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• Chapter Nine Auntie ruth Sunday, August 3, 1969 Sissy awoke from a dream of green-eyed monsters chasing her down endless corridors with doors that were all locked. Someone was pounding on the door. Her parents were still gone. She’d have to get up. Clayton stood on the back porch, his black hair gleaming, shirt ironed, boots polished. “You going to a funeral?” she asked. He stepped into the kitchen, staring at her bare legs below her dad’s long shirt she wore as a nightgown. “You’re going to a—going to a—” he raised his arms and let them drop at his sides. “You’re going with me. Get dressed.” Sissy held up one hand. “What, where, when, how, why?” She numbered them off on her fingers, turned, struck a match and lit the burner under the coffeepot. He stepped from one shiny booted foot to the other, waved a hand at the coffeepot. “We don’t have time for that. Get dressed.” “You don’t have time for that. I got time for that. I’m not going anywhere ,” she responded. “I need you to go with me.” She held up her hand again. “What, where, when—” “Okay, okay. Have your coffee.” He turned, surveyed the room, the dirty dishes in the sink, the mail she had been piling on the countertop since her parents had been gone. He pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, drumming his fingers. “Clayton. I am not going anywhere today. I am tired. I’ve not had a good night, a good week, a good month, a good year. Today is my day of rest. You are not my father or my brother, and except on the nights the band is playing, you are not my boss. Get out.” She opened the back door and pointed. 94 Chapter Nine He settled his butt deeper into the chair. “Sissy, I need you to go with me. Wait—wait—” he added as she raised her splayed hand again. “What the hell time is it, anyway?” She looked at the yellow-­ bordered plastic wall clock above the refrigerator. “Seven-thirty! Jeezus christ, don’t you ever sleep? We just got home three hours ago.” “I’ve always had plenty of energy,” he said. “And besides, I have to go get Darlene and Darrell.” “And you need me to go with you, why?” “I need you to go because Darlene says she isn’t coming home. She says she is staying with her auntie, and Darrell says he isn’t coming home if Darlene isn’t.” “Why is this any of my problem?” She said that, but a nagging voice in the back of her mind said it was her problem because she had encouraged Darlene to go stay with her aunt in the first place. Well, she argued with herself, maybe both kids were better off with their aunt. But the voice said, yeah, and what right have you to decide that? Clayton is their father; he has a right to raise his own kids. “I want you to talk to Darlene. If she comes home, then Darrell will come home, too.” “You’re their father, can’t you make them do what you say?” “Well, of course I can. But it’s better if they come home because they want to.” “Damn it, Clayton.” The coffeepot bubbled gently, letting out steam that smelled like burned coffee beans. She turned it off, picked up a potholder and poured herself a cup. It even looked thick. She poured in some milk from the refrigerator , which promptly curdled. She poured it out, got another cup and filled it with more of the thick black liquid. “Sissy, I know you can convince them both to come home. You can make it sound like their idea.” “Why should I? Did you ever think that they might be better off at their auntie’s? A place in the country, lots of things to do so they don’t get into trouble, cousins for Darrell to run around with, a motherly influence for Darlene. What is there for them here? You working late or gone off playing music, Darlene playing mother to Darrell, nothing much for them to do except watch TV and get into trouble.” She sat down at the table , held the cup with both hands, and took a sip. “I want my kids home,” he said. “I want a million dollars, a movie...


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