Toni Morrison - Tar Baby

На нашем литературном портале можно бесплатно читать книгу Toni Morrison - Tar Baby, Toni Morrison . Жанр: Прочее. Онлайн библиотека дает возможность прочитать весь текст и даже без регистрации и СМС подтверждения на нашем литературном портале
Toni Morrison - Tar Baby
Название: Tar Baby
Автор: Toni Morrison
ISBN: нет данных
Год: неизвестен
Дата добавления: 20 июнь 2019
Количество просмотров: 101
Читать онлайн

Tar Baby читать книгу онлайн

Tar Baby - читать бесплатно онлайн , автор Toni Morrison
1 ... 32 33 34 35 36 ... 38 ВПЕРЕД
Перейти на страницу:

“I pay the bills is what I do.”

It was August. Jadine had sent for applications to C.U.N.Y. and S.U.N.Y. When they came, she sat down and filled them out. She was tired and looking tired. So much so the agency people were skipping her. That twenty-five-year-old face looked twenty-six and she had not been keeping up the regimen that held her at the twenty-year-old peak. Seventeen-year-old girls were getting the jobs. In Europe they liked older-looking black models, but in the U.S. the look was twelve. Soon she would really have to call her old professor. The modeling thing was going bust fast—she’d make all she could as fast as she could since it was seven times what teaching would bring. She sat at the table, perspiring a little, filling out Son’s application. You’d think he would at least do that.

Son was watching her—she was a model of industry and planning. Every now and then she asked him a question and they agreed on whether to lie or tell the truth. He watched her. There is the power, he thought, right there. That is all the power there is or ever will be and I don’t want any of it. She always referred to Eloe as his cradle. As though living there was child’s play, easy. As though living anywhere outside the First Cities of the World was kiddy stuff. Well, it hadn’t been easy for Francine and it hadn’t been easy for Rosa or his mother. Not easy at all. It was hard and he believed it scared her to think of how hard. She thought this was hard, New York. She was scared of being still, of not being busy, scared to have to be quiet, scared to have children alone. He tried to imagine what kind of woman she would be in fifty years. Would she be Thérèse? Or Ondine? Or Rosa or Sally Brown, or maybe even Francine, frail as a pick tearing all her hair out in the state hospital? Bald, bald Francine. Some cradle. It took all the grown-up strength you had to stay there and stay alive and keep a family together. They didn’t know about state aid in Eloe; there were no welfare lines in Eloe and unemployment insurance was a year of trouble with no rewards. She kept barking at him about equality, sexual equality, as though he thought women were inferior. He couldn’t understand that. Before Francine was attacked by the dogs, she gave him ten points on the court and still beat him. It was her athletic skill that caused her trouble. She was running in the fields and went too far. Some dogs tracking an escaped convict, frustrated at having lost the scent, attacked her. Sixty seconds later the police got them off her and took her home. She stayed nervous after that, well, “nervous” was what they all called it. But God that girl could run. Cheyenne was driving a beat-up old truck at age nine, four years before he could even shift gears, and she could drop a pheasant like an Indian. His mother’s memory was kept alive by those who remembered how she roped horses when she was a girl. His grandmother built a whole cowshed with only Rosa to help. In fact the room Jadine had slept in, Rosa built herself which was why it didn’t have any windows. Anybody who thought women were inferior didn’t come out of north Florida.

ON SEPTEMBER 16, two weeks before registration, a dividend came in the mail, $1,246 from the four municipal bond certificates Valerian had given her one Christmas when she was sixteen. She was delighted; it would take care of the school expenses. Son said no. Valerian educated her, all right; there was nothing to be done about that, but he would not let him finance his own education. Jadine dropped her hands to her side with sheer exhaustion.

“Valerian is not the problem.” Her voice was faint, gooey with repetition.

This rescue was not going well. She thought she was rescuing him from the night women who wanted him for themselves, wanted him feeling superior in a cradle, deferring to him; wanted her to settle for wifely competence when she could be almighty, to settle for fertility rather than originality, nurturing instead of building. He thought he was rescuing her from Valerian, meaning them, the aliens, the people who in a mere three hundred years had killed a world millions of years old. From Micronesia to Liverpool, from Kentucky to Dresden, they killed everything they touched including their own coastlines, their own hills and forests. And even when some of them built something nice and human, they grew vicious protecting it from their own predatory children, let alone an outsider. Each was pulling the other away from the maw of hell—its very ridge top. Each knew the world as it was meant or ought to be. One had a past, the other a future and each one bore the culture to save the race in his hands. Mama-spoiled black man, will you mature with me? Culture-bearing black woman, whose culture are you bearing?

“Correct,” he said. “The problem is not Valerian. The problem is me. Solve it. With me or without me, but solve it because it ain’t going anywhere. You sweep me under the rug and your children will cut your throat. That fucker in Europe, the one you were thinking about marrying? Go have his children. That should suit you. Then you can do exactly what you bitches have always done: take care of white folks’ children. Feed, love and care for white people’s children. That’s what you were born for; that’s what you have waited for all your life. So have that white man’s baby, that’s your job. You have been doing it for two hundred years, you can do it for two hundred more. There are no ‘mixed’ marriages. It just looks that way. People don’t mix races; they abandon them or pick them. But I want to tell you something: if you have a white man’s baby, you have chosen to be just another mammy only you are the real mammy ’cause you had it in your womb and you are still taking care of white folks’ children. Fat or skinny, head rag or wig, cook or model, you take care of white folks’ babies—that’s what you do and when you don’t have any white man’s baby to take care of you make one—out of the babies black men give you. You turn little black babies into little white ones; you turn your black brothers into white brothers; you turn your men into white men and when a black woman treats me like what I am, what I really am, you say she’s spoiling me. You think I won’t do all that company shit because I don’t know how? I can do anything! Anything! But I’ll be goddamn if I’ll do that!”

She looked at him and when he saw the sheen gone from her minky eyes and her wonderful mouth fat with disgust, he tore open his shirt, saying, “I got a story for you.”

“Get out of my face.”

“You’ll like it. It’s short and to the point.”

“Don’t touch me. Don’t you touch me.”

“Once upon a time there was a farmer—a white farmer…”

“Quit! Leave me alone!

“And he had this bullshit bullshit bullshit farm. And a rabbit. A rabbit came along and ate a couple of his…ow…cabbages.”

“You better kill me. Because if you don’t, when you’re through, I’m going to kill you.”

“Just a few cabbages, you know what I mean?”

“I am going to kill you. Kill you.”

“So he got this great idea about how to get him. How to, to trap…this rabbit. And you know what he did? He made him a tar baby. He made it, you hear me? He made it!”

“As sure as I live,” she said. “I’m going to kill you.”

But she didn’t. After he banged the bedroom door, she lay in wrinkled sheets, slippery, gutted, not thinking of killing him. Thinking instead that it would soon be Thanksgiving and there was no place to go for dinner. Then she thought of a towering brass beech—the biggest and oldest in the state. It stood on the north side of the campus and near it was a well. In April the girls met their mothers there to sing and hold hands and sway in the afternoon light. Some of the girls hated it—the well, the beech, the mother-daughter day, and sat around in jeans and no shoes smoking herb to show their contempt for bourgeoisie sentiment and alumni hustling. But the girls who did not hate it surrounded the beech and in long pastel skirts swayed in the spring light. Pale sulfur light sprinkled so softly with lilac it made her want to cry. Jadine joined the barefoot ones, of course, but her tears were not because there was no one to sing with under the biggest beech in the state, but because of the light, pale sulfur sprinkled with lilac.

A piece of her hair was in her mouth and she tried to extricate it with her tongue for her hands weighed a ton apiece. This is familiar, she thought. I know what this is; it’s familiar. I am twenty-five and this feeling is too old for me.

Four hours later he was back—repentant, terrified that he had gone too far. But Jadine was solemn—a closed-away orphan in a Cheech and Chong T-shirt with no place to go at Thanksgiving.

Son sat at the foot of the bed and covered his knees with his hands. Jadine spoke very quietly to him.

“I can’t let you hurt me again. You stay in that medieval slave basket if you want to. You will stay there by yourself. Don’t ask me to do it with you. I won’t. There is nothing any of us can do about the past but make our own lives better, that’s all I’ve been trying to help you do. That is the only revenge, for us to get over. Way over. But no, you want to talk about white babies; you don’t know how to forget the past and do better.”

His budding repentance decomposed into a steaming compost.

“If I wanted the editorial page of the Atlanta Constitution I would have bought it.”

“With what?” Jadine’s voice was slick with danger.

“With the money you got from Valerian. The money you fucked your way across Europe for!”

“Well, buy it then. Here, here it is.” She picked her wallet up from the night table and opened it. “Here it is. Your original dime. The one you cleaned sheephead for, right? The one you loved? The only one you loved. All you want ‘in the money line.’ Take it. Now you know where it came from, your original dime: some black woman like me fucked a white man for it and then gave it to Frisco who made you work your ass off for it. That’s your original dime.” She threw it on the floor. “Pick it up.”

He stared at her. The Cheech and Chong T-shirt was up around her waist and her nakedness below embarrassed him now. He had produced that nakedness and having soiled it, it shamed him.

“Pick it up.” She said it again and didn’t even sit up. She just lay there, stroking her raw silk thighs the color of natural honey. There was sealskin in her eyes and the ladies minding the pie table vanished like shadows under a noon gold sun.

He thought it would be hard to do, but it wasn’t. He thought it would be cold, too. Cold and hard. But it wasn’t. It was warm, almost soft, and quite round.

He put it in his pocket and having no place to put himself left the apartment again. He came back the next night to empty rooms and a door key for each of the several locks. He sat down on the sofa and looked at the keys. A pile of mail was on the coffee table too and in it a heavy yellow envelope. He stared at it awhile and then opened it. Out came the photos she had taken in the middle of the road in Eloe. Beatrice, pretty Beatrice, Soldier’s daughter. She looked stupid. Ellen, sweet cookie-faced Ellen, the one he always thought so pretty. She looked stupid. They all looked stupid, backwoodsy, dumb, dead…

Son put down the photos. I have to find her, he thought. Whatever she wants, I have to do it, want it. But first I have to find her.


AFTER THIRTY YEARS of shame the champion daisy trees were marshaling for war. The wild parrots that had escaped the guns of Dominique could feel menace in the creeping of their roots. During the day they tossed their branches; at night they walked the hills. At dawn their new formations challenged the wit of the chevaliers. Their brothers over on Dominique knew nothing of the battle plans for they were in a rain forest tamed for tourists that came by bus from the Old Queen Hotel, gallant and royal since 1927. Now she was dying from behind. Her front on Rue Madelaine was still seacap white and the columns at her entrance showed no signs of wear. Yet at her great round-skirted rear among breadfruit trees and lime, the cells of a motel were growing. A concrete Y-shaped thing with patios the size of a card table extended from the dining room from whose forty-seven windows diners once gazed at breadfruit trees and lawn. Now they looked at workmen, concrete and patios the size of a card table. Beyond that were the hills of black Dominiques, and beyond that spectacular mountains of rain forest. The road that cuts through the mountains is a regular tourist attraction. Breathlessly steep and winding, without benefit of guardrails, it offers a view of God’s hair, hibiscus, magnolia and oleander, poinsettia and jacaranda. Away in the distance under pink immortelles is an occasional dead plantation, now a hotel with marble dolphins and air conditioning pumping purity into two-hundred-year-old stone. The mountain road descends on the other side of the island to a coastline of cliffs and grottos where fishing villages lay. No marinas here, no golf courses, for here the winds do not trade. They are hot and capricious and the fishermen design strange sails to accommodate them so they can sell their grouper, tuna and bonito to the dead plantations, and the Old Queen Hotel where Jadine sat alone at a table for four.

“Crème de menthe,” she had said because the words seemed nice and right and she wanted to say them aloud. And when the waiter returned she regretted it immediately and ordered vermouth. She had called L’Arbe de la Croix. Ondine had answered.

“Where are you?”

“Queen of France, but I missed the ferry, Nanadine. Can somebody come?”

“Well, yes, I reckon so. But it might take awhile.”

“I’ll wait. Tell him to come to the Old Queen. If I’m not in the lobby, ask for me in the dining room.”

“You by yourself?”

“Of course. Hurry, please, Nanadine?”

Of course I’m by myself. When haven’t I been by myself. She was alone at a table for four, proud of having been so decisive, so expert at the leaving. Of having refused to be broken in the big ugly hands of any man. Now she felt lean and male, having left quickly with no peeping back just in case—no explanatory, loophole-laden note. No last supper. New York had agreed with her exit. A cab right at the door, an uncommunicative driver who took her directly to the place she was going to; Raymond at home; his studio available for the night; a short line at Chemical Bank and Air France ready to go. Aloneness tasted good and even at a table set for four she was grateful to be far away from his original-dime ways, his white-folks-black-folks primitivism. How could she make a life with a cultural throwback, she asked herself, and answered No way. Eloe. No way. Not for all the cadmium yellow and Hansa red in the world. So what if she was alone. So what if when she went away, no one stayed home and remained there all while she was gone and was waiting when she got back.

But he had put his finger on the very bottom of her foot. He had opened the hair on her head with his hands and drove his tongue through the part.

THE MULATTO didn’t talk; he hummed a Creole hit and drummed a little on the steering wheel. As they passed Sein de Veilles, Jadine’s legs burned with the memory of tar. She could hardly see L’Arbe de la Croix when they got to it, the trees leaned so close to the house. She dashed into Ondine’s kitchen, kissed her and said, “Let me get my stuff together first. I’ll be right back down and we can talk. Is Margaret here?”

1 ... 32 33 34 35 36 ... 38 ВПЕРЕД
Перейти на страницу:
Комментариев (0)