'On the Veranda,' by Jay Neugeboren

“It was the summer of 1937, in the August of my thirteenth year, and two months before I would, because of what happened that day, leave home forever.”

The sun was gone from the sky on what had been a brutally hot day and, returning home from the fields, I saw that my sister Marie-Anne was by herself, her back against a pecan tree, and that she seemed to be in the midst of the kind of frightened, dream-tossed sleep that, in the bed we shared with our brother Paul, frequently plagued her. We lived on farms in southeast Louisiana owned by white people in those years–Hammond was the nearest city–where we worked as sharecroppers and domestics. In the summers, Marie-Anne and I, along with our seven older brothers and sisters, were loaned out as field hands where we were needed most. It was the summer of 1937, in the August of my thirteenth year, and two months before I would, because of what happened that day, leave home forever.

As I drew closer, I saw that Marie-Anne’s skirt, the deep black-brown of river-bottom, was raised above her waist. Her eyes were closed, and she had one hand between her legs while her other hand was pressed against her mouth in order, it seemed, to stifle growling sounds much like those our dogs would make when a person unknown to us came near..

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