Don’t Tell 

On the way to East High School, we stopped to pick up Annie at her house on Long Street. She used to live in an apartment in Poindexter Village, now she lived a few doors down from the Reverend Phale D. Hale, Sr. family. Another famous family on the East Side and in the state. Rev. Hale had been the President of the NAACP and was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. I thought it was cool that he lived in my neighborhood. It showed where his heart was, with his people.

Annie was glad to see us, well, me at least. Jean didn’t particularly like Annie and made sure we both knew it. She wasn’t outright mean, but she insulted Annie every chance she got. Like the time when Annie got a new haircut. I thought it was cute, but Jean told her she looked like a black orphan Annie from the movie. When Annie and I entered the lunchroom that day Jean started singing “the sun will come out tomorrow” and everybody laughed and those that knew the song started singing with her. I was mad, but Annie wasn’t. She started singing it too.

I never understood how Annie could ignore it when people were making fun of her. She had it hard sometimes at school. The only people that seemed to really like Annie were the teachers, because she was very smart and was an honor roll student in each class. I told her one time that she needed to stop putting her hand up to answer every question asked in class because it made her look like a smartass, and nobody likes a smartass. But she said she couldn’t help it. If she knew the answer, which she always did, she was gonna raise her hand. As a result, the kids saw her as a “teacher’s pet” and didn’t like her for it. Some of the smart kids liked her, but in order to keep out of the radar of the bullies, they didn’t show it.

“What’s up!” I yelled as I grabbed her around her neck in a headlock.   

“You got it girl.” Annie responded as she grabbed me in a bear hug.

Jean gave her a half smile and wave and then ignored us. Annie and I walked with our arms slung across each other’s shoulders, laughing, and talking, catching up on things since we last saw each other. Jean walked a few paces ahead of us.

“Girl, why your mother put you on punishment again? I thought you said you was gonna stay out of trouble so we could go to the concert, what happened?” 

Jean stopped ignoring us at this point. She turned around, walking backwards and gave me a don’t tell look, slowing down her pace so she could hear us better.  

“You know my mom, girl. She always finds a way to keep us in the house for the dumbest things.”

“Yeah, I hear you, what was it this time?”

“Same old, same old, we were late getting home from school.” 

“I thought we were supposed to meet up after school.”

“We were but something came up.”

“What happened? I waited for a while then I had to leave. I stopped at Sam’s Market to get me a bag of chips and ran into Phillip, who followed me all the way home, talking ‘bout be his girlfriend and stuff. Ugh!”

Phillip Jenson was one of the most annoying boys in the neighborhood. He was about four feet nine inches tall, eighty-five pounds, wore glasses and sometimes had an odd smell. He was the youngest of nine children and wore clothes that were too big for him as they were handed down from his siblings. It must have been hard for Phillip being the last to get anything in his family. But one thing Phillip had, that most of us didn’t, was protection in the neighborhood because everybody knew if you messed with him that you had to deal with his five big brothers and three big sisters. And they were not skinny little runts. Phillip was loud for such a little runt too, which was why he was so annoying. 

“I bet the whole neighborhood heard him.” Jean jumped in the conversation at this point happy to change the subject. 

“I don’t know how they couldn’t! I kept telling Phillip to stop talking so loud, a complete waste of time. I just ignored him and kept walking like he wasn’t talking to me.”

We all laughed at that and I let Jean take over the conversation. 

“What was the concert like, Annie, was it groovy or what? We missed it huh?”

Annie did just what Jean wanted her to do and began to tell us all about the Ohio Players show. Jean acted like she was interested nodding her head and making noises like “Groovy, Far Out, Cool Man” anything to keep her talking about the show and not about last Friday. She managed to keep Annie talking all the way to school about the show. I had to give it to her, when she wanted to, Jean could be charming. Annie didn’t suspect a thing.