First published in Deep South Magazine.
His frame was square, his head a lump of coal, and his arms hung like sausages from his shoulders. No one knew where he’d come from or where he stayed. He’d just show up mornings in tattered trousers and a faded shirt and wait at the widow’s back door with a hoe in hand.
“H’lo, Willie,” I’d say.
His jaw would rise and he’d nod, his droopy eyes taking no notice of my presence. He’d stand there, sometimes for a while, his back straight, his head bowed, and his hands steadfast on the tool at his side.
By and by a door would open and from the shadows she’d issue instructions to him in a gravely whisper, his slick head bobbing after each command, followed by “yes ’am, yes ’am,” in subdued slurs.
On his hands and knees he’d start in the flower beds, his arms tossing weeds onto the summer grasses behind his scrawny bottom. And with the precision of an hour hand he’d inch around the house, his glistening biceps in constant motion.
In the shade nearby I’d watch and listen to his grunts and sighs and from time to time a soft, plaintive spiritual would fill the deep green summer air….
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