In a red corvette he drove up. I saw through
the trailer window. With that limp and those long arms polio left
him with, he stepped out and started walking toward the butane tanks
When he knocked I watched my mama’s hand on the
knob, heard his voice sparkling its way inside. Water rushed in the
sink. Slicked blonde hair and laughter beamed through the doorway
from a childhood dream. I ran to the hallway bedroom and he after
me, calling, “Aren’t you gonna hug my neck? Come give me some
I’d crammed myself up against the wall on the
top bunk. I watched him grin and kicked at his hands with my bare
feet. We both grew still. I flew off and into his arms.
My little beagle was at his heels barking,
making the window glass rattle like laughter. I knew my uncle was
by himself. I missed the little black haired boy and its black eyed
mother with those lashes and those lips and that soft voice that
used to belong to him. I missed them for my uncle as he smiled and
electrified the room. I pressed my palm against his chest and felt
I was a child but I listened. I knew he’d gone
to Bakersfield, left Mississippi. I knew he’d sold cars, some of
them stolen. He’d never had so much money. Then he went to prison.
He was out but he was going back even though we
didn’t know it then. “Look here,” he said kneeling now beside me and
opening a bag. Inside he had a fancy sparkling collar for my dog.
He knew what I loved. He couldn’t stop the hugging, the looking
deep inside your eyes.
You get used to it, he told my brother later
about going back. You get so you don’t know how to be out in the
In Mississippi, there’d been a slaughterhouse.
There’d been manure and grass and the smell was home. There’d been
gladiolas that lined all the walls of the gym where they danced for
the prom year after year so many kids in his family and the
gladiolas were ones his mother grew. He cut those stems from the
When I'd just learned to walk, he'd come by in
the morning and ask for my legs, if he could take them to work. I'd
wait all day. I'd drive my parents crazy, dragging myself about,
until he got off and brought them back to me.
Darlin’ Neal is the author of the
forthcoming story collection, Rattlesnakes and The Moon
(Press 53). Her work has appeared in The Southern Review,
Shenandoah, Eleven Eleven, Puerto del Sol, The
Pinch, Per Contra, Smokelong Quarterly,
elimae, and dozens of other magazines. Among her awards are a
Literary Arts Fellowship in Fiction from the Mississippi Arts
Commission and a Henfield Prize. Her work has been included in
Best of The Web 2009 and Online Writing: The Best of The
First Ten Years, and has been nominated numerous times for the
Pushcart Prize. She lives in Jensen Beach and Orlando, Florida,
where she holds an assistant professorship teaching in the MFA and
undergraduate Creative Writing Programs at the University of