Raylan Givens’ granddaddy was a baptist preacher. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.
He built the house Raylan was raised in. The one before it was ripped apart by a twister, a strong one, not cowed by the hills and the hollers. Raylan heard once his granddaddy would tell people it was the hand of God, smackin’ him upside the head. He’d had a conversion, you see.
Raylan doesn’t remember his granddaddy. He died of the black lung, from the ten years he spent in the mine, before God rang him up. He lived just long enough to raise a shotgun to Arlo’s chest when he said he wouldn’t marry Frances after he put a baby in her.
Arlo was raised not to speak ill of the dead. Arlo was raised to live right, too, and not drink and go to church. Raylan hears too many bad things from Arlo’s mouth about his granddaddy for Raylan to believe them. Everyone else says he was a good man, a righteous one.
Raylan hears from old church ladies in hushed voices that Raylan’s granddaddy married a loose woman, one that wouldn’t follow him into the arms of Christ. Arlo never speaks his mother’s name and Raylan assumes she’s dead now, though she didn’t pass in Harlan. There’s no other gravestone with a woman’s name on it than Frances.
Arlo said once in his cups something about cornbread like his mama used to make, so Raylan knows he knew her. He hit Frances for asking how she’d made it so she could do it the same. Everyone knew never to ask about her again after that.
Raylan heard from his mama’s brother, who heard from his daddy or uncle or somebody, that Reverend Givens and his wife didn’t suit, not before the tornado and not after. She took the beatings and the running around and the drinking, she gave them in kind, but she couldn’t take the church. Maybe it was the hypocrisy. Raylan was pretty sure that’s what turned Arlo.
Raylan remembers Arlo would spit at the feet of the new reverend if he passed him on the street. Raylan didn’t ever go to church as a child, but he’d listen to Frances talk about it, listen to her read the bible too. He still believes in God, for her sake more than for his own. Raylan knows Arlo hates God, more on account of his daddy than anything else that ever happened to him.
He worshipped his booze and his money and his own cleverness instead, what little he had of any of it.
Helen used to say Arlo and Frances didn’t suit. That’s what she’d tell Raylan when he asked why Daddy was always so mad. She wouldn’t say, but Frances had a baby in her and Arlo had a preacher for a daddy. She wouldn’t say, much later, that Arlo picked the wrong sister to screw first. Raylan figured it out.
From what Raylan hears, Arlo never talks to Frances in prison, only Helen, until he starts talking to God too and descends into clear senility.
He visits the man once when they put him in the prison hospital for good. It’s visiting hours and Boyd is there. He hears Arlo call him Raylan, say he’s sorry again. It slides off Raylan’s back like any other insult or injury. He’s frankly not surprised.
He stands in the doorway and looks at the machines, the tubes running in and out of him, this frail old man. He’s unrecognizable. He feels pity he can’t push away.
He pulls a photo out of his wallet and hands it to Boyd, who looks at it and smiles.
“Tell him who it is and that he ain’t never gonna see him, all right? I just... thought he should know, if he can.”
“I’m sure it’ll make him smile, Raylan.”
“I’m sure I don’t care. He’ll probably think he’s yours.”
Boyd bites back something, a retort, maybe even some kind of apology. He looks at the photo again. “His mother’s a beautiful woman, Raylan. How is it you let her go?”
He’s not surprised Boyd still has his nose in his affairs enough to know that.
Raylan shrugs, his eyes falling to the man in the bed. “Wasn’t nothing either of us could do after a point. We just didn’t suit.”