Excitement reigns here at The Storytellers Channel as we get closer to Donna Washington joining us here in RVA for our fourth annual Hearts Afire evening of world class storytelling. If you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic states click on the graphic below for tickets and come join us.
The title of this week’s letter refers to the story. It takes place in a working class neighborhood in Richmond during WWII, but it’s a timeless story of the stories boys tell themselves and the inevitable consequences.
I hope you enjoy it and I hope to see you here this Saturday for Donna Washington.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
The Storytellers Channel
The sun was hot. Hotter than when they’d climbed up there and it was too hot then. But it was worth it. From the top of the shed you could reach the cherries. Mrs. Atwood’s cherry tree hung over the shed and you could pluck those succulent beauties as easy as if you were picking them up at the grocer. Although who could afford to buy cherries from old man Carter.
They’d done it before. You stood back and got a good head start. You ran up the fence, grabbed the top and hoisted yourself up and then it was an easy step onto the roof. You had to be careful your shoes didn’t slip or you’d slide off, but once you got the hang of it, you could crab walk right to the top and there they were; scrumptious, dark red, sweet cherries.
Now, sure, Mrs. Atwood had told them to stop doing it. She’d called them heathens and hooligans, but the cherries were just too tempting. And the sun continued to shine. Which was becoming a real problem.
All three of them, Buddy, Butch and Cuz were laying face down hugging the roof so as not to slide off. And the roof was getting hotter and hotter every moment. You see, Mrs. Atwood had called the police this time and she and the officer were standing right below them. The alley was so narrow they couldn’t see them, but the boys could hear them and it was clear if the adults got their hands on the boys there was going to be hell to pay.
Buddy was the oldest all of 13, Butch, 8 was his little brother and Cuz, 9, was their momma’s big sister’s only child. All of Buddy’s friends had been busy that day and besides their momma had insisted he take Butch with him.They’d gone by Cuz’s hoping for a snack, but they’d been told to go outside and play.
That’s when they’d remembered the cherries.
It was becoming clear Mrs. Atwood and the policeman weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with nary a cloud in sight it was clear the roof wasn’t going to get cooler, so something had to change.
Buddy whispered, “Just let go and slide off. When you hit ground take off running.”
“I, 2, 3, go!”
Well, I’m not sure who was the more startled, Mrs. Atwood or the officer when the boys fell at their feet like cherries in the wind. The boys scrambled to their feet and took off in opposite directions. Buddy grabbed Butch and took off north, but the officer regained his senses and snatched Cuz up before he could get away.
Buddy and Butch ran all the way home. They were laughing and congratulating each other on their get away when they started up the front porch steps only to find their momma standing in the doorway waiting for them.
She was hot. The policeman had already taken Cuz home to his momma and she had called her little sister to complain about her two heathen, hooligans having led Kenneth Stuart, her blameless darling little boy, astray.
Well, the boy’s dad, Pie, had passed away the year before and as a single mom, Reba, ruled with an iron hand. She’d been crippled by an infection when Butch was born, so she couldn’t get around quickly, but if you got within range of her left hand you were in trouble. And there she stood barring the doorway. The boys could have turned around, but that would have made things worse. Buddy led the way and as he walked through the door he put his hand up to deflect the intended smack upside the head.
“Mom don’t do that.” Buddy gently replied as he slipped by only being grazed.
Then he heard, Whap, WHAP, Whap.
He turned around to see Rsba bouncing Butch’s head off the door jamb.
Deciding to imitate his big brother he had made the mistake of grabbing his momma’s hand.
Reba was now bouncing his head off the door jamb telling him, “You will not raise your hand to me”, punctuating the phrase with each Whap.
By this time Buddy had run back to the door. Knowing better than to lay a hand on his mom, he pleaded, “Momma stop, you’re going to kill him.”
By this point Butch had finally let go of her arm and she let him drop to the floor.
I never heard what punishment the boys received for pilfering Mrs. Atwood’s cherries, but as Buddy and Butch aka my daddy and Uncle Larry sat across the table from me years later they both made it clear there was one very important lesson they’d learned.
“Stay away from your nanny’s left hand.
A lesson I learned and abided by until we laid Reba to rest.
Smart boy that I was, I never laid a hand on my momma.
Because I’d once overheard her tell one of her friends, “No man will ever lay a hand on me. He’s got to go to sleep sooner or later.”
This might not be a bad last minute gift. Hint Hint
I Want to Hear from You
I’m not sure if the Wages of Sin is the right name for this story, but it’s the one I thought of when I started writing.
If you can think of a better one let me know.
I’d love to hear it.
Til next time,