Maybe if I’d
me the truth,
but I doubt it.
Instead it soaked
me. And I knew.
why I couldn’t
work in the hot
tobacco fields and
my mother and
at me, never
even said my
Daddy had bought me. I fetched those and
came back out of my bedroom.
I don’t recall anyone told me to go with
those ladies, but I knew to follow them. I
sat in the back of the car breathing Orange
Hat’s cigarette smoke, watching the shadow
of my home grow dimmer and dimmer.
Finally, Red Hat told me I was going to
live with a new family just like me. I could
tell she was trying to be nice, so I said, “Yes
Maybe if I’d asked, someone would’ve
told me the truth, but I doubt it. Instead it
soaked through my skin, choking me. And
I knew. I understood why I couldn’t work
in the hot tobacco fields and browning
sun. I understood why Granny Clara hated
my mother and never looked at me, never
even said my name.
What I didn’t understand was why
Daddy loved me. I felt it when he held my
hand. As we drove through the dark to the
people who were just like me, I thought of
all the times he’d stood by me in Ulysses
Store, helping me pick a licorice stick or
peppermint. Some day I might try to figure
who it could’ve been, but not now. Tonight
on this dark road I needed to hold tight to
my Daddy’s love. To cradle it, wrap myself
“Your new mama’s a school teacher up
here,” Orange Hat said.
I don’t have no new mama. I belong to
Mama, even if she don’t want me.
“And your new daddy owns a lumber
mill,” Orange Hat continued through the
smoke. I couldn’t breathe.
“Don’t you want to know where we’re
taking you?” asked Orange Hat, whose yellow fuzz had been changed to an ostrich
feather for the important day of turning
my life upside down.
“You’re going to live in Corinth,” Red
Hat said. “People here get along quite well.
You won’t have the problems you had in
“Your new mama adopted another little
boy,” Orange Hat said, “but don’t tell anyone because he thinks he’s really theirs. He
was just a baby.”
“They go to church every Sunday,” Red
Hat said. “Your new mother went to college.”
The house we parked in front of was
bigger than my home. A swing hung from
the shadows of a full pecan tree to the left
of the porch. It was dark, but I heard the
KARI VAN TINE/IMAGES. COM
neighborhood: Frogs singing, crickets making their loudest violin noise, an owl hooting a warning of my arrival. I saw the
shapes of a big man and woman in the
doorway, the light from behind them hid
their faces. Red Hat handed me my
dresses, my shoes, then put her hand on my
back and gave me a gentle shove.
“Ain’t she pretty?” Orange Hat said.
“She even looks like you, Mrs. Green. I
know you’re just going to love each other.”
I lifted my chin and walked up the
steps. That’s when I saw the boy. Hiding
behind his Daddy. Taller than me, but
younger than my sisters.
“Well, hi there Miss Gracie,” the big
man said and held out his hand. “My name
is McKinley, but you can call me Daddy if
The boy looked me in the eyes. His
dark face glowed as I walked past him to
take his Daddy’s hand.
“You go on back to where you come
from,” he whispered.
KATHY NORCROSS WATTS ’ 86 is a freelance writer in Winston-Salem. She also
received her master’s in regional planning
degree from Carolina in 1991.