Cold, that was the word. Cold. My name is Susana, I live on 546 Maplewood Road, just little ways yonder. I live with my mommy and my big brother Bobby, and my little sister Keanna. Mama had me when she was only nineteen years old. I never met my daddy.
Sometimes, when I was a little sprout, Bobby would lift up the wired fence around our house and say, “What’ya think is out there, Sus?” I would look for a moment, stare into his big brown eyes and funny looking nose and just say, “I dunno.”
There was a reason we didn’t go over that fence. Mama says that it’s too dangerous and that there’s monsters out there, lurkin’ in them shadows, just waiting to poke at you with those razor tips of their fingers, then at the right time, CHOMP! Eat ya, just like an apple. I never ate an apple before.
By the way, I’m eleven---in a half. Well, I just like saying that ‘cause it makes me feel bigger. Mama says I’ve never grown much, and she says don’t grow too much yet, since I only have just one nice dress for Sunday, and my other dress for just everyday. I didn’t really have much to wear, but it always scared me when I would look down, stare at my face in my shiny shoes, make a face, then see my dress shrink up an inch above my knee. I should really listen to Mama.
I never understood the fact that there were monsters in Georgia. In my county, I never saw a single scale. The only monsters I ever saw were in a book I was peering over suring recess. I couldn’t read, but I thought the pictures were mighty pretty(I’ve never been to school, either). It had long arms, a spiky tail from his rear all the way to the end, and he was blue---and purple---and red! Red all over! I got so excited, I squealed but covered my hand over my mouth, ‘cause that’s not a very polite thing to do, especially to the blonde girl reading the book.
I guess she wasn’t very happy when I squealed, because she immediately turned around and her nose was all scrunchy like she was smelling something’ bad. “Well?” she said. “Nigger, what y’all lookin’ at me like that for?” she placed her hand over the blue and purple and red thing that my eyes were still marveling over. I just never seen anything like that, before. Finally, I spoke. “I just wanted to see,” I said, wide eyed like she had an extra eye. “I just can’t read, ma’am.”
She didn’t reply, really. She just picked up the book, clicked her feet over to the park bench and turned the page. I cried, I just didn’t know why.
The other day, Mama got a call from a man. I was trying to read a book that was on our dining table. I would just stare at the words, turn to Bobby and point to the word then say, “Bob, what’s that word?” Bobby would just look back blankly and say, “What?” I pointed to the word again. I said, “That!” Bobby eyed it closely, like he would do in school. He scrunched up his nose, and then mosey back then say, “I dunno.”
When Mama rung the phone up, I got up to ask her what the word was. But when I got in, she was keeping her fingers crossed, sucked her big lips into her mouth and then spun three times in a circle. “Mama,” I said. She turned to me. “What, baby?” I hesitated to answer, but I said, “What were ya doin’ Mama?”
“Wishin’ baby,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. Slowly, she walked over to me, kneeled down and patted my head then my scruffy braids. “There’s a hero out there, Buttercup,” she said, her deep onyx eyes beginning to glitter with tears. “An’ he goin’ to help us out.”
“Who’s ‘us?’” I asked.
“Us’m colored folks,” she said. I pondered for a moment, with my fist on my chin. “What’ya mean?” I asked.
Mama picked me up and sat down then let me crawl into her lap. “Y’know them monsters I been telling you and Bobby about?” she asked. I nodded and murmured, “mhmm,”
“Well,” she said. “Them monster’s ain’t gonna treat us bad no more.” she smiled, showing her big lips again. “That was a white man on the end of that line, Susana. And he goin’ to help us. Even Mr. Julian down yonder, and his childr’n. He a good man, Susie, a man sent from the Lord, God bless that man! We goin’ to be singin’ in church tomorrow, baby, and we goin’ to be able to let our arms be like our wings and sing forever more and never have a single white, pink mouth shout anything’ to us again!” I just smiled. I really had no idea what she was talking about.
A few years passed by my head like leaves in the heavy autumn. Bobby got older, and so did I. Mrs. Julian made me a new dress: it was bright red, and had orange flowers all over it. I tried not to get it all dirty, since it was now the only dress I had.
Recently this week, Bobby began to leave out each day with his friends after breakfast. He would gobble his oatmeal down like a mangy dog, and then grab his patchy coat and meet his laughing friends at the screen door. And as soon as you could say, “Peppy Pinches,” they would be out of sight.
Bobby spent lots of time out a lot. I would always ask first thing in the morning if he wanted to play rag dolls with me. He would nod and say, “alright!” but he never did as he promised. He would rather go out while the sun was still up, then show up home when I would be sleepin’.
Mama didn’t like the idea of him and his friends spending the whole day away from home. One night, I was still awake, and peepin’ out my window, to wait for Bobby. After about a half hour of starin’ at nothing but the creepy trees, I saw ‘em stumbling down the dirt path. By the time Mama and I reached the screen door to meet him, I could already tell it was something bad.
He was mangled. Head to toe, he looked like he was wresting with five pitbull dogs in one of the farm lander’s yards. His good, white shirt was flimsily open down to the belly, his hat smushed and his pants were stained. He lifted his shaking head and looked deep into Mama’s big, teary eyes. “I’m sorry, Mama,” he said. “The monster’s got me tonight.”
Mama grasped her lips. “Who done it? What happened?”
Bobby coughed hardly then spoke. “I just wanted some pop, Mama.” he said. “Jedidiah, Job and I just wanted some pop, but they wouldn’t say nothing to us. Finally, we got tired of waitin’, so we got up and sat in the white section.” Mama was speechless. Reluctantly, with a faint sigh, he continued. “So, we just sat there. Jed said, ‘Hey, Miss! We want some pop please, three.’ The waitress didn’t answer nor give us any pop. Even an old lady next to us moved. We Didn’t move, either. We just wanted what we wanted, Mama! After an hour, more people trudged in and tried to throw us outta them seats. A white college boy sure knocked poor Job out cold, and kept kicking him upside the head with his new hikin’ boots. He was bleedin’ pretty hard. He just kept screamin’, white the white boy kept yellin’ and hollerin’, ‘Nigger! You ain’t getting yo pop!’ Jedidiah went in to help, but the white’s friend allied him, he did. Wolloped him in the nose with his class ring. The date he graduated was perfectly engraced in his forehead. I clutched onto the table as another white started grippin’ me by my ankles! Well, later the blue shirts showed and took Job, Jed and their attackers away. I was still in my chair, and then I started to get up and run. So, I just ran like lightning, through them prickers in Mr. Johnston’s yard, and made it here.”
Mama’s face was getting lighter and more drowned with tears. “Baby,” she said. “I so sorry.” she couldn’t even hug him correctly, she just couldn’t. she was torn. Ripped. shredded. But, this wasn’t the last time Bobby made another daring stunt with the monsters.
It was late November, and I got up extra early today, just specially. Slowly, I tip toed up to Bobby’s bed, where we was snoozing off. I looked at the clock on his table: 5:34 am. Slowly, I tapped his shoulder. “Bobby,” I whispered. He turned over, making himself a mummy in the sheets. I tapped again. “Bobby!” He churned then sat up, rubbing his eyes. “what is it, Sus?” he asked, yawning.
I held out a doll toward him. “Bobby, you promised!” He swatted the rag doll away from him then laid back down. “No, Sus! Go back to bed. Maybe later.” with a humph! I obeyed. Later, I told myself. later.
By the time it was eight o’clock, I sprang out of bed and I rushed over to Bobby’s room. Bobby wasn’t there. “Bobby?” I called, my little voice bouncing off all the walls of the house. “Wanna play now? You can be whoever you want, this time!” Bobby didn’t answer.
I cried. Mama cried, too. Neither one of us knew where Bobby was. Keanna was still sleeping, and probably couldn’t even remember Bobby’s first name. I didn’t want to play with Keanna, neither Bobby or I ever wanted to. At least she knew how to read a bit. All she ever really did was keep her little button nose in a book. All I wanted was for Bobby to come back home.
Breakfast came. I poured the oatmeal into Bobby’s favorite bowl, sat it next to mine and just looked at it while I ate. I didn’t look at Mama, or at Keanna. All I did mostly that day was steal looks of that oatmeal bowl and just wait for Bobby to come and eat it. After an hour, it’ll get cold, so I would have to warm it up for him when he wants it. I watched the bowl until six o’clock pm. Bobby still never came back.
When I went outside, the air wasn’t the same. The trees crew dark and more crooked. Above the little brown crinkly leaves were puffs of black smoke. I just looked up and blinked three times. Mama rushed out to see why I was blank. I pointed to the sky. “Oh,” she said. “Oh my Lord!” she rushed me inside then she dashed down the dirt road, up to the square. And that’s all I can really remember about that day.
The Sunday that week, Mama said Keanna and I couldn’t go to church today. She said we had to do something else. I asked why, and Mama just cried.
When I walked into the church, I brought my dolls with me and held them under my new sweater. I sat down in a seat and looked around. I held Mama’s hand, and so did other people. We all stared at a big brown box with flowers all around them. Over on the left hand side, there was a picture of Bobby, happy and smiling. I remember that picture, too. He was playing football at a party, and he scored. I couldn’t remember another time he was that happy. A man in a suit and tie stood up above the crowd of people and spoke a few words about Bobby. I still didn’t know what was going on.
The man said that Bobby was running with his friends down the street, and he saw a bunch of white men, screaming and hollering at---some man, who was proclaiming he had a dream. Many Negroes testified to the man, and cheered him on over the small speaker. The whites weren’t very happy, I guess. So, they were kind bein’ real nasty to ‘em, so they beat them. As they beat them, Bobby said that since we were gonna start voting soon, they should leave them alone. But the whites replied, “De Facto, Nigger! Can’t do nothing’ about it!” And that got Bobby real mad. So, he tried to help the Negroes, but apparently one or two of the whites had guns, and that was the end.
When it was time to say Good-bye to Bobby, Mama got to lead me and Keanna to the flowery box and she opened the top, and there Bobby was. He seemed comfy in there, didn’t squirm, didn’t toss and turn in the sheets, and didn’t mumble “maybe later,” to me. He said nothing. Just laid there, gone. Mama just walked away ‘cause she couldn’t take it. Keanna followed Mama out of the building. All the others pressed hands on my shoulders and prayed on me then left.
When there was no one else around, I pulled out a doll, one of Bobby’s favorite pick to play with, I tucked it in underneath his forearm. I brushed one last feel of Bobby’s old, patchy coat and then placed my hand at the edge of the box. “There, Bobby,” I whispered. “I know that you aren’t gonna do that again. It was mighty brave of you, Bobby. But now, since you won’t go out again, maybe we can play dolls again. This time you chose the doll.” Before I left, I kissed his head once more and then found Mama. Mama, now will that man be our hero?
· Sat Mar 01, 2014 @ 12:13am · 0 Comments