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December 14, 1940 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-12-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

IELS of sooty smoke floated
/ ipward from the blackened
stove to mingle with other veils
of cobwebs stretching under the
ig roof. Lighter smoke danced
a sable pot of boiling brew..
1on dew ox foot tomb root, dust!
spirit's in de grave clothes a-rottin'
de cawpse. De spirit's 'round de
ly mouth a-suckin' out de smoke.
spt's down de well hole a-bubblin'
de water. Bat tooth swamp scum
guts, blood! De spirit's in de
h can a-workin' on de corn. De
it's on de bread crust a-moldin'
hriveled and black as a rotten
ge, 'the old woman's head bobbed
size steaming pot. Smoky fumes
ced her eyes, gouging out great jet
ris that tumbled down the creases
er face into the stew. They plung-
intq the brew and dissolved their
ter deep in the turmoil of bubbling
bs and sow dung, grass and mouse
g, Slowly she rubbed her eyes and
ed the man's felt hat lower on her
he turned from the stove and
ffled to the corner shelves. Rows
iidewed jars squatted in the murk
olding their slimy entrails. Tails of
caught alive and smothered at mid-
ht; nails pulled from rotting cof-
; down from still-born kittens; red
ss from the top of a sunken grave.
lifted down her jar of eyeballs.
s' eyeballs. Black cats' eyeballs,
eezed out while the cat still twitch-
Pouring out a few in her hand.
put back the jar and shuffled over
the stove. She held her hand high
the black and gray vapors, letting
eyeballs fall with plops into the
gling stew. All the time she mut-
ed, "De spirit's in the night wind
oanin' through de pines. De spirit's
de milk can a-turnin' sour the
am. Hog ear, snake skin .. .
car horn out in front blasted "How
I Am." Heavy steps thumped
oss the porch and the door behind
flew open with a clatter. Without
ning around she could see him:
e-brimmed felt hat, yellow tie, blue
rt, tan suit and gleaming yellow
es. Shining through all was his
h-yellow face, broken with a row
sparkling teeth.
'Mammy!" he yelled 'as he stomped
oss the floor. He whacked her firm-
on the rump and said, "Ain't you
d to see me, you ole witch?"
he kept her head bent over the stove
d mumbled softly through the smoke,
it outen here."
'Ain't you got no more tobys for
, ole black stuff?" he said and spit
her boiling pot.
'Git outen here, yellow nigger," she
d facing him," 'fore Dey git riled at
'Dey? Who Dey? You mean dose
nt people of yourn?" he laughed
d and stomped the floor till the
s in the corner rattled. He spit in
e pot again, saying; "Dat's what I
'nk of Dem."

HE old woman held herself rigid and
bent over the stove again. She
k up some dry herbs, crushing and
rinkling them in the pot. The man
a cigar, tossed his match into the
e of herbs on the table, and laughed
the old woman beat out the fire with
r hands.
"Got some more tobys for me?" he
ked and flicked ashes in the pot
ile the woman glared at him.
"Git outen here," she grated, "you
't never gonner git no more tobys
m me."
Laughing again he went over to the
rner and pretended to examine the
s. He moved some around and push-


y rr
Poize L i a' i

*.ByEiie Gele

ed one off as if by accident. "Oops!"
he said and laughed.
He laughed so loud that the old
woman hardly heard the faint knocking
at the door. She was shuffling toward
the doorway when the man 'pushed her
aside and jerked open the door. A
little girl stood there wildeyed and
"What you want, pickaninny?" the
man roared.
Her eyes widened, and with her
mouth chewing air she held out a tiny
bag, "Uh, die here toby-my mammy
say-it ain't-uh-surmpin's wrong wif
it," she said.
"Git 'way from here, black chile!"
he bellowed.
"Chile!" the old woman said firmly,
"Let me see dat toby."
She took the bag and looked at it
closely, "Where yore mammy git dis?"
she asked.

The girl had backed nearly all the
way out the door when she said, "Big
Shad's on the way here, too. His toby
ain't no good, neither." And she back-
ed quickly out, stumbling down the
front steps.
fl ONEYBOY stood still. The cigar
dropped from his fingers. "Big
Shad!" he said, "I'se leaving."
The old woman pressed her back
against the closed door, and faced him.
"Not till you say you ain't gonner sell
no more tobys."
"Git out my way!"
"Not till you quit using my name to
sell tobys.'
"I'll bust you wide open, ole bitch,"
he snarled, grabbing her by the shoul-
der, "I'll .
Heavy steps clomped across the
porch and the door pushed open,, fling-
ing the old woman into the room.

"Den Ise gonner fix him," Shad e.'
and turned back to the whimperg
"No," the old woman said again I'll'
fix you a good toby. Dey'll fix hun"
Shad flung Honeyboy down on the
floor and walked over to the wonsun,
"I got a misery in mpy throat, mam,' he
She shuffled to a shelf, took d in
a rusty tin cup and carried it fo 'i/o'
stove. She dipped the cup into h
pot and holding it high poured bck
the thick brew. She did it three tin";,.
mumbling strange words all the tune,
Finally she gave a full cup to Big at ::?.
and said, "Swallow dis. Swallow iS
down slow."
He looked from the cup to the lci'
woman and back to the cup. He guec'
hard and put the cup to his thick lit'.
Slowly he poured it down, walling I is
eyes and pressing his hand against the
overalls. When it was all down, ho
screwed up his face and spit on tleu'
"Lawdamighty, dat stuff's nasty," he
The old woman dipped a little bg
in the pot. She squeezed it dry e,
handed it to Big Shad, saying, "W; >
dis toby on yore neck with a red flig
nel rag when you goes to bed. De n-
ery'll be gone 'fore de week's out,"
"Yes'm. I reckon it will. Thank yoa,
mam," Shad said and clomped out .
the room.
THE old woman stared at Honyru /
in the corner. He eased up fre.e
the floor and brushel his tan suit wite
his hands. ."Big bastard," he mumle'-
"Bigger'n I am. Pushing 'round peol.
littler'n him just 'cause he's a ste=-
dore. Mighta kilt me."
The old woman stopped starmi g1A
him and went over to put a pine k'e.6
in the stove. Honeyboy straighten r.
his yellow tie and brushed off the wide-
brimmed felt fat before putting it r.
"You wished he'd kilt me, don't you,
ole nigger?" he said, "why didn't t:nt
git yore spirits to chase him outen h.re.
Where was yore damn bastard spirit"
'Dey don't like dat kind of talk in
here," the old woman said softly.
"Dey don't, don't Dey!" he shoeed
"Why don't Dey do something about it?
Where is yore spirits? Come outen
dose walls, spirits. Come down frn .
dose cobwebs. Cain't you hear 'e
cussin' you, damn bastard spirits?"
"Dey's gonner stuff dose words d.. en
yore throat. Dey's gonner choke 'cOu
with dem."
Honeyboy strode over to the cerer
shelves and started knocking down th
mildewed jars, "You behind dese
bottles?" he shouted, "Is you dere,,
spirits?" He ripped down a whole
shelf and kicked the jars against .ne
another on the floor till they broke.
The old woman stared at him. He tre
down all the shelves and beat the j'rs
with loose boards. "Come outen 0' m
bottles, spirits, so's I can see y'al" 'so
The old woman ran at him trying to
grab his arm. He flung her down on
the floor, Picking up a table, he smash-
ed it against the wall and tore c-l a5
leg. He used the leg as a club aund
knocked all the old cans and jars off
shelves and ledges. "Where is ,re,
spirits?" he hollered, "Is you outside
trying to git it?" And he hurled 'he
table leg through the window p,.an
"Come on in and get me, spirits!" le
challenged and stood there waiting,
The old woman peered at him iii
the floor and muttered, "If'n I'd
knowed you was gonner be dis a- a,
I never would a borned you."
"You never would a borned me n-
way if'n you could help it, ole witch
(Continued on Page Ten)


"She bought it from Mist' Honeyboy
here," the girl said and rolled her eyes
to the man.
Honeyboy frowned, then he smiled
and laughed, "Sure, she got it from
me," he said laughing.
The old woman glowered at him, say-
ing quietly, "I didn't fix dis toby."
Honeyboy laughed louder and slap-
ped the old woman on the rump, "Dat's
what I come to tell you, ole witch," he
said, "I got a gal what makes 'em fast-
er'n you can, 'n she don't care if'n I
sell 'em."
"Dey ain't no good," the old woman
"You the only one knows dat, mam-
my,"' he said and laughed again.
The old woman reached inside the
neck of her dress and pulled out a small
bag on a string. She broke it loose
and handed it to the little girl saying,
"Give dis to yore mammy and tell her
I says it'll work."

"Where dat yeller nigger?" Big Shad
said with the whites of his eyes flash-
ing in a tar-black face. His fists
clenched by the sides of his faded
overalls and he rocked toward Honey-
"Now, Shad, wait a minute, Shad,
now," Honeyboy whined, "I can tell
you 'bout dat toby!" He backed across
the room, his hand fumbling under his
"Touch dat jack-knife 'n I'll bash in
yore yeller face," Shad said.
Honeyboy cowered in the corner and
covered his face with one arm as Big
Shad grabbed the other.
"Shadrack! Hold yore hand," the
old woman said, "Dey don't like dat in
Big Shad noticed her for the first
time. He kept his grip on Honeyboy
and looked at her a long time. "You
fix dat toby?" he asked.
"No," she said.

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