Only after the young girl sat down on her third Chicago Transit Authority bus did she begin to realize the three-days-a-week, three-month-long sentence she had been given. In fact, she didn’t really think she had done anything wrong since others around her found it so entertaining at the time. Too bad the judge didn’t have the same sense of humor.
“This is all but a bunch o’ shit. I have a baby at da house and too much stuff goin’ on to mess wit shit like this!” she says quietly after getting situated.
Makia Brown is but a child herself, if you classify 18-year-old mothers as children. She and her 3-year-old son, Matthew, live with her mother in a housing project within the Englewood section of Chicago. Matthew’s father, Desmond James – who goes by Young D –a wanna-be professional rapper, lives in the same complex and still visits them from time to time. In fact, you could say the reason Makia was facing this dilemma was partially due to Desmond and the crowd he’d been known to hang with.
They didn’t see any harm in tagging the front of the Star of David Nursing Home a few blocks away. And though the tagging didn’t really seem to be what irked the judge, it was the added insults, anti-Semitic remarks and pornographic images that sent the honorable one over the edge.
Since all involved were brought before the court before Makia, some received more severe sentences than she and Desmond. He was sentenced to paint the building and do grounds work at the nursing home, while Makia was given a much more “involved” sentence.
During Makia’s sentencing, she made the mistake of talking back to the judge - using racial slurs and calling her derogatory names. As an older woman, steadfast in traditional values, the judge felt it best to help teach Makia a lesson.
“Miss Brown, after finding you so unremorseful and merciless in your actions…as well as the racial hate that flowed from your lips while before this court, not to mention your obvious disregard for the elderly, I’m sentencing you to a three-month probationary period - working three times a week - as a temporary aid caregiver in a nursing home. The nursing home you will be working at will be the St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Lakeview.”
“Lakeview, your honor?” spoke up Makia’s court-appointed attorney. “My client can’t afford to be traveling on both the Red Line as well as all the buses three times a week, not to mention the keeping of her son during this time.”
“Mr. Frist, I am well aware of Miss Brown’s financial constraints as well as her parental responsibilities. The court will provide a stipend to cover both the transportation as well as meals during this period. As for the well-being of her son, the court has already discussed this matter with Miss Brown’s mother, who has reluctantly agreed with the sentence,” the judge stated.
“Miss Brown, I suggest you take advantage of this experience to its fullest and open your eyes to a larger world around you. Maybe by spending time with a different group of folks you will appreciate them for who they are and maybe polish-up some of those social skills.”
“Social skills… What in the hell was she talkin’ bout? I can be a fuckin’ saint,” said Makia, while smoothing out the material of her court-appointed volunteer uniform. “What the hell are you lookin’ at you old, uppity bag?” she snapped at one of the elderly ladies sitting close enough to have heard what she said. “Boo!”
Makia reached into a side pocket of her coat and pulled out an iPod. She untangle the ear pieces and placed the ends into each ear, turned on the device, sat back and looked out the bus’ side window. She became lost in watching the steam bellowing from the various rooftops, as well as the assortment of passing cars and trucks.
The scenery changes as the hectic coldness of the city and its traffic are replaced with the warmth of well-kept yards and homes. Makia is torn between enjoying the experience and despising the lifestyle of those in that particular area. She glances around to make sure no one’s noticed her interest, and after realizing that she is safe with her thoughts, she happily goes back to watching the passing locations with curious amazement.
It was only a few minutes later when the salt-and-slush covered bus finally turned onto a long, tree-lined drive. Her face pressed tightly to the window, she peered to see what the future held for her these next three months – every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 6 p.m. – at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home.
“Oh, this is gonna be fun,” sighs the girl while reviewing the greystone, immaculate white-trimmed exterior of the four-story building. A recent March snowfall still covered the slate roof, as well as most of the grounds except the cleared walkways and roads.
As the bus slowed to a stop, the screeching of brakes and the opening of its side door follow the crackling sound of thawing ice and slush.
Makia hesitates for a moment before getting up from her seat, questioning what it was she had gotten herself into, as well as what it was she did to get her into this mess in the first place. She moves toward the door, glances at the driver and smirks a bit, then starts down the steps of the bus. Before stepping off the bottom step, she straightens her uniform and takes a deep breath, followed by a moan.
“Ya gonna get off, kid?” asked the bus driver.
“Yeah, yeah…. I’m goin’…. Shit!”
With the last remark, Makia makes the final step off the bus, narrowly missing a puddle of melted snow. As the bus drives away, she stands quietly in front of the intimidating site.
“Okay girl…ain’t nothin’ better than you. Ain’t gonna take any shit from no one! Not at all! Hell, it’s only for a few months, anyways! Just a bunch of old white folks that had way too much money in their lives… Shit!”
She gathers herself and walks up the sidewalk to the snow-cleared, stone steps. She straightens her uniform one last time and pins a simple required white hat to her black hair. She sighs once more and enters the foyer of the nursing home.
“I’m sorry, may we help you?” asks one of two college-aged girls working an information desk.
“Uh, yea… I’m supposed to start today. Somewhere in this place!”
“Really?” snickers one. “You’re supposed to work here?” The other then whispers something to her, making her look back to Makia. “Oh wait… we know who you are.”
“Yeah, we’ve been lookin’ forward to meeting you. We’ve never met a convict before!” exclaims the other.
“Third floor… Ms. Hunnington,” replies one. “It da Green Mile… I tells ya. Da Green Mile!” cracks the other.
“Funny, ladies. But if anyone is a criminal around here, it’s got to be the two of youse,” Makia smarts back. “One with a charge against the fashion world; the other, a charge of way too much stupidity.”
“Well, I’ve never…! Did you hear what she said, Ellie? I’ve just never!”
As Makia turned toward the elevator, one of the girls ominously said, “Well, Miss Convict, your kind don’t belong here and you need to get back to Englewood. We give ya a week to recognize the true way of things. A week!”
Without hesitation, Makia casually waited for the elevator doors to open. “Wasn’t my fuckin’ idea to be here to start with,” she said to herself as she got on the elevator. “Not my fuckin’ idea to be here at all!”
At the third floor, the doors of the elevator gave way to a scent Makia remembered as a child visiting her ailing grandmother. Though the surroundings were much better than the state-run institution her grandmother was in, the smell was undeniably similar. The mixture of pine-enhanced disinfectant, cleanser and flowers, with an underlying stench of urine still brought back the reality of the conditions she was about to share.
She looked left, but proceeded right when she noticed more activity down the corridor. The hallway leads to a large, community room where Makia finds some of the residents gathered to talk, mingle, play games, read or just spend the time alone.
“Yes, may we help you, miss?”
Turning to her right, Makia sees a station manned by three nurses.
“Ah, yeah. Is there a Ms. Hunnington here?”
Before either of the nurses can answer, a fourth nurse comes from between large partitions of files.
“Who’s asking, child?” asks the nurse.
“Ah, yeah…. My name is Makia Brown,” she explains. “And I’m supposed to start today. Got something here that’s suppose to explain all of it.”
She pulls out a thick, opened letter from her bag and attempts to give it to the nurse.
“Just hold onto that, Miss Brown, and follow me. I’ll take you to her office,” directs the kind, grey-haired woman. “So, you start today?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, I’m a bit surprised that they’ve hired anyone since the money’s been pretty tight around here!” exclaims the woman. “But we’re glad you’re here.”
“Yeah right… you’re just glad to have another body around this place to do the grunt work,” smarted Makia. “Anyway, it ain’t a job-job…more like a volunteer situation.”
“Oh… how sweet!” replies the lady. “But why in the world would someone like you want to spend time with a bunch of old folks like us?”
“Like ‘me’?” snaps Makia. “Whatcha mean by that? What… you don’t think a black someone like me can be in a place like this?”
“No, no, my dear. Not at all. Nothing like that at all,” stammered the nurse. “Lord no. It’s just that we don’t get too many young faces in here. Except for the occasional, seasonal, do-gooders.”
“Oh you know…those folks who seem to feel guilty at the end of the year and feel a need to volunteer somewhere. Or sometimes it’s someone who lost someone recently who they didn’t feel they saw enough of while they were alive. We pretty much have seen them all,” explains the nurse. “Okay, here we are,” she concludes before knocking, then opening a door. “Ms. Hunnington, a Miss Makia Brown is here to see you.”
From behind a large, wooden desk a woman in her 40s peers over the glasses that rest on her nose, and slowly sits up. “Thank you, Mary. Come in, Miss Brown.”
As Makia enters the office, she turns to the helpful nurse and reluctantly thanks her.
“Oh, it was a pleasure, my dear. No problem at all and I hope to see you soon!” assures the woman. “Tell me though, what made you decide to join us, as a volunteer no less, here at St. Vincent’s? Professional experience? Loss of a loved one? Oh, I know…just having a loving and caring heart!”
Makia stops and turns to face the curious nurse.
“Actually… court requested probation, three times a week, for the next three months for trashin’ a hell-hole like this one, you nosey bag!”
“Oh my…!”Exclaims the nurse, and then quickly leaves.
Suddenly the woman from behind the desk gets up and rushes to the door. “Mary? Mary,” she cries out, sticking her head out into the hallway. “Did you really have to say that? She’s one of the best people in this place!”
Glaring at the young girl, Ms. Hunnington points to a chair sitting in front of her desk and orders her to sit. Met with hesitation from Makia, she sternly repeats, “Sit… NOW!”
Reluctantly, the girl goes to the chair and flops down.
Ms. Hunnington looks out the door one last time then comes into the office, shutting the door behind her. Dressed in a dark-colored “power” suit, she returns to her chair facing Makia. She then motions a few times for Makia to give her the envelope before the girl fully understands that it was the paperwork from the judge she was requesting. She opens the letter and begins to review the information.
“So, Miss Brown…I guess I should welcome you to St. Vincent’s,” says the woman, glancing over the papers. “If it wasn’t for my relationship with Judge Davis…well, let’s just say you wouldn’t be here right now.”
Makia stays stoic in the chair, looking down and then around the office un-phased.
“Now, Miss Brown, during your, uh, time at St. Vincent’s, there are a few things that we frown upon…one of which is rudeness,” continues Ms. Hunnington. “Our residents here at St. Vincent’s are treated with well-deserved respect and kindness at all times. I expect you to show up without any chip on your shoulder or ghetto attitude.”
“Say what…?” interrupts the girl. “I ain’t got no freakin’ attitude!”
“And there will be no cussing – or ‘near’ cussing of any kind. We have a clean environment here and don’t believe in messing it up with slang of any sort!” directs the woman. “I expect you to be here on time and to do what you’re told.”
“Ain’t gonna change no diapers!”
“And you won’t be asked to. We have orderlies that handle personal hygiene issues with our residents,” clarifies the woman. “Your job will consist of supporting the nurses with a variety of small tasks that include filing, answering the phones, helping residents get from one place to another, as well as spending time with the residents. You will start at 1 in the afternoon and work till 6 each evening on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, for a total of three months. Questions?”
“Nah,” replies Makia. “Look lady, why not just stick me in a room somewhere doing something that will keep me outta anyone’s way? You and I both know why I’m here, and you don’t want me being here as much as I don’t want to be here! Nobody gonna know any different!”
“Since Maggie… uh, Judge Davis, and I have known each other for a while, I’ve promised her that in order to address your ‘sentence’ properly I wouldn’t let you slide. At the end of each day, you are to give me the amount of hours and the jobs you did so that I can make a record to give back to her,” explains Ms. Hunnington.
“Whatever,” remarks Makia. “Well, I don’t understand too much about talking with those uppity folks out there. I ain’t nothin’ like them or even have to act like I like ‘em!”
The woman hands the envelope back to Makia and begins to get back to whatever it was she was working on.
“Oh, and Miss Brown?”
The girl stops and looks back to Ms. Hunnington before exiting the office.
“It might be wise while you’re here to remember how lucky you are to be given this opportunity. With any luck, you’ll find maturity goes a long way and that the only barriers you face are those inside yourself and not how you might perceive them to be.”
“Ah, yeah… right,” replies Makia.
After returning to the nurses’ station, Makia is then led by an on-duty nurse, Linda, to an office where she gets a photo nametag and takes care of miscellaneous paperwork. To and from the station, Makia looks curiously about while trying not to give any impression of interest or insecurity.
“Well, let’s see it!” requests a red-haired, middle-aged nurse, as soon as they get back to the station.
“See? See, what?”
“Oh… I think that’s a good picture, sweetie,” smirks Linda, while giving Makia a sarcastic pat on her shoulder.
“Gad, remember when I got mine?” questions a 20-ish, heavy-set nurse sitting next to the other, while showing to the group the photo ID attached to her scrubs. “If I remember right, I had just come off a weekend of partying. Ha…you can still see the tequila swimming in my eyes!”
Linda then introduces Makia to the two nurses, and explains each of their duties. The young girl quickly learns that Linda was not only the head nurse on the floor but also what she perceived to be a seasoned professional.
“We have twenty rooms on this level, all but two of which are occupied,” she continues. “The community room, well you see it in front of you, and there’s a craft room on down the hallway there.”
“Since you’ll be coming in after lunch, there’s no reason to worry about moving some of our residents there. But since you leave after 6, we’ll need for you to help get them set for dinner. Questions?”
“Nah, my dear?” returns the nurse.
“Ah, no ma’am,” smarts Makia.
“Much better.” The head nurse picks up a large stack of files and gives them to Makia. “Now for your first task, Miss Brown…”
“Oh, here it comes! Are you fuc…frickin’ kiddin’ me?”
“I want you to take out all of the pink forms, then alphabetize both those and the folders.”
“Say what?” complains the girl.
Linda started to repeat herself but knew it was just the girl playing her.
“I know you’ve gone to school, so this shouldn’t be that difficult, Makia. It’s what we around here call ‘work’!”
“What?” remarked the girl. “Just because I’m black and from Englewood and all . . .?”
“My dear, I was just tryin’ to be funny… like you. Chill!”
“Whatever…” Makia retorts.
The nurse looks around to find a quiet place where the young girl can do her work and notices the crafts room is vacant. “You can work in the craft room, Makia. That way, you can get used to things slowly without being disturbed by the residents. And Lord, they will disturb you,” she says fondly.
“What if someone comes in – or say they got one of them groups coming in?”
“There’s a sheet inside the door to let you know what’s scheduled for the day,” assures Linda. “Any more questions?”
“Nah…I mean, no ma’am. I’m good.”
“Okay then, go at it!”
Makia felt this could really be a good thing – working in a room by herself. Not only giving her the opportunity to get lost listening to her iPod, but it would also be a great place to kill time and stay out of everyone’s way. She was, however, surprised by how most of the folks at St. Vincent’s had been friendly, with the exception of the two bimbos she met earlier.
The craft room was a classroom-sized room adjoining the community area. Though to get to it from where she was standing, she would have to walk past many of the residents – which she really wasn’t looking forward to.
Makia didn’t really understand why, but elderly folks have always made her a bit squeamish. Their skin, hair, eyes, any smells she might catch wind of, or even the sound of an approaching walker or wheelchair gave her the willies. Black, brown, white, yellow, no matter what color, Makia just didn’t like them. “Hell,” she said, once when describing a recent encounter with an elderly white person who happened into her neighborhood, “you could see right through their skin! Eww!” But for her to make it now – not only to last for the next three months, but also simply to walk from one area to another – she knew what she had to deal with it.
With folders in hand, Makia mapped out in her head the quickest and easiest route. Glancing back to the nurses’ station, she finds all of them watching –then quickly look away as she begins her trek.
Slowly and methodically, she makes a move and then shortly pauses before making the next – as if walking through a minefield. If one of the residents happened to look in her direction, she stopped dead in her tracks to act as if she is busy with something.
While continuing toward the room –now only a few yards away – she heard, and then smelled, what she could best describe as a dead animal, coming from a male resident she was passing. “Whoa…this one’s done,” she remarked quietly, while waving her hand in front of her nose.
By now the nurses could be heard snickering wildly from watching Makia’s adventure. She realizes this and without hesitation makes an obscene gesture in their direction.
Now, only a few feet away from the entrance to the classroom, Makia is elated to see the end in sight.
“Oh, Miss?” says a soft-spoken woman.
Makia ignores the woman.
“Miss?” spoken with more directness and loud enough to get the attention of the residents using hearing aides.
“Ah yeah…what do ya want?” says Makia, defeated. “Now, I don’t do diapers!”
“Why heaven’s no, child, I don’t wear diapers. Haven’t worn a diaper for more than 97 years,” laughed the petite, well-dressed senior citizen, while placing the book she had been reading on her lap.
“So, guess you’re, like, pretty old then? Damn…I mean, dang.
The woman laughs a little and shares with Makia that she’s heard much worse.
“That’s alright, child. I was once married to a sailor, and was raised as an only child on a working farm. So you won’t be hurting these ears!”
“Ah…okay then. So what do ya need?”
“Well… what does your nametag say?” questions the woman.
“Makia, ma’am. Makia Brown. Ma-Kee-a, since a lot of you white folks have a hard time saying black names!”
“Uh, yes then, Makia,” recites the woman with ease. “My name is Jean. Jean Robinson. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Yeah, uh… nice hangin’ wit you, too!”
“Right dear, hanging? Okay then, hanging it is. Anyway, I was wondering if you could pick up my bookmark? It seems to have slipped out of my book.”
Lying on the floor only a couple of inches from the woman’s feet was the bookmark. Makia hesitated since she initially felt the woman should get it herself, but changed her mind when seeing that her legs were very badly bruised and swollen – and a cane was leaning against one.
“Thank you, my dear. I would have hated to have lost that and as you can see, getting around can be a bit challenging,” she says, followed with a wink.
Robinson looks confused.
“No problem, ma’am. It stands for ‘No Problem!” explains Makia. “Anything else?”
Looking around as if to check off a listing in her head, the woman says no.
“Well, got work to do so have a good one!” the girl replies with a hint of purpose in her voice. “Nice hangin’ wit you!”
“But of course, my dear. A pleasure hanging with you as well.”
Makia finally makes it inside the classroom and places the folders on a table. So as not to be disturbed further, she shuts the door and then pauses for a moment.
“Shit, that wasn’t too bad,” she says to herself.
Outside the room, Jean Robinson looked up from her book toward the classroom door, and then toward the main nurses’ area where she finds Ms. Hunnington looking back at her. With a gleam in her eye, she smiles and shows a thumbs up sign. Ms. Hunnington returns a smile and a thumbs up sign as well.
“Love it when a plan comes together,” says Ms. Hunnington, walking back to her office.
With all of her attention on the folders, Makia doesn’t notice the wheelchair-bound, elderly gentleman quietly parked in a corner of the room and gazing out the window. Lost amid the other objects in the room; placed and left alone.
In a short time Makia begins to feel a presence of someone else in the room, causing her to slowly look up from her work.
“Holy shit,” screams the girl, jumping straight up from her chair. “What the fuck?”
Immediately, the classroom door is flung open by Linda, followed by Ms. Hunnington and the other nurses, and then a couple of male orderlies. The man in the wheelchair doesn’t flinch.
“I see dead people! There’s an old, dead, white guy in here!” Makia cries.
After quickly assessing the situation, Ms. Hunnington waves off the two orderlies, tells two of the nurses to immediately check on the residents in the community room “since there were probably a few that heard the scream,” and then has Linda shut the door.
“Mr. Scallettio, are you alive over there?” asks Ms. Hunnington.
“Last time I checked,” spoke the man in a dark, ominous tone. “Except my hearing might be gone now.”
“Well that’s good to know.”
Glaring at Makia, who stood motionless, Ms. Hunnington and Linda sit her down at the table.
“Sorry… but he scared the hell … heck, outta me!” explained the girl “I didn’t expect to see anyone in this room – especially an old guy in a wheelchair sitting in the corner. Anyone!”
“Miss Brown, during your time here on this floor, you have got to assume that everybody is alive ‘til otherwise noted! You can’t go screaming at the top of your lungs about seeing a dead person, or really just screaming in general,” scolded the head nurse. “You must understand that some of our residents are a bit fragile; having some medical issues and fears. Outbursts like this could send a small busload to the ER!”
“I…I, ah, sorry,” apologizes Makia.
“Do you still want to work in this room or do we need to find you another place?” questions Ms. Hunnington.
“Nah…this is good.”
“Fine. No more outbursts then?”
“Na… No ma’am.”
Ms. Hunnington and Linda look at each other and leave the room. Mr. Scallettio remains in the corner, looking out the window, as Makia starts back to work on the folders.
“Yo, mister,” says the girl, looking up from her work, “Do me a favor and fart or sumethin next time, K?
He just grunts.
For the next few hours, Makia sits listening to her music while working on the folders. Mr. Scallettio doesn’t say a word or make a sound, at times making her wonder if he was still okay. When finished, she taps the folders on the table – quite loudly – to straighten them. Still no response from the man.
“Well, enjoyed it! Have a good one,” she says, getting up and collecting her work.
Still no response.
“Well, thanks Makia… had a ball,” saying sarcastically to herself as she leaves.
“Finished?” asks Linda.
“Taken care of! Here are the pink forms and folders!”
“Thank you, Makia… nice work,” replies the nurse. “No more sightings of dead people, I hope?”
“Funny… Ha, ha,” mocks the girl.
“Well, looks like you’ve got some time to burn so take this tablet and write out your hours and what you did,” requested the nurse. “By then it should be close to 6.”
As she started walking away from the young girl, she stops.
“And Makia… not too bad for a first day. Not too bad at all,” she commends.
“It was ‘different’… that’s for sure.”
Making a space at the nurses’ station, Makia writes out her list. When finished, she takes it to Ms. Hunnington’s office. Ms.
Hunnington has already gone for the day so she finds a plastic sleeve hanging from her door and places it there.
“Finally!” she says when she sees a clock. “Time to get the hell outta here! Definitely gonna have to take a shower… ewwww!”
Makia returns to the nurses’ station, picks up her things and leaves.
As she exits the doors of the nursing home, Makia is abruptly met with the darkness beginning to fall as well as colder temperatures. She sees the bus approaching and quickly runs to meet it at the same place it had dropped her off earlier.
Traveling back home, Makia’s thoughts drift from her time spent at St. Vincent’s to her son and how much she missed him. As before, she stays lost in the songs playing through her iPod while becoming hypnotized by the blurring images outside the windows. Switching from one mode of transportation to another, the harsh reality of her living environment eventually awakens her – strengthening her defenses of the personal walls she has held for so long.
Close to an hour later, Makia is finally dropped off at the projects. Without haste, she makes way to the unit where she lives. She understands too well the dangers of a young woman walking the sidewalks after nightfall, but feels a strange sense of protection knowing that Desmond is a member of one of the complex’s gangs that monitor that particular section.
“Mommy!” cries Matthew, running up to his mother when she comes through the door.
She quickly puts her things down by the door and lifts the child into her arms.
“Where you been, mommy? I’ve missed you!”
“I’ve missed you too, little man. Mommy’s been workin’. So, have you had a good day?” she asks after trying to put him down.
Matthew, however, wants to stay attached to his mother, so she carries him into the apartment.
“It’s about time you came home, girl!” snaps her mother coming out of the kitchen. “That boy’s been nuthin’ but trouble.”
“Now, mother… Matthew, have you been givin’ Grandma a hard time?”
“Na..no, momma. I been good!”
“Yeah right, child… tell your momma dem lies, why don’t cha!”
Once finally able to put the boy down, Makia scans the worn room then goes into the kitchen area as a beep is heard from a microwave.
“Matthew, get in here and eat. Your mac and cheese is ready,” shouted her mother. “And this time you’re gonna eat it all!”
“Come on and eat, Mattey,” repeats Makia, calmly.
The boy comes in the room and sits down at the small, linoleum table.
“Sit, momma…. Please?” asks the boy.
Between bites, the three-year-old shared all that he did while his mother was away.
“Grandma didn’t let me watch my program!”
“Well, I ain’t gonna sit around all day and watch that damn purple thing,” states her mother. “I’ve got my own stuff.”
“Now mom… you know he watches that show every day!”
“Well, maybe if you were around then he could watch it and I could finally enjoy my own life!”
“What in the hell is that supposed to mean, mother?”
“You know exactly what I mean, girl!” she snaps. “If you hadn’t been hangin out with that damn Desmond, this wouldn’t be happenin. And bein’ stupid enough to get caught? Now I’ve got to take time out from my busy day to take care of your responsibility!”
“Don’t be talkin’ ‘bout the boy’s father like that, mom!” scolds Makia. “And you know the only reason I hang with him is because he is the boy’s father! And ‘busy day’? What da fuck? What is it that is so important that you can’t watch your grandchild three days a week? You ain’t working, are ya?”
“I might not be workin or going to some high falootin’, white folks’ nursing home like some people, but my day is just as important!” continues the mother. “In fact, child, I have to get my nails done tomorrow mornin’, so you’re gonna have to watch him!”
“Don’t give me no shit about what I have to do!” argues Makia. “You know damn well it wasn’t my idea but that damn judge’s. At least we don’t have to fuckin’ pay anything!”
“Whatever…” growls her mother as she leaves to sit down in the next room. “Well, right now I’m off the clock. He’s all yours!”
Makia slowly shakes her head and smiles fondly at her son who is finishing up.
“You and Grandma arguin’ again, mommy?”
“No dear… just disagreeing, that’s all.”
“She jus’ ornery?”
“Yes dear, Grandma is just bein’ ornery!” states Makia loudly enough for her mother to hear in the next room.
“Jus’ don’t forget about my nail appointment, girl. Jus’ don’t forget about that!” snaps her mother.
“That’s fine… mother, just don’t you forget you need to be back here by 11:30!”
“11:30 a.m., mother!”
After Matthew is finished, Makia realizes the time and begins to get him ready for bed, a time that she looks forward to every night since it usually means time spent with just the two of them. She gathers up his pajamas and draws him a bath. As if in another world, she bathes and plays with him, leaving all concerns outside the bathroom. She dries him, dresses him, and then carries him to her room where his bed sits off to one side.
At first, Mattey is still a little worked up from having his mother with him but quickly begins to tire and lays down – his mother stroking his dark hair gently. In the background a siren is faintly heard, piercing the stillness of the room.
“Po-po, momma,” announces the boy softly.
“Yes, dear: po-po. Now go to sleep, little man.”
As the boy drifts to sleep, Makia continues to softly stroke his hair and look around the room as the siren dissipates into the night.
“One day things will be better, my dear. One day.”
© Copyright 2017 TimothyBryant. All rights reserved.
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