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The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh’s moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron’s wings lifting from the lagoon.
And then, Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen door slap. Standing on the stool, she stopped scrubbing grits from the pot and lowered it into the basin of worn-out suds.
No sounds now but her own breathing. Who had left the shack? Not Ma. She never let the door slam.
But when Kya ran to the porch, she saw her mother in a long brown skirt, kick pleats nipping at her ankles, as she walked down the sandy lane in high heels.
The stubby-nosed shoes were fake alligator skin. Her only going-out pair.
Kya wanted to holler out but knew not to rouse Pa, so opened the door and stood on the brick-’n’-board steps. From there she saw the blue train case Ma carried.
Usually, with the confidence of a pup, Kya knew her mother would return with meat wrapped in greasy brown paper or with a chicken, head dangling down. But she never wore the gator heels, never took a case.
After Ma left, over the next few weeks, Kya’s oldest brother and two sisters drifted away too, as if by example.
They had endured Pa’s red-faced rages, which started as shouts, then escalated into fist-slugs, or backhanded punches, until one by one, they disappeared. They have nearly grown anyway.
And later, just as she forgot their ages, she couldn’t remember their real names, only that they were called Missy, Murph, and Mandy. On her porch mattress, Kya found a small pile of socks left by her sisters.
On the morning when Jodie was the only sibling left, Kya awakened to the clatter-clank and hot grease of breakfast.
She dashed into the kitchen, thinking Ma was home frying corn fritters or hoecakes. But it was Jodie, standing at the woodstove, stirring grits.
She smiled to hide the letdown, and he patted the top of her head, gently shushing her to be quiet: if they didn’t wake Pa, they could eat alone.
Jodie didn’t know how to make biscuits, and there wasn’t any bacon, so he cooked grits and scrambled eggs in lard, and they sat down together, silently exchanging glances and smiles.
The rotted legs of the old abandoned fire tower straddled the bog, which created its own tendrils of mist.
Except for cawing crows, the hushed forest seemed to hold an expectant mood as the two boys, Benji Mason and Steve Long, both ten, both blond, started up the damp staircase on the morning of October 30, 1969.
“Fall ain’t s’posed to be this hot,” Steve called back to Benji.
“Yeah, and everythang quiet ’cept the crows.”
Glancing down between the steps, Steve said, “Whoa. What’s that?”
“See, there. Blue clothes, like somebody’s lyin’ in the mud.”
Benji called out, “Hey, you! Whatchadoin’?”
“I see a face, but it ain’t movin’.”
Arms pumping, they ran back to the ground and pushed their way to the other side of the tower’s base, greenish mud clinging to their boots. There lay a man, flat on his back, his left leg turned grotesquely forward from the knee. His eyes and mouth are wide open.
Overhead, cicadas squealed against a mean sun. All other life forms cowered from the heat, emitting only a vacant hum from the undergrowth.
Wiping his brow, Sheriff Jackson said, “Vern, there’s more to do here, but it doesn’t feel right. Chase’s wife and folks don’t know he’s passed.”
“I’ll go tell them, Ed,” Dr. Vern Murphy replied.
“I appreciate that. Take my truck. Send the ambulance back for Chase, and Joe with my truck. But don’t speak a word about this to anybody else. I don’t want everybody in this town out here, and that’s just what’ll happen if you mention it.”
Before moving, Vern stared for a long minute at Chase, as though he had overlooked something. As a doctor, he should fix this.
Heavy swamp air stood behind them, waiting patiently for its turn.
Ed turned to the boys. “Y’all stay right here. I don’t need anybody yapping about this in town, and don’t put your hands on anything or make any more tracks in the mud.”
“Yessir,” Benji said. “Ya think somebody killed Chase, don’t ya? ’Cause there’s no footprints. Pushed him off, maybe?”
“I didn’t say any such thing. This is standard police work. Now, you boys just keep out of the way and don’t repeat anything you hear out here.”
|No. of Pages||327|
|PDF Size||3.2 MB|
Where The Crawdads Sing Book Novel PDF Free Download