Posted on April 5, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair4.5.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Mary Ellen Mark April 5,2015: When night comes… Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Mama says we’ve gotta be as good as gold or angels. Alla time she says it. And she makes us kneel in the morning by us beds and we gotta say us prayers, givin thanks for the new day and promisin to be pure and to be good. ‘In thought and deed, mind,’ mama says. And we say the same prayers at the end of the day and make confession of all the wrong that we has been.
And mama stands by the bedroom door, her arms folded in a knot, and she’s listening to every word. And she scolds us if we’ve done bad or thought bad. She says she’s sore disappointed and her voice is all pain and misery, and she says she’ll have to put a cross made out of plaited palm leaves pinned to the front door to keep the bogey man away.
There’s God to be afeared of, ‘cept the minister says God is love and he forgives, and he sent his only begotten son down to earth for to take away all our sins; and there’s mam to be feared of also, and she can make her eyes sharp as pins or wasp stings, and she sees right into your soul and she knows if it is sullied or white as bed-sheets on washday nights; and then there’s the bogey man.
Ain’t no one ever seen the bogey man, leastways no one admits to seein him, but we can surely imagine what he looks like. There’s old man Tuttle, see, and he sits on the sidewalk outside the mission hall and he ain’t got a tooth in his head and his hair is all tangled and torn and his skin like old leather that has been left out in all weathers. His clothes is all in rags, and he smells of piss and sick, and he sees with only one wide-starin eye. And once he caught me by the wrist, caught me fast, and he fixed me with his one eye, and he said in silver-spittle words that he knew my name and he knew where I lived, and he said he’d know if ever I was bad. I reckon as the bogey man must be like old man Tuttle.
And though we ain’t none of us ever seen the bogey man, we has heard him sure enough. In the dark and still of night he comes. When the air is dry and sticky and there ain’t no moon to see by. And he comes as a voice out of the blackness and it is so loud it could be a voice in my head. All his words is slurred and they run together – like pa when he’s a drink too many in him and he can’t make hisself understood. And the bogey man is the same, ‘cept there are loose words in there someplace, and I is sure he said my name once and said Kitty’s name, too – and Kitty’s my sister and she’d an unkind thought that day and she spat on the floor of the church once for a dare, which is surely a unholy sin.
I say my prayers over on those bogey man nights, adding the bits I has kept from mama and from God. And I ask for Jesus to please take just one more sin of mines away. And I creep from my bed, creeping like a thief or a fox, the stone floor cold and hard and unforgivin under my bare feet, and I check the front door, checkin to see that mama is true to her word – and oh the blessed relief, like a holy balm washin over me, when I see she’s pinned the palm leaf cross to the door keep the bogey man from the house.