‘Ah advise you, BB,’ drawled her father. ‘Y’Uncle Geary is a legend fo’ all the wrong reasons. He int no man of God, and he don’t foller scripture.’
‘But he don’t get any visitors Reverend.’ said BB.
‘Non-sense,’ said her father. ‘For a year he had a ho-mo-sex-yew-al livin’ in his home.’
‘The Lutheran church says that is OK, and you know it…’
‘Not the Missouri Synod!’
‘And besides. Uncle Geary is not G-A-Y Rever…’
The Reverend rose from his chair in the church office. ‘That’s enough child! Ah will strike you. Ah will!’ He raised his hand in gesture but took no steps towards BB, who stood calmly, ten feet away.
‘I wish to see him. He is your brother.’
The Reverend sat down heavily in the chair and ran his hand through his grey buzz cut. ‘I have others.’ He bit his thumbnail. ‘Better ‘an him.’
The Reverend had been striking BB since she was born, when she first came out blue. She had a congenital heart disease, later corrected by a surgeon in St. Louis. In the delivery room, her father had suspected a blockage in the lungs and felt he had an immediate role to play. He leapt in, pulled the mite from the arms of the nurse and struck it hard. The baby cried, as did the nurse, who caught a sharp elbow in the breast by mistake, but the little girl remained inexplicably blue for six months.
She was the first child to be born in a generation to the Millers. No siblings followed. No cousins existed. She was baptised Anne May Miller, but in a rare moment of community levity, the county bishop had suggested she looked just like a blueberry. The gathered family of churchwardens, pastors, counsellors and well-meaning congregation members – God fearing but holding no religious status within the church polity – had allowed themselves to laugh at the bishop’s comical observation. Blueberry had stuck, out of respect for both the bishop and the only recorded joke in the Synod’s history. It never sat comfortably with the Reverend and his wife, who had always felt slightly ridiculed by the event, and it was shortened to BB.
‘D’you plan to see the Pres’dent, Annie?’ asked Uncle Geary.
BB sat at the breakfast table in her uncle’s kitchen, eating toast and eggs. ‘It depends on the weather,’ she said. ‘I find it practically impossible to maintain my temperature in this summer heat. If I have to be outside, it just means having to carry too many layers, and getting my drink at just the right temperature, which means carryin’ foil. Then there are hats to consider, for sun and wind, and if it rains… Do you mind if I pull the window to a little?’
She got up to adjust the window. A little more open, too breezy. A little more closed, too stuffy. There. Just right.
‘Your daddy called me las’ night.’
‘What did he say?’ asked BB, sitting down.
‘Oh he don’t say nothin’ much to me. He never has much to say to me. To him, ah’m too full o’ words he don’t wanna hear. He just said you bin here too long, that you has done your charitable duty to those who live outside of God’s love, and you need to get back to Hartville.’ BB scratched the back of her neck. ‘Do you wanna go back to Hartville?’ he asked.
‘Is there a door open in the hallway?’
‘No. I closed the doors Annie.’
‘I believe I will go to see the President,’ said BB. ‘But when I go away from here, you best come and see me Uncle Geary, on account of how much influence you have had on me this past four months.’
‘Child, I will come see you. I promise you that. That will be a continuation of my human duty.’
‘BB. You have a visitor. It’s your father.’
BB was led from her cell in the Women’s Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center, and taken through to the visitor’s room.
As she walked with the warden, she asked, ‘Miss Michelle, is there any news on a fan for my room? This is my third requisition. The room is so damn hot, as you know, and I cannot control the heat.’
‘Through here BB.’ Michelle held the door open. ‘I’ll speak to the wing officer.’
‘Thank you Michelle. I’d appreciate that.’
BB walked across the room and sat down opposite her father. She stared at him coldly through the glass.
‘Bless me father for I have sinned.’
Slowly he raised his old, trembling hand and gently touched the glass.
They looked at each other for a long time.
He spoke slowly, his voice dry and cracked. ‘Only child, what’d we do wrong?’
She shook her head and sighed. ‘Truth is Daddy, I guess this all started before I was born. When others before you were building the pillars of your faith, and your intolerance and all. You was no more in control of how I would end up acting any more than you was in control when I was named Blueberry. It ain’t your fault.’
‘Was you really gonna kill the Pres’dent? I mean…’
‘Oh yes Daddy, I was. But a little gust blew right inside my shawl as I got close enough to shoot, and so I just had to pull out my little wind jacket, and that’s when I shot his wife by mistake.’ She blinked. ‘How is Uncle Geary?’
The Reverend looked down, his head sunk low, speaking to the backs of his hands spread out flat on the table counter.
‘He’ll get no visitors. His gun is in the church as a reminder to those who would waiver from scripture and give up good thought an’ deed.’
He remained in this position for some time. Eventually he looked up, his eyes red.
BB was disappearing through the door at the end of the room.