Sofie was naked, of course, having stripped off her clothing as soon as she returned from the fabric store. She didn’t bother transferring the eggs to a plate. She stood over them, eating from the skillet. Besides there was no one to talk to but herself and, right now, the way she was feeling, it was good enough.
Perhaps it was the opium coursing through her that made them so beautiful. Little fried eggs showing up like new suns, waiting to be devoured. Her fork pierced the middle, the yellow sunrays spreading throughout the pan like a new day. The sight was so fascinating; she hesitated before taking a bite. But yes, eat the new day, Savor and enjoy. The egg slid down her eager throat. Taking the remaining butter from beside the stove, she smeared it on her arms, then her breasts. She was a new egg on a new day.
I feel woozy. Isaac’s baby sister had died too young and his brother had been murdered.
“No need being mad at Uncle Elias,” Isaac says. “He’s seen more things than most of us. He knows the rules, the law of the land.”
“Yeah? And he thinks those laws are good?” Olvie says. “All he does is live day to day feeling bad that he wasn’t born white. Why can’t he stand up to things once in a while.”
“He’s just fine being a colored man. He’s just scared.”
“Scared? Everybody’s scared of something.”
I want to ask Olvie what she’s scared of. Not now. I’ve never seen her so serious.
“You’re scared for Sylvia,” she continues. “You’re scared you might be the next one to be beaten and locked up. Chicken Coop here is afraid fire.”
How did she know that?
“So, what do I do?” Isaac asks.
“Do?” Olvie picks lint off of Gladys’ moo-moo, hesitating. “What does Elias think? Not that it matters, of course.”
“This time, he’s scared for me. I told him the whole story. I had to. You know, in case a deputy comes to pick me up. After I told him, he went—”
Olvie holds up a hand. “Let me guess. He went to his Sweet Home Baptist Church to pray for his sweet home and kinfolk.”
Isaac nods. “He asked me to go, but I couldn’t.”
“Uh-huh. How’s prayer worked for your uncle so far?”
“Can’t answer that, Olvie,” Isaac says. “God and me are on the outs right now.”
Olvie sighs. “Fair enough.”
The whistling starts. The Andy Griffith Show is about to come on.
Olvie stands and, to my disbelief, she turns down the TV Volume.
“Maybe you should find an ambulance chaser,” she says, sitting back down again. “Chicken Coop? Don’t your folks know folks in the NAACP?”
“Mr. Overton. But he’s not a lawyer. I’ll ask when they call.”
“Oh, no you won’t. There’s no need for your parents to turn around and come home. We’ll figure this out on our own.” Olvie stares at Gladys. “What do you think?”
Isaac and I roll our eyes and wait for the end of their silent conversation.
“She said chopping off your finger is no longer an option.” Olvie grins. “I say we visit Overton. He’s bound to know someone. Or …” She looks up at the ceiling and sniffs something I can’t smell. “Or, we take Pontiac and drive to Birmingham. Clear this up once and for all so those cops won’t think you ran away from a crime.”
Isaac stands. “As much as you think you understand, you don’t. We cross those county lines and I won’t have a chance to clear anything but my bowels.”
Olvie crinkles her nose. “Well, that’s a disgusting thought. You just cleaned Pontiac and now your want to soil her with your scared shit?”
“Deputy Garvey,” I say. “He seems decent enough. How about we talk to him. Get his advice.”
“Good one, Chicken Coop.” Olvie heads toward the phone.
“Wait just a goddamn minute,” Isaac says. “This is my life you two are talking about. Maybe I don’t want you to call a policeman. Even one you both know.”
Olvie stops. “Okay, Wisenheimer. You think I wear a white hood when I’m sleeping?”
“I know better than that,” he says. “But police haven’t been so kind to Negros.”
“Isaac,” I say, hoping I’m right. “I’ve talked to Deputy Garvey. And yes, I know you’re skeptical of police. But I think he might just do you right. Plus, he also knew my grandmother, and liked her.”
“Was your grandmother colored,” he says frowning.
“Not that I know of.” I grin. “But she was a tolerant person who hated injustice.”
Excerpt from my WIP, Bare Bones of Justice (working title)
One Thanksgiving when we lived in the Tourist Court, we had enough food for Mother to make a real meal, but it was Pooch who landed on Plymouth Rock. We didn’t have money to buy a turkey, but somehow Mother got hold of an old hen to cook. She baked it for most of the morning, even making cornbread dressing to go with it, which, for her, was like pulling a cart full of lead. She set the food on the kitchen table to let it cool while we went to the drug store to get Dad his medicine. Seeing as how it was Thanksgiving, the drug store was closed and Dad had to rely on his refrigerated liquid medicine to make it through the day.
When we got back home, Dad opened the door and what we saw made my mother want to spit cactus needles. There on our kitchen table laid scattered bones where our chicken used to be and only half of what used to be a whole pan of dressing.
We looked around the corner into the bedroom. Lying on Mother and Dad’s bed, head on a pillow and wearing a smile that stretched from Rotan to Sweetwater, was Pooch. We were the three bears coming home to find out that our porridge had been eaten, but this time, not by a little blonde-haired girl but a Curbstone Setter with an eyepatch.
Pooch’s smile disappeared when he caught sight of Mother spitting fire from her eyeballs, and coming at him with a big broom in her hand. Once those straw bristles touched his butt, he was out the door lickety split.
We ate the leftover dressing and the pinto beans, which had been safe from the theiveing on top of the stove. Mother’s teeth were so clenched with madness, I’m still not sure how she got anything into her mouth. Dad, on the other hand, was trying not to laugh, and he looked like he was enjoying every bite of the scant Portions.
“Ain’t it surprisin’ how full we can get without eatin’ meat?” Dad says stuffing more beans into his mouth, his eyes pushed into a squint by his smiling cheeks.
“It ain’t funny, Wayne,” Mother says.
We all stayed quiet for a bit so Dad could concentrate on keeping his food in and his laugh from coming out. Then he mumbled out loud, “Guess we’re not saving any leftovers for Pooch.”
I couldn’t help it. I had to stick my head under the table and hold my breath to try to keep my own laugh from spewing across the table.
Dad leaned back in his chair, pushed his plate away, patted his belly, and said, “I ate so much I think I got a little pooch.” That’s all it took. My sides started to split right along with Dad’s. Delma giggled, and Mother, although she tried to hide it, was starting a grin all her own.
Pooch didn’t show up until later that night, when everything was calm again and the chicken and dressing had settled nicely in his belly.
Even though we had beans, cornbread, and dressing for Thanksgiving, it was Pooch who really celebrated the feast of the pilgrims. And, I think because of that, Pooch had given us a rare gift around the supper table: laughter.
Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper (for those who have enjoyed these excerpts, remember you can order the novel on Amazon.
I can’t see anything out of the ordinary, only Olvie’s backyard. But I hear it. Words my mother has heard slammed in her direction.
“<N…> lover!” the boys chant.
Five of them emerge from the backyard bushes and run towards the front yard.
I grab a frying pan and head for the front door.
“Cooking out tonight?” Olvie says.
I ignore her and run outside.
Boys scramble in the cab and the back of the pick-up truck and shoot me the bird. Kent, the last one in, glares at me. “Beam that Fry pan over your own head, Grace. You’re not thinking straight.”
They peel off. Hearing the frying pan slam the sidewalk gives me a bit of satisfaction. But not enough.
Olvie stands on the porch, her eyes pinched and curious. “Somebody got shot?”
The damp cloth feels good on my forehead, but I could forego Gladys’ positioned arm against mine.
“Want me to call that imbecile Garvey?” Olvie says sitting next to me on the leopard skin couch.
I shake my head. “He couldn’t do anything anyway. Name-calling’s not against the law.”
“So, who were those ragamuffins?”
“I only know one of them. They called me a <n….> lover.”
“Next time,” she says, “Don’t be so stupid. Pull out the cast iron skillet instead of that cheap enamel one. No, never mind that. You’re too scrawny to lift it. Be best if you grab the baseball bat under my bed. But if you swing it, don’t miss.
“I don’t want to be violent,” I say, trying to sound like my parents.
Halfway through our first lesson, the door opens in the back of the room. Miss Primrose stops talking about grammar. “Frank, I’m glad to see you made it to school,” she says.
I hear the whispers before I turn. When I do, my chin drops. This time, I see him in the light. The boy from the thicket. He’s wearing dark circles under his green eyes and the same muddy Keds from last night. But his hair is combed now, parted on the side.
“Students, I would like to introduce you to our newest member of Hilltop School, Frank Sanders.”
He still has that look. The one where no one can touch him. Like no one’s smarter or braver than him. I know better. He’s scared of dogs—even the three-legged kind.
He sticks his thumbs in the straps of the suspenders that hold up his Clean breeches then nods to the class like he’s Jesus come to turn sour milk into fresh lemonade.
“Frank lives here now. So let’s make him feel welcome. How old are you, Frank?”
“Almost fourteen, Miss Primrose,” he says like he’s President of Confidence World.
“You may sit down, Frank.”
Frank-Gatsby-Thicket Boy limps to a desk. Without the twisted ankle, he’d sure-fire swagger to his spot like Wild Bill Hickok after catching bandits.