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Heart of the South (continued from preceding page)
 to me from the changeling Annie. After each phrase one note stood alone and left over. In my mind I could see Lureen like a gold-haired angel riding that left over note and I knew it was intended for her voice. I shut my eyes tight for the words to arrive, trying to bring Lureen back but she resisted like water
on wax. Still I was very excited. I played it over and over and then a voice floated up from below the open window.
“There’s a single.”
I stood away from the window.
“Look, write the words on these sheets hanging on the clothes line like unlined paper.”
Sure enough, Miss Annie was hanging laundry. I could see it when my walking blues had circled me back to the sill and I peered over the edge.
“I am not communicating with you anymore. Tell me when the bus is come so I can leave.” Though it is not my way to shout at a woman, I had been driven to the brink of civility.
“That’s what the music feels too. It wants to leave but it don’t.”
At that I shut that window tight and for want of any way else to express my feelings I sat down to write Miss Annie Sugar a letter to drop from the window and stop her torment of me.
Instead I wrote the lyrics to the song. It was as quick in coming as a squirrel getting into a pine and when it was done it showed up every other thing we had ever called a song. Just to provoke the devil I sang it as loud as I could so she could hear the value of it but not have any of the gain. I hollered that single until I was hoarse. I flung the guitar on the bed then, trem- bling with happiness and rage.
I believed I had not slept but for a few minutes but when I awoke the sun was dropping behind the treetops. I went downstairs and there was Miss Annie in her rocker on the porch. She looked at me and I looked at her. The rope was lying coiled around in a careless manner and she was holding a bit of it in the lap of her skirt. She looked so worn out and forlorn and yet so defiant and scared, it would take less of an orphan than myself to turn a cold back. I dropped my duffle but remained standing.
“Miss Annie,” I said, “What do you remember?”
“We had a picnic.”
“What do you remember of last night?”
“I was cold on the porch, so Constance brought me in.”
“That is all?”
“I was so cold.”
I sat and put my head in my hands. My hair had grown mighty long in the time I’d been here, and
I wound my hands in the curls like I used to in the squares of the crocheted blanket.
“Annie,” I said finally, taking a pencil out of my pocket, “How about I write down everything you say, and you will hear yourself what you ask for in the sei- zure that comes on you.”
She barely had time to nod her head before Connie came out the front door to tie the rope.
Now whatever I had seen as a whipped orphan or as a near child in a wild country band paled in compari- son to what came next. Annie was not the howling, raging she-devil of the night before. She was a lady. She was a queen. In the finest words available she mocked me and my betrothed and our ambitious love. When her curses came to no account once more she sang. The songs sounded like the natter a child hears at his mammy’s knee but twisted with remorse and grief. Yet even that would have been a bearable thing if not for a singular effect. Through some trick of the forcing of a voice from her frame her hair loosed and flowed, and her skin went china with need. Her eyes were slanted like a cat and when they opened wide on the high notes, there were depths like the settings and streams in the green woods, green as willow. As for the rest I draw shade on it, out of respect. Her clothes were not fit for her now and
so they fell away. Naked Annie was more beautiful than sin.
Again I ended the night dragging myself to bed up the miserable stairs and again I dreamed. When I came downstairs and saw my face in the little mirror
by the door I started at the sight of this desperate stranger so suddenly appeared in the isolated woods. In the parlor Annie was sitting at the piano. I sat next to her with the notebook but when she leaned to look I slapped the brown folder shut. She waited patiently, not pressing me. She had no idea what a mirror I could hold to her if I chose. Just to gain a moment for

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