Taken from: http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~surette/goodman.html
"A Good Man is Hard to Find" (1953)
By: Flannery O'Connor
The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She
wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennes-
see and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's
mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He
was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over
the orange sports section of the Journal. "Now look here,
Bailey," she said, "see here, read this," and she stood with
one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the
newspaper at his bald head. "Here this fellow that calls
himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and
headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he
did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn't take my
children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose
in it. I couldn't answer to my conscience if I did."
Bailey didn't look up from his reading so she
wheeled around then and faced the children's mother, a
young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and
innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green
head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit's
ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his
apricots out of a jar. "The children have been to Florida
before," the old lady said. "You all ought to take them
somewhere else for a change so they would see different
parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to
The children's mother didn't seem to hear her but
the eight-year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with
glasses, said, "If you don't want to go to Florida, why
dontcha stay at home?" He and the little girl, June Star,
were reading the funny papers on the floor.
"She wouldn't stay at home to be queen for a day,"
June Star said without raising her yellow head.
"Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The
Misfit, caught you?" the grandmother asked.
"I'd smack his face," John Wesley said.
"She wouldn't stay at home for a million bucks,"
June Star said. "Afraid she'd miss something. She has to
go everywhere we go."
"All right, Miss," the grandmother said. "Just re-
member that the next time you want me to curl your hair."
June Star said her hair was naturally curly.
The next morning the grandmother was the first one
in the car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that
looked like the head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and
underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the
cat, in it. She didn't intend for the cat to be left alone in
the house for three days because he would miss her too
much and she was afraid he might brush against one of
her gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her
son, Bailey, didn't like to arrive at a motel with a cat.
She sat in the middle of the back seat with John
Wesley and June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the
children's mother and the baby sat in front and they left
Atlanta at eight forty-five with the mileage on the car at
55890. The grandmother wrote this down because she
thought it would be interesting to say how many miles
they had been when they got back. It took them twenty
minutes to reach the outskirts of the city.
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing
her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her
purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The
children's mother still had on slacks and still had her head
tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a
navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on
the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in
the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy
trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a
purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case
of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway
would know at once that she was a lady.
She said she thought it was going to be a good day
for driving, neither too hot nor too cold, and she
cautioned Bailey that the speed limit was fifty-five miles
an hour and that the patrolmen hid themselves behind
billboards and small clumps of trees and sped out after
you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed
out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the
blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of
the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked
with purple; and the various crops that made rows of
green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of
silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.
The children were reading comic magazines and their
mother and gone back to sleep.
"Let's go through Georgia fast so we won't have to look at it
much," John Wesley said.
"If I were a little boy," said the grandmother, "I wouldn't talk
about my native state that way.
Tennessee has the mountains and
Georgia has the hills."
"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground," John Wesley
said, "and Georgia is a lousy state
"You said it," June Star said.
"In my time," said the grandmother, folding her thin veined
fingers, "children were more
respectful of their native states and their parents and
everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute
little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro child
standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a
picture, now?" she asked and they all turned and looked at
the little Negro out of the back window. He waved
"He didn't have any britches on," June Star said.
"He probably didn't have any," the grandmother
explained. "Little riggers in the country don't have things
like we do. If I could paint, I'd paint that picture," she
The children exchanged comic books.
The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the
children's mother passed him over the front seat to her.
She set him on her knee and bounced him and told him
about the things they were passing. She rolled her eyes
and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face
into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he gave her a
faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five
or fix graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island.
"Look at the graveyard!" the grandmother said, pointing it
out. "That was the old family burying ground. That
belonged to the plantation."
"Where's the plantation?" John Wesley asked.
"Gone With the Wind" said the grandmother. "Ha. Ha."
When the children finished all the comic books they
had brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The
grandmother ate a peanut butter sandwich and an olive
and would not let the children throw the box and the
paper napkins out the window. When there was nothing
else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and
making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John
Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star
guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, an automobile,
and June Star said he didn't play fair, and they began to
slap each other over the grandmother.
The grandmother said she would tell them a story if
they would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled
her eyes and waved her head and was very dramatic. She
said once when she was a maiden lady she had been
courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden from Jasper,
Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking man and a
gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon every
Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T. Well,
one Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the
watermelon and there was nobody at home and he left it
on the front porch and returned in his buggy to Jasper, but
she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger
boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T. ! This story
tickled John Wesley's funny bone and he giggled and
giggled but June Star didn't think it was any good. She
said she wouldn't marry a man that just brought her a
watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would
have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a
gentle man and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came
out and that he had died only a few years ago, a very
They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sand-
wiches. The Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling
station and dance hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy.
A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were
signs stuck here and there on the building and for miles up
and down the highway saying, TRY RED SAMMY'S
FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE FAMOUS RED
SAMMY'S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH THE
HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY'S YOUR
Red Sammy was lying on the bare ground outside
The Tower with his head under a truck while a gray
monkey about a foot high, chained to a small chinaberry
tree, chattered nearby. The monkey sprang back into the
tree and got on the highest limb as soon as he saw the
children jump out of the car and run toward him.
Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a
counter at one end and tables at the other and dancing
space in the middle. They all sat down at a board table
next to the nickelodeon and Red Sam's wife, a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter
than her skin, came and took their order. The children's mother put a
dime in the machine and played "The Tennessee Waltz,"
and the grandmother said that tune always made her want
to dance. She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but
he only glared at her. He didn't have a naturally sunny
disposition like she did and trips made him nervous. The
grandmother's brown eyes were very bright. She swayed
her head from side to side and pretended she was dancing
in her chair. June Star said play something she could tap
to so the children's mother put in another dime and played a fast number and
June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and did her tap
"Ain't she cute?" Red Sam's wife said, leaning over
the counter. "Would you like to come be my little girl?"
"No I certainly wouldn't," June Star said. "I wouldn't
live in a broken-down place like this for a million bucks!"
and she ran back to the table.
"Ain't she cute?" the woman repeated, stretching her
"Arn't you ashamed?" hissed the grandmother.
Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging
on the counter and hurry up with these people's order. His
khaki trousers reached just to his hip bones and his
stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying
under his shirt. He came over and sat down at a table
nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. "You
can't win," he said. "You can't win," and he wiped his
sweating red face off with a gray handkerchief. "These
days you don't know who to trust," he said. "Ain't that the
"People are certainly not nice like they used to be,"
said the grandmother.
"Two fellers come in here last week," Red Sammy
said, "driving a Chrysler. It was a old beat-up car but it
was a good one and these boys looked all right to me. Said
they worked at the mill and you know I let them fellers
charge the gas they bought? Now why did I do that?"
"Because you're a good man!" the grandmother said
"Yes'm, I suppose so," Red Sam said as if he were
struck with this answer.
His wife brought the orders, carrying the five
plates all at once without a tray, two in each hand and one
balanced on her arm. "It isn't a soul in this green world of
God's that you can trust," she said. "And I don't count
nobody out of that, not nobody," she repeated, looking at
"Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that's
escaped?" asked the grandmother.
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he didn't attack this
place right here," said the woman. "If he hears about it
being here, I wouldn't be none surprised to see him. If he
hears it's two cent in the cash register, I wouldn't be a tall surprised if he . . ."
"That'll do," Red Sam said. "Go bring these people
their Co'-Colas," and the woman went off to get the rest of
"A good man is hard to find," Red Sammy said.
"Everything is getting terrible. I remember the day you
could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no
He and the grandmother discussed better times. The
old lady said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to
blame for the way things were now. She said the way
Europe acted you would think we were made of money
and Red Sam said it was no use talking about it, she was
exactly right. The children ran outside into the white
sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry
tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting
each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a
They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The
grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes
with her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke
up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in
this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She
said the house had six white columns across
the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up
to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side in
front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in
the garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to
get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose
any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked
about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find
out if the little twin arbors were still standing. "There was
a secret:-panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling
the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went
that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman
came through but it was never found . . ."
"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find
it! We'll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives
there? Where do you turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off
"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!"
June Star shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret
panel! Hey Pop, can't we go see the house with the secret
"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother
said. "It wouldn't take over twenty minutes."
Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as
rigid as a horseshoe. "No," he said.
The children began to yell and scream that they
wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley
kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over
her mother's shoulder and whined desperately into her ear
that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that
they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby
began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the
seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his
"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop
at the side of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don't
shut up, we won't go anywhere."
"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother murmured.
"All right," Bailey said, "but get this: this is the only time we're going to stop for anything like
this. This is the one and only time."
"The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile back," the grandmother directed. "I
marked it when we passed."
"A dirt road," Bailey groaned.
After they had turned around and were headed toward the dirt road, the grandmother recalled
other points about the house, the
beautiful glass over the front doorway and the candle-lamp in the hall. John Wesley said that the
secret panel was probably in the
"You can't go inside this house," Bailey said. "You don't know who lives there."
"While you all talk to the people in front, I'll run around behind and get in a window," John
"We'll all stay in the car," his mother said.
They turned onto the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a swirl of pink dust. The
grandmother recalled the times when there were no paved roads and thirty miles was a day's
journey. The dirt road was hilly and there were sudden washes in it and sharp
curves on dangerous embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the
blue tops of trees for miles around, then the next minute, they would be in a red depression with
the dust-coated trees looking down on them.
"This place had better turn up in a minute," Bailey said, "or I'm going to turn around."
The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months.
"It's not much farther," the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to
her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her
feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The instant the valise moved, the newspaper
top she had over the basket under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing, the cat, sprang onto Bailey's
The children were thrown to the floor and their mother, clutching the baby, was thrown out the
door onto the ground; the old lady was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once and
landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road. Bailey remained in the driver's seat with
the cat gray-striped with a broad white face and an orange nose clinging to his neck like a
As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and legs, they scrambled out of the car,
shouting, "We've had an ACCIDENT!" The grandmother was curled up under the dashboard,
hoping she was injured so that Bailey's wrath would not come down on her all at once. The
horrible thought she had had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so
vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.
Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and flung it out the window against the
side of a pine tree. Then he got out of the car and started looking for the children's mother. She
was sitting against the side of the red gutted ditch, holding the screaming baby, but she only had a
cut down her face and a broken shoulder. "We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed in a
frenzy of delight.
"But nobody's killed," June Star said with disappointment as
the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to her
head but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle and the
violet spray hanging off the side. They all sat down in the ditch,
except the children, to recover from the shock. They were all shaking.
"Maybe a car will come along," said the children's mother hoarsely.
"I believe I have injured an organ," said the grandmother,
pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey's teeth were
clattering. He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots
designed in it and his face was as yellow as the shirt. The
grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house was
The road was about ten feet above and they could see only the
tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they were
sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few
minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming
slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother
stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention.
The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend
and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had
gone over. It was a big black battered hearselike automobile. There
were three men in it.
It came to a stop just over them and for some minutes, the
driver looked down with a steady expressionless gaze to where they
were sitting, and didn't speak. Then he turned his head and muttered
something to the other two and they got out. One was a fat boy in
black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion embossed
on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of them and stood staring, his mouth
partly open in a kind of loose grin. The other had on khaki pants and
a blue striped coat and a gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most
of his face. He came around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke.
The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it,
looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two. His
hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver-rimmed
spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased
face and didn't have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans
that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun.
The two boys also had guns.
"We've had an ACCIDENT!" the children screamed.
The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the
bespectacled man was someone she knew. His face was as familiar
to her as if she had known him all her life but she could not recall
who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come down
the embankment, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn't slip.
He had on tan and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles were
red and thin. "Good afternoon," he said. "I see you all had you a
"We turned over twice!" said the grandmother.
"Once", he corrected. "We seen it happen. Try their car and
see will it run, Hiram," he said quietly to the boy with the gray hat.
"What you got that gun for?" John Wesley asked. "Whatcha
gonna do with that gun?"
"Lady," the man said to the children's mother, "would you
mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make me
nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there where
"What are you telling US what to do for?" June Star asked.
Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth. "Come here," said their mother.
"Look here now," Bailey began suddenly, "we're in a predicament! We're in . . ."
The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. "You're The Misfit!"
she said. "I recognized you at once!"
"Yes'm," the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known,
"but it would have been better for all of you,
lady, if you hadn't of reckernized me."
Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his mother that shocked even the children.
The old lady began to cry and The Misfit reddened.
"Lady," he said, "don't you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he don't mean. I don't
reckon he meant to talk to you thataway."
"You wouldn't shoot a lady, would you?" the grandmother said and removed a clean
handkerchief from her cuff and began to slap at her eyes with it.
The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and made a little hole and then covered it
up again. "I would hate to have to," he said.
"Listen," the grandmother almost screamed, "I know you're a good man. You don't look a bit
like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!"
"Yes mam," he said, "finest people in the world." When he smiled he showed a row of strong
white teeth. "God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy's heart was pure
gold," he said. The boy with the red sweat shirt had come around behind them and was standing
with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted down on the ground. "Watch them children, Bobby
Lee," he said. "You know they make me nervous." He looked at the six of them huddled
together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed as if he couldn't think of anything to
say. "Ain't a cloud in the sky," he remarked, looking
up at it. "Don't see no sun but don't see no cloud neither."
"Yes, it's a beautiful day," said the grandmother. "Listen," she said, "you shouldn't call yourself
The Misfit because I know you're a good
man at heart. I can just look at you and tell."
"Hush!" Bailey yelled. "Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!" He was squatting in
the position of a runner about to sprint forward but he didn't move.
"I pre-chate that, lady," The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the butt of his
"It'll take a half a hour to fix this here car," Hiram called, looking over the raised hood of it.
"Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to step over yonder with you," The
Misfit said, pointing to Bailey and John Wesley. "The boys want to ast you something," he said to
Bailey. "Would you mind stepping back in them woods there with them?"
"Listen," Bailey began, "we're in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is," and his
voice cracked. His eyes were as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained
The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods with him
but it came off in her hand. She stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground.
Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old man. John Wesley caught hold
of his father's hand and Bobby I,ee followed. They went off toward the woods and just as
they reached the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a
gray naked pine trunk, he shouted, "I'll be back in a minute, Mamma, wait
"Come back this instant!" his mother shrilled but they all disappeared
into the woods.
"Bailey Boy!" the grandmother called in a tragic voice but she found
she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground in front of her. "I just
know you're a good man," she said desperately. "You're not a bit common!"
"Nome, I ain't a good man," The Misfit said after a second ah if he
had considered her statement carefully, "but I ain't the worst in the world
neither. My daddy said I was a different breed of dog from my brothers and
sisters. 'You know,' Daddy said, 'it's some that can live their whole life out
without asking about it and it's others has to know why it is, and this boy is
one of the latters. He's going to be into everything!"' He put on his black hat
and looked up suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he were
embarrassed again. "I'm sorry I don't have on a shirt before you ladies," he
said, hunching his shoulders slightly. "We buried our clothes that we had on
when we escaped and we're just making do until we can get better. We
borrowed these from some folks we met," he explained.
"That's perfectly all right," the grandmother said. "Maybe Bailey has
an extra shirt in his suitcase."
"I'll look and see terrectly," The Misfit said.
"Where are they taking him?" the children's mother screamed.
"Daddy was a card himself," The Misfit said. "You couldn't put
anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the Authorities though.
Just had the knack of handling them."
"You could be honest too if you'd only try," said the grandmother.
"Think how wonderful it would be to settle down and live a comfortable life
and not have to think about somebody chasing you all the time."
The Misfit kept scratching in the ground with the butt of his gun as if
he were thinking about it. "Yestm, somebody is always after you," he
The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were just
behind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him. "Do you
every pray?" she asked.
He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle between his
shoulder blades. "Nome," he said.
There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by another.
Then silence. The old lady's head jerked around. She could hear the wind
move through the tree tops like a long satisfied insuck of breath. "Bailey
Boy!" she called.
"I was a gospel singer for a while," The Misfit said. "I been most
everything. Been in the arm service both land and sea, at home and abroad,
been twict married, been an undertaker, been with the railroads, plowed
Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen a man burnt alive oncet," and he
looked up at the children's mother and the little girl who were sitting close
together, their faces white and their eyes glassy; "I even seen a woman
flogged," he said.
"Pray, pray," the grandmother began, "pray, pray . . ."
I never was a bad boy that I remember of," The Misfit said in an
almost dreamy voice, "but somewheres along the line I done something
wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive," and he looked up
and held her attention to him by a steady stare.
"That's when you should have started to pray," she said. "What
did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that
"Turn to the right, it was a wall," The Misfit said, looking up
again at the cloudless sky. "Turn to the left, it
was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look
down it was a floor. I forget what I done, lady. I
set there and set there, trying to remember
what it was I done and I ain't recalled it to this
day. Oncet in a while, I would think it was
coming to me, but it never come."
"Maybe they put you in by mistake," the old lady said vaguely.
"Nome," he said. "It wasn't no mistake. They had the papers on
"You must have stolen something," she said.
The Misfit sneered slightly. "Nobody had nothing I
wanted," he said. "It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary
said what I had done was kill my daddy but I known that
for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the
epidemic flu and I never had a thing to do with it. He was
buried in the Mount Hopewell Baptist churchyard and you
can go there and see for yourself."
"If you would pray," the old lady said, "Jesus would
"That's right," The Misfit said.
"Well then, why don't you pray?" she asked trembling with delight
"I don't want no hep," he said. "I'm doing all right by myself."
Bobby Lee and Hiram came ambling back from the
woods. Bobby Lee was dragging a yellow shirt with bright
blue parrots in it.
"Thow me that shirt, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said.
The shirt came flying at him and landed on his shoulder
and he put it on. The grandmother couldn't name
what the shirt reminded her of. "No, lady," The Misfit said
while he was buttoning it up, "I found out the crime don't
matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a
man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you're going to forget what it was you done
and just be punished for it."
The children's mother had begun to make heaving
noises as if she couldn't get her breath. "Lady," he asked,
"would you and that little girl like to step off yonder with
Bobby Lee and Hiram and join your husband?"
"Yes, thank you," the mother said faintly. Her left
arm dangled helplessly and she was holding the baby, who
had gone to sleep, in the other. "Hep that lady up, Hiram,"
The Misfit said as she struggled to climb out of the ditch,
"and Bobby Lee, you hold onto that little girl's hand."
"I don't want to hold hands with him," June Star
said. "He reminds me of a pig."
The fat boy blushed and laughed and caught her by
the arm and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and
Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that
she had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky
nor any sun. There was nothing around her but woods. She
wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and
closed her mouth several times before anything came out.
Finally she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus," meaning,
Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it
sounded as if she might be cursing.
"Yes'm, The Misfit said as if he agreed. "Jesus
shown everything off balance. It was the same case with
Him as with me except He hadn't committed any crime and
they could prove I had committed one because they had
the papers on me. Of course," he said, "they never shown
me my papers. That's why I sign myself now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign
everything you do and keep a copy of it. Then you'll know what you done and you can hold
up the crime to the punishment and see do they match and in the end you'll
have something to prove you ain't been treated right. I call myself The
Misfit," he said, "because I can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I
gone through in punishment."
There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely by a
pistol report. "Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap
and another ain't punished at all?"
"Jesus!" the old lady cried. "You've got good blood! I know you
wouldn't shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you
ought not to shoot a lady. I'll give you all the money I've got!"
"Lady," The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the woods, "there
never was a body that give the undertaker a tip."
There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her
head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, "Bailey Boy,
Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break.
"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit
continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything off
balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow
away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you
to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by
killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness
to him. No pleasure but meanness," he said and his voice had become
almost a snarl.
"Maybe He didn't raise the dead," the old lady mumbled, not knowing
what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted
"I wasn't there so I can't say He didn't," The Misfit said. "I wisht I had
of been there," he said, hitting the ground with his fist. "It ain't right I wasn't
there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady," he said
in a high voice, "if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn't be
like I am now." His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's
head cleared for an instant. She saw the man's face twisted close to her own
as if he were going to cry and she murmured, "Why you're one of my babies.
You're one of my own children !" She reached out and touched him on the
shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her
three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and
took off his glasses and began to clean them.
Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood over the
ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a puddle
of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child's and her face smiling
up at the cloudless sky.
Without his glasses, The Misfit's eyes were red-rimmed and pale and
defenseless-looking. "Take her off and thow her where you thown the
others," he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing itself against his leg.
"She was a talker, wasn't she?" Bobby Lee said, sliding down the
ditch with a yodel.
"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been
somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
"Some fun!" Bobby Lee said.
"Shut up, Bobby Lee," The Misfit said. "It's no real pleasure in life."