Hopefully Beautiful - "I more than survived... I thrived."

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Chapter 7


At the beginning of my fourth grade year, as I walked past the last building that we usually see each morning, before we crossed the street corner to the school, I looked up as usual. At the top of the dark brown rusty looking staircase, was this little girl leaning over looking at me.

She was dark coco brown, with medium length pigtails; she had on a pink and white, long sleeve shirt. I smiled at her, but she sucked her teeth, jerked her neck and walked away.

My heart raced a little and my feelings were hurt; but I kept walking and crossed the street, and ran across the front lawn into the school.

My last class was gym. I had money for my gym uniform this week, so I was excited about being able to play kick-ball.

As I changed clothes in the locker room I heard giggling. I looked up to see what they were laughing at; but as I looked around, I didn’t see anything funny going on.

I looked over at the girls who are giggling and I see that one of them is the same girl I saw this morning at the brown building; my heart started racing.

The girls walked over to me and the girl from the building announced, “My name is Lisa. What is your name” she asked, with her hand on her hip? “Joye” I respond.

“Where you from” Lisa asked? “Pleasant Grove” I say and noticed a smirk form on Lisa’s lips. The school bell started ringing and we all ran into the gym. None of the girls wanted to pick me for kick-ball. But I ended up in Lisa’s group anyway and they ignored me the whole class.

The next day at gym, the teacher left the gymnasium for some reason. As soon as she left out, the lights went out in the gym! I heard feet running towards me and giggling!

I saw stars from the pain of multiple sets of hands hitting me at the same time! I am screamed stop and tried to cover and protect myself!

When the lights came back on, the kids were standing around looking, and some are yelling ‘oooohhhhh’. I got up off of the floor and ran to the locker room!

I didn’t say anything to the teacher; I didn’t want to be called a ‘tattletale’. I didn’t want to say anything to Momma because she would come up to the school; and I couldn’t let her know I was scared because she would whoop me for being scared of them.

I faked being sick the next day of school but couldn’t quite pull it off for two days in a row; Momma made me go back to school. In gym class I see the teacher heading towards the door. I brace myself.

The lights go off and the blows began, but this time I swung my arms like a crazy person! I heard our teacher yelling “Why are the lights off in here” and feet running away from me?

The lights came back on as I stood there with my hair all over my head, clothes ripped and crying! “Joye what happened to you” she said as she held her upper chest.

I told her what happened, but could not tell her who did it? She yelled at the class demanding to know who did this, but no one came forward. The teacher made the whole class run laps around the gym; and of course they blamed me for it.

I was sent to the clinic to get cleaned up before I went home. I still did not tell Momma, I hoped it was over. My gym teacher stopped leaving us in the gym alone and I was relieved.

I know it was Lisa and her girls because once the ‘jumps’ in the gym stopped, they started messing with me in the hallways and at lunch.

Then the next week was strange; they did not bother me at all in gym or in the hallways or at lunch. It was the end of the week and they had not bothered me at all, I was feeling pretty good and ready for cartoons tomorrow morning. Our gym class ended and the girls dressed quickly and left before me, I was again relieved.

I gathered my things and went out the side door of the school to avoid leaving through the front and having to pass in front of Lisa’s building.

As I came down the stairs and made a right, Lisa and her whole group was there waiting for me! I started to back up, turned around and started running as they chased me!

One girl caught me by the back of my shirt and pulled me down. They piled on me and Lisa started hitting me until a parent came running up, yelling for them to stop it! They jumped up and ran way.

The woman helped me up, dusted off my clothes and handed me my books. “Thank you” I said and took off running! I ran all the way home!

Momma was standing in the doorway when I got home and stepped outside as I ran up “What’s wrong with you” “Why you late getting home” she said! I started crying and told her what had been happening! I just knew she was going to go marching up to the school, but she didn’t. She took me in the house; cleaned me up, changed my clothes and combed my hair.

“Come on” she told me and I followed Momma out my bedroom back door into the back yard. Momma went to Corn’s tool shed, went inside and pulled out a black crow bar; she handed it to me. She took me by my free hand and we walked over to the tree that Sand, Kooky and I climb while playing out back.

Momma stood behind me and wrapped her arms around me. Momma took my hands and placed them on the crow bar; she moved one hand higher than the other and wrapped my fingers tightly around the end that was straight.

She lifted my arms above and over my back shoulder and swung down and up to the sky so hard; I thought she was going to pull my arm off!

Then she showed me how to swing it like a baseball bat. I learned how to keep my back to the fence, while swinging my crow bar back and forth; to keep them from all jumping me at the same time.

“Now you put this crow bar inside the bushes just outside that door. When you get out of school you go the way you always go, and as soon as you come out the door go straight in them bushes and grab that crow bar!”

“Hold it on your side while you walk around to the front of the school. As soon as they get close, you drop your books and whip that crow bar up from your side, back your back to the bushes and hold the bar like I told you!”

“When they try to walk up on you start swinging, it’s your Legal Right!” Momma yelled. She was mad!

Monday came too quick! Every time I saw one of the girls, they gave me the ‘I’m gonna hit you in your eye’ hand to eye gesture. Once gym class was over they rushed out to wait for me, my heart managed not to fall out of my chest as I proceeded to go home.

I opened the door and stepped outside and almost leaped into the bushes, I was trying to get there so hard. I grabbed my crow bar and stepped out of the bushes with it shaking in my hands.

I placed it by my side and began to walk around the bend of the school to go home; and they were waiting! I kept walking and just when they were almost on me, I dropped my books, turned my back to the bushes and started swinging.

“Ain’t nobody scared of that” Lisa yelled! “Get her Keisha!” Keisha lunged forward and I caught her on the arm with the crow bar and she fell back screaming, holding her arm.

“Come on!” “Come on!” I’m yelling. When no one, including Lisa moved; I started moving forward and then backing up and around the group of girls with my crow bar. I am moving backwards now with the bar still held up ready to strike when I hear “Joyebell”!

I look back and it’s Momma walking up, holding Sand’s and Kooky’s hand. I look at the girls who are still standing there watching.

Momma said loudly, “Next time use your razor on them”, as she pulled the crow bar out of my hand, “If you cut their face, they will leave you alone”!

The girl’s eyes got big, they stepped backwards, turned and walked away, looking back at us over their shoulders.

The next day at school the girls didn’t bother me, they talked and giggled, but they didn’t bother me; they never bothered me again. Just the opposite, Lisa wanted to be my friend.

My baby brother Kooky was always hiding. He was not around us a whole lot; where Sand and I were always together. Until Kooky’s asthma got better he spent a lot of time in the house. But even inside he seemed to somehow make himself invisible; like he was not there.

Now he played with us in our room sometimes, when we built fortresses or houses; but we made him be the daddy or the baby and he did not like being either.

When Momma rampaged through the house, Kooky was hardly ever touched due to his asthma. He would go to the den and somehow disappear. He must have been hiding. Momma would walk through the den, but never said anything to him for the most part. He seemed to get off easy all the time.

He was never whooped, he never had to go to the monster closet and none of the things that happened to us in the house, seemed to happen to him. Just because he had asthma! I felt like he faked his attacks when he wanted to get out of a whopping, just like Momma faked her seizures when the police came over to our house, to keep from going to jail. I used to wish I had asthma.

When he got older and could go outside, Momma made him her informant and we had to take him everywhere we went. He would see us doing something that he knew Momma wouldn’t like and he would sing out “Ohhhhh, I’m gonna tell Momma!”

My heart would drop, “Please don’t tell Kooky, we’ll give you anything you want” Sand and I would plead and beg. We would buy him candy from Mr. Bodeck’s or something from Ben Franklins.

If we could not provide whatever it was that he wanted, he ran home and told Momma everything! He often told even after we gave him what he wanted!

Mr. Bodeck was the old man who lived up Carl Street; closer to 2nd Ave. He lived in a tan, square house that had two front doors like our house; except it really was two houses.

He lived on the right side of the house and another family lived on the other side. Mr. Bodeck had a candy store inside of his house in his living room.

He had shelves of candy; giant pixie sticks, caramel cows, pickles, now and laters, peppermints, wax soda bottles, Mary Jane’s, chico stixs, lemon drops, tootsie pops, boston baked beans, potato chips, sodas and liquor! Yes, liquor!

Mr. Bodeck’s was also the liquor house. He sold cans of beer and little paper cups of liquor. To go and buy candy at Mr. Bodeck’s meant you had to cross pass the folks drinking, hollering and playing cards and dominos at the card tables underneath the tree that sat in Mr. Bodeck’s front yard; just to get to his front porch.

Late one afternoon, Sand, Kooky and I walked up Carl Street headed to Mr. Bodeck’s to get candy. The neighborhood was alive like it normally is on the weekends. Men and women sitting at the card and domino tables; and they were loud and having a good time.

People are standing around in the yard and sitting on the two porches.

“What ya’ll want, the candy house is closing; ya’ll betta hurry up” Mr. Bodeck yelled over the music as we walked up to his porch. We went inside and picked up the candy we wanted.

I looked at Sand and we both started picking up handfuls of candy and stuffing it in our shorts pockets, while Kooky’s eyes grew large and his mouth formed an ‘O’ shape. I took another handful and stuck it into Kooky’s pockets, as his eyes grew even larger.

We turned around, walked back out to the porch and gave Mr. Bodeck fifty cents for candy we held in our hands. He was so busy partying, that he never really looked at us; just took the money. It was the longest walk ever from his porch and across his yard to get to the street to head home.

We got home and all three of us headed to Sand and my room in the back. We put all of the candy in a pile on the floor, while we sat around it deciding who was going to get what.

“Where did ya’ll get all of that candy” Momma’s voice demanded out of no-where. We jumped so hard my hand knocked the candy pile over and the candy scattered.

We looked up and Momma was standing over us with her hands on her hips! “It wasn’t me Momma” Kooky quickly said. Sand and I just looked at each other.

“Kooky, where did ya’ll get all this candy” Momma asked. “From the candy man house” he said, he never said Mr. Bodeck.

Momma looked at me. “Joye, how did ya’ll pay for all this candy? Did he just give it to you for nothing?” Momma asked with a strange look in her eyes.

“We gave him fifty cents Momma” I told her. Momma looked at Sand “Is that right?” Sand shook her head yes and looked at the floor. “Uh Uuuuh” Kooky sang out.

Momma looked at Kooky “Tell ya Momma what happened when you went to the candy man’s house”. And he did! He told her everything! Sand and I were shaking in our bones by the time Kooky stopped talking.

Kooky, go get a grocery bag and put all of this candy in it for Momma” Momma said. He jumped up and ran into the kitchen and pulled a grocery bag from Momma’s hanging grocery bag dispenser.

Momma turned around and walked out of the room, as Kooky ran back into the room to fill the bag. Sand and I bald up our fists and dotted them back and forth over our eyes; telling him we were going to black his eyes for telling.

Momma came back into the room with her belt and she whooped Sand and I until her arms got tired and she had to take a break! Momma gave Kooky a couple of whacks with the belt for letting us put the candy in his pockets, but he started wheezing so she let him go.

“Get up” she snapped! We got up from the floor where we lay crying and mad at Kooky. “Come on” Momma said sternly as she picked up the bag of candy from the floor.

We followed behind Momma as she walked towards the front door. “Where is she going” I think? She walked out the front door, off the front porch to the right and started walking up Carl Street; with the belt still in her hand! I am horrified!

“I know she not gonna…” but before I could finish my thought, Sand hit my arm and we both look at each other.

Momma quickly stomped up Carl Street towards Mr. Bodeck’s house. Kooky had run up in front of us and he was holding Momma’s hand; his arm was being pulled Momma was walking so fast.

There are more people outside of Mr. Bodeck’s house than when we were there earlier. All eyes are on us and Momma as we entered Mr. Bodeck’s yard. Mr. Bodeck looked nervous when he saw Momma stomping across his yard.

Sand and I were a few feet behind Momma when she looked back and yelled “Bring ya’lls asses up here” as she pointed to a spot on the ground near her feet. Kooky had the nerve to wave us over! Now everyone was really watching, as Sand and I moved forward next to Momma. “What’s wrong Pat” Mr. Bodeck asked?

“Did my kids buy candy from you this evening” Momma asked? “Yes, they did” he answered. “Did they pay you” Momma asked? “Yeah, fifty cent; why” he asked? Momma handed Mr. Bodeck the bag of candy.

“You only charged them fifty cents for all this candy” Momma said with that strange look on her face again. Mr. Bodeck took the bag and looked inside. “Well I’ll be damn! Naw, I didn’t know they had this much candy!” he said, looking at us with a frown.

Momma’s belt started swinging! “I didn’t raise no thieves! Tell Mr. Bodeck you sorry for stealing his candy” she said as she swung her belt to our behinds! “I’m sorry, I’m sorry; we’ll never do it again!” we each yelped to Mr. Bodeck, as Momma whooped us in front of everyone.

We never stole again!

Sand and I were still going with Kooky to grandma Bertha’s for his visitations with daddy Presley. We really enjoyed those weekends and didn’t want to go home.

This Christmas, we had just come home from grandma Bertha’s for our Christmas celebration with her and daddy Presley. We had gotten lots of goodies from grandma and we were excited to run into the house and show Momma. We walked in the front door and just as we opened our mouths to yell ‘Momma we home’ we heard ‘POW’!

We dropped and fell to the floor. We heard James and Delbert somewhere in the house crying, they were visiting us for the holidays; and Momma’s heavy footsteps as she ran towards the back of the house. We jumped up running into her room. There was a large hole in the bedroom door that led to the den. We hear Momma cussing at Corn as she chased behind him out the back door.

We saw Corn as he ran past the side den windows. We heard his car door slam and his car start. We saw Momma run past the den windows with the shotgun as we heard the gravel being thrown from Corn’s tires, as he quickly pulled away! Momma stopped just past the den windows; stood with her legs spread wide and pointed the shotgun. ‘POW’! She missed.

Grandma Bertha’s other brother, Uncle Robert Charles, would sometimes come over while we were there for the weekend with his children; our new cousins Trent and Tracy, paternal twins that were two years older than us.

They also had two older sisters Robin and Karen; but they were much older than us and did not want to be bothered with us children.

Uncle Robert Charles was married to Aunt Marilyn and they fascinated me! Aunt Marilyn was smart and sexy, with lots of attitude, but not in a bad way. Uncle Robert Charles was smooth, cool and so manly-man; and he adored and loved Aunt Marilyn!

The way he handled Aunt Marilyn, even when she was cutting up; and the way that she apologized and submitted without appearing weak amazed me. I had never seen that type of interaction between a man and a woman before!

Uncle Robert Charles became the first man that I LOVED. I wanted to grow up and marry a man just like Uncle Robert Charles; and I wanted to be like Aunt Marilyn!

It was different being over there, the kids did not get beat or yelled at like at our house. Aunt Marilyn made me feel smart; always wanting to know what I was thinking. She loved for me to write poems about what I was thinking and feeling for her to read. I loved being at their house.

We had visited them a couple of times when Momma and daddy Presley were together; until Momma and Aunt Marilyn got into it and Karen hit Momma in her eye.

We had to beg Momma to let us go and play with Trent and Tracy, but Momma eventually gave in and let us spend weekends at Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Robert Charles’ house to get us out of her hair so she could party.

So Kooky went to daddy Presley’s and Sand and me to Aunt Marilyn’s at least one weekend each month.

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