I walk with my daddy, Tyson, by the hedge
and the station. He is smoking. His cigarette pack is rolled up in his sleeve.
He wears a hat. He wears green glasses. It is not scary here in daylight. We
get to Mama Grace’s and see two catfish as big as me tied to the bumper of
Uncle Smith’s Plymouth. Inside, there are only women in the living room. I go
into the kitchen where Mama Grace stands at the stove and only men are crowded
around the table. I crawl unnoticed among the feet under the table. I see one
pair of black shoes that tie. A pair of brown brogans with mud coming up. A
pair of tan brogans clean. And a pair of brown slippers with the back walked
on. Who is in the slippers? I find a field pea. I put it in the slipper. I look
for another pea.
Mama Grace says, “Tyson, where is Mike?” I
smile under the table. I am glad people call me Mike and not Michelle. I sit
surrounded by knees and feet, and nobody knows I am here. Uncle Carl is talking
about something he found in the yard. Uncle Smith grunts on occasion. Tyson stirs
his coffee. Uncle Smith nudges Granddaddy Al now and then, “Stir your coffee Al,
your cream’s gonna curdle.”
“I was walking in the yard and found this
thing that looked like a nose cone.” Uncle Carl says.
“What’s a nose cone,” Uncle Smith says.
“So I got it and cleaned it up and it just
“Smith, the goat is on your car,” Mama Grace
“Damn goat. What’s a nose cone,” Uncle
“Damn goat,” I say.
“Stir your coffee, Al. Your cream’s gonna
curdle.” Smith says.
put it in my nose at night and it holds it open so I can breathe. It works so
good, I wonder why they don’t have them in the drugstore,” Uncle Carl says.
“Tyson, honey, have you seen Mike. I have
some lemon pie for her.”
At this, I crawl out. Mama Grace wedges me
in at the table between coffee cups and gives me a bowl of her homemade pie and
a spoon. The still-warm pie is the best thing I have ever tasted.
“You damn fool, you let it curdle,” Smith
After pie, I slip out the back door. I
start home. I go by the front of the gas station and Mrs. Belekis comes out
calling me. She is a fat woman with a print dress, no shoes, and a bad cough.
She runs after me and picks me up. My feet are still going while she swings me
up on her hip.
“I want to do something with your hair,”
she says, lighting a cigarette. She hangs it between her lips and sets me on
the counter. I look at her kinky hair pulled back in a bun and I say “No.”
“It won’t take but a minute,” she says. I
turn over on the counter and dangle my feet trying to get away, but she sets me
up again. And she is right. It only takes a minute for her to cut my hair. I
can feel the scissors close to my head. She puts me down and I go home feeling
When I walk in the back door, Mama is
frying chicken. She turns around and looks at me for a moment, like she doesn’t
know who I am.
Finally she leans down and rubs my skinned
head. “What in the world happened to you?”
“Mrs. Belekis caught me,” I say. Mom lifts
me up and washes my hands in the sink.
“What’s that on your face?”
“Pie,” I say.
“Right here at dinner time.” She shakes me
and I think of my puppy.