Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Secrets #1

How do you know where Ira went, my uncle asked last time I saw him alive.

I don’t, I said. It’s what his wife told me when she tracked me down.

Who was that? What was she like? Why didn’t she ever tell any of us?

I can’t say. He read something I wrote, he said to her, Look! This is by
someone with the same last name as mine, born in Fort Smith, Arkansas,
where my brothers were heading when they left Memphis. And I guess
they did get where they were heading. He must be very young.

Ira was on his death bed. He was over a hundred and two. He lived on the Tchoupitoulas Road out by the river.

I was twenty. My father was forty, my mother two years younger. She was
born and reared in a little town south and east of my birthplace. She wanted children and nothing else, and she had no one but half-sisters and -brothers in Los Angeles. Her husband’s father was shot and killed in Sallisaw, by people he knew, two men and a woman, who would let him in on the deal if he helped them burglarize the house he was watching for a friend.

My father’s father was dead at forty-three. I was born ten years later, eleven to be precise. Ira would have been about my age now when Abe was killed.

How old are you?

I am sixty, well, fifty-nine to be exact.

What transpired during Ira’s widow’s visit?

She didn’t stay long. She said, Y’all come to N’Orleans and I’ll tell you stories.

Did you go?

What do you think?

I think you did.

I did.

What happened?

That’s a secret. For now . . .

(22 October 2010)

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