A Thousand Never Evers

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg

Book: A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shana Burg
Tags: Fiction
Montgomery don’t hear a thing.
    Delilah has a mischief inside. If I didn’t know her, I don’t think I’d ever fix my hair in all kinds of styles or sneak out to the bayou. I bet I’d look real funny and be real sad.
    At night, Delilah thinks she owns Kuckachoo. Tonight, when at last she steals through the window, she grabs my wrist and, as usual, pulls me to the path.
    A lot of times when we head to the bayou Delilah says, “After sixth grade, I’ma go to charm school. And after charm school, I’ma send my picture to
Ebony
magazine and they’ll ask me to New York City to be a fashion model. After I get tired of New York, I’ma walk the runways in Paris.”
    One time Delilah was sitting in our kitchen talking about her future, when Mama said, “Honey, I hate to tell you this, but there just ain’t no Negro fashion models.” Delilah threw her head back and laughed. “Mrs. Pickett, please don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Helen Williams or Dorothea Towles!” One thing was clear: Delilah studies the old
Ebony
magazines she borrows from the church lending library just as hard as I study my vocabulary words. Of course, Mama had never heard of those model ladies in all her life, but I could tell she was impressed that Delilah was preparing for the future, because to Mama, preparing for the future is what life’s all about.
    Whenever Delilah talks about being a model in New York City, I imagine how I’ll visit her there. We’ll walk with our arms linked through each other’s. We’ll go to fancy restaurants, eat butter beans, and tell everyone we’re sisters. But whenever I picture that part, I get stopped by reality. How’s anyone going to believe we’re sisters? After all, Delilah’s light brown skin’s always dewy like a petal, while mine’s muddy like the bottom of the bayou. And Delilah’s eyebrows? They arch real graceful, like dancers leaping, while there’s no doubt about it, mine scraggle like hawks crashing down for a landing. In fact, never since I can remember has a Sunday in church passed without someone telling Delilah she looks pretty as a speckled pup. And never has a Sunday passed with anyone telling me I look cute like a pup, speckled, striped, or just plain.
    Whenever Delilah talks about New York City, I can taste jealousy in the back of my throat. To make it go away, I tell her more stories about Old Man Adams’s big house, even though I don’t work there anymore. “You wouldn’t believe them deep red carpets and frilly white curtains!” I say. “When the sun came in, dust speckles—blue, yellow, red—danced in the air till I wiped down the banisters.” But whenever I talk about the big house, Delilah scrunches her lips to one side like she still hasn’t decided if it’s true.
    Tonight, though, as we head off Kuckachoo Lane onto the darkest path, we don’t say a word. There’s only moss and pebbles under our feet to guide us to the clearing and Flapjack winding round my ankles. And soon as we enter the bank of the bayou, there’s the bright white of the moon skipping on top of the water. As usual, I toss aside the pebbles and spread the corner of my nightgown so Delilah can sit on top of it. That way she doesn’t have to get dirty.
    Then we stay real quiet till I say, “Night’s always telling me what to think.”
    “Like what?” she asks.
    “Like everyone says Elias isn’t coming back. That he really did get stuck under the bayou.” Flapjack curls into a ball on my lap. “But it’s in my head he’s alive,” I say.
    “How so?”
    “Last night…” I stop to check her face but she can read right into my mind.
    “I won’t laugh,” she says. “Swear.”
    Most always Delilah’s good on her word, so I rub my hand over Flapjack’s head, take a breath for courage, and close my eyes. Then I play my dream from last night all over again in my mind. While I watch the pictures, I tell her what I see. “Elias, he runs faster than any of them. When they chase

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