by Derek Gullino
Jewel said, "I ain't having no more dead people in this house,'' when the whole town saw Carrie lean over the side of the coffin and open Manny's mouth. Carrie was barely ten, and her voice, like all the girls her age, was louder and carried farther than the horn in my daddy's new Ford, so everyone heard her say, "What you got in your mouth this_rime, Fatso? It better not be no roly-polys like I saw you eating last week or no boogers neither.'' Even I heard and I was way over in the corner talking with Zeke about the new squirrel catcher we was making. When Zeke said, "Carrie, get yourself on out of there," she was balanced on the edge of the coffin with her feet kicking around in the air, yelling things like ''Open up, Fatty'' and' 'Let me see .'' A lady screamed and people were talking and bustling around making a lot of noise and it didn't look like a funeral was supposed to look anymore. I started to get nervy . At funerals people are supposed to be real polite and quiet because it feels like the dead person's floating around in the room watching you, so you have to pretend you're real sad and all so he'll feel good. Pretty soon J ewe! came in and carried her into the other room and everything went back to normal. If I was Jewel, I wouldn't want no dead people in my house neither. I heard that a person's spirit has to stay at the last place his body was touched until God lets him into heaven and I wouldn't want all those spirits floating around me, especially the ones that God, in no way, ain't never going to let into heaven, and besides, if Carrie was my girl, talking to dead people like they was still alive, getting their spirits all angry and upset, I'd keep her as far away from them dead bodies as I could. Even though it's true that Manny did eat boogers and roly-polys and that Mr. Spender, our teacher, was always catching him with the queerest things in his mouth and he died from eating the rat poison his father put in the corners of his store because it looked like Pixie Dust, I don't think he liked being called Fatty at his own funeral and having a girl that was two years younger than him, and a jabbermouth at that, playing with his face. Besides it gets all the old people stirred up. The next Monday at school we all found out what Manny done to Carrie to pay her back for what she done to him. Show-and-tell was always the best part of the week. One time Ernest, Zeke's older brother, brought in this big snake he caught. It was brown with little copper speckles and it crawled out of its bag into Gretchen Handy's bag where she kept the same doll that she showed every week, and then Gretchen reached in to get out the stupid doll and felt something alive. She started screaming and the snake got loose again and we spent the rest of the morning trying to catch it. Things like that were always happening during show-and-tell. Anyway, the Monday after Manny died, Carrie got up and told everyone about her hand. She stood by Mr. Spender's desk with her hand held out in front of her so the whole class could see it and said, "I brought my hand for show-and-tell because I got this fierce cold in it when I touched fat Manny's face and it don't go away ." She said it had attacked her like a sickness or something. Then she went around the class and let everyone feel it. Some of the kids said they felt the cold too, but I didn't. I tried. I squeezed each finger, held her hand in between both of mine, and finally put her hand against my cheek, like my Momma does when I say I'm sick, but I didn't feel nothing, not even a little shiver. I was sort of glad Manny was paying her back for stirring up his funeral, though, and I told her so when her hand was on my face. I said, "Serves you right for touching a dead person." But when Manny didn't take back his punishment and Carrie kept complaining about the cold in her hand, I started to feel a little sorry for having said that. Zeke told me two days later that jewel was making her husband hold funerals at the courthouse. She said that there was more deaths than crimes so they might as well use the old place for something. When the news got around that the reverend wasn't having no more funerals at his house, lots of people were surprised. Ever since the reverend came to Dunsville ten years before I was born, he held the weddings and funerals in his own front room. It was a sort of agreement that everybody knew but nobody said because when he first came to Dunsville the people that lived there gave him the biggest house, an old white one that had been around for as long as anyone could remember. So, like I said, the people was all jibbety when they first heard, but afterwards, after they thought about it, after they saw the danger of having a little girl play with the bodies, they seemed to agree that the courthouse was the best place for everybody. Then, when Sam Bayard's cousin shot him in the leg for rustling 136 chickens and Sam didn't go to a doctor at first to get the bullet taken out and his leg turned black and he died, the people realized that holding the funerals in the courthouse was easiest because they could hold Sam's funeral in the morning and his cousin's murder trial in the afternoon, and they would only have to get dolled-up once. Everybody always went to everybody else's funeral, but this time Jewel was keeping Carrie at home. From what I heard, she was still talkey-talkey about the cold Manny gave her and Jewel didn't want her touching no more dead things, especially people. No one had quite gotten over seeing Carrie climb in Manny's coffin , so they were happy about it. I was happy for Carrie because if Manny, who was a pretty nice guy, gave her that nasty cold hand for touching him , I was afraid what Sam Bayard, who beat his daughter with a birch switch because "the sun is too damn hot," would do to her. Just before they put Sam in the ground, Manny's mother walked by the open top half of the coffin to get one last look. Then she started screaming, "He ain't dead . He just moved. He ain't dead. He's come back to life ." I thought she was just skipping out because Manny hadn't been dead too long, but I ran over to see anyways. Ernest and the reverend ran over to see, too . For a second Sam didn't move , then just when they was gonna take Manny's mom, who was still screaming and breathing real hard, into the other room to relax her, Sam's body sort of shifted all by itself. It didn' t jerk or twitch like you' cl expect a dead person to do when he was coming back to life, but it just, in a little way that you could barely see, moved . Sam was sort of fat, so Mr. Spender had to help the reverend pull Sam out through the open half of the coffin. Both men started to yank and pull but Sam wasn't about to budge-it was just like his feet was nailed to the bottom of the coffin. Then he plopped onto the floor headfirst. If Sam wasn' t already dead, I think he sure enough would have been after that. No one noticed until he was all straightened out on the floor and the reverend was jerking his face all around to try and get him to come back to life, that his right foot, the one that had been all black, was gone . Years later, after Carrie had married some army guy and moved to Philadelphia, a lot of people swore they heard the foot rip off, but I was standing right next to the coffin and I dido' t hear nothing. Anyways, when the reverend opened up the bottom half of the coffin, he found a lot more than Sam's foot. Carrie , in her ruffled- up pink Sunday dress with her tinfoil-tipped black braids poking in whatever direction , was all scrunched up at the bottom of the coffin holding the rotty foot . That's when people started saying she was witchey, because her momma-notJewel-her real momma, some fat, half-black lady named Ginger that used to rake the people's leaves every year, but one year didn't rake nobody's leaves because she birthtd Carrie on the reverend's front porch and died, was a witch and the evil ran in the blood. Fact is, Manny's father went to school to get her taken out, but Mr. Spender told him, "It is virtually impossible for a ten- year-old girl to be a witch-if there even exist such things as witches, which I doubt-and even if she were I would not expel her from school." So Carrie didn't get thrown out of school, but we wasn't allowed to play with her no more. Now I don 't know if Carrie was doing evils or not, but I do know she definite! y dido ' t treat dead things like they was dead . A week or so after Sam's funeral everything quieted down, but this time Carrie wouldn't let no one forget. It was like the cold Manny had gave her was dragging her around to all the dead things. I heard she had taken to playing with dead animals, but I hadn 't seen nothing for sure until I was with Zeke and Ernest one day and we was spying and she come into the kitchen with this stiffed-up frog . "Is this dead?" Carrie said to Jewel. Jewel said, "Sure enough .'' Then Carrie said, ''Did my momma look like this when she was dead?" The frog was black and mossed-over and its legs was all bent up and hard . Jewel said, sort of mad, "I ain't never seen your mother dead . Now get that nasty thing out of here, wash your hands, and I don't want to see you playing with nothing except that what's alive ." Carrie just stood there like she didn't hear nothing Jewel was saying, pulling the frog 's legs back and forth , forth and back. ThenJewel got more mad and said she wasn't going to be playing with nothing , alive nor dead, if she didn't get that animal out of her kitchen. Carrie had this big pink pocket on the front of her dress and that's where she put the frog . She went outside then, behind the bushes that always turn yellow before they turn green after winter. Since we was spies we couldn't stop now when we had something real to spy on, so we shut ourselves up and on our bellies slid under the bushes she was hiding behind. For what was more than an hour we just watched her real close, watched her push and pull on the frog's legs until finally they fell off in her hands. Before spring came we saw Carrie messing with lots of dead things while we played pirates or spies or Indians in the forest . One time we found her pushing a dead woodchuck in the stream water that was behind her house saying, "Swim, Henry, swim." Another time she tried to pull this dead baby deer through the forest with its feet on her shoulders and everything, but it was too big, so instead she told it a story. All this is what we watched from our pirate ships, which was really trees, and sometimes we would hanker her and get her all going. But mostly we just let her be. Anyways what happened was this: Zeke stole Ernest's treasure chest which was filled with just leaves and pine cones and rocks but the rules was that Zeke had to be punished, and because there wasn't no plank to walk, we tied him to a tree and left him all night. Problem was, when we came back in the morning to set him free there was only ropes and no one could find Zeke not even the reverend who was out looking the whole day and only stopped when it got too dark to see. Everyone started talking like Zeke was dead about that time , but they didn't have no body or nothing to prove it. So we was all standing around waiting for the sun to come up the day after the reverend couldn't find Zeke so as we could help look . Just as everything was turned sort of a grayey color and the sky was lighting up, Carrie came down the main street of Dunsville, where we was all standing, dragging Zeke by the leg on the dirt road behind her. Everything was so quiet you could hear Zeke bumping and sliding along and that was all I could hear except for Carrie saying, "Momma's going to give you a whipping so fierce you ain't never going to sit down" and "Momma ain't too happy with you, Zeke." She just kept pulling in that time right before morning when there ain't even no wind, until she got almost to where she lived. Then she stopped, let go of Zeke's leg, and turned around to look him over. She said, '' Is you listening to me, Zeke? Momma' s going to beat your butt." Then she kicked him in the stomach a couple of times. When Zeke didn't even curl up or move at all when she kicked him right in the stomach, I knew that he was dead, that's when I was sure . I think that's when Carrie knew as well, because she just turned around and went home , leaving him in the middle of the road . The sun finished coming up and covered his body, but Zeke stayed the same white color he 'd been when Carrie was dragging him down the road. I went to Zeke 's funeral but Carrie didn't, she didn't even want to. While it was going on I saw her playing in the trees outside the courthouse window swinging by her knees upside down. After that she never said nothing about the cold in her hand no more and I just thought that it went away. And she never played with dead animals no more neither. The next day at school, Mr. Spender told us the story about Jesus and when he made Lazarus come back from the dead because we was all sad about Zeke and everything. When he was through, Carrie raised up her hand and said, "I don 't believe none of that that you're telling us. Ain't nobody that can make someone come back alive, " and Mr. Spender said, "Only God can resurrect."