Paper Money (1978)

I knocked and entered LJ's house at the same time because I got it like that.  LJ tossed me her hat as I started to sit on that low ass couch of theirs and I fell forward trying to catch it. She threw on her brother's jacket, pulled on it's hood and said "Lets go", "A lady owes me some paper money".

It was a beautiful day. The air was brisk for early October and the sun couldn't make up it's mind whether to shine or hide as we started our trek to pick up LJ's paper money.  As we walked I marveled as I always do, at the abrupt change in scenery. Rough rectangled block size apartments arranged precisely on an imaginary grid sedgway into slightly rundaown tenements, burned out coldwater flats and rinky dink duplexes housing four to six families. Cresting the hill and beyond lies stuccoed and shingled single family homes high above clean side walks and manicured lawns.

This girl, my best friend , has paper routes, shovels snow, carries groceries,  runs any errand and will sell 50/50 raffle tickets on a Sunday. LJ does it all and all to keep her coins jingling. As a kid whose mother never had any "extra" money, I deeply appreicated this and eagerly volunteer my services for her money making shenanigans.  

I asked her:

"Have you ever been in one of those houses you deliver to?"

You see I've always wanted to know what the inside of one of those houses looked like.  Last winter while carrolling we sang at Chuck Scarborough's house, you know the famous news anchor. His house was magnificent! It was all glass and sat on stilts. All together there were seven of us trying to make some christmas money, so we did our six song medley and Chuck only gave us $5. Jerrieann Moore called him a cheap bastard...but not to his face. Yet even that doesn't even count because I could barely see into the living room with all of Chuck's friends and family blocking the doorway. I still wonder what it would be like to live in any one of these two and three storied homes. I yearn for a stairway to stomp up, a bedroom door I can slam and a pretty pink bed I can throw myself down on when my mother gets on my last nerve. 

LJ broke me out of my reverie with a heavy handed slap to the back of my neck and then ran. I chased her and we started slap boxing until a car honked us out of the street and on to the sidewalk.  We trundled deeper into surburbia that to us a white folks wonderland, and  I asked her again if she ever been in one of those houses. LJ shook her head no. She continued on,all silent like she has an attitude but I know she doesn't. When LJ doesn't want to talk, she's probably thinking and probably about money. We approached the house and she put her index finger to her lips and motioned me to walk up the two sets of steep steps behind her. Instead of going up to the front door, we walked through a gate and  curved around to the back. Unexpectedly, a least to me, a dog sounded an alarm with  low  ferocious growling. In one swift motion LJ reached in the tin milk box down by our feet,  grabbed something and took off running- immediately the dog's growls erupted into deep throaty barking and a woman's voice sliced through the air "Niiiiiiiggggerrrssss!!!!" "You Dirttty Fucccckinnnng NIIIIIIGGGGERRRRS!!!"  "Get 'Em!". I was right behind LJ but skidded to a quick stop. It seemed we were over the garage. LJ didn't hesitate for a second and jumped from our second story perch, frantically I searched for an alternate way down finding none I whispered "Please" "Please" don't go" but LJ grunted back "jump" and continued to run. With visions of the dog attatched to those barks lunging at me, I jumped. I ran and ran and ran, I ran past LJ and kept on running until she caught up to me and snatched the hat off my head and mocked me all the way down the hill. Shrilly she shouting  "Please" "Please don't gooooooo". We both laughed and I asked her what did she get. LJ pulled  a tight  roll of 4 one dollar bills out of her pocket and gave me one. Walking back to our block an ice cream truck caught up to us and I got a bomb pop and she a toasted almond. We walked back to our stoop and sat down.

"I'll get you my pretty little nigger" LJ cackled as she opened her ice cream and I replied "This nigger ice cream sure tastes good". That night we prefaced everything with "Nigger"  but not too loudly cuz you know, grown folks. I went home and all night wondered about my crazy day and my crazy ass friend. 

After school the next day LJ yelled up to my window "let's go". It was a little warm so I ditched my jacket. I met her downstairs and asked where are we going? LJ  was like "A lady owes me money for her paper" and I just looked at her, she put her hands up and said "nah, it ain't like that".  We walked the walk and when we got there she motioned me to wait there. LJ trudged up the steps, knocked on the door and the same voice who called us niggers the day before, politely told her to please wait. A minute later we were heading back home and all I could do was stop and just look at her, she said "nah, you don't know the whole story". I looked at her and then slapped the back of her neck as hard as I could and took off running. 


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