Excerpt of Scorched Earth by David L. Robbins
(Page 6 of 9)
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He is a black man only the first time she sees him. She is at the high
school track, jogging. She finishes and walks past the basketball court to
watch a game. Elijah's name is called a lot by the other players. "Nice
take, Elijah." "Fuck, man! Put a stop on Waddell, will you!" When the
game is done, he stays and shoots on his own. His bare chest and stomach
glisten with the sweat which ripples like hot oil poured down
cobblestones. He shoots, retrieves, shoots again. Often the ball flies
through the hoop and comes back to him as if it is on a tether. She walks
beneath the basket to catch the ball after his shots. He says nothing but
takes her bounce passes and shoots again. He makes eight in a row, never
looking at her, only the ball and the rusty rim.
She knows he's trying to impress her. When he misses, she keeps the
ball, as is protocol, and takes her own shots. She misses her first, but
she is not yet warmed up so Elijah bounces her the ball. When she misses
her third in a row, he keeps the ball and shoots again, making it. She
knows he is telling her, You make it, you keep it. No special girl rules.
Clare likes this, feeling equal, measured by the same standards that
measure him. After he misses, she gets the ball and hits three in a row.
The fourth rims out. It drops near Clare and she wants it, she is getting
loose, but Elijah is quicker. He stabs a hand under hers and dribbles the
ball away from her. He grins over his shoulder and Clare decides to guard
him. He turns to shoot. She stays with him, she is almost as tall as he,
she jumps and puts a hand in his face and he misses. She retrieves the
basketball and looks at him. He stands hands on hips and smiles again. He
nods and says only, "All right."She will remember this moment when
Elijah's blackness became not something missing from what she has but a
remarkable presence not bound or described by color. She opens her mouth
in a moment of shame, fleeting but like a pinprick fast and sharp, for
having ever felt whatever ugliness it was she has just said goodbye to.
She stands with the ball pressed against her stomach, where Elijah's
baby will be.
It is time for the baby.
Clare and Elijah stand in front of their bedroom mirror making love.
Elijah is behind her, the child in front. She flattens her palms against
the wall on both sides of the mirror to keep from rocking the baby too
much. But she wants Elijah inside her badly, and with both the man and the
child tucked up in her where she can warm and please and care for them,
Clare is happy.
When they have finished they linger before the mirror. Her breasts are
swollen almost twice their normal size but otherwise she has gained little
girth about her shoulders and neck. Her skin and hair are infused and
radiant. Elijah circles his open hands over her belly. There is something
magical for Clare in this, like watching a black-robed sorcerer swirling
his arms over a large white crystal ball. What is the future? she wonders:
Tell me, Elijah. See it in my belly and tell me.
Clare lies on the bed in the waft of the air conditioner. He stretches
beside her. She is on her back and, within minutes, a knob appears above
Elijah leans closer to inspect. He says, "It's a knee.
Clare does not lift her head from the pillow to look, she keeps her hands
beside her. She lets Elijah have this alone.
The knob slowly disappears and is followed by other protrusions, each of
which Elijah examines with his fingertips and identifies. An elbow. A
Excerpted from Scorched Earth by David L. Robbins.
by David L. Robbins. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the