Ann Petry by Ann Petry

Ann Petry by Ann Petry

Author:Ann Petry
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Library of America
Published: 2018-11-07T17:55:24+00:00


7

* * *

LINK HAD FINISHED EATING his breakfast.

Abbie Crunch said, “I wish you’d—” stopped, said, “I—” and never finished what she was going to say.

They both heard the screams that came from upstairs. Link knew by the volume, by the pitch, that these hair-stand-on-end screams, these curdle-the-blood screams could only have issued from the throat of Mrs. Mamie Powther; thinking how aware of her he had become, how familiar with the sound of her voice, that he should recognize it even when lifted in distress.

Abbie said, “Why—what—” shuddered, took a deep breath and said, “Link—go and see what—”

He ran up the outside back stairs, ran up them, thinking, Well, perhaps Powther had come hurrying home, in his dark suit, razor crease in the pants, in his black shoes with the mirror shine, had come home, and found Mr. B. Hod in his bed, and had murdered Mr. Hod, and was now murdering Mrs. Powther.

In the kitchen, upstairs, Mamie Powther was standing on a chair, skirts wrapped around her, held high, wrapped tight around her, so that knees, leg, thighs were exposed. She had red sandals on her feet. No stockings. One hand over her eyes, the other hand holding up the skirts. He thought of a girl wading, a girl with her skirts wrapped around her, skirts lifted, wading. Not good enough, what then? Venus. Why Venus? Goddess. It was the shape of the calf, the swelling of the thigh. Only the Greeks reproduced it like that. Goddess. Hardly. Well, a profane goddess then. Lead us not into temptation. But who would not follow where Mrs. M. Powther’s softfleshed thighs—

He glanced around the kitchen, looking for an intruder, a robber, an outraged husband. Nothing. Nobody. Dishes piled in the sink. Coffee cup on table.

He said, “What—”

“That way—” she didn’t point, she just said, “That way. Oh, get him, get him, get him—” One hand clutched at the skirts, the other covered her eyes.

He went all through the apartment. Nothing. He stayed longest in the Powthers’ bedroom, recognizing it immediately because of the cupids that adorned the bed. He grinned at the cupids, saluted them, thinking, Friends, Fellow Travelers, Eyewitnesses, Comrades-in-Arms. Hail, Cupids!

He returned to the kitchen. “What was it?” he asked.

She took her hand away from her eyes. “Oh, it’s you—”

“Yeah,” he said. “Who went—er—that way?”

“Mouse.”

He looked at her for a long moment, skirts still held up, wadded up, had she forgotten them or—

“You mean a small four-legged gray creature, relative of the rat?” Sometimes Dumble Streeters gave choice, highly appropriate names to friends and enemies. “Mouse” could be a second-story man.

“A mouse,” she said, dropping the skirts.

So she really did forget about them. I wish you hadn’t though, Mamie Powther, after all a man can dream, he thought, and said, “Well—uh—no mouse—anywhere. He was probably as scared as you were.”

He held out his hand, intending to help her down from the chair. She got down by herself, gave her skirts a shake, patted them in place.

She smiled at him, a great big flashing heartwarming smile, and said, “Thanks.



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