On Emilena, the oyster man's bateau, the strange mixture of salt water and fresh gave the air Eudora huddled in a depth like a blanket everywhere she moved, stretched, arched her back. Max the oyster man was an industrious fellow, finding a way to make himself a bit more in de pen dent any old way he could. Folk talked bout that. Max was a bachelor, one past his prime, so what was he making a legacy for, who was to benefit from all his work beyond what had to be done? Max'd reply in his slow and sly way, never letting on whether he was joshing or no, "Can never tell who'll be in need, I looks at it this way." Betty knew Max most of her life and all of his, she wasn't surprised. If the Yankees could wipe clean the riches of planters, who knew what could disrupt a niggah's fortune? Best to have more. Wasn't nothing to be said about having enough.
Betty couldn't help herself. She started counting, picking out the green growing things she loved and might never see again. You could tell, she thought, almost exactly where you were by the growing things lacing your path, flirting with the tides, murmuring honest "forget-me-nots" to the bateau and her passengers. Betty wanted to share her good-byes with Eudora, but the child had decided to absent herself from her own life's turning-point, too full of tomorrow to pay homage to yesterday. Betty, missing conversation, decided to let her graying hair down out its braid. When she was through slowly unwinding the heavy mass rarely seen in public, never by menfolk, even Max, who paid women no mind at all, believing they didn't have any, was hankering to get his thick knobby fingers to running through that fine-looking old gal's head of hair. What nets he could design with the like of black and white strands Betty shook atop the water so they set the water lilies to dancing, got the wax myrtle giggling, the spartina and star marsh to putting on airs. Azaleas backed up gainst palmetto looking to mask themselves in the face of such wanton abundant growth. All this was goin' on, Betty smiling, feeling the energy from the river in the pit of her groin.
Excerpted from Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza. Copyright © 2010 by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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