MOUSE IS DEAD. Those words had gone through my
mind every morning for three months. Mouse is dead
because of me.
When I sat up, Bonnie rolled her shoulder and sighed in her
sleep. The sky through our bedroom window was just beginning to
The image of Raymond, his eyes open and unseeing, lying stockstill
on EttaMae's front lawn, was still in my mind. I lurched out of
bed and stumbled to the bathroom. My feet hurt every morning, too,
as if I had spent all night walking, searching for EttaMae, to ask her
where she'd taken Ray after carrying him out of the hospital.
So he was still alive? I asked a nurse who had been on duty that
evening. No, she said flatly. His pulse was gone. The head nurse had just
called the doctor to pronounce him dead when that crazy woman hit
Arnold in the head with a suture tray and took Mr. Alexander's body
over her shoulder.
I wandered into the living room and pulled the sash to open the
drapes. Red sunlight glinted through the ragged palms at the end of
our block. I had never wept over Raymond's demise, but that tattered
light reflected a pain deep in my mind.
IT TOOK ME over half an hour to get dressed. No two socks
matched and every shirt seemed to be the wrong color. While I
was tying my shoes Bonnie woke up.
"What are you doing, Easy?" she asked. She had been born in
British Guyana but her father was from Martinique, so there was the
music of the French language in her English accent.
"Gettin' dressed," I said.
"Where are you going?"
"Where you think I'ma be goin' at this time'a day? To work." I
was feeling mean because of that red light in the far-off sky.
"But it's Saturday, baby."
Bonnie climbed out of the bed and hugged me. Her naked skin
was firm and warm.
I pulled away from her.
"You want some breakfast?" I asked.
"Maybe a little later," she said. "I didn't get in from Idlewild until
two this morning. And I have to go back out again today."
"Then you go to bed," I said.
"You sure? I mean... did you need to talk?"
"Naw. Nuthin's wrong. Just stupid is all. Thinkin' Saturday's a
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked.
"Yeah. Sure I am."
Bonnie had a fine figure. And she was not ashamed to be seen
naked. Looking at her pulling on those covers reminded me of why
I fell for her. If I hadn't been so sad, I would have followed her back
under those blankets.
FEATHER'S LITTLE YELLOW DOG, Frenchie, was hiding somewhere,
snarling at me while I made sausages and eggs. He was
the love of my little girl's life, so I accepted his hatred. He blamed
me for the death of Idabell Turner, his first owner; I blamed myself
for the death of my best friend.
I WAS SITTING at breakfast, smoking a Chesterfield and wondering
if EttaMae had moved back down to Houston. I still had
friends down there in the Fifth Ward. Maybe if I wrote to Lenora
Circel and just dropped a line about Etta say hi to Etta for me or
give Etta my love. Then when she wrote back I might learn something.
My hand twitched, flicking two inches of cigarette ash on the
eggs. Jesus was standing there in front of me.
"I told you not to sneak up on me like that, boy."
"I said hi," he explained.
The eggs were ruined but I wasn't hungry. And I couldn't stay
mad at Jesus, anyway. I might have taken him in when he was a
child, but the truth was that he had adopted me. Jesus worked hard at
making our home run smoothly, and his love for me was stronger
"What you doin' today?" I asked him.
"Nuthin'. Messin' around."
"Sit down," I said.
Jesus didn't move the chair as he sat, because there was enough
room for him to slide in under the table. He never wasted a movement
or a word.
"I wanna drop out of high school," he said.
His dark eyes stared into mine. He had the smooth, eggshellbrown
skin and the straight black hair of people who had lived in the
Southwest for thousands of years.
"It's only a year and a half till you graduate," I said. "A diploma
will help you get a job. And if you keep up with track, you could get
a scholarship to UCLA."
He looked down at my hands.
"Why?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said. "I just don't wanna be there. I don't
wanna be there all the time."
"You think I like goin' to work?"
"You like it enough," he said. " 'Cause if you didn't like it, you'd
I could see that he'd made up his mind, that he'd thought about
this decision for a long time. He probably had the papers for me to
sign under his bed.
I was about to tell him no, that he'd have to stick out the year at
least. But then the phone rang. It was a loud ringer, especially at sixthirty
in the morning.
While I limped to the counter Jesus left on silent bare feet.
"Easy?" It was a man's voice.
"John? Is that you?"
"I'm in trouble and I need you to do me a favor," John said all in
a rush. He'd been practicing just like Jesus.
My heart quickened. The little yellow dog stuck his nose out
from under the kitchen cabinet.
I don't know if it was an old friend's voice or the worry in his tone
that got to me. But all of a sudden I wasn't miserable or sad.
"What you need, John?"
"Why'ont you come over to the lots, Easy? I wanna look you in
the eye when I tell ya what we want."
"Oh," I said, thinking about we and the fact that whatever John
had to say was too serious to be discussed over the phone. "Sure. As
soon as I can make it."
I hung up with a giddy feeling running around my gut. I could
feel the grin on my lips.
"Who was that?" Bonnie asked. She was standing at the door to
our bedroom, half wrapped in a terry-cloth robe. She was more
beautiful than any man could possibly deserve.
"Do you have to leave today?" I asked.
"Sorry. But after this trip I'll have a whole week off."
"I can't wait that long," I said.
I gathered her up in my arms and carried her back into the bedroom.
"Easy, what are you doing?"
I tossed her on the bed and then closed the door to the kitchen.
I took off my pants and stood over her.
"Easy, what's got into you?"
The look on my face was answer enough for any arguments she
might have had about the children or her need for sleep.
I couldn't have explained my sudden passion. All I knew was the
smell of that woman, her taste and texture on my skin and tongue,
was something I had never known before in my life. It was as if I discovered
sex for the first time that morning.
Copyright © 2002 by Walter Mosley