Little Jimmy Jackson they calls him. A runt if ‘n ya ever saw one—a go-getter and a go-fer, handy to have round when strapped, but a good for nothin’ nuisance otherwise. Mens at the lumber yard don’t much like their privacy invaded by.
“Go pick up a pound of two-and-a-half inch nails, boy. Hurry on! Hear?” Little Jimmy, a regular dust storm, kicks stones all the ways to Bailey’s General Store, change jingling down by his knees. Doesn’t get a red cent for any runnin’ he be doin’. A pat on the back and cap pulled over his eyes is alls he get.
Black as tar, Little Jimmy is. Just like his Mammy, only she pat flour alls over her face and neck to look real purdie—talcum powder if’ ’n’ she gets more hours cleanin’ n’ ironin’ fer them white folk.
Little Jimmy …he don’t tend school. Black folk round these parts ain’t much regarded as human be-ans. He done has no friends. Kids his age shore he gots some horrific toxic disease. They runs when he be inchin’ his way to-ards em. Little Jimmy. He look somethin’ terrible. Trousers creep ‘bove his ankles-socks sucked outa sight-shoes size twelve. Head shaved clean and shiny like Mammy’s new broach.
One day on foot headin’ for Rushin’ River’, pole slung over his shoulder, he heared hollerin’ like never afore in his holes entire life. Bailey’s kid, same age as Little Jimmy, be fast approachin’ them rapids. My Lordie, Little Jimmy ‘s be thinkin’ out loud. What kind of fool idea be in that boy’s head? His Mama ougtha be told! Little Jimmy recollects. Shakes his head. Naw! Nobodied listen to it. They just say, stay away from my boy.
Cries for help keeps up. Louder than the sound of raging water. Little Jimmy knows if n’ he don’t help, Bailey’s kid el’ drown. But …Little Jimmy talks with hisself. What if …? Times a wastin.
His talk with hisself is done …jumps outa his shoes and trousers …dives into the bubblin’, cold water. His arms, they like paddles. Little Jimmy thinks, maybe this ain’t such a good idea after alls. The boy might ruther die than be saved by the likes a me. But, he won the argument with hisself and thar’s no turnin’ back. Currents strong. Rocks is all over the place. Hard to miss ’em when tumblin’ and fighten’ to go one direction.
All a sudden, the cries stop. Bailey’s kid, he a missin’. Little Jimmy swallows his heart and collides with a rock. He wraps his arms ‘bout it, and pulls hisself aboard. His nature is singin’ and hummin’ like his Mammy. There’ll Be Peace In The Valley For Me Someday gits a strong hold a him. He hums like only some black people can, and then the words spill from his lips. The sound springin’ forth is somethin’ like that of a angel with huge wings dressed in white garments.
Then he looks on yonder and see’s a body afloatin’. Little Jimmy ‘s fight is recharged and things jus fall into place, soon aslingin’ the body to shor. He turns the boy face down. Presses on his back rib-cage, over and over.
“Let the boy live. If n’ it please ya, Lord. Let ’em live.” Teardrops, the size a grapes roll down them black cheeks a his. Water gushes out of the boy’s mouth. He chokes. Spits.
Soon Bailey’s boy sits up lookin’ mighty bewildered. The boy say he saw some black angel with huge wings wearin’ white garments just before he went under. Now Little Jimmy. He bewildered.