This week’s free Free Fiction Friday story from UnWrecked Press is “Siding the House.”
UPDATE: Now that the free week is over, you can read the rest of this story by downloading an ebook at Smashwords and Amazon. Then you can read it on your laptop, desktop, Kindle, iPad, Nook, iPhone, or whatever device you use to read ebooks.
I wrote this story as a sort of experiment with voice, and to also to write about my experiences working on houses and encountering racism in rural North Carolina one summer long ago. It was first published in Obsidian II in November 1997.
Siding the House
I love summer because I get to ride my bike and run races all day with my best friend Toshera from down the road and I can stay outside until Grandma yells me in for supper. Grandma hasn’t got any teeth and her lips look like she’s eating them when she talks in her crinkly old voice. But I listen to her because she’s smart and she’s not afraid to tan my hide if I run away from her.
It’s getting sweaty in my bed so I roll out of it when I hear Grandma thumping around the house. The hot air is still stuck in my room even though I have a fan in the window and it’s blowing in on me and Mama. She lets me sleep on the bed most of the time because she says she’d rather have the floor.
I sneak around Mama and her snoring and all the clothes and shoes and I open the door. I tiptoe past BobbaRay on the couch by the window and click on the black and white hunkajunk. Nothing good is on this morning except for some baby cartoons for first graders that I’m too smart for now that I can spell and write and do my numbers. BobbaRay can’t do all that and he never will, but I don’t hold it against him because he’s big and special and can’t really talk. He’s my brother and I love him.
Grandma’s in the kitchen sweating two stains down her big brown flowery housedress and cooking something sugary. There’s good sugary stuff every day because of what she calls her sweet tooth even though she doesn’t have any teeth at all. Grandma is fat, bigger than Mama, and her hair’s straight now because it’s all gray and worn out. My black hair curls up tight and all the little white girls in first grade used to want to touch it, but I won’t let them anymore now that I’m going to be in third grade this fall. I hug Grandma good morning and walk across the creaky old kitchen to the busted-up screen door.
The sweat from my nightgown cools me off a little bit when I open the door and stand on the bottom step, the loose one BobbaRay fell on when he tried to bring his old box fan in from outside. I like the way the wood wiggles under me. I could be a skateboard queen if I had some wheels, or a surfer mama if I had an ocean, but I’ve got the long green backyard and Mr. Isaiah’s field and that’s enough for me.
Miss Titty and Jumpinbean run up to my ankles and start acting like I’m a scratching pole. The chickens picking at the grass try to fly away from the cats and leave feathers and turds everywhere. I knock Miss Titty away because she’s crazy-looking with her eye stuck shut with buggers and her brown fur still sticky from licking Grandma’s plate after we had pancakes yesterday. Jumpinbean is a black and gray tomcat with a white chest that’s never dirty and he is my boy, my bro, my baby. He only lets me pick him up, no one else, and when I do he purrs like crazy. He’s kicking his back legs and making dough with his front ones when I hear the truck coming up our road.
* * * * *