R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.


After Mozelle died, I never went back to Corinth. The tire plant closed in ’78, took the town with it—but she wouldn’t budge. Wouldn’t hear of it, even with the old place falling in and no money to fix it. Besides, she said, I was the only one left to guard her secrets. Only one left to lay them to rest, along with her bones, when the time came. I kept my promise.

Maybe I should have stayed gone. It don’t matter now. But I watched, and served, and waited thirty years for the end. Soon as it come, soon as she was in the ground good, I done like she asked and lit the house afire. Told me she could see better with the bright light. It’d keep her warm, too. Hell was gonna be dark and cold, she always said, not fiery-hot like them foot-washing fools down the road believe.

When I heard the hollow roar, when I seen Poppa’s bedroom bathed in liquid flame and the roof drop through the rafters in melted pieces like flesh off a ribcage, I turned and walked in the ditch all the way to Mobile. And like she asked, I didn’t look back. Not once.

February’s thirteen years. She’s at Mount Olive Church, where I can visit if I want but never do. I kept my promise.

Well, mostly. Sometimes a man’s got to go back on his word. Lord knows I don’t want to. But I got to tell what she couldn’t—how they robbed her of everything she ever coulda been proud of, how they took the life from her eyes one good deed at a time. I got to tell. Else I might bust wide open.

Mozelle is my mama.
My daddy was her daddy.

That’s the happy part. You might ought to sit down for the rest.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)



  1. Elsie Austin-Ezell

    February 27, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    I’n hooked! Have seen the ruins of Corinth on the road to Troy. Wow.

  2. I clearly see your influences; you have a knack for digging deep into humanity and the more colorful, more grotesque pockets of Southern culture. As I’ve said before, I appreciate your style. Powerful, succinct piece and/or excerpt.

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