Jon Carr

At 4 am she found herself under the Broadway Bridge, Mrs. Harney said. Mama said that the woman got no right talking about who done what and where. Mrs. Harney come from a good family, Mama said, but they all gone now. Just poor old Mrs. Harney left. I wondered where families go, I been thinking about that. Mrs. Harney lives in a nice house. She got pretty lace on the windows and Mama keeps it so clean your sneakers squeak on the floor. I go to Mrs. Harney's after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That's when Mama cleans. But Mama only really cleans in the morning. After lunch she just usually talks with Mrs. Harney. Mama says Mrs. Harney's a lonely old woman. I ask Mama why Mrs. Harney ain't got people visiting her? Mama tells me ain't ain't a word.

I never told Mama, but I have bad dreams about Mrs. Harney. She got these old pictures all over the house, pictures of pretty white people like from old movies. I ask Mama who they are and she tells me they are Mr. and Mrs. Harney and her babies. I ask Mama where they all at now and she tells me that Mr. Harney's in the 56th street cemetery and all those babies all grown up and moved to Arizona where it don't ever rain. I ain't scared of Mrs. Harney when Mama's there. Mama gives me snack and I just listen to Mama and Mrs. Harney talk. Mrs. Harney's lived a lot of years and she always got something to say. When she talks, her eyes are always wide open and full of white. Her mouth's pink, but soft where all her teeth fell out like a baby's. When Mrs. Harney's talking and real mean, I look at her mouth where everything's soft.

She was a floozy, Mrs. Harney said, down under the bridge just waiting like she had no place to go. Mrs. Harney's always talking about floozies. And when we were walking home I asked Mama what a floozy was. Mama told me to never mind. She said that Mrs. Harney's got lots of stories and that they all as old as she is and there ain't never no reason for me to worry about any of them cause they just stories. I told Mama that ain't ain't a word.

In my dream, Mrs. Harney is under the bridge with the floozy. It's big with colors like a peacock and green eyes.

Mrs. Harney says that the floozy got herself there cause of what she done. That it was her fault. And Mrs. Harney shuts up mean after she says it, just sitting there with her mouth shut and her eyes half closed, breathing loud in her nose. There ain't a soft spot on her. Mama says that sometimes mistakes happen. Mrs. Harney says that that floozy got to lie in the bed she made.

I asked Mama why Mrs. Harney's so mean. She says that sometimes life makes people mean, that sometimes people just start wrong and can't ever get right. I ask Mama what wrong Mrs. Harney done. Mama told me it weren't that easy, that there just ain't one thing. I asked Mama if there were two things or four. I told Mama she could tell me and I'd understand even if it was a lot of things. But Mama didn't think I'd understand.

Mrs. Harney's trying to catch the floozy in my dream. She's calling it in her scratchy old voice. She's trying to sound nice, but the floozy knows better. The floozy knows how mean old Mrs. Harney is and is getting ready to fly away.

I always wake up from my Mrs. Harney dream scared. Sometimes the house is so dark and quiet I start to thinking that Mrs. Harney's in the house with us, with me and Mama. I know Mrs. Harney ain't really there, but in the dark you can't see what's real and what ain't. Sometimes it takes a long time before I can go to sleep. I just lie there quiet. I hold my breath for a while and listen for Mrs. Harney, shut-up cold and breathing through her nose. I think a lot about where families go and start feeling sad for Mrs. Harney. But I can't sleep when I'm sad so mostly I think about the floozy. I think about it flying all the way to Arizona where it never rains. And Arizona's where Mrs. Harney's babies live, all grown up now but pretty as in the pictures. I think about Mrs. Harney's family and the floozy all dry and in the sun.

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