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TITLE: Hart & Soul, Part X: Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around

Close your eyes and hold on for the ride ... it gets worse before it gets better.
No Turning, No Turning, No Turning Back
It was 10:30 when he bus pulled up to the front of the house in what appeared to be the exact spot where I had hopped on the afternoon before. I was going to have to think fast when they asked where I was all night--they would have to understand. I was tired of being told no every time I wanted to go to an event, tired of being overlooked for church events--Debutante Balls, Tom Thumb weddings, Fall tea socials, never getting a chance to play anything except a lamb or a goat in a church Christmas or holiday play--all the "cute" girls got to be Thumbelina brides and play Mary at Christmastime. All they ever expected of 'us,' the St John wannabe elite, was exactly what Mommy would do. She would show up at certain church functions when she knew there was plenty of food and scrape whatever was left over into paper plates, and pile it into boxes to bring home for us to eat. If we dared turn up our noses at it, Mommy would call us "y'all rich niggas," and walk off in disgust.

I barely said goodbye to the ladies who had been so nice all night. The blood had rushed to my brain and was threatening to come gushing out as I dragged up to the steps. It was over. I was back at that prison, and probably about to get in big trouble. Plans for sneaking back in the side window were out. They were always up by 10, and it was well after that time.

Surprisingly enough, the front door was unlocked and I thought I still had a chance to sneak back in. Maybe they were all in the back someplace. I could lie down on the sofa and pretend I had been there all night, or that I had just gotten up early to take a short walk down the street. I stuck the bag under the metal lawn glider on the front porch that Mommy just had painted from dull red to an even duller bright green, and twisted the door knob. I guess I shouldn't have been shocked when the door swung open for me, but I was kinda shaken. Poppy was standing there, with his hand behind his back. From experience, I knew what he was hiding in that hand; but this was one time I wasn't going to run. I was too tired to run. Like Tresa once said, that just made things worse.

To my surprise, Mama came gallavanting out of the back of the house just as Poppy raised the leather strop--I was glad to see it wasn't the extension cord, but that thing hurt worse than a belt, too. "No!," Mama yelled. "No! Let me handle this!" Poppy flinched for a moment, as if he was just dying to get in one good lick, but on this particular day, he did something unusual. He backed off. It was the first time he had ever listened to my mother. He seldom heard anything she had to say, but he did on this day. Dang--maybe she had come to her senses and was going to apologize for treating me like crap for so many years. I didn't know what to expect. Maybe she was going to whip me herself, or clobber me with a baking pan or an iron skillet.

She grabbed me by the shirt collar and dragged me to the kitchen. I thought it strange I didn't see anyone else. Not Tresa, not Kip, not Tangie, not Mommy, not even my drunk Uncle Lightning; but he usually showed up on Sunday afternoons, after a Friday and Saturday night of street-carousing, card-playing, dice-throwing, and generally being clipped by people at his hangout in St John Alley; people who plied him with alcohol every payday. He would come in, slashing his way like a mad hunter fighting lions, tigers, and bears--through a freshly handwashed jungle of clothes slung over doors and chairs instead of hung on a clothesline. Mommy would get mad at him for having to handrinse the clothes all over again; but Poppy finally got around to stringing up a plastic clothesline between the two trees in the backkyard.

Mama let go of my collar and turned to light one of her Kools on the gas stove. It clicked, clicked, clicked; emitted a sound, a flash of fire, she touched the cigarette to it, then shut off the knob. Sticking the cigarette in her mouth, she leaned back, took a drag off, blew it out in my face--something she knew I hated worse than anything in the world--and when her lips parted, I could only stand there speechless...breathless...motionless...thinking I'd rather have been beaten with the leather barber chair strop.

"So, where is it?"

"Where's what?," I eyed her suspiciously.

"Don't stand there pretending like you don't know what...," she rounded up another puff of smoke in her cheeks above the lips. I shrugged. "Hell, I'm talking about the money!" What money? Brother Kip-bop-shoo-bop-de-bop-bam-boom was the resident thief in the family. If any money was missing, he took it. I did some bad things, but one thing I didn't do was steal.

"What money?," I demanded to know what she was talking about.

"The money you got from him."

"Him, who?!," my eyes slanted even more.

"You know who ... that man you spent the night with last night."

I was outdone. Floored to say the least. My insides dropped though I squared her off face to face and still standing on my feet. I paused long enough to soak in the implication. Mama had said some ghastly things to me in the 12 years I had known her, but this had to be...

"You must be out of your ever-loving mind!," I yelled back. It was all I could do to keep from cussing her outright. I figured God already had to be frothing at my decent into hell the night before, I wasn't taking any more chances by cursing my mother.

"I know where you were all night!," she yelled back.

"Oh, you do?," I narrowed my eyes almost to slivers, "Where?"

"Out there whorehopping...spent the night with some man, huh?," she looked at the cookies--the chocolate chip cookies--underneath my arm, then grabbed them. "Is this all he gave you?!"

I snatched the box back, opened it, emptied the cookies on the floor and crushed them with my foot. It wasn't enough. My eyes darted around the room, looking for something to break. No, that wasn't going to be good enough. Maybe I should get the butcher knife in the drawer just behind me, and lunge and try to take out her heart; but it dawned on me that she obviously didn't have one. The only thing I had left was my nerve, and my mouth. It wasn't intentional, it wasn't even thought out very well; it was just one of those things that happen in the fit of a moment. The hell with heaven...All that "honor your parents" shit was out the window.

"You sorry ass nasty mouthed filthy dirty low-down BITCH!," it came hurtling out before I had a chance to stop it.

She retracted a bit, shocked that I would go there. But I did. She spun around to put out the cigarette and I knew the next thing coming was a good hard slap; however, I moved first. I lunged toward her as she spun around to put out the butt, and just as I did, a hard whack came down on my shoulders and back. I spun back around to see Poppy standing there with the strop in his hand, "I know you know better than to talk to your Mama like that in my house!" I iced, and reached out to grab the strop in his hand. It was going to be the last time he would ever hit me again.

"You dirty old black bastard!," I railed. "Hit me one more goddamn time and I will get that big knife out of the drawer over there and cut your heart out of your goddamn chest, you sorry motherfucker!" Just then Mommy came rushing out of her room to find out what the commotion was all about; who the heck was cussing and carrying on like that. My eyes had already glazed over, and at the moment, I was feeling absolutely nothing except red hot hatred..and anger...the kind only a demon spawn straight from the pits of hell could understand. I would see them all dead and buried if one more person in that room made another move toward me. I meant it.
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