Nail


It’s the memory of falling off the wall that makes it so I can see things the way they really happened. It’s remembering the little bit of time I spent hanging upside down in the air with my legs pointing up towards the heavy clouds that makes it so I can tell what’s real and what ain’t. Even though that wall wasn’t much higher than the ceiling in our house, it seemed like it took me forever to fall, and it’s from closing my eyes and remembering the little bit of time I spent watching the wall’s chalky-looking rock slip slowly behind my Sunday shoes that I know the truth behind everything that’s ever happened. It’s God who made me fall, so when I hear the air whistling past my ears and see how the green branches of the pine trees were spread out against the sky, I can see things just the way God sees them. But I won’t tell anybody about what I know because they’d mess it all up. Nobody ever listens. They just keep believing what they’ve always believed, so I keep secret how whenever I close my eyes and feel my head about to hit the ground, I can see anything I want.

What I mostly want to see is Daddy who’s all the way down in Miami, taking care of the Shrimp Man and waiting for him to die. As soon as the Shrimp Man does die, Daddy’ll get that big piece of land that sits right on the water and that Daddy’s wanted since the first time he saw it. Daddy could’ve never afforded what that land is worth, but the Shrimp Man wouldn’t’ve sold it to him anyway because the Shrimp Man doesn’t care anything about money. All he wants is to die on that land where he’s sold bait for longer than even he can remember. And since he doesn’t have any family left to take care of him, the Shrimp Man signed papers saying that Daddy could have that land if he made sure that the Shrimp Man gets to die in his own bed. So Daddy left Mama and me and moved out to that land so he could feed the Shrimp Man and clean up after him for as long as he’s alive. And because Mama couldn’t stand to live in that city where she couldn’t help but remember Daddy on every street she drove on, she moved us up here. But as soon as that land is his, Daddy’ll come up and take me back down to Miami to live with him.

Right now I’m sitting on a piece of log outside of me and Mama’s trailer, and if I concentrate, I can see Daddy standing over the Shrimp Man’s bed, looking to see if that blind old white man is still breathing underneath his dirty sheet. But I can’t concentrate enough to see whether that sheet’s moving or not, and I can’t hear whether there’s any air whistling through the Shrimp Man’s nose because Jerry won’t stop talking to me through the bathroom window.

Because Jerry doesn’t care at all about what’s true, he’s always making up stories about me. And because he likes to talk about me like I’m not even here, he says to me, “I know what Miami’s doing out there right now,” says, “I know the little nigger’s got his pants down and his eyes closed so he can picture Miss Freeman naked. I know he’s out there playing with that little dick nub he’s got, rubbing that thing with the tips of his fingers because that nub’s too small to rub with his whole hand.”

He says, “As soon as I came in here to take a dump, Miami took his pants off and started going to town. I know he’s got a thing for Miss Freeman. He likes them saggy, old-lady tits and those big old moles she got all over her neck. He likes them big fat ankles that hang over the tops of those granny shoes she wears, and he likes how she can’t walk fast enough to get away. Even Miami can catch a lady with a cane, so he can get his hands on some old lady booty whenever he wants it. That’s what he’s thinking about right now. He wants Miss Freeman to shuffle into that bedroom and take off that house dress and that girdle so Miami can get down to business.”

Jerry says, “I know you in love, but you better put that little nub away cause I’m about to come out and I don’t want to see it.”

When Jerry stops talking and there’s no other sound besides the bugs buzzing in the yard, I can see that sheet moving up and down so I know, just like Daddy does, that the Shrimp Man’s not dead yet.

I can see Daddy picking up the metal pan that the Shrimp Man has to use because he can’t walk to the bathroom anymore, and can see Daddy standing next to the bed for a second, getting himself ready to slip that pan up under those sheets. Because he doesn’t want to look at the Shrimp Man’s legs, he doesn’t pull the sheet back and does the whole thing by feel. He puts one end of that pan up against the Shrimp Man’s ass and pushes down on the other end, lifting up the Shrimp Man’s skinny little body some before shoving that pan up under him. And when the pan’s where it’s supposed to be, Daddy steps back from the bed and looks down at the Shrimp Man’s face, at the place where his eyelids are sunken down into the two snotty-looking holes where his eyes used to be, and waits for the Shrimp Man to do whatever he’s going to do.

But the Shrimp Man doesn’t do anything for a while. The only sounds in that room are t