Excerpt from The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Revisioners

by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton X
The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2019, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2020, 288 pages

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Lisa Butts
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The Revisioners

It was King who told me we forgot the photograph. Twelve years old, but he'd been washing his own clothes since he was eight, and was often the one to remind me to take the trash out on Thursdays. I didn't intend to place all that responsibility on him—he was a child—but he identified the holes in my capacity and dove into them. While I was filing motions for Mr. Jeff at Wilkerson & Associates, he was microwaving neat squares of beef lasagna. And now this, the picture my grandmother's great-grandmother had had taken of herself, standing at the edge of her farm. Miss Josephine. Her husband had just died, and you could not miss that in her eyes, the loneliness. But you could also glimpse the pride: the rows of corn, their stalks double her height, the chickens at her feet. A smokehouse with shingles planked toward the roof like two hands in prayer.

"We could go back and get it," King says.

I shake my head. "It's too late," I say, and maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but I'm afraid if I turn back, I won't make it through the stained-glass doors of the uptown mansion in front of us. I hadn't fully come to the decision to move here, more like the decision had wound its way through me, and if I had another hour, another drive east, I might just stay over on that side of town, where my mama would welcome me. But I was tired of disappointing her. She was hard on me when I was a child. She held so much promise when she'd met my father at Tulane. She was one of the only blacks on campus and she caught his eye though the only black woman he'd known was his housekeeper, Mary. Six months later, my mother was pregnant. My father went on to law school. She had planned on going too but it would have been difficult for her without a baby; with me, it was nearly impossible. Still she did it, all the while working odd jobs as a waitress, caretaker, stenographer. My father felt neglected and took up with a woman from his Civil Procedure study group. My mother said she was better off without him, but for a long time when she looked at me, when she answered my questions, when she tucked me in to sleep at night, I could sense her bitterness straining through her tight smiles.

"We better go in," I say. "It's getting dark," and King lets out a tired sigh.

"Why can't we just go to Maw Maw's?" he asks. He's been asking this all week and I repeat again what I've been saying.

"This is a good opportunity for us, King. A better school.

We'll see each other more 'cause you'll just be downstairs."

"Yeah, but living in this old lady's house. This old white lady." He pauses. "It's weird."

"No weirder than living with Maw Maw that one time. Probably better because she won't be all up in our business. Plus this house is huge. Grandma Martha will have her wing, we'll have ours. You probably won't even see her."

He sucks his teeth but he shifts in his seat and grips the handle of his backpack.

When I open my car door, he opens his too. We didn't pack a whole lot. Our furniture is in storage, and otherwise we don't own much more than our clothes, one lamp, some framed pictures of me and my mother when I was a child, me clinging to her waist like any minute someone might snatch her. We gather the little we can hold and walk up the long brick walkway, past the two-tiered angel fountain in the courtyard, through the iron lace gate. I use my key to open up and Grandma Martha isn't at the door to greet us, but she's already told me where we'll stay and I know my way to the second floor. Her room is just beyond us on the third. King has never been inside and his mouth is open as he sizes it up, the grand crystal chandelier, the red upholstered chairs, the Oriental rugs over the mahogany floors, the paintings of her ancestors, their thin lips pressed together.

In his room, he sets his backpack down. Just to the side of his four-poster bed, a window looks out to the driveway where our beat-up white Camry seems out of place. The bed is the height of his waist. I remember at our apartment, he'd flop on his old one after school and here he has to climb on top.

Excerpted from The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. Copyright © 2019 by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint 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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