Tanya Swift

by Margie Shaheed

“Went downtown to see Ms. Moody
Gave her $1.00 to show her booty
Booty so black couldn’t see her crack
Hey Ms. Moody Ah wonts mah money back”


Tanya took in a deep breath as she walked through the painted glass doors of the bar. Earlier in the day, she had attended a block party hosted by Ms. Ella, the bar’s owner. It seemed as if everybody from the neighborhood was there from the adults on down to the children. Since Tanya had just moved into the apartment building across the street, Ms. Ella introduced herself and explained that she gets the necessary permits to close off the street to through traffic to throw this big block party every year. It’s her way of showing appreciation for doing business in the neighborhood. Neighbors were treated to barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers, and chips. Tanya liked watching the kids run back and forth, snatching drinks out of the large aluminum trash can filled with ice cubes and soda pops. The main event was the dance contest between the children with DJ Tony spinning the records. Ms. Ella invited Tanya to come back to the bar at night so that she could feel the vibe. She also promised her a drink on the house.

Once she found a seat inside, she surveyed her surroundings. The black and white checkered tiled floor made her feel as if she had entered a time warp. The stools were covered in blue dusky leather and the dull brass light fixtures hanging from the high ceiling seemed to harbor dust from the ‘90’s. Nonetheless, a sizable group of men and women dressed up to kill dotted the bar. The air was thick with liquor, music, laughter, and chatter. The gum popping barmaid came over to her and placed a white cocktail napkin with crude jokes written on it in front of her. “What chu havin’ hon?” She ordered a glass of Moscato.,/i> While the barmaid went to fix her drink she read one of the jokes on the cocktail napkin. Question: What’s the difference between a tiger and a kitten? Answer: A tiger will bite and scratch you, but a little pussy never hurt anyone. She chuckled. Taking a sip from her drink she noticed a man standing by the door. He was dressed up in an orange melon and white pin striped linen suit with matching orange melon shoes smiling and trying desperately to make eye contact with her. He wasn’t bad looking she thought but he did look like a smooth brown creamsicle leaning up against the wall. Just so cool!

She felt a flirty mood come on so she deliberately avoided his gaze as she stood up and switched her tight butt over to the jukebox with crisp dollar bills in her hand. She played some Johnny Taylor and Bobby “Blue” Bland. This was definitely an old school joint although she did notice some young heads shooting pool in the back. She hummed and danced to Body Rock on her way back to her bar stool, and within minutes the creamsicle had slid up beside her. He stirred the melting ice cubes in his drink and placed his glass on the bar right next to hers.

“Hey hey hey babe babe baby. Mah my my nnn name is JJJJ Joe. Wat wat wats yo’ name?”

“Aw shit. Ah caint understand a damn thang this nigga is sayin’,” she mumbled under her breath.

“Excuse me” Wat chu say?” She scratched her head and leaned in to listen closely.

“Mah my nnn name is JJJJ Joe. Dey ccc call me MMM Mumble JJ Jumble. Wat wat wats yo’ name?”

“Oh! My name? My name is Tanya.”

“Ca ca can I bbb buy you a ddddr drink?, the man stammered, oblivious to her plight.

“Uhuh. A drink? Yes, Ah’ll take a drink.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a $20 bill to pay for her drink. He laid it up on the bar.

“Te te tell th th tha bar bar barmaid to gggg give you a dr dr drink on mmmmm me.”

Buying the drink for her seemed to give him permission to sit down on the stool next to her. He immediately started talking but she couldn’t make out what he was saying. At one point she could tell he was gossiping about a couple sitting a few stools away because he kept throwing shifty glances their way and he whispered—she just couldn’t find the thread to piece the quilt together.

This way of communicating between them went on for a while and she was growing tired of trying to decipher his code. She did get some relief as he bounced between her and the pool table. She could tell the men were gambling back there. He bought her another drink and then she bought him one. She didn’t want to appear rude but this man was a human chatter box and he was getting on her nerves. While he was away shooting pool she looked for another seat. No such luck. All of the stools in the bar were occupied so she found herself held captive to the jigsaw puzzle unfolding before her. While the creamsicle was away shooting pool, she overheard the couple sitting next to her having a heated discussion and so she listened in:

He: “Ah’m jus’ statin’ a fact—Ah believe in God. Ah’m jus’ sayin’ preachas today don’t have no originality and dey ain’t relevant. Hell, yo’ preacha preaches the same sermon every week. Dat’s why Ah don’t like goin wid chu’”

She: “Ah’m not puttin’ my mouf against the church or the preacha!”

He: “Ah’m jus’ tellin’ you wat Ah know.”

She: “Ah’m not puttin’ my mouf against the church or the preacha. You know God is jealous!”

He: “How can God be jealous when he the one made everything? Now, YOU can be jealous of somethin’, but God? Ah don’t think so!

She: “But, the book say he’s a jealous God. Ah’m tellin’ you Ah’m not puttin’ my mouf against the church or the preacha!”

He: “Don’t the book say slave obey yo’ master? Ah don’t see you walkin’ aroun’ heah in no chains! Ah’ma say this for the last time—jealousy is not a godly quality!”

He’s got a point there Tanya thought to herself but she didn’t say anything to the couple. The creamsicle came back and continued talking his head off. Feeling a little tipsy she gave up trying to figure out what he was saying. She decided instead to settle on a rhythm. During the conversation, she pretended to understand his words by following his lead. When he smiled she smiled. When he laughed she laughed. When he nodded his head yes or no, she nodded her head yes or no. This was working.

Time was beginning to wind down and not wanting to turn into a pumpkin she decided that she would leave as soon as she finished this last drink. She gathered up her things and went into her wallet to get out a tip for the barmaid. After placing the bills under her empty glass she swung her body around on the stool in an attempt to leave. Before her feet could touch the floor Joe rushed to her side.

“Uuuu you rr ready ttt to lll leave?,” he offered hastily.

She guessed he was telling her good-bye.

“Bye. It was nice meetin’ you. Ah’ll see you again,” she politely said.

“B bbbb but babe babe baby! Uuuu you caint lll leave mmm me like dd dat! Re re remember?”

“Wat?” she said puzzled.

“Uuuu you ssss said uuu you was gon gon gone ggg give mmm me ssssome kootchie!”

It was as if someone had waved a magic wand. She couldn’t believe what she’d heard. The word KOOTCHIE fell out of his mouth as would a pane of glass. It laid sprawled out butt naked screaming and kicking its legs between their feet.

“Ah nevah said Ah was gonna to do nothin’ wid chu! Hell, Ah don’t even know you,” she shouted back at him.

He was clearly surprised then pissed by her reaction and she was in shock. As she walked across the street to her apartment building her indignation waned. She figured she had gotten caught up in her own game. The so-called rhythm of the conversation had backfired because it had her agreeing to do some foolishness unknowingly. As she stuck her key in the door she had to laugh at the situation. It was genuinely funny although she was sorry--she hoped the creamsicle didn’t think she was leading him on. “Damn gurl, you got to be mo’ careful,” she said aloud as she opened her apartment door and slipped inside.

Tanya Swift by Margie Shaheed

© Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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