– Fiction by Crystal Senter-Brown –
I have already decided: Today is the day I will kill my mother’s boyfriend.
Mama’s loaded shotgun has been leaning against her old dresser for the past few weeks, practically begging me to use it on Rahiem. She usually keeps it locked away in her closet.
I’ve thought about shooting Rahiem more than a few times since he moved in with us two years ago, but as much as I tried to get up the nerve, I just couldn’t do it. I’ve always been a punk. Even my father used to say so when he still lived with us. In fact, “Punk” is the only name Rahiem has ever called me, even though my real name is Gabriel.
I don’t know why mama chose Rahiem as her boyfriend anyway. Who wants to date a pill-pushing weed-head?
My mama, obviously.
If mama was a single woman with no kids, or even if I was her only kid, I wouldn’t care who she let lay up in her bed.
But she DOES have kids. Three of us, in fact.
I’m eighteen, Sadie is thirteen and Rahiem Jr. is one.
Yes. She even made a baby with that creep.
Rahiem THINKS I’m a punk, but I can protect myself! It’s my little sister Sadie who I worry about, though. She’s a crybaby, and Rahiem HATES that. The other day he smacked her because she was crying. That was the final straw for me.
So I decided today is the day. I’m gonna shoot Rahiem right in mama’s bed after mama goes to work and then lie and say someone broke in looking for his drug stash. Mama will know the truth, of course, but she would never call the police on her own child…
As I enter mama’s room, I see Rahiem sleeping on mama’s side of the bed. I pick up mama’s gun and it’s heavier than I imagined it would be.
I quietly watch Rahiem’s skinny chest rise and fall. My finger shakes as I place it on the trigger. Soon, my whole body is shaking.
I begin to count down from ten in less than a whisper:
But what happens if I miss him?
What if the gun jams?
What happens if he kills me instead?
And how will mama pay the rent if Rahiem’s not around?
Will we have to live with my grandmother again like we did after daddy left?
I hated when we lived with my grandmother. Her house smells like old chicken grease and mothballs.
I close my eyes, then:
I expect the gun to go off but instead, the click I hear is mama’s bedroom door opening.
I turn around to see Sadie standing there.
“Gabriel! What are you doing with mama’s gun?” Sadie grabs the gun out of my hand just as Rahiem opens his eyes.
“What are y’all bastards doin’ in my room? Can’t you see I’m trying to…” he stops mid-sentence as he sees the gun in Sadie’s hand.
“Were ya’ll trying to kill me?”
He sits up in bed and rubs his eyes.
“Ha! Look at this! A punk and a crybaby trying to act all bad!” he said as he laughs.
“We weren’t trying, I was GOING to kill you if Sadie hadn’t come in to save you,” I scream. “And if you try to touch Sadie again, you won’t lived to see another day. I mean that,” I say.
My voice is squeaky and shaky but I mean every word.
I expect Rahiem to lunge at me but instead he pulls a cigarette out of the pack on the night stand and lights it. “It’s about time,” he says as he blows a cloud of smoke into my face.
“What?” I ask. My voice is still shaking.
“It’s about time your punk ass got a backbone. I’ve been waiting for this since I moved in here two years ago,” Rahiem says as he laughs. “Now look at you! Mama’s boy is finally a big man!” he says as he hits my chest with the back of his hand.
Sadie leans mama’s gun against the wall just as mama comes into the room.
“Did I miss the party?” Mama says as she twirls around the room, showing off her new yellow dress. “I love to see all my babies getting along. I had to come back to get my lunch,” she says as puts one arm around me and one around Sadie.
I turn away from Rahiem to mama.
“You look pretty,” I say as I notice yet another black eye under her caked-on make-up.
“You been crying, Gabe? What happened now? Jeez, I wish you would toughen up a little,” Mama says as she pats my curly afro. Her eyes move from me to her shotgun. “Gabe, have you been messin with my gun? It’s been moved.”
“No, ma’am,” I say with my head lowered.
“Are you sure? Because I know it was–“
“Dammit, Elizabeth, didn’t you hear what the boy said?” Rahiem says as he stands up. “Damn! I gotta get outta here. This place is giving me a headache.”
“When you comin’ back, baby?” Mama asks. “I’ll make you some dinner!”
“I don’t know,” Rahiem says as he pulls on his shirt and jeans and kisses mama on her forehead. When he brushes past me, he almost knocks me over.
Mama and I watch Rahiem’s Cadillac peel out of our driveway and bounce down our street, kicking up a cloud of dust as it drives away.
That evening when I come home from school, Mama is sitting on the steps waiting.
Every day for the next two weeks, mama spends the evening waiting for Rahiem to come back.
But, he never does.
About the Author – Crystal Senter-Brown
Crystal Senter-Brown has published 7 books and had one novel turned into an award-winning feature film. Originally from Morristown, TN, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son.
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