WHEN WE DO?
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”.
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.
you saying I’m an abusive mother?”
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”
what you saying?”
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.
not going to answer me, Cliff?”
not my place to comment.”
you did! So tell me what you meant!”
just think you’re harsh. You could be more understanding.”
laughed, her laughter ridiculed his inexperience, and with a smirk of
superiority she asked, “And how many children do you have?”
he said, “So what does that mean, because I don’t have any I’m not qualified to
have an opinion?”
an intelligent one¾no!”
serious! You beat the boy for everything! It doesn’t matter whether he broke a
dish or the neighbor’s window…”
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
But you could of got his side of the story first!”
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!”
lived here long enough to notice that Paris covers his face at every sudden
movement you make. A ten year old boy shouldn’t…”
even start to lecture me! If you had a child…”
when we do?”
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.”
that how you’ll treat my child, London?”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org