Pop is dead, but I won’t cry. Crying is for sissys and wimps. I ain’t no wimp, and I damn sure ain’t no sissy. Greg can’t even think ’bout Pop without tearing up. I smack him around a bit, tell him to toughen up, we the men of the house now—men don’t cry. But Ma always coming to his rescue, “Stop being so hard on him,” she says, then let him lay in her bed and watch cartoons. “You know he’s sensitive.”
Shit, where was that motherly protection when Pop was taking off his belt, beating me like I just bust the windows with a baseball? Even though I did, and after that, I started hitting toward the neighbor’s brick house across the street.
Me and Pop had an understanding bout discipline. I mess up, I get whipped up. Simple. But when it came time for Greg to get his, Ma always got in the way. Not her baby, she’d say. That’s why the nigga’s such a softy now. I’m just trying to do for him why Ma never let Pop do. Spare the rod, spoil the child, right? Or does that only apply to me?
“Everyone grieves differently,” Grandma says, but Ma out here acting like nothing’s changed. Done gone and join the Jail Witnessing Team at church. Her first trip to the county, she practiced her tactics on me. Guess she figured I’d end up there eventually.
“How long have you been in here?” Holy Spirit filled Ma said to convict me. Start with the general stuff first, ease them into talking ’bout religion.
Real Ma came back quick. “You better not be smoking weed, boy.”
“I ain’t.” But she patted me down anyway, another preparation tactic for what we’d both experience in the jail, eventually.
I didn’t bother to tell her they sell weed at the bus stop outside the school—dropouts and repeat seniors who ain’t graduating again. The principal’s called the cops on them twice, but they strategic. They only come out during class changes and dismissal, after the lights on the school zone sign stop flashing.
Sometimes, when I’m walking home from practice, I stop and ask them how much. They tell me I gotta get a grinder to break it up first, and cigars to roll it in. It might be easier for me to get my hands on joint paper, but if I really want to get good and high, I gotta find somebody to buy me cigars—they hold more and better. One kid, nineteen, offered me a gram for a discount and he’d buy me all the stuff I needed. I told him I’d think about it.
After Ma left, I snuck into her room and found her cash stash underneath the jewelry box on her dresser. I took a ten dollar bill, licked the edges and rolled it up into a skinny cylinder. Then I pinched it with my index finger and thumb, brought it to my lips, and breathed in.
“What are you doing?”
I shoved the money in my mouth so fast I nearly choked. Greg’s always creeping up on people. He’s too quiet, like a damn ghost.
“Mind ya business,” I mumbled.
“What’s in your mouth?”
I slid the bill under my tongue. “Get outta here.”
“This is Mama’s room, and I’m telling.”
“No you ain’t.” I mushed the side of his face and pushed him into the wall. The tears were welling up in his eyes before he even hit the floor.
“Stop all that crying, boy!”
“Why you always so mean?”
“Somebody’s gotta be.”
Ma came back sooner than I expected. They wouldn’t let her in ’cause of her shoes. Jails are strict, you can’t just come to visit looking any ol’ kinda way. If she watched Lockup on MSNBC she’d know that.
“Why do you even watch that?” she asked.
I just shrugged. I really don’t know. Something to do, I guess. Figure out how much time I’ll have to do if I ever got caught.
She ain’t notice the money missing. I’m in the clear for now. Monday, I’ll skip Mr. Wilson’s Language Arts class, cut across the lawn of the main building to the stop during class change. I gotta make sure I have a extra dollar fifty for the bus. Then we’ll ride to the nearest gas station to buy the rest of the stuff, and by lunch, I’ll be in the trees.
Written for the A to Z Challenge. This year, I’m getting a head start on planning my novel for NaNoWriMo. Prologues, character sketches, structure planning, plot twists, or in the case of this post, more backstories. Stick around as I try to figure out what the heck I’m going to write in November!