I stare into the fire, tendrils of heat swirling around my face.
It is the first time I will do this. I had anticipated growing inherent wisdom, like that of the elders, but here I am at a ripe age and still rendered witless by the task ahead of me. Adulthood is a farce.
I can’t wait to get it, the final one in the trilogy! I’m so desperate to read it but promised myself I’d wait until my birthday. It would be my main present again, like in previous years.
Back in 1949 or 1950 when I was six or seven, my grandfather took me on my first trip on ‘the Slave Road,’ ‘the Hidden Highway,’ ‘the Nigger Byway,’ ‘the Devil’s Footpath,’ or ‘the River Styx Trail.’ All these names and more for a narrow, dark path, a little over a half-mile long, that saved almost a mile and a half between our farm and Corn Row Road. The “Row” was a dirt road, where our black friends and relatives lived.
Hopeless, my father said, taking another bite out of the meatball sandwich Mom had made him.
What is? I asked him.
You. He put the food down. You’ll say whatever garbage comes to mind, regardless of who’s around, won’t you? To get a cheap laugh. You’ve got no filter between your brain and your big mouth.
There’d be silence in the seconds before the explosion. Even the crash and roar, the shifting of the sand and silt above would momentarily cease. Then you’d sit there crouched in the dark wondering what had happened to your breath. You’d count it in as somewhere ahead there’d be the movement of a body in scurrying retreat.
Dang. My husband’s always doing that, overbidding me when he knows fool well I can make my bid and he’s got diddly-squat. Of course, nine hearts is the perfect bid—for Ed. If he wins the round, he’s a hero for pulling it off with a hand like a foot. That’s what we call it when our cards stink, a hand like a foot. If we get bumped, he’ll blame it on me, say I inkled wrong, made him think I could get more tricks than I could. Never mind that I bid spades. That won’t make a bit of difference when we replay the hand at the top of our lungs after Dan and Jean have gone home. Either way, nine hearts makes him look good and me look bad.
The whole thing about bum cracks and manual workers is derided only by people who don’t work hard, physically, and by younger people, thinner people. Alec didn’t care what people thought, what stuff looked like, what was falling apart or falling down as long as it did the job. It’s as much as he could do to pick himself up after bending down to fiddle with something. He picked up, pulled up what he could, when he could. He was at the stage where he had to prioritise physical effort in a very task specific way. After hours, years of hard labour, his time was spent just getting done, anything else was superfluous. It wasn’t giving up, it was getting by. Continue reading