Grandma Inola’s oldest sister Lizzy and her first cousin Ruby Mae 

are on the telephone.

They are explaining to the Funeral director that it’s his own fault 

things took a turn for the worst. 

If the funeral director hadn’t manhandled Grace

then Ruby and Lizzy wouldn’t have had to tackle him.

“Wouldn’t have been no need 

to mop the floor withcha,” aunt Lizzy said.

“Amen,” reinforced cousin Ruby.

“Grace wouldn’t have needed no reinforcements and Inola

well she wouldn’t have needed to rouse that iron from the dead,” aunt Lizzy said.

“Amen and Hallelujah,” cousin Ruby reinforced.

Great Aunt Grace blared from a bed in the next room,

“Them high yella negroes always seditty bout they business.

Folks duke it out all the time out fronta town. 

Tell him grow up and then shut the hell up!

Reverend Shepherd ain’t winning; like a motherless chile, 

bout the hole in his roof, his pew or his dearly departed circuit box.

That high yella negro worried about appearances nothing more. 

Remind me when I die not to use his services.”

Cousin Ruby reinforced, “Praise the Lawd to that.”

At the time, when it was going down,

 my mama, didn’t make it no better 

whispering to her sister Geneva,

 “Gurl if that tired cripple call herself strutting

up in here waving around that overgrown bastard, 

at our daddy’s wake… 

She got to have been dropped on her head as a baby.”

To which aunt Geneva, sucked her teeth, then replied 

“Mama got something in her purse. 

Forty-five reasons that broad should keep

her support hose draped over her shower curtain 

next to her douche bag.”

Then mama and Teety muffled their laughter 

Behind brocade lap scarves.

When the doors of the church flew open 

I watched Reverend Shepherd-

a cockroach lurking with the lights on.

He raised his hands gesturing to the choir.

In his mind he must have thought,

perhaps song could calm the savanna, stop the sand from flaring 

its busy body self into an uprising.

The choir nervously began belting Paw Paw’s favorite song.

“The only thing that we did wrong 

Was staying in the wilderness way too long

Keep your eyes on the prize hold on, hold on…”

“Hold on let me get that for you Mam,”

 the driver of the stagecoach 

helps the woman down 

onto the dusty sin-free earth 

known as Canyon City.

The woman walks briskly up to the wooden doors, 

she kicks them open.

The feisty hem of her can-can enters 

before she does, mocking the room.

“I owns this place!” she informs the entire saloon.

The sheriff, the stiffest cockroach of the group 

stares deep into the soul of this succubus, 

he wonders who put her broken pieces together.

How? And most importantly why

didn’t she die of hunger, thirst, a coyote attack?

“I owns this place now boys, 

this saloon is now the property of Darby Sellers. 

And so to, is the guesthouse way over yonder, 

and yes the dress shop, it’s all mine.

The shop where your sophisticated christian ladies 

lay fine silks close to their jasmine perfumed skin, 

they’ll be buying from Darby from henceforth. 

I even own ole Jasper Cullins farm, too many acres to count.

 Any way I do thank you kindly, 

you all have been quite hospitable over the years. 

You especially sheriff, and you Reverend 

many nights I was your Mary Magdalene, you remember? 

Sheriff, thank your wife for me too. 

All those lonely nights you give her, 

eased by the soothing suppleness of a woman’s touch. 

She give as good as she receive. We traded secrets, 

hers more beneficial than mine but still… 

I suppose we are all winners.”

The choir stammers on,

“Got my hand on the gospel plow 

Won’t take nothing for my journey now

Keep your eyes on the prize

Hold on, hold on…”

Too late to hold on, Grandmama had the 45. In the air.

A crippled woman in a red sequin dress,

looking like a once upon a time vaudeville dancer,

shoved past the brass band outside.

The second line had found its way inside the church.

The silver haired woman bellowed, “He was my man too Inola!

You and your hoodoo killed him 

cause he was gon choose me to be your sister wife! 

We finally was gon live under one roof!

I have his youngest daughter, his baby chile right here!” 

She pointed to a petite woman in a brunette high bobbed wig.

The wig made her look like an informant 

in a witness protection program.

I can’t lie the young woman had Paw Paw’s 

eyes, his nose, the fullness of his lips 

and when she shrieked, “Please allow me to visit with my daddy,”

wasn’t no denying, she had Paw Paw Dupre’s gap toothed overbite as well.

In silence my grandmother stood 

eased her finger on the trigger while singing,

“Only chain that a man can stand

Is that chain o’hand on hand

Keep your eyes on the prize

Hold on, hold on.”

 “You boys get to keep on living like you do, 

and I get richer watching you do it.”

Darby exits the saloon

She reaches down scooping a handful

Of sand, she kisses it and then lovingly blows it across the savanna. 

The camera catches

 the fury of the swinging doors. 

The stagecoach speeds away

with Darby’s outstretched hand 

on the trigger of a Henry Derringer pistol.

Shots rang out solidifying that the final word

was hers and hers alone.

This woman, this Darby Sellers, her cackle

summons the credits.

A black screen with

white words.

My then ten-year-old self

laughing with Darby.

She had made her bullies pay

for stealing her happy.

She had turned their evil against them,

shamed not their names 

but the spot 

where a man’s ecstasy

 is most short lived- 

their wallets