I ran into Jimmy Grant after he got out of prison, about a week before he went over the bank into the river. He seemed kind of shy, you know, ashamed to see me again or something. I was surprised to see him back in Halo after—what was it, five or six years? We didn’t say much, just “Hello, good to see you,” and “Well, I gotta get going,” kind of stuff.
It’d been so long.
We met in high school when I was the new girl in town. My cousin Becky was dating his friend, Logan Stimson, and we double dated a little, me and him and Becky and Logan. We’d go out to the flats at end of Gagnier Creek Road for keggers sometimes or just spending time driving around on the back roads like teenagers do and, well, of course, parking and making out.
Logan was kind of a jerk—him and Becky broke up after a couple months—but Jimmy was always nice and he always had weed which, in a town like Halo, was two good things to like about him so we kept dating for a while after Becky and Logan stopped running around with each other. I remember Jimmy telling me once, a couple years after we broke up, “There’s no way to make money around here but selling weed or working in the woods—and I hate working in the woods.”
He was a couple years older than me and it was after I finally got out of high school that he started doing crank and selling it to the local tweakers. There’s always been meth around here, what with all those guys working graveyard at the mill and such. There’s those bikers too, the Lost Souls, who came up from California when things got too hot for them down south. And, you know that recession hit really hard around here, and people started getting weird, with everybody out of work and the whole town emptying out as people went looking for jobs.
I don’t know what-all got to Jimmy. Like I said, we stopped hanging out together back before I graduated from Halo High, but I guess he had his troubles like everyone else and it probably felt like it helped somehow. So, yeah, from what I was hearing, he got strung out pretty bad and then he got in trouble for the robbery.
Him and Logan busted into some old people’s house out Franklin Hill way, stuck a gun in their faces and made off with what they could take, an old gun and a little cash and a credit card. They were in such a hurry that Logan got his car stuck in the ditch across the road from the house they’d just robbed. Jimmy took off across the fields but they caught Logan hiding in the blackberries because he’d stayed behind too long trying to get his car back on the road and he ended up telling the cops that Jimmy that had talked him into it. So, Jimmy was a wanted man for a few months.
I met up with Jimmy about a week before they finally pulled him over on the highway. He was staying at his cousin’s trailer house over in Tall Cedars and I dropped by to see Evan, Billy Grant’s wife. He looked terrible, kind of yellowy and worn-out. I couldn’t believe that he was still in town at all, what with the cops looking for him, and Halo’s not a hard place to find people what with everyone being up in everyone’s stuff all the time. I tell you, if I was in trouble with the cops like that I’d be over the border in California in an hour and a half. It’s only a hundred miles from here you know. I thought it was weird that he hadn’t done that, run off to a city somewhere where nobody knew him, but later on, Skip Newson explained that if Jimmy went to somewhere where nobody knew him he wouldn’t have been able to score his crank and wouldn’t have had anyone to sell it to for the money it takes to buy it. So, I guess it made some kind of sense that way.
No one knows what happened when he got killed—some kind of an accident, driving too fast maybe or he swerved to miss hitting a deer or somebody’s cow—that kind of stuff happens sometimes around here. It took a few days for someone to notice the wreck. I didn’t go to the funeral or anything but it was kinda sad, you know, hearing about it and wondering if he might have done OK or not.
I’ve still got a little pink teddy bear he won me at Settler’s Days throwing baseballs at bowling pins. I really don’t know why I hung on to that, I just did.
Robert Leo Heilman is the award-winning author of three books of literary non-fiction. He lives in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and writes occasionally for The Daily Yonder. Robert recommends UCAN Food Bank and the Douglas County Library Foundation.