Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Burn - A Short Story

bestt brothers
I lit the match and watched him burn. As his flailing arms swirled around the room, I grinned. If Mama knew what was happening, she would be pissed because her hand-carved wooden jewelry box was engulfed in flames, but I didn’t care. Stephon’s screams of agony made me forget about the jewelry box. I felt so good.  

“You ain’t so bad now, are you?” I said over his wails. It seemed like his eyes focused on me, but I knew that wasn’t possible because he had to be in another world…a world full of pain. 

“Are you?” I repeated, my voice lower this time as I stretched out both words hoping he felt pain with each one I uttered.   

He lunged toward me, but I moved out of the way, careful to avoid the flames. This would be our last argument, our last time coming to blows, because this time I doused his ass with gasoline and lit the match.

My brother Stephon was always bigger than me. A big bully, he would constantly taunt me, trying to make my world hell. Mama never listened to my cries when we were younger, always took his side. He had convinced her that he was an angel, which meant that I was the devil because in this world someone always had to play the devil.

Stephon’s cries were lower now, almost as if he had given up fighting as he faced his imminent death. The smell of burning flesh filled my nose. How in the hell am I going to clean up this mess? I wondered, as he collapsed in a burnt heap.

When I was sure he had left this world, I grabbed the heat resistant blanket and put it on his body. Not too much of the room was burned. The only thing gone was Mama’s jewelry box and the lamp that sat on the table. I spotted a flame coming from the table and ran across the room to put it out.

I was prepared. The small fire extinguisher came in handy. I wasn’t going to use it on Stephon, though, because I wanted to make sure he was dead and could still feel the pain of burning until he succumbed to death. I hoped his burning wouldn’t end here on Earth, but continue into his next life in hell.

That song “Disco Inferno” filled my thoughts. "Burn, baby, burn," I whispered, smiling again. It felt so good to finally get him.

***

Hopscotch. I jumped from one square to the next, ignoring the smart aleck remarks that came from the girls behind me. They were laughing…laughing at a little boy who loved hopscotch and dolls just as much as they did.

The heat coming from the pavement was beginning to be unbearable. I stopped and ran over to the fire hydrant to bathe myself in its cool water. The hard streams bounced off the naps on my head. I smiled. It felt so good.

“Tavon! Boy, you better get over here before Mama get home.”

Stephon was standing on the marble steps of our house. The kids would always tease us, saying that we had the worst row house in Baltimore.

“One, two, three, four…look at your messed up door. Five, six, seven, eight…your mom is on Section 8,” they would chant. Stephon would ignore them, but then he would take it out on me when we got in the house, getting mad at me for their bad words.

“It’s your fault. If you weren’t such a faggy, they would leave us alone,” he would say. I would lower my head, staring at the floor, careful not to make eye contact with him because I knew he would get angrier and start beating me up.

“Didn’t I tell you not to play hopscotch no more.”

Stephon was towering over me in the hallway. He dragged me by the ear into the kitchen where he put a TV dinner in the microwave. I sat down at the table and watched a mouse run across the floor. I waited for him to divide the TV dinner up. Half for him. Half for me.

“Ain’t you gon say something?” he asked.

“I like playing hopscotch,” I whispered.  

I glanced at Stephon. His wife-beater was dirty…a spot near his stomach stared back at me. Mama needed to do laundry. Stephon was old enough to do it. If I was thirteen like him, I would have done it for Mama, but I was only eight. Too young, Mama said.

He shouldn’t be calling me gay for playing hopscotch. With a name like Stephon, who was he to talk about me being gay, I thought.

***

I couldn’t wait until the family met Trina for Thanksgiving. Trina was fine. Had ass for days. Stephon is going to be so jealous, I thought as me and Trina rolled up to the house. I parallel parked, making sure the screeching tires would announce my arrival.

“Come on, babe.” I grabbed Trina's hand. I had on my six-hundred dollar leather coat. Man, I was looking fly. Trina’s hand was shaking.

“You don’t have to be nervous. I got you, babe.” I squeezed her hand. We had been dating for two months, but it seemed like longer. The way Trina dropped that pussy would make any man fall in love.

“Hey, man!”

Stephon greeted us at the door. He looked good…real good. I could tell that he had just gotten a fresh hair cut. A week before Thanksgiving, he had called Mama to tell her that he got a job managing a fast food restaurant. Mama was so proud of him, but I wanted to tell her that he should be doing better. Something ain’t right if you thirty and managing a fast-food restaurant. She wasn’t trying to hear that shit, though. That’s just how Mama was. She loved herself some Stephon.

“And who is this lovely lady?” Stephon asked, eyeing Trina. I gently nudged her in so he could get a closer look.

Yeah, man. Get a good look.

Trina’s copper weave was tight—long and flowing. Looked just like her real hair. Her mini-skirt hugged every curve. We went in and got the festivities under way.

“Boy, you gotta tell us how you got so lucky,” Stephon said, passing the green beans to Cousin Roy. Mama was holding her own private conversation with Trina, talking her ears off about girly stuff.

A hush went around the room as they waited for my answer. Mama stopped talking and gave Stephon the evil eye. She was trying to act like my mother for once…trying to protect me from the implications of their words…the implication that everyone was implying. The implication that I was gay.

I told them the story, giving them every single detail as I looked at Trina with pride.

***

I couldn’t wait to get home. Being a correction officer ain’t easy and today the men were more difficult than normal. I blamed it on the full moon. I wasn’t feeling good, so I decided to leave work earlier.

I sat the keys on the stand in the hallway, looking around. I couldn’t believe this was my house now. Mama left it to me when she passed away. It was a sudden death, unexpected. Stephon was just as surprised when the lawyer said the house was now mine as he read the will. I guess guilt about Stephon being her favorite caused her to leave it to me.

“Trina,” I called, waiting for her to pop up.

I didn’t smell dinner cooking. That was odd. Trina always had dinner cooking for me when I got home. I walked into the kitchen. Nothing was on the stove.

Damn. I really need to get some more furniture, I thought, staring at the table that me and Stephon sat at for years. “Trina!”

No answer.

I walked up the steps. I heard laughing.

What she doin’ on the phone? She should be cooking my dinner. I’m gonna get that ass. I smiled, opening the door.

No shit.

Trina was on top of Stephon pumping away, her copper weave hanging down her head touching my brother’s chest. My brother’s chest.

“Yo, bro, I’m so sorry,” Stephon said, pushing her off of him. I caught wind of his private parts and wanted to throw up.

In my mother’s bed.

“Get the fuck out before I kill both of ya’ll.”

Trina came up to me and tried to grab my arm, but I snatched it away before she could touch me. “Get out!”

Stephon knew not to say nothing else. They got dressed and I let them leave.

***

Days went by. I felt dead inside. Stephon and Trina were blowing up my phone. Of course, I didn’t want to talk to either one of them. Then, one day I decided to take Stephon’s call.

“Can I come over, bro? I want to talk to you,” he said.

At first I wanted to say “fuck no”, but then I thought about it. My heart was hurting.

“Yeah, you can come over on Thursday.”

I knew, then, what I was going to do.

***

“Why you want to go to Mama’s room? Why can’t we talk in the kitchen?” Stephon asked, making his way into the hallway.

“I want to go to the room where you fucked my girl. I can’t have nothing, can I, Stephon?”

“Man, I’m really sorry about that.”

“No you ain’t. Come on. Let’s go upstairs.”

As he walked up the steps in front of me, I thought about all the times we fought. All the times he beat me up. As children, we came to blows. As teenagers, we came to blows. As adults, we still continued to come to blows, but in a different form now.

I grabbed the gasoline from behind the door and lit the match.

***

“Officer Anderson, I’m sorry we have to do this.”

“Do what you gotta do,” I told the officers…the same officers that I had joked with over lunch…the same officers that I stood back to back with during jail brawls.

The bars closed and I grinned, struck by the irony of a correctional officer being behind his own bars. I thought of Stephon and smiled again.

Who’s the punk now?

T.C. Galltin is the author of Zaire’s Place, a novel that explores the lives of three very different women at a domestic violence shelter in Baltimore, MD. Zaire’s Place is available in paperback, Kindle and Nook formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To go to Amazon, click here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Someone Like Newt

Newt Gingri
Please tell me it isn’t so. I can’t believe Newt Gingrich actually won the South Carolina primary. I understand that during times of civil unrest, people try to elect the polar opposite of what it currently in office (we did it when we elected President Obama after George Bush), but this is unbelievable. How can someone with such a belligerent personality actually win a nomination for an office that showcases personality and character (both traits that Newt Gingrich is lacking)?

By all means, I’m no political pundit, but it doesn’t take an expert at politics to know that Newt can’t possibly have the interests of the entire American population at heart. Newt will not play fair. Newt is definitely not unbiased…just look at the ruckus he caused about how black people should want to get checks rather than rely on welfare. On what planet are sweeping, generalized statements about an entire group of people okay?

Obama is gracious. Obama has class. He has tried to work with the Republicans (to his detriment, might I add). There is nothing—absolutely nothing—about Newt Gingrich that would be compromising. He sees no gray—only black and white.

I’m trying to tell myself that it’s only South Carolina that would vote for someone like Newt…that it’s only the South that would vote for someone as cold-hearted and callous as Newt, but judging from all the vitriol thrown at our president since he has taken office, I’m not so sure.

If Newt wins the nomination, folks are saying Obama will slay him in the presidential election. I would hope so, but, again, I’m not so sure. South Carolina has shown us that there are a lot of people who think like Newt. Many of them may be right under our noses, but they keep their thoughts veiled, hidden in the proverbial closet.

I love my president. I support my president. Do I think the economy could be better? Yes. But when you have people like Newt and the Republicans who currently hold office blocking his every move, there’s not a whole lot that can get done. Besides, the economy is showing signs of coming back to life and I’m sure President Obama can continue to resuscitate it.

It’s a sad day in America when someone like Newt Gingrich wins a nomination in any state. Imagine what America would be like for minorities and progressives if someone like Newt Gingrich is president of the United States of America. The Tea Party likened Obama to Hitler (where they got that from is beyond me). If Newt Gingrich becomes president of the United States of America, a new Hitler would have been born and minorities, gays and liberals should get ready to be corralled up because Doomsday will be approaching.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It Is What It Is

Acceptance
Sometimes, no matter how much you want something to change, it just doesn’t happen. You get stuck wishing and hoping things would be different…that things will change…that things will get better. While stuck, it feels like that bad thing is going to last forever. While stuck, you feel like your life is going to be like this forever. Like a hamster on a wheel, you continue to run around grasping at anything that will spark the match of change. And it just doesn’t work. Been there before. There right now. 

When I get like this, I try to remember the lessons I learned in Iyanla Vanzant’s book The Value in the Valley. I try to remember her lesson of surrender, her lesson of acceptance. Surrendering to where you are right now doesn’t mean that you give up and stop trying to make things better. Surrendering simply means accepting “what is”. i.e., It is what it is. Sink into that. Understand that. And then work from there.

As they say, tough times don’t last forever. As a matter of fact, good times don’t last forever. So, when the good times come, cherish them. When the bad times come (as they inevitably do), walk through them.

Make peace with the difficult time you are going through. Hold its hand. Make it your friend, not a best friend, but at least an acquaintance. By making peace with it, I’m willing to bet these dark times will give way to our sunny days.

Yes, I know I sound sappy. But there’s a reason that inspirational quotes and books exist. They are there to help us weather the difficult times and make peace with them. Once we do that, I’m willing to bet it will make room for something better to take its place.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Looks Ain’t Everything

sexy man
“Women trip me out when they sweat a good-looking man.”

That’s what I tweeted after I saw a woman fawn all over this dude who looked pretty decent…actually, he looked hot. From her comment, you could feel the drool escaping from her mouth as she talked about him. She went so far as to extol his praises from the rooftops, and I sighed a sigh that could be heard around the world.

I’ll be the first to say that we all like a good-looking man, and I have lost my mind over them once or twice (baby daddy comes to mind). But I grew up and learned how to keep my composure. Women who sweat a good-looking man look desperate and being desperate is not cute. Plus, they add fuel to that man’s ego because he knows that the world absolutely adores him. Does he need any more fuel to set his ego on fire?

“Becky, sometimes something we think is gold turns out to be fool’s gold,” Rebecca’s father says in my book. In other words, “all that glitters isn’t gold.” When you bypass people who may not be as attractive (but have more to offer) to break your neck for someone hot, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I’m not saying that you can’t be with a good-looking person or help a good-looking person out by supporting him. But this chick who praised this dude for what was probably mediocre work took the cake. Would she have done that if the guy wasn’t as good-looking? That’s the part that gets me.

Okay. Many of you are going to say I’m bitter because of my past experiences with a good-looking man. Honey, I’ve gotten over that. I love a good-looking man and talked about them a lot in previous blog posts (check out my post “Who Would You Do?”). But I know how to look past that to see if that good-looking person has substance. If they don’t, you have to keep it moving. That’s what I want folks to realize: It’s okay to like the package, but if there is nothing in it, you have to focus your energy on something else. 

Anyway, enough of that. Just wanted to share my thoughts. Have a scintillatingly satisfying Sunday, ya’ll. Be a satellite. Circle around something good.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Social Media Dilemmas

social media

God, I love Twitter. As an author, social media is one of the best ways to get your name out there. I experienced this last night when a couple of my tweets about the New Hampshire debate got shared beyond my wildest dreams.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t write anything simply for the sake of a retweet or a share. I’m a passionate person and everything I say comes from the heart. So, with that being said, how do you handle showing appreciation for a retweet?

When I first began to get retweeted, I thanked people, but they seemed a little put off by this. By thanking them, I felt like I was being pushy and making them feel obligated to retweet my content in the future. No one likes to feel obligated to do something, so I backed off and didn’t say thanks when I got retweeted. I thought this route was best because I didn’t want it to seem like I was doing what I do for a retweet. (This applies to sharing on Facebook as well. I don’t mention Facebook as much because I’m rarely put in the position of thanking anyone on Facebook. Perhaps it’s because most of my Facebook friends are actual friends and family and it’s not often when they share my stuff.)

Anyway, once I backed off thanking people for sharing my tweets, I began to notice all the others who did and, naturally, the wheels in my head started turning. “Maybe you should thank them, TC.” “You don’t want to seem rude, TC.” So, what did I do? I began to thank people again. But I didn’t want to come out and say “thanks for the retweet” so I came up with phrases like “much love to…”, “dropping thanks to…”, etc. This process felt a little awkward but it seemed to work for me. Until Saturday night.

“Yes, Ron Paul, those racist comments that you claim to not have written 20 years ago do matter. U bring up Obama's past. Y are u different?” I tweeted as I watched the GOP debate. I went to get a snack, came back to my computer and saw that the numbers had racked up on that tweet and another one.

So, there I was wondering if I should thank all the people one-by-one for the retweets or not. In the end, I decided not to. I didn’t want to be intrusive. Sometimes someone just wants to retweet a tweet and keep it moving. I just gave a shout out to the person who started the avalanche for me and gave a general thanks to the people who followed me because of that retweet.

No one can deny the power of a retweet. While I don’t do anything for a retweet, I did notice sales for my book went up on Amazon and I’m sure it was because of the tweets that got my name out there. So, I have decided to keep thanking the people who follow me for retweets and mentions. After all, they are doing me a favor.

Which brings me to the “follow dilemma”: Do you individually thank everyone for a follow or give a sweeping shout out? To be honest, I can’t imagine thanking each person individually. I’m the kind of person who will leave someone out and end up feeling (and looking) like a heel. So the group acknowledgement works for me.

Am I 100% confident in my system? Definitely not. But until I adopt a better one, I’ll have to keep doing what works for me.

P.S. I hope people realize how grateful I truly am for their support. As a new author, it really does mean a lot to me. Have a sublime Sunday, ya’ll. Find something that makes your heart sing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mandatory DNA Testing? Absolutely!

dna
I can hear the collective sighs and grunts as I write this post, but here we go.

I think mandatory/automatic DNA testing should be done in order to establish the paternity of a child, especially when it comes to ordering fathers to pay child support. Hear me out. In a world where sexual freedom has reigned supreme, as women, I think we owe it to potential fathers to prove that a child is his.

First of all, let me say that I am in no way supportive of the “baby daddies” out there, especially those who try to escape paying child support by saying “how do I know the baby is mine?” I have my own baby daddy issues and was on the receiving end of those words. Needless to say, I wanted to slap him because he was the ONLY man I was sleeping around with for years when we conceived my daughter. I knew he said those words in order to escape the responsibility of having to take care of a baby, and you know what I said? I said, “I would be HAPPY to get a DNA test.”

I knew I had absolutely nothing to hide and was willing to prove it to him. He disappeared before I could get the DNA test, but I know he knows my baby girl is his. When I catch up to him, we WILL have the test to prove it.

I know of too many women who have pinned a child on a man knowing full well the baby might not be his because she was sleeping around with multiple men at the time. This is not fair to the “father” and it’s definitely not fair to the child.

A family member pinned her daughter on another man and everyone in the family knew he couldn’t possibly be the father because the little girl looked nothing like him. I know the mother never got a DNA test because she wasn’t sure if the child was his either. That daughter has been left with a question mark hanging over her adult head. I’m sure she wonders if that man is her father and, if not, where her real father is.

Every child has a right to know who their father is…where they came from.  Now that we have the technology to prove it, why not take advantage of that fact? Besides, those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.

I also feel sorry for those fathers who have paid child support for years only to find out that the baby wasn’t theirs. I have seen enough “You Are Not The Father” shows on Maury Povich to know that there are women out here who trap a man because he may be more financially secure than the other man she was sleeping with. (For a humorous approach on the Maury scandals, take a look at one of my old posts "You Are Not The Father".) This is a shame and it’s an embarrassment to “the womanhood.”

Own up to your situation. If you were sleeping with multiple men, let the potential fathers know this up front. Don’t bring a child into the world with a question mark. Out of all the bad decisions I made, at least I did something right because I can breathe easily knowing that “you are the father.” *said in my Maury Povich voice*

Here’s to happy, healthy, whole children who know their roots. And don’t let me catch you on Maury. ;-)