“Now check this shit out. Y'all bitches have to pay me this month, and I don't care if y'all have to sell your ass to do it.”
Me and my sister sat on our Aunt Ruby's beat-up couch as her fat, bubble-shaped ass paced back and forth in front of us, slapping one of her flabby hands into the other. So much for family. Our mom had ran off, and because me and my sister were still minors, my aunt collected us. And after all that we'd been through, the fat bitch was demanding money from us.
Aunt Ruby was dark-skinned like our mom, but nothing else like her. I guess Mama took all the looks, 'cause she didn't have none. For real. She had a smashed-down nose and beadie-ass eyes. And her ass was so big, you could put a
bumper sticker on it, and no one would question it.
My aunt was dressed in a old-ass muu-muu, which clung to her. Imagine that shitâa muu-muu clinging to a fat ass, not an appealing sight in the muthafucking least.
There was a hole on one side, so all you saw was an old, tired, wrinkled-up nipple, and splits all in the bottom, showing mounds of cellulite. She looked like a tar-colored Beanie Baby. A chocolate popsicle. No damn curves, just fat.
The only positive attribute she had was that the fat bitch could cook. But, shit, I'm sure you'd assume that. I'll bet the first thing people probably said to her after first meeting her was, “I'll bet you fry a mean-ass chicken up,” or “How much gumbo filÃ© do you put in your gumbo, girl?”
She had a double fridge in her kitchen, and a lock and bolt on that bitch, not to mention a small fridge in her room, and a fridge and a meat freezer in her garage. Can you say,
Gluttonous to the muthafuckin' extreme
? And she kept them all under surveillance. If you walked anywhere near one of her fridges, she would yell, “You betta stay the hell out of my refrigerator!”
She continued in her deep voice, sounding like Darth Vader from
. “If y'all don't cough up three hundred apiece, y'all going in the muthafuckin' system, 'cause I don't want no kind of they support. I'm still on Section Eight, and it would raise my rent. And, on top of that, I got to be assured this gonna work. If I tell the courts your mama gone and I take full responsibility of y'all, then I'm stuck.” She studied us and shook her head. “And I'm not so sure if I wanna be stuck.” She twisted her lips to one side. “Plus, y'all mammy may come to her senses, what little she has.” She started coughing.
Desiree whispered, “There she blows.”
I cleared my throat to cover my laugh.
“And, girls, let's face the facts. Your mammy, despite how fine and sexy she thought she was, is a self-centered bitch. And she fucked y'all off.”
When my sister made a growling sound, I elbowed her quickly.
“Now first things firstâyo Daddy can't stay here.”
Me and Desiree both said in unison, “What?”
“He can't. Ain't no one to care for him. He already gone anyway. I hauled his ass off to Pine Meadows. And there ain't shit y'all can do about it.” Aunt Ruby placed both her hands on her fleshy hips.
I sighed loudly and slapped myself in the forehead at what this bitch was telling me.
Desiree mumbled, “This is bullshit.”
“Y'all got a problem with it, then run up on me. I guarantee, if you do, y'all asses will be out on the street.” She made a fist with one of her hands.
I held Desiree down. There was fury in both our eyes.
“Why didn't you tell us?” I asked as calmly as I could.
“I ain't got to tell y'all shit. I owe y'all no explanation for anything I choose to do. He don't belong here. He better off there anyway. He'll get the help that he needs.”
I sighed again, and Desiree grunted.
“It's a nice place too. Y'all welcome to visit if y'all like. Matter of fact, y'all need to go down to the social security office and get that money transferred over to them.”
“How we gonna do that if the money is in Mama name?”
“Exactly. Desiree, you look the oldest and look more like your momâworn-outâso y'all going to take y'all ass down there, and Desiree, you act like you Pearla Pierce and figure out why they ain't sent a check this month. And, like I just stated, make the recipient of the money over to Pine Meadows.”
“I wanna see Daddy,” I said defiantly.
“Honey, you can see him whenever you want to. You can live there if you like. But I'll tell you this once and one time onlyâTake your ass down to the social security office, or be on the street.”
Me and Desiree huffed and puffed as we slid off the couch to leave.
“Oh, and when you get back, I want my hair braided.” Aunt Ruby looked pointedly at me, as if I had no choice.
My only question for her was, “What do you want braided? The little hair you have on your head, your beard, or the hair on your chest?”
After her fucking sermon about what we could do and couldn't do, could eat and couldn't eat, me and Desiree left the tiny-ass bedroom that used to belong to her eighteen-year-old son, who was locked the fuck up. And her oldest daughter who was on crack, and she didn't know where she was.
We brushed past our uncle by law. My aunt's husband, Byron the bastard, was a tall, lanky, light-skinned dude with an Afro. And though the nigga was lanky, he had a big-ass beer belly. He was regular-looking, except the nigga was cockeyed. And that shit is worse than trying to figure out whether or not a cross-eyed person is looking at you. With a cockeyed person, you couldn't tell when they weren't. But the other fucked-up part about him was, where we normal people had two front teeth, that nigga had three. He said it was because he was born a twin and he got one of his teeth.
I said, “Naw, you just one ugly muthafucka.”
The nigga didn't work either. He spent all his time picking up broads and hanging in titty bars.
“Looking good, Cashmere. You got a man yet, or do you need to be broke in?”
“Go beat your little shit,” Desiree told him.
I laughed loudly.
“You betta watch your mouth, Desiree, before I tell Ruby on your ass.”
“Tell her, ugly muthafucka.”
He ignored Desiree, knowing he couldn't win an argument with her.
“And get your eyes off of my sister's ass. She wouldn't piss on you, bastard, if you was on fire.”
“Let her tell me that,” he shouted as we walked out the house.
“Man, his ass is a fucking pervert,” I yelled as we jumped down the porch steps. We hadn't been there long, and he had already rubbed up against me and jiggled his dick and balls at me.
“I know, girl.” Desiree said, studying the pamphlet with the location of Pine Meadows.
“Man, I can't believe she just shipped him out like that, like he ain't shit,” I said as we waited at a light.
“Well, Cash, I mean, maybe it's better off this way. I mean, neither of us can take care of him. I'm seventeen and you only fourteen. We got school and shit.”
“I was doing a good job without you or Mama.”
The light changed to green, and we crossed.
“I know you did. I was being selfish. But I'm just saying that now we can't do it twenty-four hours a day. And when we not at home, are you comfortable with Ruby's evil ass caring for him? She probably wouldn't feed him or bathe him or do the therapy with him in the way he's supposed to be taken care of.”
She was right. I nodded.
We turned a corner and walked slowly.
“Desiree, I'm so stressed. I wishâ”
She stopped me in mid-sentence. “I do too, but wishing ain't gonna change the state of things. Let's just check this place out to make sure he straight, and if he is, we'll go to this social security office to get things straight.”
I smiled and nodded, happy I could lean on Desiree for once.
“Look up, little sister. Here it is.”
Still I hesitated at the door. Why? Because I felt like I was legitimizing Daddy being abandoned if I were to leave this place without leaving with him.
“Come on, little sister, go on inside,” Desiree coaxed. “It don't look too bad out here, so it can't be too bad inside.”
“Yeah, it does look nice.”
And it was. Daddy was in a nice place in a nice-ass room equipped with everything that he needed. They had nurses around the clock who looked and acted real professional. Every time they tended to Daddy, they washed their hands and put on a fresh set of gloves. They did therapy with him too. Just being there gave me my hope back, hope that Daddy would get better.
“This place is perfect, Desiree,” I told her.
“I know, girl.”
“And everybody so nice.”
I nodded my head over and over again. They even had a swimming pool.
That would make Daddy happy
, I thought. But then I remembered that he couldn't feel anything. But maybe they knew what to do and would figure out a way.
“Come on, it's getting late. And the visiting hours are up in a few minutes.”
As we walked to the exit, the lady at the front desk stopped us. “Are you young ladies related to Desmond Pierce?” she asked.
I pinched Desiree's arm. “Yes, we are.”
“Okay. Well, according to his ledger, we still have not received the deposit. We offered a Ruby Malone an extension because of the circumstances, but we really do need the deposit to continue his stay here. If we don't get it in another two weeks, we are going to have to release him.”
I bit my bottom lip, stress building back up into me just as I was feeling good. And even though we didn't have a quarter of that money, I asked, “How much is the deposit?”
“Nine hundred and seventy-five dollars.”
I gritted my teeth.
“Thanks. We'll have it to you real soon,” Desiree assured her, and the perky blonde-haired lady smiled.
I nodded as well. “Please take care of our Daddy,” I pleaded, and she smiled at me in a soothing way.
After we walked out, I asked,” Why did you say no, dumb ass?”
“'Cause, shit, never ever volunteer info to anybody. Mamaâ”
“Looks like she fucked us and Daddy,” she said dryly.
“Desiree, you know what this meansâWe gotta go to that office and you gotta act like Mama to a T. Shit, we need that money transferred over.”
We didn't really do much. Desiree just changed her getup, fixed her hair like Mama fixed her hair, and put on makeup as well.
“How does it look, Cash?”
Shit! How the fuck can they remember Mama to a T?
And, plus, I remembered she mailed that paperwork into them. I don't think her lazy ass ever stepped foot in that office. Long lines just weren't her style. And since Daddy catered to her, she never had to wait in any of them. If it was time to do the taxes, get the clothes from the cleaners, or get the car registered, Daddy, despite being tired from work and having red eyes from lack of sleep, always went while she sat her ass on the couch and sipped AlizÃ©.
And being here, I know how Daddy must have felt. The shit was getting on my last fucking nerves, all the damn people coughing, bumping into me, bad-ass kids stepping on my feet and not bothering to say sorry or excuse me. Man, if me and Desiree were to ever do that in public, Daddy would wax our ass.
“How long we been here?” Desiree asked me, sucking her teeth and patting her hair.
“Long enough,” I said. “It's been an hour and a half.”
“That bitch said fifteen minutes.”
“This is some bullshit, for sure,” I mumbled, leaning against a counter.
“Fuck this! They gotta call us next.”
Our eyes desperately scanned the monitor. We were number fifty-one. We had to be next.
“Hell no.” Desiree snatched away from the counter and marched to the information desk, and I followed her.
The old, white, funny-looking, four-eyed lady raised her brows at Desiree.
“We're number fifty-one, and we were skipped.”
She took a deep breath as if we were hassling her. Like it was an aggravation for her to have to do her own damn job.
. I wanted to yell, “Crow face!”