed roof extended...