Remember poor Jackie Ann? (click here for a quick review)If I were writing this story today, there are a couple of things I'd write differently. I see at least one of the things I'd change in the following section of "New Growth." Perhaps, you'll notice it too. If so, leave me a comment in the comment section or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyway, here's where we left off . . .
Except for the vehement, "No, don't cut it!" that accompanied the sight, sound or mention of scissors, Jackie Ann chose to endure both humiliation and mutilation in silence. A passive stance it was, but one frequently subject to betryal by her body which spoke eloquently in the language of dance. Her musically inspired performances, marked by fits of jerking, twisting, jumping, sliding, humping and whirling 'round and 'round until she was drunk with motion and high on movment, led her puzzled kin to believe the child was truly crazy.
Here's where we pick up . . .
She was in the middle of one such high-powered routine the day Princess, Toots, and Lil Bit arrived home from college for summer break.
"Go on and git it, girl!" Princess dropped her bags at the front door and ran over to turn up the music while Toots and Lil Bit joined Jackie Ann with some wild steps of their own.
M'Deah came in from the kitchen, smiling and fussing. "Don't y'all come in here with no foolishness now. Making all that racket on a Sunday morning."
The three went over and showered M'Deah with hugs, kisses, and hellos, leaving an annoyed Jackie Ann standing there wiping sweat from her forehead and silently cursing their arrival. Obviously none of the prayers she had said so faithfully every night for the past month and a half had worked. All three were alive and well, and loud as ever.
Princess was her cousin, Uncle Jake's daughter by his first wife. Since the age of 13 she had traveled from Atlanta to Memphis every summer in order to spend a few weeks with her father. It was a trip which typically involved the tagging along of her longtime and equally obnoxious running partners, Toots and Lil Bit. But recent events, namely Jake's separation from his third wife and the troublesome trio's admission to a college in Nashville, had somewhat altered the nature of their arrangement--not to mention life itself as Jackie Ann had come to know it. It was bad enough that Uncle Jake with his cigar-smoking, loud-talking, good-for-nothing self had moved back home and into the spare bedroom across the hall from Jackie Ann's. But now, to make matters even worse, Princess, Toots and Lil Bit were here in Memphis--not for a few weeks, mind you, but for the entire summer!
"Princess, stand back and let M'Deah see how pretty you done got. Oooh chile! I declare if you ain't looking more and more like your old Aunt Claudie Bell."
Yeah, she was another stuck-up, long-haired, high-yellow, cow-faced heifer, Jackie Ann thought to herself. As her M'Deah's smile turned into a frown, the little girl feared for a split second that her thoughts had been read.
"Jackie Ann Johnetta Jones," her M'Deah said with wrinkled brows. Jackie Ann winced. The full birthname business usually meant trouble. "Would you please turn that music down, or off, or something!"
Jackie Ann rolled her eyes and turned off the radio with a violent click. Not here five minutes and already they were cramping her style. She stood there watching them with her arms folded across her chest and her lips poked out.
"Where's your manners, Jackie Ann? Can't you speak to your cousins and her friends?"
"Hey," Jackie Ann half-whispered and half-mumbled.
Her M'Deah scolded. "Don't you be trying to get no attitude, young lady. It's too early in the morning. Now, go on and show them where to put they things. And when you get finished, come on back here and give me a hand in the kitchen."
"Yes, ma'am." Jackie Ann trudged down the hall, head hanging, shoulders slumped, and bottom lip threatening to sweep the floor.
It was in this same evil spirit of hospitality that she led Princess, Toots and Lil Bit to the room that had once been her own private world of make-believe. A world safe from the critical eyes and biting tongues of unkind kinfolk, where dreams pulled from dust-filled corners of imagination had once danced their way into reality. Yes, in its heyday it had served her well, providing ample space and inspiration for her musical and musicless flights of fancy. "Dance, Jackie Ann, dance!" the walls had seemed to whisper, and she would, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.
But with the recent influx of unwelcome houseguests and uninvited borders, those days had all but faded into memory. Her private world was now nothing short of a boarding room, with too many beds, boxes and quite frequently bodies. A room where dreams, when they dared emerge, were promptly crushed beneath odd looks, crude language, and laughter--loud and long.