NOTHING LIKE FAMILY

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"Sunday Dinner"

September 2015

Big Daddy pulled his four-door, burgundy Chrysler 300 onto the driveway of his single-story, gray-panel home with white trimming. He removed the keys from the ignition and ejected Tamela Mann’s Best Days CD from the radio. He favored “Take Me to the King,” and had it on repeat the entire trip home. Big Daddy got out of the car dressed in an all-black pinstriped double-breasted suit and unlatched the black gate, which sheltered the front yard that had needed to be cut.

“How was church, Big Daddy?” Mrs. Peaches, the nosey next-door neighbor asked as she rocked back and forth in her chair on her porch.

“It was fine. Pastor Williams really did his thing this morning,” Big Daddy answered as he picked up the Lowe Barr Moment.

He then frowned at the front cover, which headlined: Three-year-old Molested by Deranged Stepfather. Big Daddy shook his head, climbed the stairway, and walked through the front door and hung his black fedora cap on the coat-rack to his left, which was filled with other coats and hats. After kicking people shoes out of the way, he turned into the living room and was greeted by his grandson, who was watching cartoons on the couch.

“Hey, Big Daddy,” Chris shouted, happy to see his grandfather.

“Hey.” Big Daddy took a glimpse of Chris’ feet on the sofa. “What did I tell you about lying all over my couch? That’s what your room is for.”

“My mama said I can watch TV in here.”

“Your mama doesn’t pay any bills up in here. Now sit up.” Big Daddy started to unbutton his blazer. “And speaking of that free-loader, where is she?”

But the whiff of collard greens, black eyes peas, baked chicken, and a combination of other things passed right under his nose, answering his question. He walked through the pocket doors, which led to the newly remodeled black and white, French country-style kitchen where Blair was preparing Sunday dinner.

“Where is everybody?” Blair asked before Big Daddy could say anything. “They said they were coming over to help. I have been cooking over this hot stove all morning by myself.”

“Well, unlike you they had to go home for a minute and recuperate. So just be quiet, stop whining, and cook the food. They’ll be over to help out,” demanded Big Daddy as he walked out of the kitchen, leaving Blair to interact with her lonesome.

Blair was now forcefully whipping the mashed potatoes. “Yeah. Like I do every Sunday dinner - cook most of the damn food.”

Thinking her father didn’t hear her, Big Daddy responded from around the corner. “You’re the only one that lives here.”

The Mitchell family was all of many things: full of activity, loud, working-class, and rambunctious. It was days like Sunday, at Sunday dinners, where all of those characteristics would clash. Like most families and their Sunday dinners, it was a time when everyone would return from church, meet up at someone’s house, and have a nice, wholesome family dinner. But the Mitchell’s weren’t your typical family. A Mitchell’s Sunday dinner was a time when everyone would release stress and a lot of drama would occur.

The family resided in the northwest part of Indiana in a raunchy town by the name of Lowe Barr. It was a rather small city to others but large to some people like the Mitchells who’ve lived there their entire lives. At a point of time, Lowe Barr was one of the places to be, being that if you wanted a good paying job you could work at the steel mills or in Chicago, which was only about thirty miles away.

Like most cites, Lowe Barr has good neighborhoods and bad ones. The Westside of the city, Dixon Park, was known to be the worst part. After dark, it wasn’t so logical to be walking the streets whereas on the eastside, often referred to as Portville, you can get away with certain things. But people didn’t push their luck because the Lowe Barr Police Department is far from friendly and considering. Because the eastside was closer to Lake Michigan and the steel mills; you found more people living there in nice beach homes and subdivisions. Portville was also where majority white people resided, which was only a handful.

Like today, Sunday dinners were held at Big Daddy’s house over on the Southside of town, Shaytown.


Later on that evening, dinner was completed and Big Daddy usually started everything off with prayer. “Lord, first off I wanna thank you for letting me see another day to see all of my kids sitting around my table. Lord, bless this food that we are about to eat...”

He had to be about two minutes into grace when hungry Blair couldn’t resist another moment of listening to him go on and on. She popped her lips and interrupted him. “Daddy, come on.”

“Blair, shut up and let the man finish,” said Shonnie.

“As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted,” Big Daddy added, giving Blair a dirty look. “Lord, I wanna thank you for this wonderful food that my daughters cooked. Their mother would have been proud. In Jesus name, Amen.”

“Amen,” the family replied.

With that being said, everyone began throwing down. Platters were being rotated, drinks were being poured, and conversations were being sparked. Not only were all of the conversations good ones. Some of them happened to spark up attitudes essentially coming from Camille, and her husband Rodney.

“Hey, Malcolm, you still got the number to that mechanic who worked on your car last month?” asked Rodney. “I need to get my Cadillac checked out.

Wiping her mouth, Camille turned to husband. “What’s wrong with the car now, Rodney?”

“Nothing, baby. The brakes are going out.”

“The brakes? We just got a brand new battery put in. Now it’s your breaks?”

“Babe, let me handle this.”

“That’s what you said the last time.”

Camille and Rodney have been married for fourteen years and share two wonderful kids together, Ray and Raven. With Camille’s independent and assertive manner, it tended to conflict with Rodney’s arrogant attitude and self-centeredness. Not to mention that they occasionally had the tendency to dispute over Ray’s rebellious ways. Just recently, Ray wanted to get his ears pierced. Camille thought it wasn’t appropriate for his age while Rodney thought he was mature enough because he’s in high school now.

“If your car can’t handle all those trips to Indianapolis maybe you should stop going,” Camille continued.

“Then let me use your truck.”

“You’re not putting all those miles on my truck. Especially not for pleasure trips.”

“You know I’m going to see my mom.”

“FaceTime her. Skype her. Get up with the times, Rodney. This is the fifth time the car had to go into the shop.”

G-Ma butted in. “That’s exactly why I don’t let negros drive my car.”

“Speaking of your car,” implied Jada, as she directed her pretty face towards G-Ma with a grin. “Can I borrow it later on tonight?”

“Girl, I am not letting you use my car. One, you can’t drive worth a damn and two, what’s wrong with your car?”

“It’s all the way on campus. Shonnie picked me.”

“Your point?”

“She’ll have to take me all the way to my dorm. Then I’ll have to drive all the way back this way to go out.” Jada headed for the refrigerator for the hot sauce and everyone observed her attire: white midriff top, exposing her belly ring. Flared blue mini skirt, exposing her nice legs. And hot pink heels to finish things off. Her fun dressing complimented her fun personality.

“Is that why you’re dressed like a go-go dancer?” Blair asked, taunting her little sister, with a smirk on her face.

“Whatever. I have really big plans tonight.”

Whenever she had “plans,” knowing Jada’s promiscuous behavior, she probably had a date with a dead-beat guy from college, and they were going to hook up and study the art of panty-dropping. Jada is only twenty and finds the liking in sleeping around with various guys on and off her campus. For instance, you have Derrick, a guy she met in English class. She can give you plenty of adjectives to describe his sex. Then there’s Will, a Theater major. The many assorted acts they performed would make for a great entertaining porno not Broadway.

“Jay, where are you heading tonight?” Malcolm asked, chomping down on piece of baked chicken.

Big Daddy interfered. “I hope to a study group. Hell, I’m paying for it.”

Blair gave Jada a giggle. “Oh yeah. There will be a group alright.”

While looking at Big Daddy, Jada waved her sister off. “Big Daddy, yes I will be going to a study group. And Blair, don’t try to call me a ho because you don’t get any. Shoot. The last time something came out of you was when you gave birth to Chris.”

Shonnie agreed with Jada’s comment by slapping hands. Then the conflict escalated the moment Malcolm’s straight-laced girlfriend, Bridgett Waters, took the time out to put her two cents into the conversation, which ticked Shonnie off.

“Bridgett, next time you wanna add your little comment - don’t,” Shonnie twirled her fingered across the table.

“Honey, I can say whatever I want to say. I’m not scared of you.”

“Girl, you just got into this family. So if you wanna remain, you better find your voice before I hop over this table and pop you in your damn mouth.”

Shonnie was very consistent. During high school, Big Daddy had spent a grip on anger management classes and jail bonds. Those jails bonds were mainly due to messing around with her knuckle head boyfriend, Tyreke.

Shonnie and Tyreke’s ruthless ten-year relationship has caused Big Daddy many jagged nights from all the sneak-ins, the hidden trips to Chicago, the pregnancy scares, and the constant ‘But daddy, I love him’ arguments. Throughout the years, Big Daddy has grown fond of Tyreke. But not as much as he admired his son-in-law, Rodney. The difference between Tyreke and Rodney was very apparent. One of them took care of Big Daddy’s daughter while the other just took from his daughter.

Moments later, Camille tried to relax the confrontation. “Shonnie, why are you always picking on Bridgett?”

“Because,” she started off saying with a tight face, “I don’t like her ass. Can’t y’all see she’s using Malcolm?”

Bridgett rested her manicured hands on top of Malcolm’s frohawk. “Nobody is using your brother. This is all love, sweetie. Don’t hate.”

And Tyreke didn’t make the problem any better by questioning Shonnie’s pride. “Boo, you gonna let her talk to you like that?”

“No. I’m tryna be respectful towards Big Daddy.”

“Don’t start now,” Big Daddy sarcastically suggested.

“What about me?” G-Ma wondered out loud.

“G-Ma, let’s be logical here,” Jada pointed out. “What would you really do?”

“You know my alternative - Shank ’em! That’s what I did to the woman your grandfather called himself seeing. She was a deaconess, my ass.”

Big Daddy became aggravated. “Okay! That’s enough! Everybody shut up and eat!”

And they did.

At the head of the table, Big Daddy looked over by Malcolm and locked eyes on the salt. “Pass me the salt.”

“Pops, you know you don’t need any salt.”

“Yeah, Big Daddy. The food is seasoned enough,” confirmed Blair.

Like a child that couldn’t get any candy, Big Daddy pouted but then had an epiphany. “Wait a minute. This is my house and my food. How are y’all gonna tell me I can’t have any damn salt?”

Five minutes of silence and watching it heavily snow in Big Daddy’s plate had passed. Shonnie ate and stared at Bridgett at the same time. Two chairs down, Jada was deeply invested in a text message, smiling at the responses on her iPhone screen. Next to Jada, Camille was having internal arguments, anticipating on finding out why Rodney needed to get the car fixed again. But she wasn’t only upset about the brakes. It was Rodney’s carelessness that she was fed up with. With aggression, she repeatedly tapped her fork against the table.

“Camille, are you okay?” Malcolm asked.

“Oh, I’m just peachy. I don’t want you all think I have a problem with him going to see his mom.”

“But you do,” Rodney slid in.

“Really, Rodney? In front of our children?”

“They need to know the truth: My wife, their mom, doesn’t like my mom, their grandmother.”

“Don’t get cute.”

“Hey,” Blair, once again, intruded. “Can y’all take y’all family issues to your own house? I’m trying to eat here.”

“Blair, don’t act like they stopping you from eating because we all know you’ll chow down in the middle of a war,” Jada added.

Blair sat in the chair looking crazy because she knew it was true. “I really don’t have to take this.”

“Um. Can I ask you something?” G-Ma questioned.

Blair turned around, giving G-Ma her undivided attention. Her eyes were low.

G-Ma boldly went on. “Where are you gonna go? You live here with your father and me - at the age of twenty-three and jobless.”

“Okay. I get it. What is this? Pick-on-Blair night?”

“Mommy, my head hurt,” Blair’s seven-year-old son cried out as he grabbed his head in pain.

“What do you want me to do to, Chris? Do I look like a doctor? Go lay down or something. Just get out of my face.”

Chris walked out of the dining room, dragging his feet with his head down. Camille signed Ray to go check up on his little cousin. Raven followed, and everyone sat looking at Blair.

“What?”

Although Blair is self-observed, she always battled with insecurities because of her weight. She spent most of her grade school years running home crying. In high school, every morning she was greeted with a locker full of Twinkies, which were compliments of the cheerleading squad whom she looked up to in order to fit in. Blair always complained about being alive because she felt there wasn’t a place in the world for skinny-impaired women.

All that ceased when Blair met a guy who was almost twice her age. The only thing she needed to hear from him was “I love you,” which got her to lose her virginity and pregnant at the age of fifteen. Sometimes the family thinks Blair blame Chris for everything that had happened to her, which is why she treated him more like an associate then an offspring.

“Y’all are too ghetto for me,” started Bridgett. “You got one nagging, this one [Blair] is a misfit mother, and don’t get me started on Shonnie, Miss. I-Whip-My-Hair-Back-And-Forth. You know what, I’m leaving.” Bridgett tossed her napkin onto the table, got up, and stormed out of the dining room.

“Let me go see what’s wrong with her,” said Malcolm.

“Yeah. You go handle that before I do,” Shonnie replied.

Naïve Malcolm made his way into the living room to look after sophisticated Bridgett, who was in the act of slipping on her biker chic, fitted leather jacket. After tossing her long, black hair from out her collar, Bridgett advanced to the front door. Malcolm rested his large palms on the brim of the suede, corner couch beginning to reminisce on how his life was before he’d met Bridgett. She tried to act as if she wasn’t paying attention, looking at her polished nails and pedicure through her black, open-toed stilettos.

“Y’know, before I met you, I was the one in the family that everybody thought wouldn’t amount to anything. I was just a deer in the middle of the road when it came to life. They characterized me as lazy, dull, and corny. Everyone made me feel inadequate, especially Blair.”

He began to imitate Blair by rolling his neck and adjusting to a higher tone. “Malcolm, it’s a damn shame that you the only boy in the family and we have to look up to you to carry on our name.”

Malcolm laughed with complete sorrow. “But then you came into my life,” he quickly stated as he got up and grabbed Bridgett by her slim waist. “A young, sexy, sophisticated woman who knew what she wanted. Somebody who had goals. Somebody who made me realized there’s more out there then just working at the steel mill. And I told myself: I got to have that girl. That’s wife-material. She is gonna be the mother of my firstborn.”

After he concluded, in merriment, Bridgett turned around and they began to slob each other down. You could have sworn they were having sex with all of the moaning and aggressive caresses.

“So when are we going to tell them the big news?” Bridgett asked, wiping the saliva from the corners of her mouth.

“I will - well, we will,” Malcolm insisted, grabbing her hand.

Upon walking back into the dining room, they had discovered the departure of Camille and her family. Due to bothersome issues and the fact that Big Daddy got fed up with listening to them bicker, Camille was obligated to handle her ongoing dispute in the presence of her own home. That incident led to Shonnie ready to leave. She had to be at work in the morning unlike Tyreke who was unemployed. He spent majority of his time on the streets and mooching off of everybody. Every so often, he tended to bring home a valuable amount. Now the question of it being legal seemed to wonder through everyone’s head. But money, staying alive and sex were the only things that went through Tyreke’s strong-structured cranium, and not quite in that order.

At the moment, sex was immediately Tyreke number one priority as he pushed back from table to look at Shonnie’s well-rounded behind that clearly stuck out in her stonewashed jeans. He stood up, licked his full lips, grabbed himself and urged Shonnie to leave, giving her the hint that he was horny.

“Well family, I think it’s time for me to go,” Shonnie announced then giggled when she saw Jada bouncing up and down in her chair, making reference to what they really were leaving to do.

Jada followed the sexual erotic couple outside and got into an orange Suburban, with chrome rims. The music was loudly muffled until she opened the car door and Biggie Smalls’ "Big Poppa" came roaring out. Jada closed the door. The Suburban sped off. Shonnie and Tyreke mysteriously looked at one another out the corner of their eyes, then got into their black Impala.

Back in the house, Big Daddy was stunned at the mess that was scattered on the table, trying to figure out who was going to clean it up. He stood in place looking at G-Ma with his left eyebrow raised in the air like he always did when he wanted to make a point. She looked back with her lips curled up, giving him a “Yeah, right” look.

No matter how seasoned or highly respected Big Daddy was by not only his children, but associates as well [Big Daddy didn’t have many friends.]; G-Ma was the only person that brought the youth out of him. He always found himself speaking in a high-pitched tone when talking to her. “Do it for your baby boy.”

“Boy, please. I do not look like Florence and we are not the Jeffersons. Besides, mama got a date.”

Big Daddy frowned, “With who? Lavertis? The deacon at the church?”

“No, you idiot. He’s my Monday through Thursday. Otis is my weekend.”

“The old man that beat the rugs outside at the Flea Market?”

“That’s not the only thing he beats,” she replied, giving him a wink.

Big Daddy quickly grabbed his stomach on the verge of regurgitating as Blair burst out into laughter. “Well, it’s nice to see you’ve erased my daddy out the picture,” Big Daddy cried.

It’s been a year and Big Daddy has yet got over his father’s passing. To see his mother care less and less about the fifty-one years and three children she shared with him seemed to trouble Big Daddy.

“Bernie, please. I have not forgotten about your papi. I’m just tryna have fun. Just because your spouse is dead doesn’t mean you have to be. You need to take that into consideration. Live a little. I’m pretty sure they both would want us too.”

Big Daddy thought for a minute, reminiscing about his deceased ex-wife. “Nawl. I’m cool.”

“Oh-kay,” G-Ma patted Big Daddy on the back for comfort.

Moments after G-Ma’s exit, Big Daddy finally pulled himself together to ask Blair to wash the dishes. She also said “no” due to the constant calls she was getting from Chris in the bedroom.

Big Daddy found himself in the kitchen, alone, looking at the dirty dishes stacked in the sink. You could tell he was pissed off as he aggressively grabbed the plates, laying them on top of the smoked, laminated countertop.

Meanwhile, Blair was tending to Chris, but not by her will. She walked into his bedroom. There was bottle of Children’s Pepto-Bismol in one hand and a spoon in the other. Blair quickly got irritated at every cough he had. He was coming down with something.

“Mom, I don’t feel good.”

His cough was hard and rough. But Blair didn’t care as she stroked the sides of her short, tapered hair. She told him to suck it up because he was still going to school sick or not. Trying to change the subject, Blair turned away and noticed that Chris hadn’t cleaned up his bedroom like she’d asked him to. When all along, his room wasn’t that messy.

As she got up and pointed out the little flaws, a loud thump followed by dishes clattering was heard in the background. She quickly ran into the kitchen only to find Big Daddy passed out on the floor.

“Big Daddy,” Blair screamed as she ran over by him. “Chris...Somebody...Call 911!”

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