Clover

Photo by Monstera via Pexels

Part VI: All the world’s my stage

When Mama hands me my plate of food, it takes everything in me not to shovel it down my throat quickly. The waffles are perfect; nice and fluffy. I eat my cheesy scrambled eggs eagerly the entire time. Mama looks at me, smiles slyly, and nods in approval. A happy belly makes a happy Clover. She knows this. Daddy knows this. Soon, my classmates will too. I have two more days before school starts and I want to be prepared.

Mama and I went to get school supplies and a few new outfits last week. I like what I picked out. Now that I am getting older, Mama lets me select my own pairings in outfits and shoes. I like my style. Mama says I look like a cross between Punky Brewster and Meg Murry when I get dressed up.

I dance. My specialties are Hip Hop and Tap. I’ve been dancing since I was five years old. Mama said it was “essential” that I learn something to do with my body — mainly my hands and feet.

I am a ball of energy, as you’ve probably guessed. But I was once what my mama said was, “quite the handful,” when I was younger. She tells me now, “If I didn’t put you in dance, you’d be bouncing off the walls. Dancing is a great way for you to use all that extra energy God gave you.”

When I’m on the stage, nothing else matters. Nothing else is. It’s just me and the music. My body moves rhythmically and I follow the beat, focused on perfecting the choreography issued to us during practices.

One of the first things Mama did when we got settled here in Hopeulikit was to find a dance studio. Luckily, there isn’t one far from where we live. Bulloch County isn’t the biggest county around, but at least, they’ve things to keep a kid like me busy and interested.

Soulful Legs Dance Studio is the place Mama settled on. She spoke with the head instructor on two different visits, got their pricing information, talked things over with Daddy, and now . . . I will continue what I had been doing in Summerville before we moved here — dancing. She brought home two pamphlets; one for me and one for her.

I stared at the photo on the front of the pamphlet; a huge stage with so many girls and boys and instructors standing on it — posing for the photo. I smiled hard at the image because I thought of myself dancing across that stage on Friday and Saturday nights. Mama says I have an audition on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. I am going to be sure I bring my A++ game. Mama says if I’m selected, I’ll begin practice the following Tuesday evening after school. I am excited but a little nervous too.

Just a few butterflies in my belly, nothing to get all crazy about. I know I’ll be fine. I know what I can do and Mama dances with me sometimes, too. She’s still got some great moves. She glides across the floor so perfectly. Her lines are symmetrical and she doesn’t miss a beat. Mama keeps time with every song we play and I just stare at her. Sometimes I whisper to myself while she’s dancing, “That’s my Mama.” Yep. She’s amazing.


Photo by David Hofmann via Unsplash

Before I was born, Mama danced for some big-time theater in Los Angeles, California for about five years. Dad likes to talk about this — Mama, not so much. Something about tearing her ACL and being forced to quit dancing. I don’t really bring up the subject — her face sinks into itself and it seems like the whole world could get sad from the power of her feelings. I think . . . and you better not tell her, either . . . I think she feels like she failed at it, you know? Since she can’t really dance like she should and as hard as she used to that she has failed at it, somehow.

I tell her all the time, “Mama, you’re my favorite dancer,” and I mean it too. She sits back and smiles a half-smile and her eyes get all teary — gives me chills. Daddy told me one time, “Sweetpea, when your mama took to that stage, no one uttered a word. All eyes were on her.” When Daddy talks about Mama’s dancing days, he lights up — he gets so happy I can feel the sunshine leaving his body. But he quiets down a little also when Mama comes around. It’s like the stage is an awful place for Mama and well . . . every chance I get, every place I go to, I dance. All the world’s my stage.

It’s just better not to talk about it too much around Mama, is all. I’m just happy she takes the time to dance with me — to still feel the music and try her legs out. They still work. They still carry her. She can even balance her whole body on one leg for ten minutes! Can you believe that?! TEN WHOLE MINUTES! I was excited to see it the first day she showed me and you know what she said? “Oh baby, your mama used to do this for twenty minutes a long, long time ago.”

I look forward to the audition, but I’m really just ready to get it all over with and start dancing with a new team. I miss my squad in Summerville, but I think I’m getting used to newer things happening. At least, I want to get used to the new things that are happening. Mama says there will be three judges. The piece we’re working on is a mix of Jazz, Funk, and Hip Hop and we’re going to have one of my favorite songs mixed in, Craig Mack, Flava In Ya Ear. We are working very hard — day and night. We have fun, too, though.

I’m just hoping they like the routine well enough to accept me. That’s my hope — my dream. I know Mama likes that I dance, too. I know it makes her happy. I see her sometimes when I’m dancing. She looks at me like she’s missing something bigger, but she’s happy to still hold on to a bit through me. I’m going to take to that stage and rip it up for my mama.

I am . . . I am . . . Just watch!

Originally published in Hinged Press via Medium.


Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V

5 Things I Do Now While Grocery Shopping

Unhinged

Photo by Elizabeth McDaniel via Unsplash

Going to the store now for me is like . . . like playing tug of war or escaping the fiery keep of a dragon. I flit around the store, flailing my body about the square footage as quickly as possible. All the while, in my head, I sing, “Get in. Get out. Get in. Get out.” It is a test of my stamina. How fast can I retrieve the seven items I came in here for, hmm?

I am friendly, but from a distance. I watch the people around me — looking at what they’ve touched — avoiding it. My senses are enhanced — heightened, somehow. I am a supreme ninja jutting through tight spaces, maneuvering myself through the lines of an obstacle course made of rotating germs and aggravated naysayers.

I bolt through the self-checkout, tossing the receipt in the garbage can neatly placed by the lane. I see the doors . . . “EXIT” never looked so sexy as it does when I lunge my body toward it — craving the air outside of the building.

I make it back to my car and I slide inside and crank that baby up and I breathe. I breathe and breathe and breathe and thank God I was successful. I got in and I got out.

And although, I only go to the grocery store if I’ve failed to get some items I needed or if I want a few more things and decline happily to paying the additional delivery fee for so few items. Otherwise, Instacart and Door Dash (Walgreens) are my friends.

I do these five things when I have to make a quick run to my local grocery store.


Keeping my distance.

I was never really big on having someone (I don’t know) very close to me pre-pandemic, so maintaining six feet is easy. Hell, I usually increase that distance by three to four feet.

There’s no need for anyone to get near me unless they’re trying to tell me something or get my attention, and even then, I am shooting them Mr. Burns’ twitchy eye stares if they break the lining of my bubble.

Avoiding areas that are heavily crowded.

And by “heavily crowded,” I mean two to three people. “Sure, I really need to get some more cucumbers, but I’ll avoid that for now. Thelma is thumping on and sniffing the bell peppers and Louise is sampling the grapes. Hard pass.”

Sanitizing my hands.

I work in healthcare. I’m almost certain I bleed alcohol by now. While working at the facility, I would go through bottles of hand sanitizer within a week or just under two. I’d also wash my hands until they were nearly raw.

Suffice to say, I spent my days screening patients for Coronavirus symptoms and came in contact with enough people who were positive to make me want to drink cleaning products. I won’t, though. I haven’t. But give me my hand sanitizer, please.

That is a pre-requisite, henceforth and forevermore.

Using my own shopping bags.

Let’s be real. The plastic most stores are using now has been recycled so many times. A bag of flour, two packs of gum, and a gallon of water will rip one up in a matter of seconds. For convenience and because I know where they have been, I use my own shopping bags. Thank you very much.

And I don’t mind bagging them myself.

Avoiding aisles when others are on them.

This is connected to the second point. I will wait to go down an aisle if over two people are on that aisle. I’ll circle over to another section of the store, get what I need from there, and come back. Usually, I’m successful.

Most times, they’ve gotten what they needed and I can swing on through and grab what I need. No harm, no foul. Keep it moving, folks!


You could be saying to yourself, “These seem extreme,” or “ Hey! I do a few of these too!” Many of these things do not differ from what I did pre-pandemic, they are just upgraded.

The key factor for me is safety. Grocery stores can be death traps and while I treat every day as an opportunity to extend the life I have, I am aware this life could end at any moment.

I’d just rather it not be by contracting a deadly virus while I was examining the expiration dates on my favorite brand of yogurt.


Originally published in Hinged Press via Medium.

Writers: A Challenge

What makes you Unique? In “Five Words.”

Me and the crew. I’m missing one brother (Jontae) in this photo. It was our kid sister Bless’s high school graduation. This was nearly 5 years ago. It was the first time in an extremely long time most of us had been captured in a photo together. Left to right: Me, Joshua, Maurice, Bless, Michael, and TJ.

I was reminiscing a couple of days ago, thinking about how my sister is the last one to hit “all grown up” status in our sibling crew and it drew a few tears from my eyes. I am the eldest of seven children and I am also significantly older than all of them. No matter how many years pile on or what happens or who thinks they’re more adult-like or mature than me, I am and will forever be the first child. That makes me just a tad bit unique — just a smidgen. Just to give you guys an idea of the gap from the oldest to the youngest; I am 41 years old, my sister is 22. The boys (who are really men now but will always be, “The Boys” to us) are in the middle from 30–33.

So reminiscing sparked the challenge. Writers, what makes you unique? How are you different from everyone else? What special thing can you do that you believe no one else can do? Tell me this, but use five words only.

Here’s mine:

First born of
seven — always.


Writers, bring it! Please tell me what makes you unique? What is there so special about you that you believe is so different from anyone else? I’d like to know, in just five words.

This is the last challenge until the beginning of next year. I love you guys and how creative you all are. Peace and blessings.


And now, the music: Gabi featuring Missy Elliott from Vivo, My Own Drum

YouTube

Originally shared via Medium.

Clover

Part V: Daddy oils the door

Photo by Steven Cutler via Redshot

I wake up to the squeak-squeak sounds of the back door swinging open, then closing. It prompts me to shoot from my bed, slip on my house shoes, and chase after the sound. It’s Daddy. He’s squirting WD-40 on the hinges of our door. He’s standing there, eyes fixed on each hinge, leaning into the sound as he moves the door back and forth. I shake my head. Daddy always has some sort of little project going on. He looks the door over, gives the hinges one more good spritz, then wipes the slippery trickle away from the panel.

He spots me watching him work. I smile and wave “Good morning” to him before finding my spot in the bay window to do some reading. Mama will be up before long and I have another request for breakfast; strawberry waffles and scrambled eggs. Yummy! I can almost taste every morsel as I daydream about it. Daddy looks over in my direction and greets me.

“Hey there, Sweetpea. What you know good?”

Daddy is a simple man with many dreams. I love when he calls me Sweetpea. I like sweets. I like peas too. He smiles a full smile and circles our kitchen sink before washing his hands. I answer his question after the water stops.

“Oh, nothing. Just waking up. I heard the door in my room. How old is this place, Daddy?”

He sits with the question for a minute or two — almost like he’s nursing the answer before sharing it with me. I watch him stumble over a way of explaining something like this to me — his eleven-year-old daughter. He opens his mouth, then closes it again, then he nods in my direction before speaking.

“Twelve years. The realtor said the family before us found a bigger place in Richmond Hill, Georgia. They wanted to sell as soon as they could and since I got the new position with H.R., this was the perfect find. I’m sure we’ll discover a couple of spots in this house that need some tender love and care as we make a life here in it.”


I can hear Mama’s house shoes skip-shuffle-skip down the hallway. She’s not a “morning person” like me and Daddy. Daddy races to put the coffee pot on. He sets up our plates and puts away the clean dishes in the dishwasher. They have an agreement; they’ve always had this agreement since before I was born. Mama cooks, Daddy makes the coffee and washes the dishes, or runs the dishwasher. Mama also does the laundry, fixes my hair, irons my clothes, and any other task Daddy doesn’t usually do. Daddy also keeps up the lawn, washes their car and truck, and gasses up the vehicles too. They manage okay, I think.

Mama’s voice is a soft yet stern one. She doesn’t use much of her voice when speaking. It’s as if she saves it for something else — something bigger. She gets on to Daddy about the squeaky door.

“Paulie, was that you I heard messing with the door this morning, or was I dreaming? I’m almost certain I wasn’t dreaming.”

“You’d be right, my love. It was me. The hinges of the back door had been squeaking, so I put a little WD on them. Worked like a charm.”

Mama smiles lightly, but there’s a hint of wonder within her smile too — like she’s waiting for Daddy to say something else, something that will stir up concern. She looks at me and blows me a kiss. I catch it and blow one back to her.

“Hey, baby. What’s for breakfast?”

Ooh! I’ve been waiting for her to ask me what I want for breakfast and I am so happy to respond. “I’d like strawberry waffles and some scrambled eggs, please!”

Mama prepares everything and signals me over to help her cook. I crack the eggs into a bowl, add a little salt, pepper, and parsley, and whisk them quickly with a fork just like she taught me. I take the shredded cheese out of the fridge and add 1/3 cup to the eggs. Mama watches me as I whisk them up once again. I place the bowl near her on the counter and wait.


Daddy checks the back door once more. He is what Mama says, “incredibly thorough.” I don’t hear the squeak-squeak anymore. “The door is saved!” I shout this to no one in particular and to all of us, I guess. Mama giggles. Daddy laughs with his whole belly. And I . . . Well, I find my spot again in the bay window and wait for breakfast.

I sure am hungry.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Writers: A Challenge

Something New “In five words”

Photo by Pixabay via Pexels

Although I didn’t envision things taking place the way they are currently shaping in my life, I’m moving with the flow. After researching and bonding with my good friend Google, for three weeks, regarding apartments, I’ve found the place in which Jernee and I will spend the next two to three years. The search is over and I am relieved.

Not only will this be our new space, it’s on a totally different side of town but keeps me close to both Highway 421 and I-40 — two major connectors of travel to various places within Winston-Salem, NC, and outside of the city also. I am content. I am relieved. I dislike apartment hunting with a passion.

So, writers . . . what’s new in your world? Aside from the raging virus, I will now call “Headache of a Lifetime”, is anything fun taking place for you? Have you started a new career? Finally, launched your own business? What’s new in your world?!

Please share with us, but use five words only


Here’s mine:

new home found,
finally . . . relieved.

Writers, tell me what’s new in your world, but do so using only five words. You can do this! Bring that creative goodness to the building, people!


Feel good music? Yes, please. Suzanne Vega, Tom’s Diner

YouTube

Originally shared via Medium.