"Miracle's Boys" by Jacqueline Woodson

December 3, 2019
Lafayette and his brothers struggle to make it on their own in New York City.
He would have sat down at the dining-room table and crammed, because he would have been embarrassed about me being in almost the same grade as him.
See, the old Charlie had feelings. If Charlie saw a stray cat or dog, he'd start crying. Not out-and-out bawling, but he'd just see it and start tearing up.
"They not even worth mentioning. It's like if you have a totem pole of badness, right? You got the brothers at the top, then the Dominicans and the Puerto Ricans in gangs, then the Puerto Ricans not in gangs—and maybe some of those Chinese guys that's in gangs—"
"That's a stereotype."
"And all of us always marching in a line—to the bathroom, to grub hall, to yard time. No talking, just marching, marching. Say one word and the C.O.'s calling your last name and taking something away from you—no TV, no yard time, no rec hall…." He was still looking at that faroff place, but he was whispering now.
Daddy looked up to see the screaming lady running after the dog—saw the dog way out, bobbing in and out of the water. Ty'ree says Daddy pulled the lady out first, then the dog. The dog and the lady lived, but my daddy died of hypothermia.
One of the pictures is of me and her outside on the stoop.
When I closed my eyes to just a sliver, I could see Mama sitting at that table, playing with her eyebrow the way she did when she was worrying, her hair coming loose from its braid.
He always whistled the same song—a song our mama used to sing to us called "Me and Bobby McGee" about a woman hitchhiking with her boyfriend in Louisiana and how free she felt whenever she played her harmonica.
He jutted his chin toward the kitchen. "I read your mind. Took it out the freezer before I went to work this morning."
Ty'ree nodded. "You want to see a blow-up-the-world movie?"
I shook my head. "Nah. Not really. I don't care if I have to think real hard. No subtitles though. Can stay home to read."
He bought me two tokens using a bunch of change in his pocket.
I looked down at my boots. They were black and scuffed.
"But he's evil incarnate," I said.
It reminded me of somebody possessed.
There were fluorescent lights everywhere, but the place still seemed dark, like the inside of a cave.
"I ain't do nothing, T," Newcharlie whispered, his words coming out slow and muffled because of his lip.
The papers were from the state, saying that Ty'ree had custody of me and Newcharlie.
He looked at Ty'ree and frowned. "They got the guy who was driving in a holding pen back there. Broke his parole. So did your brother."
"He'll tell you what happened," he said, looking at Newcharlie. "Mr. Bailey knows the rules. He knows he breaks his parole, he goes to jail. He knows you go to an initiation, you're going to have to fight."
"You mess up and I have to go there," I said. "Least till Ty'ree's twenty-five. It's like we're on probation for three more years."
"The thing I ain't ever tell you and Ty'ree is that Mama did wake up that morning. When the paramedic guys put this thing against her chest that sent electricity to her heart..."
It was like the pictures were chiseled into my brain.
Newcharlie winced, and I wondered if it was because of his hurt eye or what I was saying.
"I saw a picture once in this gallery," Ty'ree said. "It was of this man sitting on a stoop just like we're doing now. And it was selling for like four thousand dollars."

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