Excerpt of What the River Washed Away by Muriel Mharie Macleod
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He's a bad man.
I scrub myself clean after he's gone. The water is shivering cold.
He says my feet feel soft like a baby's, but blood flows from where I
scraped them raw on the slab beneath the pipe.
That's Mambo. She can scream. I'm gonna get thwacked for sure.
As if I ain't sore enough.
'Arletta, feed them chickens, and feed them good. Arletta, what the
hell ya doing? Don't go washing ya hair in the evening time girl, that's
how ya get chilled all the time and what do I get? A poorly child!'
'How many times I tell ya girl?'
'All times, Mambo.'
'Well, one of them times it gonna be real fine if you just do as ya
told. Go on now. Feed them chickens and then get y'self right on o!
to bed. Ya hearing me, Arletta?'
'And come on in here, so I can dry that hair. Come on now.'
Mambo's fresh home from wherever she's been and it ain't long
before she's taking right o! again. She's wearing her fine dress, o!
meeting some new beau I s'pose, now her old one found me and
don't want her no more. Times I feel I got a Mambo who don't seem
to care for me at all. She don't seem to care what he's doing to her
daughter. I tried telling her about the first time he come at me with
his doing, but I got me a thwacking and tell't not to be telling lies
'cause of him being white folks, and right high and mighty and all
'He's a man with what they call a profession Arletta, that's a right
high and minded kinda job. Ain't no messing, and y'all need a be
washing ya mouth out. Go on! And I'm gonna rub that block of
carbolic on ya tongue if ya start talking bad on folks. Where ya get
that from, Arletta? Ya know somebody got a daddy meddling with
them or what?'
'And them whites ain't gonna give us no say-so at all if they hear
ya talking that way. Ya knows that, don't ya?'
'Then just quit with them kinda stories Arletta. We gonna be in a fine
set of trouble if folks hear that talk. I don't know what ya thinking.'
'I'm tellin' ya, Arletta, Mr McIntyre's got one good and proper
job. He's working in a bank and all, and even running it now, from
what I'm hearing. And look what ya doing to what folks think on
him. He's got what folks call a reputation. Ya know what that is?'
'Well, no, I ain't know nothing about that. I ain't know nothing
except he's a bad man, Mambo.'
'Enough girl, or ya gonna find y'self stretching from the branch of a
tree, and me dangling 'longside ya, and all them white folks thinking
they's having themselves a picnic.'
She sure ain't listening to me, so I'm just glad Mr McIntyre's gone
and got himself all spent out already for today and won't be coming
back as soon as she takes o! again.
She's wearing a bright red bandana wrapped up on her head so
high like she means business. She's got pink flowers pinned down one
side, says it's the fashion, and she's wiggling o! down our track in
that tight dress, the one I says gotta be a size too small and showing
o! everything she got. Up top that looks like plenty after she's done
shoving them up, this way and that way, and pulling that frock down
so a nipple pops right out first stretch she makes.
'Oh my,' she always says, 'just look at that. Pardon me, won't you
now.' And she reckons that's fine for getting folks giggling.
Excerpted from What the River Washed Away
by Muriel Mharie Macleod. Copyright © 2013 by Muriel Mharie Macleod.
Excerpted by permission of One World. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.