October 31, 1941
set fire to the Nigra church after the Junior-Senior Halloween
costume party. Marty Haliburton brought the gasoline. Coby
Brueller brought his cigarettes and two boxes of matches. The
Bandy twins came with two pint jars of shinney each pulling down
the side pockets of their overalls, and we ‘d all had several
tastes by the time we did it. Those four boys were the root of
all evil in our town for most of their lives. But the rest of us
were there, too, just as much a part as the boys who spread the
gas and fanned the flames.
the most part, my friends represented a few fairly nice girls
and about the sorriest collection of humans caught in the throes
of pre-manhood ever scraped together. Maggy, Neomadel, and
Garnelle made a little half circle with me in the middle. I
guess there ‘s something odd, or poetic about me, a girl named
Frosty, being in the middle of something burning on a hot
October night in East Texas. That bunch of boys and girls would
make up about a third of the graduating class of 1942 from Big
Thicket High School, but in the fall of 1941 that event still
seemed a lifetime away.
dared me to taste the moonshine, and all the kids giggled as I
took the jar. It looked just like water. I put it to my lips and
just touched it with the tip of my tongue.
snickered into her hand. Coby,
don ‘t be pushing that on her, she
looked back at her and shrugged. Nobody ‘s making her drink
it, are they? Give it back or drink up, Frosty. He
held out his open hand toward me. They were all watching
on, Beans said. Gimme
‘m not drinking after you, I
said. Just give me a
second. I ‘ll take a drink.
won ‘t either, Neomadel
said. I knew she
wouldn ‘t do it.
has to if they don ‘t want to, Maggy
guess I wasn ‘t in the mood to be swept aside like that. I
guess I had something in my craw that a good swig of liquid
might wash away. I opened my mouth and gulped. The fire surged
to a pit somewhere below my navel and boiled out the top, as if
steam shot from my ears. My eyes watered; my nose stung; my
throat closed like a large hand had reached around my neck and
squeezed. From somewhere in the back of my head, a little voice
said, She isn ‘t
breathing. Slap her on the back; get her to breathe.
sky and grass and stars and dirt rolled around in my eyes, and
my face was pressed flat somewhere wet and dark and froggy
her up, the voice
swirling in the darkness argued for a second, then I coughed so
loud and long I thought my lungs would burst. After a few
minutes, the coughing subsided. I held my elbows tight to my
ribs and I could see the kids circling me.
Marty said, We
came to do something and we ‘re gonna do it. You all can horse
around later. Pass me that shine. He
took a drink, smacking his lips with a satisfied sigh.
Sissies and babies shouldn ‘t be drinking a man
‘s drink, anyway.
said, You girls just
take a little sip first, 'til you get the hang of it. Y
‘all doing all right, Frosty?
‘m fine, I
croaked. Your turn,
© The Water and
the Blood - Nancy E. Turner
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