#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Watermelon Season

I dreamt I ran him over, and the white women from work watched. Their eyes sought to spite me. I screamed to get help, but no one moved. “You’ll burn in hell for this, bitch,” the woman in the center sneered. Her face grew redder with the inflection in her voice.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I see his blond hair first, combed to the right, the sides buzzed a little too close to the scalp. He stands behind my trunk, and I think about my dream, how I stood before a lynch mob as he lay dying. I’m tempted to shift the gear in reverse, fulfill the prophesy and accept my fate, but I take the key out of the ignition, shoulder my purse, and step out.

“Hey,” he says, waving both hands.

I nod, glance over my shoulder at the eight-floor office building looming over the parking lot.

“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”

I shrug. A car pulls into the empty space beside me. It’s the woman from my dream. Her brunette hair is chopped short to her ears, with an inside hook curl at the ends all around, not a strand out of place. She cuts her eyes at me, and I quickly look down at my feet.

“Well, if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the watermelon patch.”

“Seriously?”

He shakes his head, and his hair shuffles to the front of his face. He smiles, but I don’t smile back, and the loud door slam to the right turns our attention to the woman spying us over the top of her car.

I step closer and whisper so she can’t hear. “Because I’m black, you think I like watermelon.”

“No, no!” His eyes widen. He backs up and instinctively looks to the woman, who still stares. She’s barely taller than her own car; she has to stand on her toes to watch us. I wish she’d go inside already. My throat tightens at the thought of her lassoing a noose around my neck and stringing me up on the branches of one of the magnolias lining the walkway leading to the building.

“It’s watermelon season. My uncle owns a watermelon patch.” He slaps his chest. “I like watermelon. I thought…”

“You thought what?”

The woman finally leaves us, but not before casting a scolding look in my direction. She must be content that he’s in no danger. He’s completed his job in offending me, and now I will leave too, scurry off to my tiny cubicle in the back of the office, segregated from the rest of them, and do my work silently as I’m told.

When the woman is out of earshot, he shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “I’m trying to ask you out on a date. Obviously, I’m not doing a good job of it.”

I watch him as he looks everywhere but at me, and I wonder if he too is thinking of the consequences of my saying yes, if he’s dreamt of my death by his hand, of a mob of angry black women shooting curses, taking off belts, breaking off switches to whip him with—the same weapons his people used to beat our souls down into the ground.

“We don’t have to go to the watermelon patch. We could do something different, like the movies, or dinner—what kinds of food do you like? I just wanted to do something different, something out of the box. You’re special, you’re different. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Just be quiet.”

He instantly shuts his mouth, midsentence, and I lean against my side mirror. He waits for my answer, but I’m lost for words. My mind is stuck on “You’re special, you’re different.” Is he referring to my blackness? And again, I fear this proposal will only lead to our combined demise, that I will again be reminded of what we are. I am black, and he is white, and the world will always hate us for what we mean together, for what we are about to do.

And so I tell him, “I like watermelons too.”


Originally published May 27, 2017.

Watermelon Season

I dreamt I ran him over, and the white women from work watched. Their eyes sought to spite me. I screamed to get help, but no one moved. “You’ll burn in hell for this, witch,” the woman in the center sneered. Her face grew redder with the inflection in her voice.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I see his blond hair first, combed to the right side of his head, the sides buzzed off. He stands behind my trunk, and I think about my dream, how I stood before a lynch mob as he lay dying. I’m tempted to shift the gear in reverse, fulfill the prophesy and accept my fate, but I take the key out of the ignition, shoulder my purse, and step out.

“Hey,” he says, waving both hands.

I nod, glance over my shoulder at the eight-floor office building looming over the parking lot.

“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”

I shrug. A car pulls into the empty space beside me. It’s the woman from my dream. Her brunette hair is chopped short and curled inside up to her ear. She cuts her eyes at me, and I quickly look down at my feet.

“Well, if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the watermelon patch.”

“Seriously?”

He shakes his head, and his hair shuffles to the front of his face. He smiles, but I don’t smile back, and the loud door slam to the right turns our attention to the woman spying us over the top of her car.

I step closer, and whisper so she can’t hear. “Because I’m black, you think I like watermelon.”

“No, no!” His eyes widen. He backs up and instinctively looks to the woman, who still stares. She’s barely taller than her own car; she has to stand on her toes to watch us. I wish she’d go inside already. My throat tightens at the thought of her lassoing a noose around my neck and stringing me up onto the branches of one of the magnolias lining the walkway.

“It’s watermelon season. My uncle owns a watermelon patch. I like watermelon. I thought…”

“You thought what?”

The woman finally leaves us, but not before casting a scolding look in my direction. She must be content that he’s in no danger. He’s completed his job in offending me, and now I will leave too, scurry off to my tiny cubicle in the back of the office, segregated from the rest of them, and do my work silently as I’m told.

When the woman is out of earshot, he shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “I’m trying to ask you out on a date. Obviously I’m not doing a good job of it.”

I watch him as he looks everywhere but at me, and I wonder if he too is thinking of the consequences of my saying yes, if he’s dreamt of my death by his hand, of a mob of angry black women shooting curses, taking off belts, breaking off switches with which to whip him—the same weapons his people used to beat their souls down into the ground.

“We don’t have to go to the watermelon patch. We could do something different, like the movies, or dinner—what kinds of food do you like? I just wanted to do something different, something out of the box. You’re special, you’re different. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Just be quiet.”

He instantly shuts his mouth, midsentence, and I lean against my side mirror. He waits for my answer, but I’m lost for words. My mind is stuck on “You’re special, you’re different.” Does he refer to my blackness? And again, I fear this proposal will only lead to our demise, that I will again be reminded of what we are. I am black, and he is white, and the world will always hate us for what we mean together, for what we are about to do.

And so I tell him, “I like watermelons too.”

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a non-traditional love story

 

Worrisome Walter

There was uncertainty in his voice when he spoke, which made my stomach twist into knots even more. I was all too familiar with being stood up. I thought he was different. He had been doing so well, I almost forgot he was still a man.

“Hey, Meg. It’s, uh, Kyle. Um, about our date tonight . . . Ah, this is kind of embarrassing . . . I don’t know where you live.”

I burst into laughter. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear to say that!”

“Thought I was calling to cancel, huh?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“What man would be so dumb to leave a beautiful woman like you hanging?” he said, but he would be surprised. There was one, just one.

His real name wasn’t Brick. I never knew it. He’d changed it when he turned eighteen. Not even his parents called him by his real name, or so I thought. I never met them. I guess I wasn’t as special of a girlfriend to him as I’d thought.

Brick had already dropped out of college before I started my freshman year, but he still hung around campus—mainly for frat parties and to meet girls. That was how we met. We started dating shortly after, and after only three months, he convinced me to drop out of school too and drive across the country with him, visiting every state on the map. That’s where the real education was, he’d said. Off the grid, beyond the frontier, life experience no degree could ever give you. Grandma called us both fools.

“So why don’t you give me your address, and I’ll put it in the GPS. Pick you up in about 45?”

“Actually—” I looked down at my watch. Quarter to seven. I could get home in fifteen minutes, take a quick shower, maybe throw on some make up, and be standing in front of my closet naked, deciding and then changing my mind about which dress I wanted to wear by the time he knocked on my door. “I’m not at home right now. I’m visiting my grandma, and—” I turned my back to Grandma and cupped my hand over my mouth. “She’s in her stall routine right now, so it might be another hour before I can leave,” I whispered into the phone.

“Say no more. My dad is the same way.”

“Uh-uh. Don’t blame me for holding this man up.” Grandma snatched my phone out of my hand. “Hello?” She brought the phone to her ear, cocked her head to the side. She folded her left hand under her armpit and shifted her weight onto her right leg, poking out her hip like an impatient teenager. “The one and only,” she said. “You can call me Millie. And what’s your name? And how old are you Kyle? Hmm, thirty three.” She tottered her hand in front of her. “Not too old, not too young.” Was she inquiring about a potential suitor for me or measuring out porridge? “You know, Jesus was thirty-three when he died on the cross. Are you going to save my granddaughter from her poor choices in men?”

I slapped my palm against my face. “Give me the phone, Grandma.”

She held up her finger. “I just have one more question,” she said to me, then to Kyle, “What do you do for a living?” Her eyes widened. “So she did find herself a pilot. Oh, Meg, why didn’t you tell me?” With a light force, she tapped the top of my hand with her finger tips, as if chiding me of stealing cookies from the cookie jar before dinner. “Well, Kyle, I would love to meet you. Why don’t you come pick up Meg from here. Cedar Retirement.”

I vehemently shook my head no, but she rolled her eyes and turned to the side, giving me her profile. “Oh, he does? What a coincidence! So I’ll see you when you get here? Ok, thirty minutes. Bye-bye, now.” She hung up the phone and handed it back to me. “He seems nice.”

“Better watch out, Meg,” Jerry said, “she might steal your boyfriend right from under ya!”

“Oh, please.” Grandma put her hands on her hips. “I am too old to be doing something so childish.”

“Grandma, why did you tell him to come here. I wanted to stop by the house first. Take a shower, change, do something with my hair.” I fluffed my ends. The curls were starting to frizz and puff out. Now that I wasn’t sitting directly under the air vent, the room was much more humid that I’d thought. I turned my nose over my shoulder and inhaled a quick sniff. I could use another coat of deodorant too.

“Oh, please!” Grandma fanned her hand in front of my face. “You worry too much. You’re beautiful.  Do you think you were looking all prim and perfect 30,000 feet in the air? No, you were probably sweating. Your bunions were probably killing you  in those heels, and a snot-nosed kid in economy probably threw up all over you. And he still called you beautiful.”

I bowed my head, stretched out my oversize blouse in front of me. Twisted out my ankle to examine my skinny jeans that were torn in spots along the seam. My attire wasn’t too informal, but I always felt the need to dress up around Kyle, look professional, straighten my hair.  I couldn’t separate the buttoned up, erect, shoulders never hunched, business side of him from who he was as a person. Not even when he casually flirted with me during flights, whispered in my ear about taking me out sometime.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Grandma said. I shook my head, but looking into her eyes, those same feelings of doubt and insecurity reflected back to me. “I was the same way with Lindell. Don’t try to whiten yourself up for him, sweetheart. He likes you for you. If he wanted a white woman, he would be with one.”

“How do you know he’s white? I’ve worked with black pilots before.”

Grandma poked out her bottom lip, as if to say, “I’m Grandma. I always know.”

I wiped my eyes and laughed to keep from crying. “I love you, Grandma.”

W“I love you too, sweetheart.” She pulled me in for a hug then leaned back to look at me. “My, my, if Walter could see you now. He was worried about you, you know.”

“Pawpaw?”

She curled her back and walked around the table stretching out her shaky fist as if holding a cane. “I can’t die before Meg has a man! I can’t die before Meg has a man!” she said with a whistle, mimicking his voice.

“Yea, that sounds like Pawpaw.” He’d been trying to marry me off since I was sixteen. I can’t take care of you all your life; I won’t be around much longer,  I remembered him saying on several occasions. Junior and senior proms. High school graduation. After helping me move into my first college dorm, he’d folded a crisp one hundred dollar bill into my palm and said, “Drop this in front of someone as good-looking as me. Make sure he gets a good look at your butt when you bend over to pick it up.” Pawpaw couldn’t help his age. In his day, women married young, had the babies, and took care of the house. To him, if I waited too long, all the good men would be taken, and I’d have to settle for fools . . . like Brick.

“That was his dying wish for you,” Grandma said. “In the hospital, after you kissed him goodbye and left to sit in the waiting room, he pulled me close and said, ‘Don’t leave this earth until they both married.’ You and your Mama.”

If I didn’t know Pawpaw, I wouldn’t have thought it was true, but if anyone were to make such a dying wish, it definitely would’ve been him. “It’s just a first date, Grandma. Don’t marry me and Kyle just yet. Besides, you’ll have a harder time with Mama. She hasn’t been with anyone since my dad.”

“No, no. I talked to her just a few days ago, and apparently she’s found herself a little man down there in the bayou. You’re the only one left.”

“What! Who?”

Grandma shrugged her shoulders. “You’ll have to ask her.”

It wouldn’t slip my mind. I would ask her tonight, as soon as I returned home from my date with Kyle, assuming our date wouldn’t spill over into the next morning. I shook my head. It wouldn’t. Moving too fast—that’s what got me caught up in that toxic relationship with Brick.

“So what about you?” I folded my arms across my chest. Pawpaw was so worried about leaving us poor, helpless women alone, with no one to take care of us, if Mama and I found husbands and left, who would stay with Grandma? “Did he tell you you could remarry?”

Grandma snaked her head around her neck exaggeratedly. “Meg, I had twenty-two husbands before him, of course he did! I married three more times after Walter died.”

Everything inside me dropped. My legs, my stomach, my ass, my jaw. I fell into my chair and slammed both elbows down on the table. “WHEN?!”

—Nortina


Yep, Pawpaw wasn’t the last of her husbands. Looks like this A to Z Challenge is extending into May if I don’t catch up by tomorrow. Oh well, you’d like to see the conclusion to this story, wouldn’t you?

#BlaPoWriMo: Proposal (poem)

I show the ring. He sucks his teeth.
Calls his ol’ bloodhound, Ralph,
shoulders the .22 caliber, Bertha.
Speaks. We’s goin’ ‘coon huntin’.
I imagine him chasing black
men up trees in hooded sheets,
the hounds howling as he lassoes
a noose around the coons’ neck for
lusting after his lil’ darlin’.
Strung up on branches, bodies
dangling over dogs as they lick
stiff, purple toes like berries.
I swallow hard. Georgia is not
as color-blind as my Maryland.
Is this a mistake? Is loving her
worth my life? He grins, revealing
darkened gums. You’s ’bout my size,
he says to my feet, gives me a dirty
pair of boots. Waits in the pickup.

The darkness fails to hide my fear.
Ralph sniffs it in my perspiration.
He yelps. Go get ’em, boy!
Chain drops. I run blindly,
tripping over roots, scraping my
knees on shrubs, my face on
low-hanging branches. Light-beams
from his flashlight streak across
my back. I crouch behind a stump.
Ralph’s barks rattle my eardrums.
I gotcha, rascal! A single shot.
The leaves ruffle. The trunks vibrate.
A thump on the ground. My heart sinks.
‘Ol boy, you shat yourself? I stand,
legs like jelly. The black and white striped
tail, the bandit’s mask, inside a cage.
He bends backwards, laughing, cracking
his back, slapping my shoulder,
echoing through the hollow woods:
Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,
you have my blessin’.

—Nortina


Poem sound familiar? I wrote it last year for a #frapalymo prompt. Brain’s too fried to think of anything new, unfortunately, but I thought it worked for today’s BlaPoWriMo prompt.

If you’d like to participate, just include the tag BlaPoWriMo so I can find you, or the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo on twitter to get a retweet (live feed in the side bar). Check out February is Black Poetry Writing Month for details on the project.

Happy Writing! 😀

Proposal #frapalymo

I show the ring; He sucks his teeth.
Calls his ol’ bloodhound, Ralph.
Shoulders the .22 caliber, Bertha.
Speaks. We’s goin’ ‘coon huntin’.
I imagine him chasing black
men up trees in hooded sheets,
the hounds howling as he lassoes
a noose around the coons’ neck for
lusting after his little darlin’. 
Strung up on branches, bodies
dangling over dogs as they lick
stiff, purple toes like berries.
I swallow hard. Georgia is not
as color-blind as my Maryland.
Is this a mistake? Is loving her
worth my life? He grins, revealing
darkened gums. You’s ’bout my size,
he says to my feet, gives me a dirty
pair of boots. Waits in the pickup.

The darkness fails to hide my fear.
Ralph sniffs it in my perspiration.
He yelps. Go get ’em, boy!
Chain drops. I run blindly,
tripping over roots, scraping my 
knees on shrubs, my face on
low-hanging branches. Light-beams
from his flashlight streak across 
my back. I crouch behind a stump.
Ralph’s barks rattle my eardrums.
I gotcha, rascal! A single shot.
The leaves ruffle. The trunks vibrate.
A thump on the ground. My heart sinks.
‘Ol boy, you shat yourself? I stand,
legs like jelly. The black-white-striped
tail, the bandit’s mask, inside a cage.
He bends backwards, laughing, cracking
his back, slapping my shoulder,
echoing through the hollow woods: 
Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, 
you have my blessin’.

—Nortina


frapalymoThis poem is written as part of #frapalymo which Bee will be translating into English for us at The Bee Writes…  Today’s prompt is the hunters language. Here’s my backwoods, redneck version of the “hunters language.” 😉

Feature image credit: Jim Floyd, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/60958  

Segregated Like the Trees

Jameca stood at the bank of the pond shivering in the chilly, predawn air. Her fiancé of six years wrapped his arms around her waist.

“We look like an Oreo,” John said, staring down at their reflection in the water.

“Even the trees are segregated,” Jameca said.

“That’s because one side is regular and the other is evergreens.”

“Just like us.” Jameca broke their embrace. “You’re regular, and I’m black, and no matter what I do, I’ll never be able to shake my color, like the evergreens can never shake their leaves and look like the regular trees.”

“Babe, they’re just trees.”

“And we’re just people! Why do you think your mother hates me, John? Because I’m the same complexion as the man who knocked her up and abandoned her when she was sixteen? Or, maybe it’s because, although you look just like her, she knows her future grandchild won’t.”

John stared back at her.

“I’m glad you finally decided to stop lying to me,” Jameca said, and she jumped into the freezing, cold water.

word count: 175

—Nortina


Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 100-150 words (give or take 25 words) using the provided photo prompt as inspiration.

Click on the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own!

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