Read Suder Online

Authors: Percival Everett

Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Suder

Suder (10 page)

I went into my bedroom and looked out the window. Ma was sprinting back and forth across the yard. I could hear Bud playing the piano downstairs. I kept hearing his words. He said that maybe Ma was just different. I was searching for “just different” in the woman dashing back and forth, back and forth, but all I saw was crazy. And again I was scared to death that whatever sickness was loose in my mother was also loose in me. I closed my eyes and told myself I wasn't crazy. I left my room, walked down the back stairs, and entered the garage. I took the hatbox of dead birds from behind the tires and carried it to the trash can by the street. I went back into the house and sat on the sofa while Bud played. I fell asleep.

“Wake up, Craig.” Sid is shaking me.

My eyes open and I yawn and I stretch a little. “What is it?” I ask in the middle of a second yawn.

“Time to get up,” he says, walking across the cabin. He stops at the counter and pours two mugs of coffee. “I must have had some time last night.”

“I guess.”

“I remember doing pushups.” He comes over and gives me a mug of coffee. “But that's about all I remember.”

I reach down and pick up my britches.

“How'd you like the honey I picked out for you?”

I'm pulling on my pants. “She was okay.” I stand up and fasten my belt and then I stretch. “So, what are we up to today?”

“I thought we'd take a little trip,” he says, moving up the steps to the deck.

I follow him and I'm pulling my tee-shirt on and I step out into the morning. “Where are we going?”

“South.”

“Where south?”

“San Francisco.”

“Why?”

Sid looks up at the sky. “Good weather. I figure we'll load up the deck with barrels of fuel.”

“I don't know if I want to go all the way to San Francisco,” I tell him.

“Well, I'm going and if you want to come you're welcome, but I ain't gonna beg you. I got business in San Francisco and I mean to take care of her.”

I look out over the Sound. “I'll go.”

Sid leans against the railing. “You know, I wasn't ever happy playing baseball.”

“No?”

“No, and I resented the reason they let me into the majors.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Well, when I started there wasn't but four or five blacks playing in the big leagues and they was all excellent—Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and like that. And they brought me in because they was looking for a darky that wasn't so good.”

“I don't follow you.”

“I guess they figured they had to show that dark folks could be bad, too. I mean, every black playing was great and then came Sid Willis, Mr. Below Average. And I ain't even black.”

“You ain't?”

“Hell, no. I'm a Narragansett Indian. I was born in Rhode Island.”

“You sure look black.”

“Well, I can't help that. Those damn white boys on the team would call me nigger and I'd tell them I was an Indian and they'd just laugh.” He stops and looks up at the sky. “Then one season things just fell into place and I was hitting like three-fifty and they let me go.”

“Why'd they do that?”

“Because all of a sudden I was another excellent dark-skinned ballplayer, that's why.”

“That doesn't make any sense,” I says.

“That's white folks.” He looks at me with a single raised eyebrow. “This slump of yours—pretty bad?”

I nod. “I can't seem to get anything right. I can't seem to shake it.”

“Problems in bed … with the wife?”

I look over the side of the boat at the water.

“That happened to me with my second wife. Her name was Wendy. Wendy the Witch. Except it wasn't no slump that kilt my wiener. It was sober vision. I dried up and there she was. Arf, arf.”

“Well, Thelma's no witch. And I'm sober.”

“I wasn't saying nothing about your wife.” He puts a hand on my shoulder. “I was just telling you what happened to me.”

“I don't want a divorce.”

“I didn't want one neither.”

“But I thought you said she was a witch.”

“Well, yeah, but I couldn't afford no divorce.” He pauses. “So, I killed her.”

I stand up straight and look him in the eye.

“Right out there”—he's pointing out into the Sound—“I dumped her right out there. Didn't nobody miss her. Who misses a witch?”

I chuckle.

“You think I'm bullshittin'. I killed the bitch with my bare hands clamped around her ugly throat.” His hands are up in front of him like he's choking someone. “Then I cut her nasty fat body up into chunks and stuffed her into this great big tuna I caught. Dumped her right out there.” He's laughing. “Too bad that fish was dead. That would have been a meal for his ass.”

“Come off it,” I says.

He just laughs. “It's gonna take a couple of days to get to San Francisco. I figure we'll make a stop in Oregon. Maybe Newport. How's that sound?”

I nod.

“Right out there,” he repeats. “Damn, that was exciting.”

Chapter 12

I'm standing on deck and the early-afternoon sun is real bright and I'm practicing with my saxophone. This old pickup truck stops at the end of the pier and two young fellas hop out. One of them is skinny and he's got a beard and the other is real big and they're heading my way.

“Sid Willis around?” asks the beard.

“Yeah,” I says and call down into the cabin for Sid.

Sid comes up and sees the two fellas. “Good, you're here with my fuel.”

“Yeah, the fuel,” says the big guy, with a stupid grin on his face.

The two fellas start back toward the truck and Sid turns to me. “You wanna give them a hand?”

The skinny guy turns around and says, “We don't need any help.”

They walk on to the truck and when they get there the beard lowers the tailgate. Then this big fella picks one of the barrels up and puts it on his shoulder. He carries the drum all the way to the boat and the beard is behind him, guiding him. They do this six times.

“That's it,” says the skinny guy with the beard.

“I'll walk you to your truck,” Sid says and the three walk away from the boat. They stand by the pickup and chat for a while and then some money changes hands, but it ain't clear which way it's flowing. Sid starts back to the boat and the young fellas drive away.

“Who were they?” I ask as Sid steps into the boat.

“Discount gas,” he says. “What time is it?”

“I don't know. Maybe three. Hey, did you get money from those fellas?”

“That ain't the way business usually goes. They give me something, I give them money.”

“It just looked like … never mind.”

I've got my phonograph plugged in and I'm listening to the song and I'm watching the bugs flying around the lamp on the pier.

“Unplug that thing and let's go,” says Sid, looking out into the dark Sound.

“Tonight?”

“Best time to travel.” He looks up at the sky. “Good night for cruising.”

I'm unplugging the phonograph. “Ain't it a little dangerous?”

“The name of the game. That's what you need, boy, a little excitement in your life.”

I'm back on board.

“Fella named Gödel proved that ain't no logical system complete. He had to prove it. I could have told him if he'd asked. You need a dash of illogicalness to make your life complete. Untie that rope.”

I untie the rope and then another that Sid points to and I follow him up to the helm.

“German fellas all the time trying to prove things.” The engine is on and we're moving away from the dock. “Like that fella Heisenberg. He needed a theory to say he wasn't sure. You'd think people could find better things to work on, like disposable wives.”

“What's got you so uptight?” I ask him.

“I ain't uptight.”

“You sure seem nervous.”

“Well, I ain't.” He looks ahead.

We leave the lights of Seattle behind and we're following the lights of the coast south and then Sid turns off the running lights.

“What did you do that for?” I ask.

“What?”

“Why'd you kill the lights?”

“Don't need them.”

I don't say nothing. I just look ahead into the darkness. After a few minutes I go down into the cabin and climb into bed. I figure Sid will call me when he needs a break.

It was dark and quiet. Daddy, Bud, and I were sitting on the front porch, sweating. The only sounds were crickets and the clinking of ice against the sides of our glasses of tea. Ma had sneaked away earlier. I was flooded with odd and painful concerns. I worried that I was insane like my mother. I was bothered by a smell that I imagined on my fingers from Naomi Watkins. Daddy yawned and looked at his watch.

“What are you thinking about so hard?” Daddy asked me.

“Ma.”

Daddy looked away from me and out over the yard. “Don't worry about her.”

Bud winked at me.

“Maybe Ma could go to one of those doctors for crazy people.”

Daddy shook his head. “White people's foolishness. Causes more problems that it cures.”

“Well, maybe she should be in a place,” I said.

“Maybe,” Daddy said, slapping a mosquito. “That would get her away from that McCoy.” Daddy looked over at Bud. “How you doing?”

“Oh, I'm fine.” Bud paused. “Doc, you sure I'm not in the way?”

“Positive.” Daddy rubbed his glasses across his forehead. “I'm sorry about my wife.”

Bud waved his hand. “Nothing to be sorry about. I mean, she is pretty interesting.”

“She's that, all right,” Daddy said.

“What is it with this McCoy character?” Bud asked.

Daddy answered, “McCoy's got this religious group that Kathy, for some reason, is interested in. McCoy makes me nervous. He's crazy and I wonder how my colored wife fits in with a peckerwood like that.”

“You don't think he's dangerous or anything like that, do you?” Bud asked.

“I don't know,” Daddy replied. “I guess not.”

I began to think of McCoy.

Bud broke the silence. “Seriously, Doc, you think your wife is okay?”

Daddy didn't say anything. He just looked at the night sky. I didn't like the pain I saw in his face. He was wearing the same concerned look he wore when I was really sick with the flu. I was seven and they thought I might die and Daddy sat by my bed all night with that look on his face. If I couldn't hate Ma before, I was closer now.

“You know, I've been thinking about France,” Bud said.

“France, huh?” Daddy said.

“Yeah, I'd like to go there. You know, get away from this country. I hear things are different there, real different. People are free.”

I listened carefully to Bud's words.

“Free. Can you imagine that?” Bud added.

Daddy chuckled and shook his head.

“Yeah, France.” Bud finished his tea and looked at his empty glass. “Think I could make a long boat trip like that, Doc?”

“After a little rest, yeah,” Daddy said.

“After a little rest,” Bud repeated. He got up and he walked into the house and he soon was playing the piano.

I looked at Daddy. “What's wrong with Mr. Powell?”

“Nothing.”

“Sure is hot, huh, Daddy?”

“Yep.” Daddy paused. “Shit.”

Martin came home and went straight up to our room. When I finally went upstairs, I found him clipping things out of the backs of magazines.

“Sending off for stuff?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“What? Soldiers? A kite?”

“None of your business.”

I was trying to make things okay, even though I was upset with him about Naomi and all. I wasn't really mad as much as upset. He just kept going with the scissors.

Finally, we were in bed. Martin had his flashlight out, the beam moving from nude to nude. He just kept sighing and then he turned the flashlight off and pushed the magazines onto the floor. He tossed the light into the corner and sighed loudly. I closed my eyes.

My eyes open and there's a little early-morning light floating around the cabin and I see Sid sitting by the bed, looking at me.

“Where are we?” I ask.

“Drifting.”

I notice there's no engine noise. “Drifting? Where?”

“Just drifting.” He's got a funny look in his eyes.

I sit up and stretch and look out the window and I can't see the coast.

“You ever think about dying?” Sid asks.

“What?”

“Dying.”

“No.”

“You oughta.”

“I'll keep that in mind. Now, what's the story? The motor act up?”

“This slump of yours really has you down, doesn't it.”

I don't say anything.

“Suicide might be a thought.”

I'm up and walking across the cabin to look through the other window. “Where the hell are we?”

“I told you. We're drifting. We're contemplating suicide.”

“The hell. Why are we just floating out in the middle of nowhere?”

“If you don't do it, I will.”

“You'll what?”

“I'll kill you,” he says.

I laugh.

“I ain't bullshittin'.”

I stop laughing. “Now, Sid….”

“What do you have to live for? Luck has decided you're the greatest patsy since the Jews.” He stands up. “So, after this morning's business, I'll put an end to your miserable, pathetic life.”

There's the sound of a foghorn outside and Sid scurries up the steps to the deck. I follow him and I see another boat and Sid is waving to them with both arms.

There are two fat men on the other boat who look sorta alike. Both of the men are about forty and their haircuts are short and greased back and they've got slippery black mustaches. The fat men are wearing them loud beach shirts and big baggy white pants. There are two younger men with them, big and muscular fellas, in trunks. Their boat pulls alongside of us.

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