Here I Am excerpt

"Here I am," Dad says as he opens the back door. "Can you imagine! In 1954 a black man can be refused a place to sleep. Get me a clean towel to wipe my face." His long face and nose are strewn with ashes. His broad shoulders fill up the whole doorway. He coughs and says, "I put coal into the furnace while I was downstairs."

I find a clean towel and give it to Dad who has already parked his work shoes and jacket outside the back door.

"Abe was afraid to sleep in jail alone," Dad says. "Despite the cold, he was going to sleep in the truck. That's why I stayed with him." Dad wipes off the ashes as if they are dirty snow flakes and says, "I'll go wash up then tell you all about it."

Bubie wails like a fire engine, "My son in jail."

I run to get Dad's slippers and a clean shirt from the closet and bring them to the bathroom. He pulls off his dirty shirt. In his thermal undershirt, he lathers his thick hands from the can of Boraxo and scrubs up to his elbows. He rinses several times, one large hand over the other.

"Did they keep the door open in the cell?" I ask. "What did you sleep on?"

"A cot. And they kept the door open," Dad swirls shaving cream with a brush onto his scruffy face. Under heavy eyelids, Dad's brown eyes scavenge for the razor.

I land in the kitchen in time for Bubie to say, "Pants. Kinder don't wear pants. No one will marry you." She smoothes her beige dress over her stockings.

I want to say that I'm a tomboy. I play sports. If a guy isn't going to marry me because I wear pants, I don't want him.

<< Back to excerpts