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Heart of the South (continued from preceding page) gave her eyes a sad cast.
To cheer her up I told her about getting drunk in Tulsa and how I woke up with a whopper, firmly be- lieving the devil had set that sun like a shot of tequila right on the horizon to mock me. I said, “The General especially liked it and wanted more of the same for his granddaughter.”
“I have not seen Lureen since she was a little girl.”
“Ma’am, she is mighty grown up now.”
I liked the old woman, but I was mostly stricken by her knowledge. She could pick and name over ten thousand tunes all bundled by style and geography like the knives and forks in the kitchen drawers. What I did not like was how the rain came down in upended buckets, day and night. I frankly couldn’t see how a sane man, or an honest woman could last ten days in such landscape. I shook my head to hear Miss Annie praise the forest or compliment those freaks
of stone. When the day arrived that I woke up and thought Lord why is Connie shining a light in my eyes blinding me it took a full minute for me to realize it was the sun.
The sun. I didn’t even bother to wash but went straight down to the porch. It wasn’t hot but it was wonderful. I raised my hands out to it as if it was the slender waist of Lureen when I put my arms around her and feel her life force as fierce and yel- low as a yolk.
“Connie,” I said, “Look at here! Don’t Miss Sugar want to come out? We can eat breakfast on the porch.”
He opened the door at my words, looked around and then disappeared back into the house.
He returned with a basket and Miss Annie, who was all smiles. She said we could take our meal into the woods. I would have bolted but Miss Annie stopped and made me go get a pencil. “Carl, you’re a songwrit- er now. Don’t go anywhere without the instrument of your talent.”
We set off down a path that led away from the home- stead so merrily we might’ve left Connie behind, but he was stronger than he looked. Even lugging the bas- ket of grub, he kept right up without missing a beat.
Annie led us deeper and deeper into the green woods. I was sorry to lose the yellow sky but the sights
down trail more than made up for the loss. Where we walked the ground silenced our footsteps like on a
velvet carpet. Moss curled down from the trees like hair, draping the hillocks and between the legs of stones. There were narrow alters of waterfalls spill- ing into the seeded spring. Enormous, electrocuted logs lay crisscrossed like discarded toothpicks and under the dense canopy the ground smelled as cold as the hour before dawn.
The deeper we went the sprightlier Annie became. She took my hand to bring me faster, stopping only to point out where a yellow-faced flower peeped between two crevices. When we crossed a creek she lifted her skirt so as not to drench the hem and I saw her legs were strong and smooth as the round stones in the river.
We ate Connie’s huge lunch with laughs and jokes while he squatted close by, rolling a twig in his mouth. After our meal Miss Annie and I wandered toward an embankment. In Tennessee those boulders would have framed a cool limestone sink with no better invitation to strip and dive. But when we stood at the edge we found ourselves looking down into a virtual cauldron. It roared and hissed in a frantic race between the unmoving shores.
Annie smiled at me. Her eyes were beautiful. I said “Miss Annie...” but she put her finger to her mouth and motioned me to scramble down. Where our toes clung uneasy on the slippery mineral outcrop she leaned on my shoulder and spoke into to my ear but what she said was lost as a rock flew overhead and sunk into the watery chamber. It was Connie. He stood there a moment looking down at us and when he turned we went back up the hill, me a little behind Miss Annie.
By the time we got back to the cabin, the sun was almost down. We sat on the porch. Though it was splintered by moss and damp just to touch a rail made me remember my civilized home. Miss Annie sat behind me with Connie.
She said, all as mild as the air, “There is a thing you should know and not let it alarm you. Listen all the way out before you say yes or no.”
I was craning to see the last of the sunlight dropping behind the mountain, but I turned to her to see what she wanted.
“I am subject to fits,” said Miss Annie.
“I’m sorry.”
“Oh it isn’t anything to regret. I have been this way all

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