The lives some children lead.
LESTER, ALYX, DEWITT, ARIUS and CAMILLE are all universally connected. They all start life in one of the lackluster low-income under-developed housing project that darkens San Antonio’s eastside; the benefactors of whoremonger and neglecting moms and crack-addicted, fast-talking’ sperm donors.
Siblings Dewitt, Arius and Camille have it the worst, so it seems. From their unplanned, unwanted births through to insufferable neglect at the hands of super crack head Helen, whom they aren’t sure is their biological mother; anyway. They’d heard stories that they were abandoned on her filthy project door step by their supposed uncle before he went off to Huntsville State Prison, again; bought for a fifty-pack a piece for her pedophilic ex-ex-ex boyfriend and worse. Always snot-nosed, soggy-saggy pamper, starving and barefoot, they learn to keep to themselves, out of shame.
Strong-willed Camille, 12, secretly vows to look after her baby sisters, Dewitt, 9 and Arius 10, though they are half and half and half; the State is not an option.
On the way to MLK Middle, one dreary and freezing cold morning clothed in summer clothes, Camille happens on a run-down boarded up shack long left vacated off Martin Luther King Jr. Street. She cautiously steps inside to take a peek and to get out of the freezing drizzle. Everything in it is in working condition, she finds out after flicking on a couple of lights and turning on the kitchen and bathroom faucets. Once the spider webs are removed along with the mold and other stenches, put up some curtains, doors and locks it could be livable. The shack just needs a family, a caring family of desperate sisters to make it nice and homely. The place looks how she feels; tore up from the floor up.
Camille makes it through another day of sympathy from her teachers and friends. Before she exits her last class, Ms. Davenport provides her with three full length trench coats for children, 6 pair of Corduroy overalls of various sizes, 6 long sleeve button downs fresh out the pack, several really warm shirts and a bag of assorted socks and panties. In an envelope stuffed in the bottom of one of the bags is a crisp hundred dollar bill. She knows Camille’s woes; she’d been there as a child herself.
"What the hell are you up to you little slut" Helen screams into Camille’s hard sleep while rummaging through the raggedly blue and yellow backpack, held together with duct tape.
"Get out of my bag" I fire back, scrambling from under the single dingy fitted sheet.
"Where you get this, tossing can foods and fruit into the air? You got plans on going somewheres!? You runnin’ away. If you do don’t ever come back and leave my babies here slut; matter-of-fact you can get yo’ bad ass out of here right now" she spits with a Newport dangling from her swollen and burned lips, slamming the thin door in her eldest daughter’s innocent brown face.
I scramble from the mat, "Witt, shaking her sisters vigorously. Arius. Witt! Y’all wake up we gotta’ go, NOW!"
"Where we going" Arius begs, scratching the bed bug bites.
"Away from here. Helen found the backpack and threw out some of the food we had hidden so it’s time to go, NOW!"
"Where we going Cammy" Dewitt pleads from underneath her crunchy sheet, still not fully awake. The continual late night screaming and partying from the living room has given her severe insomnia. With Helen medicating her with Old English and Valium, waking up was hard to do.
"Just get dressed and to the window" Arius orders quietly, wiping dried drool from the side of her face.
Standing on the corner of E. Houston and Mittman at 3:22am, we accept the fact that we are on our own; that no one will come looking for us or be concerned about our well-being until it’s time to re-apply for food stamps or the truancy officer comes around. We count the contents of the other two backpacks we’d kept well hidden in a black plastic trash bag under a pile of debris in the backyard.
"Enough for a couple weeks if we eat once a day after school" I explain to the two baby birds before me.
"Why can’t we go to a shelter or something" Dewitt begins to get discouraged because of the fears that hang out at night.
"Cause the State will separate us or send us back to Helen. You want that Witt, for them to split us up. We’re getting enough crap as is. This is what we’re going to do. I found a place to sleep at night where no one will find us, hopefully. Second, we gonna find a way to eat every day. Third everybody stays in school and keep our mouths shut about this, got it!"
"Got it" Dewitt agrees.
"Got it" Arius seconds.
"We are officially on our own but we can get through this if we keep our mouths closed and our business to ourselves."
We sit on the bus stop contemplating a potentially dismal existence. A future filled with what ifs, how toos and why nots.
"We could ask Toya to go to the shelter with us at three to eat because she’s 18" Arius puts in her two cents.
"That’d be a good idea, but we gon’ keep on this ourselves. The less people know about us being without adult supervision the better" I inform, hugging my two innocent baby sisters.
"Where we gone keep clean" Dewitt questions.
"Girl we just barely keep clean now, I laugh. Let’s go to the Greyhound and get a locker."
"I got 87 dollars and change."
"From where" Arius inquires.
"From none of your business" I smile.
For the next 5 years they whole-heartedly apply themselves for the task at hand. Raising, loving and protecting Dewitt and Arius are more of a joyful experience than Camille expected. Parenting didn’t seem at all difficult to her seeing she was catapulted into an adult situation in order to save her sister’s and her life. She wonders why Helen seemed to have such a hard time handling it; maybe she isn’t their real mother, for real for real. As long as I don’t do stupid things like drugs and sex, I’d win my, our freedom from poverty; something keeps motivating me.
Dewitt Marie Evans, Ms. Light Bright because of her yellow skin and light green eyes, studies and masters Spanish, French, multiple creative dance techniques and mathematics. Arius Davies Borden, Ms. Quaint because of her soft and neat nature, despite the odds, explodes at abstract and surreal oil painting, selling the first six pieces to an avid art collector. She also becomes a clarinet virtuoso, capturing triumph after trophy at her recitals, which are rooted in extreme sadness’ and un-forgiveness. Camille Glorious Gaines manages to graduate at 17 and her full academic scholarship goes to Clark Atlanta; needing the best the quickest. She employs Toya to hold it down with her sisters and that’s exactly what Toya does; holds it down.
Public speaking becomes Camille’s forte. She quells her shyness with soul-stirring affirmations, every single day; ‘I am very shy or am I. So are a lot of public speakers at first. What helps me become a great speaker is the security in telling my story; my life’s story. I really think about what I am saying, every aspect of it. I close my eyes and begin to share. I speak as if I’m alone in the mirror screaming to be saved. Even if I am nervous, I’ll become a happy mood, or a bright color or anything other than the darkness of being shy. I’ll become what I speak, the information I’ve gathered. I won’t be shy, I will not be shy, I AM NOT SHY! I won’t be shy in a setting such as a stage. I am what I am speaking and trust in that. I trust in my ability. People will tell me what an outstanding job I do and that’s beautiful to me; the beauty of public speaking. I’ll surprise myself and others. I won’t confuse my shyness with low self-confidence because I am great at what I do; public speaking. I am A PUBLIC SPEAKER!’
A realization that God is watching over them comes when the meaning behind the rambling from Old School, who’s guaranteed to have a 40 of something and his trusted rusted shopping cart, dragging it from one block of E. Houston and New Braunfels to the other; back and forth, forth and back, "I’ve been readin' that Deuteronomy 1:8 all my life; be consumed by that Numbers 13:30."
I’m soon blessed to earn a decent income via numerous speaking engagements on various subjects. Professors employ me to research an artifact or subject and deliver a professional presentation. Numerous small businesses put me to work demonstrating their products, explaining various visions; so my sisters, and Toya are well taken care of and we still haven’t heard word of Helen; maybe she’s dead or in prison for life.
Within 7 years, the run-down shack off Martin Luther King Jr. that has been our shelter during the raging storms in our lives is purchased along with the property it sits on; in Jesus' name. Not quite 40 acres, just one and a half and I don’t need a mule. I purchased a 2008 white Mustang; God does work in revealing and mysterious ways. I hire a live-in housekeeper to assist Toya with caring for my sisters; greatness awaits me. I vow to get into the world, lay a path and come back and get my sisters and Toya, if she wants to go or she can have the house, and the property;but we're definitely gertting out of Texas.
Alyx sits on her mother’s trembling, frail lap as Mynitra oozes the black tar into her collapsed vein. She twist the strap so tight that the veins that attempt to bulged in her see-through skin wriggle away, like baby snakes being chased, from the needle. She pops with two pencil-thin fingers with all her used up strength, telling Alyx to pull the strap harder, to produce a usable line into her nightmare.
Alyx dresses herself up real pretty from the dirty clothes in the black trash bag over in the nasty corner and pulls her matted hair into a pretty ponytail, all by herself, hoping she’ll have a birthday party at which her mom would at least be awake and not bobbing in and out of reality. So far four neighbor’s kid are coming over; dope fiend’s kids. As an unwilling participant to the unwarranted chaos heaped on her, she deals as best she can, secluding herself into a world that only makes sense to her insanity.
"Alyx your mom was pronounced dead at 4:15 this morning" Aunt Clare confirms, standing over her seven year old niece, with not an ounce of compassion, like her life was her fault.
Her dysfunctional father looks to her to replace his dead dope fiend wife thus heaping on her adult situations and unforgiving circumstances; unmercifully. She is expected to keep his food, and his bed, hot.
The abuse began long before Mynitra passed.
By age five I was well versed in sexual terminology, and grown-up acts. Geryl would overwhelm me with cutting words, fiery actions and full-color photos of child and adult pornography, calling it ‘just growin’ up'.
Up until she murdered herself, she would hideously blame and deliberately shame me, her only child; forcing me to wrap on whorish and demeaning clothes that she boosted, bargained for or out grown when she didn’t make Geryl man-enough for a few extra dollars. When she would go on heroin and crack runs, Geryl would misuse and abuse me until my body was covered in purple and black semi-permanent tattoos, or lock me in the roach and rat infested downstairs closet, depending on how long she would be gone, which was sometimes for days.
Geryl would trap me like an old dirty rat, making me walk around butt-naked; posing my 6 year old self in sexually graphic positions. There was no one I could tell because that bitch and that bastard alienated me from everyone; home schooling me to be absolutely nothing. The sheer fear of what Geryl and Mynitra would do to me kept my secret a secret. I was so exposed to turmoil, instability and emotional chaos that I lost my only protection, my spirit. I know that the only way would have to be the death of somebody.
Mynitra has been dead 11 years but life hasn’t gotten any easier. I grow into a beautiful young woman. Statuesque. Coffee-brown. Flawless. Intelligent but inside nasty ugliness. Geryl and I still fight day and night. There are varying police reports and numerous hospital visit; escaping had long been put on the back burner. I can’t believe his junkie ass is still alive.
"Geryl I’m going to a dance with a couple of friends; don’t wait up."
"Who said…" as the door slams shut in his ashy, deeply creased, heroin-stained face.
"This is Alyx. This is Nate" Aundrea, Alyx's best friend introduces.
"Why y’all all quiet like you aint never met nobody before, Aundrea laughs. Let’s get gas while it’s 2.19, beer while it’s cold and be out while it’s early."
We pull up to the brightly lit and busy Valero and pour out of Nate’s freshly painted 2006 Jaguar, coming up with $127 between us. We fill up and load up.
"Get cigars boy, grape" Aundrea yells, leaning against the trunk, puffing on a Newport.
In the high school’s bustling parking lot, full of teenagers entering and exiting, some just standing around looking well put together, Nate slides his navy blue convertible into a slot, two rows from the entrance and kills the ignition but leaves DMX on blast, ‘Niggas wonder why this nigga wanna die…’.
We twist up two blunts for rotation from Alex’s always full stash of Purple Haze. We pop the tops of Heinekens and suck them empty. With all the choking and coughing and laughing we didn’t hear Security Guard Bernard Donnins tap on the tinted window with the butt of his trusty flashlight; his only weapon for defense, or damage. He’d been refused a weapon’s permit because of his eyesight and a previous unexplained episode. We all stare at him, startled. Nate fires up his machine, yanks it into R, slides out of the parking space, then D and guns it out of the parking lot leaving gravel and dust in beer-belly-tight-hot-water-polyester pants wearing SG Donnins’ face before he can get out his out-of-ink pen and scribbled-up pad, to get the plates.
Four blocks over we park, exiting the car, falling all over each other; laughing ourselves hysterical.
"I bet his fat ass is still standing there" Alex roars, standing like a saluting soldier.
"I bet him mad as hell" Aundrea pokes, poking out her bottom lip.
"Probably wishing for a drag" Nate laughs, inhaling from his invisible blunt. I was not in my right spirit.
"I had a groovy time, Aundrea yells from her porch. Y’all be safe. Go straight home and call me Alyx" ushering Alex on inside; they so nasty.
"I’ll do what I can pretty momma, Alyx yells as Nate reverses from the long graveled driveway."W.W.White and MLKing" Alyx smiles.
"You know that I can’t let you fall home all partied up young lady. Let’s get some breakfast then I’ll chauffer you right home Madame" Nate suggests in his most charming tone.
We gently shove our way into the over-crowded Denny’s on I-35 and Rittiman Road for a breakfast of pancakes on two scramble light/one bacon one/ham and two large orange juices. Afterwards I feel just a bit lighter. The conversations going on around my head are gossipy and stimulating, as I listen to Nate making all sorts of promises about doing this and that, taking me here and there and everywhere.
Back in the whip Nate offers Alyx a pill to ‘settle’ her. As she innocently refuses he intently insists and she immediately obliges. Two or three minutes pass. A mighty buzz is unsettling. I begin to feel myself flying higher, and higher, but is unable to pull myself down, as spitting cartoons and cursing caricatures play around in my head; without my permission. Nate watches as she sways in and out of being coherent, saying nothing as not to arouse her. I can’t quite form the thought but I know I’m riding way too long to have not reached my destination.
"We’et" I muster.
"Two more lefts" he lies.
The Multiplex’s park has been off limits after 9pm since the increase in rapes and robberies. The San Antonio Police make rounds at 17 and 47 after each hour. Nate intends not to be that long. Alyx crashes. Nate slowly pulls into a slot under heavily over-hung trees. He gently slides her unresponsive body from her seat into the crispness of the early morning air to commit horrific sexual acts upon her; in my front and in my back, even ejaculating in my pretty face.
A half hour after he's deserted her, the cold ground alerts me that I’m naked. I become instinctively frightened but remain frozen in fear. Slowly the pain between my legs become searing; my wrist and ankles burn. My stomach is soup. I feel around for my clothes; nothing. Slowly I sit up and rub the dried semen from my swollen face. She knows what has happened. Nate shares Geryl’s demons.
Saturday morning her phone rings. "How was your time with Nate missy; Alex was here all night long" Aundrea picks, finishing up a Sunkist orange.
"Honey I had a fantastic time. I was so loaded that I forgot where I put Nate’s address, or I rolled a joint with it or something" trying to get to the good part.
"Got a pen?"
"Go ahead. Got it."
10pm Saturday night shows up. Alyx sits on a milk crate across the way from Nate’s luxurious Northeast side apartment. ‘He could have simply brought me here’; punk. His vehicle looks freshly washed and waxed alongside the others with days of dust and use displayed. She could imagine the fresh new car smell inside; how he deliberately washed her away.
Dressed in dark denim jeans, black size 10 hiker’s boots, a fitted long sleeve shirt and a fresh black and blue flannel button down; the morning is to bring me satisfaction. I wait.
At 11:30 Nate steps from his side sliding-glass door, attired handsomely in black slacks with a half-inch cuff and a knit three quarter length SeanJohn shirt, and locks up. He takes 10 paces and unlocks his prize possession; his ‘broad-slayer’. Once seated in its butt-fitting leather, he checks his close-cut mustache for wayward hairs in the rearview, sucks his teeth, pops in a piece of Trident, sticks the key in the ignition and cranks up to Usher’s Confessions.
By fate he didn’t immediately drive off. By fate he gets back out to re-enter his apartment. Before he could get his keys from the lock, I shadow him.
I smile and kiss the nape of his neck, "Gone in."
"Look…" he tries to ward me off like a bug, but the shiny chrome encourages him on in.
"Take all your clothes off" I order softly, still smiling; then smashes him with the .45’s grip, busting both his juicy lips; still smiling. Blood sprays me. He then readily complies, with his hands held high, as thick red wetness pours onto his $119 shirt.
"Turn around punk" I order. I cuff him so tight his wrist immediately swell as from multiple bee stings. I’d already connected the hose to the exhaust, and by fate he hadn’t become aware of it.
"Let’s go back outside so you can be on your way to interrupt another innocent young lady’s evening" breaking his thick nose with the butt of her piece.
He falls out the door bloody and naked, terrified and stunned, involuntarily complying, trying to figure where’d he’d be going in this condition; but to death.
"Only because you didn’t take my life am I not going to physically take yours but you will feel how I felt; with your sick twisted punk ass. I could be dead right now! Do you realize that I am a time-bomb waiting to explode and you just lit the fuse. So you now understand that playing with fire WILL BURN ASSHOLE! My life no longer means that every freakin’ man I come in contact with gets to mess over my body without reason, without loving me at least for the moment. You dumb asshole!"
I screw in my homemade silencer as he stares like a deer in headlights, willing himself not to cry; "Now get your stupid ass in your prize possession. I slam the door closed with all my might, shattering the tinted glass, on his leg, hearing his chin bone break in two, him hollering in agony. Shut the hell up! He drags his leg into the car as I push the door closed. Now if you try to get out, blow the horn or anything I’m going to execute your dumb raping ass, I spit, word for word. You lucky I don’t cut your shit off and you’re found with in shoved in your mouth. Don’t move" I scream in held and exhausted frustration.
Nate sits dizzy, desperate, dumbfounded and dying, fully aware of his habitual crime of forced extreme passion, in his ‘broad-slayer’ is the cause of all this.
Alyx kneels on one knee holding a Marksman’s aim 2 feet from his driver’s window with her .45 locked on his temple, eyeing the spot she’ll put a slug in if he so much as coughs out the coagulating blood falling from between his broken teeth, watching as he’ll never rape again.
"Please forgive me" I silently pray.
"Get yo’ stupid ass over here and sit bastard. Put that down fool. You always eatin’ nigga" she screams at her cowering-in-the-corner, self-esteemless son, not caring that whatever time of the day it was that it was probably his first, last and only meal since school lunch, whether or not he even made it to school that day, for which he shows no mercy.
"Lester’s been a problem since he tore my ass up comin’ out, Lacy spits to Cordela’s un-empathetic-always-burning-for-gossip ear. He never was going to be nothing with his stupid bad ass."
At age eleven, Lacy’s perverted boyfriend of the month, Winston Edward Pruitt, provided him with something to slang and taught him how to parlay in something fresh.
A fresh haircut was a reward; riding in the backseat of EP’s Impala was a luxury; missing a deal could get you deaded.
"Look nigga I need to know that at two you will have in your possession eight one hundred dollar bills, or I’ma put yo’ ass straight to sleep at exactly two pm today" 14 year old Lester warns Duceey in a very calm quiet manner as not to bring witnesses.
‘Lester the messy jester is what they call’em’. The kids would taunt because of the mix-match fabrics Lacy forced him to wear, intentionally to cause him ridicule. Lester repeatedly shows up to school with deep bruises and untreated burns. His teachers can only sympathize with him but wouldn’t dare get involved. They are very familiar with Lacy’s rage. The nurse always let him sleep away his headaches and stomachaches because there wasn’t a medical cause for them, except rest and food, plus he’d adamantly refuse to go home or to the hospital; Lacy would kill him. He’d suffer through his nightmares and tremors as he slept on the light green cot. He didn’t gain weight or simply couldn’t. Lester begins to express his suicidal and violent behavior in the privacy of his public school, lashing out simply to be comforted in someone’s loving arms; any motherly arms would do.
Nurse Harriet diagnosed Lester with being physically abused and emotionally neglected among other things; no CPS could save him.
$757 was not $800. Lester slides up from behind and slides a five inch silver blade into Duceey’s thick neck, so to his eternal resting place he went, in the middle of Martin Luther King Jr. Park’s Sunday crowd, as on-lookers look on, then look away.
Lester doubles for his strange estrange father, standing an impressive 6’2 at 170 pounds with hypnotizingly dark eyes. His slightly muscular physique is even and lean. His full lick-able lips encase perfect pearl whites that hold a single diamond embedded in the front bottom four. Lester learned not to wear jewelry, because he’d become accustom to Lacy stealing it, selling it then lying about it. He kept his expensive name-brand clothes well hidden in the basement for special occasions.
By age 15 and the grace of God, he hadn’t lived with Lacy in a couple of years; one ‘GET your stupid ass OUT’ to many.
"Since you say so Les. Sometime you’re gonna have to let something ride or you gonna go to hell boy. Every time you kill a contract it takes from your soul and damages your relationship with God. What if I was a contract" Poetess questions, as she nudges her petite nakedness all up on me in the Comfort Suites.
"As a square we won’t have that problem now will we" I whisper commandingly.
"You’re not answering my question boo boo" she coos with perfect poked-out lips, trying to lighten his dark mood.
"Now will we" I repeat, without ‘playin’’ in my voice.
Poetess knows from firsthand experience that when Lester becomes sedate in his response or and his request, it could mean trouble trouble.
"Put this in your mouth so you can’t talk so much, and just listen. It turns her on when I put my foot down; though I haven't ever hit her. Know it or not on top of all the shit folks have seen me doing, what they don’t see is me praying a lot and at all times, for my life to end or begin. I have built myself this life no thanks to nan fool breathing; past future present. That stank bitch has been humiliating and demeaning, ravaging me as far back as I can remember, that’s all I remember. I should have slept her ass a longtime ago. I’m facing a dime because of her. That wicked bitch took my stash to save her raggedly ass life knowing it would cost me mine; so when a contract came up with her name on it, I took it. Twenty Gs; you must be kidding."
"You’re going to kill yo’ moms for twenty Gs?"
"You damn right; I’d kill her ass for free. I’m a product of my upbringing remember, snarling devilishly. I’ve always known that if I went to prison she’d have something to do with it, her stank ass. Lacy ain’t shit to me but $20,000. It ain’t like she gon’ have my back on lock, so I got my own back."
"He’s been a nothing-ass thug all his raggedly years; tramps doing any and every thang for’em. His punk ass sperm donor spit him in me then spit on me. That fool boy thank just ‘cause he got a few funky dollars he’s the shit; he aint shit, matter-of-fact that’s ‘xactly what he is; shit" Lacy screeches to bull-daggin’ Della.
"Lacy borrowed ten thousand dollars from Grand, speaking in the third person as always when he’s extremely pissed. Grand gave Lacy six months, because of their longtime friendship to produce his money, he spills to Lester. Lacy came due with Grand’s Gs in counterfeit funds. Grand caught a felonious counterfeit laundering bonding out his boy with that counterfeit Lacy hand Grand, you heard. Before Grand do five Fed, Grand wants to hear a lullaby for Lacy; I want yo’ moms straight sleep, deaded, you heard me now."
"Not a problem."
I remain outside as the ten mourners step pass Lacy’s closed casket; the disfigurement being too much to view.
All by myself I kneel at her burial site to confess; "By your words my soul died and by my hands yo’ body died; see you in hell."
All three of these stories can play out in one of two ways. It’s for the reader to determine the ending.