I pulled the Buick to a stop outside Atticus' house. The sun was just setting over the Maycomb rooftops. There were a lot of memories here, but on this evening, the dusty streets of home felt hostile. It was the first time in years I'd been back, and I didn't think very many people in this town would welcome me anymore. From Atticus' letters, it didn't seem like too much had changed over the years. Maycomb was still that old, tired town which I remember well. As I stepped out of the car, I felt a heavy weight pressing down on my shoulders. I looked down the street, at all of the houses of those I had once called neighbours. It was hard to think that this was the street upon which we walked home from school every day, that this was the street where Atticus shot the rabid dog, that this was the street where we were almost killed by Bob Ewell... This street that was once our whole world had become only a single place, frozen in a single moment of time that was our childhood.
Atticus appeared at the front door. "Jem."
Things were different now. I'd committed a cardinal sin against all of Maycomb when I married a Negro and moved to Brooklyn to study law. I was a lawyer now, with a very respectable practise in the heart of New York. In Brooklyn, people were starting to accept blacks as their equals. New York was flowing with individuality, but I was certain it would be many decades before the acceptance I had found in Brooklyn made its way here. Maycomb was stubborn and set in it ways, and that was why I felt so out of place here. When I had married Pearl, Aunt Alexandra had said that by marrying a nigger, I would be cursing the family entirely. I have never heard from any of my extended family since that day.
In a way, if I had stayed in Maycomb, I would truly have been cursing my family. There was an unbelievable amount of prejudice in my hometown. When I think back to the day of the trial, I can vaguely remember discussing the sad fates of Dolphus Raymond's family. He had a coloured woman, and mixed children, who didn't belong anywhere. Some of the mixed children had left Maycomb and gone north, where they would be more accepted. That's why I decided to go to Brooklyn. I want to give my children fair opportunities in life. People are generally much more tolerant in the north.
I walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door for Pearl Robinson Finch, and our children, and I led them up the porch to stand in front of my father.
"Atticus," I greeted.
His face broke into a smile. "It's good to see you," he said, welcoming us into the house. The children went first, peeking up at their grandfather with wide eyes. It was the first time they had seen each other face-to-face. Tom was the oldest; we had named him after Pearl's father. The little girl was Kathleen and we had named the youngest Atticus.
When we were seated in the old, familiar lounge room, the new housekeeper brought us tea. Cal had gone to be with the Good Lord a few years back, and Atticus now employed Zeebo's wife to help him around the house. When she had served us, she shepherded the children into the kitchen.
"How are things in Brooklyn?" asked Atticus.
"It's alright," I replied. "There are a few cases I would like to discuss with you later. Tom's just started school, he dislikes it as much as Scout used to."
"And how is your sister?"
"Oh, she's doing fine! I've met up with Scout and Dill a few times; they're working on a book together. Pity they'll get together, because he's homosexual," I said.
Atticus leaned back in his chair and reminisced. "Remember when Scout fought with Francis because of the Robinson case? You children went through so much." He addressed Pearl, "I'm glad your mother Helen is doing so well these days."
Pearl nodded. "I appreciate you writing to Jem about First Purchase and my family, it helps me not miss them so much."
"Jem," Atticus continued, "You might be interested to know that I saw Arthur Radley the other day. He's still the same man that you'd remember. So much is still the same, things change slowly in Maycomb." My father had a far away look in his eye. "Things will change though, however slowly."