Washed Clean

There were very few reasons I was excited to head back to Georgia. As various outlets continued to report the news of mutilated bodies, all women, and all naked, washing up on the banks of the Satilla River, I suddenly couldn’t wait. I had always been a sucker for the dark and dangerous; and the sordid, wicked tales of verses carved in blood, washed clean in the brackish waters of the lowcountry proved no exception. I generally dreaded the long stays at the overbearing family compound. The seemingly endless week spent at the suffocating homestead I had married into, where foreigners dwelled who deigned to live with perpetually open doors, a land in which knocking was considered too stiff a boundary to observe. In this place of southern Baptist tradition, a set of Calvary Chapel tapes is considered the antidote to all of life’s problems, so long as you’re on enough drugs to listen to them.

When in Camelot, you pretend to be one of the Kennedys. Or something like that. So, on Sunday morning, it’s customary to attend church at the compound’s personal chapel. I sit uncomfortably next to my Father in Law in one of the ancient wooden pews. Sam continuously refuses to respect our family’s position on religion. Of course, he blames me, maybe because I’m openly secular and believe religion is a personal choice, or, as I’ve often considered, perhaps he’s tortured and resents my honesty. Either way, on this particular morning, the message appears to be of the usual fare: Adam was sleeping, the snake tricked Eve, Eve ate the fruit because she’s stupid and gullible, therefore human birth hurts, therefore women are evil. At last we adjourn, knowing full well that the only good woman is a dead woman, plenty of which have been found along the root littered banks of the river recently.

I mull this thought over, even as we eat and I dutifully (and repeatedly) refuse the meat. The verses. What were they? I decide to take a look at the local newspapers. The Bible verses, which were carved into the twelve women’s breasts and buttocks, many of them the same, are listed in The Florida Times-Union. Most seem to refer to virtuous women, or the inherent dangers of affiliating with women who do not “feareth the Lord.” As I sit reading, Sam walks up, and in his usual fashion, finds it necessary to warn me of my impending doom. “That preacher today made a good point, you know it? Evil disguises itself. And if you can’t recognize evil people, you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” You will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. Proverbs? Horrified, I close the paper and struggle with the realization that Sam has been playing God. All those sins, the many lessons conveyed in the blood of unvirtuous women, were now washed clean by him in the dark, murky waters of the Satilla.

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