“No,” said Atticus, “putting his life’s history on display for the edification of the neighborhood.”
Jem seemed to swell a little. “I didn’t say we were doin’ that, I didn’t say it!”
Atticus grinned dryly. “You just told me,” he said. “You stop this nonsense right now, every one of you.”
Jem gaped at him.
“You want to be a lawyer, don’t you?” Our father’s mouth was suspiciously firm, as if he were trying to hold it in line.
Jem decided there was no point in quibbling, and was silent. When Atticus went inside the house to retrieve a file he had forgotten to take to work that morning, Jem finally realized that he had been done in by the oldest lawyer’s trick on record. He waited a respectful distance from the front steps, watched Atticus leave the house and walk toward town. When Atticus was out of earshot Jem yelled after him: “I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but I ain’t so sure now!”
“Yes,” said our father, when Jem asked him if we could go over and sit by Miss Rachel’s fishpool with Dill, as this was his last night in Maycomb. “Tell him so long for me, and we’ll see him next summer.”
We leaped over the low wall that separated Miss Rachel’s yard from our driveway. Jem whistled bob-white and Dill answered in the darkness.
“Not a breath blowing,” said Jem. “Looka yonder.”
He pointed to the east. A gigantic moon was rising behind Miss Maudie’s pecan trees. “That makes it seem hotter,” he said.
“Cross in it tonight?” asked Dill, not looking up. He was constructing a cigarette from newspaper and string.
“No, just the lady. Don’t light that thing, Dill, you’ll stink up this whole end of town.”
There was a lady in the moon in Maycomb. She sat at a dresser combing her hair.
“We’re gonna miss you, boy,” I said. “Reckon we better watch for Mr. Avery?”
Mr. Avery boarded across the street from Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose’s house. Besides making change in the collection plate every Sunday, Mr. Avery sat on the porch every night until nine o’clock and sneezed. One evening we were privileged to witness a performance by him which seemed to have been his positively last, for he never did it again so long as we watched. Jem and I were leaving Miss Rachel’s front steps one night when Dill stopped us: “Golly, looka yonder.” He pointed across the street. At first we saw nothing but a kudzu-covered front porch, but a closer inspection revealed an arc of water descending from the leaves and splashing in the yellow circle of the street light, some ten feet from source to earth, it seemed to us. Jem said Mr. Avery misfigured, Dill said he must drink a gallon a day, and the ensuing contest to determine relative distances and respective prowess only made me feel left out again, as I was untalented in this area.
Dill stretched, yawned, and said altogether too casually, “I know what, let’s go for a walk.”
He sounded fishy to me. Nobody in Maycomb just went for a walk. “Where to, Dill?”
Dill jerked his head in a southerly direction.
Jem said, “Okay.” When I protested, he said sweetly, “You don’t have to come along, Angel May.”
“You don’t have to go. Remember—”
Jem was not one to dwell on past defeats: it seemed the only message he got from Atticus was insight into the art of cross examination. “Scout, we ain’t gonna do anything, we’re just goin’ to the street light and back.”
We strolled silently down the sidewalk, listening to porch swings creaking with the weight of the neighborhood, listening to the soft night-murmurs of the grown people on our street. Occasionally we heard Miss Stephanie Crawford laugh.
“Well?” said Dill.
“Okay,” said Jem. “Why don’t you go on home, Scout?”
“What are you gonna do?”
Dill and Jem were simply going to peep in the window with the loose shutter to see if they could get a look at Boo Radley, and if I didn’t want to go with them I could go straight home and keep my fat flopping mouth shut, that was all.
“But why in the sam holy hill did you wait till tonight?”
Because nobody could see them at night, because Atticus would be so deep in a book he wouldn’t hear the Kingdom coming, because if Boo Radley killed them they’d miss school instead of vacation, and because it was easier to see inside a dark house in the dark than in the daytime, did I understand?
“Scout, I’m tellin’ you for the last time, shut your trap or go home—I declare to the Lord you’re gettin’ more like a girl every day!”