Whispers in the Dark
Whispers in the Dark
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1"Yeth he did too. Popo called me on the vid hithelf an' he wath on'y two year ole," Misty Bent said to her wide-eyed niece, Hazel Bernard. They were sitting out on the screened porch above the Tickle River. Misty's drooping left eyelid and gnarled, half-paralyzed hands did not lessen her excitement.
"You kiddin'," Hazel replied.
"Tole me hith mama wath thick on the flo' and that he'd called the hothpital but he wanted me to know too." Hazel shook her head remembering Melba's death. "I beat the ambulanth but Death got there quicker thtill. Doctor Maynard called it a acthidental overdoth tho we could put her in the ground with a prietht and thome prayer beadth but you know Melba had had all the could take. You know it hurt me tho bad that the blood vethel broke in my head."
"Her life wasn't no harder than what we all have to go through," Hazel Bernard said. She shifted her girth looking for a comfortable perch in the cheap plastic chair, but there was none.
"But you cain't compare her an'uth, or you'n me for that matter. Ith all diff'rent."
"What's that crazy talk s'posed to mean?" the big woman challenged. Hazel said she dropped by to see how Misty was coming along after the stroke but really she was there to see if Chill Bent, Misty's ex-convict son, had come back to live with her as some of the family had rumored.
"Ith juth what you thinkin'," Misty replied.
"What you know 'bout what I'm thinkin'?" Hazel asked. She was thirty years younger than Misty, but she was also the eldest of thirteen children. Hazel had been the ruler of the roost since the age of nine, and no old woman's pretending was going to trick her.
"You thinkin' that the tht'oke done methed wit' my mind, that I'm feeble in the head 'cuth my left thide ith parali'ed. You think I cain't take care'a Popo but you wrong."
"I do not think any such thing."
"Oh yeth you do too," Misty said. "That'th why you heah. I know. And you wrong but you done anthered your own quethton in bein' wrong."
Hazel shifted again and grunted. This was a day taken away from her housework and her children.
She swallowed her anger and asked, "Are you tired, auntie?"
Little Popo wandered onto the deck then. He was small for thirty months but his movements seemed more like those of an old man lost in memories than those of a child discovering the world.
"Hi, Popo," Hazel said. "Come here."
"Huth," Misty hissed. "He thinkin'. He'll talk when he want to."
"What? You don't call him to come sit on your lap?"
Popo went up to the edge of the deck and pressed his face against the loose screen.
"Don't fall, baby," Misty whispered.
The boy rocked back on his heels, his tiny black hands replacing his face upon the screen. He wore a white T-shirt and denim blue jeans with no shoes. His thick hair stood out long and wild but it wasn't matted.
"Rain's comin'," Popo said.
"That's right," Hazel said. "Weatherman said that a storm's gonna come outta the Gulf tonight. You're right, Aunt Misty. He is smart to hear that on ITV and remember it like that."
"No Internet in thith home," Misty proclaimed. "Not even no old TV or radio that work. Thill thay it would meth Popo up."
"Chill? No ITV?" Hazel didn't know which road to hell was worse. Both together tied her tongue. "I smell it," Popo said, looking at the big visitor in the purple dress. "It smell like the knife an' fo'k when they wet.
PublisherGrand Central Publishing
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