skull, he was slowly surrounded in his own crimson print, eyes rolling back to the
No man spoke. No man moved until he was dead. They all watched him
gasping for the air his lungs could not accept. They watched the dried movement of
his tongue toss from side to side as his mouth remained open and the rising of his
chest caused his head to rock. With both hands tightly gripping the sand at his side,
his body froze. Chains dropping to the ground, penned animals, and the hound
licking at the hog’s bloody neck were not enough to outweigh the silence of the
men. June Bug picked up Hamilton Parks’ knife and handed it to his brother after
wiping off the remaining entrails.
The men began standing up and dragging both bodies to the river without
clear direction. Suddenly, Mr. Carter stood up from where the dog had knocked
him over and started throwing men off the hog and boy. “Stop it. Damn you, I said
stop this now. All of you, get your paws off of them. You planning on taking him,
too? Taking him into the water and cleaning him just like an old hog? Is he just
more meat for your daughters? I won’t have it. I won’t have you mixing their blood
and acting like what I done was forgivable. Drop the both of them there and clean
off. There won’t be any of that beast on him when he’s buried.”
Carter dropped his gun, took his shirt off, and waded into the dark waters
of the Suwannee. One by one, the others followed. A shadowy procession of full
submersion. No man stood next to another; he went in alone to meet the river. The
banks did not overflow or shrink; the Suwannee was unchanged in receiving them.
Only the cypress sang out of mourning. And for a moment they were all together
covered. The surface was still as they sank below. The black sin of the Suwannee
moving infinitely on; they each bathed and scrubbed away any piece of themselves
or another they found. The calm purging was invisible to the Spanish moss adjust-
ing itself in the breeze.
They buried the boy beneath the palmettoes deep in the heart of the ham-
mock and returned to the shore. There, they skinned the bleeding boar and por-
tioned out its meat, leaving only the bones which were broken in the fight.