(Profanity contained within)
By the time Mumma turned 16, she had five kids and was still a virgin. I became her sixth a little before she turned 19. My cousin, Sharon, who was older than me by four years, moved in with us in 1962, and that was the same year my little sister, Bridgette, was born. So at the age of 20, Mumma had a husband and eight kids to cook for, clean up after, read to and last, but certainly not least, take a belt to every day. I think her favorite part of the day was finding out who had misbehaved because she swung better than Willie Mays.
...A brick wall encircled the Saluda Courthouse that was built in 1852. When I was a little boy, there you often found older black men, whom Mumma called “no-count”, sitting on or leaning against that wall while they waved at passing cars and sipped from brown paper bags. “Look at them. Making it bad for all of us. Just sitting up there doing nothing. Why don’t they do something positive with their lives?” I was 13 years old when I decided that I was going to find out firsthand what it was like to sit on that wall with those men to watch traffic pass. I thought I was pretty cool as I sat there running my mouth with my new “buddies.” About 20 minutes later though, my coolness quickly turned to fear when Mumma pulled up to the light and saw me sitting on that wall drinking from a brown paper bag like my older friends. Although my bag only contained a Tahitian Treat soda that I picked up at Mr. Pokie Davis’ store, I knew I shouldn’t have been perched up there because I had been warned about the type of person who sat up there since my ears could hear. I was now on Mumma’s “bad” side. I was surprised she didn’t gun the accelerator of her four-door 1973 white Chevrolet Caprice with the maroon top to head straight for the wall to run me over!
...Mumma motioned me to join her in the car. "Motioned" was putting it mildly. It was more of a hand gesture that said, "You better get your black ass off of that wall and in this damn car!" I heard my "buddies" laughing at my misfortune as they continued sipping from their paper bags that contained much stronger liquids than my soda. Slipping into the car, a tight-lipped Mumma said, "How many God-damned times have I told you who sits on the wall?" Silence. "You better answer me, boy!" "A lot." "If you start sitting up there now, you'll end up sitting there later." "Yes, ma'am." "Yes, ma'am, my ass! I dare you to let me catch your monkey-ass up there again." She wouldn't, and I didn't.
...Mumma liked to sneak naps on the sofa after we left for school in the morning and Da had gone to work. She liked to unwind from her midnight shift at the textile plant down near Williamsburg by listening to the Zenith record player they had recently bought. "Zenith! The quality goes in before the name goes on!" Years later Mumma told me about the time that her internal alarm clock failed to go off before Da came home for lunch. He had nothing to eat, and he was pissed. His lunch wasn't ready, and she was still asleep on the couch that was lime green with a floral print. He stood over her and asked, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" He grabbed her by the hair and threw her onto the hardwood floor. "You know your ass ain't supposed to be on the sofa." Pulling herself up from the floor, Mumma forgot her place and said to Da, "You didn't buy this God-damned couch, Bill Lewis. My Mom and Dad did, and I will lay on it if I damn well please!" Like me crossing the road without looking both ways, that was a bad move on her part. Da punched her in the head, and she went down. She pulled herself up from the floor, gathered what was left of her composure and slowly walked to the kitchen like a hurt little puppy. My Da had a mean streak.
Gas Money book copyright © 2015 by Troy Lewis
All rights reserved. These excerpts or any portions thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.