"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.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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