It didn’t stop a hand from yanking a shotgun out of a closet with a warped wooden door. I didn’t have to be on the receiving end of one to realize that oh-so-fascinating bit of news. That’s where I was walking home from, selling the blackberries. It wasn’t much to look at, a few boards I’d clapped together. He hadn’t wanted to be bothered, that was Boyd all over. Tess and Glory were hell on wheels, no getting around that, but taking care of your kids is supposed to come with the territory. I’d cut through our neighbor’s property, twenty-five acres of scrubby grass, black snakes, and the foundation of a hundred-years-gone ice house. My grip spasmed around the shoe until I heard the crack of a splitting sole. Sticky cotton-candy fun for her, but for me it was a different story.
I could’ve taken a short vacation, too, but a raging Atlanta summer left little to do but sizzle on the asphalt.
Even sitting on my dock at home would be like enduring a sweat lodge.
You feel the bloody fingerprints of it on your subconscious as it rips its way free. I saw the slash and spill of blood as the knife—her best knife, her meat knife—hit a throat and sliced. I went from the sight of the worn boards and dirty window glass of a run-down shack to that of a stained ceiling. From standing to lying in a house as dead as the people who’d lived in it. I touched the pain, a player all its own in this game, and my hand came away red. It did, though, and it made sense that it would be the same as blood. I sold paper bags full of plump, gnat-ridden berries for a dollar to people driving by. it made me realize, for the first time, that wasn’t the way things were, not always. Now there was only scattered rock and an abandoned well. The plastic of it was shiny and sleek against my skin. That, in turn, meant a steady stream of twenties and fifties flapping their wings elsewhere.
Everything in its place—just as it had been the first time. I’d recognized that since I held one for the first and last time sixteen years ago. A strong wind could take it down and had once or twice in a good old Georgia thunderstorm. Being trash, I promptly punched that smug punk in the nose so he’d know what it was like to be me. Sure, Tess chattered nonstop from sunup to sundown about anything and nothing, while Glory was sneaky and wild as a feral cat, but that’s who they were. Rumor was a plantation had been somewhere around there in the day. No secretary meant calls would be missed and walk-ins turned away.
Even with the air conditioner going full blast, it was still overly warm in the office.