"Well, a body can't just up and leave without some good-byes here and
there. A couple of thanks for years of friendship and such."
"Grandma, you didn't have time to go so far as to find a soul. Next
folks downstream are more than an hour away, but judging by how you
lookin' right now, maybe you did go crawlin' through the marsh to say a
fare-thee-well to somebody. Don't know who. Don't know who'd receive
you in a mess of briars and weeds as a bustle. Less you got a beau back up
in them woods who don't know he's free yet."
"Young lady, mind your mouth first off. I got rights to go from hither
to yon, if that's my choosin', and what ever kinda courtship I got goin' on
is more than the one you ain't got goin' on anywhere."
Eudora smarted from her Nana's words, but pride pulled the pout of
her lips back to her teeth, let the red blush fade fast enough for her to regain
her composure. "Now, see here, Grandma, we've no call to taunt one
another today. Why don't you make yourself presentable again. Then
we'll be off to Charleston."
Betty pulled some of the red amaranth still tangled in her slips away
from her comely but scarred legs. "I was lookin' just fine, and I wasn't
tauntin' you. I was simply speakin' the truth. In the ol-timey days, a gal
with your blessed health and keen smile'd be surrounded by young bucks
hankering aft er a wife."
Eudora was losing her patience. "Nana, the ol-timey days, as you see fit
to call them, were slavery days. And those young men, bucks as you
choose to call them, weren't lookin' for a wife. They were lookin' for a
good breeder. So they'd be more valuable to..."
"Julius Mayfield, that's who." Betty glanced at Eudora's frantic attempts
to create order, seeing only a mass of confusion. "Can't bring
yourself to say his name, I see. Well, huh, that surely tells me somethin'."
"And what might that be?" Eudora's anger was slipping out of her
control. Her greatest desire at this moment was to pull her skin off and
suck the Mayfield out of herself. Yet the best she could muster was to
clamp her teeth like a hound on a niggah.
"You can't get very far, can't get nowhere, without takin' all your self.
From the way you soundin' to me, looks like you plannin' on leaving your
grandpa out of who you are. You telling me you some creature made
outta smoke and mirrors? You best check yourself again, gal. If all this
talk proves anything, proves you a Mayfield."
"Nana, please stop. They owned us. They owned us. That's not a family.
It's... like harvestin' niggahs 'steada rice or cotton. Don't you see
that, Grandma? We're some by-product of nights when decent white
women would have not a thing to do with the likes of Julius Mayfield."
Before Eudora could get another word out, Betty grabbed a switch,
took it to her granddaughter's cheeks, hands, any visible flesh. Thinkin'
to finally break this girl of disrespect, living in a dream where folks was
not folks just cause they allegedly belonged to somebody. Don't a soul belong
to nobody but God. Betty knew that. She just been visitin' with her
gods, her companions, the only family she knew about. The switch landed
on Eudora more ferociously, but Eudora wouldn't give up insultin' her
Nana. "Is this how he loved you, Nana, withe threat of the whip, a fist,
being sent down river? Am I here because you believed love and violence
could sleep in the same bed?"
Betty raised the switch up once more. This time to teach this gal a lesson
in respect, but somethin' held her hand back. She almost believed she
felt Julius grab her wrist to stop her, sayin' Enough is enough, my dusky
love. Everthin' the chile says is not untrue. Betty dropped the switch. Her
eyes sought out the darkest corners of the room, not Eudora's eyes waitin'
for her Nana to hold her. Too much'd been said, more razor-thin scars set
to swellin' up. Betty's anger was spent. Her body seemed to shrivel right
in front of Eudora, who reached for her grandma. A gesture of reconciliation,
but Betty'd have none of it.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...