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[4 of 5 - Group E] Long Division, Book Two, pages 3-57 by Kiese Laymon (2013)

Author: Kiese Laymon

Laymon, Kiese. “Book Two, Pages 3-57,” Long Division, Scribner Book Company, 2013, 2021.



(BOOK TWO, 3 – 9)

I didn’t have a girlfriend from kindergarten all the way through the first half of ninth grade and it wasn’t because the whole high school heard Principal Jankins whispering to his wife, Ms. Dawsin-Jankins, that my hairline was shaped like the top of a Smurf house. I never had a girlfriend because I loved this funky girl named Shalaya Crump. The last time Shalaya Crump and I really talked, she told me, “City, I could love you if you helped me change the future dot-dot-dot in a special way.”

Shalaya Crump was always saying stuff like that, stuff you’d only imagine kids saying in a dream or on those R-rated movies starring spoiled teenagers on HBO. If any other girl in 1985 said, “the future dot-dot-dot,” she would have meant 1986 or maybe 1990 at the latest. But not Shalaya Crump. I knew she meant somewhere way in the future that no one other than scientists and dope fiends had ever thought of before.

Shalaya Crump lived down in Melahatchie, Mississippi, across the road from Mama Lara’s house. A year ago, before we moved to Chicago from Jackson, she convinced me that plenty of high school girls would like me even though my hips were way wider than a JET centerfold’s, and the smell of deodorant made me throw up. The thing was that none of the ninth-grade girls who liked me wore fake Air Jordans with low socks, or knew how to be funny in church while everyone else was praying, or had those sleepy, sunken eyes like Shalaya Crump. Plus, you never really knew what Shalaya Crump was going to say and she always looked like she knew more than everybody around her, even more than the rickety grown folks who wanted other rickety grown folks to think they knew more than Yoda.

It’s hard to ever really know why you love a girl, but all I know is that Shalaya Crump made me feel like it was okay not to know everything. You could feel good around Shalaya Crump just by knowing enough to get by. That’s what I loved about her most. Sometimes, she asked these hard questions about the future, but she didn’t treat you like chunky vomit when you didn’t get the answer right.

It’s hard to explain if you never been around a girl like that. It’s just that no other girl in my whole life made me feel like it was okay not to know stuff like Shalaya Crump did. The worst part of it is that I still have no proof that I ever made Shalaya Crump feel anything other than guilty for leaving me with Baize Shephard. I’m not just saying that to sound like a brokenhearted white boy from New York City in a dumb novel in tenth-grade English. If you want me to be honest, everything I’m telling you is only half of what made the story of Shalaya Crump, Baize Shephard, Jewish Evan Altshuler, and me the saddest story in the history of Mississippi. And it’s really hard to have the saddest story in the history of a state like Mississippi, where there are even more sad stories than there are hungry mosquitoes and sticker bushes.

It really is.

Shalaya Crump claimed she could love me three months ago, depending on how you count. It was January 4, 1985, the last day of my Christmas break. I was about to leave Melahatchie and head back to Chicago. We were sitting under a magnolia tree in a forest we called the Night Time Woods, sharing the last bit of a can of sardines. I was just tired of not saying all of what I wanted to say to her, so I licked the sardine juice off my fingers, picked up my sweat rag, and asked her what I’d been waiting to ask her the whole break.

“Shalaya Crump!” | said. “Can you break it down for me one more time. What I gotta do to make you love me?”

Shalaya Crump laughed and started digging into the red dirt with her dark bony thumbs that were covered in these Ring Pop rings. Right there is when Shalaya Crump wiped her greasy mouth with the collar of her purple Gumby T-shirt and said, “Why you gotta be so green light lately, City?”

“Green light?”

“Yeah, you never stop. All you do is spit game about ‘love this’ and ‘love that.’ I already told you that I could love you if you found a way to be…” Shalaya Crump stopped talking, looked me right in the eyes, and grabbed my fingertips. “City, just listen,” she said. “Look, if we could take a spaceship to the future, and we ain’t know if we’d ever come back, would you go with me?” Shalaya Crump was always changing the subject to the future at the craziest times.

I swear I tried to come up with something smart, something that would make her think I could be the skinniest, smartest boy she’d ever want to spend the rest of her life with. “Girl, in the future,” I told Shalaya Crump, “when we take that spaceship, first thing is I think that Eddie Murphy is gonna do a PG movie. And umm, I think that Michael Jackson and New Edition are gonna come together and sing a song at our wedding, but ain’t nobody at the wedding gonna care because everyone at the wedding is gonna finally know.”

“Uh, finally know what?” She stopped and let go of my wrists.

“Finally know, you know, what that real love looks like, baby.”

“City! Why you gotta get all Vienna sausage school bus when you start trying to spit game?” She paused and actually waited for an answer. I didn’t have one, so she kept going. “Just stop. You stuck on talking about love but I’m talking about the future. Can we just talk about that? What happened to you? One day you were just regular and we were playing Atari and hitting each other in the face with pine cones. Then, just like that, you get to stealing Bibles to impress me and wearing clean clothes and talking about love and getting jealous of Willis whenever we watch Diff’rent Strokes and asking me all these questions about which senior I have a crush on. Can’t you just be yourself?”

“I am being myself,” I told her. “I don’t like how you look at Willis.” | knew that making Shalaya Crump love me wasn’t going to be easy, so I didn’t let her little speech throw me off. “You talk all that mess about me, but you the one who didn’t always talk about the future like you do now.” | looked in her eyes, but she was looking at the ground. “No offense, girl, but you talk about the future way more than I talk about love.”

“But I’m not just talking.” She wiped sardine grease off my lip. “That’s the difference. I’m asking about what you’d do with me in the future, like in 2013. For real! Would you come with me if I could get us there?” I just looked at Shalaya Crump and wondered how she could say I was being all Vienna sausage school bus and all green light when, seriously, she was the one always wondering about life in 2013. No kid in 1985 admitted to thinking about life in the ’90s, and definitely not in 2013, not even while we were watching The Jetsons.

“Never mind,” she said. “You don’t get it.”

“I do get it,” I told her. “I get that I might not be the one for you. In 2013, I’ma be like forty-three. When I’m forty-three, you’ll still think my hairline is too crooked and my sweat’ll still stink like gas station toilets.” | looked up and hoped she would interrupt me. She didn’t. “Anyway. You could never love me even if I was the skinniest, smartest boy in the South. I truly know that now.”

Shalaya Crump finally laughed and looked me right in my mouth. “City, I’ma ask you one more time to stop being so Young and the Restless. Don’t never ever say ‘truly’ around me again. Never!”

Shalaya Crump was the queen of taking a show or a person, place, or thing and using it like an adjective. No one else in Jackson or Chicago or Melahatchie or on TV could do it like her. If she told you not to ever use a word around her, you knew it was a word that should never have come out of your mouth in the first place.

Shalaya Crump took her eyes off my mouth and started looking at my hips. “Look, City,” she said. “I could love you the way you want me to, really. I could if you found a way to help me change the future in, I don’t know dot-dot-dot a special way.”

“Dot-dot-dot? I thought you were done with that read-your-punctuation style. You don’t think you played that out last summer?”

“Just listen. I need to know if you’d come with me, even if we couldn’t ever come back.”

Shalaya Crump was always saying weird stuff like that and trying to create new slang. One day, she called me on the phone long-distance during the school year and said, “City comma I realized today that I hate Ronald Reagan. When I’m president comma I wanna make it so you never have to be in a classroom with more than ten other kids from Head Start all the way through twelfth grade. I think I might wanna make it illegal for parents to leave their kids with their grandma in Melahatchie for more than three days at a time if the grandma don’t have cable or good air. What you think?”

I waited for her to laugh after saying that, since my ma was always sending me to stay with my Mama Lara for weeks at a time. Mama Lara didn’t have good cable or air either, and neither did her grandma, but Shalaya Crump didn’t laugh, so I fake-laughed for her and said, “You love you some English and civics classes, don’t you?” A few seconds later, when no one was saying a word, she started laughing all late into the phone. Only Shalaya Crump could laugh all late into the phone and not care about using up her grandma’s long distance to talk about hating Ronald Reagan. It was stuff like calling me long distance and telling me stuff that didn’t make sense and laughing all late at my jokes that made me think I could tongue kiss Shalaya Crump.

Anyway, I had a lot of questions about how to change the future and be special to Shalaya Crump, but my Mama Lara drove in front of her trailer right after she said that thing about coming to the future with her. Mama Lara told me that it was time to take the bus back up to Chicago. I left Shalaya Crump that Christmas break without a kiss, a hug, or any-thing, but I did tell her, “I’m coming back to fly to the future with you for spring break, baby. And when I do, you better love me. Or at least like me a lot.”

“I already like vou a lot.” she told me as I got in the car. “Don’t call me baby no more, though. Just be yourself and come back in March. Please. I need you, City.”

I promised myself right then and there that I’d never call Shalaya Crump “baby” if it meant that she’d be my girl, and that I’d find a way to be special and change the future when I came back down to Mississippi for spring break. In the meantime, no matter where I was in my dreams, I always found a way to kiss Shalaya Crump. Sometimes I’d be in a blue jungle or a raggedy glass airplane, but there would always be a phone hanging out of a tree or underneath a seat. I’d find a phone and dial 1-4-1-1. When the operator answered, it was always Shalaya Crump and she always gave me the best directions to get to her. Once I got to where she was, every single time we kissed with a little tongue and pressed our fronts together until I woke up sore.

In real life, between January and March, I thought of all kinds of ways to show Shalaya Crump I was special. I wrote every plan down in this thick college-lined notebook I should have been using to take notes in English class. The notebook was called GAME in bold capital letters. Sometimes I would think I had the perfect plan, but after a few days, I knew that whatever GAME I came up with wouldn’t be good enough for her. Then, on the first day back down to Melahatchie for spring break, I got lucky.

GAME found me…


(BOOK TWO, pages 10 – 35)

On Old Ryle Road, folks like to bathe, eat, and put on clean clothes before sitting on the porch. When I woke up, I ate a fried-egg-and-cheese sandwich with some old Miracle Whip. Then I sat out on the porch in some faded cutoff jeans and the Magic Johnson Converse Weapons Mama Lara got me for Christmas that hadn’t even been released for regular people yet. I called my grandma “Mama Lara” because everyone else did. Mama Lara said that boys weren’t supposed to call or knock on girls’ doors until they were seniors in high school, so my plan was to wait on the porch all day if I had to until Shalaya Crump came outside. That’s when I’d drop my new GAME on her.

Mama Lara’s husband was a man named Lerthon Coldson. I never knew him. Shalaya Crump’s granddaddy and Lerthon Coldson were best friends way back in the day. They disappeared twenty-one years ago, in 1964, in this place we called the Shephard house. The Shephard house was in the middle of the Night Time Woods, and it was the only real house on Old Ryle Road. Every other house was a trailer or shotgun house lifted off the ground by some cinder blocks. The Shephard house was built right from the ground up, and it had lots of grass that looked like veins growing up all over it.

Neither Shalaya Crump or me knew our granddaddies, but sometimes we’d wonder about how two grown men could go inside a house one day, then never come back out. That wonder brought us together in a way. But even if our granddaddies didn’t disappear, we still would’ve been close. We’d been friends ever since I could remember having friends.

When Mama Lara came out to talk to me on the porch, she told me how her girlfriends were mad because they got group-rate tickets to see The Price Is Right and she decided at the last minute not to go. Mama Lara claimed she would’ve gone to California with her friends except she didn’t like driving with church folks in close spaces for more than one state. To tell you the truth, she only liked to travel on the weekend because she hated to miss the stories on CBS during the week. Plus if she would have gone, I wouldn’t have been able to come down for break.

While I was out there on that porch, Mama Lara hugged me and held her hands on my hips. “Jesus, my baby boy is a fat little man who is two points away from that honor roll,” she said. “Your granddaddy would not believe how fast you sprouting out.”

I sat there waiting for her to explain what she meant with my arms folded across the top layer on my stomach.

“Oh,” she said. “Unfold your arms. You ain’t gotta cover them fat breasts. What I’m saying is that your mind, your mouth, and your heart finally working right. You finally sprouting out.”

“You making me feel funny saying I got ‘breasts,’ Mama Lara.”

“All I’m saying is that you ready to move,” she said and looked me right in my eyes. “Yeah, you ready in mind, body, and soul.”

I loved Mama Lara more than any person in my family. She had these scars on her face from an accident when she was younger, and she’d do everything possible to cover them up when she left the house. It was cute to me how she was old and cared so much about a few scars on her face. But Mama Lara was also a little on the shady side, to tell you the truth. She was always leaving the house at the strangest times and coming back smelling like outside.

I ignored Mama Lara and looked across the street at Shalaya Crump’s trailer. Shalaya Crump was on spring break just like me, but I knew that she wasn’t going anywhere because her grandma had to work. She had actually never gone anywhere for break. Not once. She blamed it on her parents giving her away to her grandma as soon as she was born. Shalaya Crump never met her real parents, but she thought they would have wanted to at least travel to New Orleans or Alabama if she lived with them. She had only been out of the county one time, and that was for the state science fair finals in Jackson. And even then, her grandma didn’t let her spend the night.

From a distance, Shalaya Crump always walked on beat, no matter what the beat was. And she was one of those girls who, when she wasn’t talking, seemed to do everything in slow motion. Shalaya Crump looked really happy to see me and I tried hard not to look as happy as I was to see her. I started pulling my dingy Izod up over my mouth and fake yawning. She offered me a saltine and a sip of cold drank. Then she gave me the kind of full body hug that made me taste melted Jell-O Pudding Pops.

I don’t know how to say this without making you hate me, but Shalaya Crump smelled like she’d just come back from about six recesses right on top of one another. And at every recess, she must have been swimming naked in a sea of cube steak gravy. I didn’t mind her gravy funk, though, for three reasons: #1–I hated the smell of deodorant. #2-Shalaya Crump’s funk smelled better than most girls’ best stale perfume. #3–I loved me some cube steak.

“How vou been?” she asked me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

“You really want to know?”

“I do, my queen. Tell me what’s on vour mind.”

Shalaya Crump shook her head and said, “Oh God,” before grabbing both of my hands and walking toward the Night Time Woods. The Night Time Woods separated Old Ryle Road from Belhaven Street, where most of the white folks lived in their trailers. Grown folks always told us that no good could come from getting caught in those woods after dark because of the crazy Shephards. The Shephard house, where our granddaddies disappeared, got burned down a number of times in the 1960s by the Klan, and all the Shephards were dead now except for this one old woman people called the Shephard Witch. I had never really seen the Shephard Witch, but I heard she lived in what was left of the nasty church right in the middle of the woods.

“I’m worried about the future, City.”

“Oh. That again.” I tried to say it like I was surprised she was bringing it up. “I ain’t thought about it that much, but you think it’ll be fresh? Like, I wonder if it’s gonna be like moving sidewalks and flying cars. That would make it easier for me to get to my queen so I ain’t trippin’.”

“No, boy. Please just stop. Like what if there’s this huge flood that kills people? Or if the water in the Gulf turn black? Or if we have a Black president and…”

“A Black president?” I asked her. She threw me off with that one. “And black water? And you talking about I’m crazy? You know how crazy white folks would go if we had a Black president. Girl, just stop.”

“Just listen, okay? I mean if something you couldn’t believe happened, like we got a Black president, you would wanna know how that changed your life, wouldn’t you? Do you even see what I’m saying?”

Shalaya Crump was really asking me a question, and you know what I was really doing? I was really half listening and half looking at her lips, wondering if they ever got chappy. She had the kind of lips, especially the bottom one, which always looked full of air and shiny, but not too shiny, from all that gloss.

“Well, do you?” she said again.

“Yeah, I think so,” I told her. “You wonder what the future has to do with you if all these new things are happening. Like, everybody knows you’re extremely super bad right now in 1985, right? But if you saw yourself in 1999, would you be like, ‘Oh my goodness. Who is that homely-ass girl right there, cleaning the mess out her toes, looking greasy?’ Or maybe things happening in the future would make other people so mad that they would want to make you be invisible.”

“Yeah, yeah, City!” she grabbed my forearm and looked me in the eyes. “That’s exactly what I mean.

Kinda. What happens if we disappear in the future?”

It was like the smartest thing I’ve ever said, and it was the first time I’d used the word “extremely” in a sentence, but the sad part was that I didn’t really know what I meant. I just knew it sounded like something Shalaya Crump would want to hear. It was some GAME I’d been practicing for two months in my mama’s bedroom mirror. “Hold up, Shalaya Crump. Remember when you said that you would love me? Wait, first did you mean it?”

“If I said it. I meant it.”

“For real? That’s good. Well, ever since you told me all I needed to do was be special and say something cool about the future, I kinda..

Shalaya Crump interrupted me. “City, speed that up. Why you gotta be so long division? For real, you don’t have to tell me all the background. The story doesn’t have to go on and on and on.’

“It doesn’t?”

“No,” Shalaya Crump said. “Everything with you is long division. You busy trying to show all your work. Just get in and get out.”

“But my favorite part of long division was the work,” I told her. Shalaya Crump had thrown my GAME completely off. “I hate the answer. I do. We had this conversation already. You said you hated the an-swer, too.”

“That’s different. I hate the answer because I don’t believe in mastering the smaller steps,” she told me. “They never teach you to like, you know, linger in the smaller steps.”

“Linger? What’s that mean?”

“They just tell you that you gotta master the small steps if you wanna get to the big answer,” she told me. “But I wish we could really pause at each step in long division and talk about it.”

“Pause and do what?”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Just get on with it, City. Please!”

“Okay, well, I wanna linger, too. Remember when I stole those Bibles for you over Christmas?”

“Yeah, I do. We already talked about this.”

“Do you remember what you said to me when I tried to convince you it wasn’t me?”

“I said that I know it’s you because stealing Bibles takes a whole different kind of crazy than Mela-hatchie crazv.”

“Right! And you said that you liked that I was ‘new’ crazy. That meant that I was crazy enough to go around stealing pleather green Bibles from other folks’ trailers just to impress you. Well, I’m still Chicago or Jackson crazy, baby. Southside! That means I’m crazy enough to fly to the future with you, too..” | acted like my shoes were untied. “But when we land, I wanna know what I get.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if I flew to 2013 with you, I hope that maybe you’d want to, you know, kiss a nigga.”

“City.” She started laughing. “Why are you calling yourself ‘a nigga’? You don’t even talk like that.”

“Whatever,” I said. “You know, maybe kiss a nigga on the lips! With a little bit of that tongue.”

“City, just talk like yourself! Saying ‘a nigga’ a lot ain’t gonna make me love you.”

“Aw, girl! I wasn’ even tryn’ to make you love me,” I tried to correct myself.

“Yes, you were. Now you doing it again.”

“No, I ain’t.”

You should have heard the way I said, “I wasn’ even tryn’ to make you love me.” I made “wasn’t” and “trying” one syllable each. And I sucked my teeth after I said it and rolled my eyes, too.

“When you first came down here, you didn’t even say ‘a nigga’ a lot,” Shalaya Crump said.

‘I said ‘a nigga’ sometimes. Shoot, we say ‘a nigga’ in Chicago and Jackson just as much as y’all say it down here.”

“Yeah, but a little bit is normal. Now, when you trying too hard to make me like you, you say stuff like ‘hard on a nigga’ or ‘worrying a nigga’ or ‘grinding on a nigga’s nerves. I’m not saying that I don’t be laughing when you say it..

“You do laugh.”

“I know,” she told me. “That’s what I’m saying. But…”

“But what?”

“But that just ain’t who you are. I know you, City,” she told me. “You was all scared of flies and chicken when you first came down here.”

“So. What does that have to do with saying ‘a nigga’ all the time?”

“Nothing, but now, it’s weird. You sucking on your teeth and wanting me to ‘kiss a nigga’?” She started laughing and walking deeper behind some baby sticker bushes. “Just be you. And I’ll just be me.”

I knew I should have said okay, but I always had to have the last word, even with Shalaya Crump.

“You know what, Shalaya Crump? You don’t leave enough room for folks to change. I’m serious. You always gotta control everything. How come no one else can change but you? When I first met you, your breath stayed smelling like a pork chop sandwich. For real. You never brushed your teeth. Now you brush your teeth on the regular and chew gum.”

Shalaya Crump was dying laughing but I was just telling the truth.

“Don’t try and laugh it off,” I told her. “You changed so I can change, too. And maybe I changed how I talk from listening to you. You ain’t ever think about that?”

“Whatever, boy,” she said and got serious again. “The point is I ain’t giving out no kisses or no tongue like peppermints. I ain’t no gotdamn Candy Girl. Now can you please shut the hell up and let me show you something?”

We stepped into the cold Night Time Woods together. From inside the woods, the purple-gray of the road cut through the green just enough that it was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen next to Shalaya Crump’s face. Any other color against that green wouldn’t have been so pretty, but this purple, gray, and green was more than pretty. This purple, green, and gray made me know that Shalaya Crump and I were meant to be kissing soon.

I grabbed Shalaya Crump’s hand as soon as we got deep in the woods. In six years of knowing Sha-laya Crump, this was the first time I had ever held her whole hand and had her lead me into something. We had held hands before when we were in Sunday school and I tried to tell her that her hands were the sweatiest girl hands in the country. But this time was different. Shalaya Crump held on, and even when I loosened my grip, she held on even tighter. That’s always how you can tell if a girl likes you. If you loosen your grip and she loosens hers, you might as well go play football with your boys or something, because nothing is gonna pop off. Anyway, I felt like we were in our own version of “Thriller.”

“City. I can’t do this by myself anymore. I need vou to come with me.”

“Need me to what?”

“To come with me.”


Shalaya Crump knelt down next to this rusty handle that was covered in pine needles and leaves. The handle looked like the handle of this rusted brown iron Mama Lara used to keep her doors open. When Shalaya Crump pulled the handle, this hole inside the ground opened up. The door to the hole had rusty handles on both sides so someone inside the hole could pull the door shut if they needed to. Inside the hole were these dusty steps that led straight down to red clay. Shalaya Crump stepped half-down in the hole in the ground and looked up at me. All that was left outside the hole were her boobs, her head, and her bony arms. She looked back at me and said, “Please, City. Don’t let me go by myself this time. I need to show someone.”

If anyone else in the world, including my mama or Mama Lara, were boob-deep into a hole in the ground, asking me to follow them, I would have run away and called the police. But standing right there, watching Shalaya Crump want me to help her so bad, made me ask myself when was the next time I could count on Shalaya Crump inviting me anywhere dark, small, and secret with her. I figured the worst thing that could happen is that we could get covered in worms or maybe it would be too hot in the hole and my sack would commence to smelling sour. But worms don’t bite, I told myself, and Shalava Crump’s underarms were already funky as six recesses.

The hole wasn’t the easiest to get in if you had wide hips, but after a while, I was in. “Now what?” | asked her. “Does my breath stank like stale Miracle Whip?”

Shalaya Crump grabbed my hand with her left hand and grabbed the handle with the other hand. “Don’t let go,” she said, “until I open the door again, okay?” Shalaya Crump pulled the secret door closed and darkness swallowed everything you were supposed to see.

“Your eyes closed, Shalaya?”

“Naw,” she said. “Yours?”

“Yeah.” I kept them closed for about ten seconds. “What about now? Your eyes still open?”

“Yeah, City. You should open yours, too.”

“Mine are open now,” I lied. “I ain’t scared of the dark.”

“Okay,” Shalaya Crump said. “Just be yourself when we open it. I need you to be yourself and don’t say a word to anyone.”

Shalaya Crump pushed the door open after about seven more seconds. Just like that, the woods were green like the Hulk’s chest instead of green like a lime. It felt hotter when we stepped out of the hole, too. Took a while for my eyes to adjust to the brightness. You could see bigger slithers of dark road from where we were in the woods, like the woods had gone on a diet. The road didn’t seem like a road anymore, either. It looked like a tar-black slab of bacon that was way fatter than it was before we went in.

“What’s wrong with Old Ryle Road?” I asked her.

“It’s new,” she said. She looked at my face, hoping that I’d act like I understood. “This ain’t the same woods we know, City.”

“It ain’t new.” | sucked my teeth. “How could woods be new in like five minutes?” | looked around and saw the Shephard house. Then I turned and looked at Shalaya Crump, who was watching me watch everything around us. “Why you watching me like that?”

Shalaya Crump didn’t answer me. “You smell that?” I asked her and started coughing. The air in the woods was heavier than it had been. I always wanted my mama to get me one of those plastic asthma bottles like some of the white kids on TV, but she said I never needed one. “I think I got asthma, girl. I’m serious.” She looked at me and forced a fake laugh. “What happened to all the trees? And that house.” | pointed toward the Shephard house. “What happened to it?”

I started running toward what I thought was the Shephard house and Shalaya Crump ran behind me. It was the same shape as the Shephard house but it read MELAHATCHIE COMMUNITY CENTER on the iron front door.

“City, calm down. Please. You have to be calm. Don’t be so loud. They’re gonna hear us.”


I looked through the woods toward Old Ryle Road and saw a crazy blue Monte Carlo with the most golden wheels I’d ever seen. The rattling of its license plate was in rhythm with a deep boom that sounded over and over again. It was the craziest, best-sounding boom I’d ever heard in my life.

“You hear that? What is it? Is that some new Run-D.M.C. or Herbie Hancock? Who that?”

“Be quiet, City.”

“How you gonna tell me to be quiet and you got me going in a hole feeling crazy? What’s wrong with you?” I grabbed her by her shoulders.

Shalaya Crump pushed my hands off. “Don’t ever push me.” She looked me in the eyes. “Ever! I don’t care if you feel crazy or not. All we can do is watch, okay? We can’t let them know we’re here. Shhh. Listen.”

We stood there in the middle of what kinda looked like the Night Time Woods, looking at what kinda looked like Old Ryle Road. I tried to block out anything other than the sounds of blackbirds chirping and stiff leaves blowing up on our feet and squirrels digging around in trees.

“Yeah, shoatee. Call me,” the voice said from the street. “I’ma keep my phone on!” But there was no one with him. The man was talking to himself.

“Is this a dream?” I asked Shalaya Crump. “Is it? It is, right? Well, I’m ’bout to wake myself up.” I took out my sweat rag and started trying to pop myself in the middle of the forehead, hoping I would wake myself up.

Shalaya Crump took my rag from me and told me to shut up. I heard more rattling booms coming from another strange truck with all-black windows and white hubcaps. I looked at Shalaya Crump and the confusion made me start tearing up right in front of her face. I tried to wipe my eyes with my sweat rag but it was too late. I was so Young and the Restless. Shalaya Crump was right.

“City,” she breathed all heavy and acted all weird like she was on a soap opera, “you know how I asked you not to show your work before?”


“Well, don’t ask me to show my work when I tell you this, okay?”

“Okay!” I wiped my eyes.

“This is 2013, City, and…


“Let me finish. I’m scared because, well, I think I’m dead. Can you help me?” I waited for her to say more, or at least look at me with a goofy grin. But she didn’t. Not at all.

“Shalaya Crump, I want you to show all your work now. All of it. I don’t give a damn if you say it’s long division.”

Instead of showing her work, Shalaya Crump took me by the hand and led me to the edge of the woods, where the sticker bushes met the shallow ditch that separated the woods from Old Ryle Road.

“You can’t talk to anyone, City. I only come out here at night when can’t no one see me,” she said. “I keep trying to find myself.”

I wanted to ask Shalaya Crump all kinds of questions, but across the street, in what should have been Mama Lara’s house, was a girl sitting on the porch with a tiny silver briefcase on her lap. Down the road, I saw that the trailer next door wasn’t even there anymore. The girl on the porch had her head down, except for every now and then when she’d raise it to drink from this huge cold drank. Every time she took a swig, she looked toward the woods. It looked like she was talking to herself and playing with a calculator.

“Where did that person get that big ol’ cold drank from?”

“All the bottles of cold drank are big around here.”

I looked harder at the girl and looked over at Shalaya Crump, hoping she would give me something more than she was giving me. “Well, why is she sitting on Mama Lara’s porch?”

“Does that look like your Mama Lara’s porch, City?”

“Well, kinda. I mean, not really. I mean it does, but it doesn’t. But…” I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say. Shalaya Crump was right that the place didn’t exactly look like my Mama Lara’s any more. It looked like what my Mama Lara’s place would look like if it had been in a few tornadoes. It made me feel funny that Shalaya Crump didn’t say anything about how the girl sitting out on the porch, at least from where we were, looked almost just like her, except this girl was thicker with way shorter hair, maybe a bigger nose, and boobs that looked like the balled-up fists of a seven-year-old.

“Who is that?” | asked her.

Shalaya Crump didn’t answer, and I got tired of asking her questions she wouldn’t answer. I started across the street toward the girl on the porch.

As I got closer to the porch, I could see that the girl on the porch had a strange haircut like a boy. The hair was the shape of Mr. T’s hair but there was still hair on the sides, and the top was thicker than his.

The girl on the porch closed the tiny silver briefcase and stood up. She placed this book, with the words “Long Division” on the cover, on top of the briefcase. The silver briefcase was one of those weird things you only see on TV. When she stood up, I expected her to say something. Or she expected me to say something, but I didn’t, and she didn’t either. I just looked at her for probably ten whole seconds.

Then she finally said, “Excuse you! Who you looking for?”

I walked closer and realized that Shalaya Crump had the same eyes and face shape as this girl on the porch, but this girl was a little lighter than her and she had really long legs and arms like a penguin. Up close, you could see that this girl’s forehead was one of the biggest and greasiest you’ve ever seen in your life.

“You might wanna check yourself, mayne, don’t you think?” the girl said. “You think you can just walk up on folks because you can dress?”

“Um, I can dress?”

“Where you get them Converse at? I like that little hipster white boy thang you got going on.”

“You do? I got these for Christmas.”

“What’s your name?”

I just looked at the girl and thought of the coolest name I’d ever heard. “Voltron,” I told her. “But you can call me T-Ron if you want.” | never told white folks or strangers my real name. But usually I alternated between Bobby, Ronnie, Ricky, and Mike, the names of some of the dudes in New Edition.

The girl rolled her eyes, then opened up her little briefcase and sat back down. “Okay T-Ron, my name’s Baize. Baize Shephard,” she said before moving the book and opening up the tiny silver brief-case. “Look, mayne, I don’t mind you being on my porch, but you gotta quit looking thirsty like you wanna steal somebody’s rhymes.”

“Rhymes? What kind of rhymes? Girl, what’s wrong with you? Why you keep calling me ‘mayne’?”

“That’s what we say.”

“Who? How do you even spell that?” I asked her.

“You don’t even know me,” the girl said. “And I don’t know you either. Mayne! But I know how you look. And you look like the type to wanna steal somebody’s rhymes off their computer. Can I keep it one hundred?”

“I guess so. What does ‘keep it one hundred’ even mean?”

“One hundred. Like one hundred percent. Listen, if you don’t want me to think you jack people, then don’t call yourself T-Ron. That can’t be your real name,” she said.

“Wait–that’s a computer?” I asked her.

“Yeah, what else would it be?”

” thought it was a silver briefcase. Whatever it is, that thing is cold as a mug.”

“A briefcase?”

“Yeah, for children.”

She laughed loud and hard. “You trying to spit game?” she asked me. “What does that even mean? Show me a child who uses a briefcase. I know you’ve heard of a laptop computer.”

“A lab top computer?”

“Lap. Lap, mayne. See.” She picked the computer up, held it in the air for a moment, and then placed it back on her lap. “This is a computer and this, see this? This is my lap. Stop fronting. Why you playing stupid? You go to school around here, don’t you?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Then you must’ve gotten one a few years ago with FEMA money they sent us after all them tornadoes hit us again. Don’t tell me your mama and them sold it on eBay? I was watching this web series, Confessions of a PTSD Survivor. You heard of it?”

I looked down and I could really see the book’s cover for the first time. On the black cover were a keyboard, half a brush, a Klan hood, some blue flowers, and three dots beneath the word “division.” I was thinking of what to ask her about the book when I heard a man’s voice in conversation behind me.

1 turned toward the road as a taller man wearing a big brown T-shirt walked down the street, talking to himself.

“How come everyone around here likes to talk to themselves?”

“He on the phone,” the girl said. “Why you trippin’?”

“I can see he’s talking to himself.”

“Look, you ain’t gonna get loud with me on my own porch. You know that’s Bluetooth. I know it’s played out. They think they styling with the little headsets, just like you think you styling with that outfit.” She paused. “And that curly shag. Where you from?”

I looked across Old Ryle Road at Shalaya Crump and motioned for her to come on over. “My friend is over in those woods and I want her to see all this. Is it okay if she comes over and sees FEMA’s computer?”

“No,” she said. “Why didn’t she come with you?”


“Your ‘friend'”–she made these quotations marks in the air–“is a girl, right?”

“Unh huh!”

“She’s your girl, right?”

“Um, she halfway my girl.”

“Oh, okay,” she said. “Yeah, well, no! I been seein’ a motley-looking girl sneaking around here for a while. She looks shade tree to me. I went after her the last time I saw her peeking out of those woods.”

“You did?”

“Yep. But she disappeared. I found this, though, after she left,” she said and grabbed the book. “You ever heard of this book?”

I ignored her question and walked over beside her and saw that the computer really wasn’t a tiny briefcase at all. There was a keyboard and a flat TV screen, and on the flat TV screen were all these colorful, dizzy images and boxes and words.

I couldn’t blink.

Or breathe.

Or move.

“Don’t think I’m hating on your girlfriend over there, ’cause I’m not. I just saw this strange white boy over in those woods yesterday, too, and I let him use my computer. He was dressed like one of those white children who be getting homeschooled up north. You know, the kind whose parents don’t let them watch TV or eat sweet cereal? Anyway, I gave him some of my daddy’s old clothes.”

“Wait, what?” I asked. I heard her but I didn’t really hear her. All I could do was watch and listen to my heartbeat as the girl moved her fingers across the letters.

“Yeah, he told me he was looking for more clothes that matched the time.”

“Matched the time?”

“I told him to go downtown to the Salvation Army.” While she was talking, she pushed something below the little square thing on the computer and in a second, the screen flipped on to what looked like the front page of a newspaper. The headline on the newspaper was “The Obamas Get Another Family Dog Just in Time for the Election Cycle.”

“Who is that?”

“Who is who? The dog? I don’t think they named it yet.”

“Not the dog. The man and the woman and those girls. Who are they? And how come you can watch TV on your computer?”

“Stop playing. You think the oldest one cute? All the boys in my class stay falling out over that girl.”

I looked at the bigger girl. “I mean, yeah, she’s kinda cute, but who are these folks?”

“Dumbness, we cared about funky dogs when the president was white. Why we can’t make a big deal about dogs when the president is Black?”

“That’s the president?”

“Oh my god, dumbness. I just can’t.”

“And this is a computer and a TV and a newspaper all on that screen?”

“Yes, boy.”

“And what is that?”

I pointed to a little rectangle on the side of the newspaper where someone named @UAintNoStunna815 wrote @SMH you goin to that Spell-Off #yoassdumberthanyoulook and someone named @YeahTheyReal601 wrote TTYL LOL cute herb on my porch #hatingaintahabit.

“Twitter,” the girl said, “but that ain’t none of your business.”

“Wait. And people here talk on phones with no hands?”

“Voltron!” It was weird because even though my name wasn’t Voltron, it made my insides tingly to hear her call me by what she thought was my name. “Why are you acting like you stuck in the ’90s?”

“What year is this?” I asked her. “Be for real.”

“2013, crackhead. You got that new swine flu?”

A voice from inside the house interrupted my good feelings. “Baize, come on in here and set this table. We got to practice them words for that spell-off.”

“That’s my great-grandma.” Baize looked down at my hips. “She want me to come in and study for the spelling bee tomorrow. It’s over in the community center. You going? Want me to ask her if you can eat with us? I ain’t gonna lie to you; her cooking is wack, but she getting better at frying some catfish.”

As the screen door slammed shut, I got closer to the laptop. Right next to the computer and Long Division was this little black thing that looked like some kind of special calculator. If it wasn’t sitting next to that computer, I would have been super interested in it, but it was kinda boring compared to that laptop.

I didn’t know what to focus on when I looked at the computer–the machine carrying the pictures and the words, or the pictures and the words themselves. I had never felt anything like that before. I just wanted to talk to someone who would also understand none of what I was seeing and all of what I was feeling. And that someone was across the road peeking her slow/fast-blinking eyes through green and orange and brown trees.

I picked the laptop computer up with my two hands scooped underneath like it was a tray, placed Long Division on top of it, and looked toward the hole. Then I thought about how happy Shalaya Crump would be if I brought her a calculator from 2013. So I put the calculator in my mouth, jumped off the porch, and sprinted back to the woods.

When I reached her, I gave Shalaya Crump the calculator and we both ran to the hole. Shalaya Crump got in first and I followed her. With just my head outside the door, I could see Baize sprinting toward us. She was screaming and cussing, talking about, “Naw. Naw. I know you didn’t.”

It was too late, though. The secret door was closed. The computer, Long Division, the calculator, Shalaya Crump, and I were in it and we were somewhere in time.

When the door opened up, you couldn’t see Old Ryle Road at all, but you could see the fuzzy glow of the streetlight. Shalaya Crump was next to me, breathing louder than I’d ever heard her breathe. I had never even seen her tired in all the years I’d known her, not even during push-up contests. Shalaya Crump actually had the best wind of anyone I’d ever met.

“Look at this.” | angled the screen toward her so she could see the pictures and the newspaper and the Black president, but the screen was blank except for little shapes along the bottom. “That girl, she told me this is called a laptop computer from FEMA. I don’t know why it ain’t working. I swear when I was on the porch there was all this stuff on the screen. And look at this book. That girl said it’s the weirdest book she ever read.”

Shalaya Crump simply turned and walked off. “I’m going home, City,” she said.

“Wait. Why? Why’d you stay in the woods? You talked to that girl before? She said she’s seen you before. She’s like a fatter version of you with a nappy Mohawk, but not really…”

“You like her, don’t you?”

“Like who?”

“I know you do.”

“That girl? Baize?” For some reason, I thought Shalaya Crump was really asking me if I liked the girl, as in spit-some-GAME like, so I thought about it and told her exactly what I thought.

“I don’t like her like that, but she didn’t get on my nerves like a lot of girls do, either. She had these big circle earrings and there was something strange about how she talked. It’s like her tongue was too fat. She kept talking about rhymes and ‘one hundred’ too much. Her face was bumpy, too, especially on her forehead. And then she claimed she liked how I dressed. No girl ever told me that. She looked like you, except her hair was way shorter, but I already told you that. Maybe I liked her, but not that much. I think she knows more than I know and I guess I think I know more than her about other stuff, too. I liked that she had a laptop computer more than I liked her. You know what I’m trying to say?”

“Bye, City.”

Shalava Crump walked off in front of me out of the woods. I followed her down Old Ryle Road talking the entire time about the girl and the laptop computer and asking her, did we really just jump to 2013? We must have looked crazy to anyone who saw us.

When I got in front of Mama Lara’s house, I said bye to Shalaya Crump, but she just went to her trailer without saying a word to me. I would have cared if it were any other day.

When I got in the house, I flipped open the computer and moved the little arrow thing around the screen like I’d watched Baize do. In the corner was this little picture with the word “Unfinished” on it. I moved the arrow to the picture and pushed on it. A half-drawn blue, white, and plum-red picture opened up on the screen. At the bottom of the picture was this water with palm trees and a few little boats, but right above the water was a huge face and a cool-looking Klansman with a stick over his shoulder floating in the sky. The face looked like Baize’s in a way, but it kinda looked like my face, too, if my hair would have been lined up right. I ran the arrow over all the images in the picture and pushed on them, but nothing happened. It was like playing video games except I didn’t know how you were supposed to win.

After a while I pushed on something called “Word” and a blank screen opened up. After you pushed “Word” there was the word “File,” and at the bottom of “File” were all these sections that said “Storm Rhyme” and the numbers 1 through 10. When I pushed on “Storm Rhyme #4,” writing appeared in the center of the screen:

… Not your everyday rapper
but every day’s a gray haze.
Who took the moons outta June?
Come take the pain outta Baize.

My fat beautiful mouth
was born right here in the South
where Ma and Daddy, they went swimming,
tryin to find a way out.

But Katrina was hummin
and my folks got to runnin.
Ears open for God
but she ain’t telling them nothin.

Now Melahatchie ain’t
exactly what
We thought it was.
Blues for days, dark mayonnaise
and kinda country..


You wanna
touch us?


You really fucked us!

I had a hunch that you’d try to crush us
so I grabbed my tool.

And now you’re scared of a dyke?
This ain’t a dick, it’s a mic.
You went for yours, growled a little
and I was scared of you.


Matter fact you suck,
and quite wack, you ducked.
Now quack, or cluck,

cuz Baize don’t give nan fuck…

Sometimes you read the stuff people write and have a hard time thinking the person would write the stuff you read. That’s because most people try to write like they’re writing for a bad honors English teacher or a librarian even when there’s no honors English teachers or librarians around. The only honors class I was ever in was English, and Ms. Shivers said everything you wrote had to be believable. It’s more important that it’s believable than that it’s smart, she told us. English teachers like Ms. Shivers were always talking about “the reader.” Whoever “the reader” was, it never seemed like she could be like me. How could you make someone you didn’t know do things they didn’t want to do?

Anyway, even though I couldn’t figure out how the words were supposed to sound when Baize rapped them, I could still hear Baize saying the words to “Storm Rhyme #4” in my head. I was Baize’s reader, and I believed everything she said. By the end, I hated that Katrina girl just as much as she did.

But I knew no honors English teacher or librarian was “the reader” for “Storm Rhyme #4.” And it wasn’t just because of the cussing or rhymes. It was mainly because of those dots she used. She used dot-dot-dot to start the rhyme, and she used dot-dot-dot in the middle of the rhyme, and she used dot-dot-dot at the end of the rhyme. And it just seemed kinda perfect to me. I’d seen those dot-dot-dots and I’d heard Shalaya Crump say dot-dot-dot before, but I never really knew what they meant or how folks were supposed to use them. I used them once on a test when I didn’t know the answer and Ms. Arnold wrote, “Citoyen you better be ashamed before God for trying to trick your teacher.” I thought Ms. Arnold should’ve been ashamed before God for not using a comma after she wrote my name.

Anyway, I had never really even been allowed to spend much time on a typewriter or a big computer either, but typing on a laptop computer was even better. Whatever you typed showed up on the screen, and if you didn’t like what you wrote, you could erase it and rewrite it. After you rewrote it enough, it was like your words were famous. Even if you had the best pencil-writing style in the world like Shalaya Crump, no matter how good the writing looked, it never looked famous. And if you erased too much and the paper was all smudged, you just looked dumb, poor, and messy. But the words on Baize’s computer screen looked famous, like words in a book, even if you wrote something that you would never see in a book, like “Storm Rhyme #4.”

I started typing a lot and erasing a lot. It took me about ten minutes to come up with My name is City. Shalaya Crump says I’m like long division.

Then, out of the blue, I realized something. Shalaya Crump was jealous of me liking that girl, Baize.

I guess I should have known it earlier, but I never thought I could do anything to make Shalaya Crump jealous. Just thinking about her being jealous made me feel so good about myself. If she was jealous, I knew it would only be a matter of time before she was kissing me. My new GAME was to keep her jealous for a little bit, then prove to her that I liked her way more than Baize. A few minutes after that, I knew we’d be kissing. Once I got kissing Shalaya Crump back in my mind, I couldn’t think of anything else. It was always like that. So I typed and erased about her for hours. At the end of the night, all I had was one good sentence, and I used italics and the dot-dot-dots in it, too. It felt like the right thing to do.

I never had a girlfriend because the last time I saw Shalaya Crump she told me that she could love me if I helped her change the future dot-dot-dot in a special way.

Barely awake, I opened Long Division and read until I fell asleep.


(BOOK TWO, pages 36 – 57)

After Mama Lara disappeared down the road for her morning walk, I went back and brought my new computer and book out onto the porch. I knew Mama Lara would know I’d stolen the computer if she saw it, and she’d think Long Division was something kids shouldn’t be reading since the word “nigga” was on the very first page. As cool as the book was, it still wasn’t as cool as the computer, and I wanted everybody who walked or rode down Old Ryle Road to see that I had something they could never have.

I’d been typing on the computer and waiting on the porch for Shalaya Crump for thirty minutes when I saw a person out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head toward the Night Time Woods and saw the person jump back into the woods. I was never scared of those woods, or of the Shephard Witch, to tell you the truth. I kinda didn’t believe in witches or magic. I figured it was just Shalaya Crump trying to play me for a fool.

When I got all the way into the woods, it felt like one of those dark dreams where you watch yourself get eaten by a bucktoothed ghoul before waking up. I pulled my sweat rag out from my back pocket, closed the laptop computer, threw the book on the ground, and got ready to pop a buck-toothed ghoul in the forehead if one stepped to me.

Anyway, as soon as I took about three steps into the woods, I had to pee. One of the best things about coming down to Melahatchie for spring break was that I got to pee outside. I found a dusty area near the Shephard house where I could try to spell my name.

“Hey, boy,” I heard a deep froggy voice say from behind me. “What you got in your hands?” The voice sounded like it was coming from behind a box fan. I didn’t even plan on turning around, but I did just to see the face that was carrying a voice like that.

The only white boy I’d ever seen with a fro was this old dude on PBS who made vou fall asleep and dream about floating while he painted the finest in bushes and clouds. But this white boy had the same kind of fro. He wore a puffy blooded sweatshirt with bleach stains on it and “Fresh” across the front in green letters. The sweatshirt was way too big for him but he had it tucked in these nice sky-blue pants that were a mix of jeans and slacks.

I angled myself so he wouldn’t see my privacy while I was crossing the Tin my name.

“Ain’t trying to see your johnson,” the boy said. “Relax.” I shot my eyes down to his feet and these glowing green fat laces in his All Stars. “What you looking at?” he asked me. “You some kind of queer kid? If you are, you are. Just like to know what kind of man I’m talking to.”

“Um, I like booties,” I told him. “I like girl booties.”


“Naw. Booties,” I told him. “I like booties. Big ol’ girl booties, and boobies too, I guess. But mainly booties. You wouldn’t know nothing about that.”

“You like big ol’ girl booties?” He knelt down, tried to stop himself from laughing, and brushed his shoes off. “Where you from, buddy?”

“Chicago, man. I’m down here for spring break because folks stay shooting folks too much in Chicago. I’m in a gang, though.” | was so nervous and I was being so raggedy with my lies and I had no idea why. “What about you, with that fro? White boys ain’t supposed to have fros like that.”

“Ain’t white. From a little bit of everywhere, though,” the boulderhead boy said. He started coughing and eyeing my laptop computer. “Where’d you get that contraption in your grip anyway?” He wiped his mouth.

The white boy’s bottom teeth were so crooked that they zigzagged, and he had the chappiest top lip I’d ever seen in my life. It looked like frozen vanilla frosting was just sleeping on that thing. And his nose was closer to his top lip than it should have been, so it looked like he was constantly smelling his own chappy frosting. The skin on his face was so Saran wrap-tight, too, that the head and jawbones damn near burst right through his skin. And I hate to gross you out, but there were a few scabbed-up scars on the top-right side of his face that jutted out like raisins. To tell you the truth, I kinda wished I had some scabs like that on my face so I could pick them off before I went to bed.

“This is a laptop computer,” I told him. “What’s your name?”

“Evan,” he told me. “That’s what they tell me.”

“They? What’s your last name?”

“Altshuler. What’s the date?”

“Like aw shucks?” I asked him. “Man, your name, it don’t make a lick of sense. It’s 1985. March. You from the future? 2013?”

“Naw, I ain’t from no future.” He pointed past the Shephard house, toward Belhaven Street. “I’m Jewish.”

Evan’s eyes opened up big after he said that, like he expected me to say something mean. I was kinda surprised, because I never met a person who said they were Jewish before, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t have a clue what it really meant. Since we moved to Chicago from Jackson last year, I heard the word a lot more, but people used the shorter version, “Jew,” and sometimes it was a noun and sometimes it was a verb. In elementary school, I heard about Adolf Hitler torturing Jewish people and how some of them got hanged and drowned in Mississippi back in the 1960s for trying to help Black folks get the right to vote, read, and pee in the same bathroom as white folks, but that was it. I didn’t know what to do with this boy saying he was Jewish when he just looked like any slightly deformed white boy to me.

“Can I ask you a question?” I tried to change subiects and come back with a question that might make him stop looking at me so hard. “Is it okay if I ask you why you look so sick? And not even just sick. I’m saying you look crazy dusty. How old are you?”

He looked at the ground and mumbled, “Fifteen. Just told you that I ain’t white.”

“My name is Voltron,” I told him. “Folks call me T-Ron.”

“No it ain’t,” he said. “Citoyen is the name they give you. Folks call you City.”

“What did you just say?” I asked him.

“I know who you are,” he said and stepped closer to me. “Your name is Citoyen Coldson. You was born in Jackson and moved to Chicago two years ago. Your mama dropped you off at your Ma-Maw’s house yesterday. And you lost your granddaddy, your Ma-Maw’s husband, in these woods. Right over yonder.” He pointed toward the Shephard house.

“I gotta go, man,” I told him. “Don’t take it the wrong way. It’s not that you’re Jewish. It’s just that I don’t like the look in your eyes. You can understand that, right?”

“You need my help, City,” the boy said. “Let me show you something.”


“The past.”

“The past what?”

“I need to show you the past,” he said. “Listen to me. We can change it.”

I couldn’t figure out how Jewish Evan Altshuler knew anything about my mama, my Mama Lara, or my granddaddy disappearing. It was something that only the truly craziest of white characters on a crazy show like Fantasy Island would say. Shalaya Crump always said that truly-crazy-white-folks talk always came before truly-crazy-white-folks action. And Mama, Mama Lara, and Shalaya Crump always told me that if you popped someone in the head who was white and crazy, you could go to jail for life. So l had to be careful with this dusty white boy.

“Oh really,” I said. “The past, huh? I hear that. That’s nice to hear. So nice. And um, I want you to show me that past, but I’m finna go home first and eat me a bologna sandwich. You want me to bring you one?”

I started walking backward toward Old Ryle Road, but Evan walked toward me. “I’m serious, City. You need to see this. We can stop it. Come back with me. That house,” he pointed to the Shephard house. “It used to be a Freedom School. You know what a Freedom School is?”

“Yeah,” | lied. “I know. It’s a school where they teach freedom.”

“They burned that school down to the ground with our families in it. Yours and mine. They took their bodies over to the–“

“So,” I interrupted him, “you want some Sandwich Spread and mustard on your bologna sandwich, right?” And with that, I turned toward the road and sprinted like Carl Lewis until I was all the way out of the Night Time Woods, away from the craziest white boy I’d ever seen in my life, and back on the porch of my Mama Lara’s house.

I wasn’t on the porch longer than two minutes, wondering how much of what Jewish Evan Altshuler said was true, before Shalaya Crump opened the door to her trailer. She had an unwrapped package of saltines in one hand and a cold drank in the other.

Shalaya Crump walked to the middle of Old Ryle Road and stood across from my porch, sipping on a cold drank. I thought she’d come over to my porch immediately. Instead, she took a big gulp of cold drank, gobbled up three saltines at once, then walked down the road and hopped in the woods.

I figured Shalaya Crump was gonna go in the woods and wait five minutes for me to follow her. When she saw that I didn’t come after her, she’d shamefully walk up to my porch and we’d talk about my new laptop computer, my new book, and how she was jealous of the girl with the greasy forehead. Or, I figured she’d come out screaming after seeing Jewish Evan Altshuler’s ugly face.

I waited and waited and waited for her to come back to my porch. After twenty minutes, I don’t know why, but I was sure that Shalaya Crump was never coming back out of those woods.

I stood up and got ready to go find Shalaya Crump when the worst thought in the history of thoughts just smacked me in the back of the head: What if Jewish Evan Altshuler and Shalaya Crump travel through time together like superheroes and have lots of babies the color of cheap graham crackers?

That thought stretched out for two minutes and some seconds until I remembered that I’d never ever heard Shalaya Crump say anything sexy about white boys in the seven years I’d known her. Even when this one white boy named Parker Vincent, who looked like a pudgy Michael J. Fox, moved to Melahatchie from Memphis and all the other girls said they’d never mess with a white boy but if they did, they’d mess with Parker Vincent, Shalaya Crump told me, “I wouldn’t mess with Parker Vincent or any white boy on earth, not even if I was white and white boys were the only boys left on earth. I’m serious. I’d start liking girls before I did that.”

I walked back in the woods twenty minutes later with my computer and Long Division to find Shalaya Crump sitting on the ground with her legs crossed. She and Jewish Evan Altshuler were messing around with that calculator-looking thing I’d stolen from Baize.

“That’s a phone,” Shalaya Crump told me as she started pushing more buttons. “I figured it out last night but I can’t get no reception.” She put it up to her ear and kept saying “hello,” but no one an-swered. “I know it’s a phone,” she said to both of us like we all knew each other.

“That ain’t all that cool,” I told her.

“Better than it is now,” she said. “I’m tired of sneaking to use the phone all the time. You know how big of a deal it is if you have your own phone in your room? Imagine if you had your own phone that you could take with you everywhere you went. I wonder if you gotta pay for long distance with it?”

“Hell yeah! Why wouldn’t you? And who you talking to on the phone long-distance anyway, other than me?” I asked her. “I thought–“

Jewish Evan Altshuler interrupted my question and started talking to Shalaya Crump about something called a “bell boy” and “area-to-area calling.” Shalaya Crump tried to explain to the white boy what the buttons were for on a phone, because he’d only used the slow-mo rotary kind. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t make him understand how long distance, beepers, buttons, and answering machines worked.

“Show it to me one more time if you don’t mind,” he said. “Just the part about how you can tell someone you ain’t home when you ain’t home. They can leave a message that you can hear on your phone?”

I would’ve been laughing at Jewish Evan Altshuler’s dumb ass, but I wasn’t thinking about him being a country white asshole. I was thinking of how I had never seen Shalaya Crump sit like she was sitting. She was leaning back on her hands and when she wasn’t talking about phones, she was just listening to him. Kneeling right next to her on one knee was that sick-looking Evan. I couldn’t figure out how they ended up in that position, with him kneeling and her sitting, in only thirty minutes.

“I reckon I need to see the answering machine working to understand it,” he told Shalaya Crump. “But listen, we can save all three of the folks I told you about. Just gonna need your help for one day. Y’all can make it back before the sun goes down.” As I walked closer to them with my computer in my arms, Jewish Evan Altshuler looked up at me. “We need you too, City,” Evan said.

“You know that hole we went in yesterday?” Shalaya Crump asked me. “It’s not just a time tunnel to the future, City. He thinks–“

“My name’s Evan,” he interrupted.

“Evan thinks there’s one in 1985, and that there’s one we went to in 2013, and there’s one that we ain’t even seen to 1964.”

“This white boy is lying to you,” I told her.

I was getting tired of Jewish Evan Altshuler. It messed with me that he knew my name and that my granddaddy disappeared in those woods, but that I didn’t know nothing about his life. That’s not even what messed with me most, though. When I looked in Evan’s face and eyes, I couldn’t see fifteen years old. His face was timeless in a terrible way. It looked like a face in a book that I would never read.

When I looked at Shalaya Crump’s face and eyes, I could see how I thought she looked during every year of her life. I swear that I could look at Shalaya Crump and see her as a four-year-old girl straight running all the kids in Head Start. And thinking about it right there, and watching her, I understood that it was Shalaya Crump’s eyes that showed me her age more than her face. Sometimes, Shalaya Crump’s eyes stayed big as dirty silver dollars and they didn’t blink for minutes. When they finally blinked, you would think you were in a tiny bathtub with a ton of hummingbirds ’cause they blinked so fast. Other times, Shalaya Crump’s eyes looked right at me, blinked slow, and made me feel like I was jumping off a space mountain onto a trampoline of clouds drawn by the baddest artist in the world. It’s hard to explain, but I swear a lot of it had something to do with Shalaya Crump’s eyes and how slow and fast they blinked at the same time.

If I could see all that in Shalaya Crump’s eyes, you’d think it would be pretty easy to see something like that in Jewish Evan Altshuler’s eyes, too. But this dude’s eyes were so tired, so droopy, and so blue that it was hard for me to believe that he was fifteen ever. I mean, he looked thirteen or maybe even ten in the body, but his face looked like it had died a long, long time ago. Jewish Evan Altshuler looked like he had spent all of his years getting punched in the eyes by bucktoothed ghouls with the boniest fists you’d ever seen in your life.

And I just couldn’t figure out how a white boy who looked like that could get the attention of someone as magical as Shalaya Crump.

“Ain’t lying,” Jewish Evan Altshuler said. “And I ain’t white. I told you, I’m Jewish. I’m a Jew. Born right here in Melahatchie in 1948. My uncle Zachariah and his family live right next to us.” He looked at me. “You from Chicago, you said. My cousins go to temple every now and again ’round over at Beth Israel on the West Side. You know where that is?”

“Can you hold on?” Shalaya Crump asked him. “That would make you thirty-seven years old?”

“Fifteen years old. Be sixteen next month,” he said.

Jewish Evan kept talking. He explained that in 1964, his family was one of a few Jewish families from the area who wanted Black folks to have the right to vote and go to schools with decent books. He claimed that our granddaddies and his uncle and brother didn’t just disappear. He said that all four of them were run up on in a Freedom School, and they were hanged and burned by “people acting like they were the Klan.”

“Wait,” I said. “What do you mean by ‘acting like’ they were in the Klan?”

“Folks who got them were dressed like they were in the Klan, but it wasn’t really the Klan,” he said.

“Why?” Shalaya Crump asked him.

“I don’t mean no disrespect. It’s just that in my life, I seen clear as day that there ain’t really no ‘why’ when you dealing with the Ku Klux Klan,” he said.

“Yeah, but you just said we ain’t really dealing with the Klan,” she said.

“Get your lies straight, man,” I told him. “You said we were dealing with folks who dressed up like the Klan.”

“What I know is–“

Shalaya Crump interrupted him again. “There’s always a ‘why’ Evan, and what you saying don’t make no sense at all.”

“Exactly. I know it sounds crazy as a four-eyed dog,” he said. “It hasn’t happened yet. But it’s supposed to happen tomorrow.”

I just stood there waiting and wondering if there was more to his crazy story. “Okay,” I said, “but I still don’t get why we should go back and risk our lives to save folks who we think are dead anyway.” I looked over at Shalaya Crump. “What you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that I don’t wanna wake up in the future and wish we would have done it.”

“But do you want to do it?”

“I mean, City, we’d want someone to come save us today if we knew we were gonna be dead tomor-row. Shoot, that’s a fact, right?”

“But would they?” I asked her. “Would your grandma even do that for you if some white boy who called her a ‘Negro’ was the one telling her to do it?” Shalaya Crump was looking all in my eyes and I was so focused on what I was saying that I couldn’t even try to spit game in front of her. “We don’t know nothing about them old dudes, and nothing about no Freedom Schools and nothing about no Klan. All we know is the Klan ain’t nothing to mess with. You told me that!”

“It’s not the real Klan,” Evan said.

“Does it matter if they kill Black folks the same way the real Klan does?” Shalaya Crump asked him.

“The Klan killed Jews, too.”

We waited for Evan to say more, but he just held his mouth open, kept both hands on his hips, and kept swallowing his own spit. I grabbed Shalaya Crump by the hand. “Shalaya Crump, we lived our whole life this far with no granddaddies. Think about it. I don’t know if we somehow got stuck in a dumb book or movie. Right now, I feel like we supposed to say, ‘Golly, let’s go save the grandfathers we never knew.’ But like you always say, life ain’t no book. This is real life. In real life, do we really need our granddaddies?”

Shalaya Crump laughed and actually looked at me like she thought I had a point. Then she looked over at Evan and flicked her gum at his feet and started doing these weird toe raises. “City’s right,” she said. “We don’t know a thing about having granddaddies. Even if we did, I mean, what happens if we change our future by changing the past? It’s impossible to not change the future if you change the past, right? More would change than just us having granddaddies.”

Shalaya Crump was always taking the best thing you ever said and then adding something even better to it to make the best thing you ever said sound pretty bootleg. I understood what she was say-ing. Even if we saved our granddaddies and Evan’s folks, what if it changed everything and we ended up not being born?

“Listen,” Evan said, “you’re both right, but I know the future.”

“So what!” we both said. “We do, too.”

“Then you know that the future has to be changed? Look.” He looked at Shalaya Crump. “I know what happens to both of you.”

“You do?” Shalava Crump jumped in.

“He’s lying, ‘Laya.” It was the first time I had ever shortened her name to Laya. “How can this goofy white boy know what happens to us or even know the future if he can’t even understand how an answering machine works?”

Jewish Evan Altshuler ignored my question and got right in Shalaya’s face. She kinda backed up. “| promise if you come back and help me, I’ll tell you what happens to you in the future. Not only that, I can change what happens to you. I know what happens to your parents in the past, too.”

“You lying?” Shalaya Crump asked him.

Jewish Evan Altshuler cut his eyes to me before focusing on Shalaya Crump. “Ain’t much to look at. I know that. Can you listen to me?” He actually grabbed Shalaya Crump’s pinky. “I know so much more than you think I do. I give you my word, Shalayer Crump. Both of you.”

“Oh God,” Shalaya Crump said and took her pinky back. “Just promise. Don’t say you give your word.’ That’s so Ronald Reagan.”

“Hell yeah,” I said and fake laughed. “And it’s Shalaya, not Shalayer.”

I wanted to fight Jewish Evan Altshuler so bad right there, but I could tell by the way Shalaya Crump’s eyes didn’t blink and by the way she was looking at his crusty lip and feeling sorry for it that we were headed to 1964. Shalaya Crump was gonna go back whether I went or not. That was a given as soon as the dude said he could help her find her parents in the past and find herself in the future. And if I didn’t go, I was pretty much admitting that it was okay for her and Jewish Evan Altshuler to start loving each other til the end of time. You think I’m crazy, right? Well, I know that you can’t travel through time with a girl and save folks from the Klan and not kiss them unless you’re slightly deformed or unless you smell like death. And even then, there’s still gonna be some serious grinding going on. Serious grinding.

Shalaya Crump got in the hole first. Jewish Evan Altshuler followed her. I followed him. Before I closed the door, I looked around at the woods and zeroed in on the Shephard house. “Wait,” I said. “Who is that?”

I wanted to tell Shalaya Crump that there was a dark outline of someone watching us from the Shephard house window, but she wouldn’t have believed me, since she knew I was the only one of us three that didn’t want to go to 1964.

“Never mind,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.” | lowered myself under the ground with the laptop computer in my left hand and Long Division in my right hand and closed my eyes.

When we pushed open the door to 1964, the air was thin and you couldn’t even see Old Ryle Road because everything was so thick and green. Right in front of us, where the Shephard house used to be, was a building that was only half-painted yellow. Evan told Shalaya Crump that we were looking at a Freedom School.

“Should we go over there?” Shalaya Crump asked him. “What’s the plan?”

“I reckon our plan is to make sure the Klan in Melahatchie don’t ever kill again,” Jewish Evan Alt-shuler said. “I can get us some rifles.”

I looked at Shalaya Crump. “I told you that this white boy is crazy and he gonna get us killed. Didn’t I tell you? You see how he changed up his whole style now that he got us where he want us?”

“Wait,” Shalaya Crump said. “Hold up. Why didn’t you say something about killing white folks before you got us here?”

“I didn’t think of it until now.”

“White folks are the sneakiest people on earth,” Shalaya Crump said in a whispery voice, but loud enough so Evan could hear.

“I’m not white.”

“So you’re sneaky because you’re Jewish, then?”

Jewish Evan Altshuler just started huffing and puffing before finally saying, “Thought you were different, Shalayer Crump.”

“Different than what? And don’t say my name if you can’t say it right.”

“Different than anti-Semitic,” he said.

“Antiseptic?” I asked.

“Anti-Semitic. Your li’l girlfriend right here hates her some Jews.”

“I’m too big to be any boy’s little girlfriend. That’s the first thing,” Shalaya Crump said. “I’m a Black woman.”

“Top to bottom,” I said. “Top to bottom.”

“You’re a fifteen-year-old girl,” Evan told her. “Ain’t no woman. Trying to tell me that I’m white when I know I’m Jewish, ain’t you? Reckon I can tell you you’re a girl when you think you’re a woman.”

Jewish Evan Altshuler kinda had a point there, but I couldn’t agree with him.

“All I did was ask you if you were sneaky because you’re Jewish,” Shalaya Crump told him. “Anyway, a question can’t be wrong, especially if I ask it.”

“Is your head on right?” Evan asked. “That’s ’bout the dumbest thing I ever heard. Y’all don’t know nothing about Jews, do you?”

I expected Shalaya Crump to give him an A-plus speech about Jewish people, since she always seemed like she knew at least a little bit about everything. But she didn’t say a word.

“Evan,” I told him. “You ain’t gotta get so sensitive, homeboy. There’s more stuff to talk about than ‘Jewish’ stuff.” I looked at Shalaya Crump to see if that’s what she wanted me to say. “Right? It’s shade tree to bring us here and expect us to take out white folks for you. It just is. You know what would happen to us if we killed white folks?”

“Exactly,” she said.

Evan closed his eyes for damn near fifteen seconds and shook his head side to side. That was the first thing he’d done since we’d been together that really made him seem a lot older than us. “First of all, you got some colored Jews out there, too. Y’all know what these white folks do to Jews, no matter our color, if they find us out over ‘cross Highway 49 after dark?” he asked.

Shalaya Crump and I were quiet.

“They slaughter us,” he said. “Y’all don’t know a gotdamn thing.”

“Wait. What did y’all do to get slaughtered?” Shalaya Crump asked him. “And who slaughtered y’all?

Ain’t the word ‘slaughtered’ kinda so Chicken Plant?”

“Six million of us. And one million children. That’s not so Chicken Plant. That’s exactly what happened to my people, Shalaya.”

“But what else?” she asked him. “Why would white people slaughter other white people for no reason if there was colored folks around for them to slaughter?”

“Why you saying ‘colored’ now like him?” I asked her. “You know we don’t talk like that.”

“Because I don’t just mean Black. I’m saying that if there was Black people and Indian people and Chinese people and Mexican people around to slaughter, why would white people pick other white people?”

“Yeah, fool, obviously it’s more than being Jewish,” I told him. “You claim Jewish, right? And look at you. You ain’t slaughtered.”

“City, you’re really ’bout the most ignorant bastard I ever met.”

I stepped to him then, but Shalaya Crump grabbed me. “Step out that hole and let me show you how ignorant I can get,” |told him. “I know Jews are white. How about that?”

“If we was just white, how come…”

“I don’t know,” | interrupted. “I don’t know what you were gonna say and I don’t know why white folks do half of what y’all do. All we know is that whether you Jewish or not, y’all get off for whatever y’all do to us.” | looked at Shalaya Crump, who looked really proud of me. “That’s all we know. Shit.”

“I’m trying to tell y’all best I can that y’all are wrong,” he said. “Once they know who we are, we never get off. They killed six million of us and they’re killing us now over here if we don’t act right.”

“But that’s the point,” Shalaya Crump said. “We ain’t white like you. You can be Jewish and white or you can just be Jewish or you can just be white. Either way, you said it yourself. You gotta not act right to get killed. What do we have to do?”

“I’m not acting right now,” he said. “That’s all I’m saying.”

“No matter what, we can’t be killing no white folks,” I told him. “That’s all /’m saying. This is the stupidest conversation I ever heard of. I don’t even know why we talking to you.”

“Y’all are sorry as hell,” Evan said and looked at both of us. “I’m trying to help you.”

“That’s something else I don’t understand,” Shalaya Crump said to him. “If six million of your people got slaughtered and you know how time works, why not go back and help them?”

“If I could, I would, Shalaya.” I really hated hearing him say her name. “I can go travel to three places, the same three as you can. Somebody out there can travel back and help my people, though. Just not me. Or maybe they already did. Maybe it woulda been worse.”

I looked back and saw Shalaya Crump looking right in Evan’s face again. I figured she was going to say something sweet to him after that heartfelt end of his speech. “You were so right, City,” she said in the most calm, loving, and empty voice I’d ever heard her use. “This is a waste of time. Let’s just go home.”

After a while, as much as I wanted to hear Shalaya Crump slap the nasty taste out of Evan’s mouth, I started to get lightweight bored. They kept going back and forth even though Shalaya Crump said it was time to go. You can only listen to people call each other sorry and antiseptic for so long before it makes you wanna cut your ears off.

I hopped all the way out of the hole and started walking toward Old Ryle Road with my laptop computer under my arm and Long Division in my hand. It was weird, because even before you really completely saw Old Ryle Road, you could tell that it wasn’t a road. It was all dirt and rocks, and it was a lot thinner than the road in 1985.

When I reached the edge of the woods, I peeked through at what should have been my grandmother’s house. The house wasn’t there. In its place was a little country-looking store with two cold drank machines and a gas pump. The store had these red letters taped on the door that spelled THE COUNTY CO-OP.

“City,” I heard Shalaya Crump say behind me, “don’t say nothing to no one out there. This ain’t how I wanted to change the future. When you come back, we’re going back home.”

I ignored Shalaya Crump and stepped all the way into the road. Down the road, all those clean and organized houses and yards made me think of how the future wasn’t gonna do them too many favors. There were probably half the houses and trailers that were there in 1984. Mama Lara’s house wasn’t there but Shalaya Crump’s trailer already was.

I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I went across the street to the Co-op to ask people if they’d heard of the Coldsons. If our house wasn’t there, I just wanted to know where we lived. Plus, I had my own plan.

Evan was stupid to think that we had to kill people. I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk to anyone, but my plan was basic. It was to convince my granddaddy to watch out for the Klan if I got a chance.

That’s it.

It was that simple. Either my granddaddy would believe me or he wouldn’t, but at least he’d know. All my time coming up with plans in my GAME book helped me know how to get from point A to point B with the least amount of stress.

While I was peeking in the dusty window of that Co-op, a sorry-sounding “meow” scared the mess outta me. I looked around and there was this skinny black cat with a fat head looking right at me. It had a thick collar around its neck with the words RED NAVAL on it. You know what’s crazy? I had never ever seen a cat in Melahatchie in my entire life. Never. And I never thought anything about it. There were more limping Dobermans than there were people, but you never saw a cat.

Anyway, the cat came closer to me and just kept meowing. “I ain’t got no food for you. Is your name ‘Red Naval,’ or is that like the name of your owner? What?”


The cat came closer and I backed up.


I put the computer down facing the cat. The cat just walked right around the computer and got even closer to me.


“Oh, you talking noise? Don’t be mad because you don’t understand how to use it.” As I was talking, the cat walked off toward the side of the building. Before it turned the corner it meowed louder.

I looked toward the woods and into the Co-op, then walked toward the edge of the building, following the cat. I turned the corner of the Co-op and didn’t see the cat anymore. But there were two doors on the side of the Co-op. The first door was closed and it said WHITES ONLY-KEY IN FRONT. Scratched under the word “front” was the sentence “Nigger-loving Jews ain’t wanted here.” I tried to open it but it was locked. The second door, which was cracked open, said COLORED. I walked toward the door and was about to poke my head in when the cat came out and meowed again.

“I wish somebody would try and tell me I couldn’t do number two in that white bathroom,” I told the cat. “I don’t play that.”


“I’m serious. If that white folks’ bathroom was open, I swear to God I’d go in there and get to dooky-ing right in that sink.”


“I don’t care if it is a white folks’ sink. I would be smearing dookie all on the mirror and everything! I ain’t from here. I’m from 1985. I don’t play that mess.”

I stood there waiting for the cat to meow again, but it didn’t. It just stood there looking at me. I realized when I stopped talking all big and bad that a heavy whiff of sad like I’d never felt before was getting closer and closer to my neck. Reading about my family and other Black folks not being able to pee in a good bathroom was different than seeing a white folks’ bathroom locked and a colored bathroom just open for anything that wanted to come in. It said “colored” on the door, but it might as well have said cats, spiders, possums, coons, and roaches, ’cause it was open to them just like it was open to us.

The cat took me all the way to back of the Co-op, where there was this rusty clothesline with white sheets hanging on it. Right there in the middle was this one scraggly Doberman doing the do to this other fatter Doberman. They weren’t making no barks or no moans. They were just doing it like they were the last dogs on Earth.

The cat walked up about a foot from the Dobermans and sat on its hind legs. Then it started looking back and forth between the Dobermans and me. I can’t really blame the cat. I’d seen dogs doing it be-fore, but this was different. I would have bet my new computer and book that they wouldn’t be doing it like that if they were doing it with any other dogs. You never think of dogs being in love, but those dogs were. They really were.

While I was watching those dogs, as crazy as it sounds, my body started to feel like I was watching Porky’s. The Dobermans weren’t even that cute as far as dogs go, either. I didn’t like how the dogs were making me feel, so I started stomping and yelling, but they kept doing it like no one was screaming. All around the back of the Co-op were these little jagged gray rocks. They were too little to really throw far or hard, but they were good enough to hit a dog in the head if you threw a handful of them.

I cocked my arm back and dotted the heads of those Dobermans with gray rocks. The scraggly top Doberman got off the bottom Doberman real slow and they both just looked at me, along with the cat.

And I swear the cat licked its paws and actually said in the smoothest voice I’d ever heard in my life,

“Wow. You a real fat asshole for that right there. You don’t know better than to throw rocks at love?”

“You talk?” I asked the cat. Right then, I wondered if everything I’d experienced in the last day and a half was a dream, or if somehow, some way, I’d gotten trapped in someone else’s story.

“Don’t even worry about what I do,” the cat said. “You should probably get your fat ass to running, though.”

I slowly turned the corner and headed back toward the woods to find Shalaya Crump and Jewish Evan Altshuler. When I looked over my shoulder, all three beasts were sprinting at me, led by the cat, whose head looked less fat when he was sprinting.

I took off.

They were getting closer, but I jumped the ditch and landed in the woods. I scratched up my face, my legs, and the computer, but I didn’t even care. When I got closer to the hole, I wanted to tell Sha-lava Crump about the Dobermans and the talking Red Naval cat and the colored bathroom. As I got closer, though, I didn’t hear Shalaya Crump and Evan arguing at all. I figured I’d look in the hole and they’d be right there, wrestling or playing Mercy or Thump in a way that would make me wanna throw up.

I walked all the way up to the hole and peeked down in it. Damn. Damn. Damn.

I was in 1964 all by myself.

DMU Timestamp: April 27, 2023 14:28