1022 N. Wolfe. Three stories of red brick and slate grey mortar rose up, in a row, and cast unruly shadows over the salt and pepper asphalt of the street. A dazzling midday sun beamed down on the rows of homes lined up down Wolfe. Cars gleamed in the sun casting blinding reflections into the eyes of the children playing on the street.
One little girl in a lime green dress wears ten gold bangles that glitter up the lengths of her arms. They jingle in the wind as she rides her scooter up and down the block. As she turns to ride back towards her home a figure steps out from behind the wrought iron door. An uncle, just another tenant in the perpetually growing household, steps down and pats her on the head and tells her, “Your mother is looking for you. She wants you in her room.” The balding uncle pushes her toward the door before walking down the street.
As the little girl enters the house, she discards her scooter off to the side in the living room and wanders down the hall toward the dining room and the stairs. As big as the house seemed from the sheer mass of people living inside, the actual living space wasn’t all too big. One had to turn sideways and maneuver to get around when there were more than four people in any one room.
Trying to avoid the shrewd comments of those who lived with her, the girl ducked down as she neared the steps and crawled upstairs to the second floor. The second floor had the bathroom, the only one in the house, and at the moment someone was occupying the shower with the door opened just a crack to let the steam out of the windowless room.
Continuing up to the third floor, the girl now walked upright as she was free and clear on the third floor where her room sat across the hall from her mother’s. “Ma!” The little girl called out as she walked into the room. Clothes were strewn across the bed in mountainous piles. “Do you want this? Or any of these?” Her mother said motioning to a pile of clothes on the edge of the bed and the dress she had hanging on her hand.
“You can throw that away.” The little girl pointed at the dress in her hands and proceeded to look over the clothes on the bed. “I want all of these except for these.” She separated three pieces from the pile and held them up; a pair of red corduroys, a lace trimmed blouse with a small hole in the neck, and an old floral dress that had seen a few splashes of bleach. “Okay. Put them on the pile there. And then go downstairs and tell your aunt to take out dinner. I want the roast and the potatoes on the table and put the string beans in a pot to boil. Okay?” She asked the girl as she continued to dig things out of the closet.
“Got it, ma.” The little girl crept back down the stairs. She was dreading having to go into the dining room. It was always most populated in the mid afternoon hours. Back on the first floor, the girl put her head down and walked through the dining room ignoring the howling laughter of the older folks.
“Hey! Where you goin’?” A friend of a friend of a cousin grabbed at her, but she dodged his hands. “Kitchen.” She said as she disappeared into the kitchen. Her aunt was out back with her kids and the girl’s dog. She went out and saw her cousins pulling at the dog’s tail forcing helpless whimpers out of his mouth.
“Stop!” She ran up and tackled the boy cousin who was lifting up the dog’s hind legs by holding up his tail. The boy fell into a bush and cried out. “What the hell you doin’ now, little girl!” “He was hurting my dog. I told him to stop yesterday.” “That don’t mean hit him!” “I didn’t hit him. I ran into him. It’s different.” “This hand gonna be different on your ass.” The little girl pushed her aunt away. “My mommy said can’t none of y’all even think to touch me!” She turned to go back in the house, but yelled over her shoulder, “And she said take out the roast and potatoes and put the string beans in the stove.”
She kept walking as her aunt grumbled something under her breath. Slinking back through the dining room, she tried to get by without being seen. Though impossible, she thought that if she could be quiet enough and quick enough she’d be like The Flash and no one would see her. Of course she was wrong, but the thought helped. She kept her head down and zoomed through the room and back to the living room.
One of her smaller cousins was watching tv. Outside the iron door sat two more people, friends of the family. She knocked on the door and asked them to move. Outside, she closed her eyes and raced up and down the street at top speed hoping the wind would carry her away.