Ms. Josephine’s Shop.
17 seconds later . . .
Ms. Josephine already had three chairs set out around the small wooden table of smoking things. She always seems to know what we’re up to. No matter how clever and devious we think we are, she’s one step ahead of us.
“’ello, boys,” she says politely, bringing us small cups of something that might or might not be tea.
“Is this going to make me infertile?” Ricky jokes.
“’Opefully,” Ms. Josephine answers as we head back to our rickety thatched seats.
We sit, and for a couple of seconds nobody says anything. I sip at the tea-like substance, wondering what she’ll say. She looks across the table at both of us and laughs to herself.
“What kind of mess are we?” And then she smiles. A big, grand, full-on smile. And I realize that I’ve never actually seen this side of her. She looks so pleasant and nice that I have a hard time connecting this glowing face with the woman who communes with the dead and chops up live animals to make skin paint.
“Ms. Josephine,” I start, “I want to know where you stand on all of this.”
“But it ain’t my decision, child. Whatever you decide to do, I’ll be on your side.”
“I understand,” I tell her. “And that is a comfort. But I want to know how you feel about all of this. I mean, this is really your field of expertise.”
She put her elbows up on the table, her chin sinking into her hands as she contemplated. “I’m worried about all of dis. I’m concerned dat we don’t ’ave all of da facts.”
This is not what I expected to hear her say. Definitely not what I wanted to hear from her.
“We have the book, we’ve read it cover-to-cover,” Ricky said. “Well, he has.”
She nodded, “I understand dat. But, to me, it feels like somethin’ is missin’. I can’t put my finger on it. I’ve been listenin’ to the other side da last couple days . . . and da voices is quiet, right now. And dey ain’t never been quiet before. Dat bothers me.”
Yeah, me too. What would put a gag order on the Deadsiders?
“. . . But den,” she says, her eyes lighting up, her face softening, “. . . I know you love dis girl, Kristen.”
“I feel like I have to save her . . . to save all of them. I think this is what I am supposed to do with my life.” I try explaining this to them, but I’m sure I butchered it along the way.
“Well, den,” Ms. Josephine says, “we just need to be sure we’ve done everythin’ possible to ensure you make a safe trip.” She ponders something and then asks me, “Are you absolutely sure dat you ‘aven’t missed nothin’ in dat Book of Sighs? Cause, dat’s really all we got to go on.”
“I’ve read every translated page. I guess we could go back and read it all again. Just to be safe.”
“Do dat,” she said, “cause tomorrow will be ‘ere before you know it. And once you go, dere ain’t no turnin’ back.”
“Do you think this is going to be dangerous?” Ricky asked.
“. . . Boys,” she said, “every time you step across da plane between da livin’ and da dead, you take a chance on never returnin’. Each voyage you make could be for eternity. So dat is somethin’ you got to take into consideration when makin’ a decision like dis. Eternity.”
I’m going to tell them I’ll help. I’ll do whatever I can. If this is my calling—and I think that it is—then I don’t really have a choice in the matter.
“. . . No,” Ms. Josephine said, “. . . I don’t suppose you do. None of us do.”
Then she stood up, and stretched her arms, yawning, “Go on ‘ome, boys. Get your rest. Tomorrow is goin’ be a big day.”