Reads: 17

 

Ruth had fixed a large supper. She was preoccupied with her own thoughts. It had been six months since her grandson had moved out. Not a night or day had gone by that she did not worry. 

Ken was almost a man now. The years had gone by so swiftly. She knew Ken had more torments then he was willing to tell her about. She had been paying closer attention to the news and reports lately. Only a few stories disturbed her. 

She wanted to be totally honest with him, but in truth she was not sure what was true anymore. Ken had mostly  been a normal boy. He had sleeping disorders, but functioned well. It was that last trip that had her all prickly. Ken was not a good liar. She could always tell when the boy was not being forthcoming, and he had not been lately. There was a change in him, a burden. She had an idea of what it was, but she was not anyone who could help. 

The only one she knew of was his Uncle Monte’. The man had been hard to get in touch with. He had given her an address before he went on his way. She had finally heard from him. 

“Grandma?” Hope’s voice brought her back to the present.

“Yes dear?” Ruth answered.

“So Ken’s friend, RJ… he lost his parents and home all at once?” Hope asked.

“Yes.” Ruth answered. “The storm destroyed Ken’s home and RJ’s. His parents were lost in it as well. His given name is Redmond Jefferson the Third. He is younger than Ken. Still considered a minor because he is onlyseventeen.” Ruth told her. 

“With a name like that, was he rich?”  Hope asked.

Her grandma had a nice home, but they were not rich. She was not sure about the new boy coming to live with them. She didn’t know if he was high society or like them- normal.

“I don’t know.” Ruth answered. “Why do you ask?” 

“ Don’t rich people have fancy names like ‘So and So’ the Second or Third?” Hope did not know.

“He did not seem ‘uppity’. His name does sound fancy. Maybe that’s why he goes by RJ.” Ruth guessed.

“I’m not going to be his maid.” Hope sniffled. Ruth smiled some. “Neither will I.” Ruth shook her head. “He seemed like a nice young man.”

“Grandma?” Hope’s face twisted with uncertainty. Meekly she looked at her grandma. “It doesn’t matter to me, but …” Hope paused. “Do think people will say mean things to us if we let a black boy live with us?” Hope winced.

 Ruth stopped everything she was doing. She stared at Hope. Her granddaughter looked away .

From the outraged expression on her grandma’s face Hope knew she asked the wrong question. She was about to get scolded. She had just seen how some people treated other people because they were different. She had a good friend who had pretty dark skin, she had seen how some meankids with skin like hers acted toward her friend. There was even a girl, she was not Hope’s friend, but her mom was white and her dad was black. People were sometimes mean to her, but she was mean too.

“They could, but if they talk about us, it will give other folks a break from being the subject. The boy needs our help. He is Ken’s friend and seemed like a decent young man. I don’t care what color God made him. We all bleed red. I’m not one to turn my back on someone who asks for a little help in need just because of skin color or ethnic background. As long as they are respectful to us. So let people talk. I have your best interest and Ken’s at heart. Your brother would not let someone hurt either of us or hurt another person he calls friend or loves. If things become - unpleasant due to behaviors I will help make other arrangements. “Ruth had already thought of all this. It did not matter to her RJ’s skin color. Deep down she knew Hope did not look at color either. 

Ruth was around during segregation. She was small, but she had met people who looked different that were good people. Like with any human being, some were good, others were indifferent and a few were just ornery. It didn’t matter about skin tone.

“I know Ken is annoying, but he does take up for me.” Hope realized how silly she was being. 

Hope remembered many times Ken looked out for her. He was mostly easy going, or ‘chill’ most of the time. He always tries to get along with people, but if anyone threatened her or their grandma he was ready to fight.

 

Their conversation was dropped when they heard the front door open. It had been locked, so it had to be Ken. They went to greet him.

“Hello?”Grandma? Hope?” Ken called out as he and RJ came in.

Hope's face lit up as she went to greet her brother. She hated to admit it, but she had really missed him. Ruth beamed when she saw Ken and Hope hugging each other. RJ meekly stood a distance behind them. The boy looked nervous.

Hope bear hugged Ken. She used to be able to knock him off balance. It was hard to do now. Ken felt stronger and more sure footed.

“Hello Kenneth. Hello RJ. Did you have a nice drive?” Ruth welcomed the two.

“Yes ma’am. Thanks for letting me stay. If there is anything you need help with that I can do, just let me know.” RJ said.

“Thank you for offering. If I need your help, I’ll ask.” Ruth felt respectful of RJ’s mother raising him with manners. “Let me help you boys get settled in. Supper is almost ready.” Ruth said, leading the boys upstairs. “You boys will have to share a room. My room is next to Hope’s. The walls are thin, I would appreciate low music levels.” Ruth paused. She faced both boys. “I am not saying you will, but there is no smoking or drinking in my home.” Shetold them.

“Grandma.” Ken was embarrassed.

“Not a problem ma’am I don’t do either and I try not to cuss. I have a walk-man so music is not an issue.” RJ told her.

“Good. Thank you.” Ruth was pleased. “Also , I know Ken is engaged, but I don’t know if you have a girlfriend. For the record, there will be no Tom foolery, ‘hanky panky’ or any of that going on under my roof between unmarried people.” Ruth knew it may have been harsh, but it was her house. It was best to get all the awkwardness out of the way. 

“Yes ma’am.” RJ was not a player, but Ken’s granny started to make him nervous. He began to second guess staying with Ken.

Ken rolled his eyes.”Don’t worry grandma. Nothing has changed with all that.”

“I am only clearing the air. I would think you both know better.” Ruth realized she may have come across as a prude, but she was old fashioned. “I bought you two a couple of new beds. They are not fancy. The delivery people came by earlier and set them up for you. They are not expensive, but better than the floor.”

“Thank you again Ms. Phillips.” RJ was just glad it wasn’t a hospital bed.

“I will let you boys get settled. Supper should be done.” Ruth told them and let them be.

“This is great.” RJ said looking at the new bed and new bed linens. “Your granny is top notch in my book.”

“Yes. She is a good woman.” Ken said laying back on the bed. “Sorry if she went over the top. She’s old fashioned. She’s told all my friends that spent the night or stayed a few days the same thing.”

“It’s cool.” RJ said testing his bed.

“She’s got a good heart and she’s a great cook.” Ken told him.

 

After dinner Ken, RJ, Ruth and Hope sat in the living room. Hope was nervous around RJ at first. After a little while, she discovered how funny he was. He was so good at imitating celebrities. He did a great job imitating animals too.

“What’s your favorite animal?” Hope asked Ken’s friend.

“I like all kinds.” RJ answered.

“Did you have a pet?” Hope was not sure if that was a good question since RJ had lost everything. 

It was just her way of starting a new conversation. Glen and Andy had been Ken’s friends, but they were her friends too. She wanted the same thing from RJ.

“No. I had a puppy once. It was a Beagle. I called him Butch. He got hit by a car following me to school one day. I didn’t even know he got out of his fence.” RJ recalled.

“I want a dog. Grandma won’t let me have one.” Hope whispered.

Ruth had heard her. “Hope.” She gave her a warning look.

“It’s cool. One day, if I don’t have any kids, I want a lion or a panther.” RJ grinned.

“That would be awesome! Except, how would you feed them?” Hope realized the problem. RJ chuckled. He had a nice laugh. “Horses are great too! I want a white one. Maybe someday…” Hope pictured her white pony with a unicorn headpiece.

“Maybe when you are grown.” Ruth told her. 

“I wish I could get a dog now.” Hope said.

“Hope. No pets.” Ruth was not having this discussion again.

“Why not?” Hope asked.

“Have you forgotten your gerbil and gold fish?” Ruth reminded her. 

“No.” Hope had not forgotten about them. “A dog can tell me when it’s hungry and it - .” Hope did feel bad about her lost pets.

“Hope. No pets. End of discussion.” Ruth told her.

“Hey.” RJ smirked. “You got Ken. He’s housebroken- a little.” RJ took a jibe at his friend. Ken scowled.

“He’s not a dog.” Hope looked at her brother. “Dogs are cuter and mind. Hey I want to show you my school project.” Hope got up and found her assignment.

“What is this?” Ken asked as she spread it out on the coffee table.

“Our family tree.” Hope was proud of her work. “We did some research and we found some family members from the 1700s. Mom’s side was easy, dad’s was a little more difficult. I’m

Not sure if his history is right.” Hope explained.

“This is cool.” RJ looked at the names  and lines.

“Thanks. How far back do you know your family tree?” Hope asked.

“I have a family secret.” RJ told her. “My great, great grandfather was a rich white man. My great, great grandma was a slave. Both my parents were mixed. My father was so light, he could pass for a white man. You met my mom. She was half white.” RJ told them.

“Really?” Hope asked.

“Really.” RJ told her. “That’s why my hair isn’t as dry or as curly as most people of African descent. I get sun burns just like you.” RJ told her.

“We’re really not that different.” Hope smiled. “I have this friend, Leslie. She recently moved to town. She’s really nice and she’s black. I mean African American, sorry.” Hope corrected herself.

“Calling me black is okay. I don’t get offended.” RJ honestly told her. To him black was black. He didn’t care. Some might, and he appreciated that she was trying to be politically correct, but he was cool with it.

Hope was comfortable enough talking to RJ. “I have two other friends. Susie and I have been friends since kindergarten, and Maxine and I became friends in second grade. Susie is Andy’s  little sister and Maxine used to live next to Glen. After Glen died his parents moved away.” Hope was glad to tell RJ about her friends.

 

“The Holloway’s moved?” Ken asked his grandma.

“Yes. Shortly after you did. They went to Florida.” Ruth said. 

 

“Leslie, Susie and Maxine.” RJ tried to remember their names only because Hope told him. RJ smirked. “No boyfriends yet?” He teased her.

“Boys are gross!” Hope scrunched up her face. Then she became bashful, “No offense.”

RJ chuckled. “Yes they are gross.” RJ agreed.

Ruth had been listening to the two talk. Ken had been looking at Hope’s work. She felt now was as good of a time as any to tell him some news.

“Speaking of family, Kenneth, I heard from your uncle Monte . He wants to see you sometime. He has been out of the country for some years now. He wrote to me last month. It got here yesterday. Unfortunately mail is so slow.” Ruth fussed.

“Uncle Monte ?” Ken was confused.

“Yes.Your father’s uncle. He used to visit with you all when you were small. You used to call him uncle Mooney.” Ruth had the letter beside her chair. She found it and she showed it to Ken.

“The man is coming to see us?” Ken could not believe it.

“Yes. I’m not sure when.” She told him. “He works for an employer that keeps him moving around a lot. He has been around the world it seems.”

“This is odd. It’s been years.” Ken said. 

He remembered the man once more. He was shorter than Ken’s father. He was very muscular and his hands were calloused. Most of his face was covered up with a beard and bushy eyebrows. He had a bodacious laugh and smoked a pipe. He dressed like a logger or mountain man. He also had an accent. He wondered why his grandma reached out to him. 

“I know. Kirk and Monte did not get along. I’m sorry for it. I believe you could have really used his help months ago. I had misplaced his address.” Ruth honestly felt bad.

 

Ken read the typed letter.

 

 

“Dear Madame Phillips,

I would humbly be delighted to visit. I am glad you reached out to me after all this time. Regretfully, I can not give a time or day. My schedule is often subject to change. I do apologize for the delay. Time escapes one such as me. It is hard to believe Kenneth is eighteen, I am sorry I did not keep up. I will try to make contact very soon.

With Respect,

G. Monte Orville.”

 

 

“Okay.” Ken gave the letter back to his grandma. “Let me know when he gets in.”

“I will Kenneth. I’m sure you two will have a lot to talk about. Just remember, he is eccentric. He did not have to write me back.” Ruth wanted Ken to show the older man respect.

“Can he help me with this?” Hope motioned to her assignment.

“Maybe.” Ruth was too worried to expectmuch from the man. After all, he did not owe them anything.

Hope looked at RJ. “Our dad died a hero. I was too small to remember much. All I know is what grandma and mom told me.”

“Nathen was a fireman.” Ruth began. “He came to America with his uncle. Nathen’s parents died in France. Monte tried to take care of his nephew, but finding work was hard. He had to travel a lot. He found a nice couple to look after Nathen while he was away. There was an accident and the Davidson’s received word that the boat Monte was on was reported lost at sea. So the couple adopted Nathen and gave him their name. Then after the fact, Monte managed to survive and came to check on Nathen. It was bittersweet, but he was fine with the couple’s good intentions. Nathen’s birth name was Curtis. His mother was Monte’s sister.  The two kept in touch with each other.” Ruth told them.

“Uncle Monte would show up once every three months or every six months. Dad and him would go camping. Dad hunted and he would bring home rabbit jerky or deer jerky. It was really good.” Ken recalled. 

“Nice to know they were tight.” RJ shrugged.

“I guess.” Ken rubbed his chin. “Uncle Moony, as we called him, lived like a mountain man. He was the only family dad had left. He lost his adoptive parents in a fire. That’s why he became a firefighter. Uncle Monte was always nice to us and mom. He traveled a lot. Sometimes he would bring us souvenirs and send something for us around our birthday or around Christmas.” Ken remembered. “He did have trouble keeping up with time.”

“I just remember he talked funny and had a bushy face.” Hope wanted to share her faint memory. “Why did he quit coming by or sending stuff?”

Ken looked at Ruth. She had a forced silence. She had always had a reservation about the man, but Kirk had not wanted anything to do with the children’s great uncle. She had debated about reaching out after Kirk’s death, but she did not know if it was wise or if it would amount to anything.

In truth she had no problem with the man. He always wanted the best for Nathen, Ella, Kenneth and Hope. He never said a harsh word to Kirk or herself. Kirk also had the children’s best interest in mind and did not want the likes of Monte around. It was a little cruel, but Monte respected their wishes.

Ruth felt Kenneth looking at her. “People get busy.”She answered.

RJ liked Ken’s granny’s place. He also wished he had a little sister or brother. At least he would have someone- maybe.  Then again it was for the best he did not. All he had to worry about now was himself. 

He had been an only child and felt lonely many times. There was a lingering sadness and relief in his chest. Besides he had Ken. He was white and a werewolf, but he was like a big brother to him. His granny and his little sister were treating him good and with respect. He had reservations in that he knew too well about racism.

Ruth did not seem racist. After all she opened her doors to a black young man, but RJ knew too well how short sighted and ignorant some people could be just because of the color of a person’s skin. He was no ashamed of being black or technically ‘mixed’ like he used to be. He identified as black, but more importantly he identified as a human being and a young man.

 


Submitted: September 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 G. Adams. All rights reserved.

Chapters

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More Young Adult Books

Other Content by G. Adams

Book / Young Adult