I hate her.
Not because she’s pretty. What’s pretty, anyway? Something that girls decide. They’re always clumping together, clacking their beads, then coming out with today’s silly rule.
Socks should be rolled down to the ankles, not folded.
Mrs. Williams is the best teacher and the prettiest.
Boys should wear their school ties loose, not knotted high.
Joseph Stubbs has slave hands.
The only reason Shakora noticed my hands was because I helped her balance on the playground wall. If I didn’t grab her arm, she woulda fell. Then she goes and says that.
The other girls took it up. “Slave hands! Slave hands!” And then the guys wanted to measure hands, and sure enough mine were the biggest. Mrs. Williams pretended she didn’t hear or see.
Mama was no help. “Child, I just got home from work. Don’t bother me. Go talk to your grammy.”
Grammy held my hand up, looked it over real careful. “Uh-huh,” she said, then let me go and looked over her glasses. “You got your great-grandfather’s hands, and his were big too,” she said. “Now, he was the son of a woman who remembered growin’ up on one of the Middle Caicos plantations, so yes, I’d probably say you have slave hands, distantly.”
That’s supposed to make me feel better?
So now everyone’s looking at me on this field trip, just because the guide is talking about Wade Stubbs while showing where all the plantation buildings were. I never knew that Wade’s Green was connected with my last name. I could’ve skipped school, maybe, or been sick.
The guide is a white guy, but he’s kinda cool. He has a real long braid down his back and he’s barefoot, even though there are stones and thorns and everything on the paths. He keeps asking us to imagine how hard everything was: hauling water uphill from the well, sleeping in the fields, building all the stone walls that are everywhere.
“You there. Pick up that rock,” he says, pointing at Shakora and the huge stone right beside her.
Shakora giggles. “I can't lift that,” she says.
“What if someone would punish you if you didn’t?”
He doesn’t look like he could punish anyone, ever, but Shakora plays the game and rolls the stone into her arms. I’d grab it for her, but I’m too far away. Javon steps up and takes the stone, passes it down the line of kids. Everyone grunts, staggers around as they move it along.
It gets to me and I take it, using not my arms but just my hands. The stone fits. It feels like I’ve lifted it before, like I’ve lifted lots of them. Like I’ve built these walls. They’re my walls. Mine. I hold the rock over my head and let go with my left hand, balancing it in my right. Slave hands! This is what I can do.
I bounce the stone in my hand. I could throw it right into the group, Shakora and her rules. I could smash someone’s head.
The guide grabs his hat, like he knows what I’m thinking. I stop the bouncing. Him? No. I take the rock and put it on top of one of the walls. The white guy smiles, goofy for his history and my strength. Shakora’s smiling at me too, but I’m all over that.