Trials And Throes I

Trials And Throes I

As a young colored boy in Memphis, I came to terms with life’s hardships quite early. When I was six, I lost my mother. I had watched her die from a severe case of heart disease and stroke. All three of us children with an aging father who was out of work sat and watched this once healthy workaholic die like the chickens that filled the yard. As young as I was, I was made to learn the color of death. I saw it all in my mother’s eyes as life escaped her rapidly. From then on, it was hard to survive. Mother had been the one keeping the family at bay, supplying the daily bread since Father had lost his job and it wasn’t easy being colored folks in the city bubbling with white folks. She had worked night and day at various jobs, facing all sort of abuse and trying to keep us alive and well. At a time she even nurtured the dream of sending us to school. She had started saving money for it, unknown to father. She always said she wanted to have sons she could be proud of. One day, though, father found the money and flared up, almost striking mother, accusing her of nurturing impossible dreams when we were starving and she was looking paler every day. We had no health care, and access to basic amenities was like fantasy; some untrue sort of magical realism
I and Bernice, my elder brother had to go sell wares on the streets, going from door to door, trying our best to make enough sales to survive us while our little four-year old sister Nina went with Father wherever he went looking for jobs. As early as age six, I had to learn the streets the hard way. One thing Father always reminded us of was that a man named Uncle Terry was responsible for this. Uncle Terry had helped us to get to America a few years back, promising us heaven and earth in the land of the free and home of the brave. He had taken all the money we had on us and sent us with a group of people travelling on sea until we arrived America. I was a year old at the time. Uncle Terry had duped us because as soon as we landed on the shores of America, the person he claimed to be his contact was the owner of a refugee shelter who offered to keep us for two weeks after which he could help no longer since he had to make room for the actual refugees and homeless. We were a whole family; three children, an adult man and his wife
For me, I had come to see Uncle Terry as the Devil. I remember picturing a swollen ugly beast with overgrown horns as Uncle Terry after i had seen mother die. I had vowed to find this man that took away the dearest woman to me.
Soon enough, father found a job at a construction site. The pay was meagre and being a colored folk, he had to eat the jackboots of the white construction chiefs. He complained every night about it when he came home and that was all he ever talked about when he came home. One thing that kept him going though was Nina. She was the apple of his eyes. At three years old now, her skin still shone ‘like she was one of them white folks’ father would always say. She was pretty and adorable and it seemed the things that gave us concern living such harsh life did not touch her in the least. With time, I also got a job mowing lawns for a pretty decent fee while Bernice got a steady job as a busboy at a local eat-out near our house. He worked two shifts every day and would usually come home all sweaty, smelly, and as exhausted as Dad. Nights were no fun for us. We would eat our meals silently and fall asleep in the small room. The house we stayed in was a large one with many occupants. We had just enough to pay for one room and we all squeezed in there every night. That was where mother had died. School was only a luxury to us; something we saw from afar and admired but never hoped to get into any day.
It didn’t take time for the wrong folks of the neighbourhood to find us and seek to recruit us into their schemes. Memphis had been known for gruesome murders, drugs and bad, colored folks who did underhand deals and broke into shops and houses. These boys soon found us and asked I and Bernice to join them. I was nine years at the time while Bernice was twelve. I had one advantage though; I was quite tall for my age. Bernice also had good height. It was no surprise since father was a lanky man.
These ‘hood boys’ had come up to Bernice one day after his shifts, pulled him aside and taken him to an alley where he saw other members as they smoked pot and cigar and drank beer. The guy who had brought him had told him they wanted Bernice and I to join them and that if we did, we were going to start loving Memphis and we would never lack money, moreover, everyone would become terrified of us. He added that we won’t need to do all those dirty, menial jobs and that we would pay the white folk back for everything.
Bernice shared this with me later that night after everyone had gone to sleep. I wasn’t surprised as I had expected them to come for us soon. Bernice was so interested in being free from working at the diner and yet being able to bring money home.
‘Chap, go with me man. This is the big break we’ve been waiting for and we can pay all them white folks for their bad attitude. We’re gonna be the big bad boys of Memph’
‘Bernie, I’m scared. I’ve seen what these boys do and it’s not what I will like to end up being. They beat up black folk too. They do anything to get pot and beer. Do you want to start smoking pot Bernie, and then get cuffed by them white police and be behind bars all your life? Mother wouldn’t like that.’
‘Mother would like that we make enough money to keep us doing dirty jobs for them white asses and to keep Nina okay’
That was how we argued from that night till we saw the first gleam of dawn.
‘I’ll meet you after my first shift outside the eat-out. I’ll be waiting Chap’ he said as he left that morning.
Later that afternoon found me in the dark alley with the ‘hood boys’ being initiated into pot and beer.
I threw up that night till I thought I will die. Father was out late so he never noticed. I couldn’t eat but it seemed Bernice was doing just fine with everything. By now, Nina was eight years of age but she could still not figure out what had happened with her ten year old brother that made throw up his guts all night.
The next morning, I opened my eyes to find Nina staring into it. I also noticed my body was soaked. She had been trying to wake me up for a long time when she found out it wasn’t working. She then used a pail of water on me.
‘The time- you’re late for your job’ she announced, with an empty pail in hand
I looked around and couldn’t find Bernice ‘Bernie?’
‘He’s gone already’
‘What is the time?’
‘Oh no!’ I stood out of the mattress very quickly, and without changing my wet clothes ran off to work. I vowed I would never return to the alley again.

11 thoughts on “Trials And Throes I” by adebayo caleb (@lordkel)

  1. I like the story.It is like a slice of real life.@lordkel

    1. @khadijahmuhammad Thanks…for reading, enjoyin and commenting

  2. Good story. It needs touch ups of imagery and background description to bring some sparkle in.

    Next Time, man.

    1. I get ur point bro. Will work on it in subseq series.

  3. 1. always space out your work. use paragraphs, and let each paragraph flow into the next.
    2. notice some errors of grammar ‘I and bernice’ wrong. it should be ‘Bernice and I’
    3. the story is good but the narrative could be better and the build up is lacking. since you intend this as a series, then take your time in easing us into the setting and giving us a good background

    1. Thanks. Will heed ur advice @topazo

  4. I am with topazo on this. If you are gon’ join the serial club, you would work on drawing out gist, filling space with stuff that can be condensed into three lines. Describe the house, even their clothes and the way they puked… Hehehe.
    You are writing this like a short story now. Not that I mind.
    Well done, Caleb. $ß.

  5. Bola (@basittjamiu)

    Weldone Caleb, Ditto All.

    I like the story Sha…

  6. Thanks @sibbylwhyte I guess I tried 2 condense it too much. Will work on it.

  7. Thanks @sibbylwhyte I guess I tried 2 condense it too much. Will work on it.
    @basittjamiu thanks for enjoyin

  8. interesting piece here

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