Ain't Makin' Scuses
Gnarled old hands shook as they lay heavily on a lap so appallingly thin that the worn denim clearly showed knee bones, bits of wizened thigh peeking through ragged holes just under the pockets on both legs.
His scalp was exposed by sparse gray hair and wrinkled as deeply as his forehead when he slowly raised his eyes skyward and shook his head ever so slightly.
“Lord, I know my actions wuz wrong, I know I’ll live in everlasting damnation and ‘cordin to your Good Word that ain’t nuthin but right. When the time comes I’ll surely go without as much as a peep, but I’m just askin’ to please let me stay here on your good earth just long enough to get this here baby girl raised up.”
“I’ll do my best to remember how my sweet Pearlie managed to get ourn’ up and ready for church or school. I’ll follow how she used to read from your Good Book as Ruby finished her grits and ham biscuits, then make sure she had clean clothes and a solid hug before she hit the door. I’ll make sure this one goes to church not just on Sundays and that she knows she is good and loved ever’ day.”
“I know you saw all the church ladies crowded in my little shack for my Perlie’s service, Lord I would have givn’ just about anything to been able to have a real service in our church, she sho’ deserved it. But I ‘preciated Reverend Thyer filling in and he did a great job even if he had to preach from our little kitchen and most of us had to stand in the living room. I surely ‘preciate them ladies cooking all that food and offerin’ to take baby Opal in and raise her as their own, but she’s all I got left of my own poor baby girl and I just cain’t let her go.”
Stretching his aged hand to pat the whimpering baby quiet the old man slowly shook his head as he continued, “The first one was a long time comin’ but the easiest. I wuz just a young’un when I watched that man beat my mama evr’ week. One time so bad she had to cover full haf her face with bandages and tell her boss she was in a car accident.”
“He told us young’uns we didn’t need to eat but ever’ other day, me and brother would run outside while he ate his fill so’s we wouldn’t stare and give him an ‘scuse to beat us – not that he really ever needed one. I know you saw mama wait for him to pass out from the likker so she could feed us his leavins and we blessed you for it.”
“I thank you again for sending me to that YMCA so’s I could do my studyin’ so’s I could graduate and get my insurance license so’s I could finally take care of my mama. I knew lyin’ was wrong but if I told him how much I really made he would take it all and I wouldn’t be able to sneak mama some ever’ week.”
“It was his greed that helped me to convince him to let me take out life insurance on him. I lied agin by tellin’ him we couldn’t insure mama ‘cause she was to sick. I’ll never forget the way he kinda smiled just a little when he said he had been tellin’ us for years that she was useless.”
“Lord you know my heart and I’m ‘shamed to say I didn’t feel nuthin’ but relief as he screamed starin at that subway car comin’ at him so fast and him not able to jump out of the track hole.”
“My mama was finally able to lead a peaceful life for the few years she had left. There was even enough money to send brother to that fancy school so’s he could learn to work on airplanes and took good care of his family.”
“Sin number two was a little more work, I felt so bad ‘bout breakin’ your commandments again I ‘most didn’t, but Lord there was just no other way. You know them gangs is bad here and young boys don’t hardly have a chance to finish grade school afore theys recruited. Clement only wanted to go to school and stay out of trouble. He was so little he didn’t have a chance when they came for him. That big man cut him so bad he had to go to the hospital, when they heered the police visit him in the hospital they threatened his mama to warn him not to talk. God, you knew that boy wern’t gonna to talk, twerent’ no need to take his little brother.”
“If’n it wasn’t for your good grace and the fact the leader knew me ‘cause he laughed when I was such a sucker that I was offerin him life insurance for free- I wouldn’t never been able to talk my way into taking that little young’un home with me. I hope you heered my prayer askin’ forgivness while that man wuz callin’ your name afallin from that roof. I was truly happy to help that family pack up so’s they can leave this city. I’m hopin’ the money will hold out till theys can find something far away.”
“Lord God, you know I’m a man of my word and will go to my punishment head held high, but I just cain’t say I’m sorry Damion staggered into that back street and didn’t see that big garbage truck commin’. I know when you made that man he wuz perfect in your image, but, God, he wuz pure evil when he got growed.”
“Since he never saw fit to give his name to any of the girls he sucked in then tossed out like trash it didn’t matter much that I weren’t able to take insurance on him. The whispers about him takin what he wanted from so many young girls in this area turned out to be so true. God you know I got so crazy-headed when I learnt he attacked my darlin’ little Ruby I went lookin for him and would have killt him with my bare hands had I found him. She weren’t but thirteen years old, so ‘barrassed at what happened she hid her face for days so’s I wouldn’t know. She cried and cried when I made her show me her black eyes and bruises on her little arms and legs. I would have given my own soul to Beelzebub if her mama coulda’ come back to comfort her even if for just a minute.”
“Lord I know you have your reasons and we ain’t ‘posed to ask questions but I just cain’t understand why you would call my sweet Pearlie to her reward when she still had a young’un that need her and allow this man of pure evilness to finish his time here. You saw she wuz the kindest, most hard-working woman who ever walked among us, she sat the pew ever’ Wednesday and Sunday, even when the cancer wuz makin’ her blind and eatin’ at her spine. You knowed too they mights well have buried my own heart when they lowered her into the ground.”
“It wuz just fittin that it wuz her own left over pills that dissolved so easily in the likker bottle that he found on his front porch that night. I don’t believe my Perlie would have been very mad at all after what he did to our baby girl. He took her life just a shore as iffin’ he stabbed her with a knife. Her young little body just wern’t old enough to birth a baby, I suffered much as she did watching her toss with pain so bad she couldn’t keep from screaming until you finally allowed her to travel the road into her mamas arms”.
“Her last breath wuz beggin me to take care of her baby so now I’m beggin’ you…. I’m gitten a little long in the tooth but I knows my Perlie will be a-watchin and guidin’ me, ‘sides Lord she ain’t got no one else.”
“Lord, please allow me to stay on earth long enough to get this baby raised up and I’ll go to my damnation with nar’ a word.”
With another small shake of his head and wipe of a tear the old man ever so gently lifted the tiny child out of her carriage, made it up the four front steps that he had built with his own hands so many years ago and began to warm the bottle.