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.After the rst half ofthe cbsFriday Night Movie, another WorldWar II story, she went up to bed.Unable to sleep, she turned the pages of herhigh school yearbook and thought about other directions her life might havegone.Most of her friends from those days were married, some with three, evenfour children.When she ran into them in Smith eld, they seemed numb andexhausted by their lives.She would have traded places with any of them.She woke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of her door opening.She was still heavy with sleep, not sure how old she was. Daddy?she said. Shhhh. The door closed and someone came to sit on the oor next to her bed. It s Greg, he whispered. I hope I didn t scare you.She was fully awake now. Daddy said you were gone to California.lewis shiner304 Not yet.He s got me a ride with a trucker headed out there in a couple ofdays.Until then I got to hide out in the basement. What happened? I did something.She longed to turn on the light.She couldn t tell from his whispered voicewhat he was feeling. Something bad? I don t know.It needed doing.Your daddy wanted it done, he asked for it toget done.But I did it on my own, without permission, and your daddy is reallymad.Your daddy too, Ruth thought.She d never told him, and would not now; it wasnot her secret to reveal. Greg, what did you do? I killed him.The nigger, Barrett Howard, the big, tough Black Power nigger.I killed him with my own hands. Oh, Greg, no. Don t you start in on me, too. I m not  starting in. I love you like a brother.I hate to see you come tothis. I had to do something, he said. I had to show him I was still a man. Barrett Howard was a man, too.You took his life. Don t tell me you never wanted to kill anybody.What about that woman, Mercy?You never wished her dead?When Ruth didn t answer, he snorted. This is war.People get killed in warsPage 232 ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.htmlall the time.He knew that when he declared war on the white race. Daddy said you re going in the Army. Yeah. They ll send you to Vietnam, you know.You always said you didn t want togo. I got no choice.Your daddy said it was the smart thing to do, and I got todo what he tells me just now.Give me an alibi, take me out of the picture.Ithink he s afraid I d talk, but I wouldn t.I never would. His hushed voicewas feverish, pumped with bravado and raw need. I know, Ruth said, a meaningless, soothing sound. He had to call Congressman Fogg, get the brothers to help clean up the mess Imade. Are the police after you? Not yet.So far don t nobody know he s dead but us.Your daddy says he lltake care of it, and maybe he will, and this whole thing will blow over.Whileall that happens, I ll be in Vietnam.His knees creaked as he shifted his weight. I got to go.I don t want yourdaddy to catch me up here, no telling what he d do.I was listening at theBlack & White305pantry door this afternoon, when you came in the kitchen and were talking toyour mama.I knew I had to see you, get a chance to say goodbye.You werealways good to me, always treated me special.I wanted to thank you for that.Tears ran down Ruth s face, across her nose and onto her left hand that heldup her head. Be careful, she said. I hope you.I hope you nd your wayout of this.She wanted him to kiss her forehead, or touch her hand; that was not Greg sway. I m going to sneak outside for a while, be with my dog, Greg said. He ll be full grown before I see him again. He was standing now, movingtoward the door. You won t tell your daddy about this?Then he was gone.On September 18, a Thursday, Mitch Antree called. He just had a mes-sage come into the o ce saying  Call M.R. This may be it. Thank you, Ruth said. Don t mention it, Antree said, and put the phone down sharply.She d been dreading this day without knowing why it was so important to her.There was no plan in her mind, only a powerful and formless longing.Now that the day was here, she wished she hadn t known about it.The prob-lem with the gift of knowledge was that you could never give it back.Late that night she called Lincoln Hospital, the Negro hospital, and said shewas Mercy s sister.The desk nurse was very sweet and found out for her thatMercy was still in labor.Ruth slept tfully and was wide awake again at5 am.This time when she called, the desk nurse already had the information. BabyMalcolm was born at1:39this morning.Nine pounds and healthy as a horse.Malcolm, Ruth thought.How many more insults could she possibly bear?In the grip of an impulse she could not resist, she put on her oldest garden-ing clothes and tied a drab scarf over her hair.With a pair of oldsunglasses, and with her shoulders slumped to minimize her gure, she barelyrecognized her-self.The address for Lincoln Hospital was in the book, and it was easy enoughto nd.She went straight past the nurse at the front desk and took the stairs down aight.A janitor there sent her to the second- oor maternity ward.She tookthe stairs, moving slowly, on the alert in case Robert should appear.ThePage 233 ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.htmlbuild-ing was old, the paint on the walls yellowed and peeling, the linoleum wornthrough in places.It didn t feel clean enough to be a hospital.The nursery was across from the nurses station, illuminated only by a fewnight-lights.Fifteen or so babies lay in bassinettes, one in an incubator,another strapped to a kind of platform with an drip.After looking bothways, Ruth ivlewis shiner306took o her dark glasses and peered through the plate glass window betweencupped hands.A nurse paused next to her, a middle-aged Negro woman.Of course they were allNegroes here. Can I help you? she asked. Do you know which one is Mercy Richards baby? It cost her extra e ort tosay the name. Malcolm? There in front.Third from the right.Now Ruth saw the handwritten name stuck to the foot of the bassinette withmasking tape. Could I.could I see him? she asked. I just got in town,and I don t want to wake Mercy up.I know she must be exhausted.The nurse now took her own look around and nodded. I don t see why not, hon.Come on in.The nurse lifted Robert s baby and o ered it to Ruth, who took it awk-wardly in her arms.She opened the blanket to get a good look at the face,then checked out the hands and feet.Her heart lled with unbearable regret.The baby was white, as white as she was [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]