Long Division

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

Book: Long Division by Kiese Laymon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kiese Laymon
here likely to steal everything that ain’t nailed down.”
    The Melahatchie Walmart was always packed. Always. I never had anything stolen the hundreds of times I’d been in there and folks always looked so happy walking around, especially in the electronics section. I walked with Grandma to the wig section of the store and this old white woman with wrinkly skin, a maroon scarf around her pudgy neck, and her hair in a ball came up on us.
    The woman’s nametag said “Louise Ellsington.” She had gold for days draped on the outside of her scarf, and on her fingers were the shiniest rings I’d seen in real life. She walked up onto us lightweight fast, with one hand on her hip and the other on her chin.
    “Hey. Hello’ew there!” she said. “We want y’all to know’ew that today, we’ve got a special on our Wigs4Blax brand.” She pointed to the raggedy looking wigs on the sale rack. “We sure do’ew.”
    I could tell that the lady was from Jackson and had probably worked in the outside malls in Jackson before taking a job at the Melahatchie Walmart. At the outside Jackson malls, all the older white ladies with hair in a ball and penny loafers always said “o” sounding words like “o’ew” sounding words, but in Melahatchie the “o” sounded like “o” no matter who said it.
    “So’ew,” she said, “if you buy one of those Gary curl wigs, y’all get a free year subscription to the new Ebony magazine…” she trailed off, and just looked at me. I tried to look away, then look back, but she was still watching. “Y’all got a talkative little devil there, don’t y’all?” she said to Grandma. “Were you the one doing all that talking on TV yesterday?”
    “Yes ma’am,” Grandma said. “My baby does love to talk. Don’t pay him no attention.” She patted me on the back. “Now how much did you say the Gary curl wig was?”
    I couldn’t believe Grandma was talking like that in front of that lady. Her voice, her body, everything shrunk. It was like she wasn’t even Grandma anymore. I never heard Grandma say “ma’am” to someone who was younger than her. The rumor was that Grandma actually brought the Jheri (not “Gary”) curl to Melahatchie from Milwaukee back in the early ’80s. Now she was acting like she couldn’t even pronounce it right, all because she was talking in front of a weird-looking white woman who couldn’t even pronounce “so” and “do.”
    Grandma and I held hands as we walked back to the Bonneville.
    “If Tom Henry coulda seen you raising hell on TV, he woulda swore up and down that he was looking through his red eyes at himself.”
    “Why?” I asked her.
    Grandma started getting comfortable in the driver’s seat chair. I could tell she was about to go into one of her Granddaddy stories. The stories always started different, but every one of them, except the one that ended with him disappearing in Lake Marathon, ended with Granddaddy acting like a demon and destroying something before Grandma intervened.
    “I remember one Saturday we got to fighting ’bout money or something like that,” she started. “He was tired of me working all these jobs, you know? Anyway, Tom Henry claimed he was going for a walk to get his mind right. I knew that meant he was ’bout to get that damn stuffed monkey and walk off in them woods across the road from the house.
    “Anyway, while he was gone, his friends Cherry and Shank come over here looking for him to go fishing. All three of us, we out there on that porch, you know? ’Course I ain’t tell Cherry or Shank he was over in them woods with no fake monkey, so I just said he wasn’t nowhere to be found. Soon as I said that, here comes your granddaddy prancing out them woods with that monkey in his hands and one of those shit-eating grins on his face. Tom Henry walks up on the porch and tries to hide the monkey behind his back.
    “Cherry says, ‘Tom, what the hell you doing holding on to a ugly little fake monkey off

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