Karen Williams had her butt raised in the air as she bent down under Mama’s sleigh bed, sifting through the clutter of crumpled receipts, dated lottery tickets, and worn out pantyhose. Earlier in the week, she’d clawed her way through the grimy attic with boxes and bagged items, all of which were now a resting place for forgotten treasures. Giving in to defeat, she sucked her teeth hard, plopping down on the wooden floor next to the bed before releasing a set of twin cuss words.
She closed her eyes to calm her racing heart and thought about Mama saying, “Baby, just make somethin’ of ya’ life. Cut out all this silliness and act ya’ age. That’s all I ask.”
But Mama was about as subtle as a derelict dropping his pants and peeing in the middle of a first-rate restaurant. She would take aim at the wall then throw a spoon or some other nearby object before spewing out a string of expletives. The scolding came when Karen strolled in late at night after hanging out with friends and hurling rocks off the overpass of the Davison Freeway. Unsuspecting motorists swerved their cars toward other vehicles with near misses. Nonetheless, she joked and high-fived cronies, saying the way she saw it, she too contributed to the history of Detroit’s oldest freeway.
Karen opened her eyes and gazed down at her clasped hands, dust covering her fingertips and palms. Her hardheaded ways, she knew, frazzled Mama’s nerves, especially when she acted like she was deaf. That’s when Mama started in, bunching her housecoat into her fist. “You betta’ get right and stop all this foolishness,” she complained, her chapped, bottom lip quivering. “You need to be in somebody’s church, girl.” Karen rolled her eyes so hard her closed lids fluttered. It didn’t matter if it were Easter or Mother’s Day. She wasn’t about to get out of her warm bed. She also ignored Mama’s beseeching hands and claims of nice young men being present because, up till now, the only “nice man” she wanted to get with was, Hershel Cummings, her best friend since childhood. But that required a whole other strategy altogether. Now that Mama was dead, Karen wished she could have taken it all back; the years of smarting off and stomping around the house like she was killing jumbo-sized roaches. Even so, all she needed to do now was stick to the plan . . . and find that doggone letter Mama was so secretive about.