Overlapping Plots: Grandma Mills

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is short story written within a fictional urban anthology. All short stories in this anthology have independent characters whom seem to overlap into other plots and stories within this compilation. It includes many real-life issues, relationships, and outcomes in the urban community with a fictional twist!

Submitted: May 17, 2017

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Submitted: May 17, 2017

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GRANDMA MILLS

Chapter I

 

It was mid-July on a hot Sunday morning in 1987.  I could hear the rumbling hiss from the aggressive Chicago winds outside. These were days that always brought about the unexpected, especially living with Grandma Mills. “Joshua! Hurry up boy, you’re going to make us late for church, and you know I have to be the first church mother to show off my new hat”, yelled Grandma Mills. She was quite particular about  showing off her new church apparel to the other church mothers. These old divas would dress in their most expensive dresses, hats and shoes on Sundays. Grandma Mills always made sure she was the center of attention once she walked into the church service. Every Sunday when she walked to her reserved seat in the front, she would wave elegantly like the queen of England as the fellow church-goers smiled at her presence. She was quite a character for an old lady like herself. I felt secure living with her. She wasn’t my biological grandmother; however, she treated me as her own keen. 

 I had two brothers and one sister. My oldest sibling was my brother Clyde. He could be categorized as the typical fourteen year old teenager. Most people considered him to be arrogant and conceded, but I had never saw this side of him. Maybe I was bias, but he always maintained a friendly demeanor around the house. We were his first priority. My younger brother was Marques; he was ten years old and I considered him my mini me. Everything I did, he would do, and he would often try to challenge me. I have to admit I was the older one, but Marcus was surely the strongest sibling out of all of us. My youngest sibling was my sister Khadejah. She was eight years old with a lot of attitude. I was her protector and her hero. As for me, I was twelve years old during this time.  Many people considered me the outcast child. My siblings had the same father. My father simply was a rolling stone in the wind.

It was said that my father was a pimp in the streets. In fact, it was told to me that he was a white man as well. My brothers and sister were “brown-skinned”. I on the other hand was as light as the day’s sunshine. I sometimes had wished that I was their skin complexion. During sibling rivalries, I would be called dough boy and pimp baby. Nevertheless, I had tough skin. We were just children being children. About a year ago, we had moved with Grandma Mills. Their father Big Clyde visited our house and noticed our mom had been gone for a few days. “Rita always leaving yall in this house by your selves”, Big Clyde would say. That wasn’t any surprise to us though. She had been on drugs since we were younger. She barely came around. In fact, we would only see her around the first of the month when she would get her disability check.  She always gave my brother Clyde her food stamps to make sure we didn’t starve. I guess she thought she was doing the motherly thing. In the end, Grandma Mills became fed up with my mother’s neglect, and ultimately decided to file  for custody and guardianship over us. She won the case and had became a guardian angel on earth. She didn’t take any nonsense, but she was the nicest person to be around. I was grateful to have her as my new mom.

 

Chapter II

“Come on and praise the Lord Saints!” said Pastor Jenkins. “Hallelujah pastor, preach it, preach it!” would reply Grandma Mills. She was very religious on Sundays. It was the norm to see her wear a lavender royal dress from Saks Fifth Avenue, diamonds in her shoes, and a Pentecostal hat that was taller than anything I’d ever seen in my life. Sundays were show-time for Grandma Mills. Once the church band started to play her favorite gospel tune, she would be the first in the middle of the aisle dancing and shouting. Church members called it the Holy Ghost; I called it showing off her wardrobe. I often would be sitting in the back with the other kids my age. We would giggle and make jokes about the church members’ antics. At church, we would see Grandma Mills at her best. I wasn’t surprised of her Holy Ghost-filled outbursts. She had been dealing with some physical battles for the past few years. She was diagnosed with lung cancer. You would never sense her illness because of her jubilant spirit. Despite her zestful personality, her health was declining day by day. She was a heavy smoker. We would tell her every day, ”Grandma Mills,  stop smoking!”  It was quite obvious when she needed her nicotine fix. There would be an unsettling stillness in the house. She would tip-toe into the basement in which we weren’t allowed.  We would hear Negro spirituals playing in the background, and we would see gray smoke coming through the cracks of the basement door. It would be a matter of time before this would have a long-term effect on all of us.

Grandma Mills was always strict on us about doing well in school. If we would bring home a good report card, she would prepare a big meal as a reward to us. I always anticipated her cheesy baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams with marshmallows, and her honey-glazed ham.  Both of my brothers were big fans of her sweets cakes and pies. There was one cake that we were forbidden to touch. This infamous cake was her Rum Cake. It was reserved for the adults. Assuming we were unable to reach it, she would leave it on the top of the refrigerator. Clyde and Marques always waited until she fell asleep to sneak a few pieces. I remember taking a piece myself. It had a funny taste to it, and afterwards, all I could recall was my world spinning annoyingly as if I were on an amusement park ride at the city fair. Those were the good times. Grandma Mills didn’t have much money, but she had much love to give. Even though we all knew there were some unfortunate aspects to our lives involving our mother and her drug addiction, living with Grandma Mills made life seem almost perfect.  You would expect for her to treat my brothers and sister with a little more favor and love since they were her blood grandchildren. However, she treated me as her golden child. She always said to me: “Joshua, you’re going to make something out of yourself boy; don’t you ever lose your focus you hear.” I would always reply to her with “Yes Maam”. I remember she asked my brother Clyde to do something for her, and he replied with the word “yea”. I saw another side of Grandma Mills I had never seen before. She grabbed a broomstick and started swinging it towards him saying, “You learn to mind your elders you hear!” I had never seen Clyde look so startled and intimidated. The wrath of Grandma Mills wasn’t anything to tamper with. She would get on their father as well. He was the typical absentee father. She would constantly say, “ I didn’t raise you to be deadbeat , Clyde”. You could always see the disappointment on her face when he came around.  He didn’t have a job , and he was always drunk. My siblings really seemed to view their dad as a big brother at times.

CHAPTER III

It had been a tedious eighth grade school year. I was ready to move on to better things in life. The season was delightful and joyous; I was preparing for my graduation. Lately, Grandma Mills had been back and forth to the hospital. It was difficult getting through the day when she was not around. I had grown accustomed to her daily presence. She truly wore many hats in our lives. She would walk Dejah to school, give my brother Clyde bus fare to catch the city bus to school, and she would drive Marques and I to the bus stop. There definitely was a void without her being there to help us in the mornings. We soon realized we would have to help her out a bit more since her health was declining. She had been undergoing therapy treatments for her lung cancer.  However, the doctors said the cancer had spread to various parts of her body. As expected, she always kept a strong posture and attitude in front of us. However, I would walk next to her room in the middle of the night and hear her crying.  There was certainly an unsettling mood in the house. My brother Clyde had started skipping class and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Grandma Mills wasn’t strong enough and in any sort of position to chastise or discipline him anymore. She was becoming as fragile a bird with a broken wing. She called me into her room one night a few days before my graduation. She said in a raspy and feeble voice, “Joshua, I can’t wait to see you put on that robe and march across that stage baby because you deserve it. I love you so much my son, and I want you to make something out of yourself you hear”. “Yes Maam I love you too”, I replied. She coughed a few times and rolled over on her side.

The morning of my graduation, Grandma Mills was up walking around the house. She was humming one of her favorite hymns “Because He Lives”.  She had asked us to come to the kitchen to eat. We all came downstairs; she had prepared grits and sausage links. Normally, she would cook Belgium waffles, blueberry pancakes, bacon and eggs. It was obvious she was tired. I said to her, “Hey Grandma Mills, are you going to wear one of your dresses from Saks 5th Avenue tonight at my graduation?” She replied, “Baby of course, you know grandma has to look good for my little valedictorian”. I had earned the privilege of being the 8th grade class valedictorian. I had to go to the ceremony a little early to prepare my speech. Big Clyde said he would drop Grandma Mills and my siblings off at the ceremony.

As the processional started, I could feel butterflies in my stomach. I had to propagate my sentiments to over 600 people. The anxiety made my palms sweaty and my throat dry. Internally, it felt like a burning camp fire in my stomach. I was truly a nervous wreck. My assistant principal, Mrs. Reed patted me on the shoulder and said, “ You’ll do fine Joshua. Just pretend that the whole audience is naked”.  I had heard that advice before from a church mother when I had to do my Easter speech. At the time, I found this thought to be disturbing and plain ole gross. As I looked behind the curtain, there were so many faces in the auditorium.  I scoped the room for familiar faces. I could see my fellow classmates taking pictures and receiving gifts from their families. But where was my family? I knew they were out there. I figured they were probably somewhere in the back of the auditorium. I knew Grandma Mills probably didn’t want to do much walking. 

“Now let’s give an honorable round of applause to the eighth grade graduating class valedictorian, Joshua Williams,” said Mrs. Reed. Thunderous applause went forth as I arose to the podium. I could just imagine the tears filling her eyes as the crowd applauded my accolades.  I began to read my speech that I had practiced over and over in the mirror for hours at a time. I was toward the end of the speech, and I could simply remember feeling a weight lifted off of me. Now was the time to give honor and recognition. Concluding my speech, I said over the mic, “ I would like the person whom has had a significant impact on my life to stand, Grandma Mills”. Everyone clapped and clapped waiting for Grandma Mills to take her honor. Faces turned anxiously to see her stand and wave her hand—no one stood up. As an awkward silence hit the room, I realized she was not there. I immediately panicked. In denial and disbelief, I uttered,  “ Grandma, are you here? Where are you, grandma?’’, There was no reply out of the audience, but fainted coughs and low whispers. I immediately felt something was wrong. I ran off the stage and out of the auditorium. I could hear Mrs. Reed say, “Joshua, wait, you have yet to receive your reward”. I didn’t care. I knew Grandma Mills probably was too tired to come to the ceremony; I had an unsettling feeling in my stomach I never felt before. Her house was about twelve blocks away from my school. I ran and ran, struggling to catch my breathe. Running through red lights failing to acknowledge traffic in the road, I could hear horns and drivers yelling at me. I might have caused a car collision, but I didn’t care. My heart and mind was determined to get to my grandma. To my disbelief, I could see fire trucks and an ambulance in front of Grandma Mills’s house.  I saw my brother Clyde, Marques and Dejah sitting on the porch crying. Clyde was screaming at the top of his lungs, “Why now! Why now!”. Marques was hugging Dejah tightly with a firm grip crying tears of sorrow. No one said a word to me. I already knew what had happened. I ran faintly in the house pushing all the EMTs and firemen out of my way. I saw Grandma Mills lying on the ambulance cot lifeless. She had died while getting ready for my graduation.

 

Chapter IV

It had been a few years since Grandma Mills had passed away. Life had become quite different. We were all staying with Big Clyde now. As a parent, he was the complete opposite of Grandma Mills. His main priority was satisfying his alcohol habit. We were in the process of moving to smaller apartment. He had neglected to pay the mortgage on Grandma Mills’s house. The house that changed my life was now going into foreclosure. I know Grandma Mills would be turning in her grave if she knew it had gotten to this point. Her husband had built that house from the ground up for Big Clyde and his brother.  Sadly, Big Clyde’s brother was killed in the Vietnam War at the age of 21. My brother Clyde said his father had not been the same since the death of his brother. Big Clyde and his brother were best friends. It was a valid reason for his lack of motivation, but it didn’t justify his neglect towards us. For example, Grandma Mills made me feel equally significant as a sibling. Big Clyde was the opposite—he made sure I knew I wasn’t his child. He would purchase clothes for Marques and Dejah with the money he received from the state for having me there without purchasing me anything. I recall going to school with cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes. I hated the winters because the snow would melt the cardboard and cause my feet to blister and swell. I was tempted to steal clothes, but I was an honest kid.  I decided to shine shoes at the local mall to keep a little pocket change, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with my peers. It was 1990, and if you didn’t dress to impress, no matter how handsome you were, the girls didn’t pay you any mind. I had begun to skip school because of my inability to keep up with the cool crowd. My peers were cruel and insensitive. My brother Clyde had experienced this cruelty first-hand and dropped out. I didn’t understand that at all. He went from being the popular kid to the bum kid hanging out on the corner of the block. Marques and Dejah would always get picked up by Pastor Jenkins.  I liked church, but not every day, so when he would come, I would hide or make sure I was nowhere to be found. It was certain our family was growing further apart.

One afternoon, I was in my study hall class just keeping to myself. I heard over the intercom, “Could Joshua Williams please report to the main office.” As I walked towards the office doors, I wondered to myself what I had done. Maybe I was going to get detention for skipping school so much that school year. Or maybe my school guidance counselor wanted to give me one of those pep talks about staying on the ball and not losing focus. Regardless of what it was, I knew I had it coming from the principal since I’d been slacking everyday this school year. I walked in the office and to my surprise, she didn’t seem to be upset with me. I noticed a woman and a man sitting down smiling at me. The man was dressed in a tailored suit, and the woman had a badge that said Department of Child Welfare. “Joshua, I called you in here because this woman would like to have words with you.” my principal said. The woman looked calm and collective. However, the man had tears in his eyes. I thought maybe Big Clyde had been reported from when they did their bi-monthly house visits. The woman said to me, “Joshua honey, this man sitting here is your biological father, Randell Caldwell.  He has been looking for you for quite some time.” There was dead silence in the atmosphere, and my jaws dropped in disbelief; my real father was sitting right in front of me. “My son, O my baby boy Joshua; I can’t believe it’s you.” I was very hesitant and fidgety. This was a complete stranger to me, and yet, he was calling my name and pulling out baby pictures of me. The principal and social worker seemed to be quite pleased with this reunion, but I was confused and unsettled. He didn’t look like a pimp, nor did he look like the bar type. To my surprise, I looked just like him. My mannerisms, my demeanor, and my attributes resembled this man.  The lady from the Department of Child Welfare said, “Joshua, I have been to your house, and I noticed that the living situation is not suitable for you and your siblings. Your brother Clyde will be placed in a group home, and Marques and Dejah will be placed with Pastor Jenkins. You have the option of going with Pastor Jenkins, a foster home, or your biological father”, said the lady. What an ultimatum. I was more concerned about being separated from siblings. I told her, “I don’t want to be separated from Clyde, Marques, and Dejah--they’re all I have.” She assured me we would all get to spend time periodically. As I looked at the three of them, the entire room began to spin. This school office gathering seemed surreal and overwhelming. In the end, I decided to go with my Randell. Afraid and unsure, I walked out of this school with this man and proceeded onto this new journey. This would surely be a nerve-wrecking experience.

Chapter V

As we drove out of the ghetto slums of Chicago, I was completely silent. The man tried to make small talk by clearing his throat multiple times speaking about sports teams and current events; however, I wasn’t budging. I had so many mixed feeling about the situation. There were so many unanswered questions. It was quite evident I was uncomfortable. “Joshua, I know that I haven’t been there; I never forgot about you. I lost contact with your mother many years ago. I barely knew your mother. I had met her in a bar while I was in college. We had a one night rendezvous, and I didn’t hear from her again. I had heard through one of my frat buddies that she had gave birth to a baby boy about a year after we connected at the bar. I tried to find every Rita Williams in the Chicago area for years, but I had no luck.  Luckily, your mom was using a credit card she had gotten in the mail. I went back to the bar and was able to obtain her billing address that was leaked to her boyfriend’s mother address, Virginia Mills. Through a tireless search, I finally found you son.”

After that story, I felt more at ease. I began to ask him questions about himself. It turned out that he was a pretty successful man. He was a successful real estate agent. He had another son who was a few years older than named Michael. This would truly be an adventure. I didn’t even think to ask why we were driving towards the airport. I soon found out Randell Caldwell lived in New York City.

Our flight had arrived to New York later in the evening. I had never flown on a plane before. To top it all off, we were flying in first class. The Empire State skyline was simply amazing. I barely went downtown in Chicago, so seeing all of the bright lights and tall buildings was an exuberating experience. Living in this city would be a huge change pace for me. Randell had a loft on the upper west side of Manhattan. I was a bit nervous to be in a new city. Randell took me to Sahs 5th Avenue. I finally realized why Grandma Mills prided herself in purchasing her wardrobe from there. Randell said to me, “ I’m not trying to buy your love son, but I do want you to have whatever you want.”  I wasn’t at all awkward now; I saw some things that interested me. We shopped until we couldn’t anymore. As we proceeded into the building where Randell lived, the doorman greeted me by name. “Welcome to your new home Sir Joshua” he uttered.  I felt uplifted to finally be able to call a place home. Once we proceeded into the loft, I was greeted by my new big brother Michael and a few of his friends. “Hey, it’s the new kid on the block, my new brother. Welcome to our humble abold” said Michael. Everything was already prepared for me. The loft was as big as my entire neighborhood back in Chicago. My room alone was much larger than Grandma Mills entire house. The view of the city skyline and Time square were amazing. It was all a kid from the slums of Chicago could ask for.

As time went on, I noticed Randell was a good provider. However, he wasn’t present much in my life.  He would say, “ I have to close on a house in Florida, Josh; I have to go downtown, Josh. I have to go to California, Josh ”.  He was always on the go which still left me fatherless. I had made a lot of new friends at my new school. I had become quite the popular kid at school too. I would reflect daily on the times I had walked to school with cardboard in my shoes. Now, I had the luxury of wearing a different pair of sneakers every day. I would periodically see a kid on the subway platform that reminded me of myself a few years back. In these instances, I would give the kid some of my shoes.  I did wonder about my siblings back in Chicago. It had been about 2 years since I had seen them. I was 17 years old now, and I was very curious to know how they were doing. It was time to face my past. I booked a flight to visit Chicago.

 

Chapter VI

As I rode in the yellow cab down my old neighborhood, I noticed the streets of Chicago had looked much more slummed than what I recalled. It appeared that everyone on streets were drug dealers, prostitutes, or drug attics. However, this didn’t mess up my excitement and anticipation I had built up on the way there. I would finally see my siblings, and it would be just like old times. I could only imagine what they were like now. Clyde was probably in college now. Marques was probably a ladies man in high school, and Dejah was most likely a sassy teenager now. Big Clyde had given me the address to their new apartment. When the cab stopped, all of the buildings appeared to be boarded up. Once I stepped out of the cab, I looked around with utter disgust. I knocked on the hard steel door that looked like someone had attempted to kick it in multiple times. My brother Clyde had answered the door. His eyes were crossed and bloodshot. He had a foul odor and it looked like he didn’t shower for days. It had disappointed me because I knew my brother had potential to do better. It was clear that he had begun to follow in our mother’s footsteps. As I sat uncomfortably in the cramped living room space, I asked Clyde about my little brother Marques whereabouts. “I thought you heard. Marques is spending time in juvenile detention for stealing.” I was shocked but not surprised. I remember being in the same circumstance. I wish I was able to maintain contact. In a way, I felt guilty because I could have easily given my brother whatever he needed. Before I could say another word, Dejah came out of the back room. She was pregnant! I almost fainted once I saw my sister in this condition. She was only fourteen years old. I asked her who was her baby’s father. She had a look of disgust and disregard for the question. I would surely get to the bottom of this situation. I couldn’t take all the madness anymore. I yelled, “Dejah, who the hell did this to you?” She paused for about ten seconds as tears filled her eyes. She said with a hurtful look, “Pastor Jenkins did this to me, Joshua.” I was in utter rage. My mind and emotions were in an unstable state. The pastor impregnated my little sister. I was confused. Why weren’t the authorities called? At that point, it didn’t matter. It was time to kill. I felt the need to take matters into my own hands. I would surely be at church on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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