The Hard Blue Sky

The Hard Blue Sky by Shirley Ann Grau

Book: The Hard Blue Sky by Shirley Ann Grau Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shirley Ann Grau
whisky and set the bottle down on the dresser. His neck did not hurt anymore, just a kind of stinging. With the proper kind of mirror he could even fix it himself.
    But, no, his daughter would be the one for that. He would walk over to her place. She would be there.
    He unbuttoned his shirt and dropped it on the floor. He opened the dresser drawer that held his handkerchiefs, jerked it open so hard that it fell to the floor. He did not bother picking it up. He took a single clean handkerchief and knotted it around his neck. He touched the wounds lightly. They would have to be cleaned out at once. He’d seen kids ignore birdshot wounds and come down with blood-poisoning.
    He could hear his wife laughing and shouting to him: “Julius, hey, Julius, what happen? What happen to you?”
    “Moment,” he called. “Moment.”
    He would have to put on a clean shirt before he went outside.

B Y THE TIME HE had walked out of his bedroom, Julius Arcenaux had a fresh shirt and freshly combed hair. He had even poured some tonic on it: his hand hadn’t been too steady so some of the liquid had run down his neck. The whisky was getting to him now, and he felt better.
    He jerked open the door and went out into the grocery. And in the middle of the floor, turning around and around on her heel to survey the damage was Mamere Terrebonne. He was startled. He didn’t know what exactly he had expected, but it wasn’t the old lady. She was so old she was a little queer: she would see things and talk to people who weren’t there. Kids swore that when the moon was dark they’d seen her out on the long south sand bar waiting for the loup-garous to come and talk to her. Maybe so, maybe not. Nobody was afraid of her, not even her great-grandchildren, who took turns sleeping in the house with her so that she would not be alone.
    Even so, Julius was startled when he saw the thin bent figure and the brown wrinkled face, thin and hawked as a gull’s.
    “They have made you a mess, yes?” Her voice wasn’t like an old woman’s voice. It was low and soft and a little husky. You could almost hear the young woman she’d been once.
    “Um,” he agreed and shook his head slightly. He looked around. There was really no one else inside. He glanced out a window. Sitting in a chair in the shade of a sweet olive bush was Philomene, her hands folded across her big stomach. She was talking to someone, a man, but Julius did not recognize the back. He could see though, how brightly she was smiling. And how, now and then, she would look over at the grocery and laugh out loud.
    He would have to fix her, he thought, and answering himself he demanded: How? And he realized suddenly that there was nothing he could do. He could not hit her, his own sons wouldn’t stand for that. If he found a new girl and told her about that, she would just shrug—she’d found out about others. He could put her out, but she would just move in with one of the kids.
    “Nothing you can do, p’tit.” He jumped. Mamere Terrebonne was grinning at him. There wasn’t a tooth in her mouth, just the bare and bright pink gums.
    Julius walked quickly out the door. On the porch he felt glass crunch under his shoes—the front window was out. He’d been crazy to use a shotgun inside. With glass costing the way it did. … Maybe he’d just put a regular window back in—be safer in hurricane season too.
    But there were things he had to do first.
    He went down the steps, not looking at the people gathered in the yard, not paying them the slightest mind. His throat was tight and burning, but he kept his head up. And he was very careful of his feet. He had to be steady, he thought; one foot after the other, one almost in a line with the other, but not quite.
    And behind him, he heard his wife say: “He must be drunk, him. He don’t walk that good sober.”
    He kept walking on, not looking down, letting his vision be a kind of triangle, from the sides of the path to a little way ahead. He

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