What poverty looks like

All I hear is the rotting porch creaking from the wind.

“It’s the right thing to do,” I say over and over while pulling open the screen door that has more holes than a liar’s tale.

The house is crowded with litter. I step over a broken radio with its back unscrewed, a screwdriver next to it. The one chair in the tiny sitting room lies on its side, wood glue next to its broken leg. Papers torn from a Big Chief tablet, marked with music notes, are scattered across the floor. A tattered pillow sits on a mattress in the corner. Beside it, Frank’s harmonica. I picture Frank sleeping here. My eyes get watery.

The kitchen smells like the sandwich I made Frank – moldy and spoiled. Plates and bowls are caked and crusted with old food.

I walk the few steps to her bedroom. The door is open. I concentrate on the body beneath the covers and see the slight rise and fall of the life underneath.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Daily Word Prompt: Paper

Readin’ the Bible before I die

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The next morning the doctor handed me two little yellow pills and said, “Here’s your breakfast.” Then he left me in a chair that leaned back. I waited there until my head started to feel fuzzy, like I was sitting at the bottom of a well looking up towards the light of the sky.

“Cono, are you ready?” I stared up through the well and saw the long-nosed face of the man talking to me, the man in the white coat who made a little Loop out of some kind of wire and pulled one, then two tonsils from the back of my throat. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, he decided that my adenoids weren’t doing me any good, so he yanked them out too. Fuzzy or not, I felt every damn bit of it.

He laid a pack of ice on my neck for a while and told me to go home and get some rest. I did. I rested for a whole week because I got sicker than a dog and not because I forgot to cover up my hiney. I got a bad fever and thought for sure I was gonna die. That’s when I picked up that Bible. I remembered Ma saying, “Cono, thar ain’t nothin’ wrong with readin’ the Bible.” Plus, I thought that if I was about to die, I might as well find out who was going to open up the Pearly Gates to let me in.

Once I got through all that “beggetting” stuff, it wasn’t a bad read. I didn’t understand much of it since there were so many people to keep up with. I got the gist of most of it though. But I was still trying to figure out why it said “an eye for an eye” one minute and “turn the other cheek” the next.

During that week, Delma came in once with a pot on her head and stared at me sober as a judge.

“Delma, ye need te get yerself a better lookin’ hat.” She laughed and left the room probably thinking she made me feel better. I guess in a way she did.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily prompt: Loop

Not Meddlin’ with Bonnie Parker

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Miss Essie stoops over her cane and is a least a hundred years old if she’s a day.  “C’mon ov’r here, kids, I wanna tell ye what I jes’t tol’ yer mother,” she says, using her cane like a big hand to wave us over. We sit on her step and look up at the old lady sitting in her wobbly porch chair.

“Well, my nephew took me into Sweetwater t’day, ya know, ta do a little shoppin’?” Oh sweet Jesus, I have to hear a shopping story.

“Well, I was at the Five and Dime and I got in line to pay for the odds and ends I’d picked up, ye know like a new hair bonnet, a few necessary toiletries. What else did I get now?” She looks up at the sky like she’s waiting for Jesus to remind her. Delma and me look up too but we don’t hear any loud voice coming from heaven. That doesn’t surprise me none.

“Oh, some of that sweet smelling toilet water they sell up by the front counter. What’s it called again, Elnora?” This time she doesn’t look up. Mother shakes her head back and forth to say she doesn’t know, while I take my mind to anywhere but shopping in Sweetwater with Miss Essie.

She grunts as she stands up from her chair. So I think she’s forgotten and is going inside and I can get on with my day, but she keeps going.

“I wadn’t Meddlein’ or nothing, but I see this gal in front’a me with a stack’a clothes piled up on the counter, ‘nuff fer three families, mind ye, three families. Well, the clerk starts ringin’ up them clothes, but the gal says, now listen to this children, the gal says, ‘I ain’t payin’. Jes’t put ‘em in a bag. I’m Bonnie Parker.’ Kin ye imagine, I was standing right next to Bonnie Parker herself. I could’a been kilt right then and there, right then and there.” Then she fans the heat and fear off herself and sits down in her rickety porch chair like she’s about to faint.

“Bonnie Parker?” I say. “Like Bonnie and Clyde Parker?”

“One’n the same.”

“Who’s Bonnie and Clyde Parker?” Delma asks.

“Barrow,” Mother says. “Clyde Barrow.”

“Who’s Bonnie and Clyde Barrow?” she asks again.

“Never ye mind Delma,” says Mother.

“I’ll tell ye later,” I whisper to Sis.

But Miss Essie says, “Killers, that’s what they are. Natural born killers.” She keeps fanning like she’s trying to air herself away from being dead.

I sat there thinking on what it would be like to meet Bonnie and Clyde. All the kids talk about them and sometimes, when our parents don’t know, we pretend we’re holding up banks just like they do.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily word prompt: Meddle

Who’s teaching who on this vacation?

Today, little one, we will teach you about the ocean.

About the dolphins jumping freely in front of you.

About the feel of sand between your tiny toes.

We will teach you how to dig in the sand without eating it

and how to wait for the cool water’s tide to  cover your feet.

But, no doubt, you will teach us more.

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Four of us watching our tiny explorer – the little one with the yellow balloon in the background.

1963 – No law against domestic violence

I open the door for Deputy Garvey. But it’s not him. He’s pudgy around the waist and not much taller than me. His eyes squint into a fine line that matches his lips. I motion him inside but don’t ask him to sit.

“Problem?” he says.

“Who the hell are you?” Olvie’s opens another beer.

“Officer Lancaster. And you are?”

“The owner of this house. Where’s Garvey.”

“Off. So, what’s the problem?” I don’t like the way he’s staring at Isaac.

“I’m Nora Roberts and the problem’s mine. I live across the street and the problem is my husband. Deputy Garvey came to my house yesterday. I’m sure he wrote some kind of report. He hit me.”

“Not against the law,” Lancaster says.

“And that makes it right?” Olvie lets out a soft burp.

Lancaster rolls his eyes. “So, Mrs. Roberts. Something else happened?”

The three-year-old has given up trying to wake up Gladys. She leaves the couch and starts running in tiny circles.

“Mrs. Roberts?” Isaac says. “Mind if I take her in the kitchen to find a snack?”

She nods, looking Relieved. “Go with Isaac, Millie.” Mrs. Roberts turns back to the deputy. “Yes, something else happened. Tonight, Lester made another threat. He said, well, he said that if I ever crossed him again, he’d take the children and burn down the house with me in it. Then he peeled off down the street to God knows where.”

“Threats aren’t against the law,” Lancaster says looking bored.

“Doesn’t make it righ,” Olvie slurs.

“I’ll make a note. Anything else?”

Mrs. Roberts shakes her head, her eyes cast downward.

“Okay then. And who’s the colored boy in the kitchen?”

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Lancaster,” I say, opening the door.

“Officer Lancaster, young lady.”

Olvie stands and sways on her feet. “Get your pompous ass off my property and don’t come back.”

Lancaster’s eyes spark fire. “You best be respectful to me. I’ve arrested folks on less charges than speaking to me like that.”

“No doubt,” Olvie says, flipping a hand. “Now get your ass off my property. And while you’re at it, try saving someone. It will be a good change for you. Now, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

He points a stern finger toward Olvie. “I’ll be watching you. And,” he nods toward the kitchen, “the people inside.”

“So you’ll watch over me then, Officer Lancaster?” Mrs. Roberts says.

But he doesn’t respond. He leaves without doing a damn thing to help a woman whose husband threatened to kill her.

Olvie sighs and leans back in her chair. “Well, that was productive.”

I want to tell her that she didn’t make things any better. In fact, she probably made things worse for Isaac.

Excerpt from my WIP, Bare Bones of Justice (working title)

Relieved