Novels: The color purple: Alice Walker: Chapter 7

Shug write she got a big surprise, and she intend to bring it home for Christmas. What it is? us wonder.

Mr. thinks it is a car for him. Shug making big money now, dress in furs all the time. Silk and satin too, and hats made out of gold.

Christmas morning we hear this motor outside the door. We lookout. Hot Diggity dog, say Mr. throwing on his pants.

He rushes to the door. I stand in front of the glass trying to make something out of my hair. It is too short to belong, too long to be short. Too nappy to be kinky, too kinky to be nappy. No set color to it either. I give up, tie on a head rag.

I hear Shug cry, Oh, Albert. He says, Shug. I know they hugging. Then I don’t hear anything.

I run out the door. Shug, I say, and put out my arms. But before I know anything a skinny big toof man wearing red suspenders is all up in my face. Fore I can wonder whose dog he is, he hugging me.

Miss Celie, he says. Aw, Miss Celie. I heard so much about you. Feel like we are old friends. Shug standing back with a big grin.

This Grady, she says. This is my husband.

The minute she say it I know I don’t like Grady. I don’t like his shape, I don’t like his teeth, I don’t like his clothes. Seem like to me he smells.

Us been driving all night, she says. Nowhere to stop, you know. But here us is. She comes over to Grady and puts her arms around him look up at him like he is cute and he leans down and kisses her.

I glance around at Mr.         . He looks like the end of the world. I know I don’t look any better.

And this is my wedding present to us, say Shug. The car is big and dark blue and says Packard on the front. Brand new, she says. She looks at Mr., takes his arm, gives it a little squeeze. While we here, Albert, she said, I want you to learn how to drive. She laughs. Grady drives like a fool, she says. I thought the polices were gonna catch us for sure.

Finally, Shug seems to notice me. She comes over and hugs me for a long time. We two married ladies now, she said. Two married ladies. And hungry, she says. What did we get to eat?

 

Mr. drinks all through Christmas. He and Grady.

Me and Shug cook, talk, clean the house, talk, fix up the tree, talk, wake up in the morning, talk.

She sings all over the country these days. Everybody knows her name. She knows everybody, too. Know Sophie Tucker, know Duke Ellington, know folks I ain’t never heard of. And money. She makes so much money she doesn’t know what to do with it. She got a fine house in Memphis, another car. She got one hundred pretty dresses. A room is full of shoes. She buys Grady anything he thinks he wants.

Where did you find him at? I asked.

Up under my car, she says. The one at home. I drove it after the oil gave out, kilt the engine. He the man fixed it. We took one look at one another, that was it.

Mr. feelings hurt, I say. I don’t mention mine.

Aw, she says. That old stuff is finally over with. You and Albert feel just like family now. Anyhow, once you told me he beat you, and won’t work, I felt different about him. If you were my wife, she said, I’d cover you up with kisses stead of licks, and work hard for you too.

He ain’t beat me much since you made him quit, I say. Just a slap now and then when he ain’t got nothing else to do. Do yall make love any better? she asked.

Us try, I say. He tries to play with the button but feels like his fingers are dry. We don’t git nowhere much. You still a virgin? she asked.

I reckon. I say.

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Novels: The color purple: Alice Walker: Chapter 4 


Mr.  

and Grady went off in the car together. Shug ask me could she sleep with me. She is cold in here and Grady's bed all alone. We talk bout this and that. Soon talk about making love. Shug doesn’t say making love. She says something nasty. She says fuck.

She asked me, How was it with your children daddy?

The girls had a little separate room, I say, off to itself, connected to the house by a little plank walk. Nobody ever come in there but Mama. But one time when mama was not at home, he come. Told me he want me to trim his hair. He brings the scissors and comb and brush and a stool. While I trim his hair he looks at me funny. He was a little nervous too, but I don’t know why, till he grabs hold of me and crams me up tween his legs.

I lay there quietly, listening to Shug breathe.

It hurt me, you know, I say. I was just going on fourteen. I never even thought bout men having nothing down there so big. It scares me just to see it. And the way it pokes itself and grows.

Shug is so quiet I think she sleeps.

After the through, I say, he makes me finish trimming his hair. I sneak a look at Shug.

Oh, Miss Celie, she says. And put her arms around me. It the black and smooth and kind of glowy from the lamplight.

I start to cry too. I cry and cry and cry. Seem like it all come back to me, laying there in Shug's arms. How it hurt and how much I was surprised. How it stung while I finish trimming his hair. How the blood drips down my leg and messes up my stocking. How he never look at me straight after that. And Nettie.

Don’t cry, Celie, Shug says. Don’t cry. She starts kissing the water as it comes to the downside my face.

After a while I say, Mama finally asks how come she finds his hair in the girl's room if he never goes in there as he says. That was when he told her I had a boyfriend. Some boy he says he is seen sneaking out the back door. It's the boy’s hair, he says, not his. You know how she loves to cut anybody's hair, he says.

I did love to cut hair, I say to Shug since I was a little bitty thing. I’d run go git the scissors if I saw hair coming, and I’d cut and cut, long as I could. That how come I was the one who cut his hair. But always before I cut it on the front porch. It got to the place where every time I saw him coming with the scissors and the comb and the stool, I start to cry.

Shug says, Wells, and I thought it was only white folks who do freakish things like that.

My mama die, I tell Shug. My sister Nettie run away. Mr. come git me to take care his rotten children. He never asked me anything bout myself. He clams on top of me and fuck and fuck, even when my head is bandaged. Nobody ever loves me, I say.

She says I love you, Miss Celie. And then she hauls off and kisses me on the mouth.

Um, she says, like the surprise. I kiss her back, say, um, too. We kiss and kiss till we can hardly kiss anymore. Then we touch each other.

I don’t know anything bout it, I say to Shug. I don’t know much, she says.

Then I feel something soft and wet on my breast, feel like one of my little lost babies' mouths. Way after a while, I act like a little lost baby too.

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 Novels: The color purple: Alice Walker: Chapter 5


Grady and Mr. come staggering in around daybreak. I and Shug sound asleep. Her back to me, my arms around her waist. What is it like? Little like sleeping with mama, only I can hardly remember ever sleeping with her. Little like sleeping with Nettie, only sleeping with Nettie never feel this good. It's warm and cushiony, and I feel Shug’s big tits sorta flop over my arms like suds. It feels like heaven is what it feels like, not like sleeping with Mr. at all.

Wake up Sugar, I say. They back. And Shug rolls over, hugs me, and git out of the bed. She staggers into the other room and falls on the bed with Grady. Mr. fall into bed next to me, drunk, and snoring before he hit the quilts.

I try my best to like Grady, even if he does wear red suspenders and bow ties. Even if he does spend Shug’s money as he made it himself. Even if he does try to talk like somebody from the North. Memphis, Tennessee ain’t North, even I know that. But one thing I sure Nuff can’t stand, the way he calls Shug Mama.

I ain’t your fucking mama, Shug says. But he doesn’t pay her any mind.

Like when he is making goo-goo eyes at Squeak and Shug sorta tease him about it, he says, Aw, Mama, you know I don’t mean any harm.

Shug like Squeak too, try to help her sing. They sit in Odessa’s front room with all the children crowded around them singing and singing. Sometimes Swain comes with his box, Harpo cooks dinner, and I and Mr. and the prizefighter bring our presentation.

It is nice.

Shug says to Squeak, I mean, Mary Agnes, You ought to sing in public.

Mary Agnes says, Naw. She thinks cause she doesn’t sing big and broad like Shug nobody wants to hear her. But Shug says she is wrong.

What about all the funny voices you hear singing in church? Shug says. What about all the sounds that sound good but, not the sounds you thought folks could make? What bout that? Then she starts moaning. Sound like death is approaching, angels can’t prevent it. It raises the hair on the back of your neck. But it sounds sort of like panthers would sound if they could sing.

I tell you something else, Shug says to Mary Agnes, listening to you sing, folks git to thinking bout a good screw. Aw, Miss Shug, says Mary Agnes, changing color.

Shug says, What, too shamefaced to put singing and dancing and fucking together? She laughs. That’s the reason they call what we sing the devil’s music. Devils love to fuck. Listen, she says, Let’s go sing one night at Harpo place. Be like old times for me. And if I bring you before the crowd, they better listen with respect. Niggers don’t know how to act, but if you git through the first half of one song, you got ’em.

Do you reckon that’s the truth? say, Mary Agnes. She was all big-eyed and delight. I don’t know if I want her to sing, say Harpo.

How come? ask Shug. That woman you got singing now can’t get her ass out of the church. Folks don’t know whether to dance or creep to the mourner’s bench. Plus, you dress Mary Agnes up the right way and you’ll make piss pots of money. Yellow like she is, stringy hair and cloudy eyes, the men’ll be crazy bout her. Ain’t that right, Grady, she says.

Grady looks a little sheepish. Grin. Mama, you don’t miss a thing, he says. And don’t you forget it, say Shug.

 

 

This is the letter I have been holding in my hand.

 

Dear Celie,

I know you think I am dead. But I am not. I have been writing to you too, over the years, but Albert said you’d never hear from me again and since I never heard from you all this time, I guess he was right. Now I only write at Christmas and Easter hoping my letter gets lost among the Christmas and Easter greetings, or that Albert gets the holiday spirit and has pity on us.

There is so much to tell you that I don’t know, hardly, where to begin—and anyway, you probably won’t get this letter, either. I’m sure Albert is still the only one to take mail out of the box.

But if this does get through, one thing I want you to know, I love you, and I am not dead. And Olivia is fine and so is your son.

We are all coming home before the end of another year.

Your loving sister, Nettie

One night in bed, Shug asks me to tell her bout Nettie. What does she like? Where is she at?

I tell her how Mr. tries to turn her head. How Nettie refuses him, and how he says Nettie has to go. Where did she go? she asked.

I don’t know, I say. She leaves here. And no word from her yet? she asked.

Naw, I say. Every day when Mr. comes from the mailbox I hope for news. But nothing come. She died, I say.

Shug says She wouldn’t be someplace with funny stamps, you don’t reckon? She looks like she studying. Say, Sometimes when Albert and I walk up to the mailbox there be a letter with a lot of funny-looking stamps. He never says anything bout it, just puts it in his inside pocket. One time I asked him could I look at the stamps but he said he’d take it out later. But he never did.

She was just on her way to town, I say. Stamps look like stamps around here. White men with long hair. Hm, she says, look like a little fat white woman was on one. What is your sister Nettie like? she asked. Smart?

Yes, Lord, I say. Smart as anything. Read the newspapers when she was little more than talking. Did figures like they were nothing. Talked well too. And sweet. There never was a sweeter girl, I say. Eyes just brimming over with it. She loves me too, I say to Shug.

Is she tall or short? Shug asks. What kind of dress does she like to wear? What is her birthday? What is her favorite color? Can she cook? Sew? What about hair?

Everything bout Nettie she wants to know.

I talk so much my voice starts to go. Why do you want to know so much bout Nettie? I asked. Cause she the only one you ever love, she said, sides me.

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Novels: The color purple: Alice Walker: Chapter 6

 

All of a sudden Shug buddy-buddy again with Mr.      . They sit on the steps, go down Harpo’s. Walk to the mailbox. Shug laugh and laugh when he got anything to say. Show teef and tits aplenty.

I and Grady try to carry on as we civilize. But it is hard. When I hear Shug laugh I want to choke her, slap Mr.'s face. All this week I suffer. Grady and I feel so down he turns to reefer, I turn to prayer.

Saturday morning Shug put Nettie's letter in my lap. Little fat queen of England stamps on it, plus stamps that got peanuts, coconuts, rubber trees, and say, Africa. I don’t know where England at. Don’t know where Africa at either. So I still don’t know where Nettie is at.

He has been keeping your letters, say Shug.

Naw, I say. Mr. mean sometimes, but he is not that mean. She says, Humpf, he that mean.

But how come he do it? I asked. He knows Nettie means everything in the world to me. Shug says she doesn’t know, but us gon find out.

We seal the letter up again and put it back in Mr.           pocket

He walks around with it in his coat all day. He never mentions it. Just talk and laugh with Grady, Harpo, and Swain, and try to learn how to drive Shug's car.

I watch him so close, I begin to feel lightning in the head. For I know anything I’m standing hind his chair with his razor open.

Then I hear Shug laugh, like something just too funny. She says to me, I know I told you I need something to cut this hangnail with, but Albert git real niggerish bout his razor.

Mr. look behind him. Put that down, he says. Women, always needing to cut this and shave that, and always gumming up the razor.

Shug got her hand on the razor now. She says, Oh it looks dull anyway. She takes and slings it back in the shaving box.

All-day long I act just like Sofia. I stutter. I mutter to myself. I stumble bout the house crazy for Mr. blood. In my mind, he falling dead every which away. By the time night come, I can’t speak. Every time I open my mouth nothing comes out but a little burp.

Shug tells everybody I got a fever and she put me to bed.

It probably catching, she says to Mr. Maybe you better sleep somewhere else. But she stay with me all night long. I  

don’t sleep. I don’t cry. I don’t do anything. I’m cold too. Pretty soon I think maybe I’m dead.

Shug hold me close to her and sometimes talk.

One thing my mama hated me for was how much I love to fuck, she says. She never loves to do anything had anything to do with touching nobody, she says. I try to kiss her, she turns her mouth away. Say, Cut that out Lillie, she says. Lillie Shug’s real name. She is just so sweet they call her Shug.

My daddy love me to kiss and hug him, but she didn’t like the looks of that. So when I met Albert, and once I got in his arms, nothing could get me out. It was good, too, she say. You know for me to have three babies by Albert and Albert weak as he is, it had to be good.

I had every one of my babies at home, too. The midwife comes, the preacher comes, a bunch of the good ladies from the church. Just when I hurt so much I don’t know my name, they think it a good time to talk bout repent.

She laughs. I was too big a fool to repent. Then she say, I loved me some Albert.

I don’t even want to say anything. Where I’m at it peaceful. It calm. No Albert there. No Shug. Nothing.

Shug says, the last baby did it. They turned me out. I went to stay with my mama wild sister in Memphis. She just like me, Mama said. She drinks, she fights, she loves men to death. She works in a roadhouse. Cook. Feed fifty men, screw fifty-five.

Shug talk and talk.

And dance, she says. Nobody dance like Albert when he was young. Sometimes we did the smoothie for an hour. After that, nothing to do but go somewhere and lay down. And funny. Albert was so funny. He kept me laughing. How come he ain’t funny no more? she asked. How come he never hardly laugh? How come he doesn’t dance? she says. Good God, Celie, she says, What happened to the man I love?

She was quite a little while. Then she say, I was so surprised when I heard he was going to marry Annie Julia, she say. Too surprise to be hurt. I didn’t believe it. After all, Albert knew as well as me that love would have to go some to be better than ours. We had the kind of love that couldn’t be improved. That’s what I thought.

But, he weak, she says. His daddy told him I’m trash, my mama trash before me. His brother says the same. Albert tries to stand up for us, git knockdown. One reason they give him for not marrying me is cause I have children.

But they his, I told old Mr. . How us know? He asked.

 

 Poor Annie Julia, Shug says. She never had a chance. I was so mean, and so wild, Lord. I used to go round saying, I don’t care who he married to, I’m gonna fuck him. She stops talking for a minute. Then she say, And I did, too. We fuck so much in the open us give fucking a bad name.

But he fuck Annie Julia too, she says, and she didn’t have anything, not even a liking for him. Her family forgot about her once she married. And then Harpo and all the children start to come. Finally, she start to sleep with that man that shot her down. Albert beat her. The children dragged on her. Sometimes I wonder what she thought about while she died.

I know what I’m thinking bout, I think. Nothing. And as much of it as I can.

I went to school with Annie Julia, Shug says. She was pretty, man. Black as anything, and skin just as smooth. Big black eyes look like moons. And sweet too. Hell, say Shug, I liked her myself. Why did I hurt her so? I used to keep Albert away from home for a week at the time. She’d come and beg him for money to buy groceries for the children.

I feel a few drops of water on my hand.

And when I come here, say Shug, I treated you so mean. Like you were a servant. And all because Albert married you. And I didn’t even want him for a husband, she says. I never really wanted Albert for a husband. But just to choose me, you know, cause nature had already done it. Nature said, You two folks, hook up, cause you a good example of how it sposed to go. I didn’t want anything to be able to go against that. But what was good tween us must have been nothing but bodies, she said. Cause I don’t know the Albert that don’t dance, can hardly laugh, never talk bout anything, beat you and hid your sister Nettie’s letters. Who he?

I don’t know anything, I think. And glad of it.

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