“Angel of Wrath” by Joyce Carol Oates

Cover Tweed's #1Ednetta sayin to me, Anis my daughter is hurt bad.

It was white men hurt Sybilla, she sayin white cops—five, six of them that kidnapped her and hid her away, raped and beat her, and hog-tied her in the cellar of the fish-food factory leavin her to die.

And she lookin at me. Scared, and her eyes wet with tears, and her face kind of melted-lookin, and her mouth like somethin bruised.

Anis? You hear me?—it was white men done it.

And I’m—I am—in the kitchen of the house. Dragged a chair around, and leaning on the back of the chair heavy enough to break it. Damn leg hurtin so, the pain come so fast.

Anis? That’s where she was. S’b’lla missin, the white cops arrested her on the street she say.   S’b’lla comin home from school Thursday, an they arrested her. And all that while when she was gone, the white cops had her.

Anis, it was when I was lookin for her. All that time, lookin for S’b’lla on the street and beggin people help me find her an she be captive to these men.

And Ednetta lookin at me, that way of hers. Her face smudged like somebody rubbed his thumb over it.

Ednetta breathin quick, and her hand against her heart like it be jumpin in her chest.

Sayin, Anis the terrible things they wrote on her—in dog shit on her body! Such hate for us, we are animals to them. NIGGRA BITCH. KU KUX KLANN. Like they done to black people in the South—hangin from trees, cut with knives and burnt alive.

S’b’lla life be saved, she be found in the fish-factory by some neighbor. She be taken by ambulance to the hospital—St. Anne’s. She gon have face-scars all her life. They will never arrest the white cops. Some kind of nasty joke, they pretendin to “investigate.” Anis I am so afraid.

Comin against me the woman cryin with her eyes shut and pushin into my arms that feel like lead, so heavy. And I’m tryin to think what is the meaning of the woman’s words. What does the woman know, why the woman sayin these words? White men done it. White cops.

Ednetta hidin her face against me. Hidin her eyes. Fallin against me like she be drunk, or takin those damn pills of hers. A woman’s tears wettin my shirt, and my arms not wantin to touch her to push the woman away. That smell of her, and her stiff-greasy hair in my face. Wantin to take hold of her, the woman, sink my fingers into her fat arms, shake and shake shake shake like you’d shake a wailin baby to shut it up forever.

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