Light and dark

This morning I put my black-eyed peas on to cook and settled down at my computer to write a bit. A house full of family is not conducive to writing, even though I love having them here and want to spend time with them. When the grandsons fired up the new PS5 for a few games and the family gathered around to watch, I’d slip away to my office for a writing session. After all, the paper waits for no holiday. Come it must. Christmas was loud and boisterous for the most part, but I noticed great improvement in the boys’ maturity. They asked for the new Play Station for the three of them to share.

“Nothing else, Grandma,” Will assured me. “I know it costs a lot, but if everyone in the family who intends to buy us something will chip in, it won’t be so bad for anyone.”

His brothers nodded their agreement. And so, it happened. No Legos to step on. No complicated toys to be assembled. No paints or crayons. No puzzles to lose pieces from. They’ve matured—a lot. Sometimes I do miss the little boys they were, but I never miss the bickering. They don’t even argue in the car anymore. Amazing.

As these thoughts ran through my head, my nose said it would behoove me to check on the peas. I ran for the kitchen only to discover my peas scorched beyond saving. I hope burning the peas doesn’t bring me bad luck. If so, I’m in trouble already. Jumping in my car, I drove to Graham to the ubiquitous Dollar General for more peas, praying all the way I’d find some. I did. This time I bought two bags. Back at home, I put those on and set about putting away Christmas decorations so I could watch the peas, too. Apparently, I can’t write and watch them. They turned into delicious Hoppin’ John and I served them along with mustard greens, golden brown corn bread, and bacon. You don’t get much more traditional than that. Mama would be proud of me. All was well in my world despite those burned peas. I chuckled at the antics of the dogs as they played at my feet.

After lunch, I found the house quiet, so I listened to another of the Fox Hunter podcasts about the 1990 Hazlehurst murder of Rhonda Sue Coleman, a beautiful teenager about to graduate from high school. She died in May of 1990 shortly before she was to graduate; yet for whatever reasons, no one has ever been arrested for the crime. Theories about corruption in law enforcement, poorly executed investigations by the GBI and the local sheriff’s department, who was where and when have floated around Jeff Davis County for thirty years now, but the killer(s) is still on the loose—if he’s still alive, that is. Thirty years is a long time. Several people of interest have died also; some have moved away.

Once I started listening to the podcasts, they have haunted me and kept dragging me back for more. So easily I slipped into the role of the parent of a lost child. Losing one to death is horrible but losing one to an unsolved murder would be unfathomably agonizing. Mrs. Coleman said that for a long time she couldn’t go to town. If she did, she might unexpectedly pass her child’s killer on the street and never know. She saw the pity in everyone’s eyes and couldn’t stand any more. She has gone to bed thinking about the situation every night for all these years, and each morning she rises, thinking the same thing. Imagine her dreams, her nightmares. In the grand scheme of things, parents are not intended to outlive their children. It is contrary to nature.

I discovered today that two more podcasts were available, and I hung on every word as I listened. This murder has changed the very face of the community, the trusting atmosphere of that small town that I grew up in. People left doors open wide and never feared any negative consequences back in the sixties. It seems that in 1990, evil rode into town and stayed.

In the meantime, I’m both glad and sad that I stumbled across the podcasts. The story mesmerizes me and appears in my dreams at night. When I awaken in my bed in fear or near tears, I spend some time praying for Gayle and Milton Coleman. My heart breaks for them and their pain.

Suddenly I realize that the levity of New Year’s Day 2022 has taken on a dark hue and a shudder runs through my soul.

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