The Discovery

This was not going to be a good day. The sky was cloudy, and the ground was still wet from the rain that poured down over Columbus all last night. I was walking hard and fast in my black army boots towards Jimmy’s cab company. I was not supposed to be going over there, and if Sheila knew I was going there, or even knew where there was, I would get an ass whipping that would cause me to not be able to sit down for a week. Sheila didn’t care how old her girls were or how big they were, if an ass whipping was called for, an ass whipping you got! I often wondered if this would still apply when we were grown. I didn’t dwell on it long though because I knew deep down that, yes, Sheila would still whup our butts, grown or not.

I told the nurse at school that I wasn’t feeling well and got excused to leave early. I wanted to get to Mr. Jimmy as soon as possible so I could get home on time as usual per Sheila’s house rules. I crushed a pop can with my boot and then kicked it hard out of my way. It flew into the street and was immediately ran over by a speeding car. The driver yelled out an obscenity at me and I threw up my right middle finger towards the back of the car in response, not even looking back to see if the driver was turning around to come after me. My mind was set on one thing only. To get to Mr. Jimmy to ask him one question. Why?

I wasn’t sick. I just wanted to leave school early because I hadn’t studied for the English test and the best way to get out of it and still be able to make it up later was to be excused from class. I was prepared to moan and groan, while holding my stomach as if I had really bad cramps when I entered the house to throw Sheila off the scent of my deceit. But no need because Mom wasn’t home. Good! I ran up the stairs towards my bedroom.

As I passed Mr. Jimmy’s bedroom door, I paused, cocking my head from side to side, looking at the door. I wondered if he had remembered to lock the door. I often tested the doorknob, and it was always locked. I didn’t consider myself to be a snoop, but I was curious about Mr. Jimmy’s background. Whenever I would ask him questions about his past life, he would find some way to turn the conversation around about my life. He was a mystery to be solved.  I looked right and left, as if someone else was in the house watching me, then reached out and put my right hand on the doorknob. I turned the handle and it opened! WHOA! He forgot to lock it! I couldn’t believe my luck. 

I quickly rushed into the bedroom, shutting the door behind me. I stood there, leaning against the door for a few seconds, taking in the room. The bed was made with a gray blanket. A pillow with a white pillowcase was at the head of the bed. The room was neat, clothes in a laundry basket, no dust on the dresser and nightstand. The large green glass ashtray that was on the nightstand had several cigar butts in it. That was the one thing that Mr. Jimmy had put his foot down about with Sheila. He was not going to stop smoking his cigars. And he wasn’t gonna go outside to smoke them either in the “Damn cold or hot ass heat” so Sheila, who didn’t know he “Had it in him,” let him have that one privilege, as long as he kept his door closed and put a towel up against the bottom of his door to keep the smell from getting into the hallways.

The room smelled of those cigars. Sara walked over to the dresser and opened the first drawer. Silk underwear and undershirts in black and white colors. Silk socks in black, brown, and tan colors. She closed it and opened drawer number two. Folded shirts of different colors and styles. Third drawer folded shorts and pants of different colors and fabrics. Fourth and last drawer a white shoebox, ties, a black watch case, a black bible and other odds and ends. I pulled the shoebox out and placed it on top of the dresser. Inside I found some legal forms, receipts from Sheila for rent and other bills. Nothing interesting here. 

I put the shoebox back and pulled out the bible. I didn’t know Mr. Jimmy was religious. No crosses on the walls or pictures of a white Jesus. He never said anything remotely close to believing in a God. Some people said things like “Thank God,” or “Help me Jesus,” things like that that let you know they at least thought there was a God. Not Mr. Jimmy. In fact, I remembered one time I said “Lord, help me” about a test and Mr. Jimmy had responded with “Help yourself girl, he might not answer.”

I put the bible on top of the dresser and opened it. This bible had pictures in color of different biblical characters depicting the stories. On the first page was a handwritten note that read ‘To Jimmy. May you find your peace, comfort, and forgiveness that God wants you to have in life. Your sister in Christ.’ I wondered who the sister was that gave him the bible. I flipped through the pages, looking closely at the illustrations.

Noah on the Ark with two of each animal. Moses looked down on his people in anger, holding the Ten Commandments. David fighting Goliath. King Solomon surrounded by his riches. All white men. Sheila didn’t take us to church. She said it was just an extension of slavery of the Black race. Another way to emasculate the Black male, “Keep us bowing to master” was the way she put it.

As I flipped the page from John the Baptist baptizing Jesus a black and white picture appeared. It was a picture of a younger Mr. Jimmy; he looked about in his twenties. He was standing next to a pretty brown skinned woman who was smiling. He had his right arm around her shoulder pulling her close to his body. In front of them was a girl, maybe their daughter, and Mr. Jimmy had his left hand on her shoulder. She was smiling too. A big, wide toothed grin. Large dimples on each cheek. There was something familiar about her to me. I picked the picture up and walked over to the window so I could see it clearer in the sunlight. I held it close to my face. Blinked my eyes as if clearing them from the vision I was seeing. Wait a minute. This girl looks like Annie. It was Annie! What was Mr. Jimmy doing with a picture of Annie in his bible?

I put the picture in my back jeans pocket and put the bible back in the bottom drawer. I looked around the room to make sure it was the way I found it. I was breathing hard. Confused and concerned. I left the room and locked the door from the inside so that Mr. Jimmy would think it had been locked when he left for work. I stood there for a few minutes trying to think what to do. Finally, I made up my mind. I was going to find out why Mr. Jimmy had this picture of Annie, who the woman was, and what he was to Annie. Today! I saw another pop can on the sidewalk and crushed it with my boot kicking it hard into the street. No car was coming by this time. I walked a few more feet when I heard my name called by my mother.

“Sara! Girl, why aren’t you in school?” My mother was walking toward me on the sidewalk.

 Crap! I was so lost in thought that I didn’t see her coming around the corner. We almost bumped into each other.

“Hi Mom, I got the cramps, so the nurse let me leave early to go home.” I held her stomach and groaned. 

“Home is behind you. Why are you walking this way?" 

“Uh, I was gonna, uh, go to the, uh, corner store and get me, uh…”

“You’re gonna turn your ass around and go home with me. You know the rule. If you’re too sick for school, you’re too sick for anything else. Home and bed for you until you feel better. Let’s go.”

Sheila started walking knowing full well that I was going to follow. I let out a loud sigh, took a last look towards the way to the cab company and followed Mom home. I would have to get answers to my discovery later when he came home.