by Lori D. Johnson
Curtis jiggles the loose change in his pockets as he struts up the tulip-lined path. His suit is a blue Armani; his shirt, white, wrinkle-free and French cuff bold and his tie, a crimson, Italian silk foulard, bearing a blue diamond motif. Something akin to glitter dances in the space between his Rolex-strapped wrist and his brand new wingtips with the twenty dollar shine. He marches up the porch steps, pushes open the front door and glides over the threshold, chest puffed and grin wide. But rather than extend her usual fawn, Grandma Rose whirls past him, as if he'd been idling there all morning long, like a young barnyard rooster who can’t wait to impress the sleeping hens with his ability to crow.
"Hey!" he says, grabbing her on her re-entry. He plants a peck on her cheek. "And a lovely morning to you, too."
"Oh, I'm sorry, sugar." She scrunches her lips and returns his affection in double.
He nods toward the spread on the dining room table. "I see I'm just in time for breakfast.”
Grandma Rose frowns and extends her hand. "Help yourself. The twins done already messed over all they could before running out of here, like somethin' done bit 'em on the backside."
A round of bumping and squealing lures her eyes and his toward the ceiling. Her scowl deepens as she stomps over to the stairs and hollers up, "All right ladies. Enough with the nonsense. I'm leaving outta here in exactly ten minutes. And I 'spect you both to be ready. You hear me?"
A giggle-filled, "Yes Ma'am," drifts down the staircase.
Curtis walks over to the table and butters a piece of toast. “They're not giving you problems are they?"
“The twins? Oh, they’re a handful, all right," Grandma Rose says upon her hurried approach to the dining room table. "But no more than would be expected given the circumstances.”
He nods and chews as the old woman scurries around him, scraping plates, fastening tops on opened containers and shoving dirty utensils into the deep pockets of her apron.
“But that brother of theirs, Mark, I ‘clare if he ain’t ‘bout to work my last nerve. Take this morning, child’s stomach growling so loud I can hear it from way across the hall. But will he come down and eat? No-ooo! He claim he ain’t hungry.”
Upon surveying the hearty breakfast of oatmeal, toast, cranberry juice, banana slices, raisins and the required dose of castor oil, Curtis can hardly blame the boy for passing on the morning offering.
"And all day yesterday," Rose continues. "He was 'round here carrying on 'bout some ole tie. 'I need me a tie. I ain't going to church tomorrow lessen I get me a tie.' So what do I do? I takes the boy shopping. 'Course he ain't satisfied with just your ordinary clip-on. No sir, he got to go and get his heart set on one of these here fancy, one hundred percent silk, wrap around numbers."
Ties? Thanks to his line of work, as well as the generosity of both his late cousin Rodger and Grandma Rose, Curtis owns tons of ties in every style, pattern and hue imaginable. How could she have possibly forgotten? "Why didn’t you just--" he starts.
"So silly me," she says. "I go 'head and buy the fool thing. But do you think he appreciates it? No sir, he's sitting up in his room this very minute talking 'bout he can't go 'cause the tie ain't right. I 'clare if his Mama wasn't gone and I wasn't a Christian, Lord knows I'd be up there now strangling the holy spit out that child."
Curtis is still stuck on the ties. He'd only taken them at her insistence. "I can't do nothing with them," is what she'd told him. "Besides Rodger would have wanted you to have them."
Again, he opens his mouth, only to have the silver-haired woman wag a finger in his face. "Uh-uh," she says. "He ain't 'bout to make me lose my religion. Hear me?" Instead waiting for Curtis’s response, she smiles and lowers her finger to his lapel. "Curtis baby," she says in a softer tone. "Why don't you go see if you can't talk some sense to the boy? Being that you a man, he'll probably listen to you."
"Aww Grandma!" Curtis says, throwing up his hands. "Come on, I don't even--"
She plants a kiss between his eyes, pats him on the chest and says, "My, don't you look right smart today . . . handsome too." In a wink, she's off to the kitchen, where she sheds her apron before trotting back out and over to the stairs again where she hollers up, "All right ladies. Grandma Rose is 'bout to grab her hat and get up outta here. Unless you looking to get left, you'd best be right behind me."