Bella was happy, happy, happy! (But, that was nothing new. Bella was happy most of the time unless she had gotten into trouble and that didn't happen often. Why, you ask, because she was afraid of whippings! So to keep from getting into trouble, she didn't do much. Now that didn't mean that she did not ever do anything. She just never did enough to warrant a spanking. She always stopped just short.) But today, Bella had found a quarter, and she was going to go to the store to get herself a popsicle! Um! um! She could taste that icy sweetness sliding down her throat right now. But first Bella had to get past Mrs. Emma! That lady seemed like she just sat on that high porch of hers and waited for something, anything, to move so that she could pounce upon it with her sharp voice. And she kept a long switch on her porch, too. All of the kids on her end of the street knew that.
Bella had to walk on the sides of the street because the street was hot. The tar would blister her feet if she didn't. The street always got that hot in the summer time and since none of the children in her neighborhood wore shoes in the summer, walking along the side of the road in the grass was an everyday occurrence. And getting a piece of fine glass in her foot was often a result of picking her way gingerly with her feet along the edge of the road.
Bella was so busy picking her way through the debris on the side of the road that she forgot to watch for Mrs. Emma. Bella's head came up with a snap when she heard a strident high pitched voice yell out, "Jes where do you think you going? You git yoself right back down that road; you hear me! Git! Don't you make me come down off this porch! Yo momma's done gone to work and you gon stay yoself at home!" Bella forgot about the hot road, and she forgot about the glass. It was like she said to herself, "Feet don't fail me now!" She was picking her feet up and putting them down, picking'em up and putting 'em down! She was flat out running for all she was worth! (rest of post in progress... Come on back and join me when I finish. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee you.)
I told you that you would not be disappointed, and I certainly hope that I was right. At any rate, here we go. Let's see, we left off with Bella, aka Baby, running for all she was worth, or, at least, she thought so, at the time. Bella made it back to the house and sat down on the porch with her feet hanging off the side. Bella thought, "I didn’t have to run that fast; I mean, after all, she is an old lady. If Momma were here, she would let me go get a popsicle. So, I ain’t gonna let Mrs. Emma stop me. I can go around the back way, but if I do that I might run in to Brodie, Jr. and I sure don't want to do that! Bella sat on the step for a few minutes more and thought about how fast she had run. She knew that she was the fastest runner in her grade and on her street. Then she thought about the popsicle that she could have. She could have both of the sticks to herself. She wouldn't have to give any to neither one of her cousins and none to her brothers either.
Bella went into the house and put on her tennis shoes that Momma had bought her from the dollar store. With her tennis shoes on, she would not have to worry about the hot streets, so she could run fast if Brodie, Jr. got after her. Then with her mind made up, she hopped off the side of the porch and started off down the street in the direction opposite Mrs. Emma's house. She had made it around the turn past the new apartments where the weeds started to grow tall. She kept a look out for Brodie, Jr. He was the neighborhood bully. He lived on the next street over from them and played a lot on the dead-end street that connected to the U-turn street she was on now. She got a rock in her shoe and after looking around to make sure he was nowhere around, bent down to take her shoe off and get the rock out. She never could figure that out about rocks, how they could get down in the toe of a perfectly tied up shoe, but they did. When she got the shoe off and had gotten the rock out, she bent to tie it up. But she did not get to tie her shoe up. She looked up and saw a brand new fire engine red bicycle barreling toward her. Bella shot to her feet and took off like greased lightning, back the way she had come. Bella knew that if Brodie Jr. caught her, he would beat her up just like he had her youngest brother last week. Bella ran until she was out of breath, but she didn't stop. She ran until her side hurt, but she didn't stop. She had left her shoe somewhere back behind her but she didn’t care. She could hear the wheels of Brodie, Jr.’s bike closing fast. She knew that she would never make it past the tall grass and around the corner to where people could see her and hear her holler. So Bella did the only thing that she could, she cut straight through the little ditch on the side of the road, sloshing through a mud puddle at the same time. She thought that she could hear Brodie, Jr. laughing, but she was not sure and she was not stopping to look nor listen. She shot like a bullet to Ms. Rosina's house and beat on the door. Mrs. Rosina opened the door and unlatched the screen just in time to see Brodie, Jr. materialize at the far end of the walk and ride straight toward Bella. Ms. Rosina opened the door and said to Bella, "Girl, where have you been? I been looking for you to go to the store for me. Bella scooted in through the door under Ms. Rosina's arm. Ms. Rosina looked at Brodie, Jr. and scowled at him then she closed the door. Ms. Rosina said, "I was not looking for you. I was just getting ready to go shopping. I could see that somebody was chasing you so I made up a story. Ms. Rosina said, "That boy is always in trouble and his momma is always paying the police off to get him out of trouble. One of these days, mark my words, he is going to get into some trouble that his momma and daddy's money can’t get him out of." Bella apologized to Ms. Rosina for tracking mud into her apartment and after she had cleaned up her mess with a paper towel, they left, Bella to home and Ms. Rosina to the store.
When Bella got home, she scrubbed the mud puddle mess off of her legs and foot and then put some beans on for dinner. She remembered to cut up a little bit of the fatback meat for seasoning that Momma kept in the window. Bella was still a little scared about the close call that she had had with Brodie, Jr. She was reflecting on that when she heard the front screen door slam. When she looked down the hall, she saw her momma on the front porch. She was glad to see Momma because that meant that she did have to strike the match to light the stove to cook the beans. (Bella hated striking those paper matchbook matches because she always burned her fingers a little or almost because she could not pull her fingers back quickly enough to keep the flare of the match from singeing her.) Bella helped Momma bring in the rest of the groceries. Momma and Bella heard someone knocking on the front door. When they got to the door, it was the ice man and he was wanting to know if Momma’s little girl was alright. Momma pulled Bella from behind her and said that Bella was fine. The ice man then said that they had told him it was Momma’s little girl that the fisherman had pulled from the river. Momma yelled, “What!” Then there were sirens everywhere. The ambulance was there, and the fire department was there and all of the cousins and her two brothers. too. Aunt Jackie was cussing the policeman, and the ice man was telling everybody to calm down. People were standing all outside of their houses. Momma stepped down into the yard and turned and told Bella to not get off that porch. When Momma got to the ambulance, she screamed. Then Brodie, Jr.’s momma pulled up in their Cadillac. Brodie, Jr. was crying and looking scared. His momma was quietly talking to the policeman. Another car of policemen had arrived. Then the policeman who had been talking to Brodie, Jr.’s momma started yelling at her. He told her he would lock them all up and carry the whole shooting match to jail, children and all! Then Bella’s brother started crying and saying that he didn’t want to go to jail. Bella just looked and looked. She looked at the policeman who was talking loudly. She looked at her cousin who was being put in Aunt Jackie’s arms. She looked at her Momma who was pointing and shaking her finger at the car full of policemen and saying that she didn’t bother anybody and that she wanted something done about the hoodlum that had tried to murder her niece. Then Brodie, Jr.’s momma started cussing Momma. Momma looked at Brodie, Jr.’s momma and said not a word. She just looked and looked. Momma looked so hard that Bella got scared. She looked so hard that Brodie, Jr.’s momma stopped bellowing and said to nobody in particular. I know my boy has been in trouble and I know the children fight, but he is a good boy and I will have his daddy to take care of him when I get him home. Momma stopped looking at Brodie, Jr.’s momma and took Aunt Jackie by the arm and pulled her back out of the street into the yard. Aunt Jackie jerked away from Momma and Momma turned that cold look on her and said one word, “Jackie!” Aunt Jackie stopped yelling and went on back to the porch. Momma turned and looked at the policemen and said, “Now, my niece almost died. What are y’all going to do?” The oldest policeman said to Momma, “Mam, we are going to haul his butt to juvenile hall; that’s what we are going to do.”
That set Brodie, Jr.’s momma off again. The policemen looked at her and said, “That’s it, everybody. Break it up. Show’s over. Everybody go home! Brodie, Jr.’s momma was still cussing when she got into her Cadillac and screeched off. Brodie, Jr. was crying when the police car carried him away.
Later that evening, Bella told her favorite cousin about the quarter, and they made plans to go to the store the next day, and they were going to have a Stageplank ( a cinnamon cookie) apiece and a popsicle too!
That night before she went to sleep, Bella thanked Jesus for making the police take Brodie, Jr. to jail. She hoped he would be alright, though. Before she went to sleep, she remembered what Ms. Rosina had said about Brodie, Jr. one day getting into trouble that his momma and daddy’s money could not get him out of. Bella thought to herself that if Jesus could make the police take Brodie, Jr. to jail, then He might make her daddy come back home. She now knew that Jesus could do anything!