Category Archives: Michelle McEwen

Okra by Michelle McEwen

Baby Sis all of a sudden, wants to grow things– mainly okra ’cause that’s what her man likes. Must be the bump growing in her belly that makes my baby sister think she has a green thumb. She musta forgot that none of the women in our family are green thumbed. Babies, hair, and nails– the only things we’re good at growin’. Baby sis wants to change that. She says she is gonna grow and fry okra until Delroy, her man, grows sick of it. But Delroy ain’t thinkin’ ’bout okra; he got another woman ‘cross town and she, too, got a bump just startin’. Baby Sis act like she don’t know about this, but she knows; she tries not to think of it by talking ’bout okra all the time and how much of it she gon grow: “I’m gonna fill the back yard with it,” she says every morning from the back porch. She talks about how Delroy gonna smile when he sees that yard and move right in. But Delroy ain’t gonna leave that other woman behind for some okra– especially since that woman got a behind bigger than a back yard full of okra and an up-front to match.

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Dynamite by Michelle McEwen

I’m a Cancer so I have a hard shell ’round my soft heart— that’s what the horoscopes say and I believe ’em. What I don’t understand is that I’ve been a Cancer all my life, but I ain’t always have this hard shell. Always had this soft heart, though. I used to be a giving woman— gave without thinking, without worryin’ about myself. Long as I was shelling out love, I was fine. Didn’t matter if I got hurt, I’d give and give. Wasn’t ’til I met this bullyin’ Virgo that I started growing this shell. He hurt me like I ain’t never allowed myself to be hurt before. He only thought of hisself and kept me cryin’ over all them other women. He’d say, “If you don’t brown my biscuits how I like ’em, there’s a woman over on Jackson Boulevard who’ll brown ’em right!” I shoulda told him to gone on to Jackson Boulevard. He told me about all his women: Brenda who was into women, Shelby who had meat on her bones, and Tina who worked the way a man oughta. Of course, there were more and I knew (still know) all their names. They ain’t know about me. He said I wasn’t important enough to know; said I’d never be until I brought home more bread, cooked better, and got me some hip fat. He chewed me up; spit me out— that’s why I got this ol’ hard shell. Gonna take dynamite to break it.

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The Only Baby a Man Needs by Michelle McEwen

First, there was one baby in the tub and by the time my man got home, there’d be a sweet smellin’ baby ready for bed. It was easy then— I’d close the door to the baby’s room and me and my man would go to our room. Then there was two babies in the tub and by the time my man got home, one baby would be sleeping and one baby would be fighting sleep. It wasn’t easy then— my man would go to our room slam shutting the door like the wide woke baby was my fault. Once, shaking his head, he told me how his aunt put whiskey in her babies’ formula to help them sleep. I don’t want drunk babies I told him. That night, I slept in the babies’ room. Then there was three babies in need of washin’. My man didn’t come home then— he’d just call to see if the babies was asleep. If they wasn’t, he’d stay out ’til they was. Once I lied just to get him home. But when he got home, there was a baby in the hall, one on the stairs, and one, hollering and hungry, on my hip. My man split for sure then— didn’t call ’til he was up north, outside of Cincinnati, talking about how me and the babies don’ took over his house, talking about how babies is women stuff, talking about how the only baby a man needs in his life is his woman.

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Juicy Sticky by Michelle McEwen

This is how we eat fruit down here: smacking loudly and to the core— with juice all over, with sticky hands. That is if it’s a juicy sticky fruit and most times, down here, it is. Daddy says people up north don’t know how to eat fruit and that they eat the wrong fruit, too. He says the peaches they got up there ain’t real peaches and especially the watermelon. He says they eat their fruit too neat up there— with napkins and tossing it before they even see the seed. Once, when he was fresh outta school, he went to visit an aunt up there; he said she brought home a paper bag of supermarket peaches for him. “These ain’t peaches,” he had said to himself, but he ate them anyhow. He had been intending to move up there for work, but after tasting those up north supermarket peaches he changed his mind. Had it not been for that aunt bringing home those nasty peaches, daddy probably woulda stayed up there and never woulda bumped into mama down here who was sitting, one Saturday, on daddy’s granddaddy’s porch. She was eating a peach, smacking loudly, while waiting for daddy’s granddaddy to finish baking the apple pies she had come for. “That was the sweetest sight I ever seen,” daddy says often and smiles great big when he says it, too, ’cause to him a woman getting down and dirty with juicy sticky fruit is the kind you keep.

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Little Fire by Michelle McEwen

When mama made me, she say her and daddy went at it all winter long just like two skinny forest sticks rubbin’ together to make a fire. “We made a fire alright,” she says, “you!” I like when she says this ’cause I like thinking of myself as a fire. Mama says when she told daddy that their winter foolin’ was gonna bring them an autumn baby, daddy just shrugged and told her autumn wasn’t no time for baby havin’ what with all them leaves to rake and him getting ready to start college. “Can’t be mindin’ a baby and studying at the same time,” daddy said and closed the door on mama’s face. Mama didn’t pay daddy no mind, though. She said daddy could go off to college, but she was gonna have me anyway— her little fire that’s what she called me. And she hid me well, hushed up her growing belly with layers of winter clothes and kept out of her folks’ way ’cause she knew her mama and aunts would drag her to some place in an alleyway where they did away with babies. So there I was, quiet, inside of mama. There I was— a fire burning under mama’s winter school clothes, then burning under her spring blouses, then under her loose summer dresses, then under her autumn jacket ’til the time came. And no one found out either ’til mama was hunched over the kitchen sink— hollering from the little fire in her belly.

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Making Lemonade by Michelle McEwen

He was in the fruit and vegetable aisle— standing there like he was waitin’ for me, like he was put in that aisle deliberately. Had to have been ‘cause I know about fruits and vegetables. When he saw me coming, he asked, “Where ‘bout they keep the clementines?” I knew this couldn’t be a coincidence then ‘cause I love clementine oranges and I knew exactly where ‘bout they were kept. I knew it was meant to be then. I had half a mind to put him in my cart, roll him to the checkout, ring him up, bag him and bring him home as though he was on my shopping list. I didn’t have to, though, ‘cause he followed me all around that store and out the store, too. He said, leaning against my car, “You need lemons? I got some at the house I ain’t using.” I just stared at him. Any fool knows if you got lemons at home, you make lemonade. I almost told him that, too. What I did tell him was I could use the lemons and he told me to follow him home. I knew what he was up to, knew when we got there he wasn’t gon’ leave me outside in my runnin’ car while he ran the lemons out to me. I knew he’d ask me in, knew he’d have me making lemonade all day. I ended up staying the night— my groceries taking up the shelves in his pantry and ‘fridge.

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Purse by Michelle McEwen

I have this purse— keep it in my hall closet. It’s gray with one strap and a zipper. Got it one Wednesday at the Salvation Army for a dollar; Wednesdays, everything marked with a blue ticket is half off. I don’t carry it anywhere, but not ‘cause it’s an ugly purse. I didn’t buy it for carryin’ nohow. I bought it to hide the money I’m saving just in case my man, Jewel, decides to take all of what’s in the bank and run off with another woman like he did to the woman before me. I’m the woman he ran off with when he left her. We got our lives started with some other woman’s money. I’m no fool— there’s always another woman. That’s why I’m saving. I know one of these mornings, Jewel’s gonna get to where he can’t hardly stand me— can’t stand my cornrows, my underarm scent, my twisted bra straps. That’s when he’s gonna get it in his head to stroll down to my bank and take all my money. He can gon’ on and do it, too, because I keep more money in that purse than I keep in the bank. Most of my work money gets put in the purse; what’s left goes in the bank. It’s not easy to find either, my purse. I got a bunch of heavy coats in that closet and a suitcase. Behind that suitcase is my purse and don’t nobody know it but me and you.

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