They put Sofia to work in the prison laundry. All-day long, from five to eight, she washed clothes. Dirty convict uniforms, nasty sheets, and blankets piled way over her head. We see her twice a month for half an hour. Her face is yellow and sickly, and her fingers look like a fatty sausage.
Everything nasty here, she says, even the air. Food is terrible enough to kill you with it. There are roaches here, mice, flies, lice, and even a snake or two. They strip you and make you sleep on a cement floor without a light if you say anything.
How do you manage? Us ask.
Every time they ask me to do something, Miss Celie, I act like I’m you, and I jump right up and do just what they say. She looks wild when she says that, and her lousy eye wanders around the room.
Mr. suck in his breath. Harpo groan. Miss Shug cuss. She comes from Memphis to see Sofia, and I can’t fix my mouth to say how I feel.
I’m a good prisoner, she says. Best convict they ever see. They can’t believe I’m the one who sasses the mayor’s wife and knocks the mayor down. She laughs. It sounds like something from a song, and the part where everybody has gone home but you.
Twelve years is a long time to be good, though. Maybe you get out on good behavior, say Harpo.
Good behavior isn’t good enough for them, says Sofia. Nothing less than sliding on your belly with your tongue on the boots can even get their attention. I dream of murder, she said; I dream of murder, sleep or wake.
We don’t say anything.
How are the children? She asked.
They are all fine, says Harpo. Tween Odessa and Squeak, they git by. Say thank you for squeaking, she says. Tell Odessa what I think about her to learn more about this chapter through this link.