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Posts Tagged ‘Darrell’

12. LaTONYA: Control

aTonya had already tried to wake Darrell up three times — the gentle calling-up-the-stairs time, the louder calling-up-the-stairs time, and the shoulder-shaking firm-voiced time — and three was her limit. She had class tonight, which meant she had to get to work ten minutes early so she could take off ten minutes early, and she knew from unfortunate experience that she couldn’t leave that boy in bed or he’d never make it to school.

“Come on, sleepyhead,” she said, yanking off the covers, averting her eyes because having raised three sons she knew that a young boy in the morning most likely had a stiffy. It was something she saw often enough on the massage table, but on her own baby, uh uh, she didn’t need to know.

“Oooooh,” he groaned.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw that he seemed to be strangely dressed for sleep, in some kind of dark, bulky clothes, and couldn’t help but look down.

Not some kind of dark, bulky clothes, she saw, but his clothes, his real clothes, hooded sweatshirt and jeans and even, yes, it was true, his fucking sneakers.

“What the hell is going on?” she cried.

“What?” He opened his eyes and looked around as if he had no clue where he was.

“Darrell Antonio Jones, you get out of that bed right this instant and tell me why you are wearing your clothes!”

She jerked on his arm and he sat up but then just kept sitting there, his head in his hands.

“I musta fallen asleep with my clothes on.”

She wanted to believe him, she really did. God knew she had enough to think about, with the layoffs at the bath house and exams coming up and her MCat lessons with George. And Darrell had been a good enough boy, until recently, not goody-good like his brother Dwayne but nowhere near bad like DaShawn. But something told her the balance was shifting.

“Don’t lie to me,” she said, trying to grip his shoulder, though he shook her away. He was a good six inches taller than her now, and twenty pounds heavier, all muscle. What control did she have over him, except his love and respect for her? She’d always sworn she would never lay a finger on her children the way her father had hit and slapped and beaten her, though she’d been sorely tempted with DaShawn. But she’d always resisted.

Darrell, her baby, the child she’d had by choice as a fully consenting adult and not because she was too young and stupid to say no to some sweet-talking boy, looked straight at her then, his deep brown eyes with their curled lashes locking straight on hers.

“I was out,” he said.

“Out.” She crossed her arms tight over her stomach, nodding fast and trying to think what that meant. “Where were you out? You weren’t at the Go Go, were you? Because I told your brother and I told you too, if I caught you hanging out at that nasty place…”

“No, Ma,” he said wearily. “I wasn’t at the Go Go.”

“Well then where? I was up till midnight. There’s no place else to go out after that in Hot Springs at this time of year.”

“I just went to the park,” he said, looking at her again. “With my banjo. I sat in the gazebo. I just wanted to play some music, be on my own.”

She wanted to believe him, she really did. She looked around the room.

“Where is your banjo?” she said.
(more…)

9. DARRELL: Bad Luck

arrell couldn’t believe his luck: A college girl. College girls definitely had sex all the time, with as little fuss as popping open a Diet Coke. They also all smoked pot pretty much constantly. At least that’s what his brother DaShawn had told him, and DaShawn had been up to Fayetteville studying business for almost a whole year.

But this girl, Julie something, only looked at him strangely when he asked whether she had a J. And even if sex was going to happen at some point, you couldn’t just make a grab for it as if she was one of the hos down at the Go Go. You couldn’t even make a grab for it with a ho, DaShawn told him. No matter what you were doing and with whom — DaShawn actually used words like that: whom — it was important to do it with style.

Remembering this advice was what gave Darrell the idea to take Julie to the Futureama. He’d tagged along behind DaShawn there late one night. DaShawn told him how the old fortune teller lady, Jimmie Sue, left the windows cracked no matter how cold or hot the weather, so the spirits could move around and shit. She left her money, wrapped in a nasty old silk snot rag, in the top drawer of her big old carved dresser, right beside her magic cards.

Do not touch those cards, DaShawn had warned Darrell, taking half the money from the silk cloth and putting the rest back. Those cards are evil. They will bring you harm.

DaShawn showed Darrell how to screw off the head of the big black buddha, where the pot was stored inside. The old fortune teller lady must grow her own, DaShawn said, and it was fine.

So every once in a while, when he was feeling brave, on nights when he just needed to get out of the house and wander, he’d come over here, let himself in, smoke a little dope, help himself to a bill or two, and slip out. Never with anybody else, though. Not until tonight.

“What are you doing?” the girl, Julie, asked, looking around, rubbing her arms, as he raised the back window of the Futureama, gently lowered his banjo inside and prepared to follow.

(more…)

7. JULIETTE: Are You A Black American?

s soon as Juliette was outside, she wished she were back in. It was so cold, nearly as cold as Paris, and her coat was upstairs.

But she was not going to go back up there, no way, not now. That doctor and her mother would have to get the old man to a hospital or something, and then they’d have to call one of those extreme cleaning crews that wore the gas masks and total rubber body suits to come in and hose the place off. There was no way she was going back in there again, not even for a minute. She was even going to burn her coat, her lovely coat from APC that she’d lined up at dawn practically to grab at the sale, and the entire contents of her suitcase.

The first thing she did was try to call Hugo, in Paris, but of course he didn’t pick up. Who even knew what time it was there? He was in school, or he was asleep, she could never keep the time difference straight. Or he hated her. That was probably it.

Then she dialed her father, heart in her throat as she listened to the phone ring, thinking about how totally pissed her mom would be if she knew Juliette was doing this. Well, who cared, fuck her, it was her own fault. “Daddy,” Juliette sobbed into the voice mail. “You’ve got to come take me away from this place.”

Immediately she felt like a complete fool. What did she think was going to happen, that one of them was going to swoop in from across the ocean to save her? That was so idiotic. And even if Hugo or her father did care enough to get her out of this god-forsaken hole, it would take them at least a day or something to get here. And she was on the street now.

(more…)

4. JULIETTE: The Alligator in the Bathtub

uliette stood frozen in a corner of the disgusting room, staring wide-eyed at the chaos swirling around her. Her grandfather sprawled moaning on the floor. Her mother shouting and running around, talking on the phone, grabbing a blanket, but not really accomplishing anything.

And then the doctor, who her mother called George instead of doctor, hurrying in with his pajama shirt hanging down from his sweater, his gray-threaded hair standing up in spikes on his head, his eyeglasses held together with some sort of flesh-colored tape — tape! — at the bridge of his nose. How anyone could trust such a man to sell them a newspaper, never mind save their life, was thoroughly beyond Juliette.

Dragging after the doctor, sucking her thumb, eyes bleary behind glasses as thick as the ancient windowpanes of the apartment, was a tiny little girl wearing a ruffled pink nightgown and clutching a threadbare pink bunny. Even as the doctor was bending over Juliette’s grandfather, listening to his heart, peering down his throat, the little girl tried to hang onto the shirttail of her father’s pajama top.

“For God’s sake,” Juliette’s mother said, turning to Juliette and switching into French. “Can’t you amuse this pathetic child for us, Juliette?”

“She’s not pathetic,” the doctor answered, without looking up and in French that was much better than Juliette would have expected from anyone in Arkansas. “She’s just scared, is all, and unhappy about being dragged from her bed in the middle of the night by someone too bull-headed to call a regular doctor.”

He even used the slang tĂȘtu for bull-headed. Impressive.

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