Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: Heaven Help Me, Another Newspaper Tries to Do Me In!!



One week exactly after visiting the newspaper, we woke up to old Bean the jailer knocking on Kitty's door. He can't read, the poor man, but he'd learned that the Gazette had printed our story and he'd been promised a quarter by Kitty if he bought the newspaper and brought it to the house for us to see.

As she closed the door, my head was spinning in memories. I've seen what newspapers can do when they want to skewer you. It happened to me when the San Francisco paper wrote about me just after I was arrested for Antonie's murder. That article convicted me way ahead of the trial!

But here now was still another newspaper, the local Gazette, and judging by the look on Kitty's face as she placed the paper on the table, it wasn't good.

Kitty muttered something and I asked her to read the headline out loud. She inhaled. And read each word at a painfully slow tempo.

Local Woman Needs Anyone With a Pen and A Bleeding Heart!!

I winced and sank deeper into the sofa.

Kitty cleared her throat and carefully unfolded the paper and spread it on the oak table. She and Teresa pulled up their chairs. I just stayed put there on the couch staring at Kitty's remarkable tin ceiling, my eyes tracing the curlicue patterns.

"Aren't you going to look with us?" Kitty asked quietly.

I shook my head back and forth, very slowly, feeling the tears gathering. A tight panic began squeezing at my insides. "No, you two can read it first, and if it's as bad as I think it will be, I'm...I'll just pass. I am not sure I have the stomach for it."

And so Teresa and Kitty read John Dimson's article in silence. I put my hands over my face and only once glanced up when I thought I heard Kitty sucking on her teeth. At that moment I noticed Teresa shake her head ever so slightly. They finished. They sat there.

My heart hammered. I wasn't able to speak. I wanted desperately to know. I wanted desperately not to know. I wanted most of all to go to sleep and forget the whole matter. But how could I possibly forget the fact that I was going to the gallows in a matter of days?

Finally Kitty spoke.

"Well that young man deserves a good sharp boot right smack in his back side."

"I'd agree completely," Teresa said. She sounded rather weary, even though it was still early in the morning.

"But then," Kitty went on," I could tell right away. The moment I laid eyes on him last week. His whole demeanor. That reporter is well-named. Dimson. DIM-witted Son of a..."

"Oh KITTY!" Teresa covered her ears and shook her head vigorously as if to rid herself of the vulgar outburst.

"Well, sorry for that, Sister, I do apologize, but that man wrote the least sympathetic piece of dirty laundry I've ever read, and hung it out for all to see. And not only does it hurt our cause, but the story isn't even accurate. I am sure that I told him we'd collected 27 letters, not 17. I know for a fact because I had the stack in my hand for Pete's sake."

Teresa inhaled. "It makes no difference really. If he'd written 27, or 207, in that awful story, it would matter not one bit!"

By now, I felt that I might wet my pants. My mouth was so parched and dry that my tongue felt withered. I couldn't speak but I started to cry. Teresa and Kitty rushed from the table to the sofa, where I lay.

"Heavens, don't take it so hard," Kitty said, sitting beside me and squeezing me in a tight embrace. "It doesn't matter what the silly paper writes. I will go door to door, starting this afternoon!"

"And I will go with you," Teresa said, placing a hand on my arm.

I sat there sniffling. I wanted to say, "I'd just as soon you don't. I would just as soon you accepted the inevitable and gave up. I would just as soon you had never tried." But none of that came out of my mouth. I had so little energy to speak. What did it matter, what I said? What did anything matter now?

I knew that I had to read the article for myself. But how to find the courage? The strength?

"Teresa, dear, if you wouldn't mind, would you be kind enough to bring the paper here to me? I don't know that I have in me to sit there at the table with it."

"Of course I will," Teresa said.

Kitty stood. "But wait. Before you read a word of that foul stuff, you need a good strong cup of tea," she declared. She stopped. "Or would you rather my famous chestnut coffee?"

I considered saying that I wanted a shot of old Bean's whiskey.

"A cup of tea would be delightful," I said and forced a smile. And so Kitty made me tea, and brought it to me in one of her grandmother's fine china cups, a pretty green. And she also buttered me a fresh biscuit with raspberry jam.

And only when I'd finished both of these did Teresa bring me the dreaded newspaper article by Mr. John Dimson. Once more I had in front of me the writing of a man who, like Antonie, was using his clever words to turn my life inside out.

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