MOUSE IS DEAD. Those words had gone through my mind every morning for three months. Mouse is dead because of me.
When I sat up, Bonnie rolled her shoulder and sighed in her sleep. The sky through our bedroom window was just beginning to brighten.
The image of Raymond, his eyes open and unseeing, lying stockstill on EttaMae's front lawn, was still in my mind. I lurched out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom. My feet hurt every morning, too, as if I had spent all night walking, searching for EttaMae, to ask her where she'd taken Ray after carrying him out of the hospital.
So he was still alive? I asked a nurse who had been on duty that evening. No, she said flatly. His pulse was gone. The head nurse had just called the doctor to pronounce him dead when that crazy woman hit Arnold in the head with a suture tray and took Mr. Alexander's body over her shoulder.
I wandered into the living room and pulled the sash to open the drapes. Red sunlight glinted through the ragged palms at the end of our block. I had never wept over Raymond's demise, but that tattered light reflected a pain deep in my mind.
IT TOOK ME over half an hour to get dressed. No two socks matched and every shirt seemed to be the wrong color. While I was tying my shoes Bonnie woke up.
"What are you doing, Easy?" she asked. She had been born in British Guyana but her father was from Martinique, so there was the music of the French language in her English accent. "Gettin' dressed," I said. "Where are you going?"
"Where you think I'ma be goin' at this time'a day? To work." I was feeling mean because of that red light in the far-off sky. "But it's Saturday, baby." "What?"
Bonnie climbed out of the bed and hugged me. Her naked skin was firm and warm.
I pulled away from her. "You want some breakfast?" I asked. "Maybe a little later," she said. "I didn't get in from Idlewild until two this morning. And I have to go back out again today." "Then you go to bed," I said. "You sure? I mean... did you need to talk?" "Naw. Nuthin's wrong. Just stupid is all. Thinkin' Saturday's a workday. Damn."
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked. "Yeah. Sure I am." Bonnie had a fine figure. And she was not ashamed to be seen naked. Looking at her pulling on those covers reminded me of why I fell for her. If I hadn't been so sad, I would have followed her back under those blankets.
FEATHER'S LITTLE YELLOW DOG, Frenchie, was hiding somewhere, snarling at me while I made sausages and eggs. He was the love of my little girl's life, so I accepted his hatred. He blamed me for the death of Idabell Turner, his first owner; I blamed myself for the death of my best friend.
I WAS SITTING at breakfast, smoking a Chesterfield and wondering if EttaMae had moved back down to Houston. I still had friends down there in the Fifth Ward. Maybe if I wrote to Lenora Circel and just dropped a line about Etta -- say hi to Etta for me or give Etta my love. Then when she wrote back I might learn something. "Hi, Dad."
My hand twitched, flicking two inches of cigarette ash on the eggs. Jesus was standing there in front of me. "I told you not to sneak up on me like that, boy." "I said hi," he explained.
The eggs were ruined but I wasn't hungry. And I couldn't stay mad at Jesus, anyway. I might have taken him in when he was a child, but the truth was that he had adopted me. Jesus worked hard at making our home run smoothly, and his love for me was stronger than blood.
"What you doin' today?" I asked him. "Nuthin'. Messin' around." "Sit down," I said.
Jesus didn't move the chair as he sat, because there was enough room for him to slide in under the table. He never wasted a movement -- or a word. "I wanna drop out of high school," he said. "Say what?"
Copyright © 2002 by Walter Mosley
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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