Daddy's Momma taught me how to praise The Lord. She told me to close my eyes and tell him everything I was feeling, everything that stung or burned. Daddy's Momma painted pictures with oil and acrylic - and the red would seep into the carnations, the curtains, the bedspread. Blue became the ocean. Black was God. Daddy's Momma taught me how to see God.
She said He was everywhere, Daddy's Momma told me, even in the dark - He was the faded blue sky, the space between the twinkling yellow stars and planets. She said He would sing with me when I was alone or scared. Daddy's Momma said she wasn't afraid of death like the other girls her age, she said she had done all right by The Lord and bygunnit He had done all right, too.
Daddy's Momma had a cat - it was black and thin with a twisted, broken tail and angry yellow eyes. She named that cat Anthony, and on Tuesdays, she said, he got tuna if he caught five field mice in the week. That cat was the devil.
Old Anthony would catch his mice and stare at his tuna, and Old Anthony took part in placing each of them, dead, on the front steps for Daddy's Momma. And Old Anthony never took a bite out of anything, and he made me hate God and The Lord and Death.
Daddy's Momma always took me in for Easter and she would smoke cigarettes and talk about the weather. She would dress me up in big hats and ugly shoes and pinch my cheeks and say, "Aww, Miss J'nnie you are some kind of wonderful." And I would serve her lemonade with a ribbon in my hair and I would smile at all her friends with gray faces and yellow fingernails.
And, Awwwww Miss J'nnie would watch that cat on top of the gazebo and his tail would swing back and forth and back and forth as he watched us. And Daddy's Momma would serve fried chicken and potato salad and cold sweet tea for dinner, and we would watch the sun go down as long as the mosquitoes weren't too bad, and Anthony would sit on the back of her chair and watch me and me and me.
And one day he up and went missing. Daddy's Momma came in that day with her white hair, blistered red by heat and sun and she said, "Oh, Miss J'nnie he's gone, this time, he's gone and done it like I knew he would." And she sat in her rocking chair in the den, rocking back and forth and back and forth with her bible, wishing He thought enough for her Sweet Anthony to carry him on home, so they might see each other again. And that cat was the devil.
And Awwwww Miss J'nnie got all dressed up in black when Daddy's Momma died, and we all sat and watched as each car pulled in and each pair of black figures poured out with their hats and lace and children-in-hand like suitcases. And when Daddy cried I looked at him and smiled and said, "It'll be all right, Daddy, she went all right by Him and He went all right by her, and she's with the devil, now."
And that cat made me hate God and The Lord and Love and he, bright as day, sat at my fathers' feet like a jaguar, poised and beautiful like the day He was born.