(Excerpts from a 12-page story, edited for years, unpublished.)
On the night of the accident, the couple next door was at it again. Jimmy pressed his face against the attic window, his nose smooshed up. He looked down over the row of azalea bushes in the grassy side-yard. He squinted at the couple’s house, on the other side. Nothing to see. The curtains were drawn tight and heavy, just like they always were. Jimmy was sitting up on his knees in the windowseat, and he could feel it in his knees, and his thighs were jittery and his hands were jittery. He framed his temples against the warm glass pane, as if he were blocking some glare to see better, only there was no glare to block. It was dark, inside and out. The two houses separated by the azaleas were set back from Grady. The streetlight was three houses down and its light was filtered by trees. The fireflies specked the shadow-bushes like the thumped ashes of invisible cigarettes.
They were really at it over there.
. . .
That afternoon, when he had climbed down the stairs they’d all been there, standing in the kitchen doorway whispering and hissing about the Lord and His comforting arms. Mary Sue blew her nose in one of Bobbie’s good dinner napkins and, in the midst of a chorus of bless yous, they all turned to stare at Jimmy, who still had pink sheet-marks stretching down the side of his face and sleepers in his eyes. Jimmy’s uncle Samuel, who was Mary Sue’s husband, and two cousins, also from their side, were with her. Jimmy had hardly seen the cousins since he was too young to remember, but they were standing there in their neckties, scowling at him like he had no right.
“Merciful heavens,” whimpered Mary Sue as she looked up from the linen at her wiry nephew in his striped pajama britches.
“Ain’t it gaining on two?” one of the cousins asked the other as he looked at his wristwatch.
“Awful late in the day,” said Uncle Samuel, “for folks to be walking around half-naked, unshaven, looking like a punk.”