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Slo Girl, Jazzy, and Me

If you was to ask Slo Girl, she was to say that she discovered blue religion on a Saturday morning, when she landed flat on her back, ankles twined improper, under a sunny kinda someone; her first reaction upon landing was startled shock, and then, counterintuitively, calm, an’ jus’ senseless peace…

This be jus’ the kinda peace that the Fence provides: tall an’ warped, screenin’ us off from the rest of the Township proper…

There be three of us on this side of the Fence, within the sun worn home, loosely joined like shadows beneath the eaves. And all three of us, we was known to him, and he been known to us, and that been all that matters.

The first time I come to know what I know about him, I feels like I’m swimmin’ on the quiet side of the never before. I wriggles my toes, struggles to get free. But there he be: starin’ at me proper; a wolf’s grin pinned to his ears. I feels then that I looks like I knows somethin’ that maybe I shouldn’t. Because I seen the Man and the Man seen me. He whistles sharp into the dark, and his words drift down like dust, an’ I can’t do nothin’ but listen. His mouth comes to full circle and he grins. My knees buckle easy into the quiet. I feels stone in my legs, drift weight in my calves.

You hear him, I ask Jazzy an’ Slo Girl? Singin’ up our supper?

Uh course we does—they reply—Uh course we does…

And then Slo Girl’s and Jazzy’s attentions fix to pondering serious the man who took to spin out his words proper, like a trickling eddy down at the Shallows. And they understand better than most the peculiar of thuh station they be in, that we all be in. Because, the Man had fixed us all wrong with his sideways smile, and it’s just what you might expect from a sort who showed up one day when wasn’t nothin’ proper present—from a man who yoked hisself to our brokun up farm with touched up soil—a heap of fall away rot that not even Jesus hisself woulda loved.

*

In n’ out, I forgot, the Man hums, a taut thin cord strung between his fingers…

Burnt on me bad, I forgot…

My girl, down in thuh sands…

Burnt me twice, I forgot…

The words spill out like ash, and then they is quick-wired into song. And the song slowly cuts into the menace of our gaze, Slo Girl, Jazzy an’ me.

And so, I wriggles my toes. An’ I wriggles my fingers. But the cord jus’ cuts more deep when I does do so. And so I feels the harsh blush of twine…

In n’ out, I forgot, the Man hums…

Burnt on me bad, I forgot…

My girl, down in thuh sands…

Burnt me twice, I forgot…

*

Slo Girl, she can hear the music, and she can smell the mud, scaled across her back, like so much rosary—an’ the mud don’t come off, no matter how hard the man work at it, not even wit’ strangled, thinned out words, all bound up into a tired heap of voice. She worked hard for the mud, scratching and wormin’ her way through the muck that bound the Fence that bounds our home, and now he tryin’ to shake it off, her hard work…

Slo Girl feels herself boxed to the floor when he speaks, and she wishes an’ wills her legs to move, when he speaks, but they don’t, they ain’t, an’ they can’t move none, and the heavy of twine don’t even seem to matter. Her hands if they could would form uh cross; but they can’t, so they loop limply at the wrist. An’ he just stand on by: offerin’ up his bright white teeth, spoilin’ the verse with song…

Mama seen me, says the Man…

Seen me cold, lost me twice…

And as he speak, the Man be siftin’ off flakes of mud an’ workin’ up his nerve to query Slo Girl proper; but, truth is, he seem to have forgot what he needs tuh know to remember about wooing a woman, and so he be sittin’ in the corner, whisperin’ on nothin’, mumblin’ until his whispers is fallen theyselves to nothin. An’ then the whispers is stone, an’ the stone is lime, an’ thuh lime mix with dirt until thuh dirt an’ thuh lime flicks over his shoulders like so much prayer….

*

 

{TO READ THE REST OF THIS STORY, PLEASE PURCHASE ISSUE 43 (The African Literary Hustle).}
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