The Guardian

Her plumped, sagging body
bulged between the crevices
of the rust colored wooden rocker.

Her stubby legs swayed in
and out above the ground
as she rocked slowly back and forth
singing tunelessly to the melody of
‘Blessed assurance Jesus is mine!’

Her beady eyes darted from side to side
as she pierced stolen glances
at the chubby young girl
mopping the murky car grease
from the mosaic tiled carport.

“For God’s sake do it right chile!” she blurted,
before continuing to a more tuneless melody
‘Oh what a foretaste of glory devine!’
‘Heir of salvation…’

She stopped mid-sentenced
as Gus unlatched the wrought iron gates.
A dog in tow with the ferocity of a wild beast
came barking and racing towards us.
“Pilot! Sit!” she commanded.
The dog lapped its tail
and panted feverishly toward her.

“Ah Gus, ‘ow you do?” she greeted.
“Don’t mind Pilot,” she said.
The dog strolled past us
and sprawled on the floor next to her.

“And who dis one?” she gestured,
her beady eyes staring me up and down.
“Wha dis one name, now?” she continued,
addressing neither of us in particular.
“Anne,” I answered.

She beckoned to me
“Come, come, closer let mi tek a look.”
I moved closer to her.
The stench of coffee
and her warm breath greeted me mid faced.
Her pudgy nose dominated her pink oval face,
and it pulsated with every word she uttered.
“An ‘ow old you be?”
“Twelve,” I answered.

She cupped my chin and
twirled my head side to side
looking for some distinct feature of the Riley family.
I didn’t inherit that copper-tone complexion
or that rounded girly figure like most of the Riley girls,
but somewhere below my neck and upper chest
I’m stamped with that pigmented brown spot
that Gus and all my other siblings seem to possess.

“Gus, yu sure dis one yours?” she asked,
as she’s raking her fingers through my hair –
“Ooh! Yu ‘air dry sah!”

“Come, come! Pass mi di Castor Oil let mi grease it.”
She pointed towards an open door to her left
to a chest of drawers in a bedroom
housing two adjoining double beds, a mahogany dresser
and a reading desk tucked in the far right corner.

“And use some a dat Vaseline
and rub dem dry foot,” she scolded.

I reached for the Castor Oil and Vaseline
from among tubs of Ponds Vanishing Cream,
Jergens Lotion, Bay Rum and Vicks Vapor Rub,
all neatly stacked on top the chest of drawers.

I plastered Vaseline over my legs
and marched towards her
with the greasy, dark honey colored mixture.

“Is your motha live ‘cross Tappers Lane?”
she asked me, but stared directly at Gus.
“Uh Huh,” Gus answered.

“Yu can leave ‘ar wid me, Gus,
she can ‘elp ‘round the ‘ouse and keep me company.”

I bumped myself into the door startling the dog as I did,
trying to get Gus’ attention to contest that ridiculous idea.
But he tended to her like a child
about to be reprimanded.

Nana motioned me to sit
on the floor in front of her.
My shoulders cupped between her knees.
She plastered the potent honey mixture
onto my scalp and raked my hair with the comb
she pulled from her house dress pocket.

“Yu wid me a mont’
an yu ‘ave nuh more nappy ‘ead,” she muttered.

Gus never disagreed nor agreed
to any of her sly remarks
only accepted her offer of taking me in.
“Yeah, Nana, she can come stay wid yu,” he said.

After spontaneously bartering his daughter off
he looked quite contented.

Gus chatted with Nana for a while
of which tentative plans for my delivery and belongings
were made for the next day.

Nana, engaged in conversation with Gus,
combing, braiding, saturating my scalp with Castor Oil
still managed to chastise my hair
for being “nappy” with every braid she plaited.

My afro has now transformed into a
new hairdo of four uneven single plaited braids.
A sure comedic stance on return to my neighborhood.
Gus glanced at me for a moment
and a quick smirk disappeared from his face.

He announced our departure to Nana
and on our way out he turned to me,
“That’s yu sister, Becky,” he said,
pointing to the chubby girl mopping the carport.

“See yu tomorrow, aw’right, Becks,” Gus blurted to Becky.
I waved, “Hi” to Becky.
She waved and smiled.

Gus latched the gates behind us
a loud “clang!” resonated from the impact –
Pilot charged at us barking from behind the gates
his front paws piercing against the mesh
Nana hurried after him clapping and scolding for quiet .

Gus placed his arm around my shoulders.
We walked in silence most of the way
He assured me that living with Nana
will mold me into a “fine young lady.”
I heard Pilot’s bark fading with each step I made.
A feeling of mute anticipation is my being.

An eventful summer holidays
before sixth grade is about to unfold.

I have a new sister, named Becky.
Pilot, the four legged protector
My new hair pomade, a mixture of
raw eggs and molasses
And a plumped, pudgy nosed woman
called Nana, my new guardian.