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By Trace Richardson

The family was scattered in a half-moon circle on the grounds of the cemetery. Spring and roses filled the air along with weeping. Two hundred people stood looking down at a pink and gold casket. One by one, people dropped to their knees, or had to be held up by someone else, or they just plain fainted as Reverend Lorenzo Alexander spoke the words of goodbye to our departed Zula Mae Alexander McCrary — Cousin Zula – a woman who gave love to so many people through out her life.

She was my aunt, but everyone called her Cousin Zula Mae. She was the oldest matriarch of the family and now she was gone. At 97, old age had taken her. The elders before her lived to be 100 or more, but she had lived a good life of love. At 10, he lied about his age to enlist in the northern Army to fight in the Civil War. Slavery had taken his mother from the children she bore with a white man. The horror traumatized him until his death. Zula Mae said that Granddaddy would say that he would never allow his children to be put in such a life and told her and the rest of the family to love and look after one another, to stay close so they would not be separated. He also told the whites in the neighborhood that he would kill every one of them if they touched any of his kids.

Zula Mae was never a slave but she was forced into marriage. Her Granddaddy told her that a good man was asking about her in the community. His wife had died in childbirth and he was in need of being married again. The men folk in the family made the decisions and they gave her hand to him. There was a lone dissenter among the men – an uncle who thought otherwise. She was told one day that she was to marry him and that she now had to go live with him. It was a quick marriage, without any witnesses except the men folk. The man she was given to was much older than she.

He beat her the night of the marriage to make her do as he commanded. He would come home drunk or upset, wanting food and sex. After two weeks, on a day her sister came by to visit, he hit Zula in the face. A lump swelled under her eye. That day she had enough of him and cards she was dealt by the men folk in the family. She sent her sister home, and pretended to him as if nothing was wrong. He went on with his usual commands and then sat down in a chair with his back to Zula Mae. She picked up a big heavy log and hit him in the head as hard as she could. He fell over as if dead, and she thought he was. She ran to the house of the uncle who fought for her right to make her own decisions. He told the other menfolk in the family that they would not make her go back and that they ought not step on his property.

Soon, Zula Mae rode out of the South to Chicago. She worked as a domestic and then for a museum taking coats. Two more marriages ended when the husbands died.

Then a cousin who had left Chicago and was making good in California called her. Zula Mae rode the Greyhound bus and arrived in California three days later.

Zula Mae never had children of her own but she took on the children of a cousin who had way too many. She became a housekeeper for some of the wealthiest white families in Los Angeles. One family was in the record industry and through them she met some of the great recording artists of the 60’s and 70’s. Her employer would pull her out of the kitchen and introduce her to his guests. One of her employers helped her out of many jams including legal ones because, she told me, she had no clue “bout no law.” She built relationships of mutual respect with her employers and this was the reason she loved them all dearly. Being in service to others, she said, was all she ever knew.

Zula Mae Alexander McCrary was the last bastion of the old world for our family in Los Angeles and was one of the few people left who could tell the stories of family members, history and how two generations back our peoples worked hard and bought land so that the next could have a place to lay their heads. Her accounts gave me a glimpse into a world far from mine of today. More importantly, Zula Mae Alexander McCrary could tell how a generation of relatives lived and loved each other in times of hardship and misery.

One day a terrible earthquake rocked Los Angeles. Our phone went out and Cousin Zula Mae did not drive. Yet she came from way across town, on the bus, to see about us. When my parents didn’t care enough to save money for my school pictures, it was Cousin Zula Mae who paid for them.

Once, her first cousin that she grew up with on the farm was sick in Chicago. Zula Mae rode a Greyhound to go see after her. As she picked out a faded 1970 suitcase from the closet and threw clothes in it, she turned to me. “Me and this child we was raised on the farm together by granddaddy and mamma. I got to get to her,” she said. “We is all we got.”

The love she received while living during the farm life puzzled and amazed me, as I knew that life was hard. Yet it also felt good to me, as I did not receive this type of love in my family before she arrived. In the depth of my soul, I was learning to love watching Cousin Zula Mae managing to show love in ways foreign to me. Zula Mae taught me the importance of showing love when you have the chance to do so. Once, my cousin was leaving for a long journey and everybody gathered to say goodbye. I lingered and watched. Zula Mae kept pushing me to say goodbye. Instead, I waved at him and flashed a smile. Finally, and before I could speak to him, he got in his car and left. Zula Mae asked me to sit next to her. She told me of how important it was for us as a family to love each other and say goodbye. I guess it was the teaching from Granddaddy that was embedded in her.

I faded in and out of her conversation and turned and twisted in my seat. I was uncomfortable with people leaving me. I could not cry because the word “goodbye” sulked my spirit.

That day of her funeral, at the cemetery, surrounded by family and friends, I found myself unable again to say goodbye. I could not utter the words. The warmth of love I received from her was too much to lose. Instead, as I stood at her gravesite, I looked down and said, “I will see you again.”

____Trace Richardson

Trace Richardson is of African American descent. Her interests are in the arts. She lives in the Los Angeles area. Contact her at richtm3050@student.laccd.edu

 

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By Richard Zamora

I was feeling a little car sick as we drove to the Toy-R-Us. A cool chill traveled through my spine.  I pictured myself gliding through the wind, my body rushing against the opposing breeze. I’d been waiting for this for a very long time. Finally, I was going to get my new bike. We pulled up to the Toy-R-Us parking lot trying to find a spot near the entrance.

“You happy?” he asked, with his strong Mexican accent.

“Yeah I’m happy.” I said, actually feeling somewhat joyful for once. We parked and got out the car; I was jumping up and down like a pogo stick.

“Relax.” he said, as he pulled me towards him.

“Come on let’ go!” I said, trying to break free from his grasp. I ran up to an employee.

“Oh, go down aisle nine and when you get there make a right. You can’t miss it.”

I began to walk down the aisle, scoping out the other toys in the store. I made a right and there it was. Bike heaven. They had almost every brand — from Haros to Mongooses; it was quite spectacular.

Cual quieres?”

“That one,” I said, pointing to a Next. It had a shiny, navy blue coat. It came with pegs and a bottle holder. It was perfect.

“Get it,” he said.

I grabbed it and began to walk it to the shortest line. A whole bunch of kids waited; some had action figures, others had scooters. I was standing proud with my new bike. Finally, it was our turn to pay. The total cost was $130.00 and it was all worth it.

We went home. I couldn’t wait to show off my new bike to my friend, Kyle. We arrived and I rode my Next to Kyle’s house. I knocked, hoping he’d answer so we could cruise. His sexy-ass sister opened the door.

“Hey,” I said, eyeing her up and down.

“Hey, how you been?” she asked.

“Good. Is Kyle here?”

“Yeah, he’s inside. Kyle!”

“What?” he moaned.

“Richards here.”

Kyle ran to the door.

“What’s up?” I said, holding my bike.

“That’s your new bike?” he asked, surprised.

“Yeah, you wanna go riding?” I asked, taunting him by pretending my bike was a motorcycle and I was revving my engine with my hands.

“Hell, yeah. Let’s ride.”

I waited till my friend mounted his bicycle. It felt like adrenaline was ready to erupt from within my body.

“Ready. Set. Go!” I yelled, pedaling with full throttle.

“Cheater!” Kyle said.

“Bite me!”

The race began. I was in the lead, smashing and drifting around corners. Kyle was riding on my left side and there was a speed bump approaching. I hit the speed bump and popped an Ollie. As I was soaring in the air, I looked back at Kyle and I saw him in the air as well. I thought to myself, “We must be pros, doing shit like this.”

“I won!” I said.

“No fair. You had a head start.”

“Nuh huh.”

“Yeah huh.”

“Whatever. Let’s cruise for a bit.”

We rode for several hours until it got dark. Then we headed to his house to eat. Kyle was half American and half Asian and was about 5’6” and kinda slim. We met because his sister and my sister, they were friends. The truth was that I had a crush on his older sister, Denise, the one who answered the door earlier.

“ Hey, you guys hungry?” Denise asked.

“I’m starving,” Kyle answered.

“What about you?” I wasn’t paying much attention to what she was saying, I was more interested in her physique.

“Just a little.”

“Sit down and eat,” she said. Denise was so sexy with her long black hair, pretty brown eyes, juicy lips and her stare – man, it was hypnotizing. Anyways, we ate some orange chicken with steamed rice. It was bomb. After we grubbed, I told him I had to leave because my dad would whoop my ass if I came in late. We said our goodbyes and I rode home on my bike. It was nine o’clock and I knew he’d be waiting for me.

He was yelling at my brother. He stood six feet tall, with a husky physique and stomped when he walked. Screaming was normal for him, a trait he and my grandmother shared, and he was my father.

Onde estabas?” he asked, staring me down with his dark, soul-piercing eyes.

“Outside, riding my bike.”

At that moment I was expecting to get hit. Usually my brother would get it first. The hellion would beat him so bad, he would have to wear long sleeves and pants for days. If my mother got in the way, she was beaten as well. I grew to hate the son of a bitch.

“I told you nine o’clock!”

“Sorry,” I said, sensing an evil vibe.

“I don’t give a fuck! You listen to me!” he said, taking off his leather cowboy belt. I was scared, but I knew my mother was horrified because she knew what was about to happen.

“Come over here!” he said, smacking his belt on the wall. If I didn’t come the beating would be ever more severe. The despair combusted and I began to tear.

“Leave him alone!” yelled Tony, my brother.

“Shut the fuck up!”

He began to strike my brother with the metal part of the belt. It made a sound louder than thunder. I dropped my bike and ran towards my mom but he intercepted me, grabbed my right forearm and with his free hand he started whipping me with the belt, slashing my body.

The wounds instantly swelled up. I looked at my brother, watching him explode with rage.

“Fuck you!” my brother hollered as he kicked my father in the balls. My mom grabbed the phone and called the police but I knew the cops wouldn’t understand her broken English.

“Please my sons, help!” That’s the last thing she said before he snatched the phone from her hand. Now my mom was getting beat. Me and my brother tried to stop him but he overpowered us.

Then all of a sudden I heard sirens and in seconds they kicked down the door and rushed in. They caught him red-handed.

“Freeze. Put your hands in the air!” the officer said, pointing a Glock 9 directly at my dad’s forehead.

He didn’t listen to their command so they tackled him to the floor. He tried to resist but he was no match for the brute policeman.

They arrested him and that was the last we saw of him.

____

Richard Zamora is a senior at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. After graduation, he plans on attending culinary school to fulfill his goal of becoming a chef.

 

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By Rachel Kimbrough

After my three older siblings got fed up and moved out, seventeen-year-old me was the last target standing for my mother’s infantile rage.

She was sure, had a soul-deep conviction, that I was a drug user. She said my pupils were always dilated. She said I smelled bad. She said my eyes were bloodshot. That my grades were suffering.

And she was right. About the evidence, I mean. Not about my being a drug-user. I’m a little afraid of drugs.

I was working full-time as a host at a restaurant. I buddied up with another host there, girl named Alex. We drove around every night after work, going anywhere that wasn’t home.

Like every other member of our disgruntled youth, we thought we were alone in our home-life dissatisfaction. We felt confident we needed to rebel, but we didn’t have the guts to dabble in intoxicants or fornication

One night we drove past a construction site on 119th and Black Bob road in Olathe and saw a strip mall being built there. There was a giant crane parked in the center of one kiosk and what appeared to be a clock tower in the making. There were various construction tools and paint buckets.

We went back to the restaurant and stole some plates and returned to the site.

We weren’t really sure what we wanted. We were giddy midnight schoolgirls, each of us standing there looking across a concrete expanse with plates stacked in our arms like textbooks, not sure what to do next.

I unloaded my stack of plates onto a nearby palette. I picked off the first plate, crouched like I was throwing a Frisbee, and flung the dish across the parking lot.

It skipped six or seven times like a skipping stone across a creek before shattering against the wall of the nearest building, one that was close to completion. Flakes of Stucco rained gently to the ground.

This was an early Christmas gift to Alex and me. We could not have elicited a better response from the plate or from the building. We began hurling plates. One of Alex’s plates ricocheted off a light pole and smashed into the ground, erupting in a lovely fountain of shards glistening in the yellow city light.

We lost control.

We were out of plates within a couple minutes, and so began to climb scaffolding. We reached the roof of what would eventually be the main shopping center. The city below us seemed underwater-distant, cars zipping here and there like a disrupted school of herring, a shimmering sea of shards below us indicating that we were, indeed, someplace far from Olathe. Someplace exotic, no doubt.

The next logical step was to climb the scaffolding that hugged the clock tower in progress.

Alex went before I did because she was much smaller. If she fell I could catch her. If I fell, I would just smash her and we would both fall. That was the plan, see.

So, we ascended slowly, Alex stopping occasionally when fear froze her bones. My trick was to not look around, though I nearly lost my balance several times.

We were both wearing flip flops. As we drew near the platform circling the top of the tower, Alex’s sandal caught on a nail. In theory, I was supposed to catch her, correct her, and continue ever upward.

I caught her, kind of. I gripped the scaffolding with one hand and had the other arm wrapped under one of her armpits, her face unfortunately forced against my bosom. She started laughing about that, scatterbrained at the height of terror, and kicked her feet to try to find the scaffolding. I don’t think she realized she was now dangling just outside the scaffolding, or she would have panicked and fallen.

After a few moments I notice the ladder resting against the side of the tower just a few feet to our right. It was stretched out to its full length, wobbly, bowed in the center from bearing its own weight. But it seemed the last option.

I told Alex try to swing and get her right foot over to a rung of that ladder so I could correct her position on the scaffolding. She did. I nearly dropped her—but I didn’t. She used the ladder for balance, relieving me of her weight for a few moments before I grabbed her and heaved her back onto the scaffolding.

With that, we descended, got in the car and left. For that evening, we lost our motivation to destroy…but only for that evening. Every night for the next six months we visited construction sites: housing developments, banks, strip malls, restaurants, apartment complexes. We sometimes climbed, sometimes broke things, sometimes threw equipment off the roof. We made sure to cruise from suburb to suburb to avoid the attention of local authorities.

We were out late every night. At times we didn’t bother to wash the smell of concrete mix from our hands. We gave every indication we were drug users. That was almost true.

____

Rachel Kimbrough was born in Kansas and raised in various parts of the state. She attends Johnson County Community College and is the culture editor of its newspaper. Contact her at rkimbrou@stumail.jccc.edu

 

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