The narrator never tells us his name. He never says exactly whose funeral brings him back to the town where he grew up. Until he arrives at the shore of the pond beyond the farmhouse at the end of the lane he used to live on, he doesn’t even know what has brought him back here. And then he remembers it all.
In this companion to “Belle Prater’s Boy”, Gypsy and her cousin Woodrow do a little more growing-up in the small town of Coal Station, Virginia. It’s still the 1950s, when families like Gypsy’s are just getting their first TV set and, by running a wire up to a mountaintop antenna, they can pick up all of two networks. Black people are still (inexplicably) described as colored folks, barred from entering many businesses, and required to sit at the back of the bus. And more than anything else—even more than having the operation to straighten his crossed eyes—Woodrow wants to find out what became of his mother, the Belle Prater of the title, who disappeared one night and left him alone with his hard-drinking, good-for-nothing father.