When Mama worked at the hospital, she'd told me about
all the suicide patients she'd seen over the years,
all the hangings gone wrong, the man whose throat
looked like swiss cheese after he drank a bottle of
Drano, the woman who shattered all her bones, who had
to wear a steel halo on her head after jumping off an
Two weeks had gone by, and I was still sad about
Mr. Guidry. I couldn't stop thinking about the boy
with the glass bones. His sad, cornflower blue eyes.
His shiny black hair parted down the middle by a
crooked line of white scalp. The blood clot like a
tiny red flower blossoming in his brain.
Chase hadn't returned any of my calls. I'd seen
him once or twice picking up Meridian from school, but
he acted different.
"Hey Hailey," he'd say, his candied yam arm
wrapped around Meridian's neck. His eyes staring
through me, the way Mama and Daddy stared through me,
the way the whole world stared through me, like I was
made of glass. I couldn't get his face outta my mind.
Even his name had become a black stone in my throat.
For months now, the roaches had been crawling
around in my head, even worse than before. Sometimes
I'd even hear voices ringing in my ears. At first, I
thought that it was God speaking to me. But when I
listened closely, the words started to sound like my
own. I'd started to think more and more about
swallowing a bottle of Mama's sleeping pills. I
imagined a long white sleep. A tidy, clean death. No
blood or bullets. Just a long, deep, pale white
The next morning, I waited for Daddy and
Silas to leave the house. While Mama was asleep, I
went into her room and grabbed the bottle of sleeping
pills from atop her dresser. When I got back to my
room, I took the cap off the brown prescription bottle
and poured the bottle into my palm. The pills looked
so holy in my hand, as if the bones of angels had been
crushed into each perfect round pill. I closed my eyes
and started to recite the same prayer I'd prayed with
Mr. Guidry. "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed
be thy name." As I recited the prayer, I could hear
the words like the buzzing of yellow jackets in my
ear. Then, a wave
of heat rolling over me. A stabbing pain blossoming in
my toes and in the roots of my teeth. Then, a kind of
short circuit in the wires of my brain. Until the
inside of my skull felt like a black sky exploding
The next thing I remember was waking up on a
gurney at Jupiter Memorial Hospital, my wrists
strapped to the metal arm rails, a desert in my mouth.
The room smelled like a mixture of rotten piss and
baby powder. Daddy was asleep on a green cot next to
my bed, his yellow bird's nest of hair dangling in his
face. Mama was sitting on a chair at the foot of my
bed, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, her cheeks
smeared with mascara. Silas was standing near the
"How ya feeling, Honey?" Daddy yawned, covering
his mouth with a pale hand. He picked up a white
styrofoam cup of coffee and blew on it.
"You saw the tube they put up her nose," Silas
said. Probably feels like somebody farted in her
mouth." Silas smiled. I'm gone smoke. I'll be back."
As Silas left, Daddy stood
up and stretched, exposing a mouth-full of grey
fillings as he arched his back. When he was done
stretching, he sat down next to the bed and stroked my
knuckles, his hand drifting just below the IV taped to
the purple vein in my left hand. "You doing alright,
"I'm sorry," I said, my voice
cracking as I spoke.
"Yeah, well," Mama hissed. "It's a little late to
be sorry, Hailey."
"Cut it out, Lena," Daddy snarled, staring across
the room at Mama. "I mean it."
"I just hope you're happy, Hailey" Mama said,
wiping the mascara from her eyes with a balled up
"Happy?" I asked Mama. "Happy about what?"
Daddy stood up. "I mean it, Lena. Cut it out."
"What? That's what she wanted, Bigg." Mama turned
her eyes on me. "Wasn't that what you wanted, Hailey?
For all of Jupiter to finally know what a miserable
family we are."
"No one's gonna find out anything, Lena. I dunno
why you're so damned worried about what people think
"That ambulance driver. That was Basil's stepson,
"I know who it was. So what?"
"So what? How long you think it's gonna take fore
Basil finds out? You know the mouth she's got on her."
"So what if people find out, Lena. Who cares what
"I care, Bigg." Mama wiped her eyes with the
balled up Kleenex. The room grew quiet. Mama looked at
Daddy then at me, then got up and walked out the room.
"Don't worry about your Mama," Daddy said, still
stroking my knuckles. "She's not in her right mind."
A few minutes later, a nurse came in and brought
me dinner. Silas had been gone for a while. I figured
he probably went looking for a doctor to see if he
could get one of them to look at the lump in his neck.
Eventually, though, after I finished dinner, he did
"Look what I got at the gift shop?" he said,
holding up a deck of cards. "You guys wanna play?"
Daddy yawned, scratching his pink head. "Sure.
I'll play a few hands."
Silas grabbed the nightstand and put it between
him and Daddy. "Whatcha say?" he asked Daddy,
shuffling the cards. "Poker? Aces Wild?"
Daddy grabbed his cup of coffee and took a sip.
"Sounds good to me." He pressed his finger against the
dry red scab in the corner of his mouth.
Silas glanced up at him, still shuffling the
cards. "It still hurts?"
"Yeah," Daddy said, blowing on his coffee. "Just
when I open my mouth wide."
"Look. Daddy . . . About what I did."
"You don't need to apologize, Silas." Daddy held
the cards like a fan. "I had it coming, Son."
Silas put his fan of cards face down on the
table. "Well," he said, biting at a hangnail, "even if
you did, it wasn't right of me to go and sock you like
Daddy smiled, rearranging his cards. "Did I ever
tell ya about the time I socked your Grandaddy?"
"Nah. Really?" Silas combed his hand through his
painted black hair. "How old were you?"
Daddy licked his finger, still rearranging the
cards in his hand. "Bout nineteen I guess." He slapped
two cards down on the table. "Gimme two."
Silas dealed Daddy two cards, peeking at Daddy
from behind his poker hand. "Wasn't Grandaddy a boxer
when he was young?"
"Yep. And he was meaner than dirt back then."
Daddy grabbed his cup of coffee from the table,
blowing on it as he spoke. "You know that punching bag
you always hitting on? That was your Grand Daddy's."
"Really?" Silas pulled a pack of gum from his
shirt pocket, bit off a piece, crumbled the wrapper
into his fist.
"Yep. He used to knock that thing around like it
was stuffed with feathers."
"What did he do?" Silas asked, arranging the
cards in his hand. "When you hit 'em I mean?"
"Nothing." Daddy licked his fingers, still
rearranging the cards in his hand. "Didn't even
flinch." He laid the fan of cards down on the table.
"I fold." Daddy grabbed the cards and started
shuffling them. "Man had a goddamn iron jaw."
Silas was biting at the hangnail again. "Did he
hit you back?"
"See this?" Daddy pointed a finger at a tiny scar
above his yellow eyebrow.
Silas leaned in. "Yeah. I see it."
"Gave me that." Daddy took a sip of coffee. "And
a pair of black eyes to go with it." He put the coffee
down and shuffled the cards again. "So." He dealt five
cards to Silas. "Just so you know. You ain't the only
son ever hit their father."
Silas glanced up at Daddy and smiled. I watched
them for a while, joking back and forth, swapping
stories. When they were done, Silas left. Mama spent
most of the afternoon saying rosaries. Daddy brought a
copy of Shakespeare's sonnets from home. He spent
most of the day sitting next to my bed reading to
Later that night, I woke to the crackle of
thunder, imagining the black rain falling outside my
window. All the lights were off. In the corner of the
room, I could see the bright orange tip of a cigarette
glowing in the dark. Above the cigarette, two white
eyes floated in the black air. "Silas?" I called out.
The lights flicked on. It was Moses.
"It's me, Miss Hailey," he said, rubbing his pot
belly. "I didn't scare ya, did I?"
"No," I told him. "Not at all. I thought you
were Silas. What time is it?"
Moses turned his wrist over and tapped the face
of the watch. "Almost eleven." He took a drag off his
Kool, blew the smoke out his nose, stood up, and
walked over to the sink, turned the water on and put
the cigarette under the trickle of water. "How you
"All right I guess." I watched the white smoke
from Moses' cigarette hover in the air like a ghost.
"I'll bet." Moses wiped the ashes from his pants.
"Anything I can do?"
"Actually, I have an itch on my nose. Can you
undo the strap on my wrist so I can scratch it?"
Moses paused for a moment. "Tell you what . . .
how about if I scratch it for ya. How's that?"
He walked over to the side of my bed. "Where's it
at?" he asked, staring down at my stomach while he
spoke, his mildewed breath drifting in the air.
He rested a dirty fingernail on my stomach. His
finger wormed its way toward my silver belly ring, his
shrivelled black hand creeping over my skin like a
tarantula. "Didn't know you had a belly ring." He
grinned, his gold tooth flickering as he spoke, his
rotten breath drifting in the air. His finger crept
toward my nose and scratched the tip, his eyes still
crawling over my stomach. "How's that? Better?"
I pulled up the sheet. "Thanks"
"My pleasure." He sat back down in the chair.
"So," he asked me, "who all's been to see ya?" As he
spoke, he stared at me, his eyes tracing the blue
veins in my neck.
"Just my mom and dad. And Silas." I smiled. "And
"Silas, huh?" he said, smiling with the same
yellow teeth. "Silas came by here?"
"Did he say where he was going?"
"Home I guess."
"Really?" He paused for a moment. "Cops ain't
been by to see you, Miss Hailey, have they?" He stared
around the room as he spoke, his words floating in the
air, his voice a hand on my shoulder.
"Good." He rubbed his cheek with an ashy brown
hand. "Good," he mumbled again, with a faraway look,
as if he was talking to himself, the words sprouting
like weeds in his head. "They bound to come sniffing
around sooner or later, though."
He sat back in his chair, his pot belly poking
out of his shirt as he bit at a toothpick between his
lips. "Look, this ain't a personal visit, Miss Hailey.
I'm here on business." He moved the toothpick around
in his mouth while he spoke. "I got a few questions
need answering. And I'm hoping you can help me with a
few answers." He took the toothpick out of his mouth,
picking at a piece of food between his teeth.
"What kind of questions?" I asked.
"Well." He wiped the toothpick on the tail of his
shirt and began picking his teeth again, staring at me
through the worm holes of his eyes. "Seems that
brother of yours has been squealing to the cops."
"Silas? Are you sure?"
"Yep." He wiped the toothpick on the tail of his
shirt again. "My friend Smiley works over at the
police station. Seems Silas has been telling them pigs
a batch of lies about me. Claiming I was the one beat
up that faggot boy in Lafayette." He pointed the
toothpick at me as he spoke, turning it between his
fingers as he pointed it at me. "That brother of yours
needs to know. There's consequences for what he does.
You tell Silas and them other boys too." He was
staring at me now, his tiny eyes black and empty. "If
any of 'em mentions my name, there's gonna be Hell to
pay. I'll root every last one of 'em out personally.
And I won't stop till I squeeze every last ounce of
Jesus outta they rotten little souls." He took the
toothpick out of his mouth, dropped it in the glass
ashtray on the table. He was staring out the window
now, at a pair of clouds drifting against the pewter
As I stared at Moses, I wanted to tell him to
leave Silas alone. That if he hurt my brother, I'd go
straight to the cops. I wanted to scare him the way he
was scaring me. But I didn't say a word. Instead, I
just sat there, the words melting like a peppermint in
As Moses scratched an itch under his stained red
t-shirt, a nurse in a white uniform walked into the
"Visiting hours are over, Sir," she told Moses,
her eyes ice, a metal clipboard clutched against her
Moses got up from the chair. "Guess they kicking
me out, Miss Hailey."
The nurse walked to the side of the bed. While
she fiddled with my IV, Moses poked his head over her
shoulder and drew an imaginary line across his
throat. The nurse leaned over me and Moses disappeared
behind her. After she had changed the IV, I looked up,
and Moses was gone.
That night, for some reason, I dreamed that all
my teeth had fallen out. Nobody had punched them out.
They'd simply fallen out, by themselves. Just before
the dream ended, I was standing in the front of a
mirror, grinning with a toothless smile, my tongue
sucking on the bloody holes where the teeth had been.