Four and a half weeks from the time she knew she was pregnant, as she was washing morning dishes she felt a severe pain and something wet coming out of her. She raced to the bathroom to find that she was bleeding. She called Roy, and gasping through the pain, told him to come home and take her to the hospital. “What about the midwife?” he ignorantly asked. She nearly screamed from the pain, “Hospital! Now!” She somehow knew that this was not something fixed by lying around at home with a woman who could not help her and would eventually tell her that she needed to go to the hospital. Exactly two hours later she was lying in a hospital bed having already lost the baby. She lay on her side trying to stem the tide of tears that wanted to flow. Roy tried to assure her that it was ok and that he loved her. She wanted so much to believe him, but could see the extreme disappointment and blame in his face. “My family wants to know if they can come visit us?” he asked. “No, please, I don’t want to see anyone right now,” she said. He looked upset, but said nothing. The next week at home was so very quiet other than a short visit with her mother. She wondered what was wrong with her and felt that Roy was blaming her for losing the baby. When he was home they didn’t speak to each other more than a few necessary words. One evening she looked up from her almost untouched plate and spoke, “Roy, I don’t ever want to see your family again. I know that they think it is my fault we lost the baby. I just couldn’t bear the condemnation. I want us to be happy again and live life again. It is hard enough for me to get over losing our precious baby; I just don’t need anything else stressful in my life right now. “ He nodded silently and tried his best to give her a smile. She knew he was hurting as much as she was, but would never talk about it. She hated how they stifled the show of any emotion in his family. Nobody ever expressed how they felt. She resolved to never live that way. She determined that she would be strong and say what she felt, no matter what she felt. She had no idea that would soon be tested in the extreme.
One Friday night in early fall, he told Anna that he would be getting up early Saturday and going to Platzville to shoot a new gun his brother had bought. An inexplicable knot found its way to her stomach. She was always uncomfortable when he went to visit his family. She felt like they would be talking about her. But this time she felt there was something different. “Alright. Will we go grocery shopping after you come home?” she asked. He grunted something she took to mean probably. The next morning he was pulling out of the driveway before Anna had even thought about waking up. When she did wake her heart was so heavy. She wished so much that things were better between them. She knew Roy was under a tremendous amount of stress from his family. It seemed as though Roy was beginning to resent her for the further division she caused in his family. He would ask her to come and visit them and she would always say, “You know I can’t.” She hated being a source of strife for her husband, but she couldn’t help that his family was so hateful. She tried to forget about all of the problems that morning and do her wifely chores. Around 8:30 her phone rang. A wave of panic hit her and she didn’t know why. “It’s probably just Roy calling to say he’s coming home,” she tried to convince herself. She answered the phone with a shaky voice. Instead of hearing Roy on the other end, it was one of his brothers, David. “There’s been an accident.” The words no one wants to hear. Yet, there they were entering Anna’s head like marble in a pinball machine. She had trouble silencing her mind long enough to hear what the voice on the phone was saying. “Joseph was aimin’ for the tree and hit Roy instead; ‘cause the scope ain’t right on the new gun. I’m real sorry, but he’s dead.” Emotion took over and she yelled into the phone, “Have you called the police, or an ambulance, or anybody?” “Yeah,” he drawled, “They’re on the way.” She put her hand on her forehead hoping it would help her think straight. She noticed that even though he was Roy’s own brother, he was showing no emotion. Anger swelled up inside and she knew what to do. “Okay, I need you to get Roy’s keys and bring me the truck. Now!” They hung up and she crumpled on the floor in a heap. She had such an explosion of emotion going on inside that she could only sit and stare at the window. Forty-five minutes later the familiar black truck pulled into her driveway. It should have taken just twenty minutes to get there. She grabbed her purse and ran out the door before he could even get out of the truck. “What took you so long? Never mind. Where is he now?” she asked with a trembling voice. “I reckon the police just got to our place, so he’s still there on the ground. They had to come from Morristown.” “You had better hurry, then,” she said in a voice that gave a hint of the anger boiling up inside of her.
When they arrived back at the Muller farm, there were police cars, an ambulance, and a coroner parked on the road. “Where is he?” she demanded. The lump of Muller next to her pointed at the woods across the road from their house. She jumped out of the truck and ran to where everyone was standing. The police had stopped them from standing closer than ten feet from the body. “That’s good,” she thought, “these people are just here to gawk anyway.” An officer looked up and asked who she was. She replied that she was his wife. He let her come a little closer to the body of her dead husband. There were several EMTs and the coroner hovering over the body, but even so, she could tell that he was a mess from the blast. The coroner loaded the body into his van. There was really no need for an autopsy, but formality is formality. The officer asked her to come to Morristown with him and help with the report. She got the keys to her husband’s truck from David and followed the police car to the station. She noticed the David looked scared and that confused her. A few tears began to fall as she drove making her heart feel as though it were about to fail. When they arrived at the Morristown station she realized her parents didn’t know what she was going through. She asked the officer for a moment and then called them. Her father said he would come be with her as soon as possible. That was the first comfort she had that day. She sat down in front of the officer’s desk and knew her face must be showing the overload of emotion inside. “Ma’am, I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’ll be real honest with ya,” he began, “them people didn’t tell me squat about what happened out there. Just mumbles about an accident.” She looked him in the eyes and recounted what David had told her on the phone. “Joseph Muller, you say?” he asked as he made some notes. She could see the offending rifle sitting on a table, bagged and ready for examination. It gave her shivers to look at it. He got on the radio and told a deputy to go back to the farm and pick up Joseph. “Well, I’m happy somebody had a little honesty. That’ll make my job easier.” As she finished her interview with the officer, her father came through the door. “Sweetie, I am so sorry,” he said as he grabbed her in an embrace that only fathers can give. The will that had been holding back the tears broke and she sobbed into his jacket. “Daddy, I have no idea what to do,” she said when her sobs slowed a bit. “When will the body be released?” he turned and asked of the officer. “I’d imagine Monday, since nobody will be workin’ tomorrow.” Her father commandeered the situation as he could plainly see she was lost. They took her truck home and he brought her back to Clements.
On Monday, they found a funeral home that would do a very simple service without costing the price of a new car. After the body was released to the funeral home, she asked her father to take her to the Muller’s house. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Yes,” she said with resolve. She now needed to draw upon her determination to speak what she felt. She saw John out in the yard working on an implement when they arrived. She walked with purpose up to him and said, “Whether you or your family takes responsibility for Roy’s death, or not, I want you to pay for part of the funeral.” She looked in his eyes and saw something she had never seen before--guilt. As he hung his head, he quietly replied, “That will be fine.” In a calmer tone she told him that the funeral would be Friday at 1:00, then she turned and went back to her father’s truck. She could feel the icy stares of Roy’s brothers on her back as she climbed into her seat.
On Tuesday, she met with the realtor who had sold them their dream home and put it back on the market. The bubbly realtor was fairly sure she could sell it quickly since it was a “hot” area of Knoxville. She hadn’t told the woman that the death of her husband was the reason for selling. “I just can’t imagine why anybody would want to leave that gorgeous neighborhood!” the big haired realtor gushed. “I thought she was so nice before, now she just annoys me.” Anna was embarrassed to think that way, but her anger caused her to be impatient with happy people. She tried to keep a straight face and get the necessary papers signed to sell the house. She worked all week on packing up her things. She made a “donate to charity” pile and placed anything that had come from the Mullers, or anything belonging to Roy in it. She thought about selling her furniture, but didn’t want to mess with it. She called a local charity to come and pick everything up. She packed all of her own things in the truck and cleaned out the house. When she was finished, she sat rocking on the porch in the cool autumn breeze one last time. She searched her soul to process all the events of the past weekend. She had loved Roy. It wasn’t like a crazy in love sort of feeling. She just knew she wouldn’t have minded growing old with him. Now she was back to being the old maid cashier at a saw mill. “No,” she thought, “I cannot go back to that. I must find something to do.” With that, she got up and left the house she and Roy had bought together.
For the funeral, she asked a local pastor to say a few words. He gave a short, nice speech; which made Anna very thankful she had chosen him. She looked around the room trying to bolster her strength. The tears were so close to coming again, but she tried to stay firm. She had a message for this family who cut off the entire world and had taken away her husband. She went to the front of the salon, a folded paper in hand and began to speak.
“I am thankful you are all here today to celebrate the life of Roy and to acknowledge his passing into the hands of God. I must admit that I am angry. I am angry because I have never seen a family be so hateful toward their son for choosing to do something good with his life. I am angry because despite the fact that he loved his family and respected them, they still chose to ignore him in a childish manner. I am angry because these people say they are close to God, but I don’t think God hates like that. I cannot understand how people can put such senseless rules upon themselves and have such a small view of the world. I know that someday I will heal and not be angry, but I hope with all my heart that his family learns to love.”
She folded her paper and looked up to see a few tears flowing and also some expressions of anger and hatred on the faces of those she was speaking about. These were not typical funeral words, but they came from her heart. Roy had disliked the restrictions of his family’s rules, but he had loved his family. She tried to release the anger that was eating her, but she knew it would take time. On her way out the door, John handed her a fat envelope containing enough money to cover the entire funeral. She heard whispers that Joseph’s truck was sold for the money. It felt dirty in her hand, but she knew she must live on her savings for a long time. As they got in their vehicles for the drive to the cemetery, she noticed two things: David looked as though he had endured a severe beating and several of the other brothers were glaring at her. She felt very cold in that moment and wrapped her shawl closer around her. After the graveside service, she wanted to leave quickly, but was delayed by protocol and funeral etiquette. As she was getting ready to leave at last, David caught her eye. He kept glancing at a bush he was standing next to and then back to her. She saw something white at the base of the bush and understood what he was signaling. She nodded and he turned to leave. She waited a few minutes and told her parents, “I’ll be out in a minute. I just need a second alone here.” They left her and she ran over to the bush to retrieve the white object. It was a hand written note from David.
Anna, I’m real sorry for evrything my family done put you thru. They are set in their ways, you know. My brothers got real mad at me for tellin you that it was Joseph. Look, for your own safty don’t never come to Platzville agin. I mean, my brothers are sayin real horrible stuff about using their gun on you cause you desterbed our way of life. Sorry. David.
It took a moment to read his note with his fourth grade education being evident. She felt a chill once again and ran to her parents’ car. Once in the car, her parents asked if she was alright. She nodded and stuffed the letter in her purse. She didn’t want anyone to know about this. She thought if she told them about it they could become targets as well. The Mullers had already left the cemetery, but David’s cut and bruised face was seared in her memory. “Poor David, he risked a lot to tell me the truth.”She tried to sit up tall in the back seat of the car and pretend to be brave, but the reality was that she was scared. It hit her squarely that perhaps Roy’s death had not been an accident. Even with a scope that wasn’t right, how could he aim for a tree and hit a person instead? The thought made her shiver and she had to shift in her seat to avoid the uncomfortable feeling that was overtaking her. “Will they do this to David, or was the beating enough? Why doesn’t John step in and get his boys in line? Maybe he condones the whole business.” Her thoughts were raging. When they were home, she excused herself and went to bed. Sleep would not come, though, because she was so frightened by the thoughts that had challenged her earlier.
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