A nine-year-old boy ponders death at the supper table—from How to Live Life and other stories.
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Lounging around the supper table last night, after finishing off the leftover sweet potato pie (the plate and turned down fork pushed away from me, a few crumbs mostly on the dish scattered about), feeling full and sleepy, listening but not hearing the grown-ups’ talk, the murder came up. I wasn’t exactly sure how. One moment Larry, a drifter who helped with the planting and harvesting each year then went further south, was saying the last of the corn should be in by Thursday so he could plow the field under for the doves to come in, and the next was about blood, money, death.
We all knew it, of course, before The Chronicle did. Talking news was not only faster than written, but thrilling with more views. It was the only crime I knew of happening in Arcadia except for the summer before when I was eight, this woman shooting her husband, but folks called that an act of passion and besides they were colored anyway. Mamma says it isn’t Christian or polite to use that other word but Larry does and if he were such a horrible terrible person Daddy wouldn’t let him eat at our table. I guess sometimes folks say things they don’t really mean. Like that time I called Sam, ‘A sissy crybaby.’
Sam and his parents came over that night; Mister Belcher’s killing not the other, after calling the sheriff in Wilmer. Then while Daddy, Mister Miller, and Larry went to investigate, Mamma, Mrs. Miller, Sam and me sat around the kitchen table. It must have been around midnight. Mamma even opened her emergency package of store-bought oatmeal cookies with white and pink icing. Mamma and Daddy had been in town all day shopping and Sis and I finished up all the chocolate chips after I got in from school—she has an awful big sweet tooth. Sam and I fell asleep in our chairs waiting. When I awoke in my bed the next morning, he was gone. (more)