Praise Jerusalem!

Praise Jerusalem!

Augusta Trobaugh

$14.95 March 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61194-018-3

A compelling story about race relations that explores the complex relationships between white families and their black hired help.

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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Fans of southern novels that explore the complex relationships between white families and their black hired help will find a compelling story about race relations in PRAISE JERUSALEM!. Amelia, an aging Georgia matron forced by money woes to move in with two other women--outlandishly preachy Maybelline and take-no-nonsense Mamie, who is black--begins to confront her childhood memories of the black women who worked for her family. Their lives, both tragic and yet sublimely proud, haunt Amelia even now, as she searches for a way to make peace with the sorrows she innocently observed.

PRAISE JERUSALEM! is a rare mix of poignant drama but also wry humor. Both the elder Amelia and her childhood self are primly rebellious and irrepressible; Amelia's sharp eye for petty human foibles never fails her.


"A perfect balance of richness and delicacy... I found something to amaze and delight me on every page.” -- Bailey White, National Public Radio commentator and author of Quite a Year for Plums.

"Augusta Trobaugh is a daring and insightful writer.” -- Janice Daugharty, author of Earl in the Yellow Shirt

"Trobaugh grounds her rich first novel with salty dialogue and earthy realism.” -- Publishers Weekly

"A writer of extraordinary talent and skill.” -- BOOKLIST

"A new voice from and for the South, as complex and resonant as the region itself.” -- Anne Rivers Siddons


Looking back on that evening, especially knowing I had to tell Maybelline she'd have to find someplace else to live, I have to wonder why I was so surprised at what happened. Because the truth of the matter is that I should have expected all sorts of unusual things. But I didn't. Shows you what a fool I was.

After supper, we washed up the dishes and went out to sit on the front porch, just like always, and Maybelline started right in with her mumblings like she always did—evening prayers, I guess, but I never did know for sure because I'd never been able to make out much of whatever it was she mumbled. Except, every once in a long while, something like "Sure do praise Your name!” or "shed Your precious blood!”

I was thinking of that cold January day when she came up my front steps, grinning and hollering, "THE LORD DONE SAID FOR ME TO MOVE IN WITH YOU!” with a big wad of chewing gum in her mouth and carrying all those hatboxes and wearing that awful Shirley Temple wig! And what a bitter cold day it was, right in the dead of winter, and her not even wearing a coat, but only that moth-eaten old bunny-fur jacket she set so much store in and black rubber galoshes and her trying to balance the umbrella and the hatboxes and working that gum with a vengeance. And me wondering what on earth I'd gotten myself into!

Knew before that, of course, about Maybelline not having had any advantages. Knew it just from listening to her, something I had done every Thursday morning when I went to Edna's for my shampoo and set. Because Edna had taken Maybelline in—like a stray cat—one summer when, as Edna told it, Maybelline's "husband”—Edna hesitated over the word just enough to let me know she hadn't seen any ring on Maybelline's finger—stopped his pickup truck in front of the Gulf station at the corner of the highway and Main Street, opened the passenger door, and pushed Maybelline right out. The truck had Florida plates and a bumper sticker that read "I love my dog and my woman—in that order.”

"Threw her suitcase out after her and drove off just as neat as you please. Never even turned around to look behind him, so I hear.” That's what Edna said, later. And old Dove, who was working at the Gulf station back then and saw it happen, called Mr. Charlie—Edna's husband—who'd been Chief of Police for as long as anyone could remember. By the time Mr. Charlie got there, Maybelline was sitting on her suitcase beside the highway, watching up the road like any minute the truck would come back. Edna said she bet he'd done it to her before. Put her out on the highway and then come back and gotten her when he cooled down some.

But this time, he didn't. Mr. Charlie went out to the side of the highway and stood there and talked with her for the longest kind of time. Later on, he told Edna that one of the first things he thought was that this woman was no spring chicken, sure enough. Probably in her late forties or early fifties. Old enough, anyway, to have more sense than to take up with a man who'd treat her like that. They talked for a long time, and then Mr. Charlie just took her elbow real easy-like and she stood up, like a child doing whatever it was told. He carried her suitcase and walked her back to his patrol car, and then, because he didn't know what else to do with her, he took her home to Edna.

That's how Maybelline came to live with Edna and how Edna taught her how to cut and style hair and put in permanents, so she'd have a way to make a living and be able to take care of herself. So she wouldn't have to worry about being thrown out of any man's truck again. I always thought that was a good, Christian thing Edna did for Maybelline, taking in a stranger like that. Better than I could have done.

One Thursday morning, when I went to Edna's to have my hair set, I heard Maybelline talking to someone she was working on in the other chair, and listening to her is how I knew for a fact that she didn't have any education or upbringing at all. And, too, that was about the time Maybelline started in to wearing that terrible-looking wig all made up of plastic-looking blonde curls. The Shirley Temple wig, we all called it, but not so Maybelline could hear us of course.

"That's an unusual name—Maybelline—isn't it?” someone getting a permanent inquired of her.

"Yes, ma'am, it sure is.” Maybelline was most amiable about it. "My real name is Maybell, after my mama and her mama before her. But when my mama up and run off like she done, my daddy took to calling me Maybelline, 'cause he said all my mama left behind her was me and a old eyebrow pencil.”

That's another way I knew she hadn't had any advantages, saying something like that right out and not having sense enough to be embarrassed about it. What I didn't realize, though, was that Maybelline sometimes listened to what I was saying, even when I was speaking in a very personal way and only to Edna. Or so I thought. That's how it all got started that Maybelline came to live with me.

Because it wasn't long after Maybelline first came to Edna's that I began to realize just what a bad fix I was getting into, financially. Certainly seemed like a gracious plenty back when Henry took out insurance and made all our investments, but it wasn't going to last. Interest rates were bad, and the house was eating up what little I had. The roof had to be replaced and then all the plumbing work one winter when the pipes burst from the cold. And the taxes. Goodness! So that's when I thought of having someone to come live with me, to ease my expenses. At the time, it seemed to be a truly fine revelation, and given the right mood, I could pretty well envision some nameless but very genteel lady, just about my age and with soft, wavy hair and polished nails, who would sit with me on the front porch in the afternoons, the two of us sipping iced tea from frosted, crystal glasses and talking together in the cool shade and maybe reading poetry to each other on long summer evenings.

One day, I happened to mention the idea to Edna, because it was a natural thing to talk in a thinking-out-loud way in the beauty parlor. Everyone did it, sort of trying out ideas that way, see what Edna thought about them. She always did have such a good head on her shoulders, Edna did. So I told her I was thinking about finding a nice lady to live with me—just for the company, I told her, because I wasn't about to tell anyone I was having financial difficulties, not even Edna. And Maybelline must have been eavesdropping, so that before I could even get all the words out, she popped that awful-looking Shirley-Templed head up over the divider screen and shouted, "I'LL COME LIVE WITH YOU, MISS AMELIA!”

Well! How embarrassing for her to yell it out like that! Because it was years before I was finally able to convince her that I'm not one bit hard of hearing. But back then, Maybelline hollered everything to me.

Of course, Edna picked up on it right away that Maybelline had jumped the gun, because I was sitting there, as rigid as a corset and completely stunned by that turn of events, staring straight ahead at my reflection in the mirror—didn't know what to say—and Edna standing behind me, watching my face in the mirror.

"Well, Maybelline!” Edna started in with a little laugh. "I think Miss Amelia was just sort of musing over the idea. Goodness! I don't think she means she's really going to do anything like that; not right away, at least.”

So that was how Edna tried to save me, and it almost worked. But not quite.

"Oh, that's okay. Why, I don't mind one little bit waiting while she makes up her mind,” Maybelline said to Edna. And to me she yelled, "YOU JUST LET ME KNOW, MISS AMELIA. YOU JUST LET ME KNOW WHENEVER YOU MAKE UP YOUR MIND.”

Edna was still watching me in the mirror and she said not a word, but pursed her lips just the least little bit and shook her head—no—to my reflection. But not so that Maybelline could see her do it.

Of course, Edna couldn't say another thing right then and there, but I knew she'd call me on the telephone just as soon as she could, so she could come right out and say whatever it was she had in mind to say. And she did.

"I don't think it would be a very good idea,” Edna started out, and her words were slow and careful, like someone tiptoeing through broken glass. "Why, she's the sweetest thing you'd ever want to know, but...” Edna stopped talking, waiting for me to say, "What?”


"Well, for one thing she's been going to every single one of those tent revivals out at the edge of town, and I think she's getting all caught up in the hallelujah thing, if you know what I mean.”

"Yes,” I said. "And I really had someone entirely different in mind. Someone more...”

"Appropriate,” Edna interjected, before I could find the right word.

"Yes,” I agreed, because it was a good word, a kind word for saying what needed to be said.

"Well, she's a sweet thing, and she'd do anything in the world for you, but of course, she hasn't had advantages, you know.”

"I know.”

"Just don't say anything else about it, and let's see if it won't blow over. Maybe she'll forget all about it.”

That sounded like a good idea to me, and so every Thursday morning, when I went for my shampoo and set, I was just as polite as could be to Maybelline, of course, and she always chirruped a greeting and studied my face, but I certainly didn't say another word about finding someone to come live with me, at least not in front of Maybelline. So I spoke in low tones to Edna and only about very safe things—how my tomato plants were coming along and what kind of fertilizer I'd used on them—and all the while, keeping an eye on Maybelline, who hummed revival songs in the other booth.

Then the time came, as I knew it would, when I had to watch my expenditures even more carefully than I had been doing. So I stopped going once a week for a shampoo and set, and went only every other Thursday. To Edna, I explained, "Now that I'm older, my hair is too dry to take a shampoo and set every week.” And Edna understood perfectly, without my saying another word.

The whole time, I was growing more and more certain that I'd have to find someone to come live in my house with me. There just wasn't anything else I could do. Trouble was, now that Maybelline had plunked herself right into the middle of the situation, it was going to be hard having someone else. And there were other complications, too, because Edna had said something to me one time about wanting to bring her very own sister down to live with her and Charlie, now that her sister was a widow and living all alone in Macon, and that maybe it was time for Maybelline to find a place of her own. Edna had even gone so far as to try and arrange for Maybelline to go live with Mrs. Hodges, who sometimes rented out her front bedroom, but no—Maybelline was set on being with me—and I still didn't know why. Not back then, I didn't.

Finally, I'd just about resigned myself that there was nothing else I could do but have Maybelline move in with me, for Edna's sake, if for nothing else, but it certainly wasn't something I wanted to do. Just something I was beginning to feel I didn't have any choice about. But before I could even say anything about it, Maybelline jumped the gun again.

One morning about that time, I started down the front steps and had a most excruciating pain to come in my hip. It was so bad, I had to call the doctor, and he said I should try and stay off my feet as much as possible, just for a few days. Of course, everyone in town heard about it, because that's the way it is in small towns. The story going around was that I had taken a terrible fall down the steps and even had grabbed a jardinière of begonias on my way down, which of course, wasn't true at all. Still, when Maybelline heard it, that was all she needed.

"She's on her way to your house right this minute!” Edna called and warned me. "And she's got everything in the world she owns with her. I think this is it.”

When I hung up the phone, my mind was racing; I was trying to think of something, anything, I could do about it. But just then, I suddenly realized that this way, no one would think a thing of my having someone move in with me—because of my hip and all. So it wouldn't get all over town that I was financially embarrassed and had to have someone share my expenses. And just as I had that comforting thought, I looked out of the window and saw Maybelline coming up the front walk.

"THE LORD DONE SAID FOR ME TO MOVE IN WITH YOU!” Maybelline yelled out that day as she clambered up the steps, juggling the umbrella and the hatboxes. "YES, GOODNESS! PRAISE THE LORD! HE HAS SENT ME TO BE WITH YOU!”

That's what she said, anyway, and so that explained her stubbornness about it. She was on a "mission from God,” or so she thought. And after a time, I felt almost inclined to agree with her. Long years during which she rearranged all my kitchen cabinets so I never was able to find a single thing, and put her glass of iced tea on my grandmama's mahogany Queen Anne table without using a coaster under it, and hung her dripping stockings over the guest towels in the bathroom, and chewed very noisily and almost constantly on huge wads of gum, and took that terrible wig off and sat right there on the front porch with it in her lap, brushing it. Can you imagine? Might as well have a big old hound dog sitting out there, scratching himself. And worst of all, she sang revival songs through her nose all the time, interrupting the singing only for wide-open conversations with the Lord Jesus and holding out her hands palms up, as if something from Heaven just might fall into them.

Finally, I began to suspect that perhaps the Lord really had sent Maybelline to be with me—to place a trial on me in my declining years.

But despite the fact that I had often fantasized joyously about being able to get rid of Maybelline, now that it had come down to saying the words, I knew it was going to be awfully hard.

I took a deep breath.

"Maybelline, you need to start looking for someplace else to live,” I said right out. And even though I'd rehearsed it over and over, the words still shocked me. Usually, if I said anything to Maybelline while she was in her "rapture,” I had to repeat it several times. But not this time.

"What?” It was exactly the question I anticipated, and so I went ahead with my carefully rehearsed litany.

"It's just that my funds are running out.”

"I don't understand,” she whined at me. "Why can't I stay here with you?” She was serious, of course, and I shouldn't have expected anything else from her. There wasn't much of anything else I'd ever seen register in her face except confusion. I just sat there, looking at that familiar, infuriating face—the improbable circles of orange rouge she always wore on either cheekbone, and pencil-thin, drawn-on eyebrows, and that terrible Lilac Lavender Lovely eye shadow smeared on puffy eyelids above pale blue eyes—a tacky, crayoned setting for the ravages of age. I wondered what made me think one bit of it was going to be easy.

Maybelline could be so simple-minded!

"Because,” I tried again. "I'm not staying in this house, so you certainly can't stay with me.” Maybelline blinked a confused tattoo, and my cool resolve threatened to crumble.

"I can't afford the upkeep any longer, can't pay the taxes on it, even. So you have to find someplace else to live.” Those last words almost caught in my throat, but at long last she looked as if she understood a little of what I was saying. And it was all so hard for me, especially because Maybelline was so convinced that the Lord Jesus Himself had planned everything out for us.

In Person.

She had more questions, of course. Maybelline never did know when enough was enough, but I answered them the best I could, telling her that Henry's investments weren't bringing in the return we'd planned on, and that such a big house was awfully expensive to keep up. I gave her all the details of everything that needed to be done to the house, though it rankled me to do it, and when I was finished, I thought perhaps she had settled down a bit and wasn't going to keep on prying. I was thinking that we'd both gotten over the initial shock of it—of me saying it and of her hearing it.

She went right back to her praying, and I sat there on the familiar porch, feeling more tired than I had ever felt in my life, listening to her familiar mumbling and looking out at the front yard, watching for that exact moment of twilight falling. Because in summer, the dark happens so suddenly, almost in the blink of an eye. Always reminded me of the old Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta—that big, purple curtain coming down, and the light still flickering out of the projector. So much like twilight coming down in the summertime, with a big bruise coming over everything and the flickering of lightning bugs going in and out of the azalea bushes.

Without warning, a sad feeling came over me, but there was something almost familiar about it at the same time. Well, with what I'd been through and with all the worrying I'd done about it, it was no wonder I felt so sad and dizzy. Then I realized with a shock what it was—the Great Mystery come back on me, come back to haunt me in my old age and jump on me and chew me up, now that I was old and tired and everything was going wrong. That old feeling and my finding out it was still there, even after all those years. Like a cloud that passes in front of the sun.

And as if that weren't bad enough all by itself, I thought I heard someone singing, just as clear as a bell:

Coming home to Jerusalem, my Lord,

Coming right on up the front steps

To my Lord!

He will wipe away my tears,

He will smile away my fears,

Praise Jerusalem!

I'm coming to my Lord!

Nearly scared me to death, that singing did. Because it sounded so close, just like whoever was singing was sitting right there on the porch with us. Thought for a minute it was Maybelline, but it certainly didn't sound like her. Not one bit. And besides, Maybelline was still mumbling to the Lord Himself, and she didn't seem to have heard a thing. So there I was, all alone with it, listening and wondering who was singing that old song, and I must have been wondering so hard that I didn't notice when I started sliding away down those long-sounding words to some faraway place where time was like a wave foaming and curling and slipping backwards down a slanted shore.

Back then, I didn't know it was nothing to be afraid of—only memories. I know that now, and maybe I also know that when we come to a certain time in life, we remember things out of the past that we're wise enough only now to figure out. But back then, I didn't know, and that's why it was so surprising for me to land smack dab in an August morning all those long years ago and me just a child again and wearing that pretty blue cotton frock I always liked so much, the one with ruffles on the bodice and a sash Mama could tie into the prettiest bow.

Mama and me riding all the way out to the end of Old Quaker Road to get Tulie, who's coming to help clean up my Great-Aunt Kate's house. Because Camp Meeting starts tomorrow—that's when we all move out to Mount Horeb Camp Ground for two whole weeks—and Great-Aunt Kate says she can't stand to leave the house in such a fix. So that's why she's got Tulie coming.

A special kind of morning, with shafts of light coming through the pine trees so gentle and timid-like and the air so sweet, almost like perfume to breathe, but knowing it won't last, that by afternoon, it will be just another hot, endless day in an unbroken chain of hot, endless summer days. But an August morning in flat-baked South Georgia can fool you like that—starting out like it's going to be something special, but always ending up the same.

Tulie's crooked house squatting under a big chinaberry tree that stands right in the middle of a cornfield, and Mama humming as we drive along, watching for that tree sticking up out of the corn so we can find the tiny road—no more than a path, really—that turns off the Old Quaker Road and then goes back through a field of green corn shoulder-high to a tall man and planted almost all the way up to Tulie's porch steps. The sun just up and light coming through the corn rows so that shadows go all the way across the swept yard. Just like the stripes on a tiger's back.

Tulie standing by the steps waiting for us and wearing an apron and a red rag that's tied around and around her head, and when she sees our car, she jumps a little and starts in to wiping her hands on the apron, just as if she's been thinking so hard about scrubbing Great-Aunt Kate's floors that her hands are already wet.

And children—so many children—on the steps. Little black sparrows on a fence rail.

One little boy just as naked as the day he was born, sitting with his knees spread apart like he doesn't know he's naked at all and with his stomach swollen in a most peculiar way and poking out so far that it hangs down between his knees. A strange-looking plug for a belly button and a funny, fat worm in the shadow below.

And me staring and staring at him, but not saying a word, because even as little as I am—not more than six or seven—knowing already that there are things in this world you don't say anything about and being pretty sure this is one of them. Because Mama sees me staring at him, so she reaches over and pats my knee, and that's how I know for sure.

Tulie gets in the backseat, smiling and bobbing her head up and down and making a laughing sound deep in her throat.

Mama says, "Tulie, you be sure and close that door good and hard. We don't want you falling out.” Tulie must think it's the funniest thing she's ever heard in her entire life, because she grins so hard she almost wriggles all over, and the whole time, her head nods up and down, up and down, just like her neck's gone plumb crazy.

"Yas'm! Yas'm!” she chortles, grabbing the door handle with both hands and slamming the door so hard that the whole car rocks, and grinning so big that I can see her thick gums and two teeth growing out of them, one sticking down out of the top and one sticking up from the bottom—brown and crooked, like two lonely tree stumps leaning over in red clay. Her head still bobbing up and down, up and down. And the whole time, the children on the steps, watching.

At the first movement of the car, Tulie sticks her head out of the window and waves to the children, who break into wide smiles and roll their eyes, as if they have never seen anything quite as funny and exciting as Tulie riding away in a car.

"Y'all be good!” Tulie calls to them as we drive away.

"Are all of them your children, Tulie?” Mama asks after we bounce our way back down the path and turn onto the road once again. Something about the question sends Tulie into another fit of laughter.

"Nawm,” she finally sputters. "Only fo'ub'em. Others grandchirren.”

Once again, I glimpse the stumplike teeth and the thick gums before they disappear behind the heavily ridged, black lips.

"How many are there—all together?” Mama asks, prompting more laughter from Tulie.

"'Bout seben, I thinks. Yas'm. 'Bout seben.”

"Why Tulie, don't you know?” Mama's voice sounds surprised, but in such a sweet and gentle way I know she isn't one bit surprised at all.

"'Bout seben,” Tulie says again, and she laughs and laughs.

Mama laughs, too, the softest kind of laugh, and she looks over at me with her pretty blue eyes, but something else is in her glance at me, something I don't figure out until much later that afternoon.

Because right after dinner at noontime, we go and take naps—grownups too—which is the way things are done at Great-Aunt Kate's in the summer. But of course, Tulie keeps on working, because that's what she's supposed to do. She eats her dinner out on the back porch, washes her dishes under the pump in the backyard, and then leaves her dishes in a neat little stack on the back steps before she comes inside and goes back to scrubbing the linoleum that runs the whole long length of the hallway. And while she scrubs, she starts singing that song:

Coming home to Jerusalem, my Lord,

Coming right on up the front steps

To my Lord!

He will wipe away my tears,

He will smile away my fears,

Praise Jerusalem!

I'm coming to my Lord!

(I'm coming-g to my Lord-d-d-d!)

Great-Aunt Kate, who is so quiet and cool that she can even take a nap without mussing up a hair on her head, goes to her bedroom at the back of the house. Mama and I go stretch out on the cool top sheet on the high bed in the front bedroom, which is where we always stay when we come to see Great-Aunt Kate.

It was Mama's room when she was just a baby and all the way up until she married my daddy and moved to Savannah. Because her mama—my grandmama—lived here long before Great-Aunt Kate and Great-Uncle Albert came to live with her. Grandmama passed on, but Mama still kept some of her things in the big chifforobe of her room—a little pair of painted-silver dancing shoes, and a doll of hers from when she was just a little girl like me, and letters my daddy wrote to her before they were married. "Love letters,” Mama calls them. Whenever we come, she always opens the chifforobe and shows me those things all over again, just as if I've never seen them before, and sometimes she reads some of the letters to me. In one, my daddy says, "If we ever have a little girl, I hope she will look just like you.” But of course, that hasn't happened and it isn't going to. But I wish it would, because Mama is so beautiful and so fine, that if only I could look like her, I wouldn't want for another thing in all creation. Fine, bold nose. Soft brown hair. High and very noble forehead and beautiful blue eyes.

But my hair is straight as a stick and a terrible carrot-red color to boot, my eyes are muddy green, and there isn't a single place on me where you can put your little finger and not be touching a dozen freckles. My front teeth are way too big for my face, and they stick out. But Mama is beautiful.

So we are lying there in the front bedroom with all the shades drawn down against the sun and with the fan humming, and we are very quiet so as not to disturb Great-Aunt Kate's nap. And in the drawer of the chifforobe is a letter that says what kind of little girl my daddy really wanted.

But I am also thinking about how glad I am that Carol Ann isn't there, that she has to spend all day long across the street at Miss Dolly's house, getting a permanent. Because things are ever so much nicer when Carol Ann isn't around.

Mama says for me not to worry about Carol Ann, that she's the kind of child a lady has when she waits too long to become a mama, like Great-Aunt Kate did. I've always wanted to ask Mama if that means getting to have blonde hair and real dimples, like Carol Ann has, but I never have. But somehow, it makes me feel a little better that Carol Ann isn't the kind of little girl my daddy wanted, either.

Then I start listening to the sound of Tulie's scrub brush going back and forth across the linoleum in the hallway and to the song she's singing— "wipe away my tears and smile away my fears” —and to the hum of the fan, and somehow, the hum and the sound of the scrub brush and the singing all get to going together pretty well.

The next thing I know, I am waking up. I must have slept for a very long time, because Mama and Great-Aunt Kate are both up and talking in low voices in the other room.

Mama says, "She says there are seven, but that many were sitting out on the steps, and I saw a big, grown girl watching from inside the house—Tulie's daughter, maybe, or granddaughter—and she had a baby in her arms and a child standing beside her big enough to see over the windowsill.”

"Yes.” Great-Aunt Kate clucks her tongue. "It's downright pitiful. Children keep on coming, and they can't even feed the ones they have.”

"Some of them didn't even have clothes on,” Mama says. "But I didn't see a sign of a man anywhere. Where are the men?”

"Around somewhere... obviously,” Great-Aunt Kate sniffed.

"Isn't there anything anybody can do?”

"No, but we've tried. Even got the preacher from AME Church to go out there one time to see about it, but the men came out of nowhere and scared him off. He never even had time to get out of his car. All kinds of bad things going on—still going on. Murders, even. And worse.” Great-Aunt Kate's voice drops down to a whisper "Fathers bothering their own daughters. That kind of thing. And if the women get any money, the men take it away from them and go get drunk with it and come back in the night. Makes it even worse for the women who work and try to have a little something. That's why I always give Tulie some clothes and some flour. Something she can really use and the men won't take away from her. There's children hungry out there. I'm sure of it.”

About that time, they hear me opening the bedroom door, and they stop talking right away. But I've heard enough to know what it is Mama's glance said that morning: that Tulie's family isn't like a real family, where there's a real daddy and the children all have pants to wear. But even when I know what it is, it's all just words. Until later.

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