By Soleil Ho
Mamas always tellin me not to go wanderin outside when its light out, an the sky is flashin with the green, but now that shes big she cant chase me as quick. I dont mind her hollerin, cause I wanna catch an eyeful of them ships that drop down to our swamp once every while. Once they gone, wont be no more for a whole year. All I want is just an eyeful of that pretty black metal; Ill just think on that while Mama wallops me later. Just a tip of a teaspoon of a look at them ships is worth all the wallops in the world.
Mama hollerin, but I keep walkin through the wet wooded strips that lead to the landin place. The swamps dark and I feel night shivers even though I know its daytime. Even as they dead, them big old cypress trees is doin a real good job keepin the sun out. Thats why we can get by with just a layer of mud, Mama say, unlike the bubble folk who cant even go outside without turnin pink like they been turned inside-out. The bubble folk cant even have babies on they own, so they gotta have Mama do it for them. Mama says too that I better watch for snakes and spiders and such thins when Im out, but I aint never seen any of them lately. When they took all the birds and the gators and the swamp rats and Daddy, I reckon they took the snakes and spiders too.
The landin place is just three Hail Marys worth a walk away from our house, so it aint long before I see the legs of the ships shine through the trees. They exactly as I remember: bigger n taller than the biggest cypress I ever saw and smoother than my Mamas belly. Once I caught them as they was leavin, and I saw them float away like dandelion seeds. Other people here too, but they too clean-lookin to have been here long as us. Mama says dont talk to none like those cause we aint ship beggars like them. They probably aint even Cajun. I love my Mama enough to keep quiet, at least, so I jus stay behind a tree and watch.
All them cleaner people wearin rags, beggin off the men haulin boxes and roll-ups from the ships. When the men start firin they guns to scare off the crowd, I run back into the swamp. Theyll come by our place later too probably.
“Kerm! Je le jure devant Dieu, inside right this now!” Mama says standin in our doorway, waitin for me with water on her cheeks. I try to squeeze past her, but it aint no use when shes so big. She grabs my shirt by the collar, drags me inside, and wallops me hard. I close my eyes and try to see the ships in the black part behind my eyelids. Mama cries.
When I wake up again, I wear my helmet and Mamas put my show on. Our helmets got wires, so I have to stay on the couch or else the wires will pop right out the back.
“On today’s episode,” the light-skin clean man say, “we have Brenda, who says that she’s in love with a hologram!” The place where hes at is pretty and clean and peach-colored, with chairs that dont look like nobodys sweated on them. I dont know whats a hologram, but I keep watchin anyway. “But not just any hologram, ladies and gentlemen: he’s also a Klansman!” Videos of blowed-up white buildins flash and theres fire, and people yell and cuss. Just when the show gets to the good part, Mama pulls the helmet off.
“Naw, Mama!” Quick as that, Im cryin a little. She shushes me and says that the men from the shipr here. Soon as I hear that, I suck the tears back up again and stand up with my back straight. The men are standin inside our little house, holdin a box of the big, pink loaves, with the red and yellow lines of vitamin, plus cartridges of helmet pictures for us kids. Id rather have crawfish, but I dont say nothin. Mama says I gotta be a man, especially for the clean gun men.
The men look nervous, but they dont say nothin. “Im ready,” Mama says, and she puts her hand on my head.
“Kiss her bye-bye, Kerm.” I lean over and give the side of her belly a little peck, just like before. The men open up a box full of tools as smooth and shiny as they ship. Mama sends me outside to wait. I wonder what shows they got this time.