Sometimes there were fights at school, like the time when I was eight and had gotten into a fight with Cynthia Thomas. She had my cheek caught between her teeth, biting down hard. Fortunately, I knew better than to pull away. Meanwhile, as she was biting me, I was pinching her cheek as hard as I could. When I got home, Mama told me to go to the barn and find some chicken feces to rub on my face to prevent scarring and infection. So I had to go around the house with a bruised cheek and smelling like chicken poop for the rest of the day.
Walking those never-ending, red dirt roads wasn’t always fun, or even safe for that matter, especially for young black children in the South. Mama had taught me from a very young age to be careful of white men in particular.
Why don’t you want to play with me? I’ll let you have a piece of my sandwich if you’ll play with me. It’s a fatback sandwich. Sure, I’ll be happy to have a bite of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Mmm, it tastes good. You can take the rest of my fatback sandwich. I’m sick of it anyway.
It was going on eight in the evening. The church meeting had let out late, but I didn’t mind because I got to play with my friends and talk about the upcoming Halloween party that the teacher was going to have for us. While we waited for Uncle Lee to hitch the mule to the wagon to take us home, Mama realized she’d left her brown paper bag containing such items as peppermint balls, Vaseline, her handkerchief and some medicine on one of the pews.
Should I make my smile louder? Would that be enough?Or should my pants be tighter, showin’ all my stuff?