Spite Fences

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 1996-08-01
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf

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Thirteen-year-old Maggie Pugh has lived in Kinship, Georgia, all her life. In all that time almost nothing has changed. If you are poor, you live on the west side of town. If you are rich, you live on the hill in the north end and get to go boating at the country club in Troy. If you are white you use one bathroom at Byer's Drugs and if you are colored you use another. All that starts to change in the summer of 1960. It is the summer when Maggie's younger sister, Gardenia, triumphs in the Hayes County Little Miss Contest. It is the summer when Maggie must decide whether or not to tell anyone about the horrible thing she saw. Most of all it's the summer of Maggie's first camera, a tool that becomes a way for her to find independence and a different kind of truth.


I was digging down into one of Edmonia's tomato baskets when I heard Zeke's voice. I'd know that voice in the dark. It was deep and trembly like a slide trombone. "Heard about your mama's ad, Maggie," he said. "Still need work?"

I stopped my digging and smiled up at Zeke, hoping my smile said it was sure fine to see him. "Sure do, Zeke," I said. "Work and money are the same things to Pughs, and I don't have either one."

I started rooting in the tomato basket again. Some of the tomatoes were still attached to fuzzy lengths of vine that felt like caterpillars when they brushed my fingers. I picked up a big firm tomato, pushing on it to feel how ripe it was.

"I think I can get you somethin', Maggie," Zeke said.

I stopped pushing on the tomato and looked at him. "Sure 'nough, Zeke?"

"But it's real special, Maggie. It's a job for a real special person."

"What do you mean by that, Zeke?"

"Well," Zeke said, looking around, waiting to finish until Edmonia had gone back into the house and the screen door made a little slap behind her. He began talking again when he saw that only Lewis Jennings, Edmonia's son, was left on the porch. Lewis was climbing on and off the front porch railing; after he tired of climbing, he began jumping off the porch onto the grass below. "It requires someone who can clean real good," Zeke said.

"That's me, for sure, Zeke," I said. "But being able to clean's not anything special."

"It's special to your employer, Maggie. But there's something more to this job than just cleanin'."

"How you mean, Zeke?"

"Well, you might have to deliver stuff."

"What kind of stuff?"

"Oh, letters to the post office. Packages to me. Maybe a few things to Reverend Potter."

"Zeke," I said, "what's so special about that?" I had decided that the big tomato in my hand wasn't ripe enough. I bent back to the baskets. The tomatoes still gave off the sharp green smell of their vines.

"It's special to your employer," he said again. "It's special to me."

"Well, Zeke," I said, "I can't see what's so special about cleaning up somebody's mess and taking a few things to the post office."

Zeke's big hand pulled a tomato from the basket next to mine. His entire palm closed around it. "I want you to listen to, me, now, Maggie," he said, tilting his head in my direction. "The job requires cleanin' and deliverin' a few things. But that's not really what makes it special."

"What does, Zeke? What does make it special then?" I wasn't understanding him.

"What makes it special, Maggie," he said, looking around again before he went on--Lewis had run next door and was throwing sticks at the neighbor's dog--"what makes it special," he said, "is that the job requires you to keep secrets."

"Secrets?" I asked. On the ground lay split tomatoes seeping juice.

Zeke grinned. "These secrets is so secret, I can't even tell you, Maggie. Best I can tell you is that for every question that might come to your mind, the right answer is 'Don't ask.' "

"Well, now, how to goodness can anybody in Kinship expect to keep anything a secret? You know that this is the nosiest place in the world."

"Sure is," Zeke said. "That's why I want you for the job."


Zeke nodded. "One thing I know, Maggie, is that Maggie Pugh knows when to talk and when to keep quiet. Been knowin' that for a long time now."

Inside I felt myself swelling up just a tiny bit. I knew Zeke was right. If there was anyone in Kinship who could keep a secret, it was me. After all, I'd been living with Mama for almost fourteen years.

Excerpted from Spite Fences by Trudy B. Krisher
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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