Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: R.I.P Curtis
Stop playin'! Wet my hair and see what I do!" I yelled. Jamal was supposed to be washing his mom's car but he kept pointing that damn water hose in my direction, trying to mess up my jump.
"Aww, shut up, Angel! You ain't goin' do shit!" Jamal said, pointing the water at me again.
"MOM!" I yelled across the street. "Tell Jamal to leave me alone 'fore I hurt 'im!"
"Jamal, don't make me come down off these steps," my mom said with a smile on her face. "You can mess with anybody you want, but when it come to my kids, I'll beat ya ass."
"I ain't doin' nothin', Ms. Carmina," Jamal lied. "Ya daughter just mad 'cause she can't jump. She tryna find somebody to blame."
"Oh, please! I can jump!" I shouted. "You keep squirtin' me with that water and..." Just then Jamal pointed the hose at me again and water got in my mouth. That was it. I spit the water out in disgust and ran toward Jamal. He dropped the hose and took off. When I caught up to him halfway down the block, I slapped the shit out of him.
"Ahh shit! You heavy-handed!"
"Ha! Ha!" I laughed as I turned to walk back up the street. "Now, spray me with that water again!" I threatened.
The next thing I knew, Jamal had come up behind me and tried to put me in a chicken wing. I went wild on him, making it hard for him to restrain me. All the while he was getting his feels. But it was cool because I liked Jamal. He was cute, so he got a pass.
It was a typical summer evening. The sun had just gone down so it wasn't too hot. I was outside playing double Dutch with my friends, Shannon, Kim, Kiana, and Marie. My little sister Naja was riding her bike up and down the sidewalk. My mom was sitting on the stoop, braiding my baby brother Kindle's hair as he sat in her lap. Some guys had stapled a crate to the light pole, and they were using the corner as a basketball court. The little kids two doors down were playing red light, green light. Everybody was out.
I ran back up the street to get my jump, and my mom wasn't on the stoop no more. My baby brother was in his playpen on the porch, and my mom was in the rope.
"I'm comin' in, Mom," I said as I positioned myself to jump in the rope, counting to three in my head.
"No. I'm takin' ya jump," my mom said. "They was goin' gyp you."
With that said, I didn't jump in. I stood on the side and waited for my mom to finish. I needed her to get far so I wouldn't have to get the ends. I hoped she beat Kim and Marie, especially since they tried to be slick and gyp me. My mom missed on her walksies.
"Safe!" I said with attitude, and I did the cabbage patch in Marie's face as she went to get the ends.
"You lucky ya mom can jump, 'cause you wouldn't have beat me," Marie said.
"Well, it don't matter, 'cause my mom got my back."
"That's right," my mom said as she started to walk back over to the stoop. "Y'all goin' try to skip my daughter's jump and make her get the ends."
My friends chuckled at my mom, as they always did when she acted what they called young. To me it was just my mom being my mom, but to them she was the cool mom. Marie and Shannon started to turn the rope. We was playing Challenge and the first person in gets to choose what moves everybody has to do, so I wasted no time getting in. I was jumping, doing all kinds of moves, showing off. I could feel Jamal's eyes on me while he sprayed down his mom's car. Ever so often I peeped over at him. He would blush and then act like he was going to turn that damn hose on me again.
My older brother Curtis's black convertible Mustang came speeding around the corner. Right behind him was another car, and from that car gunshots were being fired. The loud pops made everybody scatter. I remember running on the pavement and dropping to the ground with my hands over my head. After like a hundred gunshots and a loud crash, it was all over. My brother's car was smashed up against two parked cars, and the car that had been chasing him had swerved around his and disappeared off the block.
"CURTIS!" my mom's voice pierced my ears.
My mom ran over to my brother's car. In a panic, she tugged on the driver's door. When she finally got it open, my brother's body fell out into the street. My mom dropped to her knees and cried out for help. I was still on the ground looking up at it all, and it didn't seem real to me. Naja was walking her bike over to my mom with tears streaming down her face and Kindle was standing in his playpen throwing a tantrum. The neighbors began to slowly come back out of their homes and off their porches from hiding. Soon there was a circle of people surrounding my mom and brother. His blood was being washed down the street by the running water from the hose Jamal had abandoned. I couldn't seem to get up off the ground. I was terrified.
The police and paramedics swarmed the block within minutes. They taped up the scene and put my brother in a body bag. My brother's best friend, Antione, who had been in the passenger seat, was being put onto a stretcher. He hadn't been shot, but he couldn't move his legs. The paramedics said they were broken.
Just as they were putting Antione in the back of the ambulance, my mom ran over to him and started screaming, "Antione, what happened?! What went wrong?!"
Antione didn't respond, but he had a look on his face I would never forget, him and my mom both. It was a look of sorrow indeed, but, sorrow and so much more.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Angel Carmina Washington. I'm fifteen years old in the ninth grade. I was born to a young and naïve Carmina Washington and a deadbeat alcoholic Andre Burke back in '91. I currently live in Brooklyn, New York, with my mom, her boyfriend Marvin, my little sister Naja, and my little brother Kindle. My older brother, Curtis, was killed two years ago, which is when the saga began. My mom took my brother's death hard. I mean, he was her firstborn and not only that, Curtis treated her like a queen. He cherished my mom and did everything in his power to make her happy.
My mom had been through a lot, especially with men. Curtis's dad left her when she was pregnant. Me and Naja's dad drank too much and abused her. And Kindle's dad turned out to be married and threatened my mom that he would take Kindle from her in a custody battle if she ever brought drama to his home. My mom never called him again after that. She really thought he would try to take a child he was not supposed to have in the first place. She didn't know any better. But through all the men and the bullshit they put her through, my mom always had Curtis right there by her side, making her feel special and giving her the love she desperately wanted. Curtis knew my mom was unhappy. He knew she had bad luck with men. So he was determined to step up to the plate and be the man of our house. He wanted so bad to make my mom's life easier. He wanted to take away her pain.
I remember days he would come in the house with flowers or perfume for my mom just to cheer her up. She was always crying or sad. It was always something about her owing people money, bills piling up, and her life not being fair. My brother couldn't stand to see her stressed, especially over money or men. And even though he was young, he felt it was his duty to take care of us as the man of the house. He started working odd jobs like delivering papers or bagging groceries at the supermarket, and every dime he got he gave it to my mom for bills or food. He was constantly out trying to make money, especially after my mom's only friend died and her son, Antione, moved in with us. My mom loved Antione like a son, but I often heard her tell Curtis that he was one more mouth to feed that she couldn't afford. My brother told her that things would be okay. None of us knew what he had up his sleeve. But we all trusted in him. He had managed to keep our household in order since he was like twelve, so we had no reasons not to.
Then when he was like sixteen, Curtis found the way to make good on his word and take care of us. He started DJing parties in the neighborhood. He was good at it, and the word got out about Cutty, his DJ name. Then he had got a job at a club. He was doing so well. He started having a lot of money. My mom started smiling more and stressing less. Her bills and debts were being paid. We all noticed a change in her. She was happier and that made my brother hustle more. He loved making my mom happy and seeing us okay. Eventually he got into making beats. The summer he turned eighteen he got offered twenty-five thousand dollars for one beat he had made. I remember he came in the house yelling. He had told us the news and we all danced in the living room. My mom was smiling from ear to ear. She was so happy she started crying. My brother told her she could tell her boss she only wanted to work part time. And then he had promised that once he got signed to be an in-house producer she would be able to quit altogether. That was his dream -- to make beats exclusively for a major record label.
The good times were at an all-time high at our house. My mom had her days where she would be sitting at the dining table crying. But for the most part she was happy. Then my mom met a guy. She started spending a lot of time with him. She told us she had fallen in love with him. Then the next thing we knew she was pregnant. She was so excited and so were we. We planned a surprise baby shower for her and everything. It was nice. The only thing was her boyfriend didn't show up. My mom was upset. She called him and he didn't answer. It was like he had disappeared. She had my brother Kindle two weeks after the shower and her boyfriend still was nowhere to be found. We felt bad for my mom because she really thought that she had finally found the one. She got home with Kindle and she was depressed. She cried a lot. Then she started spending a lot of money. I'm not sure on what, but my brother used to plead with her to stop spending so much money. One day my mom decided to look her boyfriend up in the phone book since he had not been answering the number he had given her. Surely he was listed. She called him. I was sitting right there when she did it. I was watching TV, but I had one ear to her conversation. That was the day he told her not to ever call him again. He told her he was married with a family and that if she ever called him again he would take Kindle from her. She damn near lost it when she hung up the phone. She cried for days on end.
I took care of Kindle most of the time after that. Me and Naja. My mom just couldn't do it. She was too upset. And Curtis tried everything to make her feel better. He gave my mom money and gifts. He took us out to eat all the time so that my mom wouldn't have to cook. He was doing the best he could. Then after about eight months, he told my mom that things were about to get better. He got up one day, three days before his twentieth birthday, and he got dressed. Him and Antione got fresh. They had to go sell a beat Curtis had made and then they had a meeting with a record label exec. Curtis told my mom that if everything went the way he planned at the meeting she would never have to work again. My mom cried when he left, and she told him that he was the best son a mother could have. She told him that she wished she could have been a better mom to him. He told her that she did what she could and he appreciated her for that. He kissed her on the cheek, and then he told us to wish him luck. We were all happy for him. Me and Naja walked him outside and we stood in the doorway and watched him get in his Mustang with Antione and pull off. We couldn't wait for him to get back home that day and tell us the good news. Me and Naja were dancing around the house talking about our brother was about to be rich and famous.
"Curt about to blow up!" Naja said, squatting down with her hand over her mouth, copying a phrase and movement from Martin Lawrence.
We both laughed. My mom eventually joined in with our silliness, and the three of us were parading around the house celebrating. Little did we know Curtis would never get his chance.
Copyright © 2007 by Meosha Coleman