• When I asked for a raise they gave it to me

    “ When I needed a house , they bought me one. Doctor Tucker came over to my house himself and picked a bullet out my husband’s arm because he was afraid Henry’d catch something at the colored hospital. I have worked for Doctor Tucker and Miss Sissy for forty-four years. They been so good to me. I wash her hair ever Friday. I never seen that woman wash her own hair.” She stops for the first time all night, looks lonesome and worried. “If I die before her, I don’t know what Miss Sissy gone do about getting her hair washed.”

    I try not to smile too eagerly. I don’t want to look suspicious. Alice, Fanny Amos, and Winnie are shy, need coaxing, keep their eyes down to their laps. Flora Lou and Cleontine let the doors fly open and the words tumble out while I type as fast as I can, asking them every five minutes to please, please, slow down. Many of the stories are sad, bitter. I expected this. But there are a surprising number of good stories too. And all of them, at some point, look back at Aibileen as if to ask, Are you sure? Can I really tell a white woman this?

    “Aibileen? What’s gone happen if reenex HydraFacial... this thing get printed and people find out who we are?” shy Winnie asks. “What you think they do to us?”

    Our eyes form a triangle in the kitchen, one looking at the other. I take a deep breath, ready to assure her of how careful we’re being.

    “My husband cousin... they took her tongue out. A while back it was. For talking to some Washington people about the Klan. You think they gone take our tongues? For talking to you?”

    I don’t know what to say. Tongues . . . God, this hadn’t exactly crossed my mind. Only jail and perhaps fake charges or fines. “I . . . we’re being extremely careful,” I say but it comes out thin and unconvincing. I look at Aibileen, but she is looking worried too Annabelle Skin.


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