By the time Sails and I left for the hospital, dusk
had wormed its way through the guts of the trees,
choking off the last little bits of light. After her
appointment on Friday, the doctor had decided to admit
Verma to the hospital. He said the diabetes had eaten
up the veins in her legs. Before the miscarriage,
when Mama used to work at the hospital, she'd tell
us about the Diabetes patients, how when the disease
ate up the veins in their feet, their toes turned
black and fell off. We were nearly half-way to Jupiter
Memorial before Silas told me that the doctor had
cut off Verma's right leg. I thought about how the
preacher had laid hands on Verma's leg, how the congregation
had prayed to God that he'd spare it, how once again,
God had ignored our prayers.
still mad at me?" Silas asked, taking a bite
of a ham sandwich.
"Yes, I'm still mad at you. I can't believe you
"Punched him?" Silas wiped a Hitler moustache
of mayonnaise from his lip. "He's lucky that's
all I did. I should of called the cops and had his
ass thrown in jail."
"All he did was give me a hickie, Silas. Hasn't
a girl ever given you a hickie before?"
"Sure. I've gotten my share of hickies, but I've
never given one to a fourteen year old girl."
Silas glanced in the rearview mirror, picking a piece
of bread from his teeth. "That kid's a slug,
Hailey. You don't need to be hanging out with someone
"I can hang out with anyone I want to hang out
with, Silas. I don't know why you feel the need to
butt into my life so much."
"Cause I'm your big brother, that's why. I'm
supposed to protect you from people like that."
"Yeah, well. I don't need you to protect me."
"So what?" Silas took another bite of the
ham sandwich. "You expect me to let you hang
out with scum like that? You expect me just to sit
back and do nothing?"
"Chase is not scum, Silas. I like him. He treats
me nice. Anyway, you don't even know him."
"He's a pervert, Hailey. Plain and simple. And
I'm not letting some pervert screw around with my
little sister. If that makes me an asshole, then so
didn't say anything after that. When we got to the
hospital, I climbed out of the Hyundai. Silas said
he'd wait for me in the parking lot. I wondered why
he didn't want to come in, but I was too mad at him
to even ask. Mama had said that Verma was in room
224, so when I got inside the hospital, I went to
the elevator and made my way to the second floor.
When I found Verma's room, I knocked on the door.
I didn't hear anyone answer, so I opened the door
and peeked my head in. Verma was lying in the bed,
asleep, her head propped on two pillows that looked
like two white clouds. Her face was flat, her lips
bunched up in her mouth.
she wheezed, her eyebros cocked.
I walked over to a chair that was next to Verma's
bed. A bed pan filled with urine was on the table
next to me. It looked like a smiling silver mouth.
As I sat down, the door opened, and a woman in white
walked in, wheeling a cart of food. "It's lunch
time, Mrs. Williams." The lady wheeled the cart
to the foot of the bed and left.
As she was leaving, I thanked her and pushed the cart
closer to Verma. "You ready to eat?" I asked.
I couldn't help but stare at the empty white space
where Verma's leg had been.
Verma motioned to me with her good eye closed, only
the dead eye staring back at me. I picked up the fork
and stabbed it into a stringy piece of roast beef
and put the fork to her mouth. Her lips cracked open,
and I guided the fork into her mouth. She swallowed
all of what was on the fork, except for a small piece
of roast beef that dribbled down her chin. "How
you feeling?" I asked, wiping her chin with the
lips rolled around in her mouth for a second while
she chewed the roast beef. "Them sons-a-bitches
took my leg," she said, swallowing the bite of
roast beef. She put the straw between her teeth and
sucked the water into the tight brown fist of her
mouth. Her lips rolled around in her mouth as she
sucked on the straw.
I looked on the table next to me and saw the leg.
It was beige and smooth like a mannequin's leg with
little metal hinges at the knee and ankle.
"Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine. For a one-legged old woman I spose."
She rubbed her forehead with an ashy brown hand. "Gonna
have to plug some plastic leg into my hip to get around
now," she said, talking between sips. "Got
a bum hip. Couldn't hear a freight train barreling
toward me with these ears I got. Now this diabetes
comes along and takes my leg. But, Hell, these doctors
ain't killed me yet."
"Are you having any pain?"
"Nope. They got me all hopped up on pain killers.
For when the pain in my ghost foot starts."
When Mama had worked in the hospital, she had told
me that amputees sometimes felt pain in their missing
limb years after it had been cut off. They called
it phantom pain.
"Can you believe that?" Verma chewed each
word and handed the cup back to me. "Pain in
my ghost foot? As if I ain't got enough pain running
through the one I got."
thought about the leg the doctor had chopped off,
wondering what they had done with it, wondering if
the leg had a memory, if it somehow still remembered
the body it had been stuck to. I imagined the black
toes wiggling after the doctor cut it off, like the
chickens I'd seen at my grandfather's house, hopping
around the yard after their heads had been lopped
smiled at Verma. "Mama said your sister's coming
to bring you home tomorrow."
"Yeah. She's gonna bring me back to the house
and stay with me for a few days. Says she's gonna
take me to Galatoire's. Once I'm feeling better."
Galatoire's was one of the most expensive restaurants
in New Orleans. Once a month, Verma's sister took
her there to eat.
probably take me over to Wal Mart too. I need to get
a few things. That reminds me. Be sure to tell your
daddy that I haven't forgot about that job interview.
Soon as I get outta this hospital, I'm gonna call
that friend of mine and see if I can't get him another
I smiled. "You don't give up, do you?"
"No Ma'am. I'm gonna get that daddy of yours
a job if it kills me. You'll see."
"Alright, I'll tell him, but right now you need
to get some rest."
I fed Verma the rest of her dinner. All that was left
was a pile of bright green string beans and a yellow
sliver of apple pie. After she'd finished, I told
her I'd see her when she got home, and I kissed her
on the cheek and left.
Silas and I pulled into the driveway, I could see
the sheriff leaning against the fender of his squad
car smiling with those little baby Chiclet teeth.
Silas parked the Hyundai and killed the engine, and
both of us climbed out the car and walked over to
where the sheriff was standing.
to bother you two again," the sheriff said. "But
I got a few questions for you, if you don't mind."
"Sure, Sheriff," Silas said. "Anything
we can do to help."
"I appreciate it." The sheriff took off
his hat and scratched an itch on his liver-spotted
skull. "Not sure if you two heard about it or
not, but an alleged child molester over in Bogalusa.
Well, he was attacked a few nights back."
"Attacked?" Silas asked.
"Yeah." The sheriff was sweating in the
heat, and you could smell the Old Spice seeping from
his skin. "Somebody beat him up pretty bad, knocked
a few teeth out, broke a few ribs. Woulda been simple
battery. But as it turns out, that kid wound up dead
two days later. Apparently, he had a blood clot in
"Did he get the bloodclot from the beating?"
"We're still working on figuring that out. Looks
like the blood clot was the result of the beating,
but we're not totally sure at this point. Initially,
the authorities in in Bogalusa thought it might have
been the father of the girl who the boy had allegedy
molested, but his alibi panned out. You two haven't
ever heard of a group called the Sons of God, by chance,
"No." Silas looked at me then back at the
sheriff. "No, sir. Is that who you think did
"Well, we're not exactly sure at this point.
There's a local boy who got beat up a few weeks back,
Seth Connors. You might know him."
"Yeah, I know Seth," Silas said. "He
works over at the supermarket, don't he?"
"Yeah. Anyway, they did him the same as they
did that alleged child molester. Tied him up with
duct tape. Beat him up."
"You don't think it was the same people, do you?"
"Well, they're separate instances, of course,
but we're looking at the possibility that they might
be related. Since they're so similar and all."
"Well, I'm sorry sheriff, but I don't think I
can be much help. I never heard of any Sons of God,
and I haven't seen Seth in months."
"Yeah, I wasn't sure if you'd know anything or
not. Figured it couldn't hurt to ask."
"Course if we can help any just let us know.
We'd be glad to come down to the precinct if you need
"That won't be necessary." The sheriff opened
the door of his squad car. He started the engine,
turned the car around and headed down the driveway.
we got inside, the power was out. Silas was so mad
that Daddy had forgotten to pay the bill again. We
moved everything from the refrigerator to an ice chest
so it wouldn't spoil. I told Silas I was scared that
the police were catching on to what we'd done, but
he said they were just fishing for leads. I wanted
to believe him, but I couldn't help but think that
we'd get caught for killing that kid.
night, I dreamed that my organs were rotting inside
my body. In the dream, my heart and my lungs felt
like rotten meat, and each breath I took buzzed in
my chest like a swarm of dirty flies. Jesus was standing
with me in a field of purple flowers. He was wearing
a tuxedo, and I was dressed in a white straightjacket.
My fists were clenched, and when Jesus opened them,
I could see that there were bloody nail holes in my
wrists. When the dream ended, Jesus was flying up
to Heaven, and I was standing in the field all alone,
like a fallen white angel with its wings chopped off.