sixty-one            

            Gots say, af'er today, I seen it aw. Today I seen two white men sell a niggah to a niggah—dat be me to Mutter Moss. Two thousan' dollars what her spen'! Her jus' reach down into dis draw', lif' out dis box, set aside dis dar'nger, an' coun' dat money right befo'e dem traders' eyes. Her say, "Don' yo'all call me 'Mist'ess'; call me 'Mutter Moss'," 'coun' once her prop'ty earn s'ficien' funds" her sets 'em free. In fac' her say, "'Cep' fo' de loan you jus' contrac', yo' free dis instan'"; aw I gots do fust is pay Mutter back. Her don' 'xac'ly say how. Guess her figger dat obv'ous seein' de way her look. Nev' did see de like! Her born-wif face doin' one thin', whilst de face her pain' on top doin' somethin' else—like her eyebrows ain't where eyebrows 'pose' to be; de real ones gone. Up a inch o' so, her draw on new ones. Same hol' true fo' her lips. Gots sca'let-colourt lipstick what stop 'fo'e it reach de edge; fills in de res' wiff colour dat match her skin. From a dis'ance, de mouf look slim; up close not. In gen'ral, dough, her 'pearance well nigh white. Cou'se her use powder, but un'erneat' dat powder her genuwine creamy.
            Mos' aw de gals I seed so fa' kine pale; chillen, too. Dey's chillen aw 'bout de place. Mos' run 'roun' nekid. Don' seem like dey's pay' no nev' mine neit'er. I ask one a ques'ion; her answer wiff a pecul'ar kine o' talk. Lots dat pecul'ar talk here'bouts.
            I 'pose' to sleep. Mutter Moss show me dis bed what in a room I share wiff Éclair. Her 'bout my age an' gots dis itty-bitty bir'-voice like a chickadee. Dey's a pa'tition wiff lacquer flowers on it 'twix two halves our room, give us li'l priv'cy. Éclair's ha'f aw spruce up: gots candy boxes sen' her from aw de places her beau's been, an' dere ostrich fetters, an' real silk dresses, an' rugs what been embroider' wiff fancifie' designs. An' her gots un'erclo'es ever' bit 's fine as Mist'ess Felicia's, 'cep' Éclair's mo'e what her describe "provoc'tive"—dat mean sexy. Éclair claim gals provoc'tive "got it made". Us don' talk too long—it nigh time Éclair star' her shif'—but her seem frien'ly.
            Don' know what to make o' aw dis yet
—been har' times since I run off from de Squire Plantation, real har' times; 'cep' dem weeks I spen' wif de Conju'e man.

            Jewel covers her unadorned breastbone with overlapping palms.

            Took my necklace, Mojo diddat de little feller's name; Mistah Mojo Rags; can talk as good as White fo'ks, mayhap better, but him don' let ontol' me it be bes' I give dat necklace back fo' safe keepin', 's if him know I likely lose it where I's goin'. Guess him right; woulda got stole fo' sho' day dem traders up an' snatch me...

            "Ho, looky here! HEY, STARCH! Don't move, bitch. OVER HERE! You make a fuss, I'll bust your goddamn arm. Now shed them scruffy duds and spread yer legs. STARCH!"

            "Yeah, what? Well I'll be buggered. Where'd ya find that at?"

           "Want first crack? Here, nigger, chomp down on this here apple. There you go, Starch; Reggie's Suckling Pig served up with all the trimmin's. Be my guest."

            "My, my! We is rambunctious, ain' we? Éclair sure can see who in a rush. Well, come an' do me, darlin'. Dat's... wait. Dere. 0ooo, dat's good... dat's good... dat's... Ooo, yo' de bes'... do me, do me, do me... yo' de very bes'... Dat's right... oh, darlin'... oh... oh, darlin', darlin'... dat it, dat it, dat, oh, oh, OH, dat good, so good. Darlin', yo' de bes'!"

            "That re-bored her arsehole. Hey, Reg; should we give the bucks what's left?"

            "Hell, why not."

           "Don't move a muscle, bitch. Reg and Starch are callin' up reserves. HEY NIGGER; YOU AND YOURN ARE NEXT. Now where you crawlin' off to, bitch? Don't you like White meat? Want another taste? Here, let's have that apple out, replace it with the worm."

            "My, my! We is rambunctious, ain' we? Éclair sure' can see who in a rush. Well, come an' do me, darlin'. Don' be shy. Éclair see yo' in a mos' inflamat'ry condition. Give us a poke an' let's stoke up dat fire. OH... OH, YES; do me... Oh, dat's so good... yo' de bes... dat's, OH, OH, OH, sweet darlin', do me, do me, do me... Yo' de bes!"

            "I guess that proves the lie 'bout darkies' reputation. Cock size don't mean squat if the cock can't stand and crow? Nigger's cock-a-doodle-do is a cock-a-noodle-don't."

            "Pay no mine, gal. Us truly sorry what happenin' here. Won' be addin' to it; none us will. You jus' lay dere quiet whilst me an' de men preten'."

            "What you whisperin', boy; sweet nothin's?"

            "Dese two bad. Dey rus'lers. Herdin' us Deep South."

            "Nigger, if you're tryin' to fuck 'er with your tongue your in the wrong position. Climb on off; you lost your chance! You, there. Your turn... Shit, Reg, not a man among 'em."

            "Massah Sta'ch, suh? 'Scuse me, suh. 'Scuse me fo' askin', but is yo'all takin' dis gal 'long wit us down river? Cause iffen you is, suh, seem her has 'bout all her can bear; dat is if yo'all wants her walk, not have be tote. Jus' askin', suh."

            "Hey, Starch, the nigger's got a point."

            "Hell, fine by me. They don't deserve a free fuck anyway."

            "My, my! Ain' we rambunctious! Éclair sure can see who in a rush. Bet yo' de fas'est lover Eas' o' Wes' o' de Miss'sippi. Come an' poke yo' sweet Éclair; le's see. UH! Hol' it, darlin'... Le's us fust admin'ster a dollup o' dis here cream... Dere... Ain' dat bettuh? UH!... UH!... Oh, dat's... UH! UH! UH!... dat's... Over?... Oh, dat's good, dat's real good!... Fas'est lover bar none. Dat fel' so fine. B'lieves me when I say, darlin', yo' de bes'."

            Voices past and present cease their tug-of-war with Jewel's dimming consciousness—sleep occluding memory and up-to-date predicament, commending her to the realm of providential dreams.