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The morning I died it rained. Poured down so hard it washed the blood off my face. I took off running and kept going 'til my legs give out and I dropped down in the tall grass by the creek. The ground was real soggy; my shoulders and feet sunk right in. I curled up on my side and rocked my tummy and sucked in that Georgia red clay 'til it clung like perfume that wouldn't let go. Mud cakes and dirt cookies, some I'd baked in the sun just yesterday, filled my nose. They danced all blurry above me, inviting me back to their world a' make-believe. That one mixed with laughter and pretend, sugared all nice with wishes and dreams. I reached out to grab 'em, to get back to that place where they was, but the pain held me tight in a blanket of barbed wire. And them cookies, they plumb disappeared.
My arm was busted. My spleen was teared. My 'testines was split and my windpipe-it was pretty much broken up, too. I didn't know most of those words, not then. I saw 'em in the paper the very next day. I stood over my mama and watched her cry on the newspaper the sheriff man brought to her cell. All I knew was it hurt, that day in the grass. It hurt so bad, it like ta' killed me. I prayed for it to end-I did. I sure enough did.
He come looking for me then, my stepdaddy, Ray. Called out to me, his voice filled with liquor.
"Lori Jean! You git back here! Ya' hear me?" he said. I heared him, but I didn't answer. It made him crazy in the head.
"Ya' hear me, girl? You ain't had a beatin' like I'm gonna give ya'," he said. 'Course, he was wrong. He just give me one.
He found me then; stumbled over me in the grass. He yanked me up by my hair, but I didn't move. Then he grabbed my arm, that broken one. It was twisted like a bent stick. He must not of seen it though, 'cause he didn't pay it no mind. But, not to worry. It didn't hurt no more. Nothing hurt-it was mighty peculiar. Truth be known, I felt pretty good right about then. Kind of floating on a cloud, I was. "Why do ya' do this to me, huh?" he said. He was so mad. He tried to drag me back to the trailer where we lived. That's when he seen-I couldn't walk. I couldn't breathe. He sure changed his tune. He started crying and carrying on, shaking me all about. "Lori Jean, honey, wake up! Wake up, honey!" he yelled.
Then he dropped on down to his knees; he was holding me so nice. He had his arms wrapped all around me and he was hugging me to his chest, just like a regular daddy, just like I always wanted him to. He was crying real tears. He was! And he was praying, too, right out loud.
"Oh Jesus!" he said, and he cried even harder. It was so sad.
"Oh my girl, my sweet baby girl," he said over and over. He was carrying on and hugging me so nice. I wanted to hug him right back, but my arms and legs-they wouldn't move nohow.
"What have I done to you, girl?" he asked, maybe thinking I could answer. And then he started praying again and that was really something 'cause he never been one to pray much, even though my mama tried to get him to and drug him off ta' church ever' chance she got.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what have I done?" he said, and he picked me up.
I watched him carry me on down to Roseflower Creek and dump me in the water. So here I am, floating on a cloud, floating in the river, right in the middle of the creek! It's real pretty here. A body might could grow to like this even. Real peaceful like, it is. If 'n my meemaw was here, she'd say, "This is plain out, plumb nice." And she'd be dead right. 'Cause that it is. That it sure enough is.