Excerpt from Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Wade in the Water

A Novel

by Nyani Nkrumah

Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah X
Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 320 pages

    Jan 30, 2024, 368 pages


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Part 1

Chapter 1

Ricksville, Mississippi, Summer 1982

There weren't many people I loved when I was eleven, but I loved Mr. Macabe. I knew he couldn't be my daddy because he was too old, but I always thought of him as my granddad even though I'd never had one. Mr. Macabe said his blindness gave him the second sight. That he could see deep into souls. I didn't believe him one lick.

"I go to Sunday school," I would say sharply to him, "only God sees into souls."

He would grin back at me, his partly toothless smile reminding me of my seven-year-old cousin, Devin.

I ran all the way down Ricksville Road to get to Mr. Macabe's house at number 2, feeling the last memories of school fade with every step I took. I wanted to keep that feeling going all day, so I dawdled by Cammy's house, wishing she hadn't gone away to her father's somewhere up in Indian Reserve country, and dodged around that half-naked crazy Sammy who shouted obscenities at anyone who came within his sight.

Finally, I was at Mr. Macabe's.

Mr. Macabe lived on the right, five houses down from mine. I walked up the porch stairs and up to his front door. I pushed the door open and went inside and there he was, sitting in that old wicker chair. I went right up to him like I always did and stared into his milky eyes, willing him to open them and see me. He was wearing a dirty, torn, pale blue shirt.

My eyes swept up and down to scrutinize his skinny frame, taking in the overgrown gray beard that partially covered strong carved-out, oak-colored features, and finally settled on his worn and calloused feet. Every inch of him was as familiar as the red dirt that filled the potholes on our street.

"That you, Ella?"

"Yes. It's me, Mr. Macabe. Just wanted to tell you that we won the Ricksville mud battle this morning." The mud battle happened only in May, a few days after school ended, and it had to have rained enough for the soil to get so sopping wet that we could scoop it up like clay and mold it into balls. The battle was one side of the street against the other, and every child between the ages of four and fourteen had been outside hurling mud balls.

"Heard you all a-hollering this morning. Couldn't even sleep in. Must think I'm deaf, too."

He took his time packing tobacco into his pipe, and I stood by his side, close as I could, while he finished.

"How're your legs doing?" I asked.

"Still not working as good as they should, Ella. You've been asking me the same question since you were six."

"Because I'm still waiting on God. He'll fix those up good as new, same as your eyes." I looked at him again, wishing that what I believed would just flow from my eyes into his brain.

"Ella, why you always waiting on a miracle? Those don't come by here often, you know."

"I know God can make many miracles," I said. I was tired of having to convince Mr. Macabe that if he believed hard enough, he would see. He was so old, you'd think he would know these things by now, but no, I always had to tell him.

"Have you seen Fats around here?" I asked.

"Why you all keep calling that boy such a horrible name? What if people started calling me blind old Mr. Macabe? Would that be nice?"

I wanted to tell him that everyone did call him blind old Mr. Macabe when they were talking about him, but I didn't want to make him mad because then Mr. Macabe would raise that cane of his and bring it down every which way about, and you'd have to duck just in case it hit you.

"He was just here, not ten minutes afore you, looking twice as muddy."

Fats was my second-best friend, after Cammy. Everyone called him Fats, even his ma. Every single part of his body was round, from his full soft bulging lips to his pudgy rolling belly. Fats was the color of sandpaper, but when you looked carefully, that color seemed to depend on which part of his body you were looking at. His face was like butterscotch, all smooth and warm, but his belly, hanging out over swim trunks, was pale and pasty, like the underbelly of an octopus, while his arms and legs were a chocolate brown.

Excerpted from Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah. Copyright © 2023 by Nyani Nkrumah. Excerpted by permission of Amistad. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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