Read Suder Online

Authors: Percival Everett

Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Suder

Suder (19 page)

“Hi there,” says Marsha.

“Hey.”

“It's good to see you.” She puts her foot on the running board of the truck and pulls her skirt over her knee.

I'm looking at her fat leg and noticing her fat ankle and I says, “Excuse me.” And I reach for the door handle.

She catches my hand and kisses it. “I love you.”

“Excuse me.” I move her leg and I open the door and get into the truck.

“I'll do anything for you,” she says and moves her bushy eyebrows up and down. “Anything.” She touches her nose with her tongue.

I shake my head and start the engine and drive away. I look in the mirror and see her yelling at me and giving me the finger.

On the road I see a pheasant that's been hit by a car and I get out and toss it into the truck. I need the feathers for my wings. I figure a couple more road kills and the stuffed birds in the cabin should offer enough feathers.

I drive on and I'm feeling sorry for ugly Marsha, but I ain't about to go back and try to make her feel better. Then I start to wonder what I should do with Sid and I think that maybe I can just untie him and force him to leave at gunpoint. I doubt it.

“I don't see why it matters all that much where I glue the feathers,” Jincy says.

I look across the table at her. “It matters.” I've built the frames of the wings with plastic tubing. Each frame is like a big horseshoe, about as tall as me, with slats running across the width. I've sorted out the strongest trash bags and cut them into strips and wrapped the strips around the frames. The feathers are going on one at a time.

“This is really boring,” Jincy says.

I nod.

Jincy glues on another feather. “Will these things work?” I'm silent for a second and then, “Uh-huh.”

“You sure?”

“Uh-huh.”

She pushes the feathers away and puts her head on folded arms on the table. “I don't want you to do this.” “Want me to do what?” I tip my beret up. “Jump.”

“I'm not jumping, I'm flying.” I stick on another feather.

She looks up at me. “What if they don't work?”

“They'll work.”

“I'm sick of gluing on feathers,” Jincy says and closes her eyes.

“I'll help,” says Sid.

“No, thank you,” I says. I look back at Jincy. She looks very small. “What are you afraid of?”

She raises her head. “What if they don't work? What if you fall? You could die. I'll be left alone.”

Silence.

Then I speak: “Why don't you bring Renoir in and give him a bath?” I get up and grab my jacket. “I'm going to Willet Rock.”

I leave the house and walk up the trail on the south side of the mountain and follow it around to the western face. It's a good hour's hike and I'm a little winded when I reach this giant boulder that overlooks the lake. Below me, flying in big circles, is a vulture and I can't take my eyes off him. He ain't moving his wings and the currents are taking him up and down. I close my eyes and feel the wind on my face. I fall asleep.

It's dark when I wake up and a light mist is hovering around me. I can't see a thing and I'm trying to feel my way along the trail and I'm getting real anxious because the woods are extra quiet. My face brushes against the leaves of a tree and they are wet from the fog. I inhale the moist air. It is cool. I walk slowly on and I'm thinking about the fog and remembering a postcard that Bud Powell sent me from London when I was young. The picture on the card was of lamps on the street shining through fog and the message read: “Almost there.”

Jincy is on her knees raking mud from between Renoir's toes with a stick and I'm sitting on the front steps doing my neck exercises. Richard Beckwith comes walking up the drive and he's smiling real big.

“Hey,” I greet him.

“Hi, Craig.” He seems nervous. “How've you been?”

“Fine. You?”

“Great.” He pauses and looks over at Jincy and Renoir. “You really think it's right for you to keep that child with you? I mean, her parents must be pretty worried.”

“Her parents beat her up,” I tell him.

He rubs his face with his palm. “You know, there's some talk down in town about you flying off the mountain.”

I just look at him and I'm touching my shoulder with my nose.

Beckwith is even more nervous and he looks around and then he points.
“Perisoreus canadensis.”

“Gray jay.”

“Funny how rumors get started.” He chuckles.

And I smile.

“You're going to try it, aren't you?”

And I says, “Chirp, chirp.”

Beckwith tilts his head and looks at me with questioning eyes. “I can't tell if you're pulling my leg or not.”

“Chirp.”

“You're joking.” He laughs nervously.

“Off Willet Rock.” I'm staring at his eyes behind those fat lenses.

“This is crazy.”

“Just finished my wings.” I stand up. “Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to rest. Tomorrow is the big day.”

“You know,” says Beckwith, “you're talking about suicide.”

“Whatever.” I wave my fingers at him and turn and enter the cabin. I stare up at the ceiling and then my eyes fall over to my saxophone, which is in the corner. I hear Charlie Parker's solo. I fall asleep, humming it softly to myself.

Chapter 24

“Be careful,” I says.

“Sorry,” Jincy says, pulling the razor a bit slower across my head. “It pulls because it ain't sharp.”

“Go on. Don't worry about it.”

“I still don't understand.”

“I want to be streamlined, no wind resistance.” I straighten the towel around my neck.

“Damn silly,” says Sid.

I look at Jincy. “I'm going to shave my whole body.” “Everyplace?”

I nod and she cuts my head and I yelp and Renoir lets out a blast.

“Sorry,” she says and finishes. “There.”

I rub my hand over my clean head and whistle. “That's pretty good.” I stand up and undress. “Give me the razor.”

Jincy hands me the razor without saying anything and I take to lathering up my legs.

“What are you doing?” Sid asks. “Shaving your legs?”

I don't respond.

“Don't that beat all,” he says, shaking his head. “Sick. I should have killed you without warning. Damn.”

Jincy watches silently as I pull the razor up and down my calves and then I lather up my groin.

“In front of the girl?” Sid asks in disbelief.

I don't pay him no mind. I carefully shave around my penis and Jincy is staring at me. Her eyes rise up to meet mine and tears start to come out and roll down her cheeks.

Then there's a pounding at the door and the sound of Richard Beckwith's voice: “Craig! Craig!”

“Come in,” I says.

The door swings open and Beckwith sees me with my legs apart and a lathered-up crotch and he freezes. The bright daylight is behind him.

“What are you doing?” Beckwith asks.

“Hey.”

“What are you doing?”

“He's shaving his nuts!” Sid screams. “The man is insane. Untie me so I can get away.” And then Sid yells at me, “I hope you slip and cut it off.” Then he makes a loud noise, trying to make me slip.

I'm finished and wiping the lather off with the towel. “What do you want?” I ask Beckwith.

Beckwith is staring at my crotch. “I was in town. I heard the sheriff— Why?”

I raise my eyebrows.

He points at my groin.

“I'm cutting down on air friction. What about the sheriff?”

He shakes his head. “The sheriff's coming to arrest you. Some woman in town says you raped her.”

Jincy gasps.

“Psssst!” Sid tries to get Beckwith's attention. “Get me out of here. He's a crazy raper.”

“The guy in the store said her name was ugly Marsha,” says Beckwith.

“The woman I got the cold from.” I stand up. “Jincy, get me the cooking oil.”

“What are you doing now?” Beckwith asks.

“Getting ready to fly,” I answer. Jincy hands me the oil and I start rubbing it on my body. “Let the wall down,” I says to Jincy.

“You don't really plan to go through with this?” Beckwith frowns.

The wall comes down and daylight floods the cabin and I grab my wings. I step across the wall and Renoir and Jincy are behind me. Beckwith is following, but Sid calls to him, “Hey, come here. I want to have a word with you.” And Beckwith goes back.

Jincy and I take off along the trail and a car pulls up to the cabin and a fat guy gets out. It's fat Thomas from Portland.

“Craig!” yells fat Thomas. “Craig!” And he trots up the trail.

“Hey.” I step toward him.

“I've missed you,” he says. He looks past me. “You've got an elephant.”

Jincy looks at me.

Thomas is staring at my shaved groin and he starts to tremble like he's going to blow up. Then he cries, “Oh, Craig, darling.” And he's on his knees hugging me around the waist.

I push him away and deliver a punch to his chops and he falls over. He lies there.

Jincy and I walk on up the path and after some distance we see hunters on the trail ahead. We turn and head through the woods and up the mountain and we're weaving through the trees. Then there's a woman's voice yelling, “I love you!” It's ugly Marsha and she's coming up behind us.

And behind Marsha is Sheriff Prager shouting for me to stop and he's got his pistol drawn. His gun is pointing toward the sky and a bullet hits a tree near me and there's Sid Willis limping up the incline. Prager ducks at the report from Sid's gun and he turns to see Sid. Prager exclaims, “Another nigger in the woods!”

“I'm an Indian!” Sid screams and takes a shot at Prager and Prager shoots back and the two of them are hiding behind trees, shooting at each other.

Marsha is still running at us and yelling that she loves me and Thomas is coming to, shaking his head. Jincy and I are moving faster and I'm looking back every few steps.

“Go on,” Jincy says and she looks back at me. “I love you.” I turn and start running through the woods, naked, my wings under my arm, and soon I'm back on the trail.

It was early Saturday morning and it was unusually cool because it had rained the night before. Martin and I were on our bicycles behind Ma and Daddy as they ran. People stepped out onto their porches as we passed—the black people, anyway. The white people pulled their curtains back and gathered at their windows. The pace slowed greatly after about six miles, but with second winds Ma and Daddy picked up the tempo again.

After four hours I was very tired. Ma was falling forward and Daddy was limping, clutching at his sides. Weeks of practice had not caused them such pain. There was no talking.

Finally we were only a few blocks from home. People were stepping out of their houses and onto the street. Word of Ma's approach spread down the street. Cars were standing in the middle of the road and people were sitting on hoods and roofs, watching.

I was behind Ma. Her back straightened as she drew closer to the end. She was merely falling into each step, finding her stride. The silence was broken by one person applauding and then everyone was clapping. Daddy stopped about twenty feet from our yard and applauded, also. I hopped off my bike and let it fall to the street. I stood by Daddy, clapping and watching as Ma ran off the street and into our driveway. She fell to her knees on the gravel. Daddy and I ran to her. Daddy dropped to one knee beside her and just looked at her. Ma looked at her bleeding knees and then at Daddy. Tears were rolling down her face. Daddy pulled her close and the neighbors became silent. Daddy picked Ma up and carried her toward the house. His eyes were wet.

Well, I'm on this rock and I'm looking down over the lake and I slip into my wings. The sky is clear and the wind is firm and what I do is step off Willet Rock. I free-fall for about fifty feet with my wings doing everything except what I want them to do and I pee because I'm so scared and all of a sudden I'm gliding.

My wings are full of the wind now and I'm a little dizzy because I'm flying in tight circles. I'm catching glimpses of figures in the woods far below. Then all hell breaks loose. I'm in a power dive, heading straight down, and let me tell you, there's plenty of down to head into. The lake is still, like a mirror beneath me, and I can see my speck of a reflection. I think about that osprey pulling out of a dive and I pull up on the front of the wings and hold them as stiff as I can. And this ain't easy because the wind is stretching my face around my head. I manage to pull out of the dive. In fact, when I pull out, I'm near this ridge and this blast of air sends me straight up. I realize now that there's a lot I don't know about air currents. Well, I'm starting to get the hang of it, but every now and then I find myself upside down or flying backwards.

Now I'm making big circles and I'm pretty much in charge and I'm slowly going down. I can see Jincy and Renoir by the lake and Jincy's waving.

I'm feeling the wind on my face and listening to it roaring past my ears and I've got an erection. And I'm flying, goddamnit, I'm flying. Then I see Beckwith on a ridge with the hunters and he's pointing up at me. I imagine him to say,
“Homo sapiens.”

And I says, “Craig Suder.”

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this ebook or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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