“In the Ally” — Part 1
I’m not sure about how far to go with the inflected speech of the first young man, Jamal. One of my friends helped me with the authenticity of it. I don’t know if it’s too much or not.
What do you think?
“In the Alley” — Part 1
Dad beat me every time he got drunk, and he got drunk every day. Da one time I can remember he din’t beat me was when he mixed—I guess it was wine—into my Kool-Aid. Den he laughed hisself onto da floor when I flopped around drunk, knocked over a lamp, and eventually threw up.
When da po-lice came to da front door one day, I hid behind da edge of da couch and watched. A white cop and a black one. Dey talked to my old man, and I expected him to try and beat dem up too. He was dat crazy. But I couldn’t believe what he did. Held his arms straight out even before dey pulled out da handcuffs. Like he wanted to be taken away. Maybe he knew. Knew he was good for nothin’, would never hold a job, and couldn’t control hisself no matter what. He stayed in jail and never came home. Mama said he did somethin’ bad and she weren’t gonna bail him out, and no one else did neither.
After dat seems like she try to take his place beating me, ‘cept not every day. Only when she got all riled up from a bad day. Den she yell at me and only slap me once. She go in her room and cry on da bed.
She let me go to court to see Dad stand in front of a judge behind a big huge desk. Da judge was a pasty white man in a big black robe. She said I might as well get used to it. I din’t ask what “it” was, but I figure it probably meant a lot a things. Dad went to prison, and I never saw him again. A man and a lady from da gov’ment came to da door one day. Dey was all dressed up and actin’ stiff. Sat Mama down and she insisted I be dere, said she never wanna to baby me. Dey told us Dad got in a real bad fight and died right dere in da prison. Mama just hung her head wit her face all puffy and eyes watery. I din’t say nothin’. Told myself, Don’t feel happy ‘cause ain’t nobody supposed to be happy when deir dad dies. But I was glad he wouldn’t come home again.
Dat’s when Mama started drinking like Dad did. Wern’t long before she lost her job at da fabric factory. One Saturday when I was watchin’ cartoons, and Mama was drunk on da couch, Grandma showed up and had a big fight wit Mama. After dat some more gov’ment people came and took me away from Mama. A man held Mama back while she was hollerin’, and a lady was all nice to me, wipin’ my tears and tellin’ me I’d be better off. She let me take all da stuff I wanted from my room. Wern’t much, and it all fit in two black garbage bags.
Dey took me to Grandma’s house to live. Grandma was good to me, better den anyone ever was to me in my life. Dat’s all I wanted. Someone to love me. I din’t need no money, no fancy stuff. Even goin’ to school din’t mean nothin’ until Grandma loved me. She hold me tight against her big tummy and tell me I was precious.
Grandma took me to church every Sunday. Dressed me all up, ‘cause all dem folks at church come lookin’ like dey going to a weddin’. Mens in suits and shiny ties. Ladies wit hats so big I thought dey’d tip over. Da whole ladies dat is, not just da hats.
I liked church ‘cause it was da only place, besides Grandma’s house and school, where people din’t get drunk all da time. For a long time I din’t know what dey was talking ‘bout dere. But da preacher always got everybody excited. People standin’, shoutin’, wavin’ deir arms, organ playin’ right in da middle of da preacher’s talkin’. Dey’d hoot and holla like dey was at a football game. Afta’ church dey all hug me an’ tell me I’s a fine young man. Finally dey got me to believe God loved me, din’t hate me. I figured maybe dat had somethin’ to do wit why Grandma loved me.
When I got older she tried so hard to keep me out of da gangs. Dey come after me over an’ over. Threaten to hurt me bad if I din’t join. I just ‘bout did. One day I was walkin’ home from da store wit Grandma. Without saying nothin’ she turned into da yard of da house where dese guys hanged out. Set her bags down and knocked right on da door. Loud. I tried to pull her back. Even da po-lice don’t do stuff like dat, ’sept dey got at least two guys wit guns ready. I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t leave her dere after all she done for me. Door opened. Big dude named Leroy stared at her. He’s one dat if you see him on da sidewalk, you cross da street to da other side. He din’t have no shirt on—tattoos and scars everywhere. Wan’t afraid of nobody, but he din’t know what to do wit a little old lady smiling at him. Den she opened her mouth. Told him if dey wanted to take me, dey had to kill her first. Spread out her arms and told Leroy to shoot her right den and dere. I about died of shock at da bottom of da steps. His homies behind him was hootin’ and laughin’. He just cussed at her, told her she was crazy, and shut da door. We din’t say nothin’ da rest of da way home.
After dat dem gangbangers made fun of me a few times, but dey never came after me. Half of dem dead or in jail now.
Da preacher say we got souls and we got bodies. I figure Grandma saved my life twice.
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