My girls’ school sits on a hill across the street from Little Seneca Lake, a reservoir that was created to provide an emergency water supply to the metro DC area. It started out as a creek but swelled and deepened so that now people can fish for channel catfish and tiger muskie in it. Today, Hadley, Harper, and I head to the water, and while the girls play, I sit on a hollowed out log and watch the water lap onto the shore.
Why concern myself with a fictional character like Bob Ewell, I think while Hadley peels bark off a stick and flicks the pieces into the water. Perhaps my time would’ve been better spent discussing theme or how the setting effects the plot. Hadley shows me her stick, completely bald, its wood smooth and bare.
“I’m going to take it home and paint it,” she tells me. “I’ll make it into something new.” She hands me the stick and I put it into my bag. I dig my heels into the damp dirt, twisting my feet and pressing my hands on my thighs so I delve deep into the ground. Fiction or not, I don’t know what to do with a guy like Bob Ewell. I’m not sure my students and I can unravel the mystery of a human being like him—both fearfully and wonderfully made. Maybe all I did this afternoon was tell them to look around in a darkness so deep their eyes will never adjust.
Hadley begins to toss rocks into the water and Harper lays down on the old tree trunk and hums. While we sit, I notice several bees streaming in and out of a nearby tree with a nook in it like the one Boo Radley puts gifts in for Jem and Scout. We are sitting a few feet from a hive, but I make no attempts to move. I will eventually, but when I do, I’ll have to be careful about how I do it because I don’t want Hadley and Harper to be afraid. If they learn about the bees, they won’t want to come back here. And I want them to come back here. I want them to believe they are safe to explore in this beauty.