Opal Taylor always had her morning cigarette in the kitchen. To her, kitchens were for mornings—for breakfast. For her, cigarettes and coffee were breakfast. And there had always been two things she wondered about the white Jesus painting hanging on the wall above her breakfast table. The first thing was why it was there in the kitchen. The red blood from the little scratches on Jesus’s head seemed so inappropriate for the dinner table. But since Grandmother was the one who hung the painting, Opal had never really thought seriously about moving it. The second thing she wondered was why Jesus was such a sissified pretty. He hung on the cross, delicate and frail; he was graceful and beautiful and dead. Even with his pale, glowing whiteness he was pretty. She resented that.
Opal was ugly and knew she always would be. When Donboy was born, she thanked God his skin wasn’t like hers. It was dark and perfect, like chocolate milk. And even though most people in the small town of Wadem thought she was some mystical power-possessing devil, it was white Jesus she thanked for his normality on the day of Donboy’s birth.
She took a drag of her cigarette and exhaled deeply. It was her third one that morning. Her weak vision never provided complete clarity, but she knew the stale-scented, thick cloudy haze floating around her was smoke. She pushed the half-empty coffee cup sitting on the table away from her. When she heard heavy footsteps padding on the wooden hallway floor, she pulled the ashtray toward her with the tips of her fingers. The bathroom door creaked open and then closed, but she put the cigarette out anyway. If Stella caught her smoking again, she would never hear the end of it.
Opal knew Donboy would be on her mind all day. It was his day, and just like every other last day of September, she willed it over to him with sadness and grief. In fact, she welcomed him. She swatted the smoke away and thought about his beautiful brown skin. The whole time she carried him inside her she prayed he wouldn’t be born milky white, like her. She wanted his eyes to sit steady in his head and for him to have soft, kinky, black hair. She told God that life would fail her son if he was anything like her. If his hair was like fuzzy golden straw, or if he was forced to gaze at the world through pale purple eyes, he wouldn’t make it through life. She wasn’t sure how she had. She told God with authority if that was his plan, he could take the baby growing in her womb back because she sure as hell didn’t want to raise no albino. She rejected, for her child, big pink lips on a cream freckled face. And when the doctor pulled his perfect brown body from between her creamy white thighs, she knew God had heard her.
She reached for the dark sunglasses that rested next to the ashtray. Her shifty eyes were unnerving, naked; so she kept them covered for the comfort of others. Most people couldn’t get past the continual dancing and the thin white coating that covered her purple pupils. If they could, they’d know Opal could never hurt a thing.
Even with skin that made people gaze longer than what was welcome, her eyes had always been her handicap. She hardly ever turned the lights on during the day and even preferred to keep the small house dark at night. When Stella first moved from the city, she found it odd that Opal used the bathroom in the dark, but after the first time she witnessed Opal’s light-stricken pain, she made it a habit to check with Opal before she flicked light switches up.
She used her body to slide the metal-legged chair away from the table, cringing at the scraping against the old linoleum and rose slowly—carefully and took the coffee mug to the sink behind her. She liked a clean house. Always had. Her grandmother was old-school country and raised her up to clean, so that was how she was. It didn’t matter to her that the small house was located in the center of what most folks considered hell. The inside of her home was Opal’s world, so she adorned it with a blend of antique and modern trinkets. Wadem was a dustbowl. Seemed to catch all the trash and dust and filth America offered. So Opal dusted daily and cleaned everything from the ceiling to the floor with bleach several times a week. She hoped the beauty inside the house made her look better on the outside.
The kitchen was her favorite place to think. The small window above the sink allowed it to be bright and breezy enough for Opal to feel alive, like she was outside with no worries of the sun spoiling her. And even though the thin floral curtains that protected her eyes and skin from the pain of God’s glow were always drawn closed, the whites of his eyes were always peeking through the fabric. It was the perfect balance of what she could physically handle.
Pouring the leftover coffee down the drain, she closed her eyes and let the breeze from the cracked window caress her face. She imagined it was Donboy’s soft six-year-old hands. He liked to touch her face and kiss her nose. Nobody before him had ever done it, and even though he was just a few days old the first time he did it, she couldn’t believe how real it made her feel.
“Morning, Pale,” Stella said. Opal opened her eyes, a little annoyed that her aunt had interrupted her time with Donboy. She carefully placed the mug in the sink and turned to face Stella, who was sliding into one of the chairs that sat around the table. The form of her hair was huge in comparison to her small face. It made Opal want to laugh, but she offered a closed-lipped smile instead.
“How you this morning, Stella?” Opal replied.
As pushy and as citified as Stella was, Opal was grateful that she’d shoved her life into three suitcases to come and be with her. She thought she would die alone after her grandmother’s passing, but Stella arrived on her porch one day and said she would be her family from there on out. She was her grandmother’s baby sister, but Opal didn’t know much about her before she arrived. After a decade of living together, Opal was sure of two things about her aunt. One: Stella’s big voice booming from her small body, surprised most folks. And two: her aunt would never fit in, not in a small town like Wadem, Texas.
Opal didn’t know much about her family at all. Her grandmother once told her that her mother fell for a Zimbabwean when she graduated high school and left the small town she had grown up in with fire underneath her feet. According to her grandmother, who gave her the nickname Pale, her African father convinced her mother that they had been bewitched or cursed by someone and Opal was a product of deep hate and witchcraft.
“Don’t worry bout her or that old ugly black African,” her grandmother told her when she was five. “Way I see it, he should have been glad the good Lord give him something shine bright as you. Fuck them if they ain’t grateful to God. Fuck them dead in they graves.”
“Just as good as I want to be,” Stella answered, eyeing her nails and blowing softly. She’d just rolled out of bed and hadn’t missed a beat. She was wearing a bright burgundy wig, which matched her silk pajamas perfectly, and she had already taken the time to do her nails. Even though everything was blurry to Opal through her eyes, she could see the perfection of her aunt’s aura, and it made her smile. Stella was well into her sixties, but she was younger than Opal in spirit.
“What I want to know,” Stella began, placing her palms flat on the plastic floral-printed table cover. “Is how you are today, dear?” She tilted her head and let out a deep sigh.
Opal inhaled her aunt’s lavender scent. She often wondered how Stella was able to carry the scent so consistently. Opal never caught the scents of sweat or sun from Stella’s body breezes. Even after standing in the kitchen frying bird for hours, lavender was what emitted from her pores.
“I know what today is, Pale. How you feeling, baby?”
Opal nodded, but she didn’t say anything. Her eyes shifted down her body and as she mentally compared herself to her aunt, she felt a little underdressed in her worn housecoat.
“It’s okay to talk about it, Pale. Have you ever talked about it?” she asked.
Opal shook her head and shifted the weight of her bending frame to one leg. “Joe Junior be here after while. He come every year.”
Stella smacked her lips. “Why? Why in the world does that man still come all this way, after all these years? For one day? Doesn’t he live in—”
“In New York City,” Opal said, lifting her head with pride. “New York lawyer.”
Opal felt her lips part into a smile, and she didn’t try to cover it with her hands. She didn’t care about her protruding teeth or big pink gums when she thought about Joe Junior making a life for himself, moving closer to his truth. The months and years following Donboy’s death had been difficult for him.
He carried the burden of blame everywhere he went. Sometimes she wondered how she knew that when he hadn’t told a living soul, but she knew he was carrying something and she was sure it was Donboy’s ghost. Joe Junior was thirteen when Donboy was taken, and despite all the things folks in the town had said about what happened, Opal felt like Joe Junior stopped living a little because of the way her son had left.
Even though a close friendship between a six-year-old and thirteen-year-old seemed unlikely to the flapping jaws of Wadem, Opal appreciated what Joe Junior had been to Donboy. The other kids wouldn’t play with Donboy because they thought his mother was a witch. But Joe Junior was always kind. Still, Opal knew something was wrong with the testimony he gave police all those years ago. She knew he’d tell her what it was one day and then they could both have peace.
“Well, do you two talk about Donboy? Talk about what happened, Pale?” Stella asked.
The smile disappeared from Opal’s face and she turned back to the kitchen sink. Her heart began to race. She gripped the edge of the counter to steady herself and began to sway from side-to-side. She didn’t want to talk about Donboy. After twenty years, she still wasn’t ready. She could think about him and imagine him, but talking about him was different. She couldn’t be ready to grab on to Donboy until Joe Junior let him go.
She surprised herself when she said, “Momma thought it was my fault. She wasn’t the same after.” Her grandmother had been the only mother she’d known. She’d always called her momma, but even she seemed to turn her back on Opal after Donboy’s disappearance. Even she began to view her as a curse.
Stella rose from the chair and Opal could hear the click of her high-heeled slippers against the linoleum as she made her way to the sink. She began to make gentle circles with her palm in the center of Opal’s back.
“She didn’t think it was your fault, honey. You had nothing to do with that sick bastard snatching Donboy. We all know that.”
Opal felt the tears tickling the rims of her eyes. She didn’t want to cry tears about Donboy. Not until she saw him. She had gone twenty years without shedding a single tear. She nodded her head up and down and felt like a child. When folks mentioned her baby it was hard not to see his body nibbled on in the Chutlow Ravine.
“She didn’t never say nothing about it, but what happened to Donboy. That was enough to make even her believe...” Opal trailed off. She could hear her own sniffles and felt her feet moving mechanically as Stella guided her from the kitchen to the den.
“It’s all right, Pale. You entitled to feel, too,” Stella said, carefully nudging her to sit down on the couch.
Opal’s body stiffened and she looked up through the dark lenses of the sunglasses.
“I can’t feel. I ain’t never felt since him. When I tried. When I felt for something beautiful. This,” said, pinching her arm and holding it out for Stella to see. “This curse made it die.”
“Pale,” Stella sighed, before dropping her body down on the couch beside Opal. “Jim Braswell is a sick pig fuck. Your skin had nothing to do with that.”
Opal began to shake her head and rock her body back and forth. She didn’t want to think about Jim Braswell’s teeth sinking into her baby’s flesh. She promised herself she would shed no tears. She was empty. Donboy had taken all of her with him twenty years ago. “No, no, no, no,” she chanted. “We ain’t gone talk about that day. I can’t feel that day.”
“Your momma was a fool to leave you here with my sister. God rest Flo’s soul, but she hadn’t the faintest idea about what to do. Even with what happened to you. What Charlie Goodwin did. You just…” Stella exhaled deeply and leaned back into the couch.
“No, no, no, no, not that day, neither. Was a blessing. Wouldn’t of got Donboy.” She couldn’t hate that day. She had never been able to bring herself to do so. Her late grandfather’s big hands all over her had been a painful blessing. She never spoke it out loud, but everyone knew who had raped her. It was like the town saw the story on her skin.
Opal chanted until she realized that Stella was quiet. They sat in silence for a while before Stella said anything, again.
“Don’t you miss it, Pale? Don’t you miss painting?” Stella said, changing the subject.
Opal never understood how she could be so hard to look at, but birth beauties like a painted sunset on a wall or a beautiful brown baby. Sometimes she marveled at how alive her art turned out to be. As dim as the house really was, the sun she created actually lit the place up. There were flowers and trees on walls all around the house. She painted birds and skunks and even tiny insects. She recognized her beauty through the beauties she created. Homemade art and Donboy.
“When you first start painting anyway?” Stella asked, still gazing at the wall. Opal looked around the room and thought back to the day she painted the sunset on the wall. She had been carrying Donboy in a sling on her back the whole afternoon. It was the middle of July when the sun hung perfect and burned hot. Donboy loved the outdoors, but Opal’s eyes, even behind sunglasses, and her curse-bearing skin couldn’t handle the sun without pain. Donboy pitched a fit on her back when she brought him inside, so she pulled out a box of church-donated paints and began to create the sun for her son. She had never painted anything before that day and didn’t do much after.
Opal shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.
Stella began waving the collar of her silk pajama top in-and-out. “The heat on?” she asked. “It’s warm in here. My tits sweating,” she said, chuckling.
When Opal didn’t respond, she let out a deep sigh.
“Will you be okay while I shower and get dressed, sweetie?”
Opal nodded without turning her face from the sunset she’d created so many years ago.
Stella grunted as she struggled to lift her worn body from the couch. Opal could hear her bones popping as her joints bent and straightened. When she finally stood as upright as her used body would allow, Opal could feel her gazing down on her.
“I have close to twenty years more of life experience than you, Pale,” she said.
Opal’s eyes dropped from the wall to her lap.
“But I’ll never know the pain of losing my child the way you lost Donboy. You’re a strong one, girl. Real strong.”
Opal’s body remained stiff and on the edge of the couch. Moments later she heard the click of Stella’s heeled slippers descend down the hallway.
“That boy was beautiful,” she heard Stella say out loud. “Too goddamn beautiful for words.”
Opal sat on the couch with her eyes shut tight. She saw her son’s body lying face down in some strange ravine less than twenty miles from home. Sometimes she wished she had the kind of powers people thought she had. Witch powers. Maybe then she could have heard Donboy’s screams. She would’ve tore Jim Baswell’s jaw off his face, and fished her baby from his mouth. If she were really a curse and everything that made contact with her suffered, Jim Baswell wouldn’t have been exonerated of the crime on the count of some obscure technicality. If albinos were really spawned from Satan, Donboy would’ve been alive because Opal knew she would’ve used any trick or spell she could’ve to protect her son from the evil he must have suffered on the last day of his life.
Opal was awakened by whispering from the kitchen. She hadn’t meant to doze off, but tears were tiring. She couldn’t remember lying down on the couch, and realized she hadn’t even removed her sunglasses before falling asleep. She wanted to make out the voices in the kitchen, but something told her if she sat up it would stop, so she stayed there with the side of her face smashed flat against the edge of the couch.
“I can’t live with this anymore,” she heard a male voice say, and an immediate smile spread across her lips. Joe Junior was there and his words told her he was ready.
“But you still keep coming, boy.” She recognized Stella’s voice. There was a hiss on the edge of each word that let Opal know her aunt was annoyed. She wasn’t surprised. She had known for years that there was something about Joe Junior that didn’t sit right with Stella, but the fear of Opal’s eyes kept her lips sealed about her disdain for him. She wanted Stella to know that the burden of flesh kept people flawed and ruined. She wanted to show her that from the ugliest act, good could still prevail. Joe Junior was human and in all his hiding and lying, he was good. Stella didn’t know it. Joe Junior didn’t even know it, but Opal had been waiting for him to free himself. In freeing himself, he’d set her free and then she could see Donboy.
“It’s Ms. Pale. She comes in my dreams. I can see her eyes in my dreams. I come because she—”
“Hush that superstitious shit, boy,” Stella snapped. “For some reason she like you. She really do. I don’t, but she do. My opinion, you should of been with him. Posed to be his friend. Wasn’t you?”
“Joe Junior,” Opal called out from the couch. She raised herself up from her lying position and adjusted the sunglasses straight on her face. She didn’t want Stella to beat him down. Donboy was gone and blaming wasn’t going to bring him back. “That you?”
“Y-yes, ma’am,” he responded. She heard the metal of the chair’s legs scrape the linoleum. His heavy shoes thudded closer. She made out his dark form as he appeared looming in the doorway. She thought about Donboy. He would be twenty-six, probably tall enough to loom the same way.
She swallowed the lump in her throat that usually came with Donboy. She couldn’t think about what he was or would be without thinking about those eight days she lost. She’d seen the reports. A photo he had taken at school had been all over the news, in the papers, and on grocery store bulletins. For eight days, faces of teachers who were afraid of him, other parents in the neighborhood, and even the pastors at local churches appeared on the news, claiming to know and admire Donboy. They had all been afraid of him because of the mystery that surrounded his mother. God loves all his children, they’d say, but all children ain’t his. They tolerated her existence because they respected her grandmother, but they always wondered about and feared the mysterious glow in her eyes.
“He’s a good quiet boy,” her grandmother’s reverend told a news reporter. His eyes were sad for the camera. His shiny black face and half-balding head made him appear sweaty and hot in his full three-piece suit. He really looked sad, but Opal figured him out before the camera shifted away from him.
“Mother Taylor taught that boy the best way she could, considering everything. You know?” His eyes shifted to something—someone off camera. When he spoke again, his stuttering revealed his nervousness. “I-I don’t know much bout his momma. Y-you know. I try not listen to what folks say.
I’m praying for young Donboy anyhow. That’s what we do at Brimstone Missionary Baptist on Quark Street. Drop by anytime.”
Strangers, they all were, pled his case with questionable sincerity, but the reporters and writers spared no details the day his body was found. She knew what experts and all the folks of Wadem thought happened, but she still wondered who Donboy was those eight days. Joe Junior’s truth would free her from all her eyes would allow. She needed his truth just as much as he did, but Donboy needed it the most. They couldn’t stand in the same light forever. She needed Joe Junior to move.
Opal patted the cushion of the couch lightly. “Come. Sit with me, Joe.”
She watched as he turned his head back toward the kitchen. She figured he was looking to Stella for something, but all she could really make out was a tall blur.
He took light hesitant steps in Opal’s direction. When he was just a few feet away, he extended his arms out in front of him. Through her blurred vision, he looked like Frankenstein’s monster. She immediately sensed the familiar discomfort he felt when in her presence.
“H-hi, Ms. Pale,” he stammered. “How have you been?”
Opal smiled wide to calm Joe Junior’s nerves and opened her arms to welcome him.
He bent his tall, thick body deep to embrace her, releasing an exhausted sigh before letting go. Opal tapped the cushion again, signaling for him to sit down. He obeyed, despite the slight tremble that Opal could feel from the couch cushion once he was seated.
“Things all right in that big old city?” she asked, staring straight ahead at the sunset. It was in those times, Opal appreciated the absence of a television in the front room. Sometimes the voices of television characters could drown out the real feelings that announced themselves to people during quiet conversation.
Joe Junior nodded his head, rapidly. “Ye-yes, ma’am. Trying to put as many of them away as I possibly can. Seems like the more I fight, the more the—”
“Not talking bout lawyering, Joe Junior. Talking bout life,” she said.
He released his hand from his lap and grabbed the edge of couch on both sides of his body, raising his shoulders and curling his stomach into his back at the same time.
“Oh,” he responded, beginning a slow, rhythmic back-and-forth rock.
“Fine. Good, I guess. Fine,” he said, looking down into his lap. Opal could tell that he was more nervous than he had been during previous visits. He was never nervous around Opal as a boy. He had been the only child willing to come around her—to be her son’s friend. The only one to ignore the community’s views of her. But today, he couldn’t even look at her face.
Opal turned her head toward him and placed her hand on the back cradle of his neck. “Don’t be nervous, Joe. It’s time.”
He exhaled, offered a half nod, and responded, “I know.”
He raised his eyes and peered at the sunset wall. He began to shake his head. During the silence that followed, Stella made her way to the doorway from inside the kitchen and leaned against the doorpost.
“All the things people used to say about you and you end up being the only righteous person I’ve ever known,” he said. “You cast spells on people with your eyes, they said.” He squinted his eyes, still peering at the wall. “Said you curse animals and cause disease wherever your feet tread. My own momma said you’re a plague to the people you love,” he chuckled, shaking his head again.
Opal knew people said those things and more. It had bothered her once upon a time, but she stopped caring about the voices of people when Donboy went away. She had grown to believe if she had ignored rumors and talk concerning what she was, she never would have prayed for Donboy to be something else. Maybe shifty eyes and thick bright skin wouldn’t have looked so delicious to Jim Baswell.
“I used to wonder why nobody heard him,” Joe Junior said, rising from his seat on the couch. He shook his legs to free the cling from his slacks and took a step in the direction of the wall. “But Wadem’s a flat place, so I guess his screams wouldn’t have echoed.”
“Boy,” Stella’s voice shrieked from the doorway. “Pale don’t want to –”
“Leave him be,” Opal said, standing. “He got to get this out. I need him to get this out.”
Joe Junior took another step toward the wall and tilted his head to the side. “Something always screaming in Wadem. People don’t like to acknowledge it, though.” He placed his fist under his chin and peered at the wall for a while before finally saying, “You created the world in here, Ms. Pale. Seems to me, you need to paint Donboy in it.” He stared at the wall in silence, while Opal and Stella stared at him.
“That boy liked to follow me all around this neighborhood. Always running in behind me, asking if he could go,” he said, placing both of his hands on the back part of his hips and arching his back slightly. Opal, who had stood and positioned herself slightly behind him, thought he grew taller when he did it.
“I remember Mike and Ronnie Mills, Ms. Loodney’s boys.” His voice became nasally and low. “They used to call you a witch, Ms. Pale. Called Donboy son-of-a-witch.”
Opal closed her eyes. Donboy’s face flickered in front of her. “Uhm, hmm,” she said, opening her eyes again. “Keep going, Joe Junior.”
“The dirt in the alley behind this street was always thicker and richer than the regular dirt. It was soft to walk on. We liked playing back there. Felt like we were falling on cotton when we hit the ground.” He took another step toward the wall.
“The day Donboy left, Viola Robinson was out there with us. I liked her. I liked her a lot.” He broke his stare with the wall and his gaze dropped to his feet. “She hated Donboy because she hated you, and me— I just wanted her to like...” He dropped down to his knees and let out an anguished cry. “I just wanted her to like me was all.”
Stella pushed her body away from the post and took one step in his direction. Opal shook her head at Stella and she didn’t move any further.
Donboy’s face flickered in Opal’s eyes again. His hair was a thick, black mass of curls. The same mass she’d load down with Vaseline and water each day. His wide smile made her stomach flutter because she remembered that his first tooth was loose the last time she saw him. She stepped close to where Joe Junior knelt.
“Come on Joe Junior, give him back to me,” she said. “He just wanted to play,” Joe Junior sobbed. “He was too young to understand that dirt rocks were really weapons.” He cupped his face in his hands and began to sob uncontrollably.
“Nuh uh, Joe Junior. Nuh, uh. You got to give him back. Keep going,” she commanded with authority.
“I can’t, Ms. Pale. It hurts. I sh-sh-shouldn’t. Ha-ha-have ma- ma-made. Him go,” he struggled to say through his cupped hands and tears.
Opal dropped down on the floor, positioning herself in front of him and tried to pry his hands from his face. As soon as she succeeded in freeing them, they flew back on his face with a slap.
“Go where?” she asked, in a pleading voice. “Go where, Joe Junior?” She crawled around to kneel directly in front of him and watched helplessly as he shook his head and chanted No. Donboy appeared in her eyes again, he waved and threw his head back in playful laughter.
She pushed Joe Junior’s body back with such force that he landed on his back and struggled to free his feet from the folded position underneath him. She closed her eyes and slung the sunglasses off her face as she quickly hoisted her body on top of him and straddled his chest.
“Pale,” Stella shouted, without moving to stop her.
Joe Junior’s body was limp with grief. He didn’t put up a fight when she stretched her arms out and pinned his to the floor. She leaned in close to his face and in a forceful tone said, “Keep going, Joe Junior. Keep going.” She felt spit splashing out of her mouth onto his face, but she didn’t care. He had never come this close to relieving himself of Donboy.
“Okay, okay, okay,” he said, still crying uncontrollably.
“Pale,” Stella shouted, again. “Let that boy up.” Opal lifted one hand from the hold she had on Joe Junior’s arms, and pointed two fingers in Stella’s direction.
“You hush and watch the salvation of the Lord,” she said, placing her hand back on Joe Junior’s arm. Stella stood frozen.
“I hit him in the eye with a dirt ball,” Joe Junior shouted. “I was trying to fit in with them bastards and hit him harder than any of them did.” He let out a bellowing howl, and Opal waited patiently until it had passed.
“And then?” she asked, when his roars became soft sobs.
“And then that white man, Jim Baswell, came riding down the alley. His truck was kicking dirt all over the place. And he…,” he said, trailing off. Opal thought she’d lost him. She sensed through her closed eyes that his eyes were focused on something inside him. She knew it was her Donboy.
“He just looks so sad, Ms. Pale. Come to me every day. I keep telling him I loved him. Every day I tell him. I didn’t mean for him to die,” he said, in a whimpering tone.
Opal shook her head. “Nuh uh, Joe Junior. Keep going.” She pressed her head to his forehead and opened her eyes to look in his. She knew that hers were shifting by the way his head bobbled side-to-side. His body trembled and his eyes were wide, but he immediately stopped crying.
“Finish,” she commanded. “I promise this’ll make things right.”
“That white man tires kicked all that dirt on Donboy and it was my fault. I was the one who hit him. Put him on that ground,” he said. His voice was flat and lifeless. “He stopped and asked if everything was all right. Donboy was crying and Viola was watching. I wanted to impress her so bad.”
Donboy appeared in her eyes, and she shifted them from Joe Junior’s to the ceiling.
Momma, Donboy said. Look, Momma, he repeated, pointing holding out his cream-colored hand. And then he was gone, again.
“Finish,” Opal said, without lowering her head or opening her eyes.
“Something’s wrong, Ms. Pale. I can’t see him right now,” Joe Junior said.
“Finish,” she repeated.
“Braswell offered to drive him around front and knock on the door to tell you what happened.” He paused and she could tell he was trying to fight tears. “I knew when he pushed him up in the truck. The way he touched him from behind. I knew Donboy was never coming back, but I let him go because Viola was watching.”
Momma, Donboy said. His jeans weren’t tattered like they had been in the evidence box at the trial in ‘78. His sneakers weren’t bloody and his ears were still there. He was pale like her—albino, but he was perfect. His hair had become golden straw. He was a beautiful albino. And at that moment, twenty years after he had been murdered for being beautiful, she loved how black whiteness looked on him. His shine was like the stars. The brightest of albinos.
I’m okay. See, he said, and disappeared.
“You have more?” she asked Joe Junior, knowing because her son’s spirit still lingered nearby.
“Before he even agreed to get in that truck, he looked at me for permission. I yelled at him. Called him a sonof-a-witch. Told him I didn’t care if he rode that truck straight to hell. When they pulled off, I watched him and he watched me through the window. Even with his eyes running a mixture of tears and dirt, he waved his little hand and mouthed bye to me,” Joe Junior said.
His body began to tremble uncontrollably and Opal slid off his chest, collapsing on the floor.
“I’ve been seeing his sad face ride away in that truck for twenty years,” he said, through tears.
I’m leaving now, Momma, Donboy stood from the place inside her eyes. I can go.
He turned his bright body and began to walk in the direction of darkness. She watched him through closed eyes and a smile crept across her lips.
She could hear Joe Junior in a distance, but still right next to her shouting, “I’m sorry, Donboy. You don’t have to go.”
Published 10/22/15. To see more of LaToya's work, see her Awst Press page.