Marie Brings a Knife


From the Archive

Edward P. Jones, California, 2004. Courtesy the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 


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We’re celebrating by offering a sample of some of our favorite writing from the magazine’s past. Today, check out “Marie,” Edward P. Jones’s first-ever published short story, from our Spring 1992 issue. It tells of Marie Delaveaux Wilson, an eighty-six year-old woman living in Washington, D.C., where she never leaves home without a knife. And when, sure enough, a young man tries to mug her, she puts it to good use, cutting his hand as he rummages in her coat pocket:

“You cut me,” he said, as if he had only been minding his own business when she cut him. “Just look what you done to my hand,” he said and looked around as if for some witness to her crime. There was not a great amount of blood, but there was enough for her to see it dripping to the pavement. He seemed to be about twenty, no more than twenty-five, dressed the way they were all dressed nowadays, as if a blind man had matched up all their colors. It occurred to her to say that she had seven grandchildren about his age, that telling him this would make him leave her alone. But the more filth he spoke, the more she wanted him only to come toward her again.

“You done crippled me, you old bitch.”

“I sure did,” she said, without malice, without triumph, but simply the way she would have told him the time of day had he asked and had she known. She gripped the knife tighter, and as she did, she turned her body ever so slightly so that her good eye lined up with him. Her heart was making an awful racket, wanting to be away from him, wanting to be safe at home. I will not be moved, some organ in the neighborhood of the heart told the heart. “And I got plenty more where that come from.”

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