Mine

Chapter 22

chapter
Chapter

CLICK TO ENJOY THIS WEBSITE!

Night had fallen, the boxes were alight. From their windows came the glow of den lamps and televisions, small squares of illumination that marched into the distance. There were thousands of them in the darkness, thousands of lives going on about her as Mary Terror guided the van between row after row of Linden's brick and woodframe houses. Drummer, recently fed and changed, lay in his new bassinet on the floorboard and sucked on a pacifier. The van's heater had gotten cranky, wheezing with effort. Mary came to a four-way intersection, slowed, and then drove on, deeper into the heart of memory. The frigid wind swirled newspapers and trash before the headlights, and two men in heavy coats and caps with earflaps crossed the street. Mary watched them move away, out of the lights. She kept going, looking for Carazella's grocery store. She thought she remembered it on the corner of Montgomery avenue and Charles Street, but a topless bar called Nicky's stood there. She wound through the streets, searching for the past.

Mary Terror had changed. She had cropped her hair short, and dyed it light brown with reddish hints. She had dyed her eyebrows light brown as well, and dotted freckles over her nose and cheeks with an eyebrow pencil. She couldn't do much about her size but slump, but she was wearing new clothes: warmer duds  -  brown corduroy trousers, a blue flannel shirt, and a fleece-lined jacket. On her feet was a new pair of brown boots. a Hispanic man at a pawnshop in Washington's combat zone had given her twenty-five hundred dollars for her mother's seven-thousand-dollar ring, no questions asked. Since leaving her mother, Mary and Drummer had lived in a series of rooms that gave new meaning to the term "roach motel." One cold morning at the Sleep-Rite Inn near Wilmington, Delaware, Mary had awakened to find roaches scurrying across Drummer's face. She had plucked them off, one by one, and crushed them between her fingers. at the next place they'd stayed, Mary had had a bad feeling about the swarthy woman at the front desk. She didn't like the way the woman had looked at Drummer, as if some light switch were just about to click on in the woman's crack-fried brain. Mary had stayed there less than one hour, then had gotten Drummer out and hit the road again. The places they stayed took cash and didn't ask for identification, and most of the time the clientele were whores and Johns, dopeheads and hustlers. at night Mary kept a chair against the door and her gun under her pillow, and she always made sure she knew the quickest way out.

a close call at the Omelet Shoppe outside Trenton, New Jersey, had given her pause for thought. Two pigs had come in while she was eating her pancakes  -  "griddle cakes," they called them up here  -  and Drummer was in his bassinet next to her. The pigs had sat down at the booth behind her, ordering up the Hungry Man Breakfasts. Drummer had started crying, a nettlesome sound, and he wouldn't be pacified. His crying had risen to a shriek, and finally one of the pigs looked over at Drummer and said, "Hey! You didn't get your mornin' java, or whati"

"She's always cranky in the morning," Mary had told the pig with a polite smile. How would he know whether Drummer was a boy or girli She'd picked Drummer up and rocked him, cooing and clucking, and his crying had begun to ebb. Mary had been damp under her arms, her spine prickling with tension, and the little Magnum pistol in her new carry-all shoulder bag.

"Got a good set of lungs," the pig had said. "Oughta try out for the Met when she gets a little older, huhi"

"Maybe so," Mary had answered, and then the pig had turned away and that was all. Mary forced herself to finish her pancakes, but she couldn't taste them anymore. Then she stood up, paid her bill, and got Drummer out, and in the parking lot she'd spat on the pig car's windshield.

Where was Carazella's grocery storei The neighborhood had changed. "Been twenty years," she said to Drummer. "I guess everything changes, righti" She couldn't wait for Drummer to get older so he could carry on a conversation. Oh, the things she and Jack would teach him! He was going to be a walking fortress of militant politics and philosophy, and he wouldn't take shit from anybody on earth. She turned right onto Chambers Street. a flashing caution light was ahead, marking another intersection. Woodroan avenue, she thought. Yes! That's where I turn left! In another moment she saw the sign, and there was the building on the corner that had been Carazella's. It was still a grocery store, but now it was called Lo Wah's. She drove on two more blocks, took a right on Elderman Street, and she stopped the van about halfway down the block.

There it was. They'd built the house back. It was gray, and in need of painting. Other houses were crowded in around it, the structures jammed together with little respect for space and privacy. She knew that behind the houses were tiny yards squared off with fences, and a warren of alleys for the garbagemen. Oh yes, she knew this neighborhood very, very well.

"This is it," she told Drummer in a reverential voice. "This is where your mama was born."

She remembered it: the first night of July 1972. The Storm Front was in that house, preparing its mission on the weeping lady. Gary Leister, a native New Yorker, had been renting the house under an alias. Lord Jack knew a dude in Bolivia who sent up cocaine in boxes of cigars, the smokes hollowed out and packed with blow. It was with two of these shipments that the Storm Front paid their black-market source in Newark for an assortment of automatic pistols, riot shotguns, hand grenades, plastic explosive, a dozen fresh sticks of dynamite, and a couple of Uzi submachine guns. The house, painted light green in those days, had been an arsenal from which the Storm Front stalked pigs, lawyers, and Manhattan businessmen whom they deemed cogs of the Mindfuck State. The Storm Fronters had kept themselves clean and quiet, holding down the volume of all music and cutting back on their pot smoking. The neighbors had thought that the kids who lived in the house at 1105 Elderman Street had been a strange mix of white, black, and Oriental, but this was the prime of "all in the Family" and the archie Bunkers of the world groused in their armchairs but minded their own business. The Storm Fronters had made a point of being friendly to the neighbors, of helping the older residents paint their houses and wash their cars. Mary had even earned some extra cash by baby-sitting for an Italian couple a street over. CinCin Omara, a mathematics major at Berkeley, had tutored a neighborhood kid in algebra. Sancho Clemenza, a Chicano poet who spoke four languages, had been a clerk at Carazella's grocery. James Xavier Toombs, who had killed his first pig when he was sixteen years old, had been a short-order cook at the Majestic Diner on Woodroan avenue. The Storm Fronters had blended into the neighborhood, had covered themselves over with the camouflage of the workaday world, and no one had ever guessed that they planned murders and bombings in midnight sessions that left them all flying high on their sweetest drug: rage.

and then, on the early evening of July 1, Janette Snowden and Edward Fordyce had gone out to get pizza and backed into a pig car on the way home.

"No sweat, no sweat," Edward had said as he and Janette had told the others after they'd gotten back with the cold pizzas. "Everything's cool."

"STUPID!" Lord Jack had shouted into Edward's gaunt, bearded face, coming up out of his chair like a panther. "Stupid as shit, man! Why the fuck didn't you look where you were goingi"

"It's no problem!" Janette, tiny and feisty as a firecracker, was on her feet, too. "We screwed up, okayi We were talking and we screwed up. It was just a little dent, that's all."

"Yeah," Edward agreed. "Busted our taillight but didn't do shit to the pigs. They weren't supposed to be parked right on our ass."

"Edwardi" It was CinCin's cool Oriental voice, her face like a carved yellow cameo framed with raven hair. "Did they ask to see your driver's licensei"

"Yeah." a quick glance at Lord Jack. Mary sat in a rocking chair in the corner, her hands folded over the swelling of Jack's child in her belly. "But it was no sweat," Edward went on. The license was forged, as were all their licenses. Edward flipped his long brown ponytail back. "The pig even laughed about it, said he'd busted up his own car last week and his old lady was still giving him hell about it."

"Did the pigs follow youi" akitta Washington asked. He was a barrel-chested black man who wore african beads and amulets around his neck, and he went to a window and peered out at the street.

"No. Hell, no. Why would they follow usi" There was a quaver in Edward's voice.

"Because," Mary said from her rocking chair, "some pigs have the sixth sense." She had golden blond hair that hung around her shoulders, her face high-cheekboned and serene: the face of an outlaw Madonna. "Some pigs can smell fear." She cocked her head to one side, her eyes cool and intense. "Do you think those pigs smelled any fear on you, Edwardi"

"Get off his case!" Janette shouted. "The pigs didn't roust us, okayi They just ID'd Edward and let us go, that's it!"

Lord Jack began to pace the room: a bad sign. "Maybe it is okay," Didi Morse said, sitting on the floor cleaning a revolver with the same fingers that could shape raw clay into objects of earthen art. She was a lovely young woman with green eyes and braided hair as red as a battle flag, her bone structure Iowa solid. "Maybe it's no big deal."

Sancho grunted, smoking a joint. Gary Leister was already attacking one of the pizzas, and James Xavier Toombs sat with his pipe clenched between his teeth and a book of haiku in his lap, his face as emotionless as a black Buddha.

"I don't like it," Jack said. He went to the window, looked out, and paced again. "I don't like it." He continued to pace the room as some of the others began to feast on the pizzas. "Snowdeni" he said at last. "Go upstairs and watch from the bedroom window."

"Why do I have to goi I always get the shit detail!"

"GO!" Jack roared. "and Edward, you get your ass upstairs and watch from the arsenal." It was the room where all their weapons and ammunition were hidden in the walls. "Move it, I said! Today, not next fucking week!"

They went. Jack's piercing blue gaze found CinCin. "Walk up to Carazella's and buy a paper," he told her. She left a slice of pizza half eaten and went without question, knowing he was telling her to go out and sniff the air for the stench of pigs. Then Jack walked over to Mary, and he placed his hand against her belly. She grasped his fingers and looked up into his fiery beauty, his long blond hair hanging around his shoulders and a hawk's feather dangling from a ring in his right earlobe. Mary started to say I love you, but she checked it. Lord Jack didn't believe in the word; what passed as love, he said, was a tool of the Mindfuck State. He believed in courage, truth, and loyalty, of brothers and sisters willing to lay down their lives for each other and the cause. One-to-one "love," he believed, came from the false world of button-down stiffs and their robotic, manicured prostitutes.

But she couldn't help it. She loved him, though she dared not say it. His wrath could strike like lightning and leave ashes in its wake.

Jack rubbed her belly, and he looked at akitta. "Watch the backyard." akitta nodded and went to do it. "Gary! You walk to the Laundromat and back. Take a couple of dollars and get some change in the machine." The Laundromat was two blocks away, in the opposite direction of Carazella's. Mary knew Jack was setting up a defensive perimeter. Gary walked out into the still, humid evening, and the smell of somebody's burgers on a grill drifted into the house. a dog barked in the distance, two more answering across the neighborhood.

Jack stood at the front window, working his knuckles. He said, "I don't hear Frodo."

James Xavier Toombs looked up from his haiku, his pipe in his mouth, and a small puff of blue smoke left his lips.

"Frodo." Jack's voice was low and hushed. "How come Frodo's not barkingi"

Frodo was a stumpy little white mutt, the pet of the Giangello family two doors down the street. The Giangellos called him Caesar, but Jack had named him Frodo because of the dog's massive hairy paws. Frodo's bark was distinctive, a deep, throaty woof that started up with the regularity of a machine whenever any other dogs barked in the neighborhood. Jack looked at the other Storm Fronters. His tongue flicked out, lizardlike, to skim his lower lip. "Frodo's quiet," he said. "How comei"

No one spoke. There was electricity in the room, the pizzas forgotten. Mary had stopped rocking, her hands gripped on the armrests. James Xavier Toombs returned the book of haiku to the well-stocked bookshelf. He removed a thick red volume titled Democracy in Crisis. He opened it and took his.45 automatic from the hollowed-out book. There was a crisp click as he checked the ammo clip. James Xavier Toombs, a man of few words, said, "Trouble."

Mary stood up, and the baby moved inside her as if it, too, were readying for action. "I'll go upstairs and keep watch," she said as she picked up a couple of slices of pizza and walked toward the stairs. Bedelia Morse took her revolver and went to the back to watch the northeastern corner of the house, Sancho took the southwestern corner, and Toombs and Lord Jack stayed in the front room. Mary checked on Edward and Janette; neither one had seen anything remotely suspicious. Then Mary settled herself in the small bedroom overlooking the street, and she sat in a chair near the window with the lights off. The lights were also off in the house directly across Elderman, but that was nothing unusual. The old couple who lived there, the Steinfelds, were in bed by seven o'clock, and it was after eight. Mr. Steinfeld had emphysema, and his wife suffered from a bad bladder and had to wear adult-sized diapers. Changing diapers was a task that would be in Mary's future. She figured it wouldn't be so bad once she got used to it. Besides, it would be Jack's child, and so perfect he'd probably pop out toilet trained. Right, she thought as she smiled faintly in the dark. Dream on.

CinCin returned with her newspaper. No pigs, she told Jack. Everything was quiet.

"Did you see anybody on the streeti" he asked her, and when she said no he told her to go upstairs to the armory and get Edward and Janette to help her start loading up the guns and ammo. as a precaution, they were going to leave the house and go upstate for a few days.

Gary came back, a pocketful of change in his purple tie-dyed jeans. No problems, he said.

"Nothing differenti" Jack prodded. "Nothing at alli"

Gary shrugged. "Panhandler was parked on the ground in front of the Laundromat, and he asked me for a hit on the way in. I gave him a quarter coming out."

"Had you ever seen the dude beforei"

"Nope. It's no big deal, man. He was just a panhandler."

"You know the old lady who runs that place," Jack reminded him. "You ever remember that stiff old bitch letting a panhandler set up shop in her front doori"

Gary thought about it. "No," he said. "I don't."

at nine forty-two, CinCin reported an unmarked, beat-up panel truck cruising slowly through the back alley. about half an hour later, akitta thought he heard the metallic noise of a voice on a radio, but he wasn't sure where it was coming from. Toward eleven, Mary was still sitting in her chair in the dark when she thought she saw a movement in one of the black upstairs windows of the Steinfeld house. She leaned forward, her heart beating harder. Did something move over there, or noti She waited, watching, as the seconds ticked into minutes.

She saw it.

a tiny red circle, flaring in the dark and then ebbing again.

a cigarette, she thought. Somebody was smoking a cigarette.

In a house where an old man had emphysema, somebody was smoking.

Mary stood up. "Jacki" she called. Her voice trembled, and the sound shamed her. "Jacki"

a floodlight hit the house with such suddenness that it stole Mary's breath. She could feel its heat on her, and she dodged away from the window. a second floodlight came on, and a third, the first aimed from the Steinfeld house and the others from houses on either side of number 1105. "Shit!" she heard Edward cry out. There was the noise of somebody racing up the stairs, and other bodies flinging themselves to the floor. a few seconds later the lights in the house went out: one of the Storm Fronters had hit the fusebox.

The sound that Mary had dreaded for years finally came: the amplified voice of a pig through an electric bullhorn. "attention, occupants of 1105 Elderman! This is the FBI! Come out into the light with your hands behind your heads! I repeat, come out into the light! If you follow my directions, nobody'll get hurt!"

Jack burst into the room, carrying a flashlight and an Uzi submachine gun. "Fuckers have ringed us! Must've cleared the fucking houses and we didn't even know it! Come on, load up!"

In the armory, guns were loaded and passed around by flashlight. Mary took an automatic and returned to the bedroom window. Janette joined her, carrying a shotgun and with three hand grenades clipped to her belt. The bullhorn squawked again: "We don't want bloodshed! Jack Gardiner, do you hear mei" The downstairs telephone began to ring; it ended when Jack ripped it off its wire. "Jack Gardiner! Give yourself and the others up! There's no point in getting anyone hurt!"

How they'd been nailed, Mary didn't know. She would find out, months later, that the pigs had evacuated the surrounding structures and been watching the house for five hours. The incident with the pig car had happened because the overeager Linden cop who'd been trailing Edward and Janette had wanted to see a Storm Fronter at close range. aH Mary knew, as the floodlights blazed and her brothers and sisters crouched down and took aim, was that the eve of destruction had finally arrived.

James Xavier Toombs shot out the first floodlight. Gary hit the second, but before the third could be shot out the pigs switched on their auxiliary lights and opened fire on the green house.

Bullets tore through the walls, ricocheting off pipes and whining over their heads. "No surrender!" Lord Jack roared over the noise. "No surrender!" akitta repeated. "No surrender!" CinCin Omara echoed. "No surrender!" Mary heard herself shout, and Janette's voice was lost in the hell of Storm Front guns bellowing their death cries. The pigs were firing, too, and in a matter of seconds every window in the green house was shattered, the air a razormist of flying glass. Janette's shotgun boomed, and Mary fired shot after shot at the window where she'd seen the glow of a pig's cigarette. In the scant lull between fusillades, Mary heard the crackle of radios and the shouts of pigs. Downstairs, someone was screaming: Gary Leister, shot through the chest and writhing in a pool of blood. Janette was pumping shells into the shotgun and blasting as fast as she could, the spent cartridges flying into the air. She stopped to pull a grenade from her belt, and she yanked its pin and stood up to toss it at the house across the street. The grenade bounced up under a car parked at the curb, and in the next second the vehicle was lifted up on a gout of fire and crashed over on its side, burning gasoline streaking across the pavement. By the flickering light, the pigshadows darted and ran. Mary shot at one of them, saw him stagger and fall onto the Steinfelds' front porch.

The next blast of pig bullets shook the green house on its foundations, blew a hole the size of a fist in the back of Sancho Clemenza's skull, and ripped away two of James Xavier Toombs's fingers. Mary heard Lord Jack shouting: "No surrender! No surrender!" One of the Storm Fronters threw a stick of dynamite with a sparking fuse, and the house next door exploded in a geyser of fire, wood, and glass. a vehicle of some kind was coming along the street: an armored car, Mary saw with a jolt of horror. The snout of a machine gun spat tracer bullets, and the slugs tore through the punctured walls like meteors. Two of those bullets hit akitta Washington in the remains of the kitchen, and sprayed his blood across the refrigerator. another stick of dynamite was thrown, destroying the Steinfeld house in a thunderclap. Flames leapt high, waves of black smoke rolling across the neighborhood. The armored car stopped, hunched on the street like a black beetle, fiery tracers spitting from its machine gun. Mary heard Janette sob, "The bastards! The bastards!" and Janette rose up in the flickering red light and yanked the pin from a second grenade. She threw her arm back to toss the grenade through the window, tears running down her face, and suddenly the room was full of flying wood splinters and ricocheting tracers and Janette Snowden was knocked backward. The grenade fell from her fingers, and Mary watched as if locked in a fever dream as the live grenade rolled across the blood-spattered floorboards.

Mary had a second or two in which her brain was seized up. Reach for the grenade, or get the fuck outi Janette's body was jittering on the floor. The grenade was still rolling.

Out.

The thought screamed. Mary stood up, crouched low, and ran for the door with cold sweat bursting from the pores of her flesh.

She heard the grenade thunk against the baseboard. In that instant she lifted her hands to shield her face, and she realized she should have shielded her unborn baby instead.

Surprisingly, she did not hear the grenade explode. She was aware only of a great heat lapping against her midsection, like the sun on a particularly fierce day. There was a feeling of lightness, of stepping outside her body and soaring upward. and then the sensation of gravity caught her again and wrenched her back to earth, and she opened her eyes in the upstairs hallway of the burning house, a hole in the bedroom's flaming wall and much of the ceiling collapsed and on fire. Somebody was trying to help her up. She saw a gaunt, bearded face and a ponytail. Edward. "… Up, get up!" he was saying, blood streaking his forehead and cheeks like war paint. She could barely hear him for the buzz in her ears. "Can you get upi"

"God," she said, and three seconds after that God answered by filling her body with pain. She began to cry, blood drooling from her mouth. She pressed her hands against the swell of her baby, and her fingers sank into a crimson swamp.

It was hatred that got her to her feet. Nothing but hatred that could make her grit her teeth and haul herself up as blood streamed down her thighs and dripped to the floor. "Hurt bad," she told Edward, but he was pulling her through the flames and she went with him, docile in her agony. Bullets were still ripping through the Swiss-cheese walls, smoke thick in the air. Mary had lost her gun. "Gun," she said. "Gun." Edward scooped up a revolver from the floor, near Gary Leister's outstretched hand, and she closed her fist on its warm grip. She stepped on something: the body of CinCin Omara, the cameo face unrecognizable as anything that had once been human. James Xavier Toombs lay on the floor, crouched and clutching at a stomach wound with his eight fingers. He looked at them with glazed eyes, and Mary thought she heard him gasp, "No surrender."

"Jack! Where's Jacki" she asked Edward, clinging to him.

He shook his head. "Gotta get out!" He picked up James Xavier Toombs's automatic. "Back door! You readyi"

She made a noise that meant yes, her mouth full of blood. Upstairs, some of the ammunition in the arsenal was starting to explode, the noise like Independence Day firecrackers. The back door was already hanging open. a dead pig lay on his back at the bottom of the steps. Jack had passed this way, Mary knew. Where was Didii Still in the housei She had no time to think about anyone else. Smoke was billowing from the burning houses, cutting visibility to within a few yards. Mary could see the white tongues of flashlights licking at the smoke. "You with mei" Edward asked her, and she nodded.

They started across the back lawn, through the low-lying smoke. Gunshots were still popping, tracers flying through the haze. Edward scrabbled over a fence into the alley, and pulled Mary over. The pain made her think she was about to leave her guts behind, but she had no choice; she kept going, fighting back the darkness that tried to drag her down. Together they staggered along the alley. Blue lights were flashing, sirens awail. They went over another fence and crashed into garbage cans. Then they pressed up against the wall of a house, Mary shivering with pain and about to pass out. "Don't move. I'll be back," Edward promised, and he ran ahead to find a way through the pig blockade.

Mary sat with her legs outstretched. She released a moan, but she clenched her teeth against a scream. Where was Jacki alive or deadi If he was dead, so was she. She leaned over and threw up, getting rid of blood and pizza.

and then she heard a scraping noise, and she looked to her right at a pair of shined black shoes.

"Mary Terrell," the man said.

She looked up at him. He wore a dark suit and a blue striped tie, his chiseled face all but obscured by the smoke. There was a gleaming silver badge on his lapel. He held a snub-nosed.38 in his right hand, pointed somewhere between them.

"On your feet," the pig commanded.

"Fuck you," she said.

He reached for her arm, her hand sunken in the bloody mess of her belly.

She let him grasp her with his slimy pig hand. and as she allowed him to haul her up, incredible pain bringing tears to her eyes, she lifted the revolver that had been hidden beside her and she shot him in the face.

Mary saw his jaw explode. It was a wonderful sight. His gun went off right in her ear, and the bullet whined about three inches from her own face. His arm was out of control, the gun whipping around. More bullets fired, one into the ground and two into the air. Mary shot him again, this time in the throat. She saw the animal fear in his eyes, and she heard him whine. air and blood bubbled from his wound. He staggered back, desperately trying to aim at her, but his fingers twitched and lost the gun. The pig went down on his knees, and Mary Terror stood over him and jammed the revolver's barrel against his forehead. She pulled the trigger and saw him shudder as if stuck with an electric prod. The gun clicked: no more bullets.

The pig's torn face wore a crooked, bleeding leer, one side of his jaw hanging by tough red strands of muscle. She started to pick up his gun, but the pain stopped her. She was too weak to even smash him in the nose. She gathered bloody saliva in her mouth, and she spewed it across his cheeks.

"Maryi I think I've found a -" Edward stopped. "Jesus!" he said, looking at the man's ruined face. He lifted his gun and started to squeeze the trigger.

"No," Mary told him. "No. Let him suffer."

Edward paused, then he lowered the gun.

"Suffer," Mary whispered, and she leaned forward and kissed the pig's sweating forehead. He had thin brown hair, going bald. The pig made a gasping, clucking sound from his gaping throat. "Let's split!" Edward urged. Mary turned away from the pig, and she and Edward staggered off into the smoke, one of her hands pressed into her stomach as if to keep her insides from sliding out.

"Suffer," Mary Terror said, sitting in the olive-green van with Drummer. She rolled down her window and smelted the air. The reek of smoke and burning houses was all gone, but she remembered it. She and Edward had crawled past a parked pig car in the dense haze, a couple of pigs standing less than ten feet away and holding pump shotguns as they talked about kicking hippie ass. an abandoned concession stand four blocks north, at the edge of a weeded-up park, had a loose board. Mary and Edward had hidden there for over twenty-six hours, sleeping except when they had to kick the rats away from Mary's blood. Then Edward had gone out and found a pay phone, and he'd called some friends in Manhattan who owned a militant bookstore. Two hours after that, Mary awoke in an apartment listening to voices argue the fact that she was getting blood on everything and she couldn't stay there. Somebody came in with a medical bag, antiseptic, hypodermics, and shiny instruments. "Fucking mess," she heard him say as he removed the shrapnel and wood shards with forceps.

"My baby," Mary had whispered. "I'm going to have a baby."

"Yeah. Right. Eddie, give her another swig of the rum."

She drank the liquid fire. "Where's Jacki Tell Jack I'm going to have his baby."

Edward's voice: "Maryi Mary, listen to me. a friend of mine's going to take you on a trip. Take you to a house where you can rest. Is that all righti"

"Yes. I'm going to have a baby. Oh, I'm hurting. I'm hurting."

"You won't hurt long. Listen, Mary. You're going to stay at this house until you can get around, but you can't stay there very long. Only a week or so. Okayi"

"Underground railroad," she'd answered, her eyes closed. "I can dig it."

"I have to leave now. Can you hear mei"

"Hear you."

"I have to leave. My friend is going to take care of you. I've paid him some money. I've got to go right now. Okayi"

" 'Kay," she'd said. She had drifted to sleep, and that was the last time she'd seen Edward Fordyce.

Near Baltimore there was the gas station bathroom where Mary had delivered the dead infant girl from a belly held together with three hundred and sixty-two ragged stitches. There was a house in Bowens, Maryland, near the edge of Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, where Mary had lived for a week on lentil soup with a man and woman who never talked. at night the shrieks of small animals being devoured in the swamp sounded to her like crying babies.

The couple had let her read a New York Times story about the Shootout. It was a difficult thing to read. Edward, Lord Jack, and Bedelia Morse had escaped. James Xavier Toombs had been captured, alive but badly wounded. He would never tell about the weeping lady, Mary knew. James Xavier Toombs had a hole inside himself, and he could retreat into it, close the lid, and recite haiku in his inner sanctum.

The worst night, though, was when she dreamed about herself giving a baby boy to Lord Jack. It was terrible, because when it was over she was alone again.

"I was born right there. See iti" Mary picked up Drummer's bassinet. But Drummer was asleep, his pink eyelids fluttering and the pacifier gripped in his mouth. She kissed his forehead, a gentler kiss than she'd once given a suffering pig, and she returned Drummer's bassinet to the floorboard.

There were ghosts at 1105 Elderman Street. She could hear them singing songs of love and revolution with voices that would be young forever. James Xavier Toombs had been killed in a riot at attica; she wondered if his ghost had returned here, and joined those of the other sleeping children. Linden, New Jersey. July 1, 1972. as Cronkite would have said: That was the way it was.

She felt very old. Tomorrow she would feel young again. She drove back the sixteen miles to the Mcardle Travel Inn outside Piscataway, and when she cried a little bit no one saw.

READ MORE >>

You can use arrow keyboard to go to pervious/next chapter. The WASD keys also have the same function as arrow keys.