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And maybe he only did it because he was tired.
Maybe that was it, maybe mama not baking the honey baked ham with the glistening mounds of soaked black beans like she said she would did it, maybe her waving the spoon in his face and going “No, Jerry Arthur, no food for you tonight,” or maybe it was grandmama upstairs with her old toe under her pink blanket with all the stains, watching Wheel of Fortune or some such darn thing and weeping, weeping. And maybe he only did it because the ve-hicle was late, the bus, his bus, and maybe the big old fat bus driver with his cap all low like a big pig oinking going “come on now, get in the bus, Jerry Arthur,” maybe that did it for him too. Or maybe it was the old woman in black in the back of the bus, who looked like one of them doves he’d held at the farm upstate when he was smaller, real tender, real delicate, when he could still be delicate like that. His hands had got too large for that, now. He’d hold a spoon and it’d look like a tiny little pinprick in his hand, and he’d drop it nearabouts as often as bend it, and mama would sigh and go “Jerry Arthur” and grandmama mostabouts would look down at her grits in the little plastic scooby-doo bowl with the dark marks on the edges and go all gummy and wouldn’t say anything at all.
And maybe he only did it because it was raining.
Maybe he did it for no reason at all.
And maybe he only did it because of Sallie-Mae, who was supposed to be the hostess of “The Corral”, which was where he worked, except she never did much hostessing at all (Lou-Ellen who had a right eye gone and a real bad hernia somewhere around the waist region did all that.) Maybe he only did it because Sallie-Mae walked around him so fast like a big old moth that he couldn’t turn right to see her and walked all over the floor he’d just mopped, knocked all the plates from their places with a real big crash—-usually Sallie-Mae wasn’t so bad like this. But today she said “re-tard, re-taaaaaard, you fuckup—-My boyfriend left today for California and you don’t even care, you fuckup—-re-taaaaaard” And every time he tried to clean the kitchen and get it looking to rights she made it dirty again.
Maybe it was because the old fat man weren’t driving the morning bus, it was a little woman, dark and skinny and small like those snakes you hit and hit and hit with a rake back on the farm until they stop twitching, and when he got on she didn’t understand that mama would pay later, that she always paid for him, that he didn’t concern himself with money or anything like that.
“Off the bus with you,” she said. And from the back of the bus somebody said “Hey now, that’s Jerry Arthur”, but she didn’t pay him no mind, and she made him get off the bus.
And he felt real ashamed.
And maybe it was that mama had never loved him much or he couldn’t tell, maybe she did her good loving when he was sleeping and he couldn’t hear it, or when he was gone, or maybe it was the fact that grandmama was dying and he couldn’t put his head on her chest and have her pat it real good, anymore, because she couldn’t breathe then—-he tried it once and she had slapped him with her tiny bony hand and I just wanted my head on your chest he tried to say, and she said—-“no more trying to talk now, Jerry Arthur.” And maybe it was that.
Maybe it was the fact that he got mad sometimes, that everything was so hard and broke when he didn’t mean it to—-maybe it was the fact that deep down behind his belly button he felt tickled by the thought of getting to hit and hit and hit and hit. He really couldn’t say.
But when he went to the store that night to steal some eggs and maybe a lollipop the tall brown boy with the shiny white sneakers lifted his shoulders and shouted it, like a song—-“Retard! Retard! You fucking beast!” he turned and hit and hit and hit and hit until the boy’s soft brown face looked like a fruit and maybe he shouldn’t have left him there all broken in the street behind the Louisville bus station on the night of the big baseball game but he did.
Isabella Nilsson is a young writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. Besides LitroNY, her work can be found on Textploit and Scholastic's Best Teen Writing of 2015. She works as a prose editor at The Adroit Journal.