Thank God And Be Grateful

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A brief look into the perspective of a little girl and her ailing mother.

Submitted: January 29, 2014

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Submitted: January 29, 2014



Thank God and Be Grateful


Sometime Miss Betty Lou come over to check on Mama. She be touchin’ her head and clickin’ her tongue, then she feel how big Mama’s belly is and she look hard at me and say, “you should thank God and be grateful for your mama, girl.”

I ain’t never said nothin’ when she say that. Most times I just stick out my tongue and cross my arms. Then I spend most of the day like she ain’t even there. I fix Mama her noon tea with bread. I put strawberry preserve I make myself on one and butter from Big Mama on another. Sometime she eat the butter, but all the time she eat the preserves. I then set to the house and see that her chil’ren looked after. They run crazy and wild if’n I let ‘em.

But then I get those times when it’s just me and I go wonderin’ the fields. I don’t look for nothin’ special and I don’t play games like I used to when I was small. Nah, I just walk and let my mind empty and let God fill what He will. Most times I feel heavy, like God steppin’ on my chest, and fillin’ my heart with peace. I don’t never talk to nobody about how God come into my heart like that. It be special like and personal.

Then, with God weighing heavy in my chest, I walk on and I touch the ends of the wheat stalks and feel their softness. I let the sun make my skin darker and warm the meat in it. Sometimes I run as hard and fast as I can and let God feel my happiness, but then the sun start to move and I go back to house to look after Mama.

I make supper for the chil’ren. Collard greens, sweet potatoes, pork chops, and apple sauce. I bring Mama some collards and sweet potatoes. I ain’t good at rememberin’ when she stopped touching meat, but it ain’t been long. Mama always sniffs the food real good before she offer me a weak smile. I think she do it more for me. She always want me to know that the food good even when she can’t eat it, and I know how hard it be for her to talk times.

I always say, “you eat what you can, Mama. Ain’t nobody like everything in this world.”

She don’t always say nothin’ to that, but I always wait just in case. After a while, she move to the food and I leave her be. Sometime it take most of the night for Mama to eat what little bit she will and I ain’t one to hurry nobody. I get her chil’ren washed good and send ‘em off to bed. They don’t fidget too much and if  they do, I knock ‘em straight. They fight me like the devil and I go callin’ for Papa.

He ain’t never right to us. He keep quiet and eat his meals without lookin’ no where. Sometimes he go out to the fields and spend all day there. Most times he ain’t working. Most times, he just drinkin’ his moonshine and eatin’ his liver. I gotta wash him some nights before he see Mama if he been out in the field. Then he climb in bed with Mama and just cry in her breasts.

Mama just stroke his head and she look hard at the ceiling. I know she lookin’ at God then, cause that’s where I look when times get hard too. I know He ain’t in the ceiling, but he always close lookin’ by, always lookin’ down. Sometime’s you can feel Him right out the corner of your eye. Then you ain’t as scared or sad or hurt as you were no more. Your heart gets heavy like it do in the fields.

“Come on, Papa,” I say, when Mama start to look tired and pale again. “You can’t make love with Chil’ren in the room.”

Mama smiles real tight every time and Papa denies it, but he smile sometimes too. I put Papa to bed and then I go back and wash Mama. I used to use soap powder, but Mama’s skin got so soft lately I only use warm water with some rose petals in it and bath salts when we got ‘em. Most times Mama sleep before I finish and that’s when I set to listenin’ to her belly. The baby always move when I set and listen close and I sigh softly fore I put Mama in a soft gown.

Times be that the nights are chilly. I get the fire goin’ high and stoke it till I sweat. I leave it high and set myself on a mat nearby. I don’t sleep like people sleep. I always think I sleep like animals sleep, always wakin’ up to look around. I check the fire and check on Mama.

She pee the bed every night, halfway through the night. That’s when the moon glow come on through the windows, through the curtains and touch me all warm and soft. It’s like God kissin’ on me and and my heart gets all heavy again.

Morning come slowly, but it ain’t that hard slowness that makes time difficult to bear. It’s that slow time when you feel every little thing. I feel the firm mat, the heat of a good stoked fire, the warm moon glow of God kissin’ on me, the rise and fall of Mama’s breasts, and the off beat ticks of Mama’s belly. I don’t need to touch nothin’ to feel it at night. Time’s so slow that I can feel everything without movin’ and I like it.

The morning the baby comes Ms. Betty Lou ain’t come ‘round and Papa’s out in the field. The chil’ren all out playin’ and it’s just me and Mama pullin’ and pushin’ that baby until he come slippin’ out. Mama so strong she ain’t cry out or nothin’; she just grunt and hiss.

But that baby cry so loud and high that he block out all other noise. I cut the cord and wrap him in warm towels after I clean him in the tepid water I got nearby. I carry him to Mama and she reach out weakly to take him close.

She kiss his head and smile ‘fore she put her eyes on me. I know she weak and she ain’t got much left. Her eyes say she love me and they say how thankful she is, and they say stuff that nobody ever knows how to say they whole life of livin’. She want to stay, but God callin’ her and she ain’t got the strength to turn away from that call.

I take the boy in my arms as she closes her eyes forever. Me and that boy cry quiet so we don’t let the other chil’ren know she gone. If it’s even for one more minute they don’t know, it’s one more minute they have their Mama.

Papa come rushin’ in, sayin’, “I heard that boy all the way in the fields!”.

He see Mama and he just stare for a time. I tug on his sleeve when I see all the chil’ren behind him tryin’ to peak.

“You gonna name this boy, Papa?”

“How can I name somethin’ that took your Mama?”

“You better thank God and be grateful!” I shout at him. “Mama worked hard to give you this son. Ain’t never gonna be another like him--“

He pat me on the shoulder. “Shut up…just shut your mouth. Let me say goodbye to your Mama.”

I take the baby and the chil’ren and we set up in the sittin’ room floor.

We just starin’ at that boy!

 I wonder what he gonna be like. I wonder if he gonna be the new savior. I just set and dream of what God got waitin’ for him.

© Copyright 2018 Johnnie Ruffin. All rights reserved.

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