|GUESS WHO LOVES ME NOW?
The Arizona sun is already lighting up the
reservation when Arlene finds her uncle passed out on the couch. Hes sprawled on the
ratty plaid cushions, his mouth open, one arm reaching toward a turned-over beer can.
Since hes been away for four weeks (gone to Oakland with a bunch of friends in a
rusty pickup to start a new life), Arlene calls her auntie at the phlebotomy lab.
"Is he dead?" Auntie Bettie asks.
"I dont know," Arlene says, "I
"Hell, girl, I was just fooling. Hes passed
out is all, stinking up the place. See if hes got any money."
"I cant, Auntie, Ive got to get out
of here. Ive got English first and if I have to run extra laps, Ill be late
and Mr. Carver wont let me into the classroom."
"Just check his wallet before he wakes up. He
owes us more than hell ever have, the bastard."
"Alright." Arlene puts the phone down on the
kitchen table and counts to ten. She keeps still, watching little spirals of dust rise
around Uncle Jimmys open mouth. When he snores, the dust speeds up, making a little
whirling nebula. At nine one thousand, she picks up the phone.
"Are you sure? Did you check his pockets
"Yeah, Im sure."
"All right, then. Check whats in the
fridge. Hes likely going to eat us out of house and home."
"Ive got to go, Auntie Bettie."
"Okay, but take the toilet paper with you."
"Take it with you. Serves the bastard
In Mr. Carvers class last month, Arlene read a
story about a maquilladora, a sweatshop on the border where women stitched knots
into the zippers of the dresses they were sewing. The zipper would catch when a woman
tried to put the dress on and tear clear down the back. "Passive Resistance,"
Mr. Carver called it. Arlene has since become adept at spotting it. Once at the lab, while
Arlene waited in a sticky black chair, a skinny woman had come in and looked at Auntie
Bettie as if Auntie Bettie were a dog whod messed on her lawn.
"Is that a new needle?" she asked as Auntie
Bettie pulled on a pair of gloves. "Would you mind unwrapping another one so I can
Auntie Bettie said "Sure, no problem." She
took her time unwrapping another needle and inspecting the womans arms before
"You just have the most stubborn little
buggers," Auntie Bettie said, and she missed again and again until the womans
eyes fluttered and two small tears eased down her cheeks.
Arlene has noticed the passive resistance in herself
too. When Uncle Jimmy asks her for a beer, she takes it out of the refrigerator and shakes
it up first, so half the beer bubbles out. Shes even noticed it in her little sister
Shirley, whos only five. Arlene has seen Shirley pour drops of beer into the toilet
as she carries it into him. It is passive resistance, she knows, this thing with the
toilet paper, but Auntie Bettie will be angry if she doesnt take it, so she stuffs
the roll into her backpack before leaving.
After running two sprints, Arlene stretches out on the dugout benches. Running makes her
feel purposeful, as if there is something urgent waiting for her to reach it, so urgent
that she has to push herself as fast and hard as she can. But there is never anything
satisfying at the end, so she just keeps running. The scholarship sending her to Yale in
the fall, however, is not the end to which shes running. Rather, it feels like
something that has caught up with her, run right past her, and now sits waiting for her on
the other side of the finish line. Sometimes she feels as if she can see it, an entire
college with arms and legs, sitting on the bleachers. In these moments, she wants to
sprint quickly in the opposite direction.
The familiar caw of cheerleaders is spreading around
the field. This week everyone has found out who has been accepted at the competitive
colleges and who is headed for community college. Arlene is the reason all the
cheerleaders are going to State; this is what they always talk about whenever one of them
lays eyes on her.
"You just have to be a Native American," one
of them says. They say Native American in the same way they would say syphilis or
special-ed. If youre a Native American, theyll give you everything.
The girls look at her with eyes like window blinds rolling in their faces, up and down on
her slender body. Then someone says loudly, "Theyre just jealous cause
youre so guapa, Arlie." Arlene sits up on the bench. Its Freddy.
Freddys from Puerto Rico but everyone thinks hes Mexican. "Go back to
Mexico," theyre always saying.
"Im from San Juan," he tells them, and
they say, "San What?"
"San H-wan," he says.
"This aint Tijuana," they say,
"this is America!"
He never gets a break. Also, hes gay, and that
doesnt help. On the way to class he tries to cheer Arlene up. "What joo gonna
complain about being Indian for?" Freddie counts on his fingers. Ring finger:
theres money for school; middle finger: that cool bar in the casino. He has to think
for a moment, but what he comes up with next warrants two fingers: just the fact of being
a freakin Indian.
"Its one big fat hole is what it is."
Arlene traces a big O in the air around Freddys face, "One big
Arlene listens outside Mr. Carvers half-open door, not daring to step inside. Mr.
Carver is the only teacher who does not view being a minority as a disease that is
contagious, but she knows if she goes into his class late or without a book, he will stare
her down and fling his arm at the door, shouting, "If you cant come to class
prepared, you might as well just get out!"
When the bell rings, she goes in and apologizes.
"Uh huh," Mr. Carver says, not looking up
from The New York Review of Books. "Your aunt was here." He pushes a note
across the desk toward her. She immediately recognizes the stationery: a teddy bear in the
upper right corner, holding a bouquet of six balloons, and a banner with the shadow
letters Mrs. Bettie Marie Horseherder.
Wait for Uncle Jimmy after Scool.
There is no explaining why
she sets the note down on Mr. Carvers desk right then and adds an h to the word
She goes to the pay phone and calls Auntie Bettie.
"What now?" she asks.
"Oh Honey, its about time the man got some
sense, hes really changing."
"Changing again? Thats the second time this
"No, for real. He sent me flowers, had them
delivered to the office where everyone could see. You got to wait for him and show him
where to go. He got into the night school, baby. Hes gonna be an EMT."
"An E-M- who?"
"A paramedic. Its a certificate."
"He has to do that here?"
"Yes, Arlene, thats where it is. He wants
you to drive home with him. You can just do your homework while youre waiting."
At the end of the day, she walks with Uncle Jimmy to
the gymnasium where there are wilting and curling signs taped to the concrete walls. She
drops him off under CPR and goes to the library, but who can get anything done with all
the vacuuming? She glares at the custodian, but feels bad for taking it out on him. So she
decides to run. She runs until the sun begins to sink.
When Uncle Jimmy finally comes out, he pants across
the football field, trying to catch up with her. Little sweat beads have erupted on his
forehead and his face is flushed with the same red stripes worn by the Blackfoot warrior
in the poster he gave her for her birthday. Under the chief is the slogan, FryBread Power!
Shirley has inherited the poster, and shes
always pointing to the letters saying, "Fr, Fr, whats it say again,
"FryBread Power," Arlene says, and then
Shirley heaves the cushions off the couch like they are giant boulders and tosses them
around the living room. She holds her arms out to fly like Superman and shouts,
Arlene stops so Uncle Jimmy can catch his breath. He
leans over and plants his hands on his bulging jeans, breathing rapidly.
In the parking lot, he unlocks the truck door for her.
"Lets go, little Herder."
Arlene gets into the pickup and opens her textbook.
She bends over to shade him out with the black curtain of her hair.
"You look like my old uncle, you know?"
Uncle Jimmy says.
"Now thats a man could dance."
"You ever learn how to dance Cherokee style? Your
mothers Cocopah, I know, but I learned how to dance Cherokee style, all the styles,
when I was your age."
"I could stay at them powwows all day. Everybody
would go home without me."
Arlene lifts her head to the window and rolls her
eyes, but Uncle Jimmy wags his fingers inches from her cheek.
"You aint listening, little girl, are
"You are about just as white as you can be,
aint you? If we was living back in the Indian days, youd be the first one to
sell us out."
"Shut up, Uncle Jimmy, just cause I dont
dance? Its not even our tradition, its just a stupid show." Arlene jerks
forward and catches the dashboard with the palm of her hand when Uncle Jimmy slams the
breaks and pulls off the road.
When she hesitates, Uncle Jimmy leans across her and
opens the passenger door.
"Where are you going?" she says.
"None of your business."
Arlene slams the truck door, but holds on to the open
window frame. "Jesus, Uncle Jimmy, Im sorry, okay?"
He pries Arlenes fingers off the door frame one
by one and then puts the truck in gear.
Arlene starts running. Shes relieved not to have
her heavy backpack, but if it doesnt show up for school tomorrow Mr. Carver will
have her ass. After a mile she stops to check her time. Shes off by a minute and a
half, so she curses Uncle Jimmy out loud and pushes her speed for the next mile.
Inside the trailer, Shirley is sitting at the kitchen table with a plastic baggie on her
head. She says, "Hey, Arlene! Uncle Jimmys back!"
"Lice," Auntie Bettie says. She removes the
bag and lifts a soggy strand of Shirleys hair. She waves it at Arlene as if it were
a pointer stick. "Sent home for the third time this week for lice. I had to leave
work and get her again this morning."
Arlene goes to the bathroom and runs the water,
pretending to wash up, but instead sits on the toilet trying to think. But Auntie Bettie
keeps talking, shouting so Arlene can hear.
"If that damn nurse would check the rest of the
first graders heads, maybe shed find out where it was really coming
"Keep her home then."
"Home with who, you? Wheres your
"I dont know."
Auntie Bettie comes to the bathroom doorway holding
the lice comb in her hand. Arlene fixes her eyes on the little bits of inky shampoo
dripping onto the floor.
"What do you mean, you dont know?
Didnt you wait for him?"
"Yeah." Arlene takes her hair out of the
ponytail she has just made, turns to the mirror and busies herself with putting it up
again. "He dropped me off."
"Aw Jesus, Arlene, what the hell are you two
fighting about again?"
"Its not my fault." Arlene kicks the
bathroom door shut.
Auntie Bettie knocks. "Arlene." Knocks
Arlene sits on the edge of the bathtub and holds the
shower curtain against her ears until she hears Auntie Betties muffled footsteps,
the noise of her key chain.
"Finish this childs hair, Arlene!"
When the screen door slams, Arlene goes out to the
kitchen. Shirley is separating clumps of her hair, pulling out eggs. Arlene lifts her into
the bathtub and rests Shirleys head in her palm under the tap (its so light).
Shirley holds her nose so that her voice sounds silly and nasal.
"I got cooties from Abel," she says.
"Hes always trying to kiss me."
"So next time run away, runt."
Arlene wrings Shirleys hair out. Syrupy clumps
swirl around the drain. When Arlene lifts her out, she pouts, "Wheres Uncle
Jimmy?" Her breath smells like Doritos. Shirley drips water onto the bathroom
linoleum, scratches at her head, and begins to cry. Arlene presses the towel into her
face, pushing hard at her eyes, trying to shove the tears back into Shirleys chest.
"Ow." Shirley smacks at her.
"Youre hurting me, Arlene!"
In the kitchen, Shirley pours soda into a plastic cup
full of ice. She pours the soda in carefully, watching the foam fill up and almost spill
out of the top of the cup, then recede. But the bottle slips and pours out steadily onto
the kitchen floor. Shirley sits down in it, holding her emptied cup, and cries. Arlene
tries to lift her out of the mess so she can clean it up, but Shirley wont budge.
She sobs and kicks at Arlene, "I hate you," she whines, "I want Uncle
Shirley finally cheers up when she finds she has the
hiccups, and Arlene cleans up all the soda. Shirley is holding her nose and trying to
drink a glass of water at the same time when they hear Uncle Jimmys pickup out
front. Shirley bolts to the door. He scoops her up, "You still awake, little
woman?" Up high on his hip, Shirley leans her forehead into his and grins. When
Shirleys glasses slide down her nose onto Uncle Jimmys face, she giggles and
Arlene feels something sharp like envy. Jimmy sits on the couch and drops his feet onto
the coffee table, sending a flurry of congealed corned beef hash and paper plates flying
onto the carpet. He chugs a whole beer and gives a six-pack to Shirley to put in the
refrigerator. Arlene wonders out loud why he even bothers to refrigerate them. He opens
another with his key chain. The air bursts out and the cap falls to the floor. Shirley
chases after it like a firecracker with a trail of cold sparks flying after it.
"I thought you quit," Arlene says.
"I did. Its a beer, aint it? It
"I didnt say I was getting off beer now,
did I? What I said is that I was getting off liquor."
"Whatever," Arlene says.
"Like, Oh-my-God, whatever," the two of them
mock her. Jimmy squinches his lips up, rolls his eyes. Shirley flails around dramatically,
Arlene leaves the room.
"What you need," Uncle Jimmy calls. "Is
some cultural education."
The next day at school, while Mr. Carver is passing
out copies of Animal Farm, he pauses at Arlenes desk and places an office
referral in front of her.
"Busy social calendar, Ms. Horseherder?"
On the way to the office Arlene stops by
Freddies French class and waves at him through the door on the window. Freddie gets
a bathroom pass from Mr. Gaylords desk and comes out to link arms with her.
"Where joo going, Flacita? Its not
She hands him the note.
"Mira," he says, when they reach the
office door. "Its your favorite uncle." He slaps her rear, imitating Uncle
Jimmys nasally tones, "Buck up, Little Herder!" He kisses Arlene on the
cheek before walking back to French class.
When Arlene enters the office, Uncle Jimmy is holding
his hand out for the principal to shake.
"Healing Bear," he says.
Healing Bear? Arlene sits on the free chair. Please.
"Arlene," Principal Whitaker says,
"Were letting you go for a cultural activity."
"White Horse Inter-Tribal." Uncle Jimmy
smiles. The principals face breaks out in happiness.
"Youre taking me out of school to go to a
Arlene stands up, "Fine, fine, James."
And she tries to slam the door on Principal
Whitakers shiny pumps.
The powwow is in the run-down gymnasium at Maricopa Middle School. The parking lot is
packed with pickups and rusty old cars. Most look pieced together from twenty-year-old
parts. There's half a Ford with a VW door screwed and duct-taped on, and a pickup with a
bed made from two wooden doors sealed together. A woman in a booth is selling scraps of
buckskin and plastic bins full of turtle shells. Alcoholics Anonymous flyers are
stuffed in the metal trashcans with empty beer cans. Grand Entry doesn't start till three
hours later, so Arlene sits in the grass next to Uncle Jimmys empty booth, eating
gummy fry bread and drinking a coke. He sits behind an unadorned wooden frame with nothing
to sell. Hes breathing heavy in the sun, overweight and overheated, sitting there
with a stethoscope and a blood pressure pump around his neck.
"You should have gotten a sign or
something," Arlene suggests. Uncle Jimmy ignores her. Someone stops by, thinking he
is someone else.
"Aint you with the fire circle
Uncle Jimmy offers his hand. "Healing Bear,"
he says, "Im doing blood pressure checks. Im a medic."
Embarrassed, Arlene makes her way over to the lawn
chairs set up on the periphery of the dancing area. Her aunts, real and honorary, are
passing around plates of fry bread and repairing loosened tobacco tops that have fallen
off the smallest cousins jingle dress.
"Arlene," Auntie V says. She pulls
Arlenes head down to her own and kisses her on the forehead. "We was just
talking about you. I am so proud."
Auntie Opal motions to Jimmys booth,
"Whats your uncle up to over there?"
"Hes a paramedic now." Arlene
cant help it; her eyes seem to roll of their own volition.
"Maybe hell stick with it," Auntie
Opal says, "Start treating your poor auntie right."
"Doubtful," Arlene says.
Auntie V offers around a plate of fry bread.
"Arlenes a half-empty type of person."
"Theres nothing in the glass so far as I
can see," Arlene says.
"Well the roots are deep," Auntie
Carmen says, "Whats an Indian without his land, thats an Indian without
roots, and how the hell can you stand up in the world without your feet planted in
"That aint it," Auntie V says,
"You just inherited the same story we all got, Arlene."
"Lemme tell you now, my father, he calls me from
some rehab center, from the pay phone where all the sorry-ass injuns call up their kids
and tell them how everythings gonna be different now that they are sober, and all of
fifteen minutes! Calls me up and says, Im sorry, you forgive me? I aint
gonna drink no more. He calls me from that pay phone not four, not five, but six
times, and Im all of eight years old. "Here I come, he says
Im coming home to see you, you just wait. Wait for me, now. So
theres me on the steps of our trailer, waiting, because of those goddamn
"We learned it from the white man," Auntie
Carmen interrupts, "how to use those words. Dont cost you nothing. Just stay
here, take these horses, we gonna give you all this land and you dont got to worry
about nothing. Here, take these blankets, sign right here under these words, here I come,
you just wait. Yeah, you just wait until the buffalo start flyin'."
She leans back in her beach chair and the sun skips
across her tar-colored hair. Arlene notices jealously that its so liquid-shiny, the
crown of her head actually reflects the sun. A giant fist points out from her
T-shirt. Free Leonard Peltier! it shouts.
"Hush up, Carmen, would ya?" Auntie Opal
takes Arlene by the shoulders. "My point is, words are shit. And theyre shit
because theyre everything. Like any magic, they can turn on you."
"Oh for Christs sake, what has Arlene got
to be so bitter about? Who cares about that crap?" Auntie V hugs Arlene.
"Youre going to Yale, girl. And the bottom line is," she points at each of
the women, "I aint never heard a none a you injuns going to Yale."
When Auntie V lets Arlene out of the hug, a terrible
silence has spread out among the dancers. The Fancy Shawl dancers are standing still in a
little clump under the basketball hoop, their bright red shawls and beaded fringe drooping
onto the floor. A very old man in a blue lamé vest and turkey feathers is trying urgently
to get out of his chair at the judges table. "Oh my God," Auntie Opal whispers.
The fry bread tumbles out of her lap when she stands, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!"
At the top row of benches on the bleachers, a young
Indian man is swaying with his eyes closed. He still holds a beer in his hand. Hes
drifting forward, drifting back, as if in deep, kinetic meditation. Groups of people are
running up the stairs toward him, climbing over seats two at a time. A young woman has
almost reached him when Arlene hears someone screaming. The man's hat falls off, bouncing
down the bleachers, and then he follows, doing an entire flip off the side of the stands
before landing on his back beside the bleachers.
"Christ, he must have passed out." Auntie
Opal winces, and they all watch Uncle Jimmy lumbering across the powwow grounds toward the
The sun is beginning to go down and they are calling
for War Dancers when Uncle Jimmy finally returns from the hospital. He has ridden in the
ambulance as if he was a relative and Arlene wonders what the poor man thought when he
came to. People greet Uncle Jimmy like hes just scored a touchdown, patting him on
the back and walking up to shake his hand. The emcee waves him over and asks him to say a
few words to the crowd. Uncle Jimmy leans over the microphone and bows his head solemnly.
He says, "The most important thing in the world
to me is my people."
"Lets hear it for Healing Bear!" the
emcee says and everyone cheers and does the wave for him. Auntie Opal looks at Arlene.
Arlene rides home with the aunts, and by the time she
steps into the trailer, Auntie Bettie and Shirley have already heard several versions.
"Did Uncle Jimmy really catch the guy?"
"Jesus, of course not," Arlene says,
"It was a full-grown man, the same size as Uncle Jimmy."
"But he saved him, right?"
"Yeah," Arlene says, "FryBread
Arlene stays with Shirley so Auntie Bettie can go
celebrate with Uncle Jimmy. She helps Shirley make fish sticks, and then carries her to
bed. Shirley lifts her head from the crook of Arlenes shoulder and says in a groggy
voice, "Tell Uncle Jimmy when he gets home, he can wake me up."
But when Auntie Bettie finally returns, shes
alone. "Bastard," she slurs, "Goddamn useless drunk." And then she
passes out on the couch where Uncle Jimmy usually sleeps. Arlene shakes a blanket over her
and then sits on the floor in front of her. Auntie Bettie cares enough about Uncle Jimmy
to get falling down drunk over him. Arlene cant think of anyone she needs so much.
She puts her sweats on and runs out to the edge of the road, then as far as the gas
station, then down the highway until her sweat begins to chill her. It strikes her that
Uncle Jimmy has saved someone. Saved a life. Another useless drunk like himself, but still
a life. And what has she done? Run around in circles for no reason, studied analogies?
What use will she be when she gets back from as far away and as strange a place as
Connecticut, filled up with nonsense or full of meaningless platitudes like Auntie Carmen?
She keeps running till she finds herself panting
outside the Greyhound station. She studies the schedule as if it were a dinner menu,
finally picking Tucson because its the cheapest, and slides her money under the
plexiglass window. But almost as soon as the bus pulls out of the lot, Arlenes heart
speeds up. A heat crawls up the back of her neck and lingers at the top of her head. Out
here alone, or on her way to being alone, she feels as if shes spinning
uncontrollably. There's nothing to hold her together, no boundaries to close her in. What
am I? she thinks. Nothing? Nothing multiplied? She makes her way to the front
of the bus.
"Excuse me sir," she says, "Could you
"Theres a bathroom in the back," he
"No, I mean could you let me off."
"I made a mistake," she says, "Im
on the wrong bus, sir."
"Youll have to switch up when we get
"Youve got to let me out of here!"
He looks over at her slowly, his face bored.
"Suit yourself," he says, and pulls the bus to the side of the road.
By the time she has run all the way home, shes
exhausted. She curls up next to Auntie Bettie on the couch and falls into a hard,
Its funny how it doesnt startle her, the steady knocking like an alarm going
off. It begins gently, and grows to a crescendo. Auntie Bettie doesnt stir. Arlene
places her hands and forehead on the front door. It buckles inward, as Uncle Jimmy bangs
and kicks it, making little swords of light through the cracks at the bottom.
"Fuck," he says, "A man has a right to
come into his own house!" She can see from the violent shaking where his fists are
hitting the door, and she lays her hands on the spots as his fists move. When the knocking
has ceased for a good five minutes, she opens the door. He is passed out at the bottom of
the four rickety metal steps attached to the trailer. He wears a jacket with an elaborate
Navajo design on the back. It has hitched up over his shoulders and covers his ballooned
Arlene sits on the bottom step, pulls her T-shirt over
her knees, and hugs herself in the night chill. She pushes lightly on Uncle Jimmys
sleeping body with her bare foot and talks to him. "Will you save me, Uncle
Jimmy?" she asks him. "Catch me if I fall off some bleachers? When I pass out on
the quad in the middle of some cold Connecticut night, whos gonna come out and keep me
She pulls her arms inside the sleeves of her shirt,
wraps her cold fingers around her waist and feels the rigid fence of her ribs. After a
while, Shirleys bare feet pad down the steps and stop behind Arlene. She wraps her
arms around Arlenes shoulders and squeezes. "Lets sleep out here,"
In the late morning, after Auntie Bettie has emptied
the entire bottle of aspirin into her purse, she steps right over Uncle Jimmy, carrying
the sleeping Shirley, and goes to work at the lab.
But he is gone when they get home. Arlene and Shirley
try to talk to Auntie Bettie, who sits and smokes at the kitchen table with a hand of
solitaire laid out before her. Shirley tugs on her. "Leave me be," she says,
"Im trying to think. Cant you see Im trying to think?"
When Arlene gets home late from Tuesday track
practice, she finds Auntie Bettie and Shirley sitting on the couch. Auntie Bettie holds
the cut-off notice for the gas and electric, the overdue phone bill, and the notices to
appear in court. She squeezes them tightly. "Thats it," she says,
"hes not getting another drop from me. As far as Im concerned, he can rot
in hell." Shirley begins to cry. Arlene picks her up and takes her into the bedroom.
She braids and unbraids Shirleys hair until she falls asleep.
When he finally does return, it is Shirley who answers the door. She peeks out of a little
crack, the chain lock still attached, smiles, and unlocks the door.
Auntie Bettie is washing dishes in the kitchen. The
table is littered with spilled pork and beans and hot dog rolls. "What do you want,
Jimmy?" Auntie Bettie picks up one of Shirleys Ronald McDonald collector
glasses and starts scrubbing it way too hard with a dishrag. A whiteness climbs up her
fingers from pressing so hard. Jimmy goes into the kitchen, slips his arm around her
waist, pulling her close.
Shirley stays frozen in the doorway. "Hey,
stupid," Arlene says, "stop staring." She nestles under Arlenes
shoulder. Arlene squeezes both of Shirleys braids, holding on tight, for what might
"Im sorry," Uncle Jimmy says quietly,
Like he means it, Arlene thinks, silently
rooting for him.
He is so close to Auntie Betties face, but she
turns away from him.
"God, Jimmy, cant you ever come here
sober?" She flicks her hair back from where it has swirled around her elbows and the
staticky black strands float up around her face like the gypsy in the fortuneteller box.
"I dont want to hate you, Jimmy."
"Dont," he says.
"I cant afford a babysitter, and I
cant keep sending the kids over to Opals. I got to be embarrassed for you,
Jimmy, making up excuses and trying to find my way out of the messes you get us in. I
cant even be angry with you. I dont got any of that left in me. I just
dont want you here no more. You only make it worse for me."
Shirley reaches up and holds onto Arlenes arm.
They stay together in the hallway, watching.
"Im changing, Bettie. Bettie Marie? I
dont know what got in to me. I just wanted to get a little breathing room is all. I
swear." He takes her hand in his, kisses the top of her head.
"Jimmy..." Auntie Bettie is almost crying,
"Jimmy, quit it."
He kisses her cheek, her forehead.
When they come out of the back room, Shirley and
Arlene are on the couch. Shirley has fallen asleep in the noise of cartoons. Her head
rests in Arlenes lap and her eyelashes flick like two little moth wings around a
light in her face. Jimmy brushes his hand across her cheek, and tilts Arlenes chin
"Guess who loves me now?" he says.