Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1: The Final Conflict

I need a way to escape the war raging in my mind. I am tired of all the bs that I have to deal with on a regular basis. Sometimes I feel like I want to explode and take all my frustrations out on anyone in sight, but I fear confrontation. I am 9 years old and feel like I’m twenty. I have seen too much drama. My parents fight constantly because Daddy’s rarely home and Mom is a control freak. Daddy claims he’s working late. He owns two convenience stores and works for the power and light company. He built his business rubbing elbows with white Jews. Mom said Daddy kisses more ass than the law allows. She thinks he’s playing around on her. I don’t see how he has time but he makes time, according to Mom. Daddy comes home late blasting his stereo so loud that the neighbors on the next block can hear it. He doesn’t consider the fact that we have to go to school the next morning. He’s selfish and self-centered. He controls the money. He can do what he wants, when he wants; we just live here. We work in the business and we’re helping to build his small empire.

To add insult to injury, he plays psychological mind games. One day he’s lifting me up, the next day he’s tearing me down. He’s my advocate when my brothers tease me, which seems like every day. Other days, he looks at me with disgust and says, “Girl, you need to go on a “dite”. For some reason, he can’t pronounce diet. The frown on his face when he says demeaning things makes me want cry. I eat more in rebellion. Food makes me feel better. It is my comfort through all the stress.

My brothers use me as their comedy relief to deal with their frustrations, fears, and insecurities. Darren is the worst. Let him tell it. I am the fattest person who ever lived! He’s always telling me that overeating is a sin and that he knows what I’ve been eating by the stains on my shirt.

He’s a health conscious nut and extremely self-absorbed. He brags about how fine he is and how no woman can resist his body. He has a small weight room in the basement and works out regularly. He boasts that no one can bench press more than him. I must admit he’s handsome, his body is well defined, and the girls ring our phone off the hook but he’s an arrogant asshole!

He loves to tell jokes at the expense of others and most of the time he’s the only one laughing. He told David and me a disgusting joke the other day about the black man, the Jew man, and the Chinese man. He said they all lived in a house together. The Chinese man bought a chocolate pie and told the other guys not to touch it. The black man got hungry through the middle of the night and ate all the pie. The black man had to shit and decided to put the shit in the pie to fool the Chinese man into thinking that no one touched the pie. The Jew man came home and was hungry. He saw the pie and ate the entire pie. The Chinese man was angry when he discovered that his pie is gone. He asked who ate it. The Jew man blamed the black man. The black man told the Jew man he is full of shit. Darren thought this joke was hilarious. Conversations similar to this reveals his character and level of thinking.

I always run to Daddy when Darren and David tease me. Daddy tells them to stop and tells me, “Don’t nobody want a bone but a dog and he hides it.” He sings a popular song from the fifties or sixties to reinforce his point. The song goes something like, “I met this girl name Bony Maroni. She’s so skinny….” I can never remember the rest but it always makes me feel better. I crave his love and attention but he’s allusive. He’s a workaholic and when he’s home he and Mom are at each other’s throats. In between the fights, we travel a lot. I love going out of town although at times I feel like a prisoner. Daddy holds my hand so tight, it feels like my bones will break. We travel on long trips to Canada, New York, California, Florida, Texas, and even the Bahamas!

Christmas is always a great time in our home. We have to go to bed early to prepare for “Santa Claus’s” arrival. Our parents tell us if we’re up peeping around when Santa arrives, he’ll throw sand in our eyes. Daddy and Mom prepare a sandwich, a treat, and a glass of milk for Santa. They are always happy around this time of year.

On Christmas day, I run to see if Santa Claus ate the food and he always did! The Christmas tree is stuffed with gifts mainly for me! My godmother, Aggie, buys me at least 20 gifts. She doesn’t have any kids and has a great government job. I visit her often to get away from the chaos at home. Aggie asks a million and one questions about what’s going on at home and I am too pleased to divulge. The closest she came to a man is her Harlequin romance novels. Oh, and she briefly dated Daddy’s baby brother, Uncle Teddy. Uncle Teddy is a strange character. He’s a loner with little experience with women. Mom said my grandmother, Hazel, is too controlling and protective over him. Mom dislikes her with passion. She said she doesn’t like her because my grandmother doesn’t like her. My grandmother thinks Mom is spoiled and she is. I like my grandmother, perhaps because I am named after her: Hazel Robin. She’s nice most of the time and has a lot of positive energy. She taught me how to play jacks, make homemade ice cream, and cultivate plants. She has a deep belief in God. I watch her walk with God regularly. She admits that she wasn’t a saint back in her day but it’s clear to me that she has changed her life. I like spending the night over her house. We stay up late and talk for hours. She’s a great storyteller with a vivid imagination. I like to visualize the people and places she describes. My grandmother talks about her mom and dad a lot. She has their picture on her mantle. She cries every time she looks at her father’s picture, perhaps, because she misses him; I often wonder.

Mom’s mother has been very sick lately, she had another stroke and is in a coma. I have visited her several times but I don’t feel close to her like I do my other grandmother, perhaps it’s because my grandmother has 14 children and over 250 grandchildren and great- grandchildren, plus nieces, nephews and cousins. I can remember spending the night at her home and staying up all night because I was scared. I slept in the foyer, where there is a twin sized bed. The front door is at the foot of the bed. My grandparents’ house sits on an acre of land but the house is small and creeks through the night. Grandmother is kind of mean, although she has never been mean to me. David said she grew up hard. She had to be tough and there’s nothing wrong with that but he never tried to spend the night. Grandmother is swift with her tongue and swears like a truck driver. It’s not uncommon for her to call someone a black bastard, haint, snake, tramp, or whore, if she felt he or she deserved it.

My grandfather is the opposite. He’s a humble man of few words. His commitment to love and family is commendable. They’ve been married for more than sixty years and as far as I know, they don’t fight. I remember the day my cousin Lena encountered grandmother’s wrath. Lena is mean, bossy, and controlling. She has two younger siblings that she babysits on a regular basis because her mother, Aunt Matilda, is rarely home. Aunt Matilda doesn’t work. She’s been married and divorced twice with her eyes on a preacher man this time. She treats her older children Lena and Wilbur like step children. They have to move out as soon as they turn 18. I don’t like her. Aunt Matilda and Mom are sisters and best friends. They love to talk on the phone and gossip about other people. I don’t like going to her house because she has a house full of roaches and she never has any food. One time she brought a burger home from Wendy’s and we had to split it three ways! Her kids are “po”; that’s what grandmother calls skinny people. Fried baloney is common in their house but Aunt Matilda eats well. We have to sleep upstairs in the attic where it’s hot and there’s no ventilation. Aunt Matilda gives the younger kids cough medicine when they have trouble going to sleep. Lena is in charge while she is away and she behaves like a drill sergeant. She’s resentful of her younger siblings. She whoops them with a shoe, belt, or broom for doing any little thing.

On this particular day, our grandmother informed us to stop running in and out of the house. I didn’t listen and I ran in the house one more time and the back door slammed. My grandmother was pissed. She stormed over to Lena, called her everything but a child of God, slapped her, and put her out of her house. I tried to speak up to tell her it was me and not Lena but she just yelled at Lena over me. I watched Lena as she walked down the street to go home. I felt bad for her. My grandmother doesn’t take any mess off of anyone. I saw her kill a wasp with her bare hand! There’s always a rusty can at her and my grandfather’s side because they like to chew tobacco. I think it is extremely gross; especially when they miss the can!

Mom’s extremely stressed due to her mother being sick and at 36 years of age, she lit her first cigarette. She doesn’t use drugs and drinks on rare occasions. I can see the stress in her eyes. I wish there was something I can do to take the pain away.

Mom and Daddy are at each other’s throat like never before. Mom said Daddy is distant and unavailable to lend her emotional support. Daddy says nothing at all and continues to behave badly.

Mom’s into fashion, to be frank, she’s a shopaholic. She has shoes to match every outfit; dresses, hats, wigs, jewelry etc. Saturday afternoon after being in the beauty salon all morning, she came home looking young, fresh, and fabulous. Her hair is relaxed with streaks of golden blonde. She struts into their bedroom where Daddy is waiting for her. She locks the bedroom door. A few minutes later, I hear rumbling, cussing, and objects being thrown around the room. Mom runs out of the bedroom half-dressed yelling, “Darren call the police! Your Daddy is trying to fight me!”

Daddy follows her down the hallway with rage in his eyes. He behaves as if we are not there. Mom stands in the living room fussing like a child with her breast dangling in the presence of her children. I can only imagine how embarrassed she feels. I feel embarrassed for her.

Daddy yells, “You slut!” as they wrestle on the living room floor.

“Yo mammy’s the slut, muthafucka! You lopsided head, black bastard.” She replied, practically out of breath.

No tears flow from her eyes; she’s just as angry and full of rage as he is. She tries to free herself from the headlock Daddy has her in. He over powers her and wrestles her to the floor. He grabs her legs and spreads them wide. She’s not wearing any panties.

“Look at this.” He yells, looking over his shoulder at us. We’re staring at him in shock.

“What kind of sick fuck are you? How can you do this to me in front of my children? My mama is sick and you gone try to force me to have sex with you? And you was out all night, last night, with your whore!” Mom screams.

It’s not uncommon for Daddy to snatch all of mom’s clothes off in front of us but this time is more bizarre. I feel confused because I don’t know his motive. Is he trying to humiliate her in front of me and her teenage boys? Or is he getting a cheap thrill out it? I’ve seen the pornography in their bedroom. He has a massive collection. They even recorded a sex tape with their movie projector. Is this some type of sick game he’s playing? Does he want us to participate? Its clear Mom is humiliated but how much more can she take? Daddy continues to restrict her movement; finally Darren charges him and pushes him off of her. My jaw drops, no one has ever stood up to Daddy. Daddy is in shock as well. I am glad Darren did it!

“Yawl not nothing without me!” He yells glaring at Darren. “You lazy, you don’t work! You can’t pay for this house without me. I don’t need yawl, yawl need me!” He hollers, glaring at Mom.

Daddy rushes off to his bedroom, changes his clothes, and leaves the house.

I don’t feel like going to school today. I feel weak and powerless. I am beginning to dislike Daddy. He doesn’t respect Mom or us. I don’t have anyone to talk to because I am too embarrassed to tell anyone. I have one good friend Madeline. Madeline lives in the southern part of town in a new brick house with a circle drive. She used to live in the inner city. Mom said that after we bought our house, they went and bought a newer house. It seems that everyone is trying to keep up with the joneses these days, including Mom. Madeline is spoiled and the object of her father’s affection. I really like Mattie, that’s what we call her. She’s tall, lean, with medium sized pigtails. She’s the opposite of me; I am short and plump. I wish I was her size. I admire Mattie because she seems to do everything right; she’s a great skater, she runs fast, and it seems like she can do no wrong in her families eyes. Her family caters to her needs. Her bedroom is decorated like a princess. She has the Barbie dream house, the car, and all the other accessories to go with it. I like going to her house for sleep overs.

I can visit as often as I like but Mattie doesn’t come to my house as often as I want her to. My parents don’t fight when company is over. I guess, Mattie just feels more comfortable at home. I met her at a Baptist church before we became Catholic.

The reason we became Catholic is to save money on the school tuition. I hate catholic school. We have to wear uniforms every day. We attend mass every Friday. We have to stand and pledge allegiance to the stupid flag and recite the “our father” every morning. The nuns are mean and cranky. They live in a convent in the parking lot of the school. The priests are cool. Priests are unable to have a wives. We have to address them as father although, they’re not my father! All the children at school are excited when father Holt walks across the playground at recess. The priest’s really like David, they want him to become a priest. David declined but he is an altar boy. I remember waiting outside for David when father Holt asked him to come into the convent.

I asked if I could come in to see what it looks like on the inside but David told me to wait outside. The priests pay close attention to the boys at school and ignore the girls. The girls at school are unable to participate in mass activities. We are allowed to recite the 1st or 2nd reading at mass. Mass is a strange scene, totally different from the Baptist church. The priests wear long robes. Incents and candles are always burning in the church. Tall statues of white people fill the sanctuary. I wonder how they know what Jesus, Mary, and the apostles looked like. The Stations of the Cross line the church. We are required to recite the stations every year during Easter season.

Weekly mass, consists of a priest reciting a brief homily. The congregation is instructed to recite the apostle’s creed. After several years of reciting it, I still don’t know it by heart. The audience is the choir. We stand and kneel about 3 or 4 times and then mass is over. The entire service last just under an hour. Catholic Church service is boring. The hymns are bland with little emotion. I was baptized in the Catholic Church. The ceremony was long because there were several participants. I received a few sprinkles on my forehead along with a prayer.

I thought I would feel different after being baptized but I don’t. We’re told that we are not responsible for our sins until we turn 12 years old. I figure, I still have 3 more years to be mischievous.

It’s parent teacher conference night. My knees feel weak and my palms are sweaty because Daddy decided to attend. I’ve been cutting up in class; mainly for talking too much. Daddy whooped me once. He made me lie across a chair and gave me a few swats. Mom insisted that he whoop me. I don’t think he felt comfortable with it because he never whooped me again. His mean glares scare me. I feel like he’s going to slap me at any moment. His deep intimidating voice adds to my fears.

Ms. Moore, my third grade teacher is pleasant. I am so thankful to finally have a teacher who is not a nun. Ms. Moore doesn’t mention my behavior to Daddy and I am forever grateful.

Ms. Moore has an odd demeanor. She speaks softly with a slow, deep drag. She has long, black hair, and wears sandals, even in the winter. She reminds me of a hippy. My parents exchange niceties toward each other throughout the night. Our family’s turmoil is our best kept secret.

My argument for talking too much in school is that I don’t have anyone to talk to at home. I like to play make believe a lot at home when I am alone. I imagine I am somewhere far away and that I am happy. I like pretending to be a teacher or a famous singer. I want to be a singer when I grow up. David always compliments me on my voice. We created a song once. It was a lot of fun. We have fun times together when it’s just me and him. When Darren is around, he has to be the center of attention and the only way he knows how to have fun is by putting me or David down. David is teased by Darren for being musty. His armpits and bedroom smell funky. I don’t understand why because he showers regularly. Darren also teases him about his big feet and his corns. David wears his shoes too tight. He said no one buys him new shoes but he has a job, we work for Daddy. David’s tight with his money. He said he’s saving his money so that when he’s grown, he can move far away. David can’t handle any type of stress. Stress makes him nervous and very uncomfortable. David takes Darren’s insults in stride but it’s clear that he’s insecure.

Darren is Mom’s favorite child. He gets away with just about everything. He gets to stay out late on school nights and he can have company over whenever he likes. Mom went into debt to buy him a new car. When Darren teases us, Mom simply says, “Darren leave him or her alone. You know they can’t take a joke.”

The drive home from school is peaceful. I am thankful that Mom and Daddy are getting along. Daddy stops at the local convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes. He makes smoking look so cool. I want to sneak one to see what it feels like to smoke. Daddy’s in the store talking to a slender woman. I don’t know what they’re talking about but Daddy’s smiling from ear to ear. Mom’s doesn’t look happy. I try to distract her by asking a dumb question but it doesn’t work.

“Don’t be leaving me in the car while you in there laughing with a bitch!” Mom yells.

“Woman, you crazy. I don’t even know that woman.” Daddy smirks.

“I ain’t crazy! I saw you talking to that woman. You act like you know her, the way you was talking and grinning. You could have took me home!” Mom frowns.

The argument continues as we drive up the street to our home. I feel butterflies in the pit of my belly. This feeling overcomes me every time a fight is brewing. They march off to their bedroom, locking the door behind them.

David knocks on my bedroom door, “What happened?” He asked with large curious eyes.

“Mom saw Daddy in the store talking to a woman and she started telling him off.” I explain.

“I’m tired of this! I can’t get no sleep. I got to go to school tomorrow. I can’t wait to get out of here!” David frowns.

His hands are trembling as he speaks. The fights are taking a toll on him.

“You hear that?” David asked.

“What?” I asked.

“Be quiet, listen.” David said, placing his finger over his mouth. He leans his ear against my bedroom wall. My bedroom is adjacent to their bedroom. We hear a gurgling sound and the stripping of garments.

“Oh shoot, I think he’s in there trying to kill Mom!” He said with fear in his eyes.

“For real? Do you think he would kill Mom?” I asked.

“Darren’s not here. I don’t know what to do.” David sighs.

“Call the police.” I suggested.

“Wait.” He whispers.

We hear Mom cussing. The door swings open. They’re arguing as they walk down the dark hallway. Daddy comes out first; Mom follows closely behind. They’re shouting derogatory comments at each other. David and I stand frozen in my bedroom. We’re both afraid to move. All of a sudden, we hear glass shattering in the living room. We run into the living room to see what’s going on. Daddy threw a large vase into our glass coffee table. Mom joins him and starts throwing pictures and other objects around the room. Daddy grabs her arm. Mom has a piece of glass in her hand and through the struggle Daddy’s arm is cut. Blood starts gushing all over the place. David’s in a trance and is visibly shaken.

“David don’t just stand there, call for an ambulance!” Mom hollers, as if David has done something wrong!

“No, don’t call the ambulance. They might put you jail!” Daddy said. “Grab a towel.” He demands.

“Get a towel David!” Mom yells in a nervous panic.

Blood seeps rapidly through the towel. Mom applies pressure to his arm. I am screaming to the top of my lungs as tears rush through my eyes.

“Shut up Robin.” Daddy shouts. “Let’s go! We wasting time! Yawl stay here we’ll be back.” Daddy said.

I burst out in tears as soon as the front door closes. I think Daddy might die. David places his arm around me.

“Don’t cry Robin. He’ll be ok.” David said.

David and I pace the floor for hours, wondering what’s going on at the hospital. Darren arrives around 1 am.

“Damn, what happened?” He asked, scanning the room. “Mom and Daddy had a fight again?” He asked.

“Where have you been? This is a school night?” David asked with a frown.

“Boy please, that rules for yawl! What happened? Who bleeding?” Darren asked.

“Daddy.” I replied with my head down.

Darren bust out laughing, “They wild as hell! Somebody gone end of dead, if they keep on. Mom needs to leave him. This shit ain’t worth it. They done tore up the damn house.” He chuckles, shaking his head.

We hear the key entering the lock with mild conversation. We’re standing motionless with anticipation.

“Yawl still up?” Mom asked as if nothing happened five hours ago.

Darren smacks his lips and rolls his eyes, “I’m going to bed. Good night.” He said.

“Robin, go to bed. I’m alright.” Daddy said. “And I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier.” He added with sincerity.

“What did they do to your arm?” I asked feeling relieved.

“I got lots of stitches but I’m ok. I’m sorry for fighting. We not going to fight no more. Yawl can go to bed now. Yawl got school tomorrow.”

Is he serious? I am thinking to myself. He expects us to go to school tomorrow? We hear that they’re not going to fight anymore after every fight. David is disgusted and disappears into his bedroom without saying a word.

I toss and turn for hours. I can’t get the sight of blood out of my mind. I can hear loud moaning and groaning coming from Mom and Daddy’s bedroom. Daddy starts moaning, “Oh, Evelyn.” I feel like throwing up. I’m starting to hate them. They are disgusting.

The next morning, I have a belly ache. I don’t feel like going to school. I didn’t get any sleep last night. I ate the rest of the chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, and almost a half-gallon of ice cream. I waited for Daddy to leave for work. Glass is still all over the floor; no one bothered to clean it up. I knock softly on Mom’s bedroom door.

“Who is it?” She asked.

“It’s me. Can I stay home today? I don’t feel well.” I replied in the sweetest, kindest tone. Many people compliment me on the sound of my baby voice. I use it when I feel uncomfortable with the people I am around, insecure, or intimidated and at this moment, I feel all three!

“No, you cannot! You going to school.” Mom snaps.

I take a deep breath, swallow hard, and prepare for a long day. David and I attend the same school. Mom gives us a ride when she feels like it or Darren takes us but most of time we catch the city bus. Our school is about 10 to 15 miles away from home.

“Why you don’t want to go to school?” David asked as we wait for the bus.

“Because, I just don’t feel well. My stomach hurts.”

“I like going to school. I try to stay away from that house as much as possible.” David frowns.

He’s angry, irritated, and frustrated. The neighborhood kids think he’s mean but I don’t. He’s nice to me most of the time until Darren comes around then he participates in tearing me down. Teasing me relieves some of his stress.

I am not looking forward to going to school. I know it will be another day of work and I don’t have the energy. I have an ongoing beef with a girl named Yolanda. Her family has money. Her mother owns a grocery store and a nursing home. One time in the first grade she flashed 10 packs of Now or Later’s, my favorite candy. I asked for some. She said no. When I thought no one was looking, I snuck a pack out of her bag and got in big trouble. Sister Margaret, punished me and told Mom. Yolanda likes to tease me about my weight. She’s short, slim and on the verge of “po”. She has long, thick hair that is always nice and neat. I have good hair days and bad hair days. Mom combs my hair in a grandma hairstyle sometimes. I want ponytails every day like everyone else! She doesn’t style my hair that way often but when she does, I feel embarrassed!

Today, I am ready for Yolanda. I am tired and running on a little bit of sleep. I am not in the mood for any jokes, especially about me! Yolanda’s stands in line as we wait to go outside for recess and starts her normal routine of calling me fat pigs and other insulting names. In the past, I’ll stand there and take it, while the rest of the class laughs.

But not today. I have plenty of material to use after listening to my parent’s low rate each other. I don’t want to get caught cussing because in our school when you cuss, you get your mouth washed out with soap!

I said, “No you didn’t! I’ve been to your house and yawl got roaches. You skinny with a big head and a little body. You look like Tweety!” Our classmates ooh and awed while Yolanda looks dumbfounded. She didn’t think I had it in me. She tries to come back with something but from that point forward, she stopped teasing me.

I am glad to go over Aggie’s house over the weekend. I try to go over there or anywhere as much as possible. Mom doesn’t trust her but she talks to her from time to time. They worked together at the EPA. Aggie still works there. Mom quit; she doesn’t keep jobs very long.

I don’t recall her working at all other than in our family business and that is sporadic. She said she helped build the business. Mom’s permanent job is shopping, hosting gatherings, and gossiping with family members about Daddy and other people. She lives on the phone and when three way calling came out, it was on!

Mom said Aggie is a busy body and she’s nosy. She said Aggie almost got her into a beef on the job. She said Aggie begged to be my godmother when she was pregnant. I’m glad she did. When I am with Aggie I receive all of her attention, unlike at home. Aggie doesn’t keep a clean house. There are pots and pans piled up in the kitchen and clothes, books, and papers are cluttered in her bedroom. Aggie keeps the living room spotless. My guess is, in the event someone special comes to visit. She lives in an expensive 2 bedroom apartment with a fireplace in her sunken living room. I tried to help her clean up one time but it was too much for a nine year old to handle. I am not sure how the dishes got dirty, we eat out every day. She may buy me some type of sugary cereal or otherwise we go to Hardees or McDonald’s for breakfast, Dairy Queen for lunch and Pizza Hut or Pizza Inn for dinner.

Visiting her house is like going to food heaven. There is always tons of goodies. She has various flavors of pop and punch to drink, chips, desserts, and she spares no expense. She buys expensive Russell Stover’s candy and donuts from Winchell’s. I just love Winchell’s donuts! She buys cookies and cakes from Cake Box. There is never water or orange juice to drink. It bothered me to see Aggie go on a strict diet. All she was allowed to eat is Jell-O. She had a procedure where they stapled her stomach. I saw the staples and it looked gross! She was instructed not to eat too much food. She probably busted the stitches because she couldn’t stop overeating. Aggie shares her apartment with her younger sister Pauline. Pauline works for the government too and she’s overweight. She’s not as big as Aggie but she’s big. I can’t move around in her bedroom because junk greets me at the door. Pauline stays in her bedroom most of the time. She has one friend named Helen who she works with. I haven’t seen her with a man. Mom said she’s a virgin. She rarely goes out unless it’s too work. She may tag along with aggie and I every now and then to get something to eat. Dairy Queen is their all-time favorite spot to eat.

Pauline is cordial but distant and nosy. They question me constantly about my parent’s ongoing battle. The more they feed me, the more I tell the business. They enjoy reading Harlequin romance and Danielle Steele novels and they have tons of them. Reading is their passion. One of Aggie’s closets is packed to the rafters with books. I feel relaxed here. I take my shoes off, the temperature is always comfortable and I talk, eat, and most importantly escape. On Sunday it’s time for me to go to home to prepare for another long boring week. Aggie and I don’t go to church. I haven’t heard Aggie mention God. When Easter rolls around, she just says she doesn’t feel like going to church. She doesn’t have a bible around but I know she likes reading.

I’m walking into the house and the music is blasting. Daddy loves music. We have attended a lot of concerts as a family. Daddy likes Frankie Beverly and Maze, the Commodores, the Whispers, and when he’s in an awesome mood he listens to King Pleasure. He recently joined a group at the Prince Hall lodge. He’s a mason now. He goes to meetings regularly and he said he has to pay dues. Mom and I asked him what the signs and handshakes mean. He practices shaking hands and other hand signs with an imaginary person and it just seems odd. He grins and says it’s a secret and he can’t tell us. He appears to take great pleasure in being a part of the group and withholding information from us. I hope this new group helps to change his negative behavior.

Mom’s in the kitchen laughing loud and talking over the blaring music. She’s frying catfish, preparing a salad, and corn on the cob. Daddy’s at the table grinning from ear to ear and everyone is in good spirits. I am pleased to see that they had a peaceful weekend. I just wonder how long it will last. When I entered my bedroom, I immediately realize I am a lone again. I have no one to talk to at home. I feel sad and I start to crave something to eat. Aggie and I went to Arthur Treatchers to eat before she dropped me off. I went to the kitchen and grabbed a plate off the shelf.

“You didn’t eat at Aggie’s?” Mom asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“Well, why are you eating again?” Daddy grilled.

“I-I.” I try to respond but I don’t have a valid excuse for eating again. I’m not hungry, just anxious.

“No, go to bed! You got school tomorrow. You don’t need nothing else to eat. Girl, you gone eat yourself to death.” Daddy said, frowning at me as if he’s disgusted by my sight.

I placed the plate on the table and went to my bedroom and cried myself to sleep.

I am awakened in the middle of the night by loud talking and laughing. It is my Uncle Henry, Daddy’s brother. He comes over from time to time, usually in the middle of the night with one of his many women. It’s not unusual for my parents to host parties at our home. Most of the people that attend the parties are friends and Mom’s family. Uncle Henry is pretty wealthy or at least it appears that way. He drives a new Cadillac that has a telephone in it. He owns a construction company and dates one of the weekend anchors on channel 7 news. Darren and I are fascinated by him. I am not sure about David. David doesn’t really care for anyone and he doesn’t like people who brag. I heard my uncle yelling wake them kids up. I want to see my niece and nephews. Daddy is too happy to oblige. He doesn’t care how much noise is made in the house, we were going to school tomorrow.

The aroma of alcohol and cigarettes fill the air as I get closer to the kitchen.

“Hey, how’s my nephews and niece doing?” He slurred, sipping and smoking at the same time. “Good.” We replied in unison.

“I’ll be graduating soon Uncle Henry.” Darren said cheesing. Darren desires the life his uncle lives. He wants to drive fancy cars and date a variety of women and he is well on his way. When Mom bought Darren a new car, he worked long enough to buy a kit for the trunk, rims, a booming stereo and any other accessories he could think of. The difference between Darren and Uncle Henry is: Darren doesn’t like to work.

“I’ma tell you what, when you get ready to go to prom, I’ma let you use my Cadillac.” Henry slurred. His female friend blushed. She’s quiet the entire visit, observing the environment. “Really?” Darren asked with excitement in his eyes.

“Yea, really! And little David, when you go to prom you can use my Cadillac too.” David smiles bashfully looking over at Darren with doubt.

“What about me?” I asked.

“Robin,” he chuckles, “We’ll see, we’ll see. Yawl better go to bed. I know yawl got school. I’ll talk to ya later. I just wanted to see yawl. I love yawl and Darren, call me.” Henry said.

“Don’t worry, I will.” Darren replied, rubbing his hands together.

Summer is finally here! I can sleep in late, ride my bike, and play with my neighborhood friends. I know everyone that lives on my block. There is one family with a house full of girls around my age. Nell is the oldest. She’s tall, bony, and wears glasses. Nell likes to exert her authority when her mother is away but no one listens to her. Nicky is next to her in age. She’s mean and bossy but I like to hang out with her. I think the only reason she tolerates me is because she has a crush on David. Kay is my age. We’re ok. I like being around older people, most kids my age are too silly and annoying. Last but not least Bonnie, Bonnie is a chubby runt who loves to play games and annoy me. A couple of houses down is Ray. Ray is a strange character and can cry at the drop of a dime. He’s an only child and is spoiled rotten. One time he chewed pieces of glass right before our eyes. He’s an attention seeker and does things for shock value. Then there is Derrick; Derrick and David are good friends. Darren is good friends with one of Derrick’s older brothers. Derrick’s eldest brother has an extreme mental problem. One time he got really mad and busted out all of his mother’s windows in her house; rumor has it that he was high on PCP. Derrick’s mother is married to a white man which is odd. He stands out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood. Corey lives next door to me. He’s my first crush. A couple of years ago he use to slobber and cry a lot but I still adore him. At the other end of the block is Trisha. Trisha has two grown sisters that live at home. They have babies but I never see any men over there, except their dad. Their dad is a short, older man of few words. He just smiles and waves. Trisha’s parents are in their mid to late fifties and they recently had a baby. The baby looks 80 years old in the face.

We have a Muslim family living on our block. I know they are Muslim because the girls wear long scarfs covering their head and they have really weird names. I go over to their house when I am bored, really to be nosy. I was curious about their beliefs. Mom said they don’t believe in Jesus. I try to convert the kids behind their mothers back. Their mother is very nice. She always invites me into their house. Their house has an odd smell. I’m not sure what the smell is. They don’t have any living room or dining room furniture. We sit on the floor. The dad always looks serious. I see him up extra early in the morning walking to the bus stop because they don’t have a car. His wife has a baby every year. She’s expecting again. All of the children are born with six fingers. The mother said she doesn’t use surgery to remove the extra finger. She simply ties a string around the finger and in about six months the finger falls off on its own. Due to my friendly and outgoing personality, I know and visit all of my neighbors except Grace. Grace lives alone and never allows anyone into her house.

Summer time is also nice because I get to visit Aggie for weeks at a time. I like being there when they are at work. I get to eat and sleep all day without interruption. I like spending time with Mattie as well. It’s always peaceful at Mattie’s house. I envy Mattie; I can feel the love in her house. I never hear her dad saying mean things to her or her mother but Mom claims he used to fight her. Mattie has an older sister named Robin, same name as me. Robin is kind of weird; she’s fun to be around but she’s a loner. David and Robin are the same age and are the middle child. Robin isn’t very attractive and doesn’t get much attention in the family. She’s the odd ball in the family. Mattie’s older brother Detrick is best friends with Darren. Detrick is the total opposite of Darren. Darren is arrogant, boastful, and downright obnoxious while Detrick is soft spoken, easy going, and very kind to his little sister. Detrick drives a brand new Trans AM. He has more than Darren but you would never know it because he’s modest and humble. Mattie has several brothers and sisters that don’t live with her.

When Mattie told me she had other siblings, I was upset. I want more siblings too! It seems like Mattie has everything. Mom told me later that the reason Mattie has other siblings is because Mattie’s father has children by another woman. It doesn’t seem so cool now!

I came home from Mattie’s and wanted to go back right away! Our central air has been out for a few years now and it’s hot and stuffy. We have an attic fan but it’s not going to get it. It’s about 85 degrees outside. Mom said Daddy refuses to get the central air fixed. He’s rarely home during the day, really at all. They have an air conditioning unit in their bedroom. As usual, there’s nothing appetizing in the refrigerator and Mom doesn’t have any money. She said Daddy hasn’t given her any money to buy food. Mom isn’t working in the family business anymore. I asked her why she won’t get a job. She said that Daddy’s women want her to get a job and that’s why she won’t! I’m thinking, you rather starve to prove a point? Daddy is clearly paying the mortgage, lights, gas, water, insurance etc. I figure the least she can do is get a job to repair our central air and buy more food! She’s stubborn and full of excuses as to why she can’t work.

Detrick is at our house for the night with Darren. I’d rather be at his house eating delicious food and soaking up the a/c! Darren has a new girlfriend named Denise. She’s sleeping over as well. Darren just finished high school and he’s having girls spending the night. Girls spent the night, before he graduated! I don’t know what kind of parents these girls have! One night, Darren had two girls over at the same time. Daddy caught one of the girls sneaking out the back door and he was furious! Darren said Daddy is just jealous. I like Darren’s girlfriends because they usually cater to me by buying me candy and various flavors of lip gloss. His new girlfriend is different, she doesn’t buy me anything. It’s clear that she thinks she’s the best thing since sliced bread. She thinks she’s cute because she has light skin with wavy hair. I see men dote over women that look like her a lot. It won’t be long before Darren brings her down to size. She speaks with a high pitch, squeaky voice but she’s hood all the way; born and raised. She met Darren at the local skating rink and they have been an item ever since.

Denise was the other girl that Darren had at the house the night he almost got busted!

Darren, Detrick, and Denise are in the basement smoking weed. I can smell it through the vents. I know what weed smells like because daddy smokes it too. Mom doesn’t say anything about it. She just pretends not to notice. Daddy didn’t bother to come home last night. I am not nervous when he arrives because we have a house full of guests. I don’t bother coming out of my bedroom to say hello when Daddy walks down the hallway. He did the usual and locked the bedroom door. Within minutes, I hear Mom’s voice rising. She breaks into her usual routine and starts swearing like a sailor. I feel butterflies dancing around in the pit of my stomach. I feel nervous and scared because the situation is escalating by the minute. David rushes out of his bedroom and heads to the basement. I follow him. Everyone gathers around in the basement encouraging Darren to go upstairs to intervene in the hostile situation. Darren refuses. We can hear our parents fighting and throwing things around.

“Darren you need to stop it!” Denise demands.

“No, let them fight. They been doing this shit for years. I ain’t saying nothing!”

“Darren you tripping. You need to go help your mother.” Detrick said.

Detrick is very uncomfortable with the situation. We can hear derogatory words being thrown back and forth. It’s extremely embarrassing. From the basement window, we can see Mom and Daddy fighting in a room built off their bedroom. The room has tall glass windows with no curtains. Without warning, Daddy uses a thick block of wood to bust out a window, then he uses other objects to bust out the rest of the windows. Mom runs to the basement door and yells, “Call the police!”

Daddy runs through the house and snatches all the upstairs telephones out the walls.

“Call the police for what? Yawl do this all the time!” Darren replied angrily.

“David call the police!” She demands, ignoring Darren.

David looks disgusted and is shaking like a leaf.

Everyone gathers in the living room when the police arrive. Daddy drops his head, when he sees Detrick and Denise staring him down. He didn’t know they were here. The police place handcuffs on him, “I’m sorry,” he said as they escort him out of the house.