A Thousand Never Evers

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg Page A

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Authors: Shana Burg
Tags: Fiction
him, he dives into the deepest part and slips between the tree trunks.”
    Nothing in Kuckachoo’s as magic as the cypress trees wading in the bayou. They spring from the middle of the water. Each tree’s winding roots twist above the surface, forming a maze the size of our kitchen table.
    “You know how dark he is?” I go on. “Well, he blends with the night, clings to the cypress trunk. Them fools, they can’t see him for nothing.” My breath is shallow. “And thank goodness, the moon isn’t too bright,” I say. “There’s no reflection of his face. Them murderers, they can’t find him anywhere. As soon as they leave, he swims across the bayou, escapes in the cotton.”
    My eyes are still shut—I’m watching Elias cross the cotton—when Delilah wraps her arm around my shoulders. When I open my eyes, they’re all runny, so I wipe them with the back of my hand. Then I stare straight ahead. The silver sky collides with the water’s surface, creating a mirror. In it, I see Elias, his long limbs wrapped round the roots of that tree.
    I reckon Delilah’s worried up my mind is haunted, because she says, “Look, Addie Ann, dead or alive, you’ll feel better once you know for sure.”
    “I do know!” I tell her. “He’s alive and on the run. We’ve got a soul connection.” And now Flapjack wonders if I’m losing my mind too, because he stands in my lap, arches his back, and prances away.
    “You can’t keep living like this, not knowing, always wondering,” Delilah says.
    And I reckon she’s right. It’s the not knowing that’s driving me mad. “How we gonna find out?” I ask. My bottom lip trembles.
    But Delilah doesn’t answer. Instead, she takes my hand and pulls me away from the bayou, along the muddy path. Soon enough, I catch sight of our destination: the graveyard. I peer through the gate. In the moonlight, cement crosses lean this way and that. And I can’t imagine what she’s got in store.
    I’ve got the heebie-jeebies so bad my voice comes out like a shiver. “We can’t go in at night,” I whisper. “We’ll get in trouble.”
    “Who’s gonna get us in trouble?”
    I look round. There’s no one in sight and I’ve got to admit, Delilah’s right.
    She pushes open the gate, leads me through.
    My insides get tight. Most graves, long forgotten, are covered with nothing but dirt. I kneel down beside Daddy’s.
    “Sittin’ on your daddy’s dirt is a right fine place to get our ceremony under way,” Delilah says. She sits across from me. Her back rests on Daddy’s stone. “We’re gonna contact Heaven. Ask if your brother’s ghost is there.”
    I knew Delilah was mysterious but I didn’t know she had secret powers.
    “How do you know how to contact Heaven?” I ask.
    “Bessie,” she says. “That’s how I learned to call on Granny’s ghost in the first place.”
    Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Delilah learns just about everything she knows from Bessie. “Now you can’t start talking to ghosts with your eyes open,” she says, as if I should know.
    And even though part of me doesn’t believe a word Delilah says about ghosts, my breath, it’s barely there.
    Delilah closes her eyes, looks like she’s concentrating real hard. So I shut mine too. She presses her pointer fingers on my temples and rubs in tight little circles.
    “Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” she murmurs. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”
    I don’t know what I’ve got myself into. But I reckon Delilah’s right about one thing: if my brother’s dead and gone, it’s best to face up to the truth here and now.
    “Say it with me,” Delilah says.
    “Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” we chant a couple times.
    Then Delilah claps.
    My breath, it’s gone.
    “Ghost of Elias Pickett, we summon you to this here graveyard. If you’re dead, come show your face,” she says.
    What if it’s true? What if my brother drowned? And now he’ll show up a tall, swirly white

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