"Did you water them hogs yet?" Buddy asked knowing good and damned well I hadn't.
"Sure, I did that first."
"Liar, I'm gonna tell Daddy. You better go water them hogs."
"Why don't you mind your own business, you little prick?" I said and punched him hard on the shoulder.
"I'm gonna tell him you did that, too," Buddy said. His chin quivered, but his fists were clenched, ready for trouble. I was already sorry I hit him. I also didn't like the idea he might do it. If Daddy woke in one of his moods I'd play hell for it. But no way was I gonna back down and water the hogs on Buddy's say so.
"Just go feed your chickens," I said and walked on back to the house feeling rotten. Lights played through the windows, and I perked up; maybe Mamma was making breakfast. I shucked my boots outside the back door and went in.
The back door led to the den and kitchen, which shared one big room. Aside from coffee perking, the kitchen showed no signs of life. Now, it ain't like Mamma never made us breakfast; every now and then she'd surprise us with pancakes and sausage, or ham and scrambled eggs. And she did this just often enough to keep our hopes alive and the roaches committed. But mostly if we wanted breakfast we could fetch our own. Since the coffee wasn't ready, and my sisters hadn't claimed the bathroom yet, I decided to shower.
After a few minutes Mamma banged on the door hollering, "Don't use up all that hot water boy!"
Once out I checked my face in the mirror looking for an excuse to shave but found no hint or hope of whiskers. I slung on a little after-shave anyway and went to dress for school.
In my closet doorway hung a mirror, and I used it to carefully arrange my bangs over the bristle of acne on my forehead. Hair was a constant battle in 1971, and no matter how short you wore it your folks always wanted it just a little bit shorter. So far I'd managed to win the battle of the bangs, and I considered it a blessing since my forehead looked like someone had worked it over with a grater. Mamma said it was having that oily brown hair hanging there that made it look like a volcano park in the first place, but I needed that hair if I wanted to look cool.
Dressed and combed, I stopped at my desk just long enough to stare at my chessboard and make a move. "Take that, Fischer," I muttered, and moved on.
In the kitchen I fixed myself a bowl of cereal. My father came in while I was eating.
"Did you water them hogs, Cleve?"
Buddy walked in at that point, but said nothing.
"Yessir." I didn't look up from my cereal. "Two buckets."
Dad broke some eggs in a pan. "You're lying, son. I seen you from the bedroom. You finish your breakfast and take that water down."
"Dad," I whined.
"Don't Dad me, do it."
"The boy ain't fetching water to no hogs in his school clothes. You'll just have to do it, Wayne," Mamma said stepping in from the hallway.
"Fine." Daddy threw the egg turner on the counter. "That's just goddamned dandy! I can't get no goddamned breakfast, but I can do the boy's work for him." His eggs bubbled and spat in the pan.
Excerpted from Magee's Blue #3, (c) 2000 by Donald Whittington. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, Authorlink Press. All rights reserved.
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