Christian Fiction (Domestic Violence)
A Story of Domestic Violence
A prequel… for the saved and the lost
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are purely fictional. Any resemblance to any actual events, locales or persons, living or dead is coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
FOOD FOR THE SOUL
Webster’s dictionary defines the word “chance” as an accidental happening of events and a calculation of probable or possible risk.
It’s incredible how one little word can change your life in so many ways. The great early American writer Walter Inglis Anderson once said that, “our lives can only improve when we take chances, and the first, most difficult risk that we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Truer words have never been spoken!
I grew up as an only child. My father was a born again, bible-believing, tongue talkin’, apostolic preacher and mother was a devoted wife and homemaker.
We didn’t have a lot of material things, but then again my mother always said that as long as we had God and each other, that’s all we needed. We had the perfect family.
It was 1990. I was 10 years old and we lived in the poorest section of Miami known as Overtown. The neighborhood had just been ripped to pieces by riots the year before and was still aching and torn apart.
It was also just about then that crack cocaine had been introduced and had started to take control of the ghettos. They called it “The Rock,” cuz it was hittin’ everybody in one-way or another. Because you were either smoking it, selling it, or you knew somebody that was smoking or selling it. Whether you liked it or not!
Almost overnight “The Rock” had taken the poorest community in America and brought it even further to its knees. It was like a nightmare. I mean picture this: Take a large neighborhood full of desperate people who were already struggling just to survive from day to day. Now add five times as many murders, 10 times the mayhem, and then sprinkle that with more pimpin’, prostitution and panhandlin’ than even the most corrupted criminal mind could conceive. That was Overtown in 1990.
I mean, it already had to be one of the saddest, most hopeless places in the world, but now on top of that, it had gotten straight up scary!
That’s also where my grandpa’s church was. He was a pastor for over 35 years. My father took over after he passed away. But before he died, my grandpa made my father promise that he would never let the doors of the church close and that he would always be there to help those in need. He said that God would be the only one who could save the people of Overtown and Liberty City. It was like something out of dystopian novel. But this story was pure truth.
So, my father promised that the doors of the church would remain open as long as he was alive. So, we moved from Liberty City, which was about five minutes away, to my Grandpa’s house in Overtown, which sat right behind the church.
Because my father was the church pastor, we lived in the house right behind the church. That meant that people were coming to him with their problems, day and night. Sometimes he hardly got any sleep.
We lived in the most crime ridden, drug-infested part of the city. So, my father spent a lot of his time counseling crackheads and the people who loved them.
My father would spend most of his time at the church, and even though he was usually only right next-door, he stayed so involved with everybody else’s problems, that I really hardly saw him. And when I did, he was in such a rush or in such deep thought that he hardly had the time or energy for my mother and me.
Mama would always say that my father worked for the Lord and the “Lord’s business came first." She had learned to accept the calling that was placed on his life. She used to say that she would rather have a man who was busy with God, than a man who was busy with the work of the devil. And God sure did keep him busy.
She didn’t really get to spend a whole lotta’ time with my father, but she understood. She looked at being his wife as her mission, her ministry, and the job that she was given by God. By loving and supporting my father with his ministry, she was making a sacrifice for the Lord. That is where she found her comfort.
My mother ran a food pantry for the hungry. People from all over the neighborhood use to come and get groceries for the their families. There were mothers with their children that probably would not have made it through the month without help from the pantry.
You would have been surprised at how many people didn’t have enough to eat. This is where I learned the importance of giving and lending a helping hand to those in need.
My mother had a heart of gold. She would give her last to anybody. I saw how her kindness touched so many people. She was my hero and I wanted to be just like her.
She was beautiful inside and out. She was a gorgeous woman with a flawless complexion of dark chocolate, with eyes to match, and her hair was jet black and bone straight. And she had the most beautiful high cheekbones that were placed just right. Her nose was keen and perfect. Her teeth were a blinding white that stood evenly in line, one beside the other. People always said that she looked like Natalie Cole, only not quite as tall, but still just as gorgeous and curvy.
Everybody would tell me that someday I was gonna grow up to look just like my mother. And I couldn’t wait. I was so skinny and awkward and she was so dark and lovely and perfect.
I spent a lot of time helping my mother at the pantry, stocking the shelves, cleaning, dusting, and doing inventory and stuff like that.
Though it was a free food pantry, my mother ran it pretty much like a regular grocery store. She treated everybody that came for food with nothing but dignity and respect. She was always kind and they were always treated like human beings.
My mother would tell me. “Angell, we are all just a circumstance away from being in need. And in the end, when it really comes down to it, we are all in God’s hands and everything we have belongs to him.”
She believed that no man, woman nor child should ever go hungry if we could help them. I never forgot that. She use to say that it was every person’s responsibility to do what he could for his brother and that we should never look down on anyone.
My mother would try to help people who were down on their luck with finding jobs and housing. She use to work for the Dade County Board of Education. So, she still had a lot of connections with the county. That’s also how she got the city’s support and sponsorship money to run the food pantry, along with private donations. But a lot of the money came from state and county grants.
Sometimes it was a real struggle to keep the pantry going. What’s crazy is, we were barely making it ourselves, yet a lot of times we were the only hope some of the people in the neighborhood had, especially the old people.
After school in the afternoons, my mom and I would get in our old beat up church van and go deliver meals to sick and shut ins around Overtown and Liberty City. Sometimes it made me cry when I thought about how many people would go hungry if we had not brought them food.
It was like something out of dystopian novel. But this story was pure truth. For as long as I could remember, I had wanted to be a writer. The things I saw in my neighborhood gave me enough material to write about for a lifetime. I would grow up to find out that truth was always stranger than fiction.
There was a young girl that lived not too far from us, she couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty years old, with four small children. We would stop by her house from time to time & bring little things for the kids; she had a five year old, a three year old, a one year old and a newborn that was just three months old.
Her name was Javette; she lived in a run down project apartment on 15th, in a building that should have been demolished years ago. You could smell the stench of stale piss coming from the side of the building. There were six big plastic garbage cans that always sat at the curb overflowing, with small white maggots crawling along the edges. It made my skin crawl.
“Come on baby, grab this bag and be careful not to drop anything. This is something real special for the kids. Hurry up now; we got three more stops to make before it gets dark. And we still gotta get home in time to make dinner for your father,” my mother said as we both hurried along the broken sidewalk, past four well-dressed dope boys who stood off to the side of the building making deals wit’ dirty fiends that danced anxiously in place waiting to be served “the magic fix.”
I was 14 years old but still very much a little girl. Being raised up in the church kept me from being exposed to a lot of things. I don’t know if that was good or bad. At my age, most girls had seen it all, and done more than their share too.
But anyway, as I walked behind my mother, the scent of her perfume almost seemed to cover the foul smell of the projects. Although I was born and raised in the hood, poverty and hopelessness is something that you never really get used to, even though you see it everyday.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up as we walked through the stinking hallway and rang the buzzer. Javette opened the door as the loud pungent odor of messy diapers, mixed with the smell of stale weed and beer just about caused me to gag.
“Hi Miss Sarah! Come on in! Is all that for us? You ain’t have to bring us all this. I told you I was supposed to start back gettin' my food stamps this month. I put Rick out again and went down to the welfare. I’m gon’ be getting like $813 in stamps and I got an appointment wit’ child support tomorrow. He just started working for the city, making $14 an hour, doin beach clean up and I’m finna’ stroke his pockets.” Javette said as she walked away from the door carrying her one year old on her hip, while tilting her head to the side to hold the telephone against her shoulder, still talking indirectly to whoever was on the other end. Her hair was in complete disarray, standing wildly all over her head, with some of the tracks showing from her sweated out weave.
“Girl, this is the lady from the church. I’ma call you back in a minute. Yeah girl! And call them one niggas we met at the park the other day. Tell ‘em it’s finna go down! Aight, it’s on!” She said as she held a Black n’ Mild in the corner of her mouth, while me and my mother brought the packages inside and sat them on the kitchen table. Javette watched as we began to unpack the bags.
“I brought the kids some shoes. School will be starting soon and I figured they could use them. I also brought over a few things for your brother Jayvin. ” My mother said as Javette stood back with a look of slight discontent.
“Oh. Jayvin ain’t gon’ wear this stuff, it ain't even got no name brand on it! And my kids only wear Jordan’s” she said ungratefully. Jayvin was Javette’s seventeen-year old brother that lived with her because their mother was so strung out on crack cocaine, that she was unable to care for him anymore.
Javette pushed the shoes back toward my mother and non-chalantly flicked her Black-n-Mild into the dirty ashtray that sat on the kitchen counter next to an open jar of baby food.
Then, from the back room you could hear the sound of two children arguing as one of them began to cry. Javette ran to the back almost in a rage and began to scream out of control at the two children as my mother stood at the table unpacking some more of the things we had brought over.
“You black brat, I’ma beat the mess outta you! Why did you spill this cereal all over my floor? Get up and go in the living room before I brake yo’ neck! And hurry up, lookin’ like yo’ no good daddy!” She shouted as a loud slap from her hand cracked across the tender skin of the oldest child.
“Oww! Mommy, I'm sorry! I ain’t gon’ do it no more!” The little boy shrieked in agony as he ran into the living room and stood next to the sofa with his head down, tears streaming like a salty river down his ashy little face that had yet to be bathed.
“And shut up! Before I come in there and give you something to really cry about!” Javette yelled from the other room.
I was in shock! I had never seen anything like that before. My mother and father never talked to me like that. And I had only gotten one spanking in my whole life and compared to this, what I had gotten wasn’t a spanking at all. Listening to Javette slap her son was the equivalent of watching a really gruesome horror movie or slasher film. It scared me to death.
“Did you hear what I just said? Shut ‘cho mouth! Shut up I said!” Javette shouted as she raced from the back room and ran toward the child with her hand raised again to strike him. But before she could, my mother dashed across the room and threw herself in between Javette’s open palm and her son.
“You hold it right there! I dun’ set here and listened to just about enough! Don’t ‘chu put ‘cho hands on this boy again! I mean it! You must be outta yo’ mind, beatin’ on these kids like that! You could hurt one of them, or worse! You better get a hold of yo’ self or I will have children’s protective services up and thru here so fast, you wont know what hit ‘chu! Or maybe that’s what ‘chu need!” My mother said as she put her hands on her hips and looked Javette straight in the eye without flinching.
“Miss Sarah, you don’t understand! These kids be gettin' on my nerves! I just can’t take it! And now, ain't neither one of their no good daddies nowhere to be found! I'm tired Miss Sarah! I can't do this by myself!! I need some help! Please! Miss Sarah I need some help before I go crazy!” Javette said as she slid to the floor on her knees next to her son and put her arms around him and began to sob.
“Mommy sorry! Mommy sorry! Mommy is so sorry!” Javette sobbed through her own river of tears.
“It’s gon’ be alright child. I'm prayin’ for you. The Lord gon’ see you through. And I'm gon’ help you too. It’s okay. It’s okay.” My mother said as she sat down on the filthy carpet next to Javette and held her, wiping her tears as she cried long and hard.
Me and my mother were just about ready to leave. Javette wiped her face again and stood to her feet with her little boy in her arms. She thanked my mother for coming by and for all the gifts.
Just then the baby began to fuss from the other side of the room in her crib. So, Javette put the oldest child down and hurried over to the baby immediately picking her up and putting a sour milk bottle into her mouth to quiet her.
My mother looked over at Javette and shook her head.
“Children are a blessing from God. Don’t ever forget that.” My mother said as she placed her hands on the door. But before she could turn the knob there was a loud knocking from the other side.
“BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!”
Went the beating at the door.
“Girl, open the door! It’s me!” An impatient male voice shouted from the other side.
Javette put the baby back down in her crib and quickly hustled to the door. She looked out of the peephole and hurriedly opened the latch.
“You heard me knockin’! Move! Where my food at? Better have my mess ready! Cuz, I'm hungry!” It was a short boney light skinned nigga wearing a crispy snow white Polo jogging suit and a brand new pair of Air Jordan’s.
He was one of the little dope boys we passed outside when we were on our way in the building. He rushed in as Javette opened the door and looked at my mother and me in surprise.
“Miss Sarah, this is my new boyfriend, Kevin. Umm… Kevin, this is Ms. Sarah from the church,” Javette said uncomfortably, holding her head down as if she was ashamed.
“Oh, yeah. What’s up, Ms Sarah? How you doin’,” the thuggish young dope boy said, rushing by Javette, handing her fat wad of cash as his beeper sounded, sending him racing over to the phone. He dialed anxiously.
“Hey, what up Bigman? Naw, I’m ‘bouta bag this mess up and head back out to the trap. (Kevin paused and listened) Hey, hold on dog! Ain't nobody playin’ wit’ cho money! I told you. I got ‘cho mess! I’m over my girl house on 15th…” the young thug said to who ever was on the other end of the phone.
Javette stood perfectly still without saying a word, the cash held tightly in her grasp. But her eyes remained trained on the floor; so as to avoid making contact with my mother’s stare of disapproval.
“Wait a minute! Weren’t you just balled up on the floor cryin’ about havin’ all these kids and their daddies not being around to help. So, now you got this new boy runnin’ in and out of here wit’ dope and layin’ up in front of yo' kids. And don’t ‘chu look at me like I'm crazy! I know I just saw him outside slangin' rocks wit’ three other knuckleheads. Why do you keep taking these kinds of risks wit’ cho life? Didn’t you just hear the conversation he was having on the phone? Somebody could come in here tonight and kill him, you and yo’ babies! Then what?” My mother paused and shook her head.
“Now, I know you need help, but trust me when I say that this ain't the kinda’ help you need. You have got to start thinkin’ and makin’ better decisions! Because the choices you make today, will be the consequences you may have to live with for years to come,” my mother said to Javette as she touched her cheek that was still wet with tears.
“I’ll be back by here tomorrow morning at about 11:30 or so. We gon’ start gettin' you together.” My mother added as we walked out of the door. Javette remained in the doorway frozen as though she was suspended in animation, with her hand still clutching the dirty dope money. My mother and I walked out into the filthy hallway that smelled like piss. I held my breath until we made it outside. But there was no escape from the foul stench of poverty and ignorance that constantly surrounded those who found themselves imprisoned in the hood.
“That’s why I always tell you to be a good girl! Study hard! Get ‘chu a good education and don’t be messin’ wit’ these little hard head boys out here in these streets, because that could be you in a few years if you don’t keep walkin’ wit the Lord! That girl coulda’ been something, but her momma and daddy started messin’ around wit’ that dope and just lost their minds. And before anybody knew it, the girl was fourteen years old and pregnant, just a child herself and about to be a mother…”
My mother said as we made our way back to the van to finish the rest of our stops. Her voice seemed to almost fade away as I looked back at Javette. Ours eyes connected, and for just that brief moment I could feel the pain of where she had been and the things she had seen and been through.
Her eyes penetrated me as I stood by the van in the choking Miami ghetto heat. I felt her envy, longing to go back in time so that she could be fourteen again and undo all the mistakes she had made. But sometimes there’s no turning back and all the praying in the world won't convince time to slow up.
Later that night my mother received a phone call. I knew that something had gone terribly wrong by the way she screamed and called on God, saying, “Jesus, help us!” instantly flipping into automatic prayer mode.
It was my mother’s best friend, Sister Walls, she was my mother’s prayer partner, she was calling to tell us that, about an hour earlier three niggas wearing ski masks and dressed in all black kicked down Javette’s door, came in and shot everybody in the house, even the babies. Bigman gave the order that nobody was to be left alive. There were no survivors except for her little brother Jayvin who just so happened to be out at a football game with some friends. He returned to find the only family that he had, slaughtered!
Apparently Javette’s new boyfriend was hustlin’ for Bigman, one of Miami’s most notorious and dangerous dopemen. Bigman had the hood on lock, and in Liberty City, nobody even so much as sneezed without getting his permission, not even the police.
The word on the street was that Kevin had been skimming money off the top for about a year. It was never anything much, never anything too noticeable, just a fifty here or a hundred there. But Bigman counted every dollar, so it wasn’t too long before he got wise to Kevin. And when he did, he had to make an example out of him for everybody in Liberty City to see.
The first thing you learn about the dope game is to never bite the hand that feeds you. You don’t ever jerk the nigga you work for! I guess Kevin should have studied his hustla’s handbook a little bit harder.
And as for Javette, she was taking way too many chances with her life. Where I was from it was typical for the young girls with babies to move some little dope-boy into her crib that she barely knew. It didn’t even have to be her baby’s daddy either. The only real qualification that a nigga had to have was a car with some shiny rims, a fresh pair of the latest gym shoes, and a few dollars to buy weed and pay her rent.
Which usually didn’t amount to much more than twenty five or thirty dollars a month because she had Section-8 housing. This was the standard for young girls like Javette that lived in the projects.
But then again, maybe she really didn’t have all that many choices. Her parents were both drug addicts; she was basically left to raise herself and her brother. She became a teenage mother over and over and over again. She got involved with one guy after another that really didn’t care anything about her or her kids. But as long as a guy looked like he had what she wanted on the surface she didn’t care how it ended up.
When I found out about what happened to Javette and her kids it broke my heart. I spent the next few weeks with her heavy on my mind. I would go from trying to put it out of my head all together, to trying to figure out how her life could have gone so terribly wrong. I was left with so many questions.
Maybe nobody loved her enough. Maybe she just didn’t love herself. Maybe she just didn’t love her children. Maybe she didn’t even know how to love at all. Maybe nobody other than my mother ever told her that God loved her and that she deserved all the best that life had to offer. And maybe by the time my mother reached Javette it was already too late. Maybe her destiny had already been sealed.
All the obstacles that stood in front of her probably clouded Javette’s view of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest because of the trees that block our vision. The old black folks use to say that if we knew better, we would do better. Maybe that’s true and maybe it’ ain’t, but I knew one thing for sure, I had already decided that I was never going to do the things she did.
I had made my mind up that I was never going to end up like Javette. I would never open my legs to just any old Tom, Dick, and Harry that came along trying to tell me what they thought I might be dumb enough to fall for. I was never gonna let some little thugged out gym shoe hustla’ get me knock me up and leave me stuck high and dry with a crying baby or an STD that I could never get rid of.
I was never to take the kinds of risks or chances that destroyed Javette’s life and the lives of so many girls like her that came from the projects.
That same summer that Javette was murdered, an old lady by the name of Mrs. Trenton moved into the house next door to us. Her brother Elder Trenton (who sat on the trustee board of our church) had died and left her the property. She had a granddaughter named Pleasure who lived with her and was just about my age.
Anyway, seeing as how they were new to the neighborhood, my mother thought it would be a nice gesture to bake a cake and take it over as sort of a welcome gift.
So me and my mother went over to the house and knocked on the screen door.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
There was no answer.
“Maybe they ain't home, momma. Let’s go.” I said impatiently, with my wishful eyes set on that delicious double chocolate cake, hoping we’d get to take it back home and slice in to it. I could almost taste the rich chocolate through the plastic Tupperware dish.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
And there was still no answer.
“Hello, it’s Sarah Epps from next door. Is anybody home?” My mother yelled through the raggedy screen door as we swatted at two giant horse flies that circled around us also hoping for a share of the delicious treat.
Then sound of approaching footsteps came from inside the house. And the voice of an old woman screeched aloud like an eagle.
“Who is it? Who is that bammin’ on my door? I dun’ told y’all, I ain't got no kool-aid, no sugar, no milk, no butter, no eggs, no syrup, no cigarettes and nothing else! So you can just get off my porch! Go on! Get! I meant it!” The old woman yelled as she got closer to the door.
“Hi, Sister Trenton! It’s Sarah Epps from next door. I just came by to say hi and bring you and your granddaughter a cake I made. My husband is the pastor of the church your brother use to attend,” my mother quickly said to the angry old woman before she had a chance to go off again.
“Oh, yeah! The same church that’s trying to get me to sell them this property, huh?” (Mrs. Trenton shook her head and leaned against the frame of the door as if she was exhausted) “I met the pastor yesterday. I'm sorry! I didn’t mean no harm. You just wouldn’t believe it, I ain't been moved in here more than a few weeks and these crazy folks around here already comin’ over here knockin and beggin’ and carryin’ on! And them little thugs on that corner keep tryin’ to get at my lil’ grandbaby. I dun’ had to call the police four times in the past three days,” Mrs. Trenton said as she mean mugged the young hustlas that stood across the street openly slangin’ “da’ rock.”
“I know exactly what ‘chu mean! I run the food pantry next door, so you can just imagine what I go through everyday. All we can do is pray for ‘em” my mother responded.
“I'm gon’ do more than pray! I'm gon’ keep on callin’ the police ‘til they realize that them and nobody else ain't finna run me away from here. And I ain't sellin’ my place to the church either! This was my brother’s house and when he died he left it to me, and I ain't goin’ no place,” she added, bitterly.
And then again, I don’t know. Maybe I should just sell it. The fire marshal came by last week to inspect, and said that I had a lot of faulty wiring in here. I don’t know what I'm gonna do. Y’all come on in if ya’ comin’. Ya’ lettin’ flies in!” Mrs. Trenton said as she held the screen door open, inviting us in.
Mrs. Trenton was a petite old light skinned woman with long silver hair that had been neatly pulled back into a ponytail. Her grey eyes had grown old and tired and the wrinkles on her skin confessed the many struggles of her seventy plus years.
“Oh, thank you, this is a beautiful cake! Hold on a minute. Lemme call my granddaughter, so y’all can meet her too. (Mrs. Trenton turned to the screen door and yelled) “Pleasure! Come in here! We got guests!” Mrs. Trenton stood at the screen door and watched her grand daughter that was outside by the house, talking to one of the corner hustlas that was leaning up against his flashy car trying to impress her as he spit his game. Mrs. Trenton took a deep breath and sighed. “I swear, this child is gonna be the death of me! I just know it! I gotta constantly watch her, cuz’ she’s hot and fast,” she said, with great fatigue in her voice.
“Mam!” Her granddaughter answered as she came stomping through the door, with her arms folded and her glossed up lips twisted to one side
“This is my grandbaby. Her name is Pleasure. Pleasure, unpoke yo’ lips and meet Ms. Sarah and her daughter. Uh... I'm sorry baby. What’s yo’ name again?” Mrs. Trenton said as she looked at me over the top part of her thick bifocal lenses that were held around her neck by a tarnished metal chain.
“Her name is Angellina, but we call her Angell. Angell say hello to Pleasure,” mama said as she looked at me.
Pleasure was tall, curvaceous, and extremely well developed for a girl her age. She kind of reminded you of Beyonce. Her complexion was a high yellow that had been softly bronzed by the Miami sunshine and her eyes were a brilliant green that shimmered like the wild grass of the Florida Everglades. Her hair was a thick, dirty red that hung down past her shoulders in a bone straight perm. Her posture was strong and defiant. And though she had just entered her teens, Pleasure had the body of a grown woman, with an attitude to match.
“Y’all go on in the kitchen and cut some of that cake! I got some ice cream in the deep freezer too. It’s okay, ain't it Miss Sarah?” Mrs. Trenton asked my mother.
“Of course it is.” My mother responded.
“Y’all wash ya’ hands. And Pleasure, be sure to clean up ya’ mess,” old Mrs. Trenton said as me and Pleasure both went off to the kitchen.
“My grandma be trippin’. I can't stand her” Pleasure pouted underneath her as we entered the kitchen outside ear range of her grandmother.
“So, where you from?” I asked Pleasure, trying to break the ice as I sat down at the round wobbly wooden table, while she reached up into the cabinet for two plastic ice cream bowls.
“We are from St. Louis... It sho’ is hot down here! I feel like I'm ‘bouta burn up. You like chocolate or vanilla?” she asked me, opening the deep freezer, pulling out two boxes, as she responded to my question.
“I like chocolate.” I said, pointing at the frosted box of ice cream in her right hand.
“Me too. Chocolate is my favorite! Well, right after strawberry. But, we ain't got no strawberry. So, today my favorite is chocolate” Pleasure said as she got two spoons out of the kitchen counter drawer next to the refrigerator.
“So, what are y’all doin’ here in Miami?” I asked.
“Well, my momma started smokin’ crack, and she couldn't take care of me no more. My great uncle passed away, so we came here to live in his house. My granny thought we needed a change,” she said.
“Oh, what about ‘cho daddy?” I asked.
“He got shot, hustlin’. My granny always says he’s in heaven, but I don’t think hustlas go to heaven. Do you?” Pleasure commented as she poked at her cake and ice cream with the plastic spoon.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know any hustlas. I mean, it’s plenty of ‘em around here, but I don’t know ‘em very well... And I don’t know where they go when they die… But I could ask my father… He’s a preacher. He knows all about the bible and heaven and stuff like that,” I responded as Pleasure shed a silent tear that dropped on to the kitchen table.
“It’s okay to be sad… My grandpa died and I still miss him. Sometimes I still cry too,” I said as we both let a few quiet moments pass before we spoke again.
“So, I guess you’re gonna be going to the junior high school around the corner? That’s where I'm going. This will be my first year going to school… I can't wait!” I said, excitedly breaking the somber mood.
“Your first year going to school? You mean, you ain't never been to school? So, does that mean you can't read or write?” Pleasure asked as she put her spoon down and looked at me peculiarly.
“Naw girl! I’m home schooled... At least I was until this year... My mother is a teacher. And my father thinks the public schools are too off da’ hook! So, my mother gives me my lessons at home... But my mother convinced him that I was old enough to go to the neighborhood school... And girl, I can't wait,” I explained
“That’s cool… so what do you do for fun?” She asked.
“I write stories…” I replied.
“Stories?” Pleasure asked, with a lost curiousness in her eyes.
“Yeah… I’m going to be a writer someday… and I write Christian stories for Sunday school… I am going to write for the school newspaper this year…” I answered. Pleasure just kind of rolled her eyes.
“That’s cool… I guess… So, anyway, are there any cute boys at this school,” Pleasure asked, picking up her spoon and letting melted ice cream drop from it on to her chocolate cake.
“I don’t know, I guess... I'm only fourteen, and my mother says that I’m too young for boys... I don’t need to think about boys ‘til I graduate from college and become a teacher like my momma. So who was that boy you were talkin’ to outside?” I replied, staring into my bowl of ice cream as if it was a crystal ball and I was seeing the future.
“I don’t know, just some nigga from the block, I guess he likes me” Pleasure said casually.
“So, anyway… You gotta a boyfriend?” I asked bashfully.
“Yep!!! Back in St. Louis… His name is Robert, and he looks just like Ralph Tresvant from New Edition, and we kissed on the lips behind his grandmother’s garage, and when we get grown, we gon’ get married and have two kids, a girl for me and a boy for him. And we gon’ name ‘em Robbie and Ashley.” She rattled off in one whole breath as my eyes just about popped out of my head with surprise. I put my hand over my own mouth to keep from laughing too loud.
“Oh my goodness! Girl, you are a trip! You kissed a boy on the lips? I don’t believe it! You are lyin’!” I whispered, still giggling with embarrassment.
“Don’t tell me you ain't never kissed a boy before... I can't believe you ain't got no boyfriend either… It must not be no cute guys around here” Pleasure said shaking her head.
“I can't have no boyfriend! I told you! I'm just fourteen! My momma and daddy would beat my butt! And besides, I don’t even like boys right now” I said, as I looked over at the counter top at all the pots and pans.
“Girl, you trippin’! We gotta find us some boys to kick it wit! I’m gon’ hook you up! Maybe if you weren't wearin’ those little girl clothes, you could get a boyfriend... What is that you have on anyway, Osh-Kosh? Winnie The Pooh? (Pleasure laughed) And why is yo’ hair in that little girl style? Well, never mind, don’t worry, I got ‘cho back. We gon’ get ‘chu fixed right up!” Pleasure said as she looked me up and down, and shook her head again.
“Little girl clothes? Osh-Kosh? Look at ‘chu! Walkin' around wit’ them little bitty coochie cutter shorts on. You know what? On second thought, I'm gon’ hook you up! You gon’ have to tone that down around here! Before you be walkin' down the street and get snatched or somethin.” I said, as I looked her up and down, right back at her. And we both busted out laughin’ as my mother and her grandma came in to the kitchen.
“What’s goin’ on in here? Y’all havin some kinda’ sugar fit? Well, Sarah. Looks like these two sho’ did hit it off.” Pleasure’s grandma said as she drug herself inside the kitchen and stood with her hands on her hips.
“Come on Angell, it’s gettin' late and we gotta get ready for church in the morning” my mother said as she stood behind Pleasure’s tiny grandma.
“Momma! Momma guess what? Pleasure is gonna be goin’ to the junior high school with me. I’m gon’ introduce her to some of the neighborhood kids. Can she come to church with us tomorrow? Please Ma?” I asked my mother anxiously as Pleasure turned and quickly looked at me like I had just lost my mind.
“Well, you know I don’t have a problem with it. But that’s up to Pleasure’s grandmother” My mother said. Mrs. Trenton was standing there in a flower pattern housecoat with an old multicolored apron tied around her waist.
“Fine wit’ me. I might even try to make it myself, seeing as how it’s just right next door. I mean that’s if my arthritis ain't actin’ up too bad. This sho’ is some strange weather y’all got down here. Seems like it’s been rainin’ everyday for the past week” her grandma responded as she sat down in one of the rickety wood kitchen chairs to rest her aching legs.
“Would you like to go to Sunday school with Angell?” My mother asked Pleasure.
“I don’t like church.” Pleasure said quickly.
“Too bad! You’re goin’ anyway! It ain't gon’ hurt ‘chu to learn something about The Lord. It’ll give you something to do other than listen to that silly rap music” Mrs. Trenton responded. “She’s going” her grandma added, looking at Pleasure as if she dared her to talk back.
“Okay… Then I guess it’s settled… Pleasure, you be ready at nine o’clock... You can wear pretty much whatever you want… I’ll send Angell over here to get ‘chu or you can come on over to the house, it sits right behind the church.
Mrs. Trenton, I hope we get to see you tomorrow as well. And it sure was nice to finally meet you!” My mother said, hugging Pleasure and her grandma as we headed out of the door.
“See y’all tomorrow” Pleasure said as she looked over at my mother with the most wide and innocent eyes, eyes that stood in complete contradiction to everything else about her.
Pleasure to Deal With
Over the next few weeks Pleasure and I hung out almost everyday and on Sundays she would come to church with us. I introduced her to some of the neighborhood kids that I knew, but they didn’t really seem to take to Pleasure that well. She was kind of raw and rough around the edges. She had this way of just saying whatever was on her mind, no matter whose feelings it hurt. It was actually sort of funny sometimes.
Like the Saturday afternoon that big booty Dilonda Lovetts came down the street while me and Pleasure were talking to little Vartan Daniels, the silly little boy who carried a football with him everywhere, and seemed to always be around. He was sort of annoying but he was also sort of cute too, so I really didn’t mind too much.
Dilonda decided that she was going to walk right over and step in front of us, grab Vartan by the hand and whisper something in his ear. And she wasn’t even whispering. Because we heard every word she said.
Dilonda asked Vartan if he liked Pleasure. But before he could even get anything out of his mouth, Pleasure shouted out loud, “Naw he don’t like me! Can't you see that he has a crush on Angell?” and then she told Dilonda to take her nappy headed, buck tooth self back up the street and mind her own business, before she went and got a hot comb to straighten out the bee bees on the back of Dilonda’s neck.
It was so funny! Dilonda went back up the street crying and told her mama that Pleasure threatened to beat her with a hot comb, then her mama came wobblin’ her big butt down the street talkin’ about, “Did one of y’all say that you were gonna hit my daughter with a straightening comb?”
Pleasure said, “No, but somebody outta’! And they need to get ‘chu too while they’re at it, cuz both of y’all heads are nappier than the hair on a sheep’s behind!
Me and Vartan were rollin’! Vartan laughed so hard that he dropped his football. So you know it had to be funny. Dilonda and her mother went and told Pleasure’s grandma, and Pleasure got her butt beat with a leather belt!
Then we all had to go in the house.
The next day, there was a knock on the screen door. My father was at the kitchen table having breakfast and going over his notes for the morning service. So he got up to see who it was.
“Hi, is Angell ready for Sunday school?” Pleasure said as she smacked her lips and popped her bubble gum. She was wearing a black sweater dress that fit her like a second layer of skin, hugging every curve and stopping just at the thigh. It was a really cute little dress (for a hooker).
“Yeah, hold on just a minute, Pleasure. I’ll get her for you” My father said, looking at Pleasure from over the top of his glasses as he shook his head. Then he called me downstairs to answer the door, and quickly grabbed his briefcase to head over to the church.
“Girl, what is that ‘chu got on? We are goin’ to church, not to a house party!” I said. I was shocked at her inappropriate choice in attire but I don’t know why, because she was always trying to wear something that she didn’t have any business wearing. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t jealous, or maybe I was just a little bit. But I just couldn’t believe her grandma would let her outside wearing some of the stuff she did. The dress showed every twist and turn of her shape, and she knew it. She had me wishing for a body like hers. But all the wishing in the world wasn’t going to help me fill out like that.
“Let’s go, before my mama comes in here and gets a good look at ‘chu and that dress!” I said hurrying Pleasure out of the back just as I heard my mother’s heels against the hardwood stairs.
“You girls ready for Sunday school? I figured we could all walk over together.” My mother said as she made her way down the stairs while reading her lesson plan.
“We gon’ walk down to the candy store and get some peppermints real quick. We will be back in a minute, mama.” I said as I quickly pushed Pleasure out of the door and on to the porch, shutting the door behind us.
“Girl, let's go! Hurry up! We’ll go down to the corner and get some candy, and by the time my mother gets her stuff together we’ll already be at the church, sittin’ down. And maybe she won't notice that tight, too little dress you got on.” I said, looking back to make sure that my mother wasn’t watching us from the kitchen window as Pleasure and I moved quickly across the grass between the house and the church.
“Dag! Girl, hold up! Lemme holla at my boy!” Pleasure said as she stopped right in her tracks, and gazed across the street at the boys standing in front of a jet black, big body Mercedes Benz s500. Inside the Benz was Bigman’s little brother. His name was Lebrian, but they called him Boom-Boom, because he loved to play with firecrackers and blow stuff up. And when you saw him it was never a good sign. Boom-Boom was like the grim reaper, when he was around, somebody usually ended up dead.
But he was cute as hell and he was also one of Miami’s most wanted, the police called him a person of interest in more than eleven murders over the last three years. He ran with “The Knock Off Boyz.” They were said to be Bigman's death squad. If Bigman wanted somebody dead, these little thugs did the job without any remorse. They were also the ones who pulled the hit on Javette and her boyfriend. Those ruthless cowards even killed the babies! Now that’s what I call heartless.
Boom-Boom sat across the street in his brand new luxury car that had to have cost every bit of $70,000. The bass was bumpin’ as he stepped out and handed a bag of dope to one of his boys. Then he looked over at us.
Across the street, me and Pleasure stopped as we were on our way to the corner store. At least that’s where we were supposed to be going. But Pleasure had something else in mind as she batted her eyes, licked her lips and stared back at Boom-Boom to get his attention. And he took the bait.
“Hey, shawty! Shawty! Come here for a minute!” He said as he nudged his boy that stood to the left of him.
“Who you talkin’ to? Me or her?” Pleasure asked, knowing full well who he was talking to.
“You know who I'm talkin’ to! I’m talkin’ to you, shawty! Come over here and holla at me for a minute. I ain't gon’ bite ‘chu, unless you want me to. And hurry up before yo’ grandma comes out!” He said as him and his boys laughed out loud and gave each other dap.
“What ‘chu doin’?” I asked Pleasure as she started across the street.
“Girl, I’m finna go over here to see what’s up wit’ dude. He is too cute! He has been tryin’ to holla since I moved down here. I heard he gotz mass cheese. Do you see that whip he’s pushin’? That’s the new Benz! Maybe he’ll take us for a ride! Come on!” She said as she switched her over to his car, with her arms swinging at her sides. But I stayed right where I was, as if my feet were cemented into the ground, because I knew better.
“What’s up, ma? What ‘chu been up to?” Boom-Boom said as he reached out and touched Pleasure’s hand.
“Tryin to get wit ‘chu.” She answered as she flirtatiously licked her lips again, provoking Boom-Boom’s advances.
“Girl, that’s what’s up! But ‘cho grandma be buggin’!” Boom-Boom said as he leaned into her and grinned a devilish grin, running his fingers along her arm.
“I'm old enough to talk to whoever I wanna talk to. My grandma don’t run me! So what’s up?…” Just then, Pleasure was abruptly interrupted by a loud, sharp voice that barked from across the street.
“Pleasure! … Pleasure Michelle Trenton! What are you doin’? And who is that boy you’re talkin’ to? Get ‘cho fast tail back across this street, right now! And I mean it!” It was her grandma calling to her from the front porch of their house. Pleasure was busted like a crook caught in the act.
“Oh, snap! It’s my granny! I gotta go! I'm gon’ page you later!” Pleasure said as she turned and hurried back across the street, passed me and up on to her grandmother’s porch.
“What the devil are you doin’ over there talkin to those no good thugs. Don’t ‘chu know that they ain't about nothin’ but trouble? You was supposed to be at Sunday school, wit’ cho fast tail! Get over to that church! Before I beat the skin off of ya’ and turn yo’ high yellow butt black and blue! And hurry up!” Pleasure’s grandmother yelled as Pleasure pouted and stomped over to the church.
“And y’all get away from over here wit’ all that noise! Don’t none of y’all live around here! I’m finna call the police! And I’m gon keep callin’ em too! You no good vipers! I’m gon’ fix it so y’all ain't gon’ never be comfortable around here no mo’! Why don’t you go somewhere else and sell that smack or crack or whatever is it! You need to be in church! You devils! And stay the hell away from my grand child!” Old Mrs. Trenton shouted across the street at the young gangsters as she drug herself back inside to call the police again, for the 19th time in four days.
“So, that’s the old brawd that keeps on callin’ five-0, huh? Too bad! Her grand daughter is real, real fly! Too bad! Let's roll niggas!” Boom-Boom said as he chuckled and shook his head, still looking at Mrs. Trenton’s run down old house. He hopped back inside his Benz, turned up his beats and got ready to peel away.
“Hey, what’s up wit ‘chu, lil mama? You wanna ride? Naw, never mind. Girl, you too skinny! Holla at me next year, after you thicken up!” Boom-Boom yelled as him and his boys laughed at me and yelled “Bye-bye blackie!” and laughed out of control, making reference to the darkness of my skin.
My feelings were so hurt. I turned around slowly and started to walk back toward the church to find Pleasure. I knew that those niggas were stupid and would probably never amount to anything, and that I was way too good for either one of them, but it still hurt.
When I got inside the church, Pleasure was sitting at the piano crying. And then before I could say anything, came the most beautiful sound that I had ever heard. Pleasure began to sing. And then she started playing the piano.
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a retch, like me! I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see!” Pleasure sang with the voice of a living angel and touched those piano keys as if she had been taught to play by Beethoven himself.
I was stunned by what I heard. And then my mother walked in behind me and also just stood quietly. We were both in shock. Just looking at this girl dressed in the way too tight black sweater dress, you would have never thought that she could sing like that. That’s how ghetto she was. But by the end of the song you could have knocked us both over with a feather. Everybody from Sunday school class was standing at the back of the church with their eyes bucked and mouths wide open.
“Praise the Lord, child! Where did you learn to sing and play the piano like that? You have a wonderful voice!” My mother said as we all gathered around Pleasure.
“My mother taught me. She played the piano at church before she started smokin’ crack. I learned from sitting next to her and listening.” She said, with teary eyes.
“It’s okay child, you don’t have to cry no more. Just keep praying for your mother, Jesus gon’ make it all right!” (My mother hugged Pleasure) “We are having a music program tonight over at New St. John’s. Will you go with us and sing that song? Please!” My mother asked.
“We would love to have you! I heard you singin’ too and I was very impressed. The folks over New St. John’s would love you!” My father said as he came from behind the baptismal pool, looking like Denzel Washington, twenty years later.
“Well, I don’t know. I gotta get ready for the first day of school tomorrow. Plus, my granny needs me to…” Pleasure said as she struggled for an excuse.
“Oh, girl! Come on. We know school starts tomorrow. You will be fine! And I can introduce you to a few girls I know that will be there tonight, some of them go to our school.” I said trying to convince her to go, so I wouldn’t have to sit by myself.
“Well, okay. I’ll go. I’ll sing if you want me to.” Pleasure said reluctantly.
“Then it’s settled! I’ll talk to your grandmother and make sure it’s okay. But I'm sure she won't mind,” my mother said, smiling at Pleasure.
So, we had Sunday school and then morning service. Me and Pleasure sat in the back of the church with most of the other teenagers. At about the end of service, right before the doxology, my father introduced Pleasure as a new neighbor of the church and welcomed her to come back and worship with us again. He also announced that she would be going with us this afternoon at the musical program. You should have heard the church chattering with various comments, some good, and some not so good. But most everybody had something to say, especially “big butt” Dilonda Lovetts.
I couldn’t stand her bucktooth, bubble butt self! She was such a little hoochie. Always flirting and flouncing around in front of all the boys, trying to get attention, especially Vartan. And worst of all, she was always trying to sing. And the chick couldn’t sing her way out of a wet paperbag. Plus, she was always calling me skinny or blackee, or Hershey, it was always something about me being black or skinny. And she always made fun of the nickname my daddy called me, which was “Beanpole.” She knew how much I hated it. So she made it point to say it everytime she saw me, and because of that I was so glad to see how upset she got watching Pleasure steal the spotlight.
When everybody was coming up to Pleasure to say hello and welcome her, Dilonda just sat back with her arms folded and rolled her eyes. I guess she didn’t like the fact somebody other than her was about to start getting some attention for singing. But at least Pleasure could sing, which was more than I could say for Dilonda.
And she really hated the way all boys looked at Pleasure and how they tried to find a way to be around her. Dilonda was the church ho’ and she didn’t like the idea of having any competition. But now she had Pleasure to deal with.
Only God Knew
After church, everybody went home to eat and relax and get ready for the afternoon musical program across town. Pleasure and some of the other folks from church came back to our house to have supper. My mother always cooked a big dinner on Sundays, because some of the deacons and other people would always come by. Her best friend, Sister Walls usually helped and ate with us too, because she was a widow that lived alone. Her and my mother were also prayer partners.
Me and Pleasure helped my mother and Sister Walls get dinner ready. My father, Deacon Vaughn, Deacon Lestur, Elder Culston and Bishop Linx all sat out in the living room and waited for the food to be served.
Deacon Vaughn said “So, whose child is that in there with Angell? I heard she has a beautiful voice.”
“Well, that’s Elder Trenton’s grandniece, her and her grandmother just moved into the house next door,” my father replied leaning back in his easy chair.
“Ain't that the house he left to the church? I thought we were supposed to get that property and sell it to the city? He assured us that when he died, the property would come straight to the church board and we would do what we had to do with it.” Bishop Linx said as he sat his glass of ice water down and lowered his voice to a sneaky whisper.
“Yeah, I know. But after his death, his sister popped up to claim the house. She said that they hadn’t spoken in years, but she was his next of kin. So…” my daddy said in lower tone as he sipped his lemon-aid.
“So? So what? We stood to make alotta money on this deal with the city. And the deal was for both pieces of property, this one here and Elder Trenton’s place. We already own the other surrounding buildings on the block. All we needed was that one next door! Will she sell?” Elder Culston whispered.
“I don’t know. But now ain't the time to discuss this…” (My father paused) “Hey Bean Pole! How’s that food comin’? Sho’ do smell good! Tell ya’ mama to hurry up! She got five hungry men out here.” My father said as Pleasure and I walked into the room unintentionally startling him.
“Mama sent us in here to let y’all know that it’s almost ready, and for everyone to go wash their hands.” I said as I looked around sensing their immediate discomfort. Pleasure and I slowly walked back to the kitchen with all their eyes upon us.
“Mmm… So, that’s Elder Trenton’s grand niece, huh? Sho’ is pretty, she’s a healthy lookin’ young thang! I mean… she’s very… tall for her age. Mmm, mmm, mmm!” Elder Culston said as he reached inside his suit coat for a napkin to wipe the sweat from his forehead caused by his obvious excitement over Pleasure.
Elder Culston was an old freak that liked young girls. About ten years before, he had been accused of being involved in a sexual relationship with a fourteen-year old run away from Tampa. The story was that she had been staying in an apartment that he owned and that she was basically his under aged mistress. The relationship lasted about six months, until he was eventually found out about and arrested.
Once the news reached his wife and the media, he then came to the church seeking counseling and forgiveness from the Lord. But he was obviously still struggling with the same issues, just judging by the way he sat there sweating and salivating over Pleasure’s prematurely curvaceous figure. My father, along with the other men in the room just looked at him curiously.
“Anyway, there’s too much money on the table to let some long lost sister that we never even heard of stand in the way of this deal! I say after we eat, we all go over and have a little talk with her.” Deacon Lestur said anxiously.
“I told you to lemme handle this! I think I can get her to see things our way. I just need y’all to trust me, and lemme handle it. Now, enough of this! I don’t know about y’all but I am starvin’! Let's go eat.” My father said as he stood up and motioned to the men.
As we all sat down in the dining room to eat, the tension between the men was as heavy as my mother’s fresh buttermilk cornbread. We passed each dish around the table and the silence thickened.
Then after one of the most amazing Sunday dinners in history, everybody loaded up in the church van and headed over to New St. John’s for the twenty-first annual gospel music celebration. It was a musical event held at the end of each summer to celebrate the history of the black Pentecostal church in Miami.
It was a real big event. Churches from all over Florida came to participate. It was like a who’s who of the southern black Christian community. My grandfather use to sit on the board of elders, my father was nominated to take his place. My granddad would have been so proud.
As we approached the church across town, you could feel the music coming from down the street, there were cars and buses lined up for blocks. But we pulled right into the back of the church. There was a spot reserved just for us.
The church was huge! It was a brand new beautiful $3,000,000 state of the art complex with gold trim through out, it was like a palace. But right across the street stood all the neighborhood hustlas and dope boys. And on the next corner stood the dope feinds and geekers. And on the opposite corner was the neighborhood liquor store where everybody came together as one. Even at that young age, the contrast boggled my mind!
When we walked into the main sanctuary, The Tampa Bay Church of Deliverance and Repentance was singing “Near The Cross.” The atmosphere was electric. I mean, church folks always talk about feeling the spirit. Well, to me that was sometimes debatable, but on this day, there was absolutely no room for debate. If I had never felt it before, I felt it then.
“Praise the Lord, saints! This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it! I am so glad to have my friends from The 15th Street Church of The Pentecost here to join us in celebration today, and I'm told that they have with them a young sister with the voice of an angel. Her name is Sister Pleasure Trenton and I want you all to help me welcome her to the choir stand right now to bless us with a song.” Bishop Fletcher said as the congregation clapped politely. My mother hugged Pleasure and sent her up to the choir stand for her solo.
The audience was completely silent at first after their applause. And then they began to whisper and rustle in the seats as Pleasure sashayed her way out in her almost flesh tight too little sweater dress that had everybody’s temperature raising.
But the whole church quickly got as quiet as a dead church mouse when Pleasure sat down at the piano and began to play. She had full command of every ear as she again masterfully manipulated the ivory keys. And then she started to sing.
“Yes, Jesus loves me!… Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me. For the bible… Tells… me so!” Pleasure voice was as smooth as silk. She closed her eyes and sang as if there was nobody else in the church but her God. And then one after another it happened. There was a shout, then another and then another that was even louder than the one before. The sisters in the church began to jump and scream as if they had been attacked by a swarm of honey bees. But there were no bees. It was the Holy Ghost! And before I knew it, just about everyone had it, everybody but me anyway. I wanted to feel it but the spirit never touched me.
This went on for like twenty minutes. I looked around in curious amazement. People were laid out on the floor shaking and crying and thrashing around. There were ushers and nurses holding and restraining people to keep them from hurting themselves.
“This is the holy ghost? But why would God make anybody fall out and act like this?” I asked my mother.
“Hush girl! Don’t ever question the Holy Spirit! This is God showing his power. Now, sit back and be quiet!” She said as just about everybody in the church lost control. But all that shoutin’ and dancin’ and whoopin’ and hollerin’ was making me nervous, and when I got nervous I had to pee!
So, I quietly eased out of the main sanctuary and headed to the restroom, which was located downstairs near the Sunday school classroom and the Pastor’s study.
It was dark, all except for a small speck of light that peeked from underneath the bathroom door that guided me as I felt my way along the wall. I had to go so bad that I was doing the pee-pee dance. I barely got my panties down in enough time.
I sat there for a moment listening to everybody still stomping, dancing and shouting to the praise music right up above my head. I thought the ceiling would fall in. And then I heard strange noises coming from the other side of the wall where the pastor’s study was. So, I finished using the toilet, washed my hands, but there were no towels to dry them.
Then, I opened the door and started to walk back up stairs. But I heard I the strange noise again coming from the pastor’s study. It sounded like someone was crying. So I went over to the door slowly and stood, as the crying got louder. But it wasn’t really crying. It sounded more like who ever it was, was sick or in some kind of pain. So I opened the door.
And there was Sister Givens, one of the church nurses. She was in a passion embrace with Bishop Fletcher.
They both quickly stopped and turned to look at me as I stood there caught like a deer in the headlights. Then the bishop lunged over the desk toward me, with his pants still down around his ankles. I screamed & ran straight up the stairs as fast as I could and rushed back into the main sanctuary with my mother who was waiting with our jackets in her arms.
“You ready baby? … What’s wrong? You look like you just seen a ghost? Are you alright?” She asked, as I stood trembling, and ashamed of what I had just seen. Pleasure stood next to my mother with a puzzled look on her face.
“Hey, girl. You missed the last part of my solo. What took you so long?” Pleasure asked as Sister Fletcher came over and hugged her and my mother and me.
“Thank y’all for comin’! Angell yo’ little friend is very talented. I want y’all to say hi to Bishop. Now, I wonder where he could be? I coulda'’ swore I just saw him! Have you seen him Angell?” asked Sister Fletcher. She was head of the music ministry. She was also Bishop Fletcher’s wife.
“Umm… Well… I… Uh… “ I stuttered as I held my head down, trying to think of something to say without lying or getting caught up in any mess.
“Child, did you hear Sister Fletcher talkin’ to you,” my mother said looking at me oddly.
“Oh, never mind… here he comes now…. Eldon, come over here and say hi!” Sister Fletcher shouted and motioned for the pastor to come over where we were standing. I stood perfectly still with my eyes still trained on the floor.
“Eldon, this is Pleasure! She’s lil’ Angell’s friend… (Sister Fletcher paused) “What is that? Eldon, you smell kinda’ funny.” his wife said, as she leaned over and sniffed her husband.
“What? Oh, it’s nothing! I was just downstairs… The toilet was acting up again in the men’s bathroom. So, I, uh… (The bishop stuttered) “Hello Angell. Nice seeing you again.” Bishop Fletcher said as he peered at me from the corner of his bad eye as if he was waiting on me to tell what I saw him doing with that stank lady down in the basement.
“Anyway, we thank y’all for comin’ out! And we definitely got to start getting together more.” Sister Fletcher said as she again hugged my mother and kissed both Pleasure and me on the cheek.
“Yeah. We’ll get together soon. Come on Dear. Let's go say goodbye to the Miltons” Bishop said as he grabbed Sister Eldon by the hand and quickly drug her away.
At that exact moment, the skank nurse that had been downstairs with bishop getting hit from the back walked by and gave us a very fake hello.
“Praise the Lord, Sister Epps!” she said as she switched past smellin’ like a day old fish dinner.
“Y’all smell that? Hmm… She musta’ been downstairs workin’ on that toilet too.” My mother said sarcastically as I looked at Pleasure and busted out laughing.
“Girl, what’s so funny?” Pleasure asked.
“Nothin’ girl. I’ll tell you when we get back on the van. I promise! But you gotta promise not to say a word to anybody, not even your granny” I said to Pleasure as we all made our way back outside.
When we got back on the van I told Pleasure what happened in the downstairs of the church. She couldn’t believe it. And to tell you the truth, I could hardly believe it myself. It was all we could do keep ourselves under control. Pleasure and I both about fell out of our seats laughing the whole way back to Liberty City. And then just as we hit 15th, the smiles quickly left our faces.
Bright flashing lights and sirens met us about two blocks away from the house. There were three police cars, two fire trucks and an ambulance that just about took up the entire street. And the smell of smoke filled the air as a policeman approached the van and motioned for my father to roll the window down. We all instantly started to choke.
“This street is gonna be blocked off for a while. There was an explosion in that old house next to the church.” The officer said as he walked away, swiftly heading back in the direction of Pleasure’s house.
“Wait! Did you say that there was an explosion?” My father yelled back out at the officer.
“Yeah! The fire fighters just pulled an old lady out and put her into the ambulance. It’s a shamed too. The fire marshall was just here a few weeks ago, trying to warn her about the faulty wiring in the house. I guess she wasn’t able to get it fixed.
Anyway, the coroner should be here in a minute!” The officer responded as we all looked at each other in horror. And then… Pleasure began to scream.
“Granny! Granny! Let me out! I gotta go see what happened to my granny! Open the door! Open the door!” Pleasure shouted as she tried to get out of the church van. My mother grabbed Pleasure and struggled to restrain her.
As the fire fighters began to gain control over the fire, we were able to get a better look at what was going on. Pleasure’s house was totally engulfed in flames. A thick cloud of smoke and ash drifted for blocks. The whole front of the house had been blown to bits, and the pieces were scattered everywhere.