Daddy didn’t say nothing. Just looked. His eyes are like the crick in April, so cold it makes the breath go right out of you.
Creek is what I mean to say. Teacher says to say creek not crick. Teacher says I am a fast learner. I won’t forget about saying crick again.
At home Joe is sitting on his bed looking at a book. Used to be Daddy would take him up for acting booksmart. Then Joe got big. Now Daddy don’t say nothing to him. Don’t even look at him. Joe is aiming to go to college. He says he’ll bring me to live with him. He says I can sleep in the bed and he’ll go on the floor. I said I’d be on the floor and also do his cooking and clothes and everything just please don’t forget. He says No way, Katydid. I always like it when he calls me that.
That night me and Joe sneak down to the creek like always. It is cold but the moon is big and yellow like a piece of butterscotch I can reach up and grab if I want. Sometimes Joe tells me stories but not this time. It don’t matter, though. I am just happy to sit next to him.
What did he say, Joe asks.
Nothing much, I say. Says I’m ruint. I throw rocks into the creek but only little ones so they don’t splash loud.
Aw, that ain’t so, Joe says. He takes my face in his hand and points it at the moon. His hand feels nice and I close the eye that can still open.
It’s getting better, he says. I know it ain’t but I am happy that he says it. I smile at him and he says That’s my Katydid and I am glad.
How’s the other, he asks. Hurt? I nod. But it’s getting better, I say. My voice sounds little, like the splashes in the creek. He don’t say nothing but he scoots close. I put my head on his shoulder. I am getting big so I have to scrunch my neck a little to fit.
We sit like that til I get sleepy. With my eyes closed the creek sounds like voices. The voices try to sound like them boys but when I lean hard against Joe and his arm gets tight around me I know it’s just the creek again.
When Joe starts shaking me the sky is not so dark and the moon is white and small like a faraway eye. We go back in quiet. I am careful not to make noise when I lay down on my mat. Over across the room I hear Joe’s cot squeak but Daddy keeps breathing hard in and hard out. I listen close but I can’t hear momma breathing even though I know she’s there.
When I lay my head down I feel something soft. I pick it up and it tries to run through my hands like water. I feel the shape of it in the dark and pretty soon I can feel that it is momma’s wedding slip that now she wears to Sunday. Momma says it is real Chinasilk and I wrap it cool and slick around my face and neck. It don’t make Daddy’s breathing no quieter but it feels good and I fall asleep. I don’t wake up until I feel momma’s hands unwinding it.
She don’t say nothing but I feel her fingers real soft, soft as that slip, on my eye that Joe says is getting better. I guess I fall asleep again because I am surprised when I hear the little bitty tickscrape of the bucket when she goes out for the water. I thought she was still touching me.
In the morning I always help momma around the place. I don’t go to school no more because of the ruining. I am glad that there is no more math but sorry about missing the reading time. My eye is closed up tight like a fist but the other is still fine and blue and I can hear plenty good. I hope teacher lets me have the green sit-upon when I go back. I ain’t booksmart like Joe but the green one is for the best helper, that’s me.
Joe says not to worry, no one else is gonna get that old green cushion. It’ll always be yours Katydid.
In the afternoon momma says I might go to the creek. I stick a stick into a crawdad mudhouse but nothing grabs at it. I don’t really mind as I am just passing the time. But when I go down another mudhouse that old stick breaks and it’s like that little breaking sound breaks somethin in me. I cry and cry. It hurts my eye and after awhile it hurts the other too but I can’t stop it none. When I am done I see a crawdad has come out. She is purply black like the obsidian Teacher showed me once, and paying no mind to me, just sittin nice as you please on a big rock getting some sun. I watch her for awhile and I feel better.
I keep waiting down by the creek but Joe never does come home like his usual. I keep sitting and waiting til the sun is nigh gone and momma calls Katy, real low. I go in and help momma with Daddy’s dinner.
After daddy does his eating and leaves I help momma with the dishes. That’s how it happened that we are both looking out the window when the cars come. Momma goes quick out the door but I stay at the window. There is three cars but lots more men, I count up to eleven then stop as I don’t know past eleven. But if I start over there are five again as many.
One of the men is Sheriff Brady. There is a dog, too. He is brown with a white nose and black ears and low to the ground. Soon as he is out of the car he starts smelling all around the way dogs do. It makes me smile which hurts my eye some but not bad. Daddy never let us have a dog. Eat too much, he says.
Sheriff Brady talks to momma and she looks at her feet and shakes her head. I see Sheriff pointing at the house but momma just shakes her head some more. The men start talking loud like and I get scairt for momma on account of some of those men are the daddys of those laughing boys. They are mad and start yelling about Joe.
But Sheriff Brady turns around and looks at them and they get real quiet. I think, maybe Sheriff Brady got himself a cold creek look like Daddy does.
Momma comes in and gets Joe’s blanket off’n his bed. She don’t look at me, just goes back outside and give it to the Sheriff. The men start talking loud again. They take that blanket to the smelling dog and he starts off wagging real fast, like he knows Joe and misses him as much as me. Then he goes running off towards the creek, and some of the men follow. The rest of them get back in the cars and they drive away.
After the men are gone momma sits on her bed quiet. I think maybe she is worrying those men won’t bring Joe’s blanket back. I am worrying the same, it is getting cold and Joe is gonna want it for sure. I want to ask, what is that dog’s name but I never do.
When it gets real late, way past when Daddy comes home and his boots go thump past my mat, I sneak down to the creek. Joe, I say, real soft. The creek is louder than me, loud like those boys voices, but this time I don’t pay them no mind. Joe, I say again, but he don’t come. The moon looks far away and lonely up there without me and Joe sitting under it. I wait until it is too cold and then I go back in and lay down on my mat.
In the dark part of morning I come awake. Without Joe I am scairt but I tell myself there ain’t no boys voices, just Daddy’s big breaths and momma’s no-breaths. I can’t figure what waked me but then I feel that my head is different. Not on the mat like always but higher up. Not as high and small as the moon but it is higher up. I reach back to feel the shape and it is round like the moon. It is too dark to see the color but I know it is green.