I was born and brought up right here in The Village. Was born in the house on Creed and King then moved two years later three houses down. My mama schooled me on cookin' and book learnin' every day right in that kitchen, and that's the same house I schooled my children when they was coming up. Now I just moved into this house about a year ago but came up just two blocks over. She was born and brought up out in some big house in Long Beach. Like they do thangs the same way down there. Livin' too close to all them water waves made her crazy you ask me.
Hand me another big box. Cain't fit all these in this one or it's gon be too heavy to lift out come time. Be sure you wrappin' each dish with newspaper too. These the ones my mama left me when she passed away fifteen years ago.
- So what did she say to you? -
Little Miss Ann come callin' me one morning. I calls her Fassy Annie 'cause she got a little priss about herself. Got a lotta proper in her speakin' too and she always wearin' them suit kinda clothes with her shirt tucked in and pulled out just a little and got a little cuff in her pants. Oh she thank she is the cutest thang goin' on! Always around here click, click, clickin' in her heels. Who wear heels alla time that mean any good to anybody? Nobody, that's who.
"Excuse me, Ms. Dean, I was wondering if I could meet with you tomorrow at noon so that we could discuss a few things?"
What do she thank I wanna discuss with her? Here she is tryin' to kick me and my kids out onto the cold hard streets and she wanna discuss with me? I tell her she can come over at noon, two, three, fo' five six. Don't make no difference to me 'cause I done said all I have to say.
"Well okay, I'll see you at noon sharp. You have a blessed day."
Have a blessed day. This little sidditty gal young and black enough to be one of my own children gon tell me to have a blessed day. What do she know about havin' a blessed day an' how can she tell it to me when she is tryin' to put me out? I guess I don't know about peoples. And she supposed to be a preacher. My mama always did tell me to watch for womens who was preachers. It ain't the way God meant for it to be. Don't ask me, just read yo Bible all the way through. It's shol in there.
Wrap up the China separate from the plain ones, then tape that box real good, honey. Anyway, she come over the next morning clickin' up my walkway with them prissy clothes on switchin' her tail. Oh, I will tell you!
"Good morning, Ms. Dean. How are you doing today?"
Yes Miss College, Long Beach, Fassy Tail Annie did too ask me that.
"Well I guess I'm doin' just fine for an old lady with nine children who is 'bout to be kicked out her house onto the cold hard streets by a young preacher gal who got herself a husband and only two kids and a fancy house in Long Beach to live in. Yeah, just fine."
"That's what I need to discuss with you, Ms. Dean. May I sit please?"
Now I didn't say yes and I didn't say no, but she don't know 'cause she shol didn't wait around for no answer. Just sat right on down where you sittin' now. Come to think of it, I think she even dusted off the chair 'fore she sit in it.
"Ms. Dean, I'm not out to do you or your children any harm. I really want the best for you, but I would like for you to clearly see my side of this. I rented this house to my Uncle Topper and he invited you to move in."
Oh the way my skin just crawl way she say my name, "Deeeeeeen. Ms. Deeeeeeen." Like she tryin' to show me all her perfect white teeth like I care. An' you know me. I ain't no typa ways scared a no preacher gal from the water side of Long Beach.
I tell her, "Thas right! Topper, God rest his beloved righteous soul INVITED me to move in. INVITED! You and yo family ack like I forced my way in like a thief in the night."
"Well ma'am, when he passed away six months ago, what did you expect? Did you think that you could just stay in my house rent free?"
"Would you stop it with all that rent free?! I told you that I would start payin' you some money soon as I could. I looked you right in your face and told you."
"But you never completed the application I sent you, and you never paid me any money." She said to me with a little bit of extra priss.
"Because I told you that's just too much money to be askin' from somebody that got nine kids. I don't know what kinda mother you think I am, but I gotta think about my kids, don't I? They did teach you about that at preachin' school, didn't they?"
Oh, I was so mad my fist got to clappin' together and my right foot got to tappin' so fast. I musta look just like my mama when she had gone all bull over somethin' or another.
"Let's just stay focused here, please? I certainly understand that you have children, but I'm asking you to understand that getting money from my properties that I rent out is how I take care of my children. This is just business for me."
She could tell I was good and foul at her 'cause she tried to take some of all that proper out her speakin'. It was too late though 'cause I could feel my pressure risin'. I sure did. She could tell it too 'cause she started gettin' up right then and headin' to the door. She know better. She ain't completely crazy.
"Ma'am, I have already filed the papers to have you officially evicted. I'm sorry that it had to be this way."
By now she got her hand on the door knob headin' out and I'm pullin' up on my cane tryin' get up to her.
"Yeah right, you sorry about kickin' me and my nine kids out!"
I don't like to raise my voice at nobody 'cause it ain't my way, but some folks just bring it out a you. Look at me sweatin' 'bout to almost cry thinkin' about it now. Sonny, bring me another slice a pie and get one for yourself. Boil some water too so we can have some peppermint tea to go with it. Well, goin' on, she was good and out the door by the time I told her where she could go with her papers. I don't care nothin' about no papers. I only care about what's gon happen to me and my kids. And now here it is almost November and 'bout to be rainin' real good. Lady preachers, I'll tell you. Just then she stop clickin' on the walkway and turn around.
"You know, Ms. Dean, I wasn't going to say anything but since you insist on being really nasty with me throughout this whole process, I will give you some words of advice."
Words of advice? For me? I know this young gal ain't talkin' to me and flippin' her little nappy fake braids over her shoulder. I'm alla way up now and movin' quick as I can to ring her neck. I scare myself 'cause I saw the whole room start to spin.
"Your son who broke his legs in a car accident, couldn't he go and get some kind of public assistance?"
I don't know how I made it so fast, but I'm up in her face now and my lips so tight cain't hardly no words come out of 'em but somehow I hear myself talkin' anyway.
"Public assistance? Them people don't be helpin' nobody. Only thing they tryin' to offer him is some funky ole two hundred fifty dollars. What he gon do with two hundred fifty dollars? Then he gotta go down there every month and get it. How he supposed to do that huh? Then William and Barry both been to jail and it ain't they faults folks don't hire folks that's been to jail. Alla my children got situations to be figured around."
Then I get so mad at my own face for lettin' tears drip down my cheeks and nose gettin' all wet up. But I just cain't stop myself from talkin'.
"You think you got my whole life all worked out, don't you? But you don't really know nothin'. Every time I turn around see like the good Lord just testing me. Seem like He don't want me to have nothin' and nobody. He took my mama when I wasn't nowhere near ready for her to go. Took my youngest baby Pearl when she wasn't doin' nothin' to nobody."
- Here, take this tissue for your face, Mama Dean. It's gon be all right. -
Oh Pearl, my sweet baby.
- I remember when Pearl used to braid my hair in your kitchen. -
She sure did. Sure, sure did.
- It's gon be okay, Mama Dean. -
I know it is. Mama useta say "Trouble don't last always." Mama Dean just got herself a little worked up all over again. It just seem like it's a big ole mess. Look at all this. Boxes and boxes everywhere and I don't even know where I'm movin' 'em to. I don't figure somethin' out soon, we gon all be out at that fancy college livin' with you in yo lil ole dormatory room. Wouldn't that be somethin'? Can you imagine me with a Berkeley sweatshirt on?
- It's good to see you laugh, Mama Dean. Your belly shakes like my grandmama's used to. -
You just keep livin', honey. Yo own belly gon shake up and down too you have another piece of that pie. You know, I got a picture somewhere 'round here of when Pearl first put your hair in those plats. She shol went on and had herself a real good business platin' folks hair. Pour me some more tea now.
- Here you go, Mama Dean. We ain't gon give Ms. Ann the power to make you upset again. Good Lord didn't bring you this far to leave you. -
I know He didn't, baby. I just get this way sometimes when I get to thinkin' about circumstances and from time to time when I think about my baby Pearl.
- I understand. -
What somebody wanna come run up behind her stabbin' her in the heart and killin' her for I just don't know.
Pause. Long pause.
- How did it end with Ms. Ann? -
Well, seem like no matter how hard I try, I couldn't stop cryin' like a baby. I still wanted to ring her lil neck but we walked over so I could lean against her car and I explained to her best I could.
"Every time I look up and then down He takin' one and another of my boys to jail for no good reason except they just tryin' to make it in this world. He even took away Topper. I know Topper wasn't noways mines, but he took one look at me and shol gave me and my kids some place to live and now look what happen once again, he got tooken from me. And now you. And now boxes every which away I turn make me feel I'm just drownin!"
Then I felt the water down my cheeks again and I left ole Ann standing there at her car. Now I shol didn't mean for her to see me breaking down like that, but sometimes life just gets real hard and the stuff that's been building up in yo chest just come on out whether you say so or not. You don't never know when it's gon happen. It just do is all. Everybody always wanna see somethin' all worked out but it don't be sometimes. It just be what it is.