NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 19

Nillmon harldy looks at the old man, but breaks through the door leading to the rear of the store which is part of a series of rooms. The top of the house looms in the back. “Where’s Gus, Pop?” he asked the old man. “A nigger just about ready to git hisself gutted.” “What nigger?” Pop asks, throwing the rags in the corner. “What’s his name?” Nillmon moves toward the house as the old man hollers, “Gus! Get out here!” Before Nillmon can ascend a long row of rickety wooden steps up to a screened porch, a figure appears in the screenless doorway. Girlish laughter rises and falls, and the figure, struggling with arms around his waist, yells, “What the hell you want?” “Call Sheriff Vacy.” “Where’s this nigger?” Gus asks. His words are clear and precise. “Out at Canebrake….A nigger named Alfonso, a big black sucker.” The figure of a blonde girl stands now in the doorway at the top of the steps. She straightens out her clothing. Pop limps toward her. “I’m goin call Vacy,” he mutters. “Gus, I’m callin Vacy, you hear?” “Yeah,”Nillmon hollers, “and tell him we’re pickin up Ed Frickerson.” “Naw we ain’t.” Gus examines Nillmon’s pistol. They both take drinks from the bottle and slam the doors. “Where’s the nigger at?” asks the old man, limping out with a bundle of oily rags. “I’m callin everybody.” “Canebrake…nigger name Alfonso…” “It’s me,Gus.”Nillmon approaches. “Canebrake?” “Who?” “You comin?” “Goddammit, it’s me.” He doesn’t advance anymore. “A nigger just bricked my car. I’m goin to get him.” “There ain’t no niggers livin in them shacks.” Gus looks at the bottle, clears his throat and takes a long swallow. He hands it to Nillmon who finishes it. “There is now, and there’s gonna be one less come sunup.” “Them Canebrake shacks is haunted, I’m tellin you. Niggers ain’t live in them since the flood back in…you member, Gus?” the old man says, limping toward the car. Then he whispers, “The time the nigger woman put hoodoo on Vacy’s papa…” “Shut up, Pop!” The old man mumbles. Nillmon races the motor and jerks the cold car off in a cloud of dust. Down the road, just before they turn off, Nillmon flings his arm out the window and the bottle crashes on the road. They pick up Ed Frickerson about ten miles later at a town cafe. They get another bottle and circle the town picking up two younger men. Then Nillmon aims the car down the road toward the levee.The faint red crown of the sun is the only thing left of day. “Vacy’s over in Huntsville,” says Ed Frickerson. He is ruddy-faced, thick-necked, round-nosed, with a permanent smile wrinkling down his whiskered face. “I’m the goddam deputy, ain’t I, Gus?” says Nillmon, spitting out the window. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE After about three miles on the flat straight road, the light becomes a filling station.Nillmon runs in. An old man with one leg is wiping his hands on greasy rags. “And just whar you been last two weeks? Drunk?” As if Nillmon had spoken something he had been waiting for,Gus, a short wiry man of about thirty years, freezes. He pushes the retreating arms away from his body, tosses his left hand in the air as a signal, and begins a slow deliberate descent. Nillmon turns and walks past the old man. 17 Suddenly he slows the car, leaps out and looks over the countryside. “I shoulda taught that sombitch a lesson,” he mutters to himself.When he puts the pistol back in the glove compartment, he brings out the b ottle and takes a long drink.