“Startin’ new,” said Silly. “Gonna have my own hardware.”
“God damn it, you been learnin’ my trade so you could run off and use it!”
“No, sir, I never thought one day this’d happen, sir, but it did. I can’t help it if I learned, Mr. Teece.”
“I suppose you got names for your rockets?”
They looked at their one clock on the dashboard of the car.
“Like Elijah and the Chariot, The Big Wheel and The Little Wheel, Faith, Hope, and Charity, eh?”
“We got names for the ships, Mr. Teece.”
“God the Son and the Holy Ghost, I wouldn’t wonder? Say, boy, you got one named the First Baptist Church?”
“We got to leave now, Mr. Teece.”
Teece laughed. “You got one named Swing Low, and another named Sweet Chariot?”
The car started up. “Good-by, Mr. Teece.”
“You got one named Roll Dem Bones?”
“And another called Over Jordan! Ha! Well, tote that rocket, boy, lift that rocket, boy, go on, get blown up, see if I care!”
The car churned off into the dust. The boy rose and cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted one last time at Teece: “Mr. Teece, Mr. Teece, what you goin’ to do nights from now on? What you goin’ to do nights, Mr. Teece?”
Silence. The car faded down the road. It was gone. “What in hell did he mean?” mused Teece. “What am I goin’ to do nights?”
He watched the dust settle, and it suddenly came to him.
He remembered nights when men drove to his house, their knees sticking up sharp and their shotguns sticking up sharper, like a carful of cranes under the night trees of summer, their eyes mean. Honking the horn and him slamming his door, a gun in his hand, laughing to himself, his heart racing like a ten-year-old’s, driving off down the summer-night road, a ring of hemp rope coiled on the car floor, fresh shell boxes making every man’s coat look bunchy. How many nights over the years, how many nights of the wind rushing in the car, flopping their hair over their mean eyes, roaring, as they picked a tree, a good strong tree, and rapped on a shanty door!
“So that’s what the son of a bitch meant?” Teece leaped out into the sunlight. “Come back, you bastard! What am I goin’ to do nights? Why, that lousy, insolent son of a … ”
It was a good question. He sickened and was empty. Yes. What will we do nights? he thought. Now they’re gone, what? He was absolutely empty and numb.
He pulled the pistol from his pocket, checked its load.
“What you goin’ to do, Sam?” someone asked.
“Kill that son of a bitch.”
Grandpa said, “Don’t get yourself heated.”
But Samuel Teece was gone around behind the store. A moment later he drove out the drive in his open-top car. “Anyone comin’ with me?”
“I’d like a drive,” said Grandpa, and got up.
Grandpa got in and slammed the door. Samuel Teece gutted the car out in a great whorl of dust. They didn’t speak as they rushed down the road under the bright sky. The heat from the dry meadows was shimmering.
They stopped at a crossroad. “Which way’d they go, Grandpa?”
Grandpa squinted. “Straight on ahead, I figure.”
They went on. Under the summer trees their car made a lonely sound. The road was empty, and as they drove along they began to notice something. Teece slowed the car and bent out, his yellow eyes fierce.
“God damn it, Grandpa, you see what them bastards did?”
“What?” asked Grandpa, and looked.
Where they had been carefully set down and left, in neat bundles every few feet along the empty country road, were old roller skates, a bandanna full of knicknacks, some old shoes, a cartwheel, stacks of pants and coats and ancient hats, bits of oriental crystal that had once tinkled in the wind, tin cans of pink geraniums, dishes of waxed fruit, cartons of Confederate money, washtubs, scrubboards, wash lines, soap, somebody’s tricycle, someone else’s hedge shears, a toy wagon, a jack-in-the-box, a stained-glass window from the Negro Baptist Church, a whole set of brake rims, inner tubes, mattresses, couches, rocking chairs, jars of cold cream, hand mirrors. None of it flung down, no, but deposited gently and with feeling, with decorum, upon the dusty edges of the road, as if a whole city had walked here with hands full, at which time a great bronze trumpet had sounded, the articles had been relinquished to the quiet dust, and one and all, the inhabitants of the earth had fled straight up into the blue heavens.