Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pre-Christmas Moderator Post

Sorry I'm a bit late again with my moderator post, but on the bright side, the world didn't end, so there's that.

I want to say congratulations to our own Ruth Madison and Annabelle Costa for the newest publication from Dev Love Press, The Boy Next Door.  I hope you will buy a copy in support of our authors.

Okay, on to the updates....

New Stories

Ink

On Saturday Afternoon

The Player


Ongoing Stories

Aurora
Part 25

Hollywood Rehab
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21: The Conclusion

In/Exhale
September 4, 2000 - Part 2

Tales of a Sick & Twisted Devotee
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Boy Next Door published by Dev Love Press, LLC.

Lee gave me permission to do a little advertisement here just to let you guys know that Annabelle Costa's The Boy Next Door has been actually published as a real book. Like, seriously.

Just as I suspected it would, it's getting great attention from devs and non-devs alike. These are awesome characters, whether you care that Jason uses a wheelchair or not.

It's been reviewed in The Romantic Times and endorsed by their reviewer. It was reviewed by Princess Bookie on her site and on Goodreads. And that's just the start! We've got a brief virtual tour happening the first week of 2013 too.


"Readers hearts will melt as love rolls in with this one-of-a-kind story that is both hilarious and romantic. Costa's voice is bold, refreshing and the narrative is delivered with such spunk, fans of chick-lit will squeal with delight. With characters this vivid and animated, you almost expect them to stroll off the page in this book your friends will be begging to borrow."
-Jaime A. Geraldi, The Romantic Times

Through middle school, high school, bad dates, and an ill-advised punk phase, Tasha has always been able to count on Jason. Since the day he moved in next door, he’s gone from the weird kid in a wheelchair to Tasha’s most trusted friend. But lives change and the friends are going in different directions. When Jason and Tasha rekindle their friendship, sparks fly. After years of being a wild soul, now the ex-lead of a band turned music teacher is just looking for a relationship to last.

When none other than Jason introduces her to a man who can give her what she wants, Tasha is on the verge of throwing passion and love away just so she can forget her troubled past and settle down. But Jason isn’t ready to give her up just yet.

For those who read this story when it was here on this blog, it would be so amazing if you could leave a review at Amazon. It has changed only a little, with professional proofreading and the addition of some really fun flow charts and graphics.

Speaking of which, Annabelle created this adorable flow chart that I thought was so hilarious. I encourage you to share it...

And if you want your own copy (I know I couldn't wait to order my own paperback copy!), here is all the buying information...

(The paperback and kindle versions should be linked on the same page, but some are and some aren't at this point!)


And any other Amazon sites there are world wide, it will be there!

Dev Love Press made the choice to let Kindle have the book exclusively for the first 90 days, so it will be coming out in other e-versions, such as Nook, Kobo, and iTunes in mid April.

Thank you so much for the chance to tell you about this book!

Love to everyone,
Ruth Madison

www.devlovepress.com

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Saturday Afternoon

On Saturday Afternoon
by Ruth Madison

This is a somewhat longer short story that I wrote back in college. Since then it has appeared in my short story collection, Dev Dreams and also in the collection Accessible Love Stories with other authors (I believe I'm the only one with a disabled male character in that collection, but I'd have to go back to check).

I'm working on more novels and longer works (including a series structured like a TV show), but in the meantime I hope you enjoy my shorter pieces! Come visit me at my website www.ruthmadison.com :)

(Because I have way too much fun creating mock up book covers!)


Em Matthews had a mother, a father, a roommate, and a boyfriend, but only one friend. His name was James. She met him at the hospital where she worked. Em volunteered doing odd jobs. Technically, she was an intern and there to get some contacts in the field she was studying. In practice, she swept a lot of floors.
She wasn't really sure that she wanted to go into physical therapy anyway. To her mother, going to college was just a distraction until Em got married. She thought this would be a good choice because Em would meet eligible men, but then her mother had found Kyle and that was that. James would not be what her mother considered an eligible man.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pieces: Table of Contents

Pieces: A story about a double above knee amputee in the post-WW2 era and his relationship with his house servant

Part 1

Part 2
 
Part 3 

Part 4

Part 5

Pieces

I overheard Miz Corliss on the phone saying about her son Bobby that he’d be coming home from Germany today but that he’d left some pieces of hisself behind.

My Mama always tell me don’t listen in to conversations that ain’t meant for me.  But I can’t help myself.  I always been quiet and Miz Corliss so loud you can hear her way down at the next town over.  Anyways, if Bobby be coming home today and I got to be helping out with him, it’s good to know earlier ‘stead of later.

I can tell Miz Corliss excited about her son coming home.  She pace around, poofing up her hair, and checking her face in the vanity mirror damn near every five minutes.  And she keep giving me stuff to do, like I done cleaned the piano five times today.  If I even stop and catch my breath for a minute, she say, “Rosie, you just sitting around?  Go change the linens, girl.”  Except those linens don’t need to be changed every hour, Miz Corliss.  I never say that though.  Mama taught me never to talk back, and I be a good girl.

When I bring the trash out to the curb, I take my sweet time, knowing the second I come back in, Miz Corliss will be having more work for me to do.  I see Charlie raking leaves in the garden and he give me that big ol’ smile that he always got for me.  His ebony skin crinkles like old leather.  “Busy day today?” he ask, looking at my face.

“Bobby Corliss, he coming home,” I explain.

“Poor little Rosie,” Charlie say, chucking a bit.  “They havin’ a parade for the war hero?”

I shrug.  “I heard he got he got hisself hurt.”

“Oh yeah?” Charlie raise up his eyebrows. 

Between you and me, Charlie ain’t such a big fan of Bobby Corliss.  I met Bobby a few times when he come home on leave and he seem nice enough to me, but Charlie, he don’t like him.  Charlie say Bobby Corliss think he own the whole world.  That because he so good looking and the Corliss family got money, although not so much money now that Mister Corliss dead and the depression got them hurting and all. 

“I can cheer you up, Rosie,” Charlie say.  “Let me cook you up a nice meal tonight.”

That there is another thing.  Charlie, he like me.  Not just that he think I’m nice and all, even though he does.  He like me the way a man like a woman and want to get with her.  I’m used to this by now.  I realized when I was but six years old, that I was prettier than most girls my age.  When I was fourteen, I got some big ol’ breasts and Mama say, “This one’s gonna be trouble.”  Excepting I wasn’t trouble because whenever boys came calling, I always said no.  Sometimes they kept asking, sometimes they called me names, not so nice ones, but I just kept on saying no.

Now Mama say I’s too picky, that soon I gonna be too old and I’ll have done missed my chance.  But I don’t care.  I ain’t going out with just anybody. 

“Busy this week,” I say, giving the trash a little kick.

“You always busy, Rosie,” Charlie say.

“Miz Corliss need my help with her Bobby,” I say, even though she’s said no such thing.

“Someday you’ll say yes, Rosie,” he promises me.

Excepting I know I won’t.  I don’t want to spend my life with Charlie or even one night.

When I get back in the house, Miz Corliss be in full out panic mode.  She usually got this perfect blond hair, not a strand out of place, but now it’s nearly come undone from her bun.  She’s holding a giant wood board that’s taller than her, and looking like she just don’t know what to do.  “Oh, Rosie, thank God!” she say when she see me.  “Put this outside.”

She thrust that board into my hand and I just look because I don’t know what to do with a big old board neither.  “Miz Corliss?” I say.  “Where…?”

“Over the steps,” she say as if I’m thick.

Like I said before, Mama taught me never to talk back.  So I take the big board and squeeze it out through the front door.  I have to tilt it to make it go, and it fits only just barely.  It’s heavy and I’m straining to keep it in my hands.  When Charlie catches sight, he runs over to help me.  Sometimes it’s good to have a man sweet on you.

“Over the steps,” I gasp.

We lay the board to cover all them steps to the front door.  Charlie take one end and I take the other and we get it straight as we can.  Charlie look at the board and he get this interested look on his face.  “Bobby Corliss must be hurt real bad,” he say.

I frown.  “Why you say that?”

“Because Miz Corliss done made him a ramp for a wheelchair.”

I look down and realize he’s right.  But that can’t be.  Because I just can’t imagine handsome Bobby Corliss in a wheelchair.

###

Charlie, he smarter than I give him credit for. 

In the next few hours, Miz Corliss mostly be directing me and Charlie to get all Bobby’s stuff down from his bedroom upstairs and making him a new bedroom in the sitting room.  She don’t explain why, but I’m guessing that Bobby really can’t go up the stairs. 

The hardest part is Bobby’s bed.  We move it in a bunch of pieces, but it’s still so heavy that my arms ache.  I nearly collapse when we get to the bottom of the stairs, and Charlie, he say, “You rest yourself, Rosie.  I’ll get down the rest.”

Miz Corliss won’t let me just sit around so I go about organizing Bobby’s new room.  He’s got hisself least ten trophies to put up on his dresser.  Bobby, he a big athlete in school.  And now he a big war hero.  I overheard Miz Corliss saying on the phone that he shot hisself a boatload of them Nazis. 

I adjust a photo of Bobby.  The black and white of the photo don’t do him justice, it don’t.  It don’t show how his blond hair gleams and his blue eyes twinkle, but it do show his powerful jaw and the broad shoulders.  I wonder if he still look the same.

Bobby got a big bookcase, filled with thick novels.  Bobby, he love to read.  I run my hands over the binding of each book, smiling at the familiar titles.  The books has got dusty.  Later, I gone dust them for Bobby, make sure his books look right nice for him.

Mama nearly raised Bobby Corliss, to hear her tell it.  She took care of him every day when he was just a little baby and up through high school, finally giving up the job to me when Bobby went away to war.  I got raised hearing stories about Bobby and all his achievements.  Mama took personal pride in him.  I also got to hear about all the girls.  To hear Mama tell it, Bobby had taken out just about every pretty girl in Mississippi.  “He always treated those little girls right though,” she told me.  “Never left them cursing his name.”

Since I been working for the Corliss family, I met Bobby a few times.  One of those times been when he come home for the Christmas holidays.  He wasn’t alone then.  He brought along Miss Cecelia, with her white-blond hair and pink rosy cheeks, and according to Miz Corliss was the prettiest girl in all of Mississippi.  Miz Corliss said Bobby done good when he asked Miss Cecelia to marry him, and she said yes because who wouldn’t want to marry a handsome war hero?  As for Bobby, he was getting the prettiest girl in Mississippi who was well off to boot.  Miz Corliss was ‘specially happy about that last part, I hear her telling her friend on the phone about all the money her Bobby was marrying into.

This was my first Christmas dinner and I knew before I served it that I overcooked that danged turkey.  Mama even kept saying to me beforehand, “Rosie, don’t you be cooking that turkey too long!”  I could see the unhappy look on Miz Corliss’s face as she chewed on the turkey breast.  But for the sake of company, she at least played like it wasn’t so bad.

Until Miss Cecelia had to go saying, “Elizabeth, your girl has overcooked the turkey something awful!”

Miz Corliss got this pinched look on her face, and before I knew what was what, I heard her yelling, “Rosie!  You get in here!”

I hurried in, wiping my hands on my apron.  “Yes’m?”

“How dare you insult us by serving us this dry turkey!” Miz Corliss barked at me. 

“I’m so sorry, ma’am.”

Miz Corliss, she looked me up and down and decided I wasn’t sorry enough.  “I’m going to take the cost of this turkey out of your wages.”

My heart, it done fell a million miles.  That turkey surely cost more than I made it in a month.  How would I explain this to Mama?

“You’ll do no such thing, Mother!” Bobby spoke up.  He took a big ol’ bite of turkey thigh.  “I think Rosie cooked this turkey just right.”

Bobby might have only been twenty years old, but with his daddy gone, he was the man of the house now.  And what he said was the law.  So I didn’t get charged for no overcooked turkey.  I was thanking my lucky stars that Bobby liked my cooking most of the night, but then before he run off back to Europe, he come see me in the kitchen one last time, looking tall and important in his uniform.  He said to me, “Goodbye, Rosie.  You learn how to cook a turkey like your mother next year.  Because that one was just terrible.”  And then he winked at me as I pressed a sopping wet plate into my chest.

When I told Mama what Bobby done for me, and she smiled and laughed.  “That Bobby Corliss will do just about anything for a pretty face.”

“But I ain’t a white girl, Mama,” I pointed out.

“Bobby don’t care nothing about that,” she said.

Bobby come home two other times since then, each time looking more handsome than the last, and I figured out Mama was right.  Bobby was always real nice to me, treated me just like a pretty white girl and not like his mother’s servant.

Miz Corliss keep checking her big ol’ grandfather clock, saying Bobby’ll be here any minute.  Another soldier is giving him a ride here from the airport.  She finally puts a chair by the window and plops down in it, staring at the driveway.  I keep on dusting and making like I’m busy, but truth is, I’m staring out the window too.

Half past four, an old truck pulls into the driveway and Miz Corliss, she stands up so fast her chair topples back.  I rush over to right it for her.

“Rosie,” she say to me.  “You come on out too.  Bobby may need some help.”

I follow Miz Corliss outside, craning to see Bobby’s face through the car window.  He’s sitting in the passenger seat and looking just as handsome as he always do.  But when his friend in uniform get out of the car, he just keep on sitting there.  I see the friend open the trunk and pull out a folded up wheelchair. 

That’s when Bobby’s door pops open and I see what parts of him got left back in Germany.  His legs.  Both of them.  All of them.

Miz Corliss, she gives this little gasp and clutches her chest like she’s gonna go and faint.  And I’m thinking to myself, “Miz Corliss, don’t you dare be fainting on me!”  But she stays up on her own two feet, thank the Lord.

Bobby’s pants legs are pinned under what’s left of his legs, which let me tell you, ain’t much.  Maybe six or eight inches on either side, if that.  He swings them out of the car, and grabs his friend ‘round the neck.  The friend lift him into that wheelchair, then Bobby right himself and he good to go.

Bobby, he wave his hand at us and he grinning like there ain’t nothing at all wrong with any of this.  Meantime, Miz Corliss’s eyes are popping out and she looks like she damn near gone cry.  He wheels over to us, his grin slipping just a smidge.  “Bobby!” Miz Corliss say, her voice breaking.  “I’m so happy you’re home.”

Bobby look up at Miz Corliss’s face.  He still looking real handsome, least from the waist up.  “Gee, you don’t look that happy, Mother.”

Miz Corliss seem like she can’t think of nothing to say, which is near a miracle if you ask me.  Anyhow, she nods in my direction.  “You remember Rosie, right?  She’s going to be helping you out from now on.  At your disposal any time you need her.”

Bobby turns his eyes on me.  Them eyes so blue, you can’t hardly believe it.  I ain’t never seen nothing as blue as Bobby Corliss’s eyes.  “That so, Rosie?”

“Yes, Mister Robert,” I say, bowing my head.

“You show some respect now, Rosie!” Miz Corliss snaps at me.  I thought I’d been doing that by bowing.  “You call my son Mister Corliss now.  Or else, sir.”

“Yes, sir, Mister Corliss,” I mumble.

“That’s better,” Miz Corliss say.  She feel better ‘bout herself now that she got some yelling out of her system.  “Now, Rosie, you take Mister Corliss’s bags and we’ll go inside.”

Miz Corliss, she march on into the house like she in a parade or something.  Bobby though hangs back with me.  He take one of the heaviest bags right out of my arms and put it in his lap.  “By the way,” he say to me, “you don’t have to call me Mister Corliss.  Bobby is fine.”

“Yes, sir, Mister Bobby,” I say.

“No,” he say.  “Not Mister Bobby.  Just Bobby.”

I don’t know what he’s playing at.  Miz Corliss will up and go crazy if she hear me calling her son by his first name.  And he know that.

“Don’t worry about my mother,” he say, winking at me.  “Please.  Just Bobby.”

I watch him as he pushes up the ramp Charlie and I done laid out for him earlier today.  He nearly loses the bag on his lap as he does it, but he gets up there without any mishap.  The front door’s still open and it’s a tight squeeze but he can make it through. 

“We rearranged everything,” Miz Corliss say, looking right proud as punch, even though me and Charlie did most of the work.  “Your new bedroom is in the den.”

“Uh huh,” Bobby say.  He casts a glance up the stairs and for just one little second, he get this look on his face.  Like he real sad.  But then he’s all smiles again one second later.  “It looks great, Mother.  I appreciate it.”

Except Miz Corliss, she didn’t plan this so good as she thought.  The way the furniture arranged, Bobby can’t get through the whole of the living room to get to his new bedroom.  Miz Corliss see him trying to make it between the sofa and the coffee table and she burst into tears.  She crying so hard, she fall onto the couch, her face in her hands.  “I’m so sorry,” she cry.  “I’m so sorry, Bobby.”

Bobby reach over and shove the coffee table aside so he can get to his mama.  He puts his arm around her.  “It’s okay, Mother, really,” he say.  “I’m okay.  I’m really okay.   I swear it.”

I don’t know what Bobby Corliss is playing at though.  He ain’t okay.  Boy’s got no legs.  And ‘less they growing back, he be in for a world of hurt.

Pieces, Part 2

I make everyone some coffee, and Miz Corliss, she finally stop crying.  We clear us a path to Bobby’s room and I get told to help him unpack, even though Bobby keep saying he don’t need no help.  “Really, Rosie,” he tell me as I near have to wrestle a suitcase away from him.  “I can unpack my own bags.”

“Your mama say to help you,” I say.  “And she my boss.  So I be helping you.”

“Well, I’m your boss too, right?”

Bobby raise up his eyebrows at me, but sister, I ain’t moving.  Miz Corliss gone yell at me if I don’t help her boy. 

“Fine,” Bobby say.  “Stay.  But I’m going to unpack myself.  You can keep me company.”

“Okay,” I say.  But I don’t dare sit down.  Just in case Miz Corliss come bursting in.

“How’s your mother?” Bobby ask me.

He got this fond tone in his voice when he ask about Mama.  I like that.  “She good,” I tell him.

“Did she get my letters?”

About every six months when Bobby was at war, we got ourselves a letter from a Mr. Robert Corliss.  Mama, she got so excited when she see the letters.  She’d cry out, “Bobby!  He all right!”  Now Mama don’t read so good, but I helped her and we read each letter start to end.  In each one, he asked about me too.  Just being polite, I know.

“Yes, she did, Mister Bobby.”

“Bobby,” he say firmly.

“Yes, sir.”  Oh Lord, how am I going to get away with calling him that?  Don’t he know he just making it harder for me?

I watch him as he pull out a few pair of his pants.  They all got the long legs, not cut off and pinned like his pants are now.  Trying to make myself useful, I say, “You want me to sew up all your pants legs for you?”

Bobby look down at the pants in his hands.  “No.  Uh, not… yet.”  Except I don’t know what he waiting for.  Legs ain’t gone grow back, like I said.

I sit on his bed, just waiting for him to finish packing.  My eyes go back to that there bookcase, and Bobby sees me looking.  He get this funny look on his face.  “You read most of those, didn’t you?” he ask.

I lower my eyes.  “I don’t know what you’s talkin’ about.”

I don’t look at him.  He might know our secret, but Mama say it’s nothing we could ever talk about.  If Miz Corliss find out, we be in big trouble.  Not Bobby, but Mama and me.  I need this job. 

Thank the Lord, Bobby don’t mention them books again.

After he got most of his clothes put away, Bobby tell me he got to use the bathroom.  The den has an attached bathroom, but I can see straight away that his big ol’ wheelchair ain’t gone fit through the door.  He gives in a try, one, two, three times.  He ain’t gone make it.  I could’ve told him that from the get-go.

“Damn,” Bobby say, wiping his hair from his face.  

“I fetch you a jug from the kitchen,” I say, relieved to finally be able to make myself useful.

“Rosie, wait…”

But I make it to the kitchen and rummage through the cabinets, looking for an old cup that Bobby can use as a pee-jug.  I find this chipped ceramic cup that Miz Corliss don’t ever use no more, and I bring it to Bobby.  He don’t look happy, but he pees in the pee-jug while I step out, and then I come back and go empty it in the toilet.

“We’re going to fix this,” Bobby say.  “I’m not having you help me every time I need to use the bathroom.”

“That’s my job,” I say.

“It ain’t your job,” Bobby say, and now he got his face all screwed up like he real upset.  “I don’t know what my mother told you, but I’m not helpless.  I’m gonna do everything myself, and no offense, Rosie, but I just don’t need you.”

“I understand, sir,” I say.

“Rosie,” Bobby start up, but then he just up and give up. 

Another place it turn out Bobby’s wheelchair just plum don’t fit is in the kitchen.  He don’t mind that so much, and I’m guessing he don’t spend much time in the kitchen, nohow.  He got to ask me to get him a glass of water, but he’d probably be asking for that anyways as the glasses is on the top cupboard.

As I’m cooking dinner for the Corliss family, I hears Bobby calling to me from the door of the kitchen.  “Rosie,” he say.  “I need you.”

I’ve got two pots going on the stove and I don’t want to leave them, but I can’t go saying no to Bobby, so I ask, “What you need?”

Bobby, his handsome face turn the color a Mama’s beets.  “I need to use the bathroom, Rosie.  You know, not for peeing.”

“Oh!”  I lower the heat on my pots and wipe my hands on my apron.  I don’t know what we’s gone do.  You can’t make a poop-jug.  I got to get Bobby on that toilet.

I follow him to his bedroom and he makes it as far as he can, to the edge of the bathroom.  I eye his body.  I reckon without his legs, he ain’t gone be so heavy as most grown men.  “I can try to lift you,” I say.

Bobby nods.  He adjust hisself in his chair and I come ‘round to face him.  He reaches out and grabs me ‘round the neck.  When he’s up in the air, I feel his right stump poking into me, then the left.  They seem to be flailing.  Like I ‘spected, he ain’t heavy at all.  Well, he ain’t like a feather, but I can lift him easy onto the toilet. 

“Thank you, darlin’,” Bobby say, when he on the toilet.  He grab onto the sink to keep his balance. 

He still got his pants on and I don’t know how he gone manage this.  “You need me to help you pull your pants down?”

“Of course not,” Bobby say.

I nod and leave the bathroom, shutting the door and waiting outside.  I hear Bobby grunting a bit, following by a loud crash.  I come rushing back in and find Bobby on the floor, flat on his belly, his pants only halfway down.  Oh, Lord.  Why don’t the boy listen to me when I offer to pull down his pants for him?

“I gone get Miz Corliss,” I say.

“No!” Bobby yells.  He trying to turn over, but it ain’t easy for him.  “I’m fine.  I’m really fine.  I promise.  Just help me up.”

Bobby, he finally get hisself flipped over, and he just lie there for a second, prop up on his elbows, breathing fast like he just done run a marathon.  He look up at me with those blue, blue eyes, and I just don't know what to do.  I know I best call Miz Corliss, but he won't be liking that.

“Maybe,” he say, “if you help me take my pants off first...”

I ain't in no position to argue.  Bobby, he undo the button on his pants and I get a hold of them and pull them off what left of his legs.  I gotta tell you, it's a shock to see Bobby's legs.  They just two withered little nubs, covered in thick scars and looking right angry and red.  Mama always taught me you don't ever stare, but it hard, I tell you.

Bobby don't say boo this time as he grab onto my shoulders and I pull him back up onto the toilet.  But he gets it done this time, and I wait outside the whole time to help him back in the wheelchair and to get his pants back on.  His voice get real low and quiet as he say, “Thank you, Rosie.”  

###

Usually I get on home after I serve dinner to Miz Corliss at six, but I know without being told that I be staying late tonight.  Bobby, at least, he his normal self again, laughing and joking around.  Makes me feel better.  I get worried when I see Bobby looking so sad.

I stay all through dinner and clear away the plates when they done.  When I take Bobby’s plate, he say to me, “Rosie, your meatloaf is even better than your mother’s.”

I look away, trying not to let on how much his praise make me happy.  Mama is one a the best cooks in town.  “You better never say that to Mama,” I warn him.

“I ain’t stupid,” he say, a big ol’ sloppy grin on his face.

“Rosie,” Miz Corliss say to me as I pick up the last of the dishes.  “What do you think about… staying over the night?  You can have the guest bedroom.”

Miz Corliss, she really scared about taking care of Bobby.  I know it cuz I once heard her tell Miz Jenkins down the block that her house is worth more since no coloreds never stayed here, but she still want me here.  “If I’d a known,” I say.  “I’d a brung my overnight bag, Miz Corliss.  But I don’t have any clothes or—”

“Can’t you just wear the same rags you’re wearing now?” Miz Corliss snap at me.  Her bright red painted lips are set in an angry little line.

“Mother, Rosie don’t need to spend the night,” Bobby say, looking cross.  “We’ll be fine.  Rosie, you go on home.”

I still ain’t sure who the boss of me is, so I just stand there, looking between the two of them, until Bobby say to me, “Git!”

Bobby though, he just bein’ nice.  He want me to stay as much as his mama do.  He don’t want to be handing no pee-jug to his mama to empty.  I don’t want him to have to do that neither, but it make me smile just to imagine the look on Miz Corliss’s face.

The sun already be going down when I get myself outside and start off my walk to the bus.  I don’t got a car and even if I did, I don’t know how to drive.  It take me damn near thirty minute to make the walk to the bus stop, but I ain’t got no choice if I need to have work.

“Rosie!  Hey, Rosie!”

That be Charlie, running to catch up with me.  He huffing and puffing, waving his hand at me from down the block, just in case I be blind.  When he catch up with me, he lean forward, breathing heavy.  He got a sheen of sweat on his hairline.  “I’s gone walk you to the bus stop, Rosie.”

“No need,” I say.

“I made a promise to your mama that I’d keep you safe,” Charlie say.  “You want I should break a promise to your mama?”

“Mama know I can take care a myself,” I say.

I turn on my heel and start walking, but Charlie just fall into step beside me.  He sure don’t listen.  But I guess it ain’t so bad having him with me.  As long as he don’t get any ideas that this mean I be sweet on him or nothing.

We get to the bus stop, and I turn to Charlie and say, “Thank you.” 

“You is welcome,” Charlie say.  He smile at me.  His teeth is a little yellow, but pretty straight.  He have a good smile, though not nearly as handsome as Bobby Corliss’s.  “How about letting me take you to dinner, Rosie Jackson?”

I drop my eyes.  “I just can’t, Charlie,” I say.  “You is nice and all, but… I got a lot of work to do for Miz Corliss.  She need a lot of help right now.”

Charlie get this angry look on his face.  “You mean taking care of her crippled son?”

I stick out my chin.  “Don’t call him that.  Bobby Corliss is a good man.”

Charlie shake his head.  “No, he ain’t.  I thought you was smarter’n that, Rosie.”

“He is,” I say again, louder this time. 

“Well, then,” Charlie say to me.  “Maybe next time, Mr. Bobby Corliss can walk you to the dang bus stop.”

Charlie turn on his heel and march off down the street, madder than a wet hen.  Bobby Corliss won’t never walk me to the bus stop.  A white man, even one as nice as Bobby, don’t be escorting a colored girl to the bus stop.  And anyways, Bobby can’t walk no more.  

To be continued...

Pieces, Part 3

It’s late when I get home, and I can tell Mama be worried about me, but she know Bobby get back today, so she’s ‘specting me late.  She come to greet me at the door, her close-cropped, tightly curled hair with more gray than I always remember.  She ain’t so old, but sometime she look it.  “You get inside, girl,” she say.  “You must be stone tired.”

“I’m okay,” I say, although when I get inside, I damn near collapse into a chair.  It feel so good to get off my feet.

“It ain’t safe for a young girl to be comin’ home so late,” Mama say in her scolding voice.

“Charlie, he walk me.”

When I mention Charlie, Mama’s whole face brighten up and some of her wrinkles disappear.  “I like that Charlie.  Why you don’t let him take you out?”

“Mama…”

“You nearly twenty, Rosie!”  Mama say.  “Don’t you want a man?  And to have chil’ren?”

“I do,” I say.  “But I don’t want Charlie!”

“Too stubborn for you own good,” Mama huff. 

We had this conversation many times before.  Mama want me to get a man something awful.  But that man ain’t gone be Charlie.  Anyways, I know it ain’t really Charlie that Mama worried about right now.  She be thinking ‘bout Bobby.  Charlie just something to distract her.

Finally, Mama sit down next to me.  She got this anxious look on her face.  “So… Bobby got home?”

I nod.

“And… he okay?”

I could keep it from her.  She’d never find out Bobby done lost his legs.  But I can’t lie to my Mama.  That ain’t how she raised me, so like or not, she gonna get the truth.  “He lost his legs,” I say to her.

Mama stare at me.  “Both of them?”

“Ayuh,” I say.  “Both, almost up to the hip.  He usin’ a wheelchair.”

Mama quiet for a second, then she start to cry, just like Miz Corliss did.  She put her face in her hands and her shoulders shake.  She love Bobby.  He never had a son, so he her little boy.

“Oh, Bobby,” she whisper, her voice shaking like a leaf on a tree in the fall.  “My poor boy…”

“He okay though,” I say.  “He still actin’ happy.  And Miss Cecelia gone come visit him this week, Miz Corliss say.”

“Miss Cecelia…” Mama get this sneer on her face.  “She ain’t right for him.  I raised him better than to marry the likes of her.”

“She sure pretty though.”

“Rosie, you is ten times prettier than her.”

Of course she’d say that—she’s my Mama.  And even if it were truth, Bobby Corliss would never fall in love with the likes of me.  It just don’t happen that way.  He gone marry Miss Cecelia, legs or not, and they gone be happy together.  Happily ever after.

###

Next morning, I get to the Corliss house bright and early.  Charlie working the backyard and he still mad at me.  I say, “Hi, Charlie!”  And he don’t give me that bright smile like usual.  He just keep on raking. 

Well, let him be mad.  I ain’t gone be bullied into going on no date with nobody.

When I get inside, I hear loud arguing coming from Bobby’s bedroom.  I remember Mama’s warning not to eavesdrop on Miz Corliss, but you have to be deaf not to hear this.  Miz Corliss saying, “We don’t have the money, Bobby.  That’s all there is to it.”

“How much could it cost to widen a door?” Bobby say, sounding right angry.  I get closer to the bedroom and can just barely see Bobby sitting in his wheelchair.  He wearing a different shirt today, a white undershirt I remember washing a week past.  His legs may be gone, but he still got good, strong muscles in his arms and in his chest.  I see he tucked his pants legs under his stumps, and they all bunched up.

“It doesn’t matter how much, because we just don’t have it,” Miz Corliss say.  “And anyway, you have Rosie to help you.”

“I don’t want Rosie helping me onto the toilet every day!” Bobby say.  He really sound mad.

“What’s so wrong with that?” Miz Corliss say.  “It’s her job to help you.”

Bobby’s next words come out real strained, like he talking through his teeth: “I don’t want Rosie helping me with that.”

The way he say it, it almost sound like he really respect me.  I grip my handbag, waiting to hear what his mama have to say to that.

“Don’t be silly, Bobby,” Miz Corliss say.  “She’s just a servant.  What’s the difference?”

There’s this long, long silence.  Finally, Bobby say real quiet, “Mother, I just want to be able to use my bathroom.”

The handbag fall right out of my hand and land on the floor loud enough to wake the dead.  Miz Corliss and Bobby look up and see me standing there.  “Sorry, ma’am,” I say to Miz Corliss.  Then to Bobby: “Mister Corliss.”

Bobby, he look a little embarrassed but he don’t say nothing.  Miz Corliss though, she look angry to see me standing there.  “Rosie!” she yell at me.  “You spying on us?”

“No,” I say quickly.  “But… I just… I mean, if you really want to fix that there door, Charlie could do it real cheap.”

Bobby’s eyes get real wide, but Miz Corliss say, “And you really think I’d trust a colored man to do construction on my house?  Absolutely not.”

“Mother,” Bobby say.  “If he could really fix it…”

“He could,” I say, nodding my head.  “That Charlie real good with tools.  He could do it lickity split.”

“Lickity split,” Bobby say, flashing me a big ol’ smile.  “That sounds good to me.”

Miz Corliss don’t look happy at all.  “Bobby, I really don’t think—”

“Ask him,” Bobby say, and I know by the tone of his voice that I got to do it.

I go on back outside and Charlie still raking the leaves.  He doing it slow, taking his time so Miz Corliss think it more work than it is.  I clear my throat real loud so as to get his attention but he don’t even look up.  Finally, I say, “Charlie!”

He lift his eyes and frown at me.  “What you want, Miss Rosie?”

“Miz Corliss got a job for you,” I say.  I hope he be happy I got him work and he stop being so angry at me.  “She pay you extra.”

“What’s the job?” he ask, squinting at me with his dark eyes, all suspicious.

 “She want you to make the doorway to Mister Bobby’s bathroom wider so he can get in with his wheelchair.”

Charlie leans his rake against a tree.  “You sayin’ Bobby Corliss can’t get into his own bathroom?”

I nod.

Charlie get this big grin on his face.  “So how he going?”

“Well, he be going in a jug,” I say.  Charlie look at me and he start laughing like I just said the damn near funniest thing he ever heard.  He smackin’ his knee and everything.  “Charlie Jones, it ain’t funny!”

Charlie wipe a tear from his eye.  “Rosie, you tell Mister Bobby Corliss that I ain’t fixing his doorway for a million dollars.  So he can go right on making in a jug.”

I know Charlie need the money.  Why he be turning down an easy job?  Just ‘cuz he don’t like Bobby?  I knew that boy had no sense. 

I just about turn ‘round and go back in the house, but then I think of the look on Bobby’s face when I told him Charlie’d fix the door.  I ain’t going back in there with bad news.  “Charlie,” I say.  “Please fix the doorway.  Don’t be a fool.”

Charlie get serious now.  He look me over and say, “All right, Rosie, I’ll fix Bobby’s door for him.  But you gotta go out to dinner with me tonight.”

He got me.  I can’t be saying no or else Bobby will have to keep on peeing in a jug.  He don’t deserve that.  “Fine,” I say.  “One dinner.  That be all.”

A big smile spread across Charlie’s black lips.  “We gone have a great time, Rosie.  You won’t be regretting this.”

I is too angry to say nothing back to him.  I march back in the house and find Bobby in the living room, a newspaper spread out over what left of his legs.  One of his pants legs has worked its way loose and is hanging down empty.  “He gone do it,” I say.

Bobby smile at me.  I have to tell you, Bobby’s smile puts ol’ Charlie’s to shame.  It’s like Bobby’s face was made for smiling.  “You’re the best, Rosie,” he say.  “Thank you.”

I don’t mention what I had to do to get the bathroom fixed up for him.  Truth is, I don’t want him to know.

###

Charlie go fetch his tools from his home and he manage to fix up the door real fast.  Miz Corliss don’t like it because it don’t look pretty since he removed part of the frame and all, but Bobby, he real happy.  “You did a great job, Charlie,” he say.

And Charlie just grunt and take the money.  I still don’t get why Charlie hate Bobby so much but he sure do.

Bobby still messing with his pants legs, trying to get them tucked under.  Trouble is, his legs too short and the pants, they too long.  Whenever he tuck them, they just bunch up or fall out.  I don’t get why Bobby don’t let me fix them up for him.  I offer again, but he just say, “No, Rosie, that’s okay.” 

“It won’t take me long,” I say.  “Let me do your pants for tomorrow.  Miss Cecelia coming tomorrow, ain’t she?”

Maybe I be imagining it, but Bobby’s face gets a little pale when I mention Miss Cecelia.  He look down at his legs and he say, “No, Rosie.  I’ll be fine.”

That afternoon, Bobby get hisself a visit in the form of Edward Dixon.  The Dixons and the Corlisses been old friends for a long time, and Miz Corliss always be getting visits from Miz Dixon.  Eddie Dixon’s one of Bobby’s oldest friends, and he been at the war too, although I overheard Miz Dixon saying they sent him up to Alaska to the Aleutian Islands, wherever that is.  He come back whole, anyways.  Eddie ain’t never was as handsome as Bobby, but he seem nice.  A little short, but always got a big smile and too many freckles.  Maybe that why they sent him to Alaska—thought he needed to go somewhere cold with all them freckles.

When I open the door and see Eddie standing there, I give him my best smile but I don’t say nothing but hello, because that wouldn’t be proper.  “Hi, Rosie!” Eddie say. 

“Hello, Mister Dixon,” I say. 

“You can call me Eddie, you hear?” he say.  Excepting he knows just as well as Bobby that I can’t.

Bobby be wheeling out of his bedroom and he raise his hand to greet his friend.  When all of him get in view, I expecting Eddie to get all upset like Miz Corliss, but Eddie, he don’t bat an eye.  He keep that smile on his face and he say, “Bobby, don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re missing a pair of legs.”

Bobby snort with laughter.  Then they hug, which is kind of sweet, if you ask me.  I hope Miss Cecelia will be so understanding. 

“Can I get you anything?” I ask them.

“No, Rosie,” Eddie say to me, and he looking at me like all the boys do.   “Don’t you bother yourself.  Bobby and I will be in his room.”

Eddie and Bobby go into his bedroom and shut the door behind them.  But I still be working in the living room, and the walls in this here house is paper thin, so I can hear just about everything they saying.  And you know me, I can’t help but listen.

“Woo-whee!” Eddie be saying.  “That Rosie, she’s something else, ain’t she?  Almost makes me wish I was colored.”

“Yeah,” Bobby say.  “I know what you mean.”

My face flush.  I heard white boys talking ‘bout me that way before, but not boys like Bobby and Eddie.

“I don’t know how you stand it,” Eddie say.  “Her going around in that cute little dress.”

“Hush up,” Bobby say.  “You know my mother would go crazy if she heard you talking that way.  Don’t you know any other girls who don’t work for us?”

Eddie make a huffing noise.  “It’s easy for you to say.  You got CeCe.”

“Yeah,” Bobby say, his voice real quiet.

“Has CeCe come by since you been home?”

“She’s coming tomorrow,” Bobby say. 

“You lucky dog,” Eddie say.  “You must be excited as hell.”

“I am…”

Eddie cough a few times.  “She knows about… what happened to you, don’t she?”

“Yes, she knows,” Bobby say.  I got to wonder how a girl like Cecelia took the news that the boy she was marrying had his legs blown off.  Wish I could have listened in on that there conversation.  “I just… you know how CeCe is, Eddie.  She likes everything just so.”

“You worried she ain’t gonna like you anymore?”

“No, I’m not.”  But I hear that quiver in Bobby’s voice and I think he very worried.  “It’s just been a while seen I’ve seen CeCe, that’s all.”

I remember what Mama said, about Cecelia being all wrong for Bobby.  I don’t know if Cecelia’s wrong for Bobby, but he’s right about her wanting things just so.  All’s I know is that if Cecelia go and break Bobby’s heart, it’d just about kill him.

To be continued....