Tuesday, May 29, 2007

paved 2

Maryanne ran up the road toward the river in the chill gray. Charlie’s big, old CPT coat, almost long enough to cover the hem of her housedress, unbuttoned but hugged around her with arms lost in the sleeves, made her look like a child. She brought her hand up to her head to hold her scarf on in the wind as she spun around to the house to shout, “Deborah! Call my sponsor! And bring my cigarettes!” as she turned back, running, one of her house shoes came off. She hesitated, started to leave it, then came back and picked it up. She took off the other one and put them both in the pocket of Charlie’s coat and started running for the river barefoot.

Deborah and I watched her go. As soon as she was out of site, Deborah asked me for a cigarette.

“You got a thigarette?” It was hard to understand Deborah if you didn’t know her. Heavyset and lumbering, with a distinctive speech impediment, she wore her thirty five years like fifty five. She was what we in these parts call retarded.

I fished one out and gave it to her. I lit it and she held it that funny way, between her index and second finger, but at the very tip end. And she never brought it more than a half inch away from her lips. And she hot boxed it until it was gone. Then she asked for another.

“You got a thigarette? You killed Ed? You got any pot?”

“I just gave you a cigarette. I did not kill Ed, he died. You can’t smoke pot. It doesn’t go with your lithium.”

“Nanaw said you kill Ed she call police on you.”

“Nobody killed Ed. He’s been sick for a long time. He just died. No big deal.”

“My daddy died.”

“I know sweety.”

“You got any beer?”


“You smell like beer.”

“I drank some with Ed.”

“Ed dead.”


“My daddy dead.”

“I know sweety.”

“He fell down in his apartment in the hallway between the bathroom and the bedroom and nobody find him for two weeks. He rot and the neighbors complain.”

“I know sweety.”

“They have to take him out with a shovel.”

“I know sweety, I’m the one who had to take him out.”

“That right. You got a thigarette?”

I fished out another one for her and one for myself. She sat next to me on the step as we watched Maryanne run back over the levee. Charlie’s big, old CPT coat open and flapping in the wind. Her braless, sagging breasts flapping back and forth under the house dress in rhythm to her stride. She had this frightened, angry, accusatory look in her eyes and her cheeks puffed and rippled. One of her house shoes flew out of the pocket of the coat but she never even noticed.

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