“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!”

I’m called Punk Bole.

Been couple days now, since Daddy he brung me some eats and that jug o’ water.  My hands is free, I reckon I should be countin’ my blessin’s,  but he chain my ankle to the metal slats windin’ roun’ inside this place.  Some ol’ mine buildin’, from what I can figure.  If I was to pull real hard, shoot, the whole place’d come down in a heap o’rotted timbers, but these here rusted struts, they’d stan’ the test.  

Dang.  

Can’t be shore, but I’m planted out some’eres out to the quarry, but tossed here in middle o’the darkest night got my head twisted, and once I ‘llowed that was the case, my sense o’ di-rection went plum out the window.  Got me the sun, so got my easts an’ wests sorted.  But ‘cain’t hear nothin’ human, no trains chuggin’ nor horns a’blastin’.  I do hear some mysterious rustlin’ in them bushes yonder.  I get me the sweats thinkin’ what might be out there.  This here chain’s long enough I kin get out the door, do my business, but that’s ’bout all.  Brush and near dead ol’ trees hang theyselves heavy over this ol’ shack, doubt if even some keen-eyed hunter’d take notice.  

I’ll admit I am ‘fraid o’snakes.   These woods is full of ’em, copperheads, rattlers, filled will venom and vitrol.  

I stay inside.  And I ain’t slep’ much.

I am gettin’ hungry, howeve’.  Somethin’ awful, tell the truth.  Why I believe Daddy when he say he back soon, I don’t know, but I did.  Ain’t feelin’ no panic and pain’s most left where he manhandled me.  So here I sit, my insides eatin’ theyselves, water jug near empty. Waitin’ and hopin’ and imagin’in’ his promises to be ‘fore he drove off, jest what Texas, way aways away, what Texas will be like.

Sound little excitin’, and I picture me and him thick as thieves, gettin’ us cowboy hats and hittin’ it rich in them oll fields down the’eh.  Hear the sky reach clear down to the horizon, that they ain’t no lan’ a colored man cain’t buy and cultivate, ain’t no stoppin’ a man any color who want to work ha’d and wake hisself up early to do it a’gin.

I got me dreams, true.  An’ given I got all this time chained up out the middle o’nowhere, well, my dreamin’ gettin’ full o’ color and drama.  I meetin’ people in my head, give them names and houn’dogs and fav’rite movie stars.  In my mind, I spendin’ all that cash we get from workin’ that black gol’ shootin’ up to the top o’ the sky, and then some.  Bought me a right nice bay mare.  She get purtier ever’ time I think o’ her.

I ignore the man give birth to these here dreams, he be my long lost Daddy who I neve’ laid eyes on til month o’ two prior, when he introduce hisself to me with one beatin’ after another’n.  I put behind me the fac’ my Daddy, he lie to my Mama ’bout treatin’ me right.  I forget he kidnap me from the only place I got myself frien’s what brung me into they own fam’ly’s bosom.

I pay no heed he chain me up, leave me out alone, all them wood creatures eyein’ me as they own dinner.  

An’ then i comes back to my senses, and my hungry sense tops ’em all, don’t it?

So I sets my sights on what’d satisfy my empty belly best.  

Gold fried chicken, crusted up with saltine crackers?  My, that makes my mouth water.

Smashed ‘taters, swimmin’ in butter ‘n beef juices?  Law!

Bake beans latticed atop w’crisp cooked ham?  Take me home now, Lord Jesus!

Big fat fluffy white biscuits, sausage slice in the middle, steammin’ hot fresh from the oven?  Beat the drum, I goin’ crazy!

But the one thing, the very one and only one thing I loves the best on this whole of God’s earth, the onliest hunk o’ deliciousness what will set my head plum on far?

Dare I say it?  Dare I think it?  Fear I’ll fall to weepin’, but Lord, if you be up there an’ you be watchin’ over me much as you count the sparro’s flittin’ here and ’bout, well then, Lord?

Let that filthy son of a buck of a Daddy o’ mine, let him bring me ICE CREAM!  

I reckon I forgive him chainin’ me up like some two-bit dog, he come back bearin’ me ice cream! 

An’ even more so, I reckon I forgive nigh AN-thin’, he come bearin’ ice cream flavored pink star-berry...!

*************

“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!

If it smell like a pig, and it look like a pig, and why, it even act ‘n snort like a pig, that make it a pig, don’t it?

You’d think so, now, wudn’t you?

This here’s Punk Bole a’gin, and I got me a whole lot o’thinkin’ to do on my own behalf.

Daddy, he kidnap me, took me from the home what was my comfort and refuge, he snitch me up in the middle o’ the night and haul me off some’eres out to the woods, some ol’ dark, dank heap o’ tumbledown sticks, even worse’n what Mama and the kids live in down to town.

Daddy, he tell me he ain’t so much as kidnapped me, but say what?  He save me!  He save me?

He save me from what, ez-a’tly?

 

Daddy, he hog tie me, bound me wrist to ankle, stuffed my mouth so I couldn’t not make a soun’.

Daddy, he say he keepin’ me quiet so’s not disturb nobody, get ’em all het up and such.

He silence me for what?

 

Daddy, he throw me, alone and hungry, out to this ol’ broken down henhouse, leave me near a day, day and a half, no food, no water, till he jest show up with a bag o’fried chitlins, cold ham,  a half eat loaf o’bread, and sadness writ all over his face.

Daddy, he claim he got him a plan, he need me, we goin’ to Texas, drill fer o’ll, get us some cash, live us high on the hog.

He need me why?

 

Know how I tol’ y’all I has my way numbers and parsin’?  How they float ‘roun’ in my head and line up jest so, I can purt’near figure most an’thin’ you throw my way?

Well let me tell you, this jest don’ add up, it do not.

 

When 2 plus 2 don’t add up to 4, why, som’thin’, som’thin is wrong!

 

***********

 

 

“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!”

(Ain’t no paper, ain’t no pen, jest me, Punk Bole ‘memberin’ this in my head for later, when later does come….)

Dang, i’s dark out here.  Pitch.  No stars, no moon, no beacon nowheres ‘t’all.

Trussed up like a stuck hog, wrists to ankles, tossed back o’ some ol’ pickup truck smell’s o’ manure, bounced over ever’ pothole n’ mud pit n’ burrow n’ trench n’ cavity ‘n crater till I got no feelin’s whatsoever lef’ in my backside, much less my fingers ‘r toes.

For Daddy, he come foun’ me.  Took my eye off the ball, ‘t’s what Liam’d circumcise.  I’d plumb settled in, got me engaged and settled with the Goodwells,  n’ was actu’lly not payin’ no ‘ttention what was over my shoulder.

Gettin’ up ever’ mornin’, like reg’lar folk.

Doin’ my part with the chores needin’ doin’ ‘roun’ the place, then settin’ right there with the Goodwells for breakfast near’ ever’ mornin’.

Kneelin’ down to pray, holdin’ hands and squeezin’ our eyes tight, like the Goodwells are wont to do ever’ mornin’ ‘fore dispersin’.  Liam’s Grandpap has hisself a way with talkin’ to God, let me tell you.  Reckon even God hisself pays attention to what Liam’s Grandpap has to say.

Didn’t nobody send me to the schoolhouse, figured I’d be safe from harm stayin’ put on the farm, but things was quiet, I’d settle in to them books and papers Liam’d stick in a burlap sack and tote on back fer me.  Readin’ got right better, writin’ some, too.  Never did get me a challenge when it come to numbers, but I made up problems my ownself, like figurin’ the kernels o’corn out to the field, then sortin’ the ‘mount of fertilizin’ it’d take to grow them ears to a proper size, and what percent o’growth to ax-pec’.

Parsin’ like that.  Liam’s Daddy was particular impressed.

Once the family was all in once piece a’gin, come evein’, we’ll all haul ourselves back out and set to more chores, or jest shoot the breeze, which ain’t all bad.

Dinner’d come and go.  Didn’t once did we ever have us beans from a can, like I been used t’.  Nor Vienna sausages from a can.  Nor corn, nor beets, nor okra from no can.  Goodwell dinin’ was a plumb joy, a plumb joy.

Fam’ly’d then set t’ settin’ ‘roun’ the special livin’ room and share stores, old ones and new, Goodwell chil’ren tossed all over the place.  Why, they’d once or twice asked me to share a thing ‘r two, and once or twice, I did.

Then Liam’s Grandpap, he’d stretch real long and loud, endin’ with “Mercy!”  Then he’d hoist hisself from his creakin’ bentwood rockin’ chair.  ‘Twas the same signal ever’ night.  Time t’ retire, which was my fav’rite, near.  Them sof’ blankets and quilts Liam’s mama give me that first night, what, two or three or four weeks ago now?  They become like ol’ frien’s, smellin’ like me, and wadded up jest the way I like ’em.  I’d lay down careful, take me inventory o’ all my parts.  First, my legs and feet, they’d set to twitchin’, then they’d get heavy and tired.  Then my middle and my shoulders, they’d push hard down into the covers, ‘long with my arms, then my head.  Feelin’ like I was heavier than a couple bushel o’ dry grits, but at the same time, light as them puffs o’air comin’ from Liam’s brother Lincoln sleep breathin’.

I never in my life felt more at ease.

I never in my life was such a fool.

How he done it, I don’t know and I ain’t aimin’ to ask, but he stole hisself into the leanto we boys slept in, quiet as a church mouse.  Hand pushed hard over my mouth and nose, I couldn’t breathe no how, not one suck in nor suck out.  LIke a sack o’ taters, Daddy, he wisked me out the back door, silent, not a footfall, not a breath, run me all the way down the lane,  stuff some ol’ rag plumb down my throat, then tie me up and toss me back o’ this truck.

I tried hard to look in his eyes durin’ all this turmoil, determine my likelihood of livin’ ‘r dyin’.  He never once, not once, look me full on in the face.  I be countin’ my blessin’s, ‘spite my pains and jostlin’ back here, I ain’t bein’ bullied nor beat.  He ain’t belted me one, not yet.

But we been drivin’ fer what seem like ages and hours, and I’m feelin’ my chances o’ comin’ out unscathed slidin’ some’eres ‘tween slim ‘n none.

I be leanin’ toward none.

The truck, we be comin’ to a stop.

*************

Best play possum till I sorts this thing out.

Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!

To: Who it May Concern

From: Punk Bole

Been nea’ a week I been livin’ with the Goodwells out to the edge o’ Halesburg.  They been treatin’ me well, hardly asked hardly any questions, but I’ll admit, after a good meal and some quiet time, I offered up my own explanations to why I was so bruised and cut up that very first night.

Didn’t tell them the full extent.  Tol’ them the truth, jest not the whole of it.  They all, even the chil’ren, they all jest nodded and harumphed and the girls, they even wiped them a tear ‘r two.

Now, I don’t merit no pity, let me be clea’.  I stood up fer m’se’f, didn’t always take Daddy’s vi’lence lyin’ down.  Makin’ it worse on m’se’f was a decision o’ my own makin’.  Somehow, though, it give me some equanimity.

Learnt that word from Liam jest this day.  Mean’s “fair ‘n squa’e” and bein’ it rolls ‘roun’ the tongue right nice,  I aim to use it of’en.

I’d come to these Goodwells late of an evenin’, but ‘stead of parkin’ me out to the barn, cushed up in the soft hay, hearin’ the snorts and snores of them horses inside and them cattle out, (which that there wouldn’t be the worse thing ever happened to me), that Mama o’ thern, she push by me whist I was eatin’ my fill o’ biscuits and cold fried chicken at the table, loaded to her nose with blankets and down.  Her and her man, Liam’s daddy, they piled me down a pallet in the boys’ leanto, off to the edge of the front room.

I stick to the edge, near a em’ty corner, don’t want to be stepped upon nor in the way.  But shore ‘cain’t say I ever been treated more like a king, or at least a prince o’ some sort.

Well, that there may be some exaggeratin’, seein’ as I ain’t certain how kings and princes, they be treated.  But maybe they jest be treatin’ me with  “equanimity.” ( I’d write me in there a smile, if I knowed how.)

Well, I been beddin’ down there comin’ up on a week how, an’ still, they ain’t condemn me, not once.

‘Pears I be jes’ part o’ the passel.

Now Liam, he been pressin’ and pushin’, get me down to the schoolhouse.  Say Miss Meadow, that real nice teacher, she’d do me a worl’ o’ good.  But I ain’t ready for that, not by half.  Run off last time by them pasty fat white fellers, I’m pleased to hunker down right here fer the time bein’.

‘Course then, Liam, he lug hissel’f home as many books he can tote, an’ copies problems from the front board, makin’ me do near a whole day o’ schoolin’ come afternoon.  The readin’ and writin’ and stories from long ago, they hang me up proper.  But give me them numbers problems, and I scare m’se’f with the speed to which I can complete them.

Liam, he jest whistle and grin.  And try to find me harder challenges.

I jest push him on the shoulder and tell him to go an’ try.  Jest go an’ try!

Now, I make m’se’f useful roun’ here.  I been he’pin’ with the chores, find I got me a way with them horses and the dogs, they all love me all to pieces, folleri’ me ever’where.   Livvie, the purty one, she call me Mr. Pied Piper, whomever that feller is.  The ol’ houn’ name Buford, he try to sneak in and sleep ‘side me on my pallet, but Liam’s mama, she shoo him out.

She don’t shoo me out, though.  I am grateful, but the words do come hard.

I ain’t been off the land once, not once, since I come.  An’ I feel certain to my bones ain’t none o’ them Goodwells plannin’ on tellin’ no body.  They been treatin’ me not like a guest, but one o’them, which wouldn’t be to the likin’ o’ some ‘roun’ here. Jes’ yeste’day, even the stony one called Luce, she even push me out har out the way, she see me snitchin’ a warm cookie from the oven.  They what she do?  She go an’ she snitch it her ownse’f.  Wouldn’t do that to no comp’ny, but to a almos’ member of the fam’ly, shore.

Got to say, that moment warm my heart, ’bout to weepin’.  I ain’t clouded up in some time.  I like that girl.  She got beans.

I will not be takin’ ad-vantage of they hospitality much longer, howeve’.  I fear my own Daddy, he been sniffin’ ‘roun’ from what I overhear Liam’s daddy and Grandpap heart-to-heartin’, an’ I fear he come to fin’ me, puttin’ the Goodwells in some kin’ o’fix. Cain’t put them in no pre-dicament, no how.  They been faithful frien’s to me,  an’ me bein’ undeservin’. Been doin’ nothin’ but considerin’ me like a real person and not a pushin’ nor a’askin’, jest lettin’ me eat and heal and settle.

But they comes a time, and I feel it breathin’ hard on my back.  Time I was gettin’ on.

Got to get to makin’ me some plans.

For like to not be any frien’s he’pin’ me where I’m goin’.

*************

“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!”

To:  Who it May Concern

From: Punk Bole (Punkett Boyle, fer them as is not my friends nor kin), aged fourteen

Well, I foun’ m’self w’thout love nor money nor di-rection.  Didn’t even give m’self time to em’ty my cubbie hid be-hind my covers out to the backporch.

Now that there, that’s important.  I never once say’d I was lost, now did I…

‘Foun’ my pockets and my belly was em’ty, likewise.

More’n an’thing, ‘foun’ myse’f fed up and done with my Daddy.

For my Daddy, sad to say, he ‘foun’ me….fer the las’ time.

Thought he’d give up on the skinnin’ he’d give me early on.

Thought he’d be provin’ to Mama he could change his ways.

Thought wrong, I did.  Scabs and cuts and tears and possible broke things not even healed for they was broke and cut and scabbed all over a’gin.

‘Foun’ I’d took all I could.

‘Foun’ I’d took all I would.

‘Foun’ I had me more gum’tion ‘n I thought I did.

‘Foun’ I had me more’n my haid than numbers and countin’ and parsin’ to push away the hurtin’.

‘Foun’ there was no danged, hanged reason to be beat black and blue no more.

‘Foun’ there was no reason to wait fer my Mama to come to her senses and save me, ‘stead of jest washin’ off the blood, till the next time when she do it all over a’gin.

I lit out.  Lef’ ever’thing back at the old shack.  Mama’n him, they kin have it all, ‘ssumin’ they kin theyse’ves find it.

“Foun’ myse’f hoofin’ it ninety t’nothin’ out the other side o’Halesburg.

‘Foun’ my love for skimmin’ cross the countryside, feet flyin’, servin’ me well.

‘Foun’ myse’f, come darkness fallin’, alone an’ losin’ steam, but not courage.

‘Foun’ myse’f not even considerin’ doin’ nothin’ but aimin’ on ahead.

‘Foun’ the colored flavors o’ the horizon, gray and black and darker black then that there, then ‘foun’ myse’f a light,a way off yonder.

‘Foun’ when you follers a light, ‘r an’thing else what beckons and comes closer with the pursuin’, why, you get yo’se’f somewhere.

‘Foun’ my somewhere was the red dust lane up to Liam’s family land.  Goodwell land.  Been here ‘couple times.  Had me pie right at the dinner table.  But have Me’cy, I forget it be so beautiful, it be the Garden o’ Eden, even here in the darkness of night.  Lights on through the winders shown gold and warm and invitin’.

‘Foun’ my insides near wrung insides out, fer the hunger chewin’ its way through.

‘Foun’ that feelin’ trumps all hesitatin’ I might have fer announcin’ myse’f so late come evenin’.

‘Foun’ myse’f marchin’ right up to the front door and ‘fore I could knock, which I woulda, I know, couple white-headed white boys what look like both sides o’the same book, they press they noses to the screen, eyes wide, like they ain’t never seen themse’ves a colored boy on they front porch.

“Liam!”  Them boys, they even shout with one voice.  Then they run off into the house.

‘Foun’ myse’f planted. What come next, I ain’t got no idee.

Then right there, framed by the gray slats o’ the door, here come Liam, he come hustlin’ right up to the door, big ol’ grin near coverin’ his speckly freckly face, then push that screen door open wide, wide.

Have Me’cy, Have Me’cy.

Best of all,

‘Foun’ duly and truly, I ‘foun’ me a frien’.

(Who once more give me a pencil and paper.  Boy has him one tune, he does!)

*************

“Dang Me! Ought Take a Rope ‘n Hang Me!”

To: Who It May Concern

From: Punkett Boyle, fourteen years

 

Been avoiding Liam fer some days now, nigh on a week ‘r more.  He been leavin’ notes reg’lar on the front screen, but I been abscondin’ wid ’em ‘fore Mama see ’em.

And ‘fore Daddy.

I been savin’ ’em, though, tucked in my hidey-hole ‘hind my sleepin’ blankets, out to the back porch.  Hard tell when I may need rememberin’ I got me a frien’.

These here couple weeks, been ’bout that long Daddy, my own daddy, he been back.  He been sleepin’ on the ol’ saggin’ di-van in Mama’s front room.  He cleaned up and sweeped all them glass shards o’ Mama’s keepsakes.  He cry some, he plead some, he ain’t had him a drop, so he claim.  And I ain’t smelt nothin’.

So Mama let him stay.

Say Christian woman she is, she obligated to forgive.

I’d o’run him off, he don’t mean nothin’ to me.   Mama forget he hurt me real bad.  Scabbin’ jest now peelin’ off, blue and green on my face and neck and arms and middle ’bout faded, but my nose still swole and cain’t breathe me any air through it ‘thout it poppin’ and cracklin’.

‘Course, that there may be why I ain’t smelt no drink on Daddy’s person.  Cain’t smell nothin’ no more to begin with.

And he ain’t mess wid me since that first day.

Time, it does pass, and I be hopin’ so, too, will Daddy.  Jest ’cause I got his blood don’t mean I got his stock.  Lookin’ deep in his creased and saggin’ face when he’s snorin’ on that di-van most afternoons, I shore don’t see no resemblence none.

An’ if I was a believer like Mama, I’d be shoutin’ Hallelujah.

But I ain’t, so I’m not.

But I stop short o’cursin’ him, jest in case.

I been layin’ low, be it known.  I shore ain’t aimin’ to cause no trouble, so I jest go ’bout my business elsewhere, fa’ as I kin git from our little two room shack.  Ol’ Lucky, cowboy down to the garage south o’town, big ol’ hat, big ol’ belt buckle, and big ol’ chaw side his cheek, he let me clean the grease pits, long as I stay out o’sight.  Give me somethin’ to do.  Give me some spendin’ money fer plunkin’ in my hidey-hole.  Give me time t’sort my thinkin’.  Give me time to count.  Reached me 457 nails ‘long the back wall ‘fore Lucky me send me on my way.

But my thinkin’, that there’s why I’m puttin’ this down to paper.  Sortin’ alone in my head don’t always make it clear.

See here, my idee, from long ‘s I kin recollect, I felt me some sadness when I see’d little chil’ren, or dogs, get beat. Not jest fer the beatin’.  The hurt is bad enough.  But that they ain’t got no idee’ why ‘r what for they been gettin’ beat, that’s the thing.

It was them not knowin’ nor understandin’ what distressed my heart.

But now, now I got me a diff’rnt idee.  Them youngin’s, and them dogs, they ain’t got no idee and that there’s what in-solates them from the inside hurt.   Just like they wet when it rain and be dry when it don’t, with a beatin’ they hurt on the outside and when they don’t get beat, they don’t.  Either way, they got no idee of the why, nor don’t even give them a care, so they don’t hurt none on they insides with the thinkin’ and ponderin’ and wonderin’.

Jest a’rollin’ wid the punches, they do, (an’ I shore don’t mean that to make no amusements) n’then they goes on.

But me, Punkett Boyle, well, I ain’t one o’ them chil’ren, nor one o’them dogs.  And me,  I hurt plenty bad on the outside, let me tell you.  Felt me pain like I ain’t felt never in my life, deep down as fer as my bones and them some.

But what grieves me the most is the powe’ful pain I got me on the inside where they ain’t no bone nor marro’, wonderin’ jest what I done, or what I will do, or when I’m like to have me another go’roun’.  This my Daddy we talkin’ ’bout here.

Them little chil’ren, them dogs?  They got it easy.  It rain, they get wet.  They get beat, they hurt some, then forget.

Me, I ‘llow I will not be forgettin’ any time soon.

Got me no forgiveness in my heart, not fer Daddy,’n not too much fer Mama.

She hurt my heart the worse of all.

 

***********

 

 

t

 

“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope ‘n Hang Me!

From: Punkett Boyle

To: An’b’dy list’nin’

 

Mama.

She still sick.  Coughin’ up a storm.  Cain’t ketch a breath.  Whistles when she sucks in.

Daddy.

He come back.

Me.

Beat black and blue and ever’whar over and under, and then some.

 

Had me some pages still, from the notebook Liam give me ‘while back.  Ain’t got nobody ‘roun’ here who can look at me full on ‘thout turnin’ away.  Mouth’s too swole and throat’s too poked to speak none, an’way.  Fingers ain’t much better, but they’s near the only part of me workin’ ‘tall.  So talkin’ to you ‘ppears to be what God give me t’day.

 

Don’t recall never settin’ eyes on my Daddy.  Mama say, when she ever did talk ’bout him, he lit out ‘fore I could set up.  Better off gone, she say.  Mean bugger.  Got me some older sisters what been married off and live up Chicago way.  Reckoned I could find them some way ‘t’other, as’ them some questions.  Don’ t got us no way get ‘hold o’them,  says Mama.  Got her a birthday card couple years ago, no address fer returnin’ the greetin’.  Mama’s got it taped it up to the wall, and while it’s faded near to nothin’, the “I love you, Mama” can still be read if you looks real close.  Means the world to her, and ain’t nob’dy ‘llowed to touch it.  Tape keeps yellerin’ and rottin’, and she keep tapin’ it right back up.

Mama love all her chil’ren.  But what it mean is this: what I don’t know, I may never not.  Don’t nob’dy here in Halesburg know nothin’ ’bout my Daddy they willin’ to share.

I give up my querryin’.

 

But last night, come ‘roun dinner time, me’n Sib, Mama’s son jest after me, we was heatin’ soups on the burner in the kitchen, we heard us a shout and a slam from the front porch.

“You in there Beulah?!  I know you is!  Get on out here, greet yo’ man!”

Me’n Sib, we looks at each other, Sib’s eyes big like cat’s saucers.  Cain’t move, neither o’us, and we stood stone still fer a minute too long.

Furniture tippin’, glass shatterin’, I kin only ‘magine Mama’s purties jest smashed to smithereens but move?  I ain’t ’cause I cain’t.

Like a funnel-wind twistin’ and heavin’, the curtains dividin’ the livin’ part o’ our ol’ shack from the backporch kitchen was buckled and wrinkled and wrung, wrenched and pulled down in a heap, big ol’ ugly face, all grimace and anger poke itself right into our’n.

“Who you, boy?  Who you? ”  Big thick paws, fingers strong and thick grab my neck like a clamp, pushin’ my jaw near clean to my nose.  My tippy toes barely touch the floor.  Where Sib hightail it to, I don’t know, but I cain’t holler, cain’t answer, cain’t near breathe ‘tall.

Big ol’ ugly face get so close to mine I can fair smell what he’d drunk fer dinner last night and this mornin’ and the last month, and sour and vomit and whiskey and beans. He twist my head till lights sprung up front my eyes.  Bells rung middle o’ my ears.

“Who you, boy?  You got peas fer brains?  Where Beulah?  Where my woman?  You tell me!  You TELL me!”

Now my Mama, long time ‘fore, was a full on beauty, all shiny black hair and long eyelashes and skin to this day like caramel ‘top ice cream sundae.  ‘Fore my recollections but I seen pictures hid in her dresser.  She’d had her a husband, and then some.  None us kids had us the same daddies.  Never did we fret none.  We all had us the same Mama and that there was the glue keep us fam’ly.

Mama love all her chil’ren.

And we all love her to eternity and back and forevermore.

So, if I had been able to speak to this monster of a beast heaved up from the gates of Hell come lookin’ fer her, I’d took what wuz comin’ and kep’ my mouth shut!

As it was, wudn’t no time to say nothin’ anyhow.  Man loosed his grip and slammed me upside the head hard, felt crackin’ and poppin’, landin’ me up against the pipin’ snakin’ down from the flue.  ‘Member seein’ quick snap o’ Mama’s nice wallpaper, saved from the fire down to the hardwar’ store last May.

Hurt some, but not as much as what come after.  I’m wont to countin’ most near ever’thin’.  I counts my steps to ‘n’from wherever I be.   I adds and subtracts the cats screechin’ come darkest night, I multiply and parse and divide the tweets of the birds and the hollerin’ and bickerin’ from the bar down the street.

But I lost me track of the pelts and the punches and kicks what rained on me last night.  Best I jest take it, and keep my mouth shut.

Went on fer plumb ever, seemed.  Lost my daylight ‘long the way, and come mornin’ I come to,  curled and mangled and unable to move tucked behind the potbellied stove.  Mama bent over me, sick as she was, but doin’ her best to wipe away the bleedin’, cryin’ and drippin’ and mumblin’ curse words.  Seen Sib over her shoulder, holdin’ a bowl fer her to worsh out her bloodied rag.

I hurt so.  Lord A’mighty, I hurt so.

 

Welcome home, Daddy.

 

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