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him.OneSaturdayevening,though,Ifinishedmilkingthecowandcarriedthebucketuptotheporch,whereJohnBlainwasalwayssquatting,hiselbowsonhis
knees,asstillasaplantputtingoutroots.Hestoodwhenhesawmecomingandmadetoopenthedoorforme.
"Icanopenthedoormyself,"Itoldhim.
Heletgoofthedoor,wrappedahandaroundmyskinnybicepsandclampedtight."Whyareyousuchabrat,Regina?"heasked.Hisbreathsmelledlikewhiskey,a
bottleofwhichI'dseenhimhide
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inthecrotchoftheappletreenexttothebarn.''Yourmaissonice,andyou'resodamnedmean."
Myarmwasstartingtohurt,butwhenItwistedtofreemyselfhetightenedhisgrip.WhenIkickedhimadozentimeshardenoughtobruisehisshins,hesqueezed
tighterstill.Inoticedwhite,drysaltaroundtheedgesofthesweatmarksontheneckandarmpitsofhisTshirt."Whatdoyouwant?"Iasked.
"Alittlerespect.Akindword,maybe.Foryourma'ssake."
"I'vegottostrainthemilk.Letmego."
"Themilk'llwait.Lifeistooshorttobesomean,Reg."
Hisgripexhaustedme.Hewasonlyahalffoottallerthanme,butIcouldn'tcomenearmatchinghisstrength.Whentearsthreatenedtodropovertheedgesofmy
eyes,Iturnedawayandlookedwest,overmygarden,towardthehot,dirtysun.Iletoutmybreathinatiredsigh.JohnBlainleanedtowardmeandthenkissedmy
mouth.Hislipsonlyjusttouchedmine,thenhepulledawaywithalookofsurpriseonhisface.Isloshedmilkontotheporchandonmyshoes,andhefollowedme
intothekitchen."I'msorry,Reg.Idon'tknowwhathappened."
"Gotohell!"Iscreamed.Heshookhisheadandwentbackoutontotheporch,holdingthedoorsoitdidn'tslam.Isetupmymilkfunnelandfilter,butIcouldhardly
see.Ikeptknockingthehallgallonbottleover,andfinallyIjustleftitallonthetable.Ripleyjumpedupandstarteddrinkingrightoutofthebucket.
Afterthat,JohnBlainkeptadistancefromme,asthoughwe'dcometosomekindofunderstanding.ThenextdayheboughtmetheDetroitSundaypaper,andhe
continuedtobuyiteveryweek,soIcouldspendSundayafternoonsreadingandrefoldingeachpart.Hewantedonlythecrosswordpuzzle.OneSunday,whileIwas
readingatthekitchentable,MomandJohnBlainweresittinginthelivingroomwhereIcouldhearthem.
"She'sabeautifulgirl,youknow,"hesaid,injustaboveawhisper.
"She'stwelve,"saidMom.
"Butithappenedjustlikethat,"hesaidandsnappedhisfingers."Allofasudden,she'sbeautiful."
"Iwasbeautiful,andwhere'ditgetme?"
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"Whatdoyoumean'was'?Anymanwouldtradehissoulforachancetogazeintothatfreckledfaceofyours.I'lldiehappy,woman,solongasIdiewithyourhair
twistedaroundme."
Momlaughedwithpleasure.WhenIdaredlookatthemfromthekitchen,JohnBlainwasbackathiscrossword,andMomhadfallenasleeponthecouch.
Afterdinner,Iusuallyworkedinthegarden,pullingweedsandpickingvegetablestosellthenextday.Momdidthedinnerdishes.JohnBlain,whenhewasn't
working,wouldgooutontheporchandsquatdown,andsmokecigaretteslikeacowboyatacamporasoldierstayinglowtoavoidenemyfire.BothheandMom
lookedwest,Mom'sfaceblurrythroughthewindowscreenoverthesink,JohnBlain'soutintheopeninclearfocus.BythetimeIfinishedinthegarden,Momand
JohnBlainwouldhavestarteddrinkingjugwine,eithersittingatthepicnictableontheporch,orelseinthekitchenifthemosquitosgotbad.They'dbereadingor
playingcardsorJohnBlainwouldbedoingthecrossword,andthenafterawhile,fornoreason,they'dstartarguingandaccusingeachother.SometimesMomwould
tellhimtogetthehellout,butJohnBlainknewaswellasIdidthatthiswasherwayoftestingwhetherornothewasgoingtostay.Itooktogoingtobedevenearlier
soIwouldn'thavetohearthem.Iftheycarriedtheirargumentuptothebedroomnexttomine,I'dgoouttothebarntosleepwithJessie.Bythenextdaytheyalways
seemedtohaveforgottenwhateveritwasthathadmadethemfight.
Ididn'tneedanalarmclocktowakeupeachmorningbetweenfivethirtyandsix,andI'ddothechoresfirstthing.OftenI'dcomeacrossJohnBlainlyinginaheap
somewhere.OnceIfoundhimoutsidemyroom,andafewtimeshewasonthekitchenfloor,butmoreoftenI'dfindhimoutside,asthoughhe'dtriedtoleaveusbut
collapsedfromtheeffort.Mostofthetimehe'dbenorthofthehouse,uptheincline.Thefarthestheevermadeitwasintothepastureandtotherowofwhitepines
thatmadethepropertyline.I'dsay,"Getup,you,"andifhedidn't,I'dnudgehimwithmyfoot,thenstandnearbyuntilhesloggedoff.
Thedayhemadeittothepinetrees,Ididn'tfindhimuntiltheafternoon.WhenIcameinfromthevegetablestandforlunch,
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Momwasfidgeting,notdrinkingthecoffeeshe'dpoured.SoIhuntedaroundandfoundhimlyingawakeonthemoss,hishandslockedacrosshisbelly."Iknewyou'd
findmeifIwaited,"hesaid."I'mgladyoudon'thatemeanymore."Weregardedeachother,JohnBlainsmiling,myselfdeterminednottosmile.
"Mom'sworried.Shethinksyouleft."
"Shecanseemycar'sstillhere,"hesaid."I'mnotgoingtoleaveher,Reg,soyoumayaswellgetusedtome."Hesupportedhimselfononeelbowwhilehelita
cigarette.Iprobablylookedskeptical,andmaybeIrolledmyeyes."Iswear,Reg,I'mnotleavingyourma,"hesaid,lookingrightatme.Wewalkedbacktothe
house,keepingadistancebetweenus.Probablymydadhadpromisedtostaytoo.
JohnBlainfixedthepasturefenceduringthelastweekofAugust.It'dbeendownintwoplaces onewhereatreehadfallenonit,theotherwhereacornerposthad [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]