Lately, when I return to the city, or even back from the Old Library where I go to hear the friendly murals whisper to me under the pendulous lights that always seem eager to illuminate my way, I inevitably come back to the whirling blue lights that mean things aren't well next door. I hear the cops shouting in the darkness, their voices traveling up the beams of their half-mile lights to her bedroom window. This is a hot house, Laura. And if you don't come outside right now, things are going to be a hell of a lot hotter. This is going to be the most miserable month of your whole miserable life. I hear her stumble in the darkness and curse. Sunday night, she dropped like a cat off her back porch and landed on the neighbor's porch below. These neighbors represent a treasured faction of the Old Guard. They're artists in cast iron and steel, a remainder of the vibrant artistic community Southside used to be before we were here and before those who were here before us were here. I imagine Southside in the seventies. It's the Southside that existed for Jim Reed before he had to pack his Fond Memories and Old Books and move them down to a space on 3rd Avenue. I imagine that back then, the whole world between 20th and 14th Streets was Jim's Museum of the Weird South, home to writers and painters and bangers-on-pipes. I recently learned that Dennis Covington once lived here in a rundown Tudor on Green Springs Avenue. I drive by that house on my way to buy Fresh Mozzarella at the fancy Publix and I think oh house, if only you could tell a tale of the artists who lived here and what they did to pass their time. I imagine that the stories it could tell about Dennis Covington would be acceptably pornographic, if such a thing is possible. Acceptably pornographic and redemptive like the story of when his wife fell down before the Lord after having aborted a miracle baby because it's parentage was disputed. I knew at that moment, she writes, that I was forgiven. And to her, forgiven means no consequences. I wish that's what forgiven meant to me.
I know that Laura found no forgiveness from the Birmingham Cops who wasted their flashlight batteries looking for her feather-thin frame between the Chinaberry trees on Sunday night.