“You need to get a job for the rest of the summer” Momma said. I had asked for money to go shopping for when school started back; I would be a junior and wanted to look nice.
“Money don’t grow on trees, especially none in our yard” Momma said. “Besides idle time is the devils playground” she said.
The next morning I set out walking up Carl Street, heading to see Miss Tina at the YMCA, to see if she could help me get a job there.
As I walked past Mr. Brown’s house, one of his dogs barked. I looked and it was a different dog than I remembered before I had ran away; it looked nasty and sickly, like all of Mr. Brown’s dogs did.
Even when I was little he didn’t take care of his dogs. One time Momma had let me bring one of his dogs home to nurse that was really sick. She let me keep the puppy in a box in our room. I had wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up.
This dog’s eyes had white puss in them as she waddled to the fence barking. I knew it was a female and that she had puppies because her milk sacks were hanging and swinging as she walked to the fence. I looked around the yard and squatted to look under the house that sat on these bolder brick things. Puppies!
I opened the gate and entered the yard; I got on my knees and reached in to pull the puppies out into the light. I gasped, their eyes had puss in them too! Mr. Brown came out on his porch, “Hey Joyebell, you sho growing up girl” I rolled my eyes, stood and walked off.
Miss Tina was happy to see me at the YMCA. “Where have you been” she asked, her eyebrows scrunched up. I told Miss Tina everything; how I had been homeless when I first met her and everything in between. I did not tell her about Corn. I did not want Momma to get into trouble.
“I need a job Miss Tina” I said. “Hold on, let me check on something” she said, as she walked out of the room. She walked up the hall and into the main office.
She returned a while later with a smile on her face, to where I was sitting. “Okay little lady, you got a job until school starts as my summer assistant” she said, with a grin on her face. I covered my mouth to keep from screaming with joy!
“You will only get two and a half paychecks since summer is almost over” she said looking at me; we pay every two weeks. “That’s okay Miss Tina, thank you so much” I said, as I gave her a hug.
I started work the next day. I loved it; I pretty much followed Miss Tina around all day and did whatever she asked me to do. I also helped with the free summer meals program.
The YMCA provided free lunches at the various schools around South Dallas. I liked when I assisted at my old elementary school Paul L. Dunbar. Sand was back home by now too, and would go with me to help pass out the lunches at the schools. I passed out the pre-packaged sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a carton of milk to each child in line. Then Sand and I ate lunch together as we supervised the children.
My first payday came and I was so excited; I was going to buy me some new school clothes. They would not get the chance to tease me this year!
When I got off work, I left out the front door about to walk home as usual; but Momma and Corn were sitting in the parking lot waiting for me. My heart started to pound as I approached the car! Had I done something wrong, had something happened? I nervously got into the car.
“Did you get your check today” Momma asked? “Yes ma’am” I said. “Let me see it” she demanded. I passed her the check; she looked at it and then turned to look back at me from over the front seat.
“You gotta help out around the house with this” she said, as she shook my check in her hand and nodded her head towards it. “We gonna take you to cash it, and then you gonna give it to me” she stated. I felt my eyes widen and my lips turn down.
I quickly corrected that, as Momma gave me the ‘Oh no you didn’t’ face and neck gesture. “Why do I have to give you the whole thing” I questioned as humbly as possible.
“Because with all the trouble you have caused, you can at least help out with the bills” she said. I felt myself about to cry.
“We don’t need all of it Pat” Corn said, talking with his head straight forward, as he drove; Momma staring at the side of his head. I know he was not sure, just as I wasn’t, if Momma was gonna hit him for saying that.
“Whatchu mean” Momma asked with her head tilted, chin pulled back and eyebrows crinkled?
“Let her keep half of the money Pat, she worked for it” Corn said, turning his head and looking Momma in the face.
She looked at him, turned her head forward and sat back in her seat, as she crossed her arms over her breast. I held my breath. “Alright, you can keep half” Momma said.
They took me to cash my check at the store and Momma took half of my 1st pay check.
Later as I sat on the front porch, still mad about Momma taking my money, I heard the puppies yelping up the street.
As I walked up the street to see why they were crying like that, I thought about how I couldn’t school shop now, I didn’t have enough money.
As I approached the gate, I could see that they were worse than what they were weeks ago. Their mother looked the worse as she lay under the house.
I opened the gate, reached inside and grabbed a black puppy; I closed the gate and walked back to my house. I went in our back door and grabbed a big towel and wrapped the puppy in it and held him like a baby.
I set out walking up Fitzhugh Ave, toward the long Crosstown Expressway that I would need to cross over to get to the vet’s office on the other side of the bridge.
I had to explain to the doctor that the puppy did not belong to me; that he had sisters, brothers and a mother that all had the same sickness.
I told him how much money I had from my first paycheck and that I wanted to get as much medicine as possible for the puppy and his family.
He cleaned the puppy’s eyes and put ointment in them; he then gave the puppy a shot. He gave me a bag with 2 tubes of ointment, gauze, a bottle of eye cleaner and little valves of liquid antibiotics and showed me how to clean their eyes.
He was really nice; I know I did not have enough money for all that he gave me. I was broke now, but I felt better!
I walked back home and took care of the rest of the dogs. Every day for two weeks, I placed ointment in the dogs’ eyes and gave them their liquid antibiotics twice a day. They were much better!
Four weeks later, I stood outside the fence yelling for the dogs to come out from under the house; only the mother came to greet me at the gate. Mr. Brown came to the door, “They ain’t here, I gave them to my grandbabies” he said.
I was mad that he let me do all that work without saying goodbye to them, but I was glad they did not live with him anymore.
I was able to get a few things for school with the money I had left after Momma took half of my other pay checks.