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WHEN WE DO?


By J. Pharoah Doss

Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

London Ingram spanked her only child, Paris, for every infraction after cuteness turned terrible after the age of two. It never failed until London’s spanking hand stung more than her son’s brown bottom. So she restored to alternative uses for wooden spoons, belts, and extension cords. There was no intent to abuse, no malice in any strike, as a matter of fact, after each session, she always consoled her teary eyed, caterpillar eye-browed, little man with a hug, forehead kiss, and repeated the words of her single mother, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”

At nine years old Paris stood five feet, ten inches, and his immunity to extension cord lashings increased with each increment he surpassed his mother’s meager five foot frame¾along with his disobedience. London blamed those damn project kids, at that damn public school, and the absence of his damn father. Paris’s knack, or inability to avoid, trouble on the school bus, in the classroom, and with the neighborhood kids eventually eroded London’s patience. So Paris was unknowingly enrolled into the single black mother’s rite of passage for boys. This ceremony normally commenced with the legendary “next week slapping” and concluded with the painful “knock the black off blow”.

***

Clifford Franks, London’s boyfriend of three years, proposed and moved in with his older fiancée and future stepson. One day after a month of living engaged he witnessed London bloody Paris’s nose for swearing at a teacher, and London overheard him call her a brutal.

“Are you saying I’m an abusive mother?”

Clifford grew up in a small apartment with three older siblings and two older cousins¾all black women! He knew when one was about to¾as they say¾go off! “I didn’t say that, London”

“So what you saying?”

He looked away. Why should he say anything? No one said anything in the building he grew up in. No one said anything about Tamkia Ford’s black eye’s or wonder how many times an eleven year old slipped in the shower or ran into a door. No one said anything about the reappearing welts on Deon Butler’s limbs, no one said anything about those that got outnumbered, beat up, and left on the curb humiliated, because they were locked out of the apartment and forced to fight, and no one said anything about the hallway fist fights between his mother and one of his fast reputation gaining older sisters.

“You’re not going to answer me, Cliff?”

“It’s not my place to comment.”

“But you did! So tell me what you meant!”

“I just think you’re harsh. You could be more understanding.”

London laughed, her laughter ridiculed his inexperience, and with a smirk of superiority she asked, “And how many children do you have?”

“None.” he said, “So what does that mean, because I don’t have any I’m not qualified to have an opinion?”

“For an intelligent one¾no!”

“I’m serious! You beat the boy for everything! It doesn’t matter whether he broke a dish or the neighbor’s window…”

“I told him not to hit that baseball out back. Shoot! I had to pay for that woman’s window. So you think I should of sent him to his room for cussing out a teacher?”

“No! But you could of got his side of the story first!”

London reflected. Was he right? Did she respond to the school letter without…it didn’t matter, “Oh, please! This isn’t the first time Paris’s mouth got him in trouble! You haven’t lived here that long! You best remember that before you start judging the way I parent!”

“I’ve lived here long enough to notice that Paris covers his face at every sudden movement you make. A ten year old boy shouldn’t…”

“Don’t even start to lecture me! If you had a child…”

“And when we do?”

London was stunned. Her heartbeat accelerated. Clifford never mentioned children. She thought he didn’t want any. All he every talked about was going back to college to complete his degree and start his own business. She felt special¾chosen. She smiled, “And when we do, Cliff.”

“Is that how you’ll treat my child, London?”

The question silenced her. She remembered one time the school called. In one of her disciplinary tantrums she left bruises on Paris. Paris lied to the school administrators and said the bruises came from playing street football to protect her. She looked away from her fiancé.

Clifford asked again, “Is that how you’ll treat my child, London?”

Jason Pharoah Doss is a writer and poet based in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. He can be reached at jasondoss_2@msn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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