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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."