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A crowd the size of the breakfast line was gathered around the black cross painted on the wall. They were looking at me, sprawled on the street in my date-hopeful black dress. My skinned knees and torn stockings were illuminated in the strobe of my bike light. My basket popped open and my purse spilled out. My phone skittered across the asphalt and into a puddle in the gutter. I picked up my bike and my purse and I reached for my phone. But my phone wasn't in a puddle of water, it was in a puddle of piss. The Bible-thrower's drunken laugh echoed from the dark under the bridge, followed by a chorus of snickers and the dulled clink of 40 ounce bottles in paper bags.
I left the phone. The safe light of Vesuvius Pizza glowed just on the other side of the interstate but there was no way I was walking under the bridge. A light was on at Sister Malina's. My plan for a flat tire was to call a taxi, not a spiritual healer and advisor, but her window did say "All Problems Solved." I peered through the curtains before I rang the bell. Two women were seated at a table holding hands and praying, one of them was Keisha. I glanced back at the bridge. No one was chasing me. I could wait a minute to panic. I could let them finish praying before I rang the bell. I read all the things painted on Sister Malina's windows. She offered a lot of services. Marriage Candles to marry your lover, Anointed Oils to make him faithful, Blessed Prayer Cloths to protect from jealous enemies and Blessed Prayers to reveal God's plan for your life. In the center of these was painted a big white X and it said Uncrossings.
I saw two figures coming toward me from the interstate and I rang the bell. Sister Malina and Keisha looked toward the door but did not move. I was about to ring again, when I recognized the kisser on Eddie's bike and Eddie trotting beside him. "Eddie! Am I glad to see you!" Eddie shushed me. He whispered, "Eddie's gonna fix that tire and you gonna get outta here. Get away from that window, Keisha's in there. It's almost her date. She'll be loose in a minute, heaven help us." He shot a worried glance at the kisser and the growing crowd under the interstate. The kisser said, "Yeah. You need to get away from here tonight, baby doll." He patted me on the head. The kisser smelled like bay leaves and peanut butter. I whispered, "What do you mean, it's her date?" Eddie popped my tire off and said nothing. The kisser whispered back, "It's her death date. There's about to be a crazy party. Keisha'll be gettin' what ever Keisha wants."
"How did she get her death date?" I asked.
"She bought it." said the kisser.
"Sister Malina sells death dates? No way. Is she always right?"
"No," said the kisser, "But Sister is right sometimes, and that's why she's been in business for 30 years. I seen her been right twice. She was right about Bobo and Little Sam. Their marks are painted on the wall at Pal's Lounge, they're covered up in X's scratched in the brick. There are other markers, too, but Sister's dead are special. You can ask them for favors. People draw X's and leave something. Pal's mama got scared of those X's and don't want Sister's dead over there no more."
"There are X's on Marie LaVeaux's grave in New Orleans," I said. "They draw X's and leave a cigarette or booze and ask her for something."
The kisser nodded, "Same thing, but poor people in Atlanta get buried in Palmetto so we can't never go to their graves."
"Where's Palmetto?" I asked.
The kisser shrugged, "Who the fuck knows."
Eddie pulled a piece of glass out of my tire and found the hole in the tube. He had a patch kit in his pocket. "My air pump is inside Sister's," he said. We'll get it when Keisha comes out." I thanked him and said, "Eddie, you always smell so good. You smell like lavender." Eddie snorted, "That's because I'm always screwing up and having to start over." He nodded at the kisser, "He's all the way to the bay oil." The kisser was proud. "I'm all the way to the bay oil, baby doll. Me and Eddie's gettin' uncrossed. We gonna do it this time. Ain't we, Eddie? Keisha gave up on gettin' uncrossed. Shit, Keisha's crossed in so many ways it's a wonder her eyes ain't crossed. She ain't been right since she got busted smoking crack inside of Martin Luther King's head. Guess you can't uncross stupid."
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