Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Portia has waited for six weeks for Willieís letter. She has stopped taking care of herself and often drinks. She has asked countless times if her father has heard of anyone who knows anything of Willie. Finally, one day she comes to his house early before work. It is the last week of February. She comes in very drunk. She tells him she is not going to work and he suddenly knows very bad news is coming. He begins to shake and has trouble hearing her. She tells him that last night, some of Willieís friends came to see her. One was Buster Johnson, a man who was in jail with Willie. He told her that there were three of them that had gotten to be friends. A white guard was always picking on them, and one day Buster answered back to the guard and the other of their friends had tried to run. The guards took all three of them to an ice-cold room about six weeks ago.
As Portia talks, Doctor Copeland cannot hear her. He can only hear the song of her grief as she tells the story. The guards tied the menís feet up to the ceiling and left them lying on their backs. Their feet became severely swollen and then froze. The men called out for three days for help and none came. Finally, when they cut the ropes, all three menís feet had to be amputated. Portia begins to strike her head on the table regularly. Doctor Copeland can only ask again if William is crippled. They sit at the table looking into each otherís eyes holding hands.
She decides to go to work and he follows her. When they get to the Kellyís kitchen, he sits in the corner unable to hear anything thatís going on. He waits for the anger to come to him but it doesnít come. He listens as Portia tells the story again. Mick tries to give him coffee, but he doesnít answer her. Mick says she wishes she could get some people together to go over and kill the prison guards. Portia scolds her softly, saying itís not a Christian way to talk and that when they die "they going to be chopped up with pitchforks and fried everlasting by Satan." When Mr. Singer comes in, Doctor Copeland looks up at him and asks if he has heard about it. Singer nods his head. Unlike all the others, Singer doesnít have horror or pity in his face.
When they get him to the jail, Doctor Copeland fights them fiercely. Finally he is kicked in the groin and thrown into an overcrowded and stinking cell. He cannot get warm and he cannot think of William. The next morning, he is released. Portia scolds him for going to a "white folksí courthouse" and advises that the best thing for them to do is to "keep our mouth shut and wait."