Category Archives: short stories

The Dinner

  1. Harlem.

 

Her mother, Elaine, entered the room with a kind smile on her face as she walked over to hug her daughter and then headed towards me.  She was the same height as Lady, and outside her dark, mahogany complexion, the two were nearly identical.  It was clear where she had gotten her beauty from.  Even in her mid-forties, her body still found a way to retain a bit of its peak from her golden years.

“Ehhis, how have you been?” she said in a voice of warmth.

“Mighty fine, thank you kindly!  How about yourself?”

“Oh, I’ve been quite alright.  Quite alright!”

Her long, sandy brown hair reached the middle of her back.  She turned towards Lady, “I’m just waiting for this daughter of mine to bring some grandbabies into this world.”

“Mother!”

“Oh please,” her father chimed in, “the last thing she needs is a baby, especially by this old–”

“Oh hush, old man!  This house is too quiet!  It’s time to hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet running through here.”

Lady cleared her throat.  “Mother, please.  It is not the time.  It is just not the time.”

An awkward silence shifted between us like thick morning fog.  Lady’s father peered at me from his seat, and I avoided direct contact as if he could look directly into my soul.  “Well,” her mother interjected, “supper is ready.  Shall we?”  She smiled.

Geoffrey, their butler, came walked into the living room and directed us to the kitchen.  His cloudy, dark complexion was like train smoke as he walked ahead of down long hallways, passing artwork and statues along the way. Our footsteps made unnerving echoes throughout the hallow as we trailed feet behind Lady’s parents.  “Ehhis,” she whispered sternly, “please do not incite my father at the dinner table.”

“What?  I’m not even trying to.  He is the aggressor.”

“I know, but this is his house, so do your best to keep your tongue in check.”

“I ain’t makin’ no promises.”

“Ehhis!”

Her whisper went slightly above a secretive tone.  Geoffrey and her parents turned towards us.  We smiled as if nothing was said.  They turned around, and she continued, “Ehhis, I know you.  Do your best to be respectful.”

“Respect is not given, it is earned.”

“How ironic.  Father says the same thing.”

Finally, we arrived at the dining room table.  Geoffrey pulled out everyone’s chair, but I sat down before he could reach mine.
“Ehhis,” her mother said, “it is fine.  It’s his duty.”

I turned to her, “I understand, ma’am.  But I can take care of it myself.”

Geoffrey looked offended, yet, appreciative at the same time. “Well, would you like to serve the food as well?” her father said.  I began to get up, but my lady restrained me, subtly forbidding me to respond to his sarcasm.  Geoffrey served the food.  Smothered pork chops, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, hot water cornbread and lemon-aid.  The dinner was filled with the clanging of silverware against plates and nods of approval of the food that was served.  Geoffrey did his job of refilling our glasses with ice cold lemon-aid and providing seconds of whatever we requested.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed the interactions between Geoffrey and Elaine.  The coy, flirty smiles that they exchanged when they thought nobody was watching.  They looked like they enjoyed the thrill of almost being caught like it was something that drove their relationship.  I pretended to take a drink, watching their interaction through the distortion of my glass.  It would take a blind man to not know there was something amiss between those two.  Luckily, she was married to one.  We finished our food.  Her father wiped his mouth with a napkin, then sipped a cup of tea with his pinky finger extended.  I thought of the artwork that hung on his wall and the records that were buried in the drawer.

“So, miss Elaine” I smiled warmly at her.

“Yes, dear?”

“I noticed there were a few paintings and records by Negro artists around the house.  My lady said they were yours.  Why are they tucked away beneath everything else?”

My Lady sensed what I was doing.  She tried to interject, but I cut her off and directed the question back to her mother.  Her father looked as if I just scolded him, placing his mug gently down on the table.  Elaine looked at him with a thwarted countenance and then turned towards me.  “Well,” she said, “there is really not enough room for all of the artwork we have.  So, we just decided to put the ones up that fit the décor of the rooms.  It gives it a better ‘Feng shay’ as father puts it.”

He nodded his head as if she correctly gave the answers they rehearsed for times like this.  He added, “you do know what that means, right?” his hands were folded onto his protruding belly, and his peach complexion looked freshly painted onto his flesh.

“Not really.”

He laughed, “It figures.  You’re not good for my daughter.  You have no class.”

“Charles, that’s enough,” her mother said.

“Why are you defending this fool?  He has nothing to offer our little girl.  He’s not doing a thing but suckin’ her dry,” he paused, “well really, suckin’ me dry since I’m the one givin’ her all the money.”

“It ain’t always about money.  If you knew that, then maybe things wouldn’t be the way they are between us.”

“Oh?” he said, looking at Elaine, “and, how are they?”

Lady and I looked back and forth between them like siblings watching their parents argue.  Lady took a drink of lemon-aid, and I looked towards Elaine.  She had a scowl, mirroring the same face my mother gave my father when she was going to lay into him with her words.  She never cussed at him in front of us, but she knew how to give the most sanctified tongue lashing my ears had ever heard.  I wondered if Elaine had the same type of skill.  “Oh, trust me,” she said, “you don’t want to talk about that now.  Not here.  Not in front of them.”

“Oh, come now,” he said as if he was just insulted, “the likes of him?  And Lady?  Non-sense.  Speak woman.”

She tapped her fingernails on the table from right to left, one after the other.  Geoffrey walked back in, refilling glasses with Lemon-aid.  He knew he stepped into a war zone. I could tell he was uncomfortable when he poured the drink into my glass and splashed a few drops on the table in front of me.  “I’m sorry, sir,” he said, wiping up the small accident.

Charles took another sip of tea while his pinky was still erect.  She was hesitating to answer, either searching for the words or trying to figure out how to say them.  She finally spoke up, “fine.  Let’s talk about how you can’t even get your little man-man to act right when it’s time for coitus.”

Her father’s eyes bucked open as he slammed his glass on the table.  My Lady’s eyes widened as she gasped.  I looked between all of them at the table.  I didn’t know exactly what she meant, but I picked up on the context clues and assumed the rest.  I was right.  He sat upright in his chair.  His face was slowing turning beet red.  Geoffrey quickly exited out the room before things got worse.  My lady’s mouth was open wide and dark like outer space.  Elaine continued, “yeah, I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of them, but since you pushed me to do so, there it is!  Hell, you deserve it the way you’ve carried on with Ehhis this night.  It’s completely ridiculous!”

Charles stood up, “woman, have you lost your mind?  I ought’ to put you back on the first ship back to Africa!”

“Charles, sit your behind down!  You can barely tie your own shoe without me around here to help you!  Had it not been for your parents, you wouldn’t even be in the position you are in now, and you’re talking like you’re some big shot.”

I smiled as I drank more of my lemon-aid.  My lady smacked me on the arm, and Charles looked towards me, “what are you smiling at, boy?! I’ll put you in the same boat!  You’re the reason she’s fired up right now!”

I smiled wide, thoroughly enjoying the situation he found himself in.  Elaine was much more reckless with her words.  I felt as if she was partly defending me in her responses, “this ain’t about him, Charles!  This is about us!  Sit your wobbly behind down, you know good and well Ehhis ain’t the cause of none of this!”  I knew Lady got her beauty from Elaine, but it wasn’t until now that I saw where she got her feistiness from as well.  Elaine was a firecracker.  His face was completely red.  Geoffrey came out of the kitchen and walked towards me.

With a vague smirk, he filled my glass up with water.  The ice clanged on the sides of the glass pitcher as he poured.  Charles interrupted him,
“That’ll be enough, Geoffrey.  Our guest was just leaving!” I stood up and tipped my hat to Elaine.

“No, don’t leave yet,” Elaine said, “there is one more thing I need to say, and I want you to hear this.”  She stood up at the table.  Her eyes on fire, chest moving up and down at a rapid pace from her breathing.  Geoffrey looked up towards her and subtly shook his head.  I saw their interaction and looked towards my Lady.  We made eye contact, then we both looked at her father as he peered between all of us.  His face was still beet red.

“Well, speak, woman!”  She examined him intensely.  She had something to say, and it seemed that she was holding onto it for ages.  I imagined that it was that very thing that was trying to push its way out her chest through her heavy breathing.  “Spit it out!” Charles demanded.

She finally exploded, “I cheated on you 24 years ago!”  The room went silent.  My lady and I sat with blank looks on her face, not knowing what to do next.  “And that’s not it!” Elaine added, “I’ve been cheating with the same man since then.  And Lady is not your daughter!  She is Geoffrey’s!”

I looked at my Lady, and she turned to look at Geoffrey as he stood by the door just as uncomfortable as he could have ever been.  The silence in the room was deafening.  I put my head down, wanting to sink under the table and disappear.  Charles sat lifeless at the head of the table.  He passed out and rolled off his chair onto the ground.  The craziest part about that is that nobody went over to check on him.  Not one soul.

 

 

 

 

If you enjoy Spoken-Word, check out the brand-new video entitled, “Chess Piece.”

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The Teacher – Part 1

His face was hard and cold like brick walls in the winter time.  I could tell he wanted to cry, but his soul had his tears frozen in their ducts.  A thick, luminous ray of moonlight shot through the window and highlighted the faint scar that ran from the bottom of his eye to the corner of his lips.  It protruded just above his skin like a caterpillar crawling along a tree branch.  My mind drifted away as it transfigured my younger face onto his body.  He had too much of his life ahead of him.

We sat on the couch; our knees brushed against each other like a paintbrush on a canvas.  His passionate gaze burned like a fiery meteor leaving a dragon tail across the night sky on its way to annihilate the earth.  His jawbones gyrated inside of his mouth like factory gears, displaying traits of the machine I trained him to be.  His fingers interlocked patiently, forming a semi-circle on his lap.  “You know you can leave,” I said, piercing through the silence between us.

My suggestion seemed to inflame him even more.  “I’m not going anywhere.”  I made a trap door beneath the couch in the living room.  It led through a burrowed tunnel, three miles east of my home amid tall, forest trees.  It would spit him out on the edge of Lake Tiache’ where he could hop into a speedboat and get away undetected as if he was never with me.  But he was stubborn.  He was my best soldier, and he said that he would go to the grave with me if it were necessary.  It was the type of loyalty that Jesus didn’t see in the hours before his arrest.

I exhaled.  The wind left my lungs with a thick sense of anticipation just as tiny flickers of light blinked outside like a swarm of fireflies.  Their black foot helicopter was silent, but I still knew it was just miles away.  Leaves crunched as men scurried around the sides of my house.  I had trained myself for times like this.  I could hear the slightest shift in the movement outside if I sat in complete silence, and right now, I was clothed in it.  They were trained better than that, I thought to myself.  It had to be their nervousness.  There wasn’t a man coming for me that I hadn’t taught how to kill.  Flawlessly.

I fixed my eyes on the young man beside me; his nostrils flared like tiny umbrellas.  His eyes widened like dinner plates as he tilted his brow forward as if it was weighted down.  His interlocked hands slowly released and formed boulder-like fists at the end of his arms.  His veins puffed up in his forearms as if he had just taken a shot of heroin.  Adrenaline worked the same.  “Everything is going to be fine,” I said as we waited in silence.  “Just don’t breathe the air.”

He didn’t respond.  Out of all my soldiers, he was the one who stayed glued to me like a disciple.  It wasn’t long that I realized he had slid me into the place that his father had never touched.  There was a bond between us, and although we never spoke the words, love flowed through us like rivers of forgiveness.  “I will kill them all,” he said in a voice that would have shaken the smile from a stone-faced statue.  His passion soaked words marched around the house like Goliaths in full armor.

I could’ve run.  All of this could’ve been avoided, but I was tired of running just to escape, only to have to run again.  I was tired of fighting, using my self-control to strike the men I trained, but not kill them.  If I wanted to, I could have ended their lives.  Every one of them that came for me.  Specs of dust fluttered along the moon’s glow, leading to a picture of my wife.  Her buoyant smile is what kept me afloat during the times I was too tired to pick myself up off the ground.  I couldn’t wait to hold her again, but I knew there was too much work left undone for me to meet her.

My five-year-old son sat beside her.  His snaggle-toothed smile was the most beautiful blemish I’d ever seen.  Fifteen years had passed since the accident, and the surgical scar on my chest was the painful reminder of the day I found out they were both gone.  The lone picture in the front room was all I had left of them.  The memories locked inside of my mind kept me from needing tangible reminders of how much they meant to me.

The footsteps outside moved in closer.  Shadows scurried past the windows like demons as the propellers sliced through the wind like a hot knife through butter.  I heard it all.  Every last thing.  The sounds on the roof proved that these troops lacked discipline.  Their anxiety got the best of them.  The meekness of my heart allowed me to remove all the traps and triggers that would have ripped the first string of men into pieces.

“They don’t have to die,” I suggested.

“They do.  They will die.  Each and every last one of them will die for this treachery.  I will make sure of it.”

His dark skin shone from his body like an oil-polluted African river full of blood diamonds.  I wanted to temper his aggression, but there was no need.  He knew that he could attack, but he could not kill.  Not them.  Not his brothers.  “Are you ready?” I asked while the men outside took their positions.  “They are coming in.”

“I’m ready.”

“Remember what I said.  Just don’t breathe the air and everything will be ok.”

——————–

If you enjoy Spoken-Word, check out the piece below entitled, “Pennies.”

https://youtu.be/bfrnT_PEA_M

Pennies

“Mama!  Mama!  Aye, Mama!  I’m right here!”

His mother took a seat in the front room, oblivious to the fact that her son was yelling for her attention.  She wiped a tear from her eye as he laughed and walked into the room.  “Mama, why are you ignoring me?  Are you mad that I broke curfew again last night?  Alright, I’m sorry.  It won’t happen again.”  He sat down next to her but still, she didn’t say a word.  She rocked back and forth on the edge of the couch, holding her arms as if she was freezing but the temperature was calm.

A faint breeze blew through the front room window that was halfway open, causing the curtains to flutter as if they were waving goodbye.  The front door opened as her husband walked through somberly.  “Pop,” his son said as he stood up, “can you talk to Mom?  She is really mad at me right now, and she hasn’t said a word since I came in here.”

His father ignored him on his way towards his wife.  He sat down next to her on the couch as he placed his phone on the table and put his arm around her.  She cried on his shoulder.  “It’s going to be alright, sweetheart,” he said, kissing her on the forehead.  “We will make it through.”  Their son’s eyebrows wrinkled together like an accordion as he watched their interaction.

“Aye yall, what’s wrong?  Why yall so sad?”

His mother spoke, “honey, I just… I just can’t believe this happened.  He wasn’t the type to resist anything, and we didn’t raise him that way!  Why are they saying these things about our boy!”

“I know, baby, I know.  We can’t listen to that right now.  It won’t do anything but make us angrier, ok?  Don’t watch the news, don’t read the paper, don’t go on the internet.  We have to keep our minds clear right now.”

Their son didn’t understand why he was being ignored until he looked at his father’s cell phone.  He gasped when he saw his picture and read what was on the screen, “RIP, my one and only son.  Wesley Armon Jones.”  Suddenly, everything went dark as his mind slowly pieced together what happened on his way home from a party with his friends last night.  The last thing he saw was an officer with his gun aimed directly at him as he yelled, “my hands are up, officer!  They are up!”

If you like Spoken-Word, click the link below and check out the new video entitled, “Pennies.”

She Said…

The two of them spoke to each other as they sat in the front room watching football one Sunday evening.  They were brothers and even more than that; they were best friends, and there wasn’t much that they don’t know about each other.

“I don’t know, man, I mean, I know things aren’t right between me and her Mama right now.  This marriage stuff is hard, but I love that little girl like she was my own.”  Aaron dipped his chip into the bowl of melted cheese, sprinkled with beef and jalapeños. The announcer broadcasted the score right before the game switched to a commercial.

His brother leaned back on the brown, leather couch and propped his foot onto his leg.  “I know you do.  They way your face lights up when you talk about her says it all.”

“Yeah man, I don’t know what it is.  Sometimes, I think that Brianna looks just like our sister.  I mean, she doesn’t have our genes, but what I’m sayin’ is that she looks like she was–”

“I get what you’re saying, bro.  I totally understand.”

A hair-loss restoration commercial flashed onto the television as Brian watched it carefully.  He was stuck in-between shaving it all off or paying for the restoration surgery, but that was his only dilemma.  He looked at his brother, Aaron, as he dipped another chip back into the cheese filled bowl, swimming with jalapeños.  A loud crunch ensued as Brian asked him another question, “has she called you Dad yet?”

Aaron used a napkin to wipe a string of cheese that dripped from his lip, and then spoke with a mouthful, “nah, she hasn’t.  I mean, it’s only been a few years, and I don’t expect her to anytime soon.  As a matter of fact, I don’t expect her to at all.  She knows I love her, and I know she loves me, so that is all that matters.  Honestly.”

The two of them usually got together to watch the football games on Sunday afternoons after church except for this time; his Step-Daughter wanted to come to his apartment.  He and his wife split up not too long ago, and they wanted to work things out, but as of right now, there was too much to work out under the same roof.  Suddenly, she walked into the front room as the two men looked up.  Aaron swallowed his food and then spoke to her.  “Hey sweetheart, is everything alright back there?  Is something wrong with the Netflix?”

“No, Dad.  I just wanted to tell you… that I love you.”

She smiled and turned around, her long ponytail swinging back and forth with each step her 9-year-old body took away from them.  Her step-father continued looking in her direction even after she disappeared down the hall and closed the door to her room.  “Are you alright?” Brian asked with a curious glance, but there was no response.  There were only silent tears rolling down his blank, stony face.

Enigma – a 1920’s Harlem Story

He stepped into the building, lowering his head so that he could clear the doorway without bumping into it. The rain water dripped off the rim of his Dobb and made a small puddle beneath him. The thick, wooden door closed behind him on its own. His dark trench coat was soaked with rain. His hat covered his eyes making himself appear even more mysterious as he stood there in the middle of the hallway.

Two officers walked towards him in the midst of a conversation of their own, “so I says to him, I says ‘no way in hell I’m taking the bait’ then you know what the guy says to me?”

The slim, white man answered his short, round accomplice, “what did he say to ya?”

“He says, ‘well, I took the bait already, and your wife loved it’.”

“What? I’da punched him square in the face!”

“Boy, I tell ya! If Sarg wasn’t there, I woulda done it! I sure woulda done it!”

The two, finally noticing him, stopped in front of the man as he stood motionless, silently waiting for someone to address him. The two officers looked at each other, then at the tall, mysterious man.  “Uh, can we help ya?”

Lighting lit up the sky, illuminating his face momentarily. Thunder boomed seconds later. He spoke in a deep, sonorous voice. “I need the homicide department.”

“Homicide?” the short round officer asked quizzically with his eyebrows folding together like an accordion,” and what’s the reason for that?”

“There’s been a murder.”

The Lightning lit up the sky again, illuminating the pistol he had tucked in his coat and the shotgun clenched inside his sleeve.  “Alright, buddy, hands in the air! Right now!” said the tall officer, drawing his pistol out.

The other officer soon followed and instantly, the whole building was alerted and flocked to the commotion, drawing their weapons as well. The man stood still, looking back and forth between all of the officers as the rain pummeled the building. He didn’t move. “Hands up or we will blow your freakin’ head off your shoulders!”

“Give me a reason! Just give me a reason why don’t ya!” the short round officer chimed in, the gun in his hand quivering as he tried to keep calm. The Sargent entered into the hallway. He stood a few feet in front of the man, staring him right in the eyes.  Both had the same build. Broad shoulders, wide chest, made more like linebackers than anything else. He was ready to wrestle him if need be.

“There won’t be no dead bodies in this precinct. Not on my watch! Sir, remove the weapons and sit them down in front of ya’.”

His southern accent was as thick as molasses. The precinct was in suspense. Some officers began to sweat; others nervously looked at what was going on. You could tell who were the leaders and followers. The man finally began to move and immediately, the click-clack sound of revolver hammers echoed. More hands shook. Thunder ensued. The man paused, seemingly making eye contact with all the officers at once.

“Slowly!” the sergeant bellowed. The man obliged. Lighting illuminated his face again. He was as dark as the clouds behind him. Slick, shiny skin like patent leather and smooth to the touch. The guns made a thud as he he kneeled and dropped them to the floor.  “Alright, boys! Cuff him!” Said the sergeant.  The officers rushed to him. Momentarily, the crises were averted.

He sat in the interrogation room.  The officers peered at him behind the double sided glass as if he was a zoo animal.  They examined him with their eyes, drawing their own conclusions and surmising every negative thing that could have happened to bring him here.  Inside the small room, he was handcuffed to a table with one chair across from him, waiting for the detectives to come in.

He leaned his head down, slowly inhaling and exhaling. What he did, he had no choice but to do. Suddenly, he heard footsteps. Not a man’s walk though, no, this was too seductive. It was too delicate. Stilettos, not Stacy Adams. As soon as he glanced up, she spoke with more of a smirk than a smile. He sat back in his chair and peered outside the double sided glass. He knew the officers were there. He had been in rooms like this before. He glanced at the door; it hadn’t moved since he sat down in the room over an hour ago.

“So, here we are. Again”, she said, running her manicured fingertips across the table.

“Here we are.”

“Awww, you don’t seem. Excited to see me. What’s wrong, baby?”

He squinted his eyes, looking back and forth between the glass and the woman, wondering if the officers saw what he did. To the officers, he had begun speaking to himself. They grew silent and were intrigued even more, “hey, hey sarg, you gotta come see this. This guy. He’s losing it.”

“You just can’t leave me alone, can you?” he said to the woman.

“No no nooo, I can’t. You see, you’ve got something… I need. Something I crave.” She stood up and began walking towards him, switching every bit of her behind as she took each step. “Something,” she ran her fingers across his shoulders, stopping to whisper in his ear, “I would kill for. Something I already have killed for. Power. Unmatched power.”

He jerked away from her. The police officers were utterly perplexed, yet, they could not stop watching. “We may need the shrink on this one, boys,” the Sargent said as they watched on.

Inside the small room, she pushed the man’s head away and distanced herself from him, “Oh, come on!  You know how great we would be together. Picture, me, with my intelligence. You, with your power. We would be perfect together, can’t you see?”

“I killed you.”

She stopped, shooting a sinister gaze at him from across the table, then quickly switching into a menacing smile, “you foolish man, you know you cannot kill a spirit. I will live forever. I seek kings and what I seek, I receive. You will be no different.”

“I will never give into you!”

He tried to stand up, but the cuffs jerked him back down into his seat. The officers jumped into action and ran into the room. “What is the meaning of this?!” the Sergeant demanded as the man rubbed his wrist. The woman smiled as they all stood in the room. He looked into their souls, a cold hard stare that would’ve shaken a statue, hung his head back down, and said nothing.

If you like Spoken-Word, click the link below and check out the new video entitled, “Pennies.”

BraveHeart

He laid on his back looking up to a blue sky littered with puffy clouds and oblivious to what was going on around him. He knew it could end this way, but nobody ever plans on it. Nobody ever really thinks it will be them until the time comes. He lifted his hand up to the sky and positioned one of the clouds in-between his thumb and pointer finger.

He pretended to move it across the blue ocean above him as the winds briskly propelled them across his line of vision while explosions went off around him, BOOM, BOOM! His imagination was strong enough to erase everything that was happening and place him somewhere else.

He passed the cloud to his four-year-old daughter as she laid next to him in their backyard. “Hey dad, do you think we will ever be able to touch these one day?” she asked. Her long, blonde hair was sprawled out in different directions as she laid on top of the grass. He smiled, “You know, one day, I think we will be able to. You know, anything is possible.” She looked at him and smiled, then turned back to the cloud she was moving across the sky with her finger.

“Ok you two, it’s time for dinner,” her mother called out to them from the back door.  He stood up, extending his hand to his daughter. She reached out for it, and he lifted her up and threw her in the air in one swift motion.

“Ahhhhh, daddy!” she cried with joy as she was tossed in the air. Her mother stood at the back door, watching them and smiling herself, fighting back tears. She knew he would be leaving soon and moments like this had to be savored. She let them continue as she went back into the kitchen. She crammed all of her cooking lessons in with her grandmother a few months before she got married.

She grew up on soul food but never took the time to learn how to make the dishes. She heard one of their conversations in her mind as she began preparing the plates of dinner for her family.

———————————

“The best ways to hold on to your man is good food and good sex,” her grandmother said.

“Granny!” she exclaimed, “That’s just… ugh! You could’ve left that last part out!”

Her grandmother looked at her with furrowed eyebrows, “what? Girl, you better grow up! How do you think you got here? How you think I got your mother here?  Don’t let the church fool you, now.  Yes, they want to keep it PG, but if you want to keep your man happy, you need to put it on him.  Ask your husband which of the two he would rather have, good sex or good food and I’ll bet you he will pick sex.  That’s what your grandfather chose.”  She smirked, then winked her eye.

Her grand-daughter shook her head as she responded, “ugh, Granny, you know what,” she chuckled, “you are way too much.  I am done with you.”

She smiled, “ummm-hmmm, well baby, I’m just telling you what I know, I’m just telling you what I know.”

————————————————————–

It had been a few months since her grandmother passed away but she held on tight to every memory they had together. She loaded up her husband’s plate with generous portions of collard greens, dressing, sweet potatoes packed with marshmallows and pecans, macaroni and cheese and chitterlings ((known to most as “chitlins”)). She waited until her family was sleep to clean the chitlins the night before. The stench from them was strong enough to clear a house, but she withstood it, gagging a few times herself. A small sacrifice to make for her husband’s favorite food.

Her daughter ran into the kitchen just as she was placing their plates on the table. “Mama, mama! Daddy turned into a zombie from Walking Dead, and he is trying to bite my arm off! Help me!” she said as she hid behind her mother.

Her father walked lazily into the house, dragging his leg and groaning. He was playing the part flawlessly. Their daughter screamed again and pulled at her mother’s shirt.

“Baby, can you stop scaring this little girl? You know she believes everything when it comes to you!” she said. He laughed and recollected himself. Their daughter relaxed and sat down at the table, picking up a fork and preparing to dig into the yamallows ((Sweet Potatoes are sometimes called, “yams”)).

“Ummm, excuse me, little missy, are we forgetting something?” her mother said.

Her daughter smiled, “sorry mommy,” she said as she got up and ran to the bathroom.

Her father walked over and grabbed his wife from behind and kissed her on the neck. He wrapped his arms around her tight as if it was the last time he was going to hug her. She melted. They had been married for three years, but his job caused him to be away so much that it increased their love for each other when they were together. Shakespeare said it best – absence makes the heart grow fond. Their daughter ran back into the kitchen moments later,

“Ok guys, my hands are washed, and we can eat now.” She said it as if she was the reason the family couldn’t start eating.  She didn’t control the house but in a way, she was the glue that kept them together, and they both knew it.  They smiled at her as they walked over to their plates at the table. They joined hands as the man of the house led them in prayer. Their daughter peeked her eyes open as he prayed. She glanced at her father as he sat across from her.

He had a low haircut and the face of a young boy. Earrings pierced the lobes on each of his ears, and he had an old scar that was just above his jawbone. He was a rowdy teenager, and he had gotten into a lot of fights. You would never be able to tell that just by looking at him. She squinted at her mother. She had her head bowed as long; black hair flowed from the top of her head down to her shoulders. She had given the thickness of her lips and flat nose directly to her daughter. She was a perfect mix between her two parents. Her father was finishing the prayer as she closed her eyes and reopened them again after he said, “Amen.”

It was family time. She didn’t entirely know what her Dad did his job but what she did know was that he was a hero. She hated when he was gone, but she bragged to her friends at school about that fact. She looked up to him, and he said he would always be there for her. “I love you, Daddy,” she said before she took her first bite. He looked up, the warmth of her words fell right into his heart.

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

She smiled back and bit into her yamallows.  To her, it was like having dessert for dinner.  It would be a semi-fight to get her to finish the rest of her food.  Her dad looked at her mother solemnly, then back to his daughter.  “You know, sweetheart, Dad, has to go away for a little while again.”  She stopped eating and peered at him from across the table.

“But, why?  Why do you always have to go?”  He took a deep breath and explained himself to her the best way he could, but it wasn’t good enough for her.

“Sweetheart, you know the things you get to do now? Like, go outside and play whenever you want to and go to daycare with your friends?  I have to help make sure you can still do that whenever you want.  Nothing is free.”

Suddenly, her yamallows lost their sweetness.  She hung her head low, attempting to hide the crocodile tears that were forming in her eyes.  Her mother grabbed her by her hand and pulled her closer.  Her Father left his plate untouched and joined them.  He bent down to her, and she put her head on his chest.  She heard his heartbeat, BOOM, BOOM!  He held her tighter and squeezed their mother, and she heard it again, BOOM, BOOM!

His family morphed into the blue sky he saw as he was laying on his back, hearing explosions going off all around him, BOOM, BOOM!. The same cloud he was moving across the sky was gone. Soldiers were on the ground dead right beside him as explosions went off continuously.

He looked down at his legs, trying to move them but the feeling was gone. He reached for his dog tags and gripped them in his hand. On them, the names of the two women that mattered most in his life. He kissed them and one lonely tear fell out of his eye. He heard a foreign language being spoken by two men as they walked closer to him. It was a sacrifice that he was prepared for. To die for not only those whom he loved, but for everyone who lived.

If you like Spoken-Word, click the link below and check out the new video entitled, “Pennies.”

Pointless

She clinched two Barbie dolls in her hand as she played in her room. “No, I’ll cook tonight,” she said, imitating a grown-up voice for one of the dolls.  “Ok, girl,” she said, imitating the voice of the darker Barbie before she placed her in her Barbie car.  She heard yelling coming from outside her room, penetrating the thin walls the stood between her and her parents.  She turned towards her door, looking momentarily at it, then turning back to her Barbie.  Above her on her wall, a picture that she drew of her, her mother, and her father hung effortlessly.  It was a picture drawn the best way any four-year-old could have done.  Their bodies weren’t in perfect symmetry. Eyes were lopsided.  Shoulders were disproportionate.  Their noses were placed on their faces much lower than they should have been.  She stood in between her parents as she held their hands.

Above them, she had drawn a heart and colored it blue as they stood in a grassy field with a house to their right.  To the naked eye, it would be hard to look at, but to anybody in that house, it was priceless.  She drove her Barbie doll, making car noises in the midst of yelling and screaming from outside.  She jumped when her mother’s voice hit high octaves, jerking her head towards the door.  Her long ponytails swung to the right as she stopped, looking at the door waiting to hear more voices so she would know everything was ok.  Not ok because nothing was ok when they were arguing but she wanted to make sure no one was hurt.  After her Father’s voice had boomed, she turned around and continued driving the car.  She had become accustomed to their frequent arguments.  She learned to drown them out the best she could, submerging herself into her imagination.

As the car rode across the carpet, one of her wheels rolled off.  “Oh, no,” she said, picking up the wheel and trying to put it back on herself.  She couldn’t.  She looked towards the door, the yelling still dominating any other noise in the house.  Whenever she broke one of her toys before, she would always take them to her Dad.  He fixed them, no matter what it was.  Baby doll arms that had fallen off were surgically attached.  Vehicles were repaired.  Doll houses were renovated.  She knew it wouldn’t be a problem for him to put the wheel back on for her Barbie.

She turned to look at the door.  Fear struck her heart.  She didn’t want to go out there, but her imagination wouldn’t be able to save her if her Barbie couldn’t continue its ride to the grocery store for food.  She determined it was too hot for her to walk to the store and back to the house with the groceries.

She stood up, inching closer and closer to the door.  The yells are becoming louder with each step.  She took a deep breath and slowly opened the bedroom door.  The yelling was crystal clear.
“I don’t care!  I don’t care what you tell me, this happens too much with you!” Her voice was light but piercing.  She was carrying emotional stress for a couple of years in the marriage, and they had only been married for four years.  He cheated on her a year and a half ago, and although some would consider the reason he did it to be justified, the scar it created on her hadn’t healed.

“I told you,” he said, “I was at the grocery store, and she just happened to be there!  We didn’t plan this purposely!”

“Yeah, tell me anything!  I should’ve known not to get back with you and try to work this out!  You still the same dog you was back then!  I don’t care how much you keep that bible laying around this house!”

He shook his head and turned to look at the dishes that stacked up in the sink.  On the marble counter top to the right sat a plate of food over a day old stuck to it.  The marble counter tops matched the cabinets and the floor.  The kitchen itself was spacious; it was large enough to be a guest room, and her voice echoed off the walls as he stood, drifting into his imagination.  His daughter got it honestly.  She quickly snapped him out of it, “You ain’t got nothing to say, huh?” her eyes watering.  Her eyeliner was smearing.  She reached out and grabbed his arm, spinning him back around, “look at me!”  He did.

He stared into her eyes searching for the woman he married.  The woman he said, “I do” to at the altar.  He saw glimpses of that day in his mind.  Her white dress curved her body effortlessly.  She had on very little makeup because she knew he didn’t like that.  Truthfully, her beauty exceeded anything that Estee Lauder or Chanel had to offer.  Hey, eyes reflected his image as she stared back at him.  He was everything she wanted physically.  Tall with an athletic build and a smile that could get him anything he wanted.

He finally spoke, “look, I know I messed up before, and I mean, I get that this is just a reaction from that.” She sucked her teeth and folded her arms as he continued, “I’m sorry, and I was wrong for that.  I’ve apologized a million times, and I’ve done everything I could to get your trust back,” she cut him off, “everything!? You call going to the grocery store with another woman doing everything you can to gain my trust!?”

He turned around, and she grabbed his arm again but this time, he jerked away, and his hand knocked a glass off the counter, and it shattered onto the ground.  The toy dropped out of their daughter’s hand simultaneously.  They turned to look at her as she stood in the hallway, horrified and on the verge of tears.  Her father rushed to her, “baby?  Baby, what’s wrong?”  He kneeled down to become eye-level with her.  He took his hand and wiped the tears from her eyes before they fell.  She was a splitting image of her mother.  “Baby?”  She sniffled, and his heart broke.

He picked his daughter up, grabbed her toy car and carried them into the front room.  “Oh, you just gon’ walk away from me with my baby?”  He kept going with her in his arms and sat down on the sectional.  The front room carpet was white.  Hard to believe with a young child in the home but she was well behaved.  She was not allowed to eat, drink or walk in the front room with her shoes on and she heeded to it.  They could count on one hand the number of times she had to be spanked for disobedience.  Truthfully, they could not have raised a child any better.  They were excellent parents but horrible spouses.

“What is it baby?” he said to her as they sat on the couch.  She was still trying to catch her breath.  She was used to the arguing but seeing it?  She had not warmed up to that side of things.  He looked at her car and realized it was missing its wheel.  It was clenched in her right hand.  “Oh, your wheel feel off?  Here, Daddy will fix it, ok?”  She shook her head in agreement as she began calming down.  He sat her on the couch and walked back into the kitchen past her mother.  “We’re not done.”

He kept a straight face and walked straight to the utility drawer in the kitchen, “I’m not arguing in front of her anymore.”  He set the toy on the counter and searched the drawer for a screwdriver.

“I’m not either, but we gon’ talk about this.”  He shuffled through the drawer, moving things around forcefully.

“There is not anything to say.  You are accusing me of something I know I didn’t do.”

She slammed the drawer closed, almost smashing his finger in the process.  He looked at her.  His jawbones are gyrating inside his mouth.  “What were you doing with her at the store?” She said with locked lips. He shook his head and moved her out the way, opening the next drawer to find the screwdriver.

Their daughter sat in the front room.  She was completely calm now.  She knew they were still arguing, but they weren’t loud.  She could barely hear them, but now, she was bored.  She had nothing to busy her imagination, so she got up and began wandering.  She looked for the remote to the television, but it was too high up on the fireplace.  She was smart, though.

She walked over and grabbed a small stepping chair from the hallway by the front door and placed it in front of the fireplace.  She stood on it, and her eyes lit up.  She looked around the room and felt what it was like to be a foot taller.  She smiled and turned back towards the fireplace.  She grabbed the remote, knocking a finger nail clipper onto the floor.  The silver shined like a new toy on the white carpet.  She thought to put it back, but that is all it was.  She picked it up and placed the stepping chair back into the hallway.

As she walked back, she noticed it and smiled.  That looks like a mouth and two eyes, she said to herself.  She sat down next to the wall and folded her legs, scooting as close to it as she could.  By then, her parents increased their voices.  They were back to arguing as they were when she was in her room but her imagination kicked it, and she began fading away from reality.

“How are you doing?” she asked her new friend.  “I’m all right,” she made a boy’s voice, “I’m just hungry.”

“Oh?  You are?” she looked down in her hand at her new toy.  “Well, I can feed you.”

She took the fingernail clipper and tried to put it in her friend’s mouth.  He didn’t move.  “Oh, I’m sorry.  It can’t fit in your mouth,” she said.  She looked at her new toy and played with it until she opened it up.  She slid the fingernail file out from its place.  “This might work,” she said as she put food onto her makeshift fork.  “Open wide,” she said.

In the kitchen, the toy sat on the counter with the wheel right next to it.  The couple moved away from it, and the Dad completely forgot the reason he went to the kitchen in the first place.  They were focused on the argument at hand.  It took precedence over anything else that was needed at that moment.  “Look!  I’m not going to tell you again!  I wasn’t up there with that woman, and I haven’t cheated or did anything wrong to you since I did a year and a half ago!”

She got in his face.  Her breasts bumped the bottom of his pectorals as she extended her finger towards the front of his forehead, “And that is what I’m talking about!  It shouldn’t have never happened in the first place!  Now you at a store with some chick and you expect me to believe it’s all a coincidence!?  How stupid do you think I am!?  You think I’ma just let this go and not pay attention to the things that matter?!”  The irony.

Just then, there was a loud buzz followed by flickering lights in the kitchen.  The couple looked at the lights, then at each other.  “Oh my God!  Lanette!”  The mother moved past the husband and rushed into the front room; he was inches behind her.  Their daughter laid out on her back next to the front door.  She picked her up off the floor, “Lanette!  Baby, please!  Lanette!”

The husband hovered over them and bent down, “Baby, you ok!?  Lanette!  Oh my God, Lanette what’s wrong!?”  He looked at the ground next to the socket and saw the fingernail clipper.  Tears fell from his eyes without remorse as he pulled his phone out his pocket, hands shaking as he dialed the 9-1-1.  “Hello!?  Hello, yes, my daughter has just been electrocuted!  Please come!  Oh my, God, I don’t want my baby to die.”

“What’s your address?” the operator said.

He struggled to make it out, “Baby… baby, what’s our address?!”

She gave it to him as she sat on the floor, rocking her baby and clinching her tight as her tears streamed out of her eyes even more.  “I’m sorry,” she said to her daughter as she rocked her, “I’m so sorry.”

“Pennies”