The note was written in a scrawl
After the Abbeyville party, Maggie wants to see River Boy and ask what he knows.
Going to town
morning after the Abbeyville party, Maggie began searching for River
Boy. She didn't want to walk over the hill to his house, feeling it
would be more ladylike if he found her instead.
She was filled with
nerves. Conflicted by behavior at the party and embarrassed in
front of her mother, she decided to walk to the cement bridge.
It looked bigger than she remembered. It was for cars, there was no place to walk.
River Boy wasn't on the railroad bridge.
On the left side was a worn path that descended steeply into a tunnel of trees.
She could go down there and never come back.
what River Boy said about snags and holes, and empowered by hitting a
man the afternoon before, she carefully worked her way down to the
river. The path split and went both ways.
There were two Negroes fishing off the bridge footing. They didn't look menacing.
decided to walk away from the bridge, in a direction downriver toward
Blacktown, but really she had in mind River Boy's house.
minute later a rock skipped past. Barely missing. And then another.
Looking around and across the river she saw River Boy on the other
side. He yelled, hi Maggie, and waved.
She managed a hello without sounding too eager, wanting to look like she was there by accident. He knew better.
Picking up his fishing pole, he disappeared into the trees, going up the steep riverbank.
that was rude. No different than the way she treated him at school. She
turned and walked back up to the cement bridge and saw River Boy coming
across the rail bridge.
A chorus of voices from the river yelled a greeting. River Boy smiled and waved until half way
across when a train whistle sounded.
Maggie screamed. River Boy was retreating in haste.
big diesel engines blowing smoke and rattling the ground as they
accelerated out of Trinity, crossing the bridge with a click clack of
steel wheels hitting the rail joint, and occasional boxcar rumbling
past with worn bearings.
River Boy made it across and met Maggie standing along the road.
Hi, how are you?
Maggie said, I was worried the train would hit you. Still pretending she was there by coincidence.
might be risky for a man from Blacktown to be seen with Maggie, but
River Boy had grown taller the last year and wore nice clothes, knowing
he was going to town that day.
He had a bit of money now, working for Top Hat Jinkins.
Hat collected rents in Blacktown for white owners. Some lived in
Trinity. Some lived elsewhere. He also ran gambling out of the pool
hall, with a cut going to Crackling Green and Boy Johnson, and in turn,
they kicked a payment to the Upstate Boys.
Top Hat was part of the corruption, but he was also the rule in Blacktown.
His word was final. The people trusted him.
Like the time county deputies were beating a man over a missing tool at work.
Officers Ranny and Dack were the worst of the lot. The law was the Klan. And they were Klan.
They had old man Jackson on the ground kicking him badly with other Negroes afraid to come out.
was near dark. A bad time for evil men to be surrounded by
revenge-seeking Negroes. Top Hat walked by. It wasn't known if he
happened by, or came by.
started coming out of the houses and gathering toward the officers.
Alarmed, they gave one last kick and drove away, satisfied their work
was done, and thinking they owed Top Hat a deed for interfering with
the call to purify Negroes of shame.
Top Hat was more wary than usual and wasn't
seen around Blacktown like before. He hired River Boy to take payments
to Crooks Tail. There was unease in Blacktown. People saw Top Hat was
scared and knew Spade was the problem. It wasn't the law, it was Spade.
Hat made the mistake hiring a violent man like Spade to collect rents
instead of killing him when he was a boy, but that action would have
been equally disastrous. It's amazing the ignorance that politics and
opinion play for marching the worst to the top over the best.
River Boy was happy to see Maggie.
saw him attractive, tall, strong and tan, but cautioned herself against
haste despite unrequited urges remaining from Abbeyville.
said, come on, I have to go to Louis' place. Louis was the furniture
maker and repaired fishing reels. He fixed fans and did electric work
around town. Very reliable, upstanding man. His shop was one of many
businesses lining both sides of Main Street. There was a barber shop,
bookbinder, butcher, auto repair, TV and radio store, lawyers office,
post office, industrial supply, hardware and lumber, jeweler and
watchmaker, heating oil distributor, metal shop and welder, soda
fountain, the pharmacy .... and at the end of the wide brick street was
the town square.
The view toward the courthouse was magnificent,
with orderly buildings, wide sidewalks with awnings, and
shimmering clean glass windows.
The business district and town
square were the essence of Maggie's hometown of Trinity. It's where
people worked and shared friendly greetings.
Maggie felt proud walking next to this man. His pace was quick. She was a lady's tomboy and had no problem keeping up.
There were questions she needed to ask. Crooks Tail, and how he knew the girls in the car.
sister's husband Howard drove by in his checkered farm shirt en route
to visit a customer, seeing a boy walking with Maggie, and wondering
who he was. He made a note to ask Joel when he got back.
dropping off the reel for repair, River Boy started walking up the
alley that cut between the buildings going to the library and high
school one block away. Maggie followed. She had to get in her questions
somehow, but was overcome by the temporary privacy of the location and
grabbed River Boy's arm. She pushed herself against him and they
kissed. She remembered his open shirt from their first meeting, and
wanted to see his chest again, running her hand across him. At the same
moment, she was overcome with feelings that this was wrong. She broke
apart and started walking away. He caught up and continued as if
nothing happened. She stopped and turned, how do you know those girls
that were with me yesterday? That was truly what she wanted to know.
He acted puzzled and looked guilty, playing with her again. So why you want to know?
Because they told me things.
They said I should ask you about Crooks Tail.
Boy laughed. Sweet Maggie just advanced him, and was asking about the
worst spot of decadence on the planet, expecting him to tell her
because her friends wouldn't. He knew they went to Abbeyville, and
could see she was suffering the pleasant effect of mixed emotion and
rampant loss of control.
What do you want to know about Crooks Tail?
What happens there?
Well how can anyone measure what to say about that?
River Boy said, we can go.
kept walking, looking down and thinking. She didn't consider it a date.
It would be like a family picnic, except without the family. They could
go as friends.
Okay she agreed. it was exciti g but in her mind she had doubts. How
would she get out of the house? What if somebody
saw them together?
She returned to the most basic question, how do you know my friends?
He said, from school.
answer wasn't satisfactory. How could he talk to them in school? Nobody
talked to him. He was in dumbbell English because he was from Blacktown
and didn't talk much.
There was something more going on.
River Boy stopped and sat down on a stone step in front of a side door in the alley.
He invited her to sit next to him, and despite her frustration, she sat down and was looking away.
He explained his life, told how his Grandpa saved him after he ran away, but not about his foster home.
know your friends from school and around town. If they know things
about me, they shouldn't say. My time with you is ours and I don't
share that with anybody. Not even Grandpa.
He reached over and squeezed her hand.
It was enough for now. She nodded warily and looked at him.
You better go back now, River Boy said. We'll go to Crooks Tail next week.
Ok but how will I know when?
River Boy didn't answer and got up and left.
It was too much. She jumped up and ran after him. Why won't you tell me what happens in Crooks Tail?
He shook his head and said, everything happens there.
She asked, have you taken anybody else?
was maddening that she couldn't get an answer, thinking it wasn't
Becky, because her reaction was eww after seeing him on the bridge. But
the other girls knew him. She saw it in their faces.
River Boy was a
product of stark beginning, and learned long ago that talking about
what could happen or what did happen changed the future. It wasn't his.
It was hers.
He told her it was ok, and he would let her know. Then walked away. He liked Maggie a lot.
She went back to Main Street, and saw Tad going into Max's Soda Fountain with a girl from the sophomore class.
Maggie ran across, intent on fixing Tad only because she was angry at dumbbell River Boy.
sat down next to Tad, across from his new little girl friend. Grabbing
his arm, and said, hi Tad, who's this? It was loud enough to attract
Tad couldn't remember what to say.
The other kids were
looking at the sophomore girl who got embarrassed and ran out amid
hoots and laughs. Come back when you grow up, sweetie.
Then Maggie got up and left Tad at the table causing more commotion.
she was leaving one of the redneck girls strutted in front of her on
purpose. Maggie just wailed a hard one to the side of her head, and the
girl fell over a chair, knocking down the table and breaking glasses.
greasers at the corner table howled out, and the soda shop erupted in
screaming laughter which the caused several kids to start thowing food
and silverware at each other.
was a bad thing, being mean to the little girl and Maggie felt sorry.
But forget that, she just made top billing on the gossip circuit ... in
addition to being spotted by Howard walking with an unknown young man.
at home, Maggie's mother and father were mortified by their daughter
tearing up the soda shop and wanted to know if the young man seen with
her caused the change in their daughter.
The answer was yes, but she couldn't tell them that story.
Well, who is he?
Maggie said, oh he's in dumbbell English class and nobody talks to him.
Her father asked, is he that boy from Blacktown?
Joel looked at the mother and said, you know the one I mean? The one that's in trouble all the time.
Oh yes, that boy, her mother remembered.
Honey, is that the boy?
Maggie lied, no, and stuffed in a mouthful of apple. She hadn't planned for questions.
way Howard described him, Joel was pretty sure the boy was from
Blacktown, and said, you stay away from him. He's going to reform
school for causing this.
Maggie said, no, he had nothing to do with it. He was just walking next to me and then I ran across the street to the soda shop.
That started the second quiz about what happened there.
She said, I was mad at Tad for being with another girl.
Her mother said, you need to give Tad time to decide. He cares about you.
Joel added, I hope he doesn't change his mind after this.
Maggie stuffed another apple in her mouth.
would be a disaster if her parents found out about River Boy,
Abbeyville and riding in Big Mak's car from Blacktown. And what about
Crooks Tail? She needed a hundred prayers, to hide a hundred lies.
Contents Top Previous Next