The Reproach

The Reproach

A Story by Delmar Cooper
"

Ghost regional story

"

The Reproach

 

 

               

          “Alabama on Wheels”

          The Quarterly Magazine of the

                           Association of Alabama Recreational Vehicle Dealers

 

   Welcome back fellow campers.  Once again Eb and I have loaded up the Winnebago for another summer tour of Alabama and our ongoing search for all those forgotten and overlooked wonders this state has to offer.

   Constant readers of “Alabama on Wheels” will recall our all county tour last fall where we explained how it came to be that every county in Alabama, except Winston, ended up with the same statue of a glassy eyed Confederate soldier on the courthouse square.   We apologize for missing the winter edition, but Eb’s bout of pleurisy  kept us close to home and hospital during the chilly months.  The spring trip to Enterprise, Alabama did Eb a “power of good” as Minnie Pearl used to say, although by the time we reached Coffee County the annual Alabama pine pollen bloom was in full swing and Eb wore out two inhalers.  But, you can’t keep a good man down, and believe me, I’ve tried.

   You will of course, remember our photos of the Monument to the Boll Weevil in downtown Enterprise.  In that issue we failed to mention our gratitude to the kind folks at Walker’s Campground and RV Park on Hwy. 231.  We are much obliged for their hospitality, and Eb and I miss the sassafras and corn cob smoked barbeque at Walker’s Wayside Restaurant and Country Store. We’ve never seen it done that at any place else.  Really, never. Anywhere.

   That giant boll weevil got Eb and me to wondering if every city had a “claim to fame” even if it only the knitted sock capitol of America.  With that theme in mind we struck out for west Alabama, left the interstate system and, ended up in Carrolville.

   The courthouse in Carrolville was burned during the War Between the States by Wilson’s raiders because it was suspected of being a Confederate storehouse and made of wood.   Wilson, by the way, then adjourned to more important arson in Tuscaloosa where the University of Alabama harbored a dangerous corps of cadets.  They spanked the boys and burned the school, but that’s a story for another trip, possibly in the fall during football season.

   The citizens of Carrolville were recovered enough by 1889 to rebuild the courthouse into the two storey Bessemer Gray brick edifice you see today.  Of course the courthouse isn’t the claim to fame we were searching for;  it’s the windows.  Well, that one window in particular…

****************************************************************************

 

   Sheriff Wilburn Fowler had taken just about all he wanted from the good citizens of Carrolville.  His job was secure.  He knew every voter and the name of his wife, the names of most of his children, and all of his dogs.  Every voter knew Wilburn;  no one even bothered to oppose him in the last two elections.  Carrolville was eight years into the 20th century , and now this “thing” was happening in his town.

   “You’d think they’d have a little respect for me personally, if not some respect for the law.  All they have to do is wait a week, two at the outside, and this business will take care of itself.  I ask you , Billy, why get twelve men to sit through a legal trial, in this kind of heat, in that suffocatin’ court room, if you can’t wait a few days for a legal hangin’?”

   “Oh, they’ll wait Sheriff.  I figure they’ll wait for about two more pulls on that jug they keep passin’ around, but not much longer than that.  The whole bunch is pretty worked up.”  Billy Preston had been deputy for the last three of Fowler’s terms.  Now he took off his badge and laid it on the desk.  “Wilburn, I can’t stay with you on this one.  I ain’t scared.  There ain’t a man in this county I can’t whip, but if we stay here tonight , me or you one will have to kill some of them good ole boys before the rest will stop.” 

   “Put your star back on, Billy.  Take Toby up to the storeroom on the top floor and lock him in.  The only way he could get loose from up there would be out the front window, and the fall would solve all of his problems and most of mine.  When you finish. We’ll lock up and go home.  I’ve known these farmers all my life and I ain’t about kill one on account of that idiot, Toby.  When you get him up there, tell him to set his a*s still and keep his mouth shut.  Maybe they’ll be too drunk to look up.”

   Even if the storeroom windows had not been painted shut, the sheer drop made it an effective prison cell.  By pressing his face against the window pane, Toby could just see the curve in Main Street.  At first it looked like a swarm of lightening bugs moving slowly in the hot night toward the courthouse.  He wiped his eyes and watched, mesmerized by the scene.  Urine began to pool at his feet.  He couldn’t move.  Fear sweat kept him glued to the window glass like a squashed insect on a microscope slide.

   The lights became larger and he saw they were the farmer’s lanterns.  Soon he heard the men’s voices and smelled the stink of burning coal oil from the lamp wicks.  He knew they would cut him first, cut him, geld him like a hog.  His whimper turned to a whine, and then to a high pitched keening. 

   He was like that when they took him.  His fingernails left parallel gouges on the casements when they pried his face away from the window pane.

 

   Sunday morning dawned with a promise of clear sky and more heat.  Abe Sanders, the photographer from the Cooley/Byron portrait studio on State street, loaded a tripod camera onto his buggy and drove down to the river to take advantage of the daylight.  The studio’s specialty was photograph tinting.  Its display window was full of pink bottomed baby pictures and cherub cheeked boys and girls.  Doting mothers and grandmothers always stopped to admire the display.

The photograph  Abe wanted would never be tinted.  This picture could only be stark black and white.  Lynching was a monochrome business.  Yankee newspapers and magazines wanted and expected the spectacular and ghastly.  Ghouls were more profitable than angels.

   After a good breakfast, Sheriff Flower and Billy Preston followed the same track the buggy had taken into the grove of water oaks.  They rode in a borrowed cotton wagon.  Billy even thought to bring tarpaulin so their returning cargo wouldn’t offend the sensibilities of early church goers.

   The strange part was that no one noticed the window for about a week.  Maybe no one could hold his head up that high, but soon enough someone saw it and then everyone saw it.   After a while the window came to exactly what the people of Carrolville  believed it to be.

   The sheriff ordered the janitor to wash the window, but the room stank like piss and death, so the janitor refused to go in and finally quit.  The mayor told the sheriff to replace the pane and the sheriff told the mayor to go to hell or replace it himself.  The mayor and the sheriff are both long gone, but the pane is still there.

 

*****************************************************************************

 

 

            …So fellow campers, every place has a claim to fame and now Eb and I have seen the famous “Face in the Window” at Carrolville.  Frankly Eb thinks it just looks like smeared glass. And I can’t see the resemblance to a face.  But then I don’t live in Carrolville, and it isn’t watching me every day.

 

                 Pearl and Eb Moody for “Alabama on Wheels”

© 2015 Delmar Cooper


My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

This is an excellently written story, deceptively homespun, and filled with horror. Great detail, realistic narrative style, and is reminiscent of Harper Lee and her ilk. Lulls the reader with humor and lazy country pace, and then explodes into the macabre. Skillful transitions, plot development and good character studies. Won’t forget this easily...Kudos!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

3 Years Ago

Thanks for reading. A great honor to be even slantwise compared to Miz Nell Lee and her ilk, the il.. read more
Annette Pisano-Higley

3 Years Ago

Yes, Flannery O’Connor, Carson Mcullers, Eudora Welty my favorites- you’re in very good company!
Delmar Cooper

3 Years Ago

Call me ole fashioned but I still reread "The Bohemian Girl" now and again - my favorite mid-western.. read more



Reviews

Your writing style is direct which immediately immerses the reader into the world you have created and paced correctly to make the story build and become realistic. I know I can learn a lot from your writing.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you for reading and for your comment about the story. I doubt you can find much of mine that .. read more
Tertia

3 Weeks Ago

Yes they are different but I still feel I can learn from you
Such a wild trip in a short story. From folksy RV world to horrible lynching to Shroud of Turin? Great stuff.

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

1 Month Ago

Google face in the window Carrolton, Alabama.
Martin Durso

1 Month Ago

Wow. Never heard of lightning portraits. I've no interest in visiting Carollton but appreciate the.. read more
Delmar Cooper

1 Month Ago

I share Pearl's opinion about the face and the whole story, it is to an elaborate folktale, but horr.. read more
I really enjoyed your introduction to the story. It really helped with immersing me in the story and the world your character's inhabit. You have a very unique voice!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

3 Years Ago

Thanks, it's a frame tale - a story- within a story. I did my best to make both interesting. Don't.. read more
This is an excellently written story, deceptively homespun, and filled with horror. Great detail, realistic narrative style, and is reminiscent of Harper Lee and her ilk. Lulls the reader with humor and lazy country pace, and then explodes into the macabre. Skillful transitions, plot development and good character studies. Won’t forget this easily...Kudos!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

3 Years Ago

Thanks for reading. A great honor to be even slantwise compared to Miz Nell Lee and her ilk, the il.. read more
Annette Pisano-Higley

3 Years Ago

Yes, Flannery O’Connor, Carson Mcullers, Eudora Welty my favorites- you’re in very good company!
Delmar Cooper

3 Years Ago

Call me ole fashioned but I still reread "The Bohemian Girl" now and again - my favorite mid-western.. read more
Quite an informative and enjoyable piece. The language you used, names, and way of telling are easily recognized as being "small town" and "southern." I share Esse's concern about the courthouse. As your sentence stands, said courthouse is suspected of being made of wood. The following are sentence fragments in which a word seems missing--1) We’ve never seen it done that at any place else. 2) even if it only the knitted sock capitol of America. 3) I ain’t about kill one on account of that idiot. 4) to bring tarpaulin." In another sentence, your use of "fear sweat" seems off. Perhaps "fearful sweat" would be better.
I wish I had more information about my stepfather's brother dying in a small town jail so I could write a similar story about it. These kinds of things happened, and probably much more that we'll never know about.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

5 Years Ago

Helpful comments thanks. I thought I had corrected those omissions but it seems the correction di.. read more
Samuel Dickens

5 Years Ago

I'm used to reading with a critical eye on this site, so that may have prevented me from seeing the .. read more
What beguiles me the most about this piece is the structure. First, the notion of the niche publication (and this is a pretty narrow one, indeed) is captured pitch-perfectly. I laughed out loud at Eb's pleurisy, because of all the maladies you could have picked there, nothing is more fitting than pleurisy. The story-within-a-story is a wonderful device as well. Yes, every small town has a story like this, but for those who were there at the time, it was an important thing (certainly in the case of our friend Toby), but the last bit of the article does its bit to put it all back into context and perspective again. This is some fine craftsmanship at work here.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

5 Years Ago

I'm glad to hear your kind words and gladder still that the you understood the device and the contex.. read more
Certainly enjoyed looking into the small local story you have here; especially the way you summed it all up at the end. I like how the narrator doesn't see the resemblance, really bringing to question the validity of such a story; but perhaps not every town has something to show, so much as something to claim. Everywhere has their own local story, and not all of them are as 'to the facts' as they may claim. But then and again, having it 'watch us' everyday does give those stories a certain impact to them. Some suggestions. When describing the way the courthouse was burned, bothering to end it with 'and wood' just feels off, like it drags out the sentence and detracts from the original arson. Perhaps just add at the beginning of the sentence, "the old wooden courthouse"? Unless of course this was an effect you were deliberately goin for. Also, the third paragraph of the story proper has the phrase 'me or you one will'; this is either one helluva dialect, or a typo of some sort.

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

5 Years Ago

Thanks for reading and for your comments. The first faux you mentioned was an attempt at humor, as.. read more

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

561 Views
7 Reviews
Rating
Added on August 4, 2015
Last Updated on August 4, 2015

Author

Delmar Cooper
Delmar Cooper

Trussville, AL



About
I write- a little. I don't write to reinvent the wheel, or discover fire. I just drag along from sentence to sentence hoping for a spark. more..

Writing

Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..