[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first thing you ought to know about Robert was that he never looked you in the eye when he spoke. It was too much. Daddy said it was because Robert had been to prison as a young man.
Robert had pure white hair, old skin, and he smoked like a chimney. Often, he’d show up to our farm early for work, with a gift for me. Once, he gave me a notepad. Every page had a handwritten scripture coinciding with a calendar date.
“Used to read this every day,” Robert said. “Brought me a lot of good.” He tapped his forehead. “Got it memorized now.”
“You memorized all this?”
He nodded. “Go ahead. Test me.”
I flipped to a page. “April seventh?”
Robert stared at the sky, concentrating. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.”
I turned to another. “February second.”
“Greater is He that is in thee, than he that is in the world.”
Then, I thumbed to my birth date.
Robert closed his eyes. “Have I not commanded thee, be strong and of good courage; and neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
I wrinkled up my face. “Huh?”
“It means you don’t have to be afraid.”
“I guess it’s my verse, it falls on my birthday.”
Robert rolled up his sleeve to show a wrinkled forearm. Crude purplish ink words ran lengthwise along his arm. “I can guaran-damn-tee you, the verse is true, son.”
Well, he ought to have known.
Because it was Robert’s verse too.