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"That thar boy's got half a bag of sugar in his tank," Herbie Lucas declared upon setting eyes on Socrates for the very first time. He and his sister, Hattie, watched from their fifth-floor window as their neighbors Jeo and Dorothea Morrison stepped out of a camel-colored Brougham with their five-year-old grandson and his small cardboard suitcase in tow.

"Herbie, hush!" Hattie glanced over her shoulder and snapped her fingers twice. "You see Miss Nita setting over there pretending to fuss with that doll baby's hair when she really listening at us. You know she repeat everything she hear! Besides" -- she tucked a strand of graying hair behind her ear, then turned back to the window and nodded toward the slender boy who shuffled down the pathway nestled between his

grandparents -- "the poor chile just saw his mama slit his daddy from neckbone to navel, then they make him ride all the way from Alabama to Brooklyn with that crazy-ass Jeo when everybody knows hes blind in one eye and can't see out the othern." She grunted.

"And all you can talk about is how sweet he look."

"Ah-yeah." Herbie coughed and touched the corners of a starched white handkerchief to his lips. "I reckon old J.J. did go out and get hisself gutted like a fish, and I'm glad Jeo and that old struggle buggy didnt tear up the road none too bad, but that thar boy is sweet. Mark my words."