Brand New Short
by B.J. Burgins
Luenelle, a dark brown toned fifteen year old, sat silently on the wide wooden porch with a frail looking bannister dangling in it's place. Luenelle's slanted eyes and small ears took in everything that was going on on this day, from her grandmother's house on the corner of Brown St. and Seventh avenue, in the heart of what most would say was a southern slum; housing everything from bootleggers to winos, undercover prostitutes gangster sellers, yet a place with a vibrant spirit and soul.
Luenelle looked quietly at the house dead center from the porch she sat on, which housed a known couple, whom were fussing at one another as any other normal day they would, Mr. Joe Cline and Ms. Lily Mae, as Albert King sung the "Laundromat Blues" from her grandma's small radio.
"Luenelle! Luenelle!" shouted her grandma's voice, as it pulsated through the screen door, causing Luenelle to look lamely at it's slender structure. Without a word she lifted her long slender body from the wooden rocker her grandma usually occupied. She swung the screen door open nonchalantly to the living room, as black eyed peas and neckbones filled the home's inside, with an odor pleasing and appetizing.
"Mamn!" Luenelle hollered as she walked towards the kitchen which was set in another part of the house, left side of the living room. "Come in the kitchen gal!" her grandma yelled back, yet before she could start some more words, Luenelle appeared like a shadow in the midst of the moon's glow. "Here I am Big Mama," Luenelle stated. "Well good," her grandmother replied, as she glanced carelessly at Luenelle from her position at the kitchen sink, while her small dark eyes peered through the open window towards Mr. Cline and Lily Mae's wooden abode.
"I wanted you to come on in here fo' them fools get any rowdier, 'cause they as foolish as a hog that thank he ain't gonna be killed when he get good and big." These small words brought a rare smile across Luenelles' oval shaped faced; she'd grow into a gorgeous woman one day, a real man killer, and also a desire for women with twisted minds and lustful hearts, for if you glanced at her for a moment you'd mistake her for a mahogany colored China doll.
"Girl don't be smiling at me" her grandmother stated, as a rare smirk, also came across her thick lips. "You oughta be helping me in this kitchen anyway," her grandma continued, before asking, "Where yo' wild brother done gone?" "I'ont know mama" Luenelle stated playfully, as she made her way towards the sink to help Big Mama clean the rest of the dishes. As Luenelle grabbed a soaked dish from the sink's left side water filled compartment, her grandmother cupped her chin in the palm of her wide, strong right hand and looked seriously into Lue's glowing slanted eyes, and said "Now look here baby girl, you ain't gonna be like these otha' gals running round here loose and wild, you gonna learn something and you gon' be a stable woman. And don't be ashame to do your best 'cause of the way yo' mama live, you hear?" Luenelle looked shamefully at the kitchen floor and said softly "Yes mamn," as her grandmother slowly removed her hand from Lue's chin, to tend to the dinner cooking over the stove.
Before any more words could fill the small and silent kitchen, a car horn blared violently through the kitchen's open window, as the falsetto of one of the Temptation's members wailed over and over that they'd be in trouble. "Now who's that bumping that horn out there?" grandma stated to no one in particular, as her and Lue heard the screen door to their house opening, with the sound of hurried footsteps following, then a voice yelling, "Big Mama! Big Mama!"
"That's that damn crazy ass Zephry" grandma said mutedly, once again to no one in particular, as a tall, slim guy appeared in the kitchen doorway, dressed in a brown silk shirt opened at the collar, and khaki slacks cuffed neatly at the legs, with a complexion resembling his slacks, and light brown eyes with a slender face below a head full of naturally wavy hair cropped neatly on his head. His frame filled the doorway of the kitchen as Luenelle glanced at him quietly, as another rare smile crossed her lips before continuing to wash the dish in her hands, while Big Mama gazed warily in the direction of the voice's being.
With a deep command and joy percolating from his voice, he yelled "Yall come and see what I got!," as Lue looked at him with quiet admiration before placing the clean dish in the dish rack, then she slowly began walking towards him as Big Mama followed.
As they exited the house's entrance, Zephry leaped from the second step of the porch's five, onto the ground, running towards the green '68 Bel-Air Coupe, perching his arm across the car's rooftop, flashing a smile as wide as a jack-o-lantern, showing a few gold teeth. "Where in the hell you stole this car from boy!" , Big mama yelled from the porch, as she glanced suspiciously over the car's exterior, while Lue walked anxiously towards the green eye catcher.
"Come way from there Luenelle!" Big Mama yelled once again, as she continued, "Ain't no tellin' what that boy done done!"
"Awe mama now you know better than to be saying something as foolish as that," Zephry yelled as he grabbed Lue's arm to show off the car's interior.
"You wanna go for a ride lil' mama," Zephry asked Lue, with that jack-o-lantern smile still beaming, before looking back at Big Mama, as she was storming back into the house. "Come on babe, lemme show you some class befo' the sun go down." Lue ran towards the passenger door, as Joe Cline and Lily Mae's curse words rattled the small street with humor and brutality. As Zephry turned over the engine, three teenaged guys on bikes were making their way towards the car, as the first biker, with wooly black hair and round eyes in a boyish face, slowly cruised pass with a curious stare in his eye, while catching the eye of Lue as he said loudly, "What's happening Nelle?" as Luenelle countered back with a wave and cool repose, "Not much Jake," in the instance Zephry sped away.
"What's happening niece, you doing good?" "Yea I'm cool unc. You?"
Zephry lit a Camel with a shiny gold Zippo, before responding and glancing at Luenelle, "Girl you just like yo' mama," then laughing loudly before continuing, "I'm glad you was home 'cause I wanted you to be the first to feel this luxury!" Lue laughed and gazed out the window as she responded, "I like it," "I'm glad somebody does," Zephry replied.
"You know Big Mama just like all of them that's from her generation, still thanking that the black man cain't or ain't suppose to have nothing 'cus that's what the white man make them thank!" Luenelle glanced slightly at Zephry after this statement, then back out the window.
Silence fell over the car for a few more blocks until the green eye catcher smoothly slid down a hilly street, which led to the ninth street highway, as an oncoming unmarked police cruiser slid up the opposite direction of the street, as it's occupants' glances almost met concurrently with Zephry and Lue's. The eyes of the known black and white duo showed signs of hatred and resentment, as Zeph and Lue's momentary stares seemed to respond with the same expressions. "There go damn Gutter-Bird and Bruns looking to crack somebody's skull!," Zephry stated, as he cruised onto the flatland of the busy highway.
"Yea mama stopped by the other day and said they had messed with them 'bout something that wasn't worth nothing" Luenelle replied, followed by Zephry, "Yea that's how they do!" as he threw the butt of his cigarette out the window. Zephry continued, "Niece when you get big enough, you get you a fine machine like this here of mines and cruise right out this city and don't look back at nobody but yo' mama and Big Mama, and make some out yo'self 'cus ain't nobody gon' take care of you but you!"
Luenelle continued gazing out of the window as Zephry looked in her direction and said "You hear me?"
Luenelle looked at him shyly and said "Yea," then Zephry laughed and continued, "Turn up that raydio and let's hear some noise!" as they both began laughing.
They rode around for another fifteen minutes listening to the music and the charismatic d.j.'s commentary in between songs in silence, before Zephry spotted a couple of young girls walking from the local convenient store, simply titled Holiday-Drug. As he slowed the car, he turned down the radio and yelled to the group of teens, "Watch out now, I'll mess around and put yall in my lil' private chambers if you ain't careful sweet thang!" before speeding off. Luenelle laughed loudly, as Zephry glanced at her, lighting another cigarette.
"Uncle Zep you so crazy," Luenelle said, as smoke filled the car. The sun seemed to be getting ready to set, as Zephry responded, "I would ride longer baby girl, but I know you gotta get up in the morn, so I don't want mama no madder at me no more than she mad at you 'for getting in here with me."
"Why you think she mad," Luenelle asked, as Zephry gassed the automobile to a sharp right onto a side street, headed back towards Big Mama's house. "I think she mad, nall honey, I know she mad. She mad 'cause she worried that I'll get killed quicker over this pretty machine than a pretty lady, by people like our friends Bird and Bruns back there. She know I ain't stole nothing, but she just said that to remind me, that's what our enemies will say if I find myself in the wrong place, but hell! I work for a living amongst other things, and I know I deserve a lil' happiness. Everyman deserve happiness baby girl, always remember that."
"I gotcha," Luenelle responded, as she turned Roscoe Robinson's latest hit up on the radio. Zephry smiled slyly at her action and continued driving in silence as he too, enjoyed the voice of the singer and the song's up-tempo groove.
As they reached Big Mama and Luenelle's street, a crowd was formed across from Big mama's house, as loud voices of various tones filled the air on the slender, bumpy road. Luenelle leaned her head slightly out of the open car window, as Zephry's confident expression, slowly turned into a mask of curiosity and worry. In the midst of the voices, a loud bang sounded, as Luenelle violently jerked her head back inside the car, as Zephry smashed the brakes of the automobile. The crowd suddenly disbursed, with various people running in various directions; children, women and men, revealing two individuals, one falling to the street and the other standing in the yard in front of the wooden house.
Luenelle then recognized the fallen figure was Mr. Cline, as she realized he seemed to be holding the back of his thigh, while Lily Mae's mouth was moving and her left arm was resting at her side, with a twenty-five automatic pistol within it's hand. Luenelle shook her head, and somewhere Johnnie Taylor was informing whoever was listening to take care of their homework, in the midst of the yells and screams of the scattering crowd, as Lily Mae's words, from her moving mouth, became clearer to anyone near enough to hear, "See there you fool, I done told you 'bout fuckin' with me on the wrong day. Now if you keep it up, yo' ass won't be fuckin' wit no one else!"
Zephry, with his foot still on the car's brake, threw his hands up in the air with another expression of disapproval and disappointment, while saying "Now where that damn Bird and Bruns at when you need 'em around!" Luenelle gazed calmly at Lily Mae's gun hand with a surprised glare in her naturally slanted eyes, with her mouth shut tight, as the d.j. from the car radio began shouting, "Bulletin, bulletin, bulletin!"