If you ask why Moss Sr. come down on me first like he done, I’d say I don’t know except maybe I might coulda, you know. I don’t know. You can jest imagine.
After we come home, I told Maw Skid weren’t kilt, turns out not even hurt much, cause you know Skid ain’t nothing but butter and beans anyway. But Moss Sr. run off so fast, I spect he thought he was dead. I told her about how Moss Sr. looked at me first when it were jest me and him and Skid who was on the ground passed out, not dead atall. I tried to say Hang on, daddy, jest hang on but he was gone fastern you can say.
When she heard, Maw gone over to pick up Grammaw, like she does sometime, and hold it to her. When she open the cabinet door, the dust start to swirling arounat yellow dress and ketched the light coming through the far window. It sort of settled in the air and in the light, jest hanging still and quiet until there were so much still, quiet dust it were like a whole slab of light coming through on Maw and Paulette and little Cal and me.
For a while she hold it to her and start lifting some of her dress to it, rubbing the markings with it, markings that were graven in it to show the things folks sometimes did when they were alive. There were dancing and praying and working and holding a child. “She wanted to be out back Saint Ambrose, next your Aunt Evvy, did you know dat?”
I told Maw I spect I didn’t.
“Hit weren’t the proper religious thing, but I needed someplace to keep it. Do you know how I done it?”
Anyone in Pointe à la Hache could tell you how Maw and Moss Sr. took Grammaw up Jefferson Parish before they could find a company to do it without papers. Folks said they weren’t a white man who would, nor a black one neither, but they went jest the same. Folks said it weren’t even her, that they done plant Grammaw out back and fill it with old dry mud and give it to Maw in the one she picked out.
“The fella say, ‘You brung it up yourself?’ and Moss Sr. said, ‘Listen hyer, I have two hundert to do it with,’ and he pull out the money and said, ‘When the last time a white man give you two hundert dollars to do anything?’ The fella say ‘They laws in dis state. How I know yall didn’t kill her?’ Moss Sr. say ‘I have two hundert. She out in the car,’ which at dat time was dat old Chrysler you probable don’t remember.”
“I remember it.”
“Your father said, ‘Hit her maw. She right small. Nobody kilt her, she jest were old is all. I have two hundert,’ and the fella look me up and down and walk back to talk to another fella and come out with a box with three different ones. ‘For two hundert you get one of deseyer’ but Moss Sr. already gone back to the car to drive it round back. I said ‘Deseyer are old ones.’ And he turn his head and say, ‘No they ain’t. They jest dusty,’ and I said, ‘Well. Is they a key with disyer with the keyhold?’” The dust were actively moving when she talked like steambreath in the wintertime. “The fella said, ‘No, I don’t spect they ain’t a key for it.’ But I pull off the lid part and hyer it was scotchtape up underneath and I said, ‘I want disyer. I want disyer with the keyhold.’”
She turned the key in the bottom and said, “I took it up on the roof that flood time not cause it were your grammaw. I went put Grammaw back out by — you know dat big old cypress, you know the one dat’s so pretty, on the inside channel before dat old Langlois house?” She turned the jar and then it were open and she reached into it and pull out a old wrapping cloth covered with them ashes. It were in two pieces now and Maw held them both against her body.
“Don’t, Momma,” I said.
“Hit not your grammaw. Hit only what I scooped up out by dat old cypress.” She unwrapped it and it were more than I had ever seen or actively spected to see. “Hyer, I want you to take dis and do something for me.”
“Where you get this, Momma?”
“Moss, do as I say now. I ain’t calling you anything but Moss now and I’m asking you like I would ask your daddy or any other man. Hit one for ever day since you were born. You take dat girl and her boy and go off now. Hit what I want. You can have it, but take dat truck you go to Texas.”
“I cant, Momma. I don’t want to go to Texas.”
“Hit one for ever day since you were born. Hit almost sixtyfive hundert.” It were mostly twenties and fifties, I guess. When she shook it at me, old dust from Grammaw’s jar flew into the light that were streaming into the room.
“Git now before your daddy get hyer. He mean as a snake right now.”
“Momma, don’t do that. Its your money, Momma.”
“He jest mean as a snake.”
“He jest sad and afraid is all.”
When she tried like wrapping my hands around it, I let it all go and it kind of scattered in the light, some dropping and some sort of floating down like leaves so that when Moss Sr. come down on me with the spike end of that old herminette and seen it all, still hanging in the air, well I spect you can jest guess what happened. That old hatchet probably two hundert year old. Boy Jesus. You can jest imagine.
Greg Sendi is a Chicago writer and former fiction editor at Chicago Review. His career has included writing broadcast and trade journalism as well as poetry and fiction. In the past year, his work has appeared or been accepted for publication in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including Apricity, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Briar Cliff Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Clarion, CONSEQUENCE, Flashes of Brilliance, Great Lakes Review, The Headlight Review, The Masters Review, New American Legends, Plume, Pulp Literature, San Antonio Review, Sparks of Calliope, and upstreet.