Not One Clue

By: Lois Greiman


“Lavonn Amelia Blount!”

We jerked in unison toward the woman standing in the doorway. She was a hundred years old if she was a day. Her skin was black and wrinkled, her eyes as sharp as switchblades, her voice gravelly. “What in the good Lord’s name do you think you’re doing?”

“Grams!” Micky rasped.

Lavonn’s face twitched. “What are you doing here?”

“I keep tabs on folks from the old neighborhood,” she said. “What’s going on?”

Lavonn’s hands were wobbling, placing her aim somewhere between Micky’s knee and his clavicle. “Your boy shot Jackson.”

The old woman stared at her for a long eternity, then turned creakily toward Micky, completely ignoring the figure propped limp and motionless against the pristine wall. “Is that the gospel truth, Michael?”

“He—”

She stomped her cane against the rosewood flooring. “I asked if that was so!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

All oxygen seemed to have left the building.

“How come?”

No one spoke. The old woman’s brows lowered, and in that moment she looked far more dangerous than the crazy gal with the gun.

“I thought he’d hurt Jamel,” Micky said.

My eyes darted from one to the other.

“Who?” Grams asked, but in that moment a boy stepped into view. He was half-shadowed by the hallway but still you could make out his wide eyes, his protruding ears.

The room fell into silence as Grams turned to the child. A muscle jerked in her pemmican face, but then she straightened painfully to her full garden gnome stature. Her expression became flinty as the facts clicked together in her head. “Least my girl had sense enough to tape down your daddy’s ears before he was old as you,” she said.

The boy scowled. She watched him, eyes as bright as flares before she pulled in a hard breath and pursed her lips. “You’ll be coming home with me, boy.”

He shook his head. “I don’t wanna—”

The cane slammed to the floor again. “You want more of this?” She skimmed her eyes disdainfully about the elegant room: Jackson, Lavonn, the bloodstained floor, the tattered lives.

The boy looked, too, then shook his head, slowly, as if he wasn’t sure, or at least wasn’t sure he should admit it.

Grams nodded once, sharp and succinct. “Come,” she said, and he did, following her slow movements out the door and into the night with barely a backward glance.

The rest of us remained as we were, like marionettes without direction. Micky and I were frozen. Lavonn’s arms were still trembling, but she didn’t lower the gun.

“Put it down, Lavonn,” Micky said.

“How come my sister didn’t never tell me about you and her?” she asked again.

Micky’s mouth was tense, his body stiff. “She was young.” He winced and I prayed to God he would lie. There may be a time for absolute honesty, but so far I hadn’t found it. “Maybe she was embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed.” She snorted. The pistol jumped. “She was always talkin’ about how cute you was. How hot you was. How she was gonna rock your world. Then she does and she don’t tell me?”

He glanced out the window. Self-loathing shone in his eyes. I was breathlessly grateful he wasn’t the one holding the gun because he was unlikely to miss if he aimed for himself. “Where are those fuckin’ paramedics?” he asked.

“Why didn’t she tell me?” Lavonn asked again. Her voice was becoming strident and Micky was weakening. I could see the truth trembling on the tip of his conscience.

“Because I r—” he began, and in that moment I launched myself at her. I may have yelled at the same time. I may have raved like a lunatic. Or I may still have been singing “It’s Too Late.” My shoulder hit her square in the chest. We went down together. Me on top. The gun exploded in my ear. I jerked, but if I was hurt I was too revved up to feel it, and in a moment Micky was there. He wrestled the pistol from her fingers. Still, she didn’t give up. She squirmed beneath me like a wild animal, knees, elbows, hands, fingernails. Hitting, scraping, kicking.

But finally she went limp. She was crying by the time I wedged myself to my feet.

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