On her pad, Cheryl notes that Jamie always seemed scared. Before they moved into their house in Tight Bark Hollow, he would sleep without complaint in his baby bed. From the first day in his new bedroom, however, he would stand at the end of the bed and cry. She finally gave up and let him sleep in a playpen in the living room. When Jeremy was born, Jamie agreed to sleep with the baby in what is now their room. Even then he would climb out of bed and run through the house in a panic. When Cheryl or Elison would catch him and hold him, he would grunt and point. He would not wake up, but his eyes were wide open, and they held a look of sheer terror. One night, when he was 4 or 5, he fled out onto the porch, and the front door locked behind him. The cold air awakened him, and he pounded on the front door, crying. Jamie never remembered any of these things in the morning. Cheryl recalls thinking at the time, "Something's wrong." Jamie's doctor said: "They're just night scares. He'll outgrow them." She does not think he ever did. Only a year ago, the family had come back from a vacation that Jamie missed because of work and discovered he had been sleeping in the living room with the lights on. "He thought he could see and hear something," she notes on the clipboard, "that we could not see or hear."
She jots down too that Jamie always has been remarkably shy, even withdrawn. Since he was a child, he had walked with his head down and had spoken without looking others in the eye. As recently as his last performance review at his after-school job, his supervisor had told him that he needed to be more outgoing with customers. Jamie always has been remarkably quiet as well. She recalls her own father saying, "You don't even know he's there." Often, she recalls, she and Elison have had a hard time knowing just what Jamie is feeling. Only rarely does he show emotion. In Elison's upbringing, men do not hug and men do not cry; Cheryl cannot remember the last time Jamie had done either one.
"It wasn't that I wasn't able to experience emotions -- it was that I didn't want to. I'd feel like I didn't know how to handle them. I pretty much wanted to hold them back -- tuck them in." One night, when Jamie was about 8 to 9, he dreamed that his father was whipping him.
He woke up crying. "So he come in there and whipped me for crying. I got bruises." Three or four years later, when Adam was 1 or 2, the family was eating dinner. "Adam started crying. And my dad went over, I remember, and picked him up by the arm and dragged him off the floor, because Adam was crying. (Dad) whipped him with a belt. And I knew from that, Dad didn't want us to cry. I don't remember crying after that."
He started seeing things when he was 6 or 7. "I remember seeing something kind of go through the hallway, and I go back and there wasn't nothing there. It was like a shadow. I always felt a little bit like it was a ghost."
When he was 11 or 12, he learned from a neighbor that the previous owner of the house had killed himself in the boys' bedroom by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun. "I'd be laying there, and I would feel a kind of tap-tapping on my shoulder. I would shiver and hide under the covers. Kind of like a chill. You know how sometimes they say a goose walks over your grave? The only thing I could think of was that guy that killed himself. I'd think it was his ghost. Even after I was 17, I was still scared to be alone at night, especially in our room. I felt something -- an evil presence."
He started hearing voices when he was 8. "I remember laying there at night, and it wasn't like the voices were talking to me, it was kind of like there was voices whispering among themselves. You couldn't really understand what they was saying."
He started having panic attacks when he was 6 or 7. "I'd wake up, and I would pace the floor in the living room. But I would not realize what I had done until morning. When I woke up, I would remember getting up and walking, but I wouldn't remember what I was panicky about."
Elison finds he can no longer drive and listen to country music; he cannot handle songs about heartache. He finds it hard to drive alone; he spends a lot of time on the shoulder of the road crying. When he tries to choke it back, it distracts him. Ronnie Bledsoe pairs him with other drivers hauling loads to the same place. The other drivers talk to him on their radios. When they stop for coffee, they talk to him face to face. Never far from Elison's mind is the day when the phone rang in his truck and Ronnie had not told him the whole truth about why he had to go to Richland School. So now whenever Ronnie telephones, he spells out exactly when the call is about: "It's not an emergency," he will say, for instance, "but you need to call Cheryl because you need to be in court tomorrow morning."