up any time soon, though.

“Couldn’t she, Mitch?” Jessie pressed warmly. Joy was their guest and she was the prettiest thing, and the way she was all broken up about poor Sewell, the least they could do was to try to cheer her up.

Mitch glanced up briefly, stone-eyed. “How the hell do I know?” he asked of no one in particular.

“Mitch!” Jessie said reproachfully.

Mitch shrugged and returned to the butter beans, vaguely irritated at himself and a little ashamed of speaking that way to Jessie. He was usually very considerate of his sister.

Pig, Joy thought coldly. He’s just a pig. His shirt sticking to him with sweat and he didn’t even comb that horrible butter-colored hair and his face looks like somebody chopped it out of wood with a dull ax.

Well, she wasn’t going to let him worry her. Plenty of other people were nice. She took a drink of water, holding her little finger out from the glass the way she always did when she was drinking coffee, and smiled becomingly at Cass.

“Are you really thinking about buying a radio?” she asked.

Cass cleared his throat. He had combed his hair before he came to the table, carefully pulling as much of his sandy fringe as possible across his bald spot. “Well, of course, you understand, Joy, I’m just kindly turning it over in my mind, you might say. It ain’t something you’d rush into. Man has to be careful, tight as money is these days.”

“But you do think you might? I think that’s nice.”

Mitch looked up again. “Any of you got any idea what you’re going to use for money?” We ain’t got any more land to diddle off, he thought. That’s all gone for them goddamned cars.

“Why, you can get one from Sears, Roebuck for five-dollars down, AC and DC current and batteries and all,” Cass said defensively.

“You got five dollars?” Mitch asked curtly.

“Well, no, not right now. But it don’t seem like such an awful lot to ask for. Man don’t ask for much in this world.”

Mitch turned his stone-chip eyes on Joy. “If you have, you’d better hang onto it.”

“I thank you very much,” she said coldly. “But I guess I can handle my affairs without any advice.” Oh, my God, she thought. How did I ever come to this? Looking right through me with those hard eyes of his as if he knew I didn’t have five dollars, or even one. Just a lousy five dollars. A cheap share- cropper that never had a nickel in his life looking at me like that. At me, and my first husband used to be connected with racing. I guess that’d put him in his place, if I told him what it means to be connected with horse racing.

“And,” she went on, “I had no idea that five dollars was such a big sum of money.”

Mitch wasn’t listening any more. He was hearing thunder rolling nearer through the pregnant hush outside and hating the sound of it, knowing there would be no more work in the fields this day or the next. They had not been able to put in three consecutive days on the cotton during the past two weeks, and he knew how dangerously near they were to having a crop go to grass. And that was not the worst of it. Pests bred in the wetness, and if through some miracle they could save the cotton from being strangled in grass, continued rain would bring the boll weevil and its war of attrition, which would lay the harvest waste before it was born.

Ain’t nothing to do but set and wait for it, he thought savagely. Nothing you can light or get holt of to stop it. You set and watch the rain drown it and turn it yellow and the grass grow up so rank you could get lost in it, and there ain’t even enough left at the end of the year to pay off the credit, let alone buy any mules. Every year is going to be the last one you’ll have to work on the halves, because this time you’ll have something left over to start buying back some tools of your own and some mules, if you can keep the old man from diddling it all off again on yellow shoes and another broken-down car, and then something happens. Too wet, too dry, boll weevils, or the price goes down, or something.

“I was kind of thinking of that old Mexico dawg,” Cass was saying. “He ain’t no good to us any more. Nobody ever goes hunting with him any more, and besides, he’s getting awful old. He just sets around and eats his head off, kind of a dead loss, you might say. Now, I know a man over Pinehill way, fella name of Calloway, Bruce Calloway— he’s one of old Eldridge Calloway’s boys, owns the gin over there and raises hunting,dawgs sort of for a pastime— who’ll give me fifteen dollars for him any time I’ll let him go. Told me so many’s the time.”

“He would? For an old broken-down flea bag like that?” Joy asked, leaning on her elbows and looking eagerly at Cass. “Why don’t you take him up on it?”

Cass avoided looking at Mitch. “It’d take some thought, of course. Man can’t just rush into something like that. But it ain’t as if he was worth anything to us. Just eats his head off.”

“But, Papa,” Jessie broke in protestingly. “Mexico was Sewell’s dog. He thought the world of old Mexico.”

“Well, now. Baby Doll, you know Sewell ain’t coming back and Mexico ain’t no good to him up there. Besides, it’s been five years or more since he’s even seen the dawg. and I don’t misdoubt but what he’s forgot about him altogether.”

“But, Papa, he belonged to Sewell!”

“Well, like I say, it’d take some thought,” Cass said placatingly, still avoiding looking in Mitch’s direction. “Wouldn’t want to rush into nothing, but I reckon Sewell wouldn’t begrudge his old daddy a little thing like that if —”

Mitch shoved back his chair and got up without a word. Cass stopped in midsentence and the others were silent as he turned his back on them and stalked out the door.

The sun was gone now. Lightning shot its jagged brilliance through the gathering blackness overhead, and far out over the river bottom he could see the advancing curtain of rain. It swept on into the fields below and ran toward him up the hillside. He ran across the yard toward the shelter of the shed where he slept.

The old shed had been a smokehouse once and there still remained about it a greasy smell of fat salt meat and the thick smoke of winters long past. There was no floor except the hard-packed earth, but he had thrown some planks on the ground beside the cot to stand on when he was undressing for bed. His clothes hung from nails driven into the wall, and there was a box on which to put his can of Prince Albert and cigarette papers, because he often smoked at night.

He had been living out here since Joy had moved in with them. She had come down off the hill late one afternoon, walking along the sandy road in her high heels and carrying the imitation leather suitcase, and announced she was Sewell’s wife. There was only one bedroom in the house, besides the big front room where Cass slept, and now Joy and Jessie used that. Before she came Mitch had had the bedroom and Jessie had slept on a small bed in the front room with Cass.

He stood in the doorway and watched the onrushing vanguard of the rain go sweeping across the yard, sending the chickens scattering for shelter and drumming on the sheet-metal roof of the house. He sat down and rolled a cigarette and drew a match along the taut canvas underside of the cot to light it. There goes another day shot to hell, he thought, or maybe two, or God knows how many.

From where he was sitting he could see past the corner of the house to where three of the old automobile hulks squatted dejectedly in the rain on their naked rims and on old tires flat for years. In the nearest one, the 1928 Chevrolet sedan, three chickens roosted contentedly on the back of the front seat wiping their beaks on the upholstery and enjoying this shelter from the downpour. And now we got to have a radio, he thought. I thought he’d sold everything we had left to sell, but I forgot about the dawg. After he gets rid of Mexico I don’t know what the hell he’ll do when there’s something he just has to have, unless he’s got to the point he can start thinking about selling the house or Jessie. I reckon when a man’s guts start running out of him it’s like water running out of a broken dam, and the more runs out, the bigger the hole gets, till everything’s gone. It’s getting to where you don’t even want to go to town any more, what with people looking at you and probably wondering behind your back how the Neelys are getting along share-cropping on their own land. It ain’t no wonder Sewell went to the bad.

And now we got this Joy, going around half naked and shaking her can in front of them Jimerson boys, and somebody’s going to get hurt over that. If she wants to start chasing around like a bitch in heat the minute they get Sewell put away, that’s her business, but she ain’t going to do it around here in this house, in front of Jessie.

He threw the cigarette out the door in disgust and got up, too restless to face the prospect of sitting there all afternoon watching it rain. He took off his shoes and rolled up the legs of his overalls and took the old army raincoat off the nail. Clapping the floppy straw hat on his head, he stalked out into the rain and turned down the trail going

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