My Mama always told me I was special. From the day she saw my light brown eyes year 1988 in the hospital light up with gold flecks she mentioned how premium I looked. Like the white deer that live in the forest behind our house. But I aint special I say. My hair is brown and kinky like every other boy on this block, and my skins don’t do me no good when the sun come out either. My face darkens like a blackberry and my hands remain soft and tawny. As tall as I am, I aint good for nothing, six foot three and my body swings every which way like a weak branch about to fall to the ground because it been pushed around my too much wind. I walk to school thinking about how I’m gon fit my legs in them school chairs again, the teachers don’t get no more satisfied with the noise than I do, and I wish they knew that. I turn the corner to start up on a big hill across from the old tattered up tool shop owned my Mr. Howard whose eyes go north and west. I remember how one day I went in to buy some screws for my mother fancy frame she found in the junk and as soon as I walk in he say “ If you’re looking for Wendy she aint here. That no good wife of mine can’t cook, clean, or even have the decency to come home.” I don’t answer because I don’t know if he’s talking to me, because he sure aint looking at me. I keep walking up the hill pass the meat shop that sell more venison that beef, and I walk past the bread store that don’t use no milk or eggs and I remember Mama laughing at their custard, laughing like a crazy woman. “How they gon give me custard with no eggs?! Custard with no eggs aint no damn custard!” She would yell, throwing her small head back like it about fall off. She’s so small that I worry one day she may slip through them deep dark cracks on the side walk near the bus stop, she may slip in and get stuck, and the dark matter will eat her right up. I tell her every morning “Mama be careful of them cracks, they big enough to swallow squirrels they big enough to swallow you” I say. Yet she don’t pay me no mind and she pats my shoulders, gives me a kiss on my temples and walks right on out the door to her job at the cleaners. She gon fall through one day, and im gon have to save her.
“Lanky sonnoffa gun can’t do jack! His legs too long for his own good, and them arms flare around like they got nothing else better to do.” The dark boys at school say when they spot me enter the school fences. Glaring at me they size me up, one by one, whispering to each other how they’d be happy to use me as a bat to scare away them pesky squirrels that be smacking nuts on their front porch. I know I’m useless but I know for sure I aint gon be used to scare away no squirrels. The tallest bunch of the boys is Randy. Everyone knows he aint got sense worth a dime, but his head big as a bolder and arms wide a tree bark could knock one out with one blow. His eyes shine green and the hang below his eyelids nice and easy, like they resting, like they some kind a wild cat waiting for their prey to move, just so they can jump and start running after them. He the only one in our school with green eyes. All the other boys and girls call him pretty eyes, because no one in town looks like him. When he walks toward me he barks, trying to scare me. And his eyes start moving back and forth quick like the tail of rattle snake. “Look at his arms sweating, like they gon burst in to flames.” Says a boy behind Randy following his steps, afraid if he don’t get in sync he gon get sight of them rattle snake eyes. Joshua is his name. Now everyone knows Joshua got sense, and that he could be in college by now if he wasn’t so damn easy to fool. He let other people tell him how good looking his face is, let the girls watch him swag down the hall with his buddies, and he lets them giggle. Everyone knows Joshua got sense, but we all know he the most insecure boy who ever stepped foot in Maryland. Joshua walks behind Randy and they both come up to me, one standing in front of me, and one behind me. I can feel their nasty rough breath on my face and neck, like heaters that got that weird smell that you just can’t get rid of in the winter. Randy grabs my shirt and yanks it till the threads come loose and buttons come popping out, and he twists the collar around his clenched paw, and it tighten good around my neck and he pulls me down. “Now now Gerald, my boy I see you grew an extra inch and two, why you getting so long now a days?” he sneers in my ear loud and thoughtless. “He as skinny as a twig, and I bet my man, if I bent his arm it would brake clean off, no sound no nothing like a wet twig.” Joshua whispers behind me. I feel cold and scared and I don’t want my arms twisted off my body. I begin to yell for help to the school teachers inside, and my voice comes out raspy and small. “Shut his ass up, he sound like a dying rat.” A voice calmly calls from behind a tree. A tall dark figure walks out from behind and know is it aint good. If this boy had no eyes on him he would twist my mouth off. “Every time I hear you talk it’s like you got dead family of rats down your throat, waiting to be swallowed or choked up.”
His face comes out of the shade and the sun hit it, like a spotlight. This boy I’ve known my entire life. Samuel walks towards Randy and motions him aside with his long wide hand. His legs neatly follow the other and his arms not as big as Randy’s, but not as scrawny as mind carry power. He creeps closer to me and tells Joshua to hold me in place. I feel Joshua grab the back of my shirt and I feel his arm come up under mine, restricting me. I wish I had my Mama now, oh I wish she was here. “I bet you wish your mama was here boy.” Samuel says reading my mind. “I bet you wish you could hind behind her skirt like some wuss.” I aint no wuss. “You is a beat down wuss with spider legs.” He says replying to my thoughts that only I should hear. The bells ring for the school day to begin, and Samuel and his boys let me go, and when they let me go I let go of them wussy tears I been holding in. And I cry for my Mama, because I wish she was here.
I walk home limping, because after school let out Samuel and his boys, found me trying to sneak away and hauled me behind the meat shops dump. Samuel told the boys to let me have it good and one by one he let them smack me in the face, and jab me in the gut. Like some kind of sand doll. And Samuel took the pleasure of standing watching with a thirsty grin on his face, crawling up is cheeks and closing up his small dark eyes. I start to black out and I start to see stars like in one of them cartoons that come on Sunday morning and all I see left is his face engulfed by that evil dark matter that gon eat up my mama one of these days. I woke up covered filth, and dry blood caked my lips and nose. I start down the hill and walk past the tool shop and I see Mr. Howard eyes on me. Starring me down like I’m some weird creature he had caught in his backyard. He squints at me and I feel like he wanna say something. “Come over here boy” he hollers quick. “Come over here and tell me what happen to yourself!” I know he looking at me this time because his feet are directly jammed in my direction, and he pulling me in with his mismatched eyes, and I’m the only fella on this street this time a night. I limp over across the street and I spy Mrs. Howard through the glass windows sulking and running her gums about, how she aint got no freedom, about how she aint got no man to take her dancing. Mr. Howard takes my arms and pulls me in to the shop. He closing up, and the lights are half tuned off, and he locking up some of the tools, the dangerous ones like the saws and nail guns. “I see you eying them beauties son, but if I don’t lock em up, a dirty fella gon come and steal em. Next thing you know we gon find a body cut in half over there down in the forest with them pretty deers.” He say as he turn to me.
We end up sitting in the backroom of his shop and he pull out a first aid kit, its old and rusty and look like someone took it through hell. He crack it open and pulls out a bottle of clear gel and some bandages and he start tending to my wounds. “Where your mama at boy?” He asks “probably at home sir.” I say. “And why aint your scrawny butt at home, doing homework or doing them chores?” I don’t answer because I don’t wanna remember that dark face having them dogs beating me in. I don’t like to be hit and don’t like to hit. I aint gonna let them hit me no more I think. “You gon let them hit you again and again, until you aint got the will to be on this earth no more boy.” Mr. Howard calmly says. “You a special boy I heard, don’t let them run you down.”
I leave the shop and I say goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Howard, and I make my way down the rest of that hill. I turn the corner and walk toward my house. Small and white, it looks as it of gon break. Like the white paint can’t handle to stick to it no more, and the roof sagging like it’s one of them willow trees. My mama worked hard to get this house back in 1970. She say it’s her prized possession and shed drop dead before she sell it or let anyone step foot in it tracking mud. “Where you been?” I hear a soft voice call. I see my mama, small and humble looking straight at me with worries eyes. I feel sorry that she got to see her son this way, that she got to see a baby instead of man. I walk up the steps to her and I stand there as she look at me for an explanation. “Aint been nowhere just walking around, saw a deer and followed it till a big buck came out and scared me away that all Mama. Then heard a gunshot and that really brought me running” She look in my eyes and she tears me down, makes me break out into a sweat because she thinks I’m lying. The truth is that did happened on my way over here, poor deer get shot at all the time. “Get in this house and eat your dinner, the take yourself to bed. Tomorrow before I leave for the cleaners you gon tell me what rly happened.” She say and she leads me in to the house out the rain that started half a minute before.
After I eat my dinner I go to my room and I change into my sleeping clothes. I like them superhero ones because I told my mom even though I’m 16 all men deserve to keep something for kids. She don’t mind me or my superhero clothes and I love her for that. She don’t mind my size ,or my oddly long fingers, she don’t mind the way I swing my head back and forth when I eat, or the sound that comes out my mouth when I talk. She say it’s all me and she gon love every bit of it. The next morning I go to eat my breakfast and I see my mom waiting for what she believes is the truth. I get my bowl and pour me chocolate flakes and right off the bat she get to it.
“Tell me what went on last night Gerald Smith, or so help me.” I tighten my lips and my toes in my socks, because I don’t want her getting involved. I suck it up thought because she gon keep asking me and asking me till I tell her. “Some boys at school beat me up is all, no big deal that all it is Mama, no big deal.” I hear silence for while then I hear some tears. I look over at my mama and her tiny fists are clenched and her faced is twisted. Her mouth opens and she chokes out “How they gon beat up my baby, my special baby, you aint got the right to be hit, my special baby boy.” She gets up and hugs me tight, and I feel her soft hair against my chest, and it smell like them nice flowers. She cries in my shirt and I stand there not hugging her back because I’m crying too. My mama looks ugly when she cries, and my mama aint no ugly woman I think. “I know you don’t like the way I look when I cry so I’ll stop. Just know that after I’m done drying them clothes I’m walking down to your school and confronting that bald headed principle of yours. If anything bounced off his head faster, is the sound of my voice telling him off.” I don’t say nothing because I know I aint gon stop her, she may be small but she’s a big woman inside.
I walk to school and I think about what Mr. Stuart will think, how his shiny head gon reflect my long face and the sweat is gone glide of his forehead because of his tight suit. The day goes by smooth and I don’t hear or see nothing of Samuel and his boys except that they aint in school no more. All the girls in my classes wind up whining and complaining, because “Pretty eyes aint there to look at. And that Joshua “Aint there to give cigarettes out.” I’m happy they aint here, because I don’t have to watch my back or worry about my arms being twisted off. I leave school at 3:40, I start walking down that hill again, except today I got big bright smile on my face. The sun is going down and it aint making me look like blackberry, but brown chestnut. I swing my arms left and right up and down and I let them fly in the air like birds playing with each other on a good day. I walk past the bread shop and I see the old ladies who work there, kneading dough, making big cakes for the block party coming up next week, and I think Mama may want a cake now. She may want a nice big chocolate cake with sprinkles. I got four dollars I think, I got enough. I walk in and one of the ladies see me. She’s big and plump and hers cheeks are round and sticky. She skips towards me and her hips sway side to side like a big Yo-yo when you don’t know how to use it. “Honey! How can I help you today? We got cakes, and cookies, and best of all we got us today some of that good banana bread that will set your stomach straight!” the big woman hollers making the shop shake. Miss Tilda never knew how to use her inside voice my Mama use to say, she don’t use her inside voice or cook with animals. “Miss ill have a chocolate cake, with sprinkles please, make sure it got a lot pf sprinkles too please.” She looks at me with delight and she know she’s about to make the best cake in town. “No problem sugar, how about you give me an hour and then you bring yourself back here and I’ll give the best cake you ever tasted yeh?” I tell her thank you, and that I’ll be back in exactly an hour, and I ran out the shop to get back home to change out of my school clothes.
Running down the hill I make a sharp turn toward my house, because I don’t wanna waste no minutes to get that cake. I run up the steps of my house and I rush through the doors straight to my room and start pulling off my good jeans and putting on my white t-shirt. I’m so excited and giggling that I stop and my heart jumps. My eye twitch and I feel cold. I walk out my room and look down the hall past the kitchen and living room and I see dirt on the floors. I look at the soles of my own sneakers but I don’t see no dirt, not one bit. I set my eyes on the door and visualize how it opened so easily, why it wasn’t locked, why the door aint go no door knob. Suddenly I hear a scream and I hear a small voice holler my name. “Gerald! Gerald baby help me please!” My muscled tighten and I feel my ears get red, you can’t see them, but I know they red. I turn around slowly and walk towards my mother’s bedroom door, and I stand there. I put my ear to the door and I hear muffles and grunting, and I hear my poor mama crying.
Opening the door slowly, with each gap widening I see his face, dark and focused. I see Samuel grabbing my Mama by her thin wrists and I see her face all black and blue with her eyes bulging out. “Principle Stuart told us that lady walked up in his office shouting stuff about us bullying her baby, about how we messed him up.” I don’t say nothing because all I can think is that my Mama is all bruised up, black and blue, and her eyes are bulging out of her face. “Your mama here got her tail beat because you too much of a wuss to do anything yourself.” I aint no wuss I think. “Yeah you are Gerald, a big wuss who needs to kill himself before I do. When my dad found out that I got kicked out school he come to me, all liquored up and angry and broke my jaw.” I could see he wasn’t lying because his face looked weird, his mouth was crooked, and his lower jaw was blue. But I don’t care because I see my Mama hurt. I don’t notice Randy or Joshua around and I thank god. “Randy and Joshua was gon be here, but I told them to meet me back here after getting something I found in the forest, a nice pair of buck antlers left behind on a dead buck. I told them wed mess her up real good them.” Samuel had a crazy look in his eyes, and I know that look because I’ve known him my entire life. When his Mama was alive, my mama was his mama best friend, and they loved each other dearly. His mama would visit our house bring Samuel over to play, and back then Samuel was nice. He didn’t mind my voice or the length of my arms. But Samuels mama died because she got hit with one them city cars, she got hit real bad and flew up in the air like beach ball. When Samuels’s mama died no one visited him, not even my mama because no one wanted to be around that liquored up daddy of his. He’s mad because he said I wasn’t his brother no more, 7 years old and he had already cut ties with me like we had been blood bound. Now he’s just an angry fella trying to beat my mom because his Mama died, and his dad got him good in the jaw. “Let go of my mama.” I say my voice weasel like and scared. “You better let her go ri-right now before I-I kill you.” I say voice still shaking like a metal fan. Samuel don’t look at me seriously, and he throws my mama to the ground and she hit the wooden floor hard. She makes grunt sound and start sobbing and she tell me to get the police. Yet I stand there because I aint getting no police. The neighbors that are a mile away didn’t hear my mama, and the police is too far to do any good. I aint getting no police I think, I’m gon fight him I think. “You aint gon fight me, everything you do and everything you think, I can see it. I’m five steps ahead of your game boy always. You are clear as water running through a new stream I can see you. I’ve known you all your life.” I don’t listen to what he says because I’m creeping toward my mama to help her off the ground. I try to pick her small frame up but she just tumble off my back because I’m too weak. “Why you hurt my mama Samuel?” I say “I hurt her so I can let you know what it feel like to see your mama almost lifeless and cold, that why you dumb sonnoffa gun.” I don’t hear nothing in my head and I don’t hear my own thoughts because next thing I know my fist is flying toward his nose, and I hear it crack beneath my knuckles. Samuel falls back shocked and he gets back up like lighting, he starts turning into that dark matter that I see everywhere. He start becoming demon like and foul and I don’t like it, but I don’t care because my Mama is hurt.
“Boy you gon regret you did that, you think you can take a swing at me?! You think you can beat up on me?!” I don’t say nothing because I’m staring to run out the room with my mama on my back. I feel her fly off my shoulder, and I feel his large hands around my throat and he knocks to me to the ground and I can’t move. I’m pinned down like the frog I dissected in science class last week, and I feel like I’m dying. I never understood how, a boy like Samuel got so big, how he got so strong. He presses hard on my throat and my face is becoming blue. I see Mama out the corner my eyes passed out near her bed, face planted to the floor, I feel like I don’t see her breathing. “You gon learn, that someone like you, ugly and long aint got nothing on me you hear? You gon learn that someone like me is gon have the pleasure of whooping your behind good.” I don’t scream or cry because I’m scared, I don’t say nothing because I see Randy and Joshua walk through them doors with them buck antlers, wide eyed and smiling like they scored the richest game in town.
Randy places the antlers on the table near the bed, and Joshua walks over to my mama. “Pretty thing she is yeah? Must of killed her to give birth to this piece of something over there you hear what I’m saying? He laughs and waits for Randy to laugh too but he don’t say nothing, he just look at him and growls telling him to shut up. Samuel also starts glaring at Joshua thinking how this boy got sense but can be so stupid at the same time. I take this chance to push him off of me and I get up quick, knocking them antler down running for the police like my mama told me to, like I should have done from the start. I ran past him and he grabs me, but I elbow him in the face and he falls backwards hard. After all I hear is a grunt, and I turn around I see the antlers coming through his chest, parading through his ribs with blood flying out like a fountain. I see his body jerking this way and that way and I watch him for a few second till he stop moving. I look up and I see Randy and Joshua wide eyed again this time scared, and I see them sweating. One start running out the door and the other just sits there, Randy sits there in shock and disbelief. He aint never seen no dead man before, neither have I, but I don’t care because I see my mam breathing again. I pick her up and throw her across my skinny back and run her out the house to find help. I run fast and hard.
There’s a weird feeling inside my body, running from my chest to my stomach to my toes, and it makes me run faster, makes my body feel colder and my head lighter. I run up the hill past the meat shop, and bread shop and I see Mr. Howard about to close up. “Mr. Howard!” I yell “Help me! My mama is hurt bad!” I screech, and I run to him and he sees me this time too, and for a second I could have sworn his eyes aligned themselves out of urgency. “Take my mama please and help her” I say panting and dripping sweat and I don’t wait for his answer, I gently put her in his arms and I run in the opposite direction. I run fast and hard because in these days, if I’m caught Im gon be put in a place where crazy men really want to hurt me, and I’m gon be put in a place where I won’t wake up no more, where dark matter don’t even have a place. Where them bloody buck antlers are gon haunt me till the end of time.