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BEFORE MY HISTORY CLASSES/ Camille Dungy Grandpa was coming to visit that night, and my sister wore blue jeans and a blouse. In pajamas, I wanted to be old so I could stay up with her to meet him. I had religion on my mind and knew what questions would stall Mother when she came to tuck the little-girl sheets around me. I tricked her into talking about Christ, the Bible, asked what Heaven held in store. Why should I sleep? I told her, When I die, I want to meet all the dead. They'll be dressed and acting just like they did when they lived. She snapped my sheet, a warning, kissed my head: Someday you'll be more careful what you wish. 132 · The Missouri Review IN HIS LIBRARY/Camille Dungy Grandpa's wife lived in Springfield (where mobs kUled two black men to remind themselves they could), and, I suppose, she gave him all those books about the Great Emancipator's Ufe, but I knew nothing of that in those days. The best book proved villains could be vanquished, and photos lent support. Conspirators of John Wilkes Booth dangled, their hooded heads aU the evidence I needed. My folks bored me, so I read whUe they asked Grandpa if he would move back to Alabama. Why? What good has that place ever done me? At six, what did I know about anger? How could I know, then, what I was learning? The Missouri Review · 133 WO-TECH/Camille Dungy Everything we wore that needed rescue, pants we'd torn and shirts with ripped-off buttons, went to Grandpa's house. When we visited, we modeled. Grandpa adjusted our clothes with stick pins. Almost weekly, he saved us, my sister and me, restoring the clothes we'd lately damaged. You should teach the girls how this is done, Mother once suggested, her arms delivering mending, her eyes collecting Grandpa's hands, the snapped-tight box that housed his machine, his needles. He ripped her words as he told us never to do with a hanging thread. Let them save their time. He took the clothes. Let them do useful things. 134 · The Missouri Review FROM SOMEPLACE/GimiZZe Dungy Dreams are sometimes livable, provided there is property enough, and each house in Buxton had a little plot of land. Every worker had to have a garden, and black folks grew theirs right among the whites' Buxton Industries mined coal, fueled the turn of another century. That far back, and still, a Negro could make a life there, and Great-Grandfather, the village's best blacksmith, did. So it's no shock, Grandmother, that, in Springfield, you moved your boys into the white district, wouldn't let them swim in that old mud hole called the colored pool. The Missouri Review · 135 HOW QUICKLY HE WENT/Camille Dungy He was a man who walked beside failure but had gone on living. At eighty-five, he might have lived another twenty years if he could hope the wife who pulled away to stay on that platform back in Springfield might change her mind. It was his desire for her that had staked him fifty years. Love was one slim woman with a nursing job in Illinois. Life was a business, a Gary tailor shop he could not sell. And so his chance with her had gone. She died in August. Before January slung its shivers on the wind, he had stopped breathing. What was the use of holding some body? 136 · The Missouri Review LAMENT/Camille Dungy Those black men flew out of Tuskegee armed with skills, and that diploma supervised his store. Now there's nothing but the mirror in our basement and an oak spool-holder, a plaque of thread my mother still consults when she mends a hem. My father's father is a photo I barely recognize. He Uves in my uncle's face. He reaches for me with my father's hands, but he died before I knew anything about him but cast-off things, died before I could write a story for him about anything but loss. What do I know if I...


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