The Reading List, 6/1/2014 »« “The Galapagos: A Natural History”, Henry Nicholls on Atheists Talk

Saturday Storytime: If God Is Watching

If you’re on Twitter, you probably know Mikki Kendall as Karnythia, one of those people who can manage incisive social commentary in 140-character chunks. You may not have read her fiction, though. You should do that.

I killed a man when I was 13. Not on pur­pose or noth­ing. But he still died. Mama went over to see about Mrs. Johnson’s new baby after church, and I stayed home because I had a cold com­ing on. Mama is real par­tic­u­lar about sick peo­ple and babies, so I didn’t even ask if I could go vis­it­ing. Daddy went out fish­ing with my broth­ers, and after I got out of my church clothes I stretched out on the porch swing with a book. It was good too, all about pirates and buried trea­sure. It was a hot day, sunny, but not too bad if you were sit­ting in the shade. The breeze was blow­ing just right over Mama’s lit­tle flower gar­den, and it felt so good to sit there with the screen keep­ing the bugs out and the cool in, while I nib­bled on a slice of cake.

Our house wasn’t fancy exactly, but Daddy was always good with his hands and my uncles all knew a fair bit about build­ing because that was how they earned their money instead of farm­ing like Daddy. So when Mama wanted some­thing added onto the house they come over and do it for her. Folks said she was spoiled and I would be too since we were both the only girls in a fam­ily full of men. I don’t know about spoiled, but I was almost always happy. Daddy could grow any­thing he wanted no mat­ter how bad it might be doing for some­body else, and Mama knew about tak­ing care of sick folks and deliv­er­ing babies. Folks always needed some­thing and always had some­thing to trade if they didn’t have cash money.

I don’t know how long I was out there, but I was just get­ting to the end of my book when I heard somebody’s Model T rat­tling away. The road up to the house was longer than most, but it sounded like the car was com­ing on fast so I got up real quick and slipped in the house. Mama says that peo­ple shouldn’t be able to just walk up on us, at least not with­out us look­ing like we came from some­body, and we’re going some­where. So I took off the raggedy over­alls I had on, and put on a dress and a pair of shoes.

Mama made most of my clothes in those days, some­times dye­ing them for me so I wouldn’t be wear­ing the same thing as all the other girls who got their goods at the mer­can­tile in town. My dress that day was dark blue, with a lit­tle black flower pat­tern worked into it. It didn’t fit like it used to. Mama kept threat­en­ing to pass it on to some­one else, but I loved it so that she said I could keep it until she had time to make me a new one.

Some white man knocked on the door a few min­utes later. He was big­ger than my mama’s biggest brother, Uncle John, but not as big as my Daddy and wear­ing a shiny gray Sun­day suit and a funny look­ing white hat. He even had on shiny shoes, like a woman would wear to church if she wanted to get talked about for a month of Sun­days. He had a face like a skinned hog, all wet and red look­ing, but meaty. And he had too many teeth in his mouth. Looked like he was one of them bad sales­men that I heard peo­ple com­plain­ing about when­ever we stayed late after church and the adults would for­get that us kids were lis­ten­ing. He was grin­ning and yam­mer­ing away before I even got to the door good.

How are you today young lady? You look­ing mighty pros­per­ous on this Sun­day after­noon aren’t you?” Up close he smelled like he bathed in cologne, but not in a good way. More like per­fume over funk.

He had his hand on the door knob like he was about to pull on it, and I stared at his hand until it dropped. I can’t rightly fight, but my eyes make peo­ple think they don’t want to fight me. My broth­ers are the only excep­tion and even they don’t fight me to hurt me, just to teach me how to defend myself. Daddy says my eyes are just a darker brown than most peo­ple have ever seen, and Mama says I have eyes like her great-grandmother who was a con­jure doc­tor down in New Orleans. I don’t know which one of them is right, but most peo­ple don’t like my eyes because they’re so black they look like two holes punched in my face. At least that’s how Ms. Viola at the church describes them, and she’s been all the way to Lon­don and back so I fig­ure she knows best.

Can I help you?” It’s my best grown up voice, and I can see him look­ing me up and down when I use it. I can’t help but cross my arms across my chest when his eyes linger on it. I can see what Mama meant about my dress being too snug to wear out in the street.

Keep reading.

Comments

  1. Anthony K says

    That was great. I love your Saturday Storytimes, Stephanie. Thanks for another stellar share.

  2. carlie says

    Your Saturday storytimes are the only thing that forces me to read good fiction in my life right now. Thank you.

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