His mama trusted him with her purse. He holds it above the stainless steel counter. Dwarfed by the cash register. He is a big boy ordering fries. Orange haired, red faced cashier shrugs shoulders, clacks gum, cheek muscles working and popping. In her rolled-eye imagination, you can almost see jungle bunnies frolic. She asks him about size… which he has to think about for a moment. Decisions are big. Big as he is. She rustles as if to say, 'hurry up, dirty picaninny.' He decides. Small. He is small at McDonald's. Nothing bigger than the fries, he orders and processed just as quickly. "That'll be a dollar," her hand lashes millimeters below his nose before words have a chance to pass through the space between them. He opens his mama's purse. "I don't have a dollar," he whispers incredulously to himself. Plaintive voice folding her hands into a loose fist. Her eyes dismiss him. "Next" already on her on her lips, her eyes meet mine above this six year old boy taking up her precious space and time. She does not speak child fluently. There is no dollar in his mama's purse. I ask the boy. “Got one with a ten on it?” He shakes his head frowning. There must be one hundred O's at the end of his slow “No.” He's frightened now. She's tapping her fuschia claws. He understands. No dollar means no fries which means he wasn't big enough to come up to the counter all by himself. Which means he's not a very big boy after all. He is a disappointment. This will not be a very happy meal. He looks in the purse again. Looks at me. His voices quivers. "I have one with a two and a zero. Twenty! Will that work?" An encouraging nod. A smile. She gives him fries. He gives her an iceberg crisp bill. He carefully cradles his fries. Hands guarding each golden sliver. He skips away. She is more than ready to take my order. I see new shoes dancing in her suppressed smirk. The fringe benefits of ignorance. This grease loving neighborhood keeps her clubbing in consistent high style. But, everywhere is school in my village. I take up her time and space to teach this little brother about money. She will learn there are no free shoes from ignorant brown boys. I step out of line, "Hey! Little brother, Can you help me out?" He nods. Eager eyed. "Tell the lady twenty minus one." His brows furrow. I try again, “What number comes before twenty?” He is quick. "Nineteen," he pipes up. "Yes! Nineteen! " I tell her. Push back the ten and five she's already thrown on the counter. "Dollar bills," I stress. Sullenly, she counts 19 ones into his tiny hands. His eyes are big. Big as he is. He is getting a lot today. He's getting change.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Raising Mothers, please consider making a one-time or recurring contribution to help us remain ad-free. If even a fraction of subscribers signed up to contribute $1 per month, Raising Mothers could be self-sustaining!