by Tony Lindsay
He was thirteen years old, and wearing a pair of sky blue shorts he'd sewn himself. They were as close to a pair of cu-locs as he would dare. The shirt was also a Terri original, it had three buttons and buttoned down the back. For his birthday Madear said he could wear whatever he wanted.
He was on the sidewalk in front of Madears house, bare-footed and jumping double dutch rope. Linda and Brenda, the twin girls with buck teeth, who always made him play the father when they played house, no matter how much he protested; 'You're the only boy that plays house with us, you have to be the daddy,' were turning the rope. Jackie, the only girl on the block that had more Barbie dolls than him and Sharon the first person to call him ' faggot ' to his face, were on the side singing and keeping score. The song they sang, kept track of how good the jump was. The further along he jumped in the song, the better his score.
"Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack all dressed in black, black, black, with silver buttons, buttons , button's, all down her back, back, back, she asked her mother, mother, mother, for fifteen cents, cents, cents, to see the elephant, elephant, elephant, jump over the fence, fence, fence, she jumped so high, high, high, she touched the sky, sky, sky and she didn't come down, down, down to the fourth of July, ly, ly,."
They were on the sixth chorus and none of the girls had made it past the fourth. Normally the twins would miss a beat while turning causing him to mess up, but this day they were flowing smoothly. They wanted to see how far he could go. It was already established he could jump double dutch better than any girl on their block or any block in the neighborhood. It was one of those days when they wanted him to show off. And show off he did.
He was jumping, turning, spinning and grinning, first with both feet. Then with one foot, then he switched to the other foot, Then both feet as one. Then he touched the ground, spun around and spelled his name out loud.
"T. E. R. R. I. Terri! I touched the ground! I spun around! I jumped so high I touched the sky! Now spell my name out loud!"
All the girls joined in,"T.E.R.R.I, Terri! T.E.R.R.I, Terri! T.E.R.R.I., Terri!!! "
Chapter One / September 1993
It wasn't much of a morning, as mornings go. No bright sun, no clear blue sky. The sky was covered with thick gray clouds and a heavy mist claimed the streets. Terri Parish woke to this morning in the back seat of an abandoned Chrysler New Yorker.
When he blinked his eyes open and saw the gloomy sky, he smiled because he thought it was evening. He wanted to sleep through the day. The smile left his face when he saw 'The Chicago Sun Times' newspaper truck turn the corner. Newspaper trucks meant morning, early morning. Terri Parish didn't want morning; morning would gave way to a whole day.
He fumbled around on the floor of the abandon Chrysler and found the liter of 'Richards Red Wild Irish Rose' wine. He uncapped the liter, turned it up and gulped; at one time he woke to Dom Perignon and fluffy satin covered pillows; not anymore.
He remained slumped in the back seat of the Chrysler. He had a problem; a big problem, a hundred and thirty-five thousand dollar problem. That was the amount of money in the white plastic garbage that lay on the floor between his feet.
Last night he hit the lick of a life time; every hoe's dream, a dope drunk trick with cash. The problem was the trick was royalty. He was the third highest in command of the city's largest street gangs. He would be one dead hooker if he didn't use his brain.
A fool could see an opportunity, but a survivor figured out how to take it. Terri Parish considered himself a survivor at the very least. He'd grown up in Chicago and over his recent lean years he learned the rules of the city’s streets. Stealing from royalty meant death and he was not ready to die. He removed his shoulder length wig and began scratching his scalp through his own thick hair. When he took the money he knew it was a dangerous; but it was also an opportunity, a chance, a chance of a life time.
Taking the money was his only real chance of leaving the city. Trying to save the money wasn't working for him. He had to have a lump sum of cash all at once. Last night's trick provided it. For two years he tried unsuccessfully to save enough money to leave. He couldn't accumulate more than a hundred dollars without spending it on crack cocaine. He couldn't save and get high and over the past two years getting high had taken priority over leaving and everything else.
His addiction to crack cocaine kept him broke and in Chicago. Last night was different. Last night the cocaine rocks returned all they had taken from him with interest. He just had to be vengeful enough to take the chance.
He turned the liter of ' Richards Red ' up again; getting drunk wouldn't help his predicament and he knew it, but it would help him accept the fact that it was morning and wasn't a thing he could do about it; he'd have to make through the day.
Life was a challenge and a girl working the streets, had to have balls. Taking chances was part of his life. Every time he got in the car with a trick, he was taking a chance. Sex in cars was a dangerous trade with few rewards. Only a fool didn't look for licks and he was no fool. The trick slipped and he took him. Royalty or not, Terri felt had to take him. Only a fool would pass up a hundred and thirty-five grand, and his Madear didn't raise him as a fool.
Yesterday life gave him a chance to stand and stand he did. From the moment he woke he felt a change coming. Terri got an early start because he rested well the day before; no crack cocaine, only sleeping and eating; early for him was about 10:30 am. They were days his body required rest and nourishment. His body could no longer drug and date non-stop. At twenty-eight he knew when to rest.
After the day of rest he woke the next morning ready. He showered, trimmed, douched, plucked, picked, lotioned, powered, brushed, combed, and tucked all morning. When he was satisfied that he was truly one fine naked Black girl he began to dress.
His plan was to go downtown and catch the lunch trade. If a girl was smart and quick, the lunch trade could keep one fed and high for two days. A girl had to be dressed and Terri had the clothes. True his wardrobe was not as extensive as in the past; with most of the valuable pieces being sold or traded for crack cocaine, but he could still manage to put a nice outfit together.
He pulled a black mini-skirt from the shallow closet along with a red skin tight nylon t-shirt. The t-shirt had one purpose; to show the world he was becoming a real woman. His small firm breast and protruding nipples caught all eyes in this t-shirt.
The black leather mini-skirt was equally as tight and unlike some queens he required no butt padding. He had an ass; a gorgeous half basket ball size ass, an ass that belonged in leather. 'You got a girls bootie ' was what his first lover Payton told him.
Yes he had a gorgeous ass and great legs. His legs were second only to Tina Turner. In his club days she was his act. He went to Vegas doing Tina. At eighteen he was the head liner at the 'Baton Show Club' Chicago's premier drag club. He did so well he earned a brief spot on the 'Oprah Show '. He won 'Gay Ms. Chicago' the same year; one of the judges told him that it was his legs that made the difference. He chose black fish net hose, to cover his fine legs this day. Nets to catch and he was out to catch.
His first choice for hair was his own. He decided against it when he discovered he had no pressing oil. Three wigs took space on his dresser top. He tried the blond Tina Turner wig, it was too much for downtown and the Anita Baker was too short, it allowed the naps from his kitchen to show, so he settled with the Cher.
The shoes were easy, red pumps with short spike heels. If he owned a power outfit, this was it. His make up was slight, a little eye brow pencil and lip stick. 'You can't hide ugly and there is little sense in covering up beauty ', was Madear's advice about make up, it stuck with him.
Mirrors were never his enemy when he was rested. His skin remained tight and clear, bags only appeared after two or three sleepless nights. Good skin ran in his family, the Parishes didn't crack till after sixty. He felt good and it felt like a good day. Money was on the way.
He thought about straightening out the single room with private bath apartment, he rented at the 'Cedar Park Arms Transient Hotel’ before he left; but the windup clock read 11:45 am, time to go. He closed the door on the mess and hoped Sally the ancient White maid forgave him.
Sally's fat and equally ancient husband worked the hotel desk days. He was a disgusting toothless old White man that chewed tobacco, and since he was toothless the tobacco juice dripped from the corners his mouth.
Twice Terri was short on his rent and allowed the fat mush of a man to suck his budding breast. It wasn't as unpleasant as Terri expected, actually he felt kind of good to have his little breast gummed. Life was full of surprises. He told the mush not to have Sally clean his room today. He blew him a kiss and pranced out the door.
With hair flowing, skin glowing, ass tight and titties right; Terri stepped out to State Street Parkway smiling in the September afternoon sun. The north loop neighborhood was always busy. Bars, boutiques, specialty food stores and restaurants speckled the street. It was a yuppie heaven except for the 'Cedar Park Arms transient Hotel'. No yuppies lived there, they ignored the occupants until carnal desire and or intoxication took them over.
All type of people walked the busy State Street Parkway in the sun's cheerful glow, homeless, rich, hustlers, whores, police, servicemen, business men and doctors. Terri no longer worked the white trade in the area, because nine out of ten times they were cops. Vice cops changed more than the hoes that worked the strip. And they paid tricks to tell them who was hoeing. The safety of the ghetto was a mile away. When Terri was broke and needed to get high he would venture to the 'Cabrini Green Housing Projects'; but not today.
Today was downtown trade only. He hadn't made it to the corner of the block before a black Chevy Blazer pulled along side of him. The Blazer slowed. Terri's normal routine would be to stop, and give the driver a big smile, if he was a young Black man.
The young Blacks men who could afford to drive new Blazers around the area, where usually the cocaine dealers; 'rock boys'. A couple of the rock boys knew him and they knew he would show them a good time. Terri didn't stop. He told himself downtown trade only, no neighborhood shit today. He wouldn't cheapen himself like that, not today.
Today he wouldn't be called 'faggot' for a hit of cocaine. Today he wouldn't have sex in an alley like a dog. Today he wouldn't look in the face of a young boy who regretted being with him. A horny young punk with cocaine rocks to trade for a blow job. Not today. Today, downtown trade only. The Blazer paced him.
The sun lost it's cheer as the Blazer paced him. It became only bright light: bright light that reveled the deep scuffs in Terri's red pumps, bright light that exposed the run down the center of his tight red nylon t-shirt, bright light that showed the fallen hem of his leather mini-skirt, bright light that displayed the rips in his black fishnets, bright light that told him that maybe; downtown was too far to go.
He stopped and looked at his reflection in the glass of Walgreens drug store. He had to smile because his reflection looked good. Damn good. The red t-shirt was bright in the sun light and the leather was clinging and his smile was inspiring. Fuck the Blazer he thought with confidence and he restarted his walk.
He was headed downtown; downtown to horny business men looking for an afternoon quickie, a lunch time thrill, married respectable business men who cum quick, business men who used rubbers, men that didn't blame him or beat him because they desired him. Men who appreciated his skill and paid him well for it.
He quickened his pace. He wasn't going to stop nor was he going to look at the Blazer. The tinted window rolled down and the slightest aroma of smoked cocaine escaped. He slowed a bit but continued determined.
"What's up Terri baby? Damn you looking good girl. I ain't seen you looking that good since Statesville."
That stopped him. Whoever was in the Blazer knew him from the joint. In the joint he was Queen Bitch. He turned and saw the reddish, yellow grinning face of Mo-red. ***
Terri Parish never wanted to return to Chicago. The only reason he returned was to help Madear during her last days. He served five years in Statesville Penitentiary for forgery and credit fraud. All during his time served, he swore to never return to the city.
His best friend Charles 'Charlene' Bowman was doing hair in Birmingham Alabama and making a killing. He wrote Terri letters describing how plentiful and relaxed life was in the south. Charlene Bowman was Mo-reds 'hoe' in the joint.
Terri never met a man as hateful and abusive as Mo-red. He gorilla pimped Charlene, made him conform to his wants from beating him. He forced himself on Charlene whenever he wanted. He beat him whenever he wanted and sold him to whomever he wanted for whatever he wanted.
Mo-red was royalty, a chief in one of Chicago's largest street gangs. He could provide for Charlene when he wanted to. He could get the heroin Charlene's addiction required. Terri assumed that Mo-red was the lesser of two evils for Charlene. It was after one of Mo-red’s fierce beatings when the friendship between Terri and Charlene formed.
Charlene was crotched in the middle of the community shower stall, bleeding heavily from his nose and slashes across his back. He was dressed in a red and black bikini bottom. The showering inmates stepped over him and continued their morning showers.
Terri cursed them all and went to Charlene's aide. Terri wrapped his upper torso in a towel and helped him from the floor. Terri took him to his cell and away from Mo-red.
Charlene, even though badly beaten, was afraid to go to the infirmary. At the infirmary the nurse would report the attack and he feared getting Mo-red into trouble. Charlene wanted to return to Mo-red's house. Terri insisted he stay with him awhile. Throughout the morning Terri cleaned and tended to Charlene's wounds. He became big sister to a needy younger sister.
They tried to talk about anything but Mo-red. They talked about fine guards, jealous queens, greatly endowed cons and the outside. On the outside both were queens, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in drag. Neither of them was ‘joint made faggots’; for each becoming a real woman was paramount.
Both being originally from Chicago's south side had moved to the north side of the city, and at one time they lived less than two blocks away from each other on Melrose Street. They discovered they shared some of the same trade clients on the outside. It appeared the same police Sergeant had paid both their rents on the outside.
They performed at some of the same clubs only at different times. Terri had done his shows prior to Charlene becoming active in show life. Terri noticed Charlene didn't say that he heard of him but Terri knew he had to, a queen's fame last longer than the queen.
Two years prior to the beating, Terri seldom spoke to Charlene. Charlene standing five feet eleven inches, weighing every bit of two hundred pounds, paraded around the joint in cut off blue jeans and halter tops. He dyed his hair weekly, from pastels to blond. He wore gaudy costume jewelry, smacked his chewing gum and used blue eye shadow and pink rouge on his tan skin. The polish on his finger nails and toe nails seldom matched. Based on appearance alone, Terri guessed they would have little to talk about. Their first conversation started badly.
"Are you a nurse of somethin'?"
Terri watched Charlene sitting in the only chair in the cell; his director's chair. Terri would have preferred him to sit on the bunk or the rug. Terri relied on the director's chair. He didn't want Charlene's blood staining the yellow bands of the chair.
Terri spent hours staring at the bright cheerful yellow of the chair. The yellow of the chair was different than the yellow directional lines painted on the prison floor. Terri detested the urine stain yellow on the direction lines.
The chairs yellow was butter yellow, a sunny day in June yellow, Madear's fluffy scrambled eggs yellow. Terri didn't want the chair stained but he did not redirect Charlene to the rug or the bunk. Instead he sucked his teeth and reached under the bed for the first aide kit. "No I'm not a nurse. I merely saw you needed some help."
Standing behind Charlene, Terri gently pushed his back forward, guiding him to a bent position in the director's chair. "I didn't ask you for your help, so I don't owe you shit." Terri ignored Charlene's ungrateful sounding words and twisted the seal open on the brown plastic bottle: he poured the liquid across Charlene's wounds. "Ouch! Ain't you got somethin' that don't sting."
"This usually doesn't sting." Terri continued pouring the hydrogen peroxide despite Charlene's 'ouch'.
"Well it's stingin' today, Ms. High and Mighty." Terri saw Charlene squirming and wondered did it really sting.
"Please be still." Terri tore some gauze from the roll in his first aide kit.
"Ms. High and Mighty? Why would you call me that?"
"That's you, Ms. Queen Bitch, Ms. I fuck the guards, Ms. Vegas show girl, Ms. I got my on cell, Ms. Snooty Ass."
Charlene's hostile tone shocked Terri. He had no idea Charlene viewed him in such a light. Terri stopped tending the wounds. "Look, maybe this was a mistake, if you don't want my help I can stop."
"I didn't say I didn't want cha help. I was just wonderin' why the Queen Bitch would help me?"
Terri noticed that Charlene asked the question with his head lowered, the hostility was gone from his voice.
Terri decided not to answer why he was helping Charlene because he didn’t know why. He placed pieces of the gauze lightly across Charlene's wounds; allowing the pieces to absorb the blood.
"My name is Terri."
"That's your name but you is, 'the Queen Bitch', ain't no other hoes livin’ as good as you in this joint."
"Living good? I don't believe any of us are living well. We're locked up in here like animals."
"Yeah, but you the animal with most. Yous 'the Queen Bitch'. Like it or not and every hoe knows it. Shit, we sucking off four times the mens you sucking and getting four times less than what you got."
"I don't have anything to do with that. Madear, my grandmother, once told me the value of one's work should be reflected in the price."
It wasn't his fault Terri concluded, he wasn't the one prancing around the prison with lime green hair and miss matched nail polish.
"What does that mean? Why do you say shit like that? That's that snooty high and mighty shit. The value! Fuck the value! Yous a hoe just like the rest of us. You just got lucky."
"You're right." There was no sense in upsetting Charlene, he'd been through enough. True he was lucky, but his poise had a lot to do with the luck. Terri peeled the blood filled gauze from Charlene's back and replaced it with fresh strips.
"I know I'm right. And you ain't got to worry about my blood, I tested negative."
Terri hadn't thought of the danger of Charlene's blood until Charlene mentioned it.
"I'm not worried. There's a chip of tile in your shoulder, this might hurt." Terri grabbed the chip with his eye brow tweezers and pulled it free.
Charlene nearly jumped from the chair. "Shit! Might hurt, you knew damn well that was gonna to hurt. How bad is my back?"
"It should heal without bad scars."
Terri lied, the scars would heal horribly. Terri peeled the remaining gauze strips from Charlene's back and sprayed the wounds with antiseptic spay. He covered then them with large gauze patches and taped them in place. That was all he could do.
"You lucky you didn't get Mo-red when you was trying to pull him from me, or this would be you."
"What!" Terri's tone reflected the indignation, offense and disgust he felt. He snapped the first aide kit closed. Mo-red was a barbarian, an animal, a red gorilla. Nothing about him appealed to Terri. One emotion alone was present in Terri's mind where Mo-red was concerned, fear. He slid the kit under the bunk and sat on the bed facing Charlene.
"I know you was after him awhile back."
"Baby the last thing I need is a pimp in the joint. True when I first got here I thought I would need protection. I have never been a fighter and I have absolutely no size. I figured I would be raped and killed the first night, if I didn't find a protector. But it wasn't like that for me. Like you said, I got lucky.
"The first couple of weeks no one said too much of anything to me. Charlene, I was so scared, I couldn't sleep or eat waiting for it to happen. Waiting to be raped and beat to death. My cell mate at the time was an old guy named Hank. Every time he walked in the cell I jumped damn near to the ceiling. Then he told me I had a guardian no one wanted to mess with. I asked him who it was, he said couldn't say but he told me I was safe and I could relax.
"Charlene that made it worse, I owed somebody and didn't know who it was. Then they moved me to this cell by myself and the guards started visiting me. No child, Mo-red is all yours."
Mo-red walked past Terri's house repeatedly and did not enter. Terri ignored him and continued talking to Charlene. Charlene asked after Mo-red was out of sight, "ain't you scared of him?"
"No. I'm not scared because he has you, if you were gone, I'd be scared. I don't think I could handle it."
"What do you mean?"
"How he beats and sells you?" No sooner than the words left his mouth Terri regretted them. He saw Charlene’s eyes down cast, he was putting himself above Charlene, being Ms. High and Mighty. And he knew he could have been easily in Charlene's shoes. It could have been his back sliced raw.
"He ain't beatin' the real me," Terri heard Charlene whisper. "He's only beatin' the outside me. The real Charlene is safe on the inside. He cain't get to her. I learned a long time ago, there is two of me." Charlenes eyes were still on the floor.
"Two of you?"
"Yeah the one that can take what ever a motherfucker like Mo-red puts out; and the other one. The one nobody can touch, unless I let them. The pretty one, the soft one inside. Don't you have two selves?"
Terri saw the eyes of a child looking up at him. "No." Terri answered looking at the red stains in the yellow bands of the director's; instead of into the wounded eyes.
"Ain't nobody ever split you in two?"
"My uncle split me when I eight years old. I use to hate him for it but now I'm glad he did it; because she's safe on the inside. Nobody can touch her unless I let them."
Terri couldn't hear the defiance Charlene tried to put in his words. He knew Charlene wanted to sound tough but all he heard was the child.
"When you were eight?" Terri turned his head and looked into the corridor. He didn't want Charlene to see the tears that were welling in his eyes. He didn't want Charlene to think he pitied him, but he did. Charlene was scarred long before Mo-red took the wire coat hanger to his back.
"That's when it started. My uncle, my grandmother’s son, my father’s brother, was my first."
"Did you ever tell?"
"Who Ms. High and Mighty? Who was I suppose to tell? My grandmother who was happy he came over and brought her a bottle of Gin? Naw, wasn't nobody to tell. After he got me use to it, I didn't mind it too bad, but I started hiding from him because I knew it was wrong.
"My grandmother lived in an old fame house. She had an old coal bin on the side of it. The bin was blocked off from the basement but it was just enough room left for me. I hid in there every time he came over and he never found me. That's were I hide my other self. I can go there so good sometimes, I can see the spider webs in the dark corners, I can hear my grandmother's radio, and I can even here my uncle driving off cursing because he couldn’t find me."
That night alone in his cell, after Charlene returned to Mo-red; he decided Charlene would be his friend. Terri had no 'girl friends ' in the joint and it was the same on the outside. It wasn't that he didn't want girl friends; he just saw no need for them. Friendships in the past always proved to be more trouble than what they were worth, some queen was always screaming about he wanted their man or trying to tell him how to behave or setting him up with some financially strapped and ugly date. Charlene was different.
Charlene needed guidance. He was fifty pounds over weight, illiterate, addicted to heroin and he let Mo-red treat him like a dog. Terri decided to work on the weight first. Charlene's wardrobe basically consisted of cut off jeans and halter tops.
Terri had Charlene pick out some material from Joanne's Fabrics catalog. He made Charlene four dresses and all were three sizes to small. He put him on a vegetable and fruit diet and over months the pounds dissolved. Terri was happy with Charlene’s physical changes but there was more work to be done.
He started him out reading Donald Goin's Whore's Son, then he slipped in Angela Mayo's I know why the caged Bird Sings. He followed that with Gloria Naylor's Women of Brewster Place and when Charlene was begging for more he fed him his personal favorite, Toni Morrison's Sula. Six months passed and both Terri and Charlene were pleased with the changes. Mo-red was not.
Two days prior to his release, Charlene came to Terri cell sweating and in tears.
"He won't give me a blow. He told me to snort the fuckin' books. I need that blow Terri. I need it bad, my sick is on."
Charlene's pacing made Terri edgy.
"Why wouldn't he give it to you?" Terri asked sitting up in the bunk.
"Because I wouldn't lick his unwashed ass hole."
Terri attempted to hide the disgust he felt. Mo-red was truly a heathen.
"What will happen if you don't get it?"
"I get sick, sicker."
Terri had never seen Charlene or anyone else sick from not having drugs. He'd only heard that they got flu like symptoms and muscle cramps. That compared to licking Mo-reds dirty ass hole seemed minor. Charlene stopped pacing and stood in front of him.
"Will you die?" Terri asked.
"Yes. No, I’ll just wish I was dead."
Terri made room on the bunk and Charelene sat next to him.
"Then what?" Terri held Charlene's hand, it was moist.
"I don't know, I ain't never went that far." Terri allowed Charlene to pull his hand away, stand and return to pacing.
"Do you want to go that far?" Terri remained sitting.
"Not today. He's got a fresh batch in. I can smell it in the house. He put a dime bag in his ass hole and told me to lick it. I did it before but I just didn't want to do it today. I'm outta here in two days, you know that and he knows that. I gotta get a blow Terri. You got to help me."
"Me? What can I do?"
"Mexican Mickey got some shit from Mo-red but he won't fuck me for it. He's scared of Mo-red. He'll fuck you Terri and give you two bags. He told me he would. He's in the shower. I'll go with you." Charlene knelled in front of him with begging eyes.
Charlene was trembling, his nose was running and small beeds of sweat was forming on his forehead. Terri didn't want Charlene to suffer.
"Mickey's kind of cute." Terri said with pseudo interest, and a small smile.
He didn't think Mickey was cute. Mickey had tattoos covering eighty percent of his body and his nipples were pierced. But his little sister needed him and he was confident he could satisfy Mickey in less than five minutes.
"You'll do it?" Terri felt Charlene squeezing his knee caps.
Mickey was in the shower but so was Mo-red and six of his soldiers. They raped Terri and beat and raped Charlene. Terri didn't get a chance to say goodbye to his little sister. Charlene was released from the infirmary.
Terri gave into Mo-red out of fear. As with Charlene, Mo-red gorilla pimped Terri. Terri never gave Mo-red a reason to beat him. Whatever Mo-red asked he did. At meals he'd sit beneath the table and suck him while he ate. At night he massaged his back until he fell asleep. He sucked and sexed whomever for whatever Mo-red wanted, but the beatings came.
He'd beat him because it rained, beat him because the movie was cancelled, beat him because a trick complained, beat him because his parole was denied, beat him because the toilet over flowed and beat him because he wasn't a real woman.
Terri never told, he took the beatings in silence. His only relief came when the beatings were so severe he'd have to go to the infirmary. 'Ain't nobody ever split you in two?' Yes was Terri's answer after Mo-red dislocated his shoulder and broke three ribs.
Four years before Mo-red, Terri was Queen Bitch. He could pick and chose who he wanted in the joint. He was one of the few queens that tricked with the guards. The guards had freedom, they could have real women but a dressed up Terri was what many of them preferred.
Terri was a star, he'd done Vegas and appeared on the 'Oprah Show', he was a celebrity and sex with Terri was an event. He made fantasy real. When he closed the drapes, made from prison linen, across the bars and started the slow spinning light and played Minnie Ripleton's 'Adventures in Paradise'; even the unimaginative fell under his spell of dance and seduction. When a man entered Terri's house he was king for his time and he paid well for the imperial treatment.
Terri received a cassette player with over two hundred tapes. A battery operated color T.V., a crock pot, a small spinning crystal lamp, a Chinese vase, a Persian rug and one director's chair. Terri referred to the guards as patrons of the arts. The gifts he most appreciated were the clothes; African gowns, evening gowns from Italy and French under garments. If the clothes remained in the packaging of the shops were they originated, extra attention was given to that patron. Marshall Fields and Saks packaging was his favorite.
Mo-red took it all and dared the guards to object. He beat Terri in front of them and told them Terri was his property. If they wanted him they had to pay him. The guards begged Terri to let them help. Terri refused, because in his mind; inmates controlled death in the joint. His life behind prison walls, was in Mo-red's hands.
Mo-red was everywhere. He moved into Terri's house and mind at the same time. He was intrusive in both. He was too big for the house. He broke the yellow director's chair, knocked over the crystal lamp, crumbled the Persian rug, cracked the vase and fouled the air.
Mo-red demanded Terri's complete attention in the house. Terri could not take his eyes off of Mo-red unless Mo-red said so. He'd sit for hours staring at Mo-red. Responding to what ever Mo-red said or did. He watched Mo-red read. He watched him look at television. He watched him masturbate. He watched him defecate. When he was allowed to close his eyes, all he saw was Mo-red.
Terri tried to follow Charlenes example and keep his inside self safe and untouched. In thought, he saw himself safe in his childhood bedroom, the one he saw in the Sears and Roebuck catalog, the one he cried and begged Madear for. In his childhood bedroom he tried to keep Mo-red away from the soft Terri, but he couldn't. Mo-red was in every part of his mind.
Charlene's secret letters provided the fresh air Terri needed. The day Terri decided on suicide the first letter came. One of his patrons smuggled the letter to him in the shower. He had a shank knife in one hand and the letter in the other. Charlene's letter won. He read the letter while Mo-red slept. After he read the letter he ate it. He could think of nothing worse than Mo-red in Birmingham.
The letters turned Birmingham into a land of milk and honey. Charlene wrote of slow, sweet men with lots of money. Clear bright sunny days and star filled nights. Peach cobblers, well hung country boys, fried okra, cheating husbands with spare houses, fresh chicken, gay policeman, hand churned custard and a doctor that did the change dirt cheap. That was Birmingham; a new place, a place without Mo-red. A place Terri could only dream about when Mo-red slept.
Under Mo-red's rule Terri went from Queen Bitch to hag. Fucking whoever Mo-red said, for whatever they gave Mo-red. Terri no longer pranced the yard. He simply walked. He no longer dressed. He wore standard issue clothing unless Mo-red ordered him to dress. He was just doing his time and praying for the breaths of fresh air Charlene sent.
It was three days before his release date when he received the first letter from his mother, Diane. She hadn't written in five years. She wrote to tell him that Madear was dying and she could no longer take care of her. She was marrying a doctor with eight children and God wanted her to take care of them.
She and the doctor would pick him up when he was released, so he could do the Christian thing; take care of Madear. It was all set up, the state would pay him a care takers salary and he could stay rent free with Madear.
Terri cried when he read the letter, for himself and Madear. She was his mother, his Madear. Not the selfish stank, slut that wrote the letter. Diane didn't raise her own son and now she was going to raise a doctor's eight. To hell with her, Madear needed him. He needed Birmingham. Chicago had him. He had to go back.
After the tears, he got dressed, really dressed; silk and leather. He left Mo-red and didn't return. He spent his last three days under the protection of his patrons.
"Oh, so you don't know a nigga now huh?"
Terri stood still on the sidewalk, allowing passersby’s to walk between him and Mored's Blazer window.
"I know who you look like, but that man is locked up for another five years." Terri answered.
"Yeah well, even a bad nigga can play good. Come on over here Terri with your fine ass, girl you look good in that leather skirt, you always did like silk and leather. Come on over here." Terri knew better. This was trouble, big time trouble. If he got in the Blazer, he wouldn't see downtown today. If he didn't get in the Blazer, he might never see downtown or anyplace. He stared into Mo-red's smiling face and remembered a crazy man, a man crazy enough to kill him for rejecting him. Playing alone was Terri's only choice.
Terri approached the Blazer. Mo-red opened the door. Terri hopped in smiling and praying. He closed the door.