Black Coffeeby Tracy Price-Thompson
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“I may be a supersoldier but I sure as hell ain’t no Superwoman. Yes, it’s true my hand is steady, I have the eye of a marksman, and I can hit a moving target dead center at four hundred meters, but when it comes to making clever love decisions, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. While I look pretty lofty in my spit-shined combat boots and razor-sharp battle dress uniform, like a lot of young sisters from the ’hood, I’ve taken a few wrong turns down the back alleys of life.”
Meet Sergeant Sanderella Coffee, who has just completed a three-year overseas tour and is now reporting to a military installation in Virginia. She is a single mother whose goal is to attend the Army’s prestigious Officer Candidate School, which will guarantee a better life for her and her children.
Sandie meets a man who matches her ambition and determination step for step in the form of Drill Sergeant Romulus Caesar, who literally marches into her life and turns it upside down. They fall in love, and Rom is everything Sandie could want—supportive, confident, self-reliant—but he’s also married. Because of the military’s tough policy on fraternization and adultery, Sandie could find her carefully orchestrated career slipping away like sand in a breeze.
“Tracy Price-Thompson writes with candor and power, creating characters so real you can’t take your eyes off the page.” —Lolita Files, author of Child of God
“If you are ready for an adventure that will take you through the psyche of not only a female heart but, interestingly enough, a male mind as well, you will love Black Coffee. Price-Thompson’s writing is good to the last drop.” —Timmothy B. McCann, author of Forever
“Price-Thompson’s is a voice that needs to be heard. Refreshing and tastefully charismatic, her novel is a kind of real that only a person who has been in the military can relay.” —Camika Spencer, author of When All Hell Breaks Loose
Read an Excerpt
SANDERELLA’S SONG may be a supersoldier, but I sure as hell ain’t no Superwoman. Yes, it’s true my hand is steady, I have the eye of a marksman, and I can hit a moving target dead center at four hundred meters, but when it comes to making clever love decisions, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
While I look pretty lofty in my spit-shined combat boots and razor-sharp battle dress uniform, like a lot of young sisters from the ’hood, I’ve taken a few wrong turns down the back alleys of life. I’ve tooted my share of reefer, popped the ring on many a cold brew—I’ve even dropped a tab of acid during a brief moment of insanity, but I must have been out of my mother-scrunching mind the moment I let crackhead Sonja Reed talk me into reaching for that twenty-dollar heart attack wrapped in tinfoil.
“Damn, Sandie!” Sonja poked me in the ribs with her pointy elbow. “Why you always so uptight, gurlfren’? Here.” She passed me a tightly wrapped silver package. “Have a treat. It’ll help your square ass fit in—you know, relax!”
Sonja and I were sitting at the vinyl-covered bar of the Sugah Shack, a smoky blue-lighted hole-in-the-wall for the local indigents. Neon strobe lights blinked intermittently from far corners of the room before ricocheting off a shiny silver ball that dangled from the wood-beamed ceiling. Outside, Jack Frost was busy duking it out with Jay Hawk, but inside it was moist and warm, courtesy of the one hundred or so of “us” crammed into the tiny joint.
I’d just completed my final-semester exams and decided to check out the party scene, a luxury I seldom enjoyed since enrolling in night classes at City College. The house music pumped with a thunderous beat, and although I was feeling pretty mellow, shaking my bones and jitterbugging with the fellows, I still flirted along on the fringes of the real action.
“C’mon, chile,” Sonja coaxed. She curled her tongue around the tip of a white plastic straw as the metallic disco lights rearranged her features into an erratic jigsaw puzzle. “Come on over here and get your head right so you can relax!”
Relax? I was twenty-two years old with a three-year-old daughter, a part-time job, and a full college load! Relax just wasn’t in my vocabulary. But Sonja had one thing right. When it came down to drugs, the sistah was a straight-up parallelogram with four equal sides. Aside from social stimulants like marijuana and that dumb encounter with acid, I’d never really been tempted. Real drugs cost real money, real pride, and real self-respect, and with no hope for a return on my investment, I was real slow to give up any of those treasures.
But on this particular winter night I was feeling my Wheaties. Mama Ceal had offered to baby-sit, I’d studied like crazy and would graduate with straight A’s, and my boyfriend had just dumped me for my best friend’s sister.
Relaxation was just what I craved.
So when prompted by Sonja with a sure nod and a half smile, I lowered my head to the shiny black counter and did as I’d seen her do. I inhaled two thick lines of prime white ghost straight into my malfunctioning brain.
“Yeahhh.” Sonja giggled as I puckered up my face. “That’s it. Now relax.”
I relaxed all right. Kicked back so far you would’ve sworn I was in a coma! Slouching all over the barstool, my body went limper than Michael Jackson’s wrist!
For a moment.
Suddenly my heart started pounding like a funky bass drum and my hands got to trembling like a set of wayward brass cymbals. Then I got hot. Real hot. Like I was being steamed like a lobster—but from the inside out!
My mouth went Sahara and my nose went numb.
I dashed out of that lean-to of a firetrap and ran the entire two miles to the projects without stopping.
And then I ran back!
Shaking and heaving, I collapsed in the dirty snow behind the Sugah Shack and listened as the bass thump-thump from the music inside competed with the wheeze-bang-whomp! in my pulsating chest cavity.
Right then and there I swore off cocaine.
That was it for the sistah. Damn if I would be the same fool twice. Cocaine caused too many bodily changes and left you with absolutely no self-control. It just wasn’t worth it—all that drama for a sore throat and a postnasal drip! But the experience scared me. My own stupidity appalled me. My judgment was suddenly suspect. Six million coke addicts couldn’t all be wrong. Would I someday graduate to bigger and better highs? The mere thought gave me the shakes. Paranoid, petrified, and perplexed, I pondered my chances of survival in my Brooklyn ghetto.
They looked slimmer than an anorexic on crack.
In a desperate attempt to veer off the path of self-destruction before I backslid and sampled any more of Sonja’s “treats,” I fled my drug-induced demons and rushed headlong into the waiting arms of my favorite relation.
“Act in haste and repent in leisure!” is what my granny used to say, and you know she was right, because from the moment I raised my right hand and swore to defend my country from all enemies foreign and domestic, I’ve been repenting on a daily basis.
During my early years in the Army I billed myself as a harder-than-a-rock native New Yorker. I was rough around the edges, and my personal motto had been: “Don’t start no S-H, won’t be no I-T!” Gradually, I assimilated into the military community and its socialized way of living. Bit by bit the harsh edges of my project demeanor softened, and I managed to shake the ghetto chip from my shoulder; but if you backed me into a corner, I could still go homegirl on you in a New York minute!
But I had a slight problem with protocol.
I was an enlisted soldier, and everyone who outranked me was, in effect, my boss. Now, they don’t tell you that mess when you sign up, and they sure as heck don’t show it to you on those slaphappy “Be All That You Can Be” commercials. As a lowly buck-private-E-nothing, any Joe Blow in a pair of boots could basically tell me what to do and when to do it. That didn’t sit well at all with the sistah. I hated being the low man on the totem pole.
“Hey you! Mop that floor! Hey you! Hump that rucksack! Hey you! Dig that ditch!”
Private Benjamin I was not.
I didn’t see why I couldn’t flip my collar and become an officer, then give the orders instead of taking them! Army Officer Candidate School became my one burning mission, and I swore on a stack of Bibles that someday I’d get there.
By hook, or by crook.
But in order to get within a country mile of an OCS application, I had to really humble myself, show my teeth to the powers that be. I had to play lots of political patty-cake, and I played it to a T.
Despite the odds that were stacked mile high against me.
As any fool can tell you, the large-and-in-charge in this great country are typically male and white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and you can search that acronym from Texas to Timbuktu but you will not find a description of me. Although all women in the armed forces have a tough row to hoe, the black woman has it toughest.
Simply put, a female soldier had to have a pair of balls.
A black female soldier had to have a pair of balls that were heavily structured, riding low, and swinging in the breeze—yet big enough to block the sun!
She had to be a survivor. And I am.
Yet, as astute as I’ve been in my professional life, there have been times in my love life when I’ve been as dumb as dishwater. Too gullible! And for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I mean, there’s just no excuse. Lord knows Mama Ceal taught her girls better, but we still went out and bought our own sense.
While I can’t speak for my sisters, Ladelle and Bunchie, I know what my problem is: I make pitiful life choices. Take birth control. I’ve had three children by three different men, only one of whom I married. Now there’s not a drop of shame in my game, but if it were you instead of me, I’d be the first in line to tell you about yourself. I’d probably say some raw shit like, “Girl, if you’re gonna give it up out of both drawers legs, at least have sense enough to use a condom!” So if my expert advice is good for you, why hasn’t it ever worked for me?
It started with Kevin. My first love. Too fine, boo-black, and always broke. A so-called actor whose starring role was that of a dimple-faced, together brother with a good head on his shoulders. Kevin said he worked in the lab at Harlem Hospital, when actually he swept that mother and took out the trash! He was responsible for three of my pregnancies: my daughter, Jamillah, and two “whosits” that I deposited at the Women’s Health Clinic.
Talk about fertile Myrtle?
Jamillah was just three months old when I bought one of those at-home pregnancy tests and killed another rabbit. Mama Ceal took me down to the Women’s Health Clinic, and I don’t know what hurt worse, getting rid of that baby or climbing off that table and facing my mama. Well, ten months later, dizzy me had another chance to ponder it. This time I rode the subway down to the clinic alone and deposited “whosit” number two, then cried like a baby and kept my mouth shut about it to Mama.
After that I swore to Jesus and all twelve of his disciples I’d never kill another baby, so help me. And I haven’t. I’ve pushed out the rest of my children on a delivery table, and they’ve all come home with me. To this day, Mama Ceal doesn’t know about that second abortion. Or does she?
Five years later, while stationed in California, I met my ex-husband, Maurice. A fine-ass red bone with sticky fingers and shit for brains. I must’ve been feeling fine on cloud nine when I took that short trip down the aisle. I didn’t even know the guy! Not three months passed between us saying our first “hello”s and our final “I do”s. It was six months before I figured out my new husband could steal the oink off a pig.
Talk about impulsive!
I guess that’s part of my problem. I don’t take enough time to figure out what I can and cannot stand about a man before finding myself knee-deep in his crappola. And somehow Maurice managed to knock me up when I wasn’t looking. Just when I was ready to bet my last dollar that he was shooting blanks, tah-dah! Out rolls my youngest, Kharim. Light, bright, and damn near white. Just like his daddy. I don’t regret it, of course. It just amazes me that our final round of marital copulation produced such a stunningly beautiful child. Go figure.
And in between the liar and the thief, there was Antoine “Two-tongue” Thommson.
I will never forget him.
Antoine was a cute dark-chocolate ’Bama slammer, my afternoon delight and midnight snack, my ever-ready Freddie whenever I was inclined to step out on Maurice. Built like he chopped trees for a living, Antoine’s body seemed chiseled from stone or maybe even granite.
There’s something about a soldier!
But Antoine was a superfreak. Always talking about how he wanted to “sop me up wit a biskit.” Those country boys are a mess! He’d have kept me barefoot, pregnant, and spread-eagle on the kitchen table if I’d let him, because to Antoine, sex was a national pastime.
And talk about a tongue? I could’ve sworn he had two!
That boy could work his tongue six ways to next Sunday.
Antoine popped poontang like it was a delicacy, which, of course, I thought mine was. I tell you ole boy had such an outstanding technique he should’ve been granted an honorary doctorate in the Art of Good Head!
But believe it or not, you can get too much of a good thing. All of that tonguing can work your last nerve. My stuff must have been like sweet black Maxwell House coffee—good to the last drop—because I couldn’t keep him off me! Every time I turned around he was lapping at me like a half-starved kitten at a bowl of warm milk! So I got paranoid. Thought he was trying to steal my love juices, like they were superenergy power crystals or something. I finally had to cuss him out and then call the military police and request a base transfer.
That boy had my kitty cat bone-dry!
Antoine gave me my first son, Hanif, a brilliant and wonderful replica of his daddy, who got out of the Army last year to buy a dairy farm. Yep, a dairy farm. On the fifth of every month I receive a postal money order with an Alabama return address, some little rinky-dink town way back in plumb nearly. Plumb out the state, and nearly out the country! Milk them cows, honey!
But on the real tip there have been many nights when I’ve wished for a dresser drawer chock-full of disposable Antoine tongues, because I have yet to meet a vibrator or a man who could match his pace. So although my head may be a bit too hard, my behind a tad too soft, and I run about a quart low on men sense, my shit is still straight.
Even when it’s crooked, it’s straight.
I just haven’t had any luck making the right love connection, that’s all. I’ve been through many love affairs, like sorting clothes on laundry day. Sometimes I wish I could relive those loves of mine. Just shake them out like the wrinkles in a blanket and erase the slate. Like everyone else, I’d do a lot of things differently, but maybe I’d leave a lot the same, too. Although I’ve been through some risky changes, I’ve also learned a lot about myself. These days I know my own worth. I don’t need a man to empower me or to motivate me. I’m self-motivated, and my mama empowered me with the strength of a lion.
Can you hear my roar?
I think I’m ready to try again. Ready to learn how to trust, just step out on faith. I could use a warm embrace from a pair of strong, honest arms. My body is dying to explode from something other than my own probing fingers, but I’m scared. I still believe in good old-fashioned relationships. I was blessed with positive examples in my father, Franklin, and my brother, Bailey, so I still have faith in black men. Hell, it’s us black women who raise them! I’ll just have to give some mother’s son a chance. Like I said, step out there naked. High on faith. But I can tell you this, the sistah is straight, and never again will I settle for less than what I’m worth.
What I deserve.
I don’t need no half-stepping, half-a-man-looking-for-a-woman-to-make-him-whole man. I’m already a whole woman, a whole lot of woman. And I need a whole lot of man. Someone who knows where his head is, and preferably not stuck in a mirror or up his own ass. Someone who won’t feel threatened by my accomplishments, by my spirit.
By my funk.
A man who is self-confident enough to view my fortitude as an appreciated asset instead of an enviable liability. I need a man who loves himself. A man who loves his mama, his sisters, and his life. Someone who will love my children as much as he loves his own. Someone whom my kids can love and admire, too. I need a brother with a bank account—not overflowing, but rainy-day solid. A financially fit brother who is cognizant of the term future needs. I need a man with his own car, or his own bike, or his own skates—just as long as he has his own ride. My days of climbing out of my warm bed at the crack of dawn to chauffeur a grown man home are over!
And he has to be clean.
I don’t want no nasty man or no man who has bad bites. Certain flaws are simply unpardonable, and bad breath and body odor are two of them.
And I can’t stand no mama’s boy. No man who’s still on the titty. My man must be as self-reliant as I am, if not more so. And my man must be decent in bed. A gentle, tender, and considerate lover. Not the kind of lover who, when you whisper, “Baby, you came too fast,” hollers back, “Naw, baby! You came too slow!”
Last but not least, my man must be single, uninvolved, disengaged, and disenfranchised. Let the church say “Amen,” because I don’t want nobody’s husband and that’s the God’s honest truth. None of that if-lovin’-you-is-wrong-I-don’t-wanna-be-right crap. That’s a dead-end road for sure, because the only things a married man can offer you are his poor wife’s headaches and heartaches. Been there. Done that. Thanks, but no thanks!
I guess I need that “Whatta Man” Salt-N-Pepa are always bragging about. Someone dignified. Mighty and exalted.
Hell, with my grandiose expectations, high standards, and endless laundry list of qualifications, I’m gonna need to look for more than just the average bear! My man’s gonna need an imperial lineage, a royal genealogy. He’s gonna have to be a prince.
No, bump that. A king.
I need me a king.
What People are saying about this
A feisty cast of characters and a wit-slinging ride from a refreshing new perspective. Price-Thompson gives us a vivid 3-D reading that you can truly sink your literary teeth into...
Meet the Author
Tracy Price-Thompson is a highly decorated Desert Storm veteran who graduated from Army Officer Candidate School after ten years as an enlisted soldier. A Brooklyn, New York, native and retired Army engineer officer, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and children. Black Coffee is her first novel, and she would love to hear what you think of it. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a second book that I¿ve read that tells the story of the military woman of color, the first being ¿Knockin Boots¿ which was great. Tracy takes the reader to the front lines and allows the reader to experience sexism existed in the service and what African American women went through. Tracy also takes it a step further and allows realistic issues/family hardships to be the icing on the cake, if you will!!! How much more can Sanderella endure? I tell you what I would not want to be in her boots that¿s for sure. In her debut novel she introduced us to characters that we will cared about and keep us flipping the pages to see what would happen to Sanderella and Romulus, two soldiers ready to defy strict Army rules for their love. Romulus Caesar calls himself a 'king', believes himself to be one down to the deep recesses of his mind and soul. Through a very believable male voice, we see Rom as a man with strong convictions, a man who loves his children so much he has sacrificed 10 years of his life to be with them, thus staying in a loveless marriage for the sake of maintaining his position as the No. 1 domino (an analogy I found to be right on point). While Sanderella Coffee is sassy, funny, a good mother, and an excelling soldier, we are able to see her as she really is all that and two bags of chips! A woman with an ability to admit her past love mistakes, trying with all her might not to make another one. She stumbles, ponders, falls, then brushes herself off and keeps on keeping on! Tracy captures the essence of being in a 'real' relationship, with all the questions, the sensuality and the wonder of getting to know someone of the opposite sex. She shows us both sides of the puzzle, not just the woman¿s, and that¿s great. In my opinion, Tracy shows us what goes wrong in relationships, namely, that communication breaks down. The man never says what is really going on in his mind, gets angry, says horribly mean things he doesn't really feel, he begins to drink, and eventually shuts his woman out. While the woman expects him to know and realize how she is feeling, what she has been going through and she expects him to understand without ever revealing herself to him! A real relationship killer -- lack of communication. Tracy Price-Thompson is an extremely talented author. Not only does she possess the ability to guide the reader into the emotions and turmoil¿s of the female heart, she captures and penetrates the inner thought of the male mind. What a rare and wonderful gift she has presented to the literary world. Tracy throws us a loop toward the end, but oh how satisfying the ending is! ¿Black Coffee¿ truly is smooth that requires neither sugar nor cream.
not the best i've read from tracy. she used the army in a very unique.
it was like reading a manual, it went on and on 4ever and dwelled to deep into the military rules and regulations. i forced myself to read 150pages, skipping a few, but couldn't get through it. U enjoyed knocking boots and black sangria a whole lot more then this one.
This book was not very appealing to me. It took me forever to finish it. It went on and on about stuff that I could really care less for. It was much to dry. I read books from this author and she realky could have done better.
this is a book that u will wanna read again right after u finish a up 2 beat funny book that tells a story of two people in love that has 2 deal wit issues that threatens 2 pull them apart a must read very good
Black Coffee is a realistic, fiesty, page turner. I'm impressed that this is her first novel.
This is the first time I read a book that tells the story of the military woman of color. Tracy takes the reader to a place that most people have never been and hope they never have to. Being an Air Force veteran myself, it felt so good to see our triumphs & struggles depicted in this book. Though I will never regret my military service; there is truly a story to be told and Tracy does so well!!!!!
This book keeps you turning pages from the beginning to the very end. The author possesses a writing style that is so captivating and entertaining. A definite 'must read' for all book clubs.
This is a book for men as well as women. Excellent reading from start to finish. Sandie is outspoken, and honest as well as funny! Keep up the good work Mrs. Price Thompson! We want more as soon as possible!!
Tracey is an awesome writer who I expect to go places in the near future. She has a gift of drawing you into her characters that leaves you wondering if they were truly someone you knew. The story of Sandi and ROM is so realistic -- Sandi's trials as a young enlisted black female who eventually becomes commissioned and ROM who is married but in an unhappy marriage who has a relationship with Sandi (which is taboo in the Army because he's married and she's an officer.) My experience as a military spouse helped too. GO TRACEY!!
Being a veteran of the Air Force and Army, Black Coffee reminded me of the times I had in the military, (I wish i had a sisterfriend like Sparkle). This book touched on the very touchy subject of fraternization between officer and enlisted personnel. The book will keep you going,laughing and feeling sad all at once. Get it folks, you won't regret it.
Being an Air Force veteran and reservist, I to remember the cruel and unfair treatment that military black women endured. Tracy takes the reader to the front lines and allows the reader to experience what we women went through. Tracy also takes it a step further and allows realistic issues/family hardships to be the icing on the cake, if you will!!! How much more can Sanderella endure? I tell you what, I would not want to be in her boots. Tracy, this book is incredible and I look forward to 'Chocolate Sangria'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tracy Price-Thompson is an extremely talented author who skillfully protray her characters in a 'make this a Movie' mode.Not only does she possess the ability to guide the reader into the emotions and turmoils of the female heart,she captures and penetrates the inner thought of the male mind.What a rare and wonderful gift Tracy has presented to the literary world.Black Coffee truly is smooth,it does not need sugar,it does not need cream.I can hardly wait for the next novel by this extraordinary creative author.
I fell out of my chair laughing at the characters in this book. That Sandie was so real and so straight-up I could have sworn she was in the room with me. I sure wish I had a man like Rom. Buy this book immediately. You will love it.
And Tracy Price-Thompson put me there in camouflage and combat boots. She hiked my feet sore then dropped me in the dead of night in a trench filled with rain water. She introduced me to characters I cared about and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen to Sanderella and Romulus, two soldiers ready to defy strict Army rules for their love. A great story by a bright new star in our literary heaven. Watch her shine. Watch her soar.