“Dear God. Thank you for this food we’re about to receive, and thank you for the hands that prepared it. Let it be of nourishment to our bodies. And God? Let us be healed by love through dinner conversation, compassion, comprehension, an...
Thank you for this food we’re about to receive, and thank you for the hands that prepared it. Let it be of nourishment to our bodies. And God? Let us be healed by love through dinner conversation, compassion, comprehension, and understanding. For we know it was you who instructed us to love one another as you have loved us. For we know it is you who continues to keep us from all hurt, harm, and danger. I pray you continue to bless, love, and protect this family from this day forth into forever. Amen,” prayed Bix. “Amen,” repeated Donna and Charlie.
“Baby that blessing was a blessing,” Donna said to Bix. “Indeed,” Charlie concurred. “This lasagna is on point too Mama,” Charlie complimented. “Indeed,” Bix agreed. “Thanks guys,” Donna smiled. “I put my foot in it.” “I hope not like Suga Mama,” Charlie joked. Everyone at the table cracked up. Dinner seemed to be going well, but Charlie feared the worst was on its way. Donna felt the weight of the elephant in the room as well. She wanted to approach Charlie in a way that’d initiate a conversation rather than ignite a fire. Bix sensed the tension in the room too. He felt it was thick enough to be seared. If he was going to inherit this family he wanted to set himself apart as future Commander In Chief. As the silence in the room grew increasingly awkward, Bix decided to put the topic of conversation’s ball in his court.
“Little Willie,” he started. “How’s school man? You still goin’ hard in the paint?” “Sure am!” Charlie exclaimed, “I’ve been working hard on my lay ups down at the park. This old dude, Mr. Charles showed me how to get it right. It’s like this crazy 1,2 step move. I thought it was dumb at first, but it actually helped me get my rhythm down.” Donna suddenly felt butterflies in her stomach. She’d heard her father refer to the 1,2 step as his secret move. It was his power dribble to the basket no one could stop. No one had seen or heard from her dad in over five years. Was he the man who’d been teaching Charlie? Was he the reason Charlie had been skipping school? Did Charlie know about their family history?
“Charlie. Did you say Mr. Charles?” Donna asked. “Yes ma’am. He told me his name was Charles. I thought he was homeless at first, but I don’t think he is; he can’t be, he drives a—” The look on Donna’s face puzzled him. Why was she getting bent out of shape about this old man? “Mama what’s the matter? Did I say something wrong? I mean, I’m not lying. Mr. Charles really did help me with my lay ups at that park. I’ll be ready come next season’s try outs for sure,” Charlie attempted to say in comfort.
“Nothing’s wrong Charlie. I’m fine,” Donna insisted. “You sure Mama? You look a little white in the face,” Charlie persisted. Donna buried her feelings with her next bite of lasagna. “I’m fine son. I’m just worrying about you, that’s all. How you gonna be thinking about next season’s try outs when you can’t even try to attend a classroom? You ain’t playing ball solely off your good looks.” Charlie finished his food and put his fork down. He looked at Bix, then at Donna, and back to Bix again. “Well I did ask you how school was going. You need me to come down there and straighten things out?” Bix asked. Charlie shook his head. He proceeded to take a deep breath and began to spill his guts like tea that was too hot to handle.
“See, after gym class the other day Allen started getting on me about a lay up I missed, but he didn’t say nothing about the buzzer I made at the end of class. I was gonna let him go ‘til he started up about my daddy. Then I let him have it. I never punched nobody before so I got scared. David grabbed me up and we ran to the park. He left me to do his homework. I stayed to shoot hoops. Next day at school Allen’s boys tore up my locker. They broke in and ripped up everything; even had my book bag and stuff up and down the hallway. They tore up my mama’s picture too. That was the only one I had left of her.”
“The one in her signature color dress?” Donna interrupted. Charlie was confused. He had never shown that picture to anyone. Not even to Donna. “Yeah, how’d you know?” “Oh, uh,” Donna quickly cleared her throat. “I saw it in your room one time.” Charlie knew something wasn’t right. Why would she lie about a picture? Though it wasn’t like he had been hiding it before he took it to school; maybe she had seen it in his room. Charlie took a sip from his glass of water and kept his eyes on the adults sitting across from him. He knew something was about to happen, he just didn’t expect its severity. Donna looked really uncomfortable like she’d eaten some bad lasagna, and Bix looked like he was anticipating the Heimlich.
“Mama you sure you alright?” Charlie asked again. Donna’s face grew even paler. She was staring at Charlie with tears in her eyes as if she was looking at him for the first time. From the blue rings glistening around her irises, Charlie caught a feeling that was simultaneously strange and familiar. “Mama. What is it?” “Bix is she breathin’?” “Donna. Baby. Just go ahead. He told you what you needed to know, now tell this boy what he needs to know. We need some healing in this house, and we need it now. Tell him the truth Donna. Tell him right now baby. He needs to know,” Bix insisted.
Charlie stood up and backed away from the table. His voice was trembling, but in an elevated tone. “Tell me what, Mama? What. Is. He. Talking about?”