The house is indeed in a trailer park filled to the brim with the stereotypical accoutrements of most trailer parks. Most of the homes are run down with rust being the primary color. There are few lawns. The windows appear caked with dirt. The one exception to this rule is the home occupied by Luis Grafton’ sister.
Her home is immaculate from the outside. The paint is not even chipped let alone showing rust or wear. The siding is blue with white trim and a white roof perhaps to reflect the sunlight and heat. There is a neat green lawn out front and a small patch of grass out back. Against the wall of the house and beneath the windows is a garden filled with flowers the likes of which Grady hasn’t seen since stepping of the plane. There is a car parked out in front of the house and Father Marten pulls in behind it.
“I still don’t think this is a good idea, Grady.”
“The man dies tomorrow. I can’t wait any longer for something to be arranged.”
“I don’t understand the point.”
“You’re asking me to cleanse the soul of a monster. I need to know if there’s someone in this world that still cares or loves that monster. I need to know that someone might actually benefit from my doing this. Besides, tradition says the sin-eater is invited by the family.”
Father Marten seems about to protest but Grady doesn’t wait to see if he has more to say on the subject. He gets out of the car into the damp air and walks to the door. Normally you would think a soaking rain would cool a place down but the rain seems to have made the air more humid. Grady feels as if he is walking through a swamp. He knocks loudly on the door.
“Who is it?”
“My name is Grady McDonnell, ma’am. I need to speak to you.”
“It’s about your brother.”
“I’m not speaking to the press.”
“I’m not with the press. If I’m with anyone or anything, I’m with Father Marten.”
The curtain slides back. He stares at a small woman with blonde hair. She has dark liquid eyes that appear almost too large for her face. Her nose is thing and well proportioned. Her lips are thing and uncolored. She is quite striking which is a marked contrast from her brother’s imposing face and stare. She is also rather short which is also quite a difference from her brother’s imposing size.
“Who are you?”
“It will be easier for me to explain if you could let me inside.”
She studies his face for a long time. Her gaze is so disconcerting that Grady shifts his feet and looks around awkwardly. Finally she opens the door and lets him in. The interior of the home is as immaculate as the outside. The furniture is not fancy but it is neat and clean. The house smells clean. Fresh flowers on the table in the kitchen give the home a floral scent that appeals to Grady.
“You have a very nice home, Miss Grafton.”
“Daniels. Maggie Daniels. I’m married.”
“Pardon me. Your home is very nice, Mrs. Daniels.”
“Thank you. I do my best. Look, I’m not real sure I should be talking to you. I just want to get through this whole thing and put it behind me.”
“I understand that, but I need to talk to you. Could we sit down?”
She gestures toward the kitchen table. It is a yellow circle with a dazzling display of flowers upon it. She moves the display so they can see each other and each of them has a seat. Grady does not ask if Father Marten can be invited in.
“What I have to tell you is something you probably won’t believe. I understand that. If you feel the need to kick me out of the house after I tell you who and what I am, I understand that as well.”
He tells her what he is. He tells her why he was brought here. He tells her what he does and how he does it. There is the usual look of confusion followed by doubt. There is something else here that he hasn’t come across before as well.
“I – um – I’m, well, I’m not sure what to say or think -“
“I understand. I can only tell you that it’s true.”
“I don’t suppose you can offer proof.”
“Not unless someone is dying around here.”
“Why do you need to talk to me?”
“It’s usually the family that brings me in. It’s been that way for centuries for people like me. In this case, well, I was lied to. I was told your brother was repentant for his deeds and this is not the case.”
She laughs a loud and abrasive laugh.
“I have no doubt of that.”
“It’s irrelevant. I have done this for those who did not entirely believe before. The thing that makes it different is when the family requests it. If the family wants it. If I know that the person dying has at least one person out there that cares and can formally request that I do what I do. Those who brought me here have their reasons, but I can’t say for certain they are good enough reasons. I live in a complicated place. Things aren’t really black and white where I stand.”
“Mr. McDonnell my brother is a monster. I’ve done everything I can to forget he even exists. The things he did, I can’t even fathom. I don’t think I can give you what you’re seeking.”
Grady sighs and sits back against the chair.
“Would it matter to you to know that your brother was sexually and physically abused by an uncle?”
“Did he tell you that?”
“No, I have certain abilities when dealing with those about to die. The soul casts off things as it prepares to dies. Memories mostly. I touched your brother and I saw it. I saw the uncle and a cousin abusing him.”
She sits back now. Her eyes stare off into the living room but Grady senses that she is not seeing the trailer she has kept so neat for so long. Her face is lost in memory.
“I’m not surprised.”
She refocuses her eyes and gets up and stands near the kitchen counter. She wipes the spotless counter down with a rag because to her cleaning is something to do to take her mind away from things. She has tears in her eyes when she turns back around to face Grady.
“I was abused too, Mr. McDonnell. For a long time. Just being abused doesn’t give you the right to do what my brother did. I made a choice to live a good life. He chose to do those things. He deserves what he’s getting.”
“I agree. I am not asking that you forgive him. That will be my job. I have a choice to make, Mrs. Daniels. Whether you can believe I can do what I say I can do or not doesn’t matter. I am telling you that if I do what I can do tomorrow your brother’s soul will leave this world free form sin. I will absorb that sin into myself.”
“What happens to you?”
“I wish I could tell you the answer to that question. It’s one I’ve asked a thousand times to myself. I don’t know.”
“I don’t want you or anyone to have to carry around the sins of my brother. I believe you can do what you say you can. Luis would never admit to the abuse. It was not something that ever came out at trial. He wouldn’t even bring it up to try and save his own life. You had to get it through some other way.”
“So, I ask you, do you want me to do this thing for your brother?”
She wipes her hand across her eyes. Her entire body seems to vibrate with indecision, rage, sadness, perhaps a combination of all of them.
“I don’t think I can ask you that, Mr. McDonnell, I’m sorry.”
Grady sighs. He nods. He gives her a smile and then he stands up. He goes to her and shakes her hand. He does not speak to her. He just shakes her hand and walks toward the door. The sky has started to shed its weight again and rain patters down on the metal walls and roof of the structure. He admires the garden and the lawn and walks toward the car. The windshield wipers cross over Father Marten’s face. He is just at the car door when the door to the trailer bangs open and she runs into the rain.
“Mr. McDonnell. I can’t say I forgive him. I can’t say for certain that I even care about him anymore. I only know that he’s my brother. Whatever he may have done, he’s still my brother.”
“Does that mean you agree? That you’re asking me?”
She bites her lip. The rain washes down her face in rivers and drips from her chin. Grady suppresses a chill from the cold rain and stands firm blinking away the drops that form on his eyelashes. The moment seems to stretch forever. Then, suddenly, she nods. She moves her head up and down just once. She looks at him as if she should say more but then turns abruptly and walks back to her home.
Grady watches after her for a moment and then gets in the car. Father Marten looks at him for a long time and the car does not move.
“Did you get what you needed?”
“It will do.”
He settles back against the seat and watches the rain make crazy designs on the passenger window as Father Marten drives them back to his house. He suddenly feels very tired. Tomorrow he will face the soul of a monster. Tomorrow he will look the monster in the face and see past the masks. Tomorrow he will face a pain more forceful than the storm that rages overhead. He again curses his father and the abilities he inherited.