Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Her Place

She slid the barrel into his mouth and tapped his teeth with it. His eyes popped open, and the sight of her at the other end with those piercing, deep-set eyes sent a surge of pure fear through his veins.

“I’ve decided it’s time for you to go.”

Instinct told him to slide back farther onto the bed, but her icy resolve arrested every inch of him.

“It’s time,” she repeated, drawing him into her gaze.

He never liked when she looked directly at him. In fact, he had always insisted that she look away. A sign of respect for the man of the house. Proof that she knew her place.

She tossed her place over and over in her mind. Something about it coming from him just did not fit.

He had calculated all but this.

Mama’s field work by day and domestic help at night gave him ample opportunity to watch the girls. He was “good with them” and “good for them.” But he watched with eyes that did not belong to a father. So when Mama’s desire turned into reliance, he became an enemy she did not know she had.

He could taste the gunpowder. The thought of her having fired the weapon made tears roll down his face. He tried to speak, but with every grunt she pressed the barrel firmer onto his tongue causing his teeth and lips to clamp down uncontrollably onto the metal. The pool of saliva and blood gathering at the top of his throat started to make him choke.

She sucked her teeth in disgust.

“I assure you that there’s nothing for you to say.”

Never diverting her eyes from his, she grew bolder and continued. “On the porch is a bag with your things. Well, not all your things.”

She slid the barrel a little deeper into his mouth. “You owe me, so I’m keeping a few things. You will take that bag and leave here. You are never to look at this house or the people in it ever again.”

His breathing began to slow as he realized his death was not her intention. She leaned her body in closer to his, intensifying her gaze.

“I’ve practiced killing you, and I’m quite sure I’d succeed.”

The glow of her hatred sent his heart racing again.

“Like I said, ‘it’s time for you to go.'”

She violently snatched the barrel from his mouth, bring along two teeth with it, and made room for him to rise from the bed and maneuver around her.

She marched behind him with the gun pointed at his back as he moved passed the girls and the baby and headed outside.

Silence erupted on nearby porches at the sight of her ushering him out of the house. They knew then what they did not before and shook their heads.

“Shame before Jesus,” Miss Ella spat in his direction as he walked passed her house.

“Don’t you come back ’round here! You gone deal with more than that gal if you do!” Junior threatened.

She walked behind him with the barrel to his back for 50 yards before she stopped, letting him continue his departure alone. Then she stood in the road until the distance or the dark made his figure disappear. No one but Billy moved toward her.

“I ain’t gone let him hurt you no more,” he said, trying to comfort her.

“Humph. I ain’t gone let him hurt me no more,” she replied, patting her thigh with the barrel. “And nobody else either,” she said, looking directly at him.

“Naw, I ‘spect you won’t.”

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