Excerpt from my book: When The Dust Settled

Stranger at the Door

T
he next morning there was a knock on the door. Who could that
be? I thought. Toots opened the door to my biggest fear. Tyrone!
“Hey, come here and give me a hug.” The boys ran over to
where he plants himself on the bed. Toots and I stayed out of the
way. I would give a million bucks if I knew what was going on in
Toot’s head. She was just standing there, not saying a word. She
looked as crushed as I was. After all the greetings were out of the
way and all our possessions were packed into the car, we were off
once again into the trenches.
Later that night after we had dinner, Tyrone allowed Toots and
me to go to the Center, where our friends were sure to be found. I
ran from the house in break-neck speed, relieved to be further away
from that messy, so-called family. My friends seemed to know
things were rocky at home. I never talked about it. How I wished I
could tell someone in hopes of things turning around. I was afraid
of the consequences if I opened my mouth. Whenever I would go
to the Center by myself or with my kid brothers, I would play all
the different games and other activities, which helped me take my
mind off all the crap at home. Tonight was different, though.
“Joey, where have you been?” Mark shouts across the Center.
The place is packed. I don’t see any of my other friends. In fact, I
don’t know where Toots went. I walk over to Mark who is standing

WHEN THE DUST SETTLED

64

in front of the bumper pool table. He gives me a hug and says,
“Want to play?”
“Sure.” I watch on as Mark gets the games started. I didn’t
answer his question about where I have been because I don’t want
people to know. I can’t relax. Whenever I hear someone coming
into the Center, I tense up, thinking Tyrone is coming to get me.
Apparently, Mark can tell I am not myself.
“Joey, are you okay? You keep looking over your shoulder like
someone is after you. What’s up?”
“I will tell you after our game.” I was rehearsing in my head
what I was going to tell him. I trusted Mark.

I could never beat Mark at bumper pool. Tonight was no dif-
ferent. After we finished up, I walked to the front door, motioning

for Mark to follow me outside. Once we were away from prying
ears, I proceeded to tell him.
“Well, a few days ago, we left Tyrone. That’s why you have not

seen me around. I thought Mom had serious plans to take us some-
where safe. But she called him to pick us up.”

“Where did you guys go?”
“The Imperial Palace.”
“That place was scary, man. Well, are you guys going to be okay?”
“I don’t know, man. Please don’t tell anyone, Mark.”
“I won’t.”
“I don’t know, just hope things get better soon!”
“Me too, Joey.”
I hung out until 8:00 p.m. and then headed home. I purposely
took my time walking. I was in no hurry to get back to the trenches.
I got home just under the wire. I was not surprised to see Ma
drinking a beer with Tyrone in the kitchen. I tensed up as I walked
into the living room. I really didn’t know what to expect from
them. I joined my siblings to watch TV. As the night progressed,
I couldn’t relax. I walked over to Toots and whispered in her ear.
“I am going to bed.”
“Okay see you in the morning.”
I woke up to the sound of the bathtub filling up with water.
Perhaps Toots was going to take a bath. I walked into the hallway to

Stranger At The Door

65

see if indeed it was her. That’s when I saw Mom smoking a cancer
stick and drinking a beer
She was filling the tub with scalding hot water. Steam from the
water was engulfing the room.
“Hi, Mom. Are you taking a bath?”
“No, you are! I hate you. It is all your fault. I have tried to keep
the peace with Tyrone but he continues to beat me because of you!”
she stopped speaking to take another drink.
“Toots, help!” I hollered into the hall, hoping Toots would show
up and settle Ma down, but no Toots. Next thing I knew, Ma picked
me up and threw me into the tub.
“Maybe this will teach you to shut your mouth!” she screamed.
“AAAHHHH!” I tried to fight my way out of the tub, but she
was too strong. The water was unbearably hot. I was about to give
up fighting when Tyrone stormed into the bathroom and yanked
me out of the tub.
“What in the hell are you doin’, June?” Ma had the strangest
look on her face.
“What is it to you, ape! This is my kid, and I’ll handle
this my way.”
“No, you won’t, June. You need to take your butt to bed. Joey,
are you okay?”
“No, I am far from being okay…”
“Go to your room and get changed. Don’t worry about your Ma;

I will put her to bed.” I was not in my room more than thirty sec-
onds when Ma barged into the room. Not again, I thought. I scur-
ried under the bed where she couldn’t get to me—in my hiding spot.

“Get out here, you little creep. I’m not done with you yet. She
was screaming so loud that Toots finally came upstairs to see what
was going on. She came into my room, trying to settle Mom down.

Mom turned her attention on Toots and began to beat her merci-
lessly. I could hear Tyrone as he made his way up the stairs. He ran

into my room and pulled Ma off Toots.
“June, leave these here kids be! Go to bed! I watched intently as
Tyrone dragged Ma to her room by her arm. When I knew Tyrone
had Mom under control, I quickly crawled from under the bed
and ran as fast as I could down the stairs. I knew from experience

WHEN THE DUST SETTLED

66

Tyrone can turn on me on a dime. His disdain can go from Mom
to me in a heartbeat.
I loved my Ma, but she acted like she hated me. What did I do?
God, please help me! I really didn’t have any lasting injuries from
the “fun bathtime experience”—at least not physical. Toots was
standing above the kitchen sink. Her nose was bleeding profusely.
“What can I do to help, man?”
“Nothing; just leave me alone,” she managed through her tears.
I trudged back upstairs. I ripped off my wet pajamas and put on a

clean set. I was being as quiet as I can. I didn’t want any more sur-
prises tonight. I climbed into bed and cried myself to sleep.

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