Know Nothing About Death
Ms. McElroy had died at seven years old — when I was seven. So, what happened with that was Mr. McElroy had blamed me for her death. He’s kind of like “You killed my goddamn wife,” and he started beating on me. He started whooping me, whooped me all day, made me get out in the yard and cut wood. I had to cut wood all day. I was trying to do what he asked me to do, which I did do what he asked me to do. I peeled up all the corners that needed the wood for the heater and the stove in the kitchen, the big boy heater in the living room. So, he wasn’t — nothing that I could do that day to please him, because Ms. McElroy had died. What happened with that was — I didn’t know what death was.1 He had been away from the house for about a week or more, and she was just lying in the bed. Every day before going to school, I would get up, I would go and pick up my paper at the drive-in, and after coming from the drive-in, I would get myself ready to go to school, I’d fix her something to eat. I would put water by her bed and then I’m off to school.
So, every day I come in, the water and the food still was the same, and she was in the same position. I didn’t know nothing about death. I thought she was just sleeping. And so maybe a week passed, and so he came in and he asked me what and how she was feeling, what she’d been doing, and I told him she hadn’t been doing nothing but just laying there. And so he ran in the room and he came back out cursing me out and fussing at me, and screaming and hollering, and he jerked the ironing cord out of the urn and started whooping me, and “Goddamn you killed my wife,” you did this, you this, and then he made me get out there to cut wood. It was cold, and I cut wood all day, and I had just got tired and real cold, so I came in the house, he started whooping me again. So, I had a little red wood wagon and it was under the house, and I took my little wagon out from under the house. What I was going to do, I was going to go down to the cabinet shop down to where there’s man-made cabinets and tables and stuff like that. He would give me little-bitty blocks of wood that he’d cut off and just threw them away.
And I went down, and I was going down there, I took my wagon out from under the house, I just ran across the street. The next thing I knew, I was waking up from being unconscious for three and a half months. I had got hit by this car and drove up from underneath it for two and a half blocks.