>More Chapter One – Susanna


>A full orange moon had crested over the lake when Edna drove home from Antioch Baptist church’s prayer circle. A Tupperware container of half-eaten broccoli salad (with bacon) and a bible covered in yellow quilted fabric lay beside Edna in the Buick.

It was an unlit, rural route with only the yellow line of the road and bugs drifting off the Lake Thurmond visible in the headlights. Edna slapped a mosquito on her neck, thinking how bad they were this year when a little girl appeared in the lights. The wind blew her brown hair, gathered in a white bow, so big on her head it looked like a cartoon sketch. Tiny bare feet poked out from her faded cotton dress. The highlights glared on her face, she didn’t flinch, her eyes were round and dilated and blue in the high beams. The only thing Edna could see was that blue, like the girl’s eyes had exploded inside Edna’s brain. Like when the Virgin Mary explodes inside her. Edna’s body heated and tingled.

She slammed the breaks, but the car flew through the girl, like she won’t there. Didn’t make no sound, just glided through her. The car skidded and spun, jolting Edna in her sit. Then all as still and quiet. She sat there, panting, old, out of shape.

She didn’t hear no bump she reminded herself. She didn’t hit nothin’, cause there was no bump. Her diabetes medicine was messin’ with her mind.

Then she saw the girl again, she weren’t hit but walking to the lake, right through the tall grass the county ain’t mowed in months.

Edna let the passenger’s window down two inches. “Honey you need some help?”

The girl turned and put her finger to her lips, then giggled, waving Edna towards her with a chubby hand. Just like at church camp sixty years before.

Esther grabbed the bible and slammed the gas, “Hep me Jesus, Hep me Jesus,” she prayed until the first sign of lights at the lonely Circle K. The Buick jumped the sidewalk and rammed the Polar ice freezer.

Edna rolled down the window. “Hep! Somebody done kilt my sister!” Then she fainted on the horn.

When she woke up, she recognized the white, cork-like tiles on the ceiling of the Greater Sweetwater Regional Hospital. That specialist woman who had helped Edna’s late husband after his stroke pulled up a chair beside her. Against the wall, her country club niece sat in a chair, her leg bouncing impatiently over her knee. She had a tight tan face and blonde highlighted hair. Even in her pink floral shirt, she looked harsh, like her wrinkles had been tucked just a few times too many.

The specialist took Edna’s hand and pressed it like they do them frail, bony things over at the nursing home. “Edna, do you know the name of the President?”

Edna looked sharply at her niece. “You cain’t put me in a nursing home, you skinny turkey butt. Where’s my grandson?”

“Edna, do you know the name of the President?” The specialist asked again.

“I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ until my grandson done gets here. Give me that phone. I’m gonna call Dewayne.”

The door opened and a tall, redheaded young man with sunburned freckled skin strode in. He wore khaki pants. His stomach protruded slightly through his white Tshirt with a big image of teeth-bared, droolin’ bulldog — the University of Georgia’s mascot. Clipped in his pants pocket was his detective’s badge.

He came to kneel beside Edna, his green eyes relaxed and unconcerned, cause he knew nothin’ was wrong with Edna. Her grandson could sniff trouble in folks like a dog to a squirrel.

“Mema, I’m so dang sorry. I’s in Athens at the game when they done called me on my cell.” He had that soft, slow voice, like a preacher coaxing rattlesnakes.

Edna clutched his hand, pulling him close to her mouth. “Dewayne. The gift came real hard. Somethin’s bad wrong.”

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