Good Kings, Bad Kings
I put on my pink top that says BABY GIRL on the front and I put on different eye makeup because my other eye makeup got messed up from crying. I want to look good in case they got cameras. I put on some red, red lipstick that I'm keeping for Cheri when she comes back, if she does. I had a valentine Mia gave me that I saved up and I stuck that in my fanny pack. I didn't have nothing from Teddy or Pierre, so I wrote Teddy's name on my arm and put a heart around it, and I wrote Pierre's name on my other arm and drew a pencil like the one he stabbed Louie with. It didn't look like a pencil that much but it was a pencil. I took my chain I had bought at the hardware store and my lock from my locker at Hoover and put 'em in my bag hanging offa my chair, and I got my sign I made from under my bed. Then I went down the elevator and out the door. It was nice outside, kinda warm and sunny, and it felt like that feeling you get when it's Spring, but it is Spring so I guess that's why. I rolled out to the middle of the grass right in front of ILLC, but I didn't see no place good to chain myself to. I always thought there was a tree out here or something but all I see now is two skinny baby trees and a whole lotta bushes. How can you see a place every single day and not know what the hell it looks like? Shit. So I wrapped my chain around and around one of the baby trees and then I wrapped the rest around me and my chair, held up my sign, and waited for the fur to start flying.
Nothing happened for a while.
One thing I didn't remember to think about is nothing never happens around here. ILLC's in the middle of nowhere. Some cars drove by, and maybe the drivers looked at me? But they didn't look at my sign. They just looking at my cleavage or my wheelchair. I hope it's my cleavage. A truck from the meatpacker place come past and the driver waved and he read my sign but he didn't give a shit. I started to feel stupid just sitting there holding a sign and chained to a little tree and people driving by and thinking I'm some crazy cripple person.
If Cheri was here she'd be out here with me and then I'd have somebody to talk to. But if Cheri was here maybe I wouldn't be out here in the first place.
Then Ricky drove up with more people he picked up from the funeral. First he honked at me, like he was saying hello. Then, the Lord strike me dead if I'm lying, he must have read my sign, because the boy's mouth just dropped open like someone smacked him in the face.
THIS PLACE ABUSE AND KILL CHILDREN.
That's what my sign says.
Ricky let down the ramp for the straggles from the funeral. Bernard and Fantasia and Mia and Michael Jackson was some of them. After they all got out, they come over to where I was. Ricky and them and a couple other of the inmates came over to me by my tree and the first thing Ricky says is "Did Joanne see this?" And I says, "She gonna be mad?" and Ricky says, "Hell no, she ain't gonna be mad. But I'm surprised they ain't had you arrested."
"That ain't funny."
"Yeah, yeah, no this is great. It's great. Let me go get her though, okay?"
I'm like, hey, the more, the merrier. Bernard says, "You gon' get in trouble."
"Won't be the first time," I say.
Michael said, "Dag." He don't talk much.
Bernard says, "They gonna kick you outta here."
I says, "That'll suit me fine." Even though that was the first time it popped into my mind that I might get my ass into real trouble. Damn.
Fantasia says, "I don't wanna get in no trouble." Bernard says, "I bet Teddy would've liked it though." I says, "Why you think I'm sitting here for?"
And Bernard wheels over right next to me and puts on his brakes. Fantasia can't stand for Bernard to do nothing without her so she wheeled over by him and stayed put. Bernard got Fantasia dicknatized. Then Mia say, "Yessie, what it say? You sign?" Not on account that she can't read but because Mia's blind as a bat.
Excerpted from Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. Copyright © 2013 by Susan Nussbaum. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.
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