Tuesday, May 16, 2006


(see the Prodigal entry to remember what happened before this...)

She had wanted the baby. She was scared when she found out about it. She knew Fish might put two and two together and discover her secret, but Arlene just couldn't force herself down to Fawn's place to get it "taken care of" like the other times. This time, she knew it wasn't from Fish's mean, hard seed. He had been away for so long, and on one of those nights she had a rent party, some stranger, somebody's cousin from some big city stayed late to send the drunks home, to lock up, to make sure none of the records got taken out the door. He was tall and good-natured and had the broadest, brightest smile... his face was like God wanted people to know what Peace looked like on two legs... and Arlene knew he didn't belong at her party, didn't fit in among her no 'count "friends." But he loved on her all night with his eyes, and did all the things she hadn't counted on needing when she hastily decided to have a party without Fish. Ice needed picking. Drinks needed pouring. Records needed changing. And with Smarty Artie at the door and Arlene handling the plates of food, he was just the extra set of hands she needed. Said his name was Boo. Black as midnight, he laughed as he said that wasn't nobody spookier than him. He smiled at Arlene, but she saw the sadness in his eyes. She checked his hands as he carried the ice in, and though the ring wasn't there, the skin left behind wasn't quite as black as the rest of his hand. Had he left? Had he been put out? He was so much goodness standing in her kitchen, surely no woman had turned him away...

When all was quiet, and all that was left was the scent of unfiltered Pell Mells and the silence that can only follow the noise of her parties... she asked him if he wanted to take a plate home. She started putting chitlins on the plate before he even answered, and she was still going on and on about him sending the plate back through his cousin when she noticed that he hadn't answered. She slowly turned around and saw that he hadn't, in fact, stopped making love to her with his sad eyes since she whirled around to fix his plate, hoping to evade that gaze. He was hungry, but it wasn't chitlins on his mind, and she knew it, but if she could just get the plate in his hands and get him on out the door... Fish had been gone for so long...

It was light before Boo had made it out the door. She didn't ask about an address or when he'd be back. She knew all that passion and sweat and lust wasn't really for her. She knew that brown band of skin on his black left hand was all the answer she'd get. But he had been so much goodness, all in her house, all in her bed, all in her body.

He was still so much goodness, all in her memory. Arlene planned to tell their child one day about her real daddy. How kind and how pure he inspired her to be. The moment now robbed from her, she felt her womb and winced, not from the pain of the stitches Mama had put in her face, but because she feared that her last chance to be like Mama had passed. With this child, it would have been different. Her wild days would have passed on. Kevin would be unashamed. Nye would be unafraid. And Lil Boo, little peace on two legs, would have made four.

But like so many other times, Arlene wasn't thinking about consequences. Fish wasn't having it. He didn't want any children, ever, that was part of the deal, and when he and Arlene slipped, she got it taken care of without words. And this time, he hadn't been home no good time 'fore she come talkin 'bout some, she was carrying and didn't wanna take care of it. She underestimated him - he knew it not too long after he got home, and he knew it too long before she decided to tell him - he knew it when cleaning made her sick on Saturday mornings, he knew it when she said she didn't want no more parties, and he knew it when she asked him about trying to work... Lying whore. She better had swallowed it when word would get back about his women. But he'd be damned if he'd let her make a fool of him. He just bided his time, 'cause he wasn't ready to leave yet, and he wanted to see how she handled it.

She lied about her monthlies. Said they'd started to skip around. She fixed him chicken and dumplings, fixed him a few drinks to slow him, to mellow him - real sweet she was, when said she was already pregnant, though he hadn't been home long and she didn't halfway want him since he'd been back. Fish told her to take care of it, since it wasn't his anyway. Arlene's face shrank for a moment, then bravery and cunning fixed her face, and she said, in a small, still voice, that she was going to keep the baby no matter what he said. That's when he slapped her, and she fell, cutting her head on an ashtray. The blood was everywhere. He lost time beating her - didn't know how long it was or where all that storm he rained on her came from. He only knew that she was a lying whore, and he told her so, over and over between the blows... until he was gone. And then she waited, in pain. Bleeding. Breathing heavy. Then shallow. And she wondered about Little Boo. She lost. Little Boo lost.

She lay in Nye's little bed, feeling lost. Embarrassed. Billy's eyes were so shy when he entered with the plate... Arlene felt so weak. But she knew that at some point, she would need to get up and get her strength back. She lost Little Boo by living for herself. Arlene wondered what lay ahead, searching herself, wondering who she would be living for after the physical healing.