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Same Blood

Houghton Mifflin
        1989

Ballantine Books
 February, 1990

Excerpt:

Part One,
Chapter 1


Page 1

I’VE JUST ABOUT always cleaned houses for a livin’. Now I clean Mrs. Butler’s full time. I git $5 an hour and Mrs. Butler complains all the time. She says things like, “It was three after when you came in, dear. I hope you take that into consideration.” On Fridays, she don’t talk to me till after she’s paid. Then she’ll go on ’bout what needs to be done the next week. How she puts it, she won’t pay for talkin’. But I pay for listenin’. That’s how it is. I gotta clean. I ain’t got a husband and I got a kid, Bubby. He’s three. And he wants me more’n I got to give him. But we live in a good place, right on Main Street in Hazel over the hardware store. We got three big rooms, one been made into a kitchen. It’s good for Bubby ’cause he can’t hurt nothin’—the floor, it’s linoleum.

I don’t clean much after I come home. I said to Adele—she come in after we went down to Joey’s for pizza—I says to her, “I git all my cleanin’ urges outa me by the time I git home, so I ain’t tempted here to succumb.” ’Cause succumb it is when I git goin’ at Mrs. Butler’s. I take her on. I turn fanatic, cleanin’ what’s already clean. My place, you can’t git clean, it ain’t the type. It’s been old too long, you vacuum the windowsill and the paint, it come off in strips. The linoleum is the old kind in squares and most of ’em is raised up on the edge, which Bubby likes ’cause he runs his race cars along ’em like they’re streets with square turns like in Cartsdale, where the policeman got us for Bubby not settin’ in a car seat. Bubby took out his gun and shouted, “Stick ’em up!” and ever since, that policeman, he’s been in one of Bubby’s cars. So anyway, my floor’s dirty, with that kind of linoleum nothin’ you can do. But it don’t matter, my rooms are big and we got lots of windows and the ones that ain’t picture windows I open wide and I set down on the blue denim couch in my kitchen and listen to the trucks go by.

Sometimes while I’m settin’ there, Bubby’ll say, “You be Bubby, I be Daddy,” and then he talks real low, “I’m goin’ to work,” he says and gits his red jacket on and he gits on his horse, though he’s gotta keep one foot down ’cause the springs is broken, and he says, “Cry!” and I cry. He tells

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