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Simon and Naomi.

God writes long letters and mails them postage due to come early one morning in the May of my childhood. We didn't have a box buried with our name in black letters embellishing the roadsides of this one-stop Greyhound town of mostly white folks and cemeteries, fenced in to keep dogs from digging up the dead.

One day a week we walked in lines for miles like soldiers waiting for mail call time in the name of general delivery. Sadly disappointed - most of the time - there was none. Only God knows how far back off the road we lived

down the way apiece from Simon and Naomi Jones. Simon was a crazy man with crazy ideas about everything and nothing but odd jobs and mules strong enough to pull the days of the week apart. The only thing he could count was money.

Naomi was wild as an unbroken Appaloosa, half-Indian half-spirit, and half whatever she needed to see in the voodoo eyes of the nightwalkers and talkers that haunted the dirty roads leading to everywhere and nowhere

where us shack people lived, worked, and died in cracks covered with yellow newspaper stories we could barely read by a lamplight tin roof raining buckets of fresh water into a backporch-pond swimming with frogs

and snakes long enough to wrap around second base so no one would dare steal home in the seventh inning of a tie game. It was a time of shoeboxes and baseball cards, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Roger Maris hit 61 HRs in 1961, the year of Kennedy

was the year of my clearest childhood memory of Simon jumping out of the schoolhouse window, Mr. Clean can still in hand because God called him on the loud-speaker. "Simon, you ready?"

But Simon wasn't ready to see God yet, so he jumped three stories told on a late night radio Lone Ranger and Tonto was in the room that night, the next night and every night listening to Naomi's tales of the dead who walked our road, veiled in a haze, looking for souls to steal like the time we stole eggs

from Simon's hen house 'cause we wanted the taste of morning sunshine over yellow welfare grits and catfish eyes sliced sideways to make sure

they didn't fall off the plate because I hate to eat off of the floor when people are looking at us standing there waiting and waiting for Miss Irene, the mail lady, to hand us two letters marked postage due. So we paid 5 cents apiece for the price of knowing what we didn't want to know

that the Governor was writing us asking for donations and votes we were too poor to give a damn who won what or what won who.

Who were these postcard people nailed to the Post Office Wall? Faces long as a day's work, watching Simon mow the graves and yards of white folks making sure he didn't step on the faces of the dead.

As I said, the letter read and read on into the night. We turned the pages and turned the radio knob looking for a ballgame until we found one every night that summer.

In the background Simon was always walking the roads of my childhood wearing farm overalls, that red ball cap and sideways rundown shoes sliding off the highway. Naomi was just standing there wearing too many clothes for the weather, trying to figure which way the wind was blowing tomorrow.

And as you can imagine, we didn't go to the Post Office for a long time after that. And when we finally did, must've been the October World Series of that year. We didn't tip our hats to God or the Governor of North Carolina.
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Author:Braggs, Earl S.
Publication:African American Review
Date:Dec 22, 1994
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