The Promise

by Chris L. Wright

I was five when I awoke to the stroking engine of my father’s gold Ford pickup truck rolling up into the front yard a sultry Tuesday night in July. With the box fan rumbling on the linoleum floor of my room, circulating the summer’s torturing heat all over me, I spun over on top of my Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtle covers to glance at the alarm clock and watch the glowing red digits roll over from 1:59 to 2:00 A.M. I got out of my soaked bed in my white t-shirt and fruit of the loom draws with sweat streaking down my backside. The screen door creaked open in the living room on the other side of my room near the kitchen. My father’s drunken feet clattered, one contradicting the other as he stumbled into the living room. I slyly made my way into the hallway to witness my mother sitting upright on the living room sofa waiting for him. Out the corner of her eye she caught sight of me in the hallway and shouted, “Get back in your room, CJ!” “Right Now, boy!” I hurried back to my room closing the door behind me in fear of getting an ass whipping. Then slowly reopened the door when I knew she wasn’t looking to lay my head on the warm gritty linoleum to listen to them talking.

“Hey, Baby!”

“Don’t Hey baby me!”

“Cecil, why you keep doing this shit to me? You’re always pulling the same shit.”

“Mary, Baby, What?” he answered.

“Don’t play me, you know the shit I’m talking about, Cecil. You go every other night to go fuck some troll and come back looking at me back like ain’t shit just happened. We’ll I’m sick of it. I’m sick and tired of your shit.”

“Baby you know I just went out for a drink." You know I would never cheat on you baby, I only love you,” he replied.

My mother’s volume pitched louder and toned more violently over the rumbling sound of the box fan saying, “Oh, is that so! All right if you really mean it, make love to me. Right now!”

“Right now?” my father questioned.

“Yeah, Baby, Why not?” she replied,

“I want you!” Lifting my head from the sticky floor I crawled out of my bedroom’s door to the kitchen’s corner to see. At the kitchen’s wall corner I could see my mother clinched to my father’s belt stripping him of his faded Levi work pants.

“Baby, wait!” he shouted. Mary, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Oh so you don’t want me to blow you?”

“But you never wanted to do this with me befo…………”

Before another word spilled from his drunken lips his pants plummeted to the linoleum floor. With her left hand she yanked down his drawers until he was bare and his penis was hanging limp in the hot air. My mother lifted away his drawers from underneath his ashy legs as if to throw them, but instead drew them closer to her nose within smelling distance and sniffed.

“Cecil, You Mother Fuckin Son of a Bitch!!!” Your dumb ass thought you could come in my damn house smelling like pussy and thought I wouldn’t find out. We’ll I ain’t your stupid hoe!”

All I could hear was a Clap! and a ragging thud as the trailer walls began to rock. Under the legs of the kitchen table I could make out a large figure, which was my mother curdled up. She lay motionless on the floor with a river of blood pouring from her nose dripping into her mouth tainting her pretty white teeth pure reddish. A blood bubble barely escaped her lips as she began to rise. She placed her elbow on the floor smearing the blood on her joint and palms. Slowly propping herself on one knee until she gained her balance and was back on her feet again. She ran past me in the hall to the back bedroom. My father was still in the kitchen standing with his hand raised from the blow. His voice thundered down the hall behind her. Shouting, “Marrrrrry, Mary, girl, don’t you even think about calling the police.”

He stepped forward to the kitchen’s corner where I was clung to the wall. He spoke at me saying, “Come here, boy! You didn’t see nothing.” He leaned down to pull me up, but Ma’s footsteps were stamping back down the hall. I bent down to evade his thick hand, at the same time catching a glimpse of ma swiftly passing over me with some dark L-shaped object in her hand.

She screamed, “Get your ass away from him!”

My father backed up almost tripping over himself. He spit at her face yelling, “Bitch, you ain’t got the nerve!”

Ma’s bloody elbow and hand thrust up like lightening with the dull black L-shape object. A flash shot in the room and something that sounded like exploding fireworks rattled my eardrums. Running to my room deafened and pissing in my pants, I hid in my closet with my ringing ears stinging from the blasts. My ears were deafened but I could manage to make out what was the sound of front screen door slamming on its metal brackets and the engine of the Ford immediately cranking up and squealing out of the driveway to the main highway.

A few minutes afterwards my bedroom door creaked, and my mother’s dark figure was protruding in the hall light with a policeman.

She murmured, “CJ, Baby. Baby come out, it’s alright.”

I peered out from under one of my oversized coats and grabbed her hands. She took me by the right hand and led me to the kitchen where she sat me down at the table. Then, I didn’t understand relationships nor was I able to comprehend what had happened or what my mother had just done. I didn’t know what to say, so I said the first thing that came to me. I said, “Ma I’m hungry.”

She nodded to console me and went over to the cabinets, reached up with her blood-dried hands to grab a cereal box and poured me a bowl of sugar corn flakes. She sat the bowl directly in front of me with a glass of cold Kool-Aid to drink. I started crying right in front of her.

I could hardly get any more words out, but I asked her, “Ma are you going to shoot me too?” She sighed deeply and her face turned to rain as she began to cry with me. Her soft voice replied, “Oh no, No, Baby”

She fell upon her knees beside me and embraced both her arms around my shoulders. She said to me, “CJ, I want you to be better man than your father. Please promise me you’ll be a better man.”

“I promise.”

Instantly her grip grew tighter on me and we both held each other, trembling in tears.

Now that my father was gone, it was just her and me.

The Promise by Chris L. Wright

© Copyright 2004. 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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