my mother’s story

It was warm, but not too warm; the perfect temperature to only wear a sweater. I was nine years old; the second youngest out of my sisters. There’s Annette, Pat, me, then Charlene, but Charlene is nine years younger than me so she didn’t go to school with us. We were the only black students in the school. Hell, we were the only black family in the neighborhood. 1976, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. School ended around three o’clock and every day, Annette, Pat, and I walked home together. When we got home, we did homework, fed the fish, and watched TV.

That day, we came home to the apartment and saw the door open. Annette’s eyes widened and she said, “Did I leave the door open this morning? Mommy’s gonna kill me.” Annette walked in first, then Pat, then me. I walked into the kitchen and heard Annette say, “I think we were robbed. Someone took our things.” The dishes in the kitchen were broken on the floor, the plastic coverings on the chairs were ripped up, the drawers were pulled out and the silverware was all over the floor. Our glasses were shattered on the floor. Pat didn’t talk the whole time, she just walked around with her mouth wide open. The three of us walked into the living room together. We had a big fish tank against the wall and the water was brownish-green. There were chipped pieces of plastic in the tank and all of our fish were floating on the top. The TV stand was empty; the TV and VCR were gone. Annette’s eyes got teary and she grabbed my wrist and told Pat to come with her. Annette led us down the stairs to the super’s apartment. Annette said, “Stay in the hallway,” so I did. I leaned against the hallway wall as Annette and Pat knocked on the door and went inside the super’s apartment. The super came out with Annette and Pat behind him, and the four of us went back upstairs to our apartment. “Stay outside, I’m going to call the cops,” he said. He called the police, then our mother. It was around four o’clock; the police came and Mommy came home about an hour later. Mommy told Pat and I to start cleaning up as she talked to the police. “I worked so hard to buy my kids a TV only for those bastards to take it. They’re cowards.” The police took notes on everything Mommy said; their pens scribbled as fast as they could on those little notepads. Once Annette finished telling them the story of the day, the white police officers wished us a good day and left. “They can try all they want, but there is nothing they can do,” Annette said with a sigh. Mommy told us to start cleaning up. She went to bed early.

We replaced the locks a week later, cleaned the tank, and got new fish. It took Mommy a few months to save up for a new TV and VCR, but she got a new one eventually. We were robbed two more times that year, and each time we replaced the locks a week later, cleaned the tank, and got new fish.

written in April 2019.

performed at the World Mother Storytelling Project pilot program by Narativ Inc. on May 31, 2019.

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