MOUSE IS DEAD. Those words had gone through my mind every morning
for three months. Mouse is dead because of me.
When I sat up, Bonnie rolled her shoulder and sighed in her sleep.
The sky through our bedroom window was just beginning to
The image of Raymond, his eyes open and unseeing, lying stockstill
on EttaMae's front lawn, was still in my mind. I lurched out of bed
and stumbled to the bathroom. My feet hurt every morning, too, as
if I had spent all night walking, searching for EttaMae, to ask her
where she'd taken Ray after carrying him out of the hospital.
So he was still alive? I asked a nurse who had been on duty
that evening. No, she said flatly. His pulse was gone. The head
nurse had just called the doctor to pronounce him dead when that
crazy woman hit Arnold in the head with a suture tray and took Mr.
Alexander's body over her shoulder.
I wandered into the living room and pulled the sash to open the
drapes. Red sunlight glinted through the ragged palms at the end of
our block. I had never wept over Raymond's demise, but that
tattered light reflected a pain deep in my mind.
IT TOOK ME over half an hour to get dressed. No two socks
matched and every shirt seemed to be the wrong color. While I was
tying my shoes Bonnie woke up.
"What are you doing, Easy?" she asked. She had been born in British
Guyana but her father was from Martinique, so there was the music
of the French language in her English accent. "Gettin' dressed," I
said. "Where are you going?"
"Where you think I'ma be goin' at this time'a day? To work." I was
feeling mean because of that red light in the far-off sky. "But
it's Saturday, baby." "What?"
Bonnie climbed out of the bed and hugged me. Her naked skin was
firm and warm.
I pulled away from her. "You want some breakfast?" I asked. "Maybe
a little later," she said. "I didn't get in from Idlewild until two
this morning. And I have to go back out again today." "Then you go
to bed," I said. "You sure? I mean... did you need to talk?" "Naw.
Nuthin's wrong. Just stupid is all. Thinkin' Saturday's a workday.
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked. "Yeah. Sure I am." Bonnie
had a fine figure. And she was not ashamed to be seen naked.
Looking at her pulling on those covers reminded me of why I fell
for her. If I hadn't been so sad, I would have followed her back
under those blankets.
FEATHER'S LITTLE YELLOW DOG, Frenchie, was hiding somewhere,
snarling at me while I made sausages and eggs. He was the love of
my little girl's life, so I accepted his hatred. He blamed me for
the death of Idabell Turner, his first owner; I blamed myself for
the death of my best friend.
I WAS SITTING at breakfast, smoking a Chesterfield and
wondering if EttaMae had moved back down to Houston. I still had
friends down there in the Fifth Ward. Maybe if I wrote to Lenora
Circel and just dropped a line about Etta --- say hi to Etta for
me or give Etta my love. Then when she wrote back I might learn
something. "Hi, Dad."
My hand twitched, flicking two inches of cigarette ash on the eggs.
Jesus was standing there in front of me. "I told you not to sneak
up on me like that, boy." "I said hi," he explained.
The eggs were ruined but I wasn't hungry. And I couldn't stay mad
at Jesus, anyway. I might have taken him in when he was a child,
but the truth was that he had adopted me. Jesus worked hard at
making our home run smoothly, and his love for me was stronger than
"What you doin' today?" I asked him. "Nuthin'. Messin' around."
"Sit down," I said.
Jesus didn't move the chair as he sat, because there was enough
room for him to slide in under the table. He never wasted a
movement --- or a word. "I wanna drop out of high school," he said.
His dark eyes stared into mine. He had the smooth, eggshellbrown
skin and the straight black hair of people who had lived in the
Southwest for thousands of years. "It's only a year and a half till
you graduate," I said. "A diploma will help you get a job. And if
you keep up with track, you could get a scholarship to UCLA."
He looked down at my hands. "Why?" I asked. "I don't know," he
said. "I just don't wanna be there. I don't wanna be there all the
time." "You think I like goin' to work?" "You like it enough," he
said. " 'Cause if you didn't like it, you'd quit."
I could see that he'd made up his mind, that he'd thought about
this decision for a long time. He probably had the papers for me to
sign under his bed.
I was about to tell him no, that he'd have to stick out the year at
least. But then the phone rang. It was a loud ringer, especially at
sixthirty in the morning.
While I limped to the counter Jesus left on silent bare feet.
"Hello?" "Easy?" It was a man's voice. "John? Is that you?"
"I'm in trouble and I need you to do me a favor," John said all in
a rush. He'd been practicing just like Jesus. My heart quickened.
The little yellow dog stuck his nose out from under the kitchen
I don't know if it was an old friend's voice or the worry in his
tone that got to me. But all of a sudden I wasn't miserable or sad.
"What you need, John?"
"Why'ont you come over to the lots, Easy? I wanna look you in the
eye when I tell ya what we want." "Oh," I said, thinking about we
and the fact that whatever John had to say was too serious to be
discussed over the phone. "Sure. As soon as I can make it."
I hung up with a giddy feeling running around my gut. I could feel
the grin on my lips. "Who was that?" Bonnie asked. She was standing
at the door to our bedroom, half wrapped in a terry-cloth robe. She
was more beautiful than any man could possibly deserve.
"John." "The bartender?" "Do you have to leave today?" I asked.
"Sorry. But after this trip I'll have a whole week off." "I can't
wait that long," I said. I gathered her up in my arms and carried
her back into the bedroom. "Easy, what are you doing?" I tossed her
on the bed and then closed the door to the kitchen. I took off my
pants and stood over her.
"Easy, what's got into you?"
The look on my face was answer enough for any arguments she might
have had about the children or her need for sleep.
I couldn't have explained my sudden passion. All I knew was the
smell of that woman, her taste and texture on my skin and tongue,
was something I had never known before in my life. It was as if I
discovered sex for the first time that morning.
Excerpted from BAD BOY BRAWLY BROWN © Copyright 2002 by
Walter Mosley. Reprinted with permission by Warner Books. All