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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.”