COASTE - Summer 2018

H ow I most remembers the Reverend Cartier J. Trumane is the enormous size of his hands. I was thirteen years old. We was livin in Tampa Florida then. The year was 1958. My Aunt Nattie come get us all the ways in Detroit in her station wagon after our flat burn down and we sleep in a shelter for a week. That was the last time I seen Detroit, never went back and I don’t ever wanna, on my knees lookin out that big back station wagon window, we was far away but you could still see the tall office buildings and thunder clouds hangin over the city like smolderin smoke. Aunt Nattie was a nurse at a VA hospital, that stands for Veteran Administration. She was older than Mama by two years and got a diploma from college. She the only person in our family ever go to college. Mama, she was smart as Aunt Nattie but she marry Daddy outta high school and went to work at the restaurant until, well, until Daddy got shot. I think that’s when Mama walk away from the church, it was Baptists, though I was so young I don’t remember really. Then came Roy, but he went to prison when he saved me by killin Oz, that been almost two years now, and thereafter is my guess whenMama stop believin in the Lord Jesus altogether, though at the time all I knowed was boozin and cryin and yellin at Ruthie’n me. I know today as a woman where that bitterness come from but as a chile, of course, you think it you. Thessalonians teaches we to always be thankful no matter what, that whatever come is God’s will for our life, so maybe in her heart Mama never had real, Holy Spirit faith cause she lose it so quick. What I ain’t ever understood however is why she lose her purpose. Weren’t me and Ruthie purpose? Aunt Nattie took us in. She had a extra bedroom in her house which was Isaiah’s, so I guess it weren’t extra really, cause Isaiah he hadda go sleep with baby Ephraim thereafter. I doubt today as an adult that Uncle Sewell was joyed at sharin his home with his sister-law and kids, but he never said nothin that I heared, and he always had a big hug for Ruthie’n me whenever we needed it,

which was often then as I recall. We all lived in their one story yella house on 28th Avenue and Lexington Street. It was a old neighborhood in the black part, long potholed streets lined with cinder block houses, pretty much every one dentical cept for what color, with little front yards that was mostly dirty white sand and clumps a that scraggly Florida grass or whatever it is. Some had flowers in the front, some bushes. A lot a them was dried up dead, like a desert. A few lucky houses had big old trees. The sidewalk was broken in many places, sometimes chunks was missin you could twist a ankle in. Most of all I remember it bein hot. It was summer when we come and it was hot in the days, white hot like to blind you, but when you felt it most of all was nighttime, when you tryin to sleep but the air don’t move, and there’s bodies sticky nexta you, like Mama and Ruthie and me was on this queen size mattress bought special for us. Sometimes I’d roll off and put my pillow on the floor, feel that cool floor on my sweaty skin and fall asleep right there, hard and uncomfortable as that floor was. That’s what I remember too, that cool. Our back yard had a chain link fence round it. Behind us live this tiny nasty black’n white little dog. We come out to play, that dog’d jump up and tear right after us, all ferocious nasty barkin like to eat you alive, till it run outta chain and snap! it head go back. At first I was afraid but then after I sees that it could only get so far, I’d brave up to that fence once in a while to see if it calm down once it got to know me. It never did. It was just mean. We had a little block patio with weeds growin between the blocks. Uncle Sewell had a barbecue grill that I recall he liked to stand over, I picture this large man lookin down into smoke. There was a old white picnic table that needed paint. Next to the patio was a little round yellow inflatable baby pool. Every mornin Aunt Nattie would step her bare foot down on one a them yellow inflatable sides, let the dirty water drain, rinse it clean with the hose and filler up again. There weren’t much room left when the four a us kids all

got in that pool, but I remember it happy. Most of all I remember sittin in that warm water splashin with little Ephraim, the boy was always naked. Once in a while he’d poop an we all hadda get out, and Aunt Natttie’d hafta start over. Uncle Sewell worked at a Bentmann’s nearby on 14th Avenue, that’s a grocery store. He was a butcher. He went to work early cause he always be gone when I would wake up. Every afternoon the station wagon pull into the driveway, and just a few minutes later it be gone again, Aunt Nattie off in her ironed white uniform to the second shift at the hospital. Mama never got outta bed much them first weeks. I think she decided she just didn’t wanna get up no more, you could see it in her eyes, like there was nothin left inside. I knew it wasn’t the rum cause Aunt Nattie warn her when she pick us up in Detroit, right there in front of Salvation Army before we drive away, there’d be no more a that, and I knew it wasn’t whorin that was makin her tired cause Mama didn’t go out at night like she useta, leavin Ruthie an me alone in the flat. Of course there was Uncle Sewell now to keep an eye on all a us too, sittin in his recline chair in the front room listenin to this new kinda music that he liked so much on the black radio. Me bein the oldest, Uncle Sewell soon made me his helper girl. It was my task to put Ephraim down in his crib after Uncle Sewell pin his diaper, then I’d help him give Isaiah and Ruthie their bath. As they was only a year apart, Ruthie was eight then, they was pretty big to share a tub and mosta the water wound up on the floor. Every night Uncle Sewell would remind em to keep the water in, and every night after I put a towel to Ruthie I’d mop up that floor. Following they got underwear on before we’d all go into the boys’ room to say prayers, which would commence only when Isaiah finally settle down in his bed. I remember Uncle Sewell would pray for each a us by name, for angels to watch over us, Mama and Aunt Nattie too. Mama never heard those prayers. Every night when I walked Ruthie into our

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