That's when I slammed the receiver down, because I couldn't stand hearing him beg. My hands was shaking so bad and my heart was beating a mile a minute, so I reached in the kitchen drawer, grabbed my spray, and took two or three quick puffs. Seem like he ain't gon' be satisfied till he use me up. That thought alone made me start crying, and I don't like to cry, 'cause it always do me right in. I couldn't get no air to come through my nose or mouth, and I clenched my fist and said in my head, "God give me strength," as I made my way to my room and sat on the edge of the bed, turned on my machine, grabbed that plastic tube, and sucked and sucked until my palms got slippery and my forehead was so full of sweat that I snatched my wig off and threw it on the floor. I love Lewis. Would give him my last breath. Lord knows I don't want nothing bad to happen to him, but Lewis got problems I can't solve. It's some things love can do. And it's some things it can't do. I can't save him. Hell, I'm trying to figure out how to save myself.
Now, Charlotte. She a bull, all right. And I wish I didn't feel like this but I do: half the time I can't stand her. I don't know how her husband can tolerate her ass either. I feel sorry for Al, really. He's one of them pussy-whipped, henpecked kinda husbands but try to pretend like he Superman in front of company. Everybody know Charlotte is a bossy wench from the word go. We ain't spoke this time going on four months. I think the record is five or six. I can't remember. But, hell, all I did was tell her she need to spend more time at home with them kids and she went off. "When was the last time you worked full-time, took care of three kids and a husband, ran a household and three Laundromats, Mama, huh?" "Never," I said.
"So how can you sit there on your high horse telling me what you think I should be doing?" "Get some help and stop trying to do it all yourself." "Do you know how expensive housekeepers is these days?" "Oh, stop being so damn cheap, Charlotte. You don't have no trouble spending it." "Cheap? Let me ..." "I heard Tiffany got expelled and Monique is running her mouth so much in class that she might be next." "Who told you this - Janelle? With her big mouth? I know it, I just know it. Well, first of all, it ain't true." "It is true, and it's your fault for not being there to keep their behinds in line." "I'ma pretend like I didn't hear that. But let me tell you something, Mother. Tiffany did not get expelled. She got sent home for wearing too much perfume, 'cause half the class - including the teacher - started getting nauseous. And for your information, Monique just told a joke that made everybody laugh." I knew she was lying through her teeth, but I didn't dare say it, so I just said, "Un-huh." "And since Janelle's running her mouth so much, did she bother to tell you that Monique is also having a tough time 'cause we regulating her medication?" "I got her medicine, all right."
"Mama, you know what? I'm so tired of your sarcastic remarks I don't know what to do. Sick of 'em! You never have nothing nice to say about my kids!" "That's bullshit, and you know it!" "It ain't bullshit!" "When they do something good, then I'll have a reason to say something nice." "See, that's what I mean! Has Dingus thrown a touchdown pass lately? And what about your darling Shanice: did she get straight A's again? Go ahead and throw it in my face. I could use some more good goddamn news today!" "You better watch your mouth. I'm still your mother." "Then don't call me until you start acting like a mother and a grandmother to my kids!" And-bam!-she hung up.
The truth always hurts. This ain't the first time she done slammed the phone down in my face or talked to me in that nasty tone: like I'm somebody in the street. I ain't gon' lie: it hurts and cuts into me deep, but I refuse to give her the satisfaction of knowing how bad she makes me feel. To be honest, Charlotte just likes people to kiss her ass, but I kissed their daddy's behind for thirty-eight years, I ain't here to pacify my kids. No, Lordy. Them days is over, especially since they're all damn near middle age. Charlotte came too quick. Ten months after Paris. I did not need another baby so soon, and I think she knew it. She wanted all my attention then. And still do. She ain't never forgiven me for having Lewis and Janelle, and she made sure I knew it.
Reprinted from A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan by permission of Viking Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Terry McMillan. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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