Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Short End of the Libman (cont'd.)

2 of 2

Mrs. Gentry was smoking and reading when Randi walked in. “That you, Randi girl? It’s late. You know I like to eat earlier than this. What’s that dirt all over you? Go wash up. Good Lord in heaven. You’re twenty-six years old. Guess I’ll be having to watch after you like you’re a little girl for twenty-six more years if you don’t get a little humph in you somewhere. Bad leg or not, Randi, the good Lord hates sloth. Go on, now. I’m starved. Wait. Come back here. What’s that purple stuff all over you?”

“Oh, just some purple lint. From somebody’s rug, I guess. Lint I picked up. That’s all, Mama.” Randi was heading for the bathroom while Mrs. Gentry pronounced something good coming out of that purple.

“Wasn’t it Lydia in the Bible that sold purple cloth? I’ll have to look that up for you, Randi girl, but I’m just too tired and hungry right now.”

Randi bathed, cooked and went to bed.

The next day she swept. She swept up orange peels, coke cans and picked up Avon books scattered everywhere. She got her lines straight and just to be on the safe side, she picked up all the trash across the side street. There was a restaurant there, and she didn’t want all their trash blowing over to the complex, messing up her straight lines and all.

After she got her lines straight, Randi stood for a while, watching the ducks.

One day, some man, working at the park, explained the ducks’ habits to her. “No ma’am,” he’d said, “these mallard ducks, they take care of their young. They help the women-folk just as if they’d had those little ducklings themselves.”

Randi thought this interesting. And odd.

When Randi came home, she bathed, cooked Mrs. Gentry’s supper, and then bathed again. She went to bed. She went to sleep. She didn’t dream of a better life. Maybe she didn’t know how to dream.

She swept.

And the next year she collected six dollars and thirty-five cents. Mrs. Gentry said it was an omen. Randi didn’t know if it was an omen or not. But she did know she had covered more ground for more money that year. She was up to cleaning a full block away now. It was the windy season.


§

“What’s that you’re doing in there, girl? That must be the seventh time you’ve brushed your teeth tonight.”

Randi came out the bathroom door. She was so tired she didn’t think she had the energy to listen to Mama tonight. “What’s wrong with brushing my teeth, Mama?”

“I may not be the smartest person in the world, Randi, but I’m not the ignorant end of the shovel, either. Something’s the matter with you. You must need some kind of medicine or something.”

Or something.


§

Cigarette butts, coke cans, pigeon feathers, and Lord yes, this was Monday. Beer bottles, too. Randi spent a long time that day, bending, reaching. A person can’t just sweep up beer bottles when they’re half full. Pulling herself up, using her strong side, she reached and smiled as she caught the plastic bag gliding in the autumn air. From a soft distance, Randi could hear the ducks and their duck-talk. She could almost see the babies, born to swim—and following their two parents, as they lined up chattering. She imagined them racing after a small piece of bread, swelling in the man made pond.

2 comments:

aunt karen said...

I do remember reading this while you were in school, De'on. I love it more now than then. I knew back then how talented you are, and that if the public ever got to read your work you would immediatly be published. Don't ever stop!

De'on Miller said...

You are so sweet and every girl needs a fan like you!