Sins of the Fatherby Author / Tiffany Fussell
Sins of the Father
Tiffany L. Fussell
Copyright 2017 Tiffany Fussell
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The Summer Pool
About the Author
That was the last night we’d spend with our baby girl.
Mercy was a slight, bitty thing with lanky legs and arms. The brownness of her skin reminded me of my mother’s. It was soft and smooth and I kept it that way by bathing her in milk once’t a week on the night before church. That way, she’d look her best in that white little dress. I made three of them for her. She had five regular ones for school, one for each day of the week, and three white ones for Sunday church.
She come in from playing Jacks and hopscotch and double-dutch outside all day with her friends and I helped her clothes off and poured her milk bath. She was some kind of dirty and made a mess. Still splashing about at her age.
I asked her why she gone and done that fer, making her mama have to clean up more when she knows I still have to do our hair curls for the morning.
We had a fine supper that evening. We wasn’t able to eat like that usually, but looking back now, I’m proud we was able to give it her. Oh, and they laughed during that supper! I recall Papa talking ‘bout some old man that come into the garage earlier that day and asked something funny. I didn’t think it was particular funny, but Mercy sure got a tickle out of it. He was always telling her stories. They had a sort of a bond. Not like me and her did. They had a special bond. Yes indeed.
We cleaned up the plates and I hung the dishtowel and Mercy always made me throw it over the handle like I do because it makes a slap sound and she was wondering when the day would be when she could do it, too. That made me proud. Least something come out of all them houses I cleaned to put clothes on her back. But no daughter of mine was ought to be a maid.
Her papa worked hard, too jes’ like me. He had so much grease on his hands at night when he come home. Mercy’d watch him scrub with the pumice stone I got him from the hardware store. The water would run black as coal and then lighter black and then just like that, the water’d turn clear. Like it washed the whole day away. And they’d look to each other and smile like it was magic. Plumb crazy, I tell ya.
After Papa tucked her in and she said her prayers to the Lord above, we closed the door and went off to bed. ‘Bout a quarter after ten, I hears something coming from the kitchen. And then I smells it. So, I walk out into that kitchen and stands there at the door. Took them near ten minutes to realize I was even there they was giggling and ‘shshing’ each other and carrying on so. Papa had Mercy sprung up jes’ a sitting there on that blessed countertop in her nightclothes. He was standing in the dim light of the overhead stove lamp frying up some okra. Isn’t that something else? If they wanted to be making something that I wasn’t going to smell, how come they frying up okra? Everybody knows that smell, sweet Lord.
I like to have scared the living daylights out of the both of them when I ‘nnounced I was there by turning on the hall light behind me. Their heads snatched round fast as lightning and they squinted, trying to get their eyes fixed to me.
“What are you doing up at this hour frying okra?” I asked.
“Well, Ma, I think you just answered your own question,” Papa replied. Mercy stopped a giggle by covering her mouth. I stood with my hand on my hip to show I was not amused.
“And what you think you’re doing with that girl setting up there like she’s the queen of Sheba?” I asked. “Get down from there this instant, Mercy. Ain’t you got no sense, Fred?” He knows I’s mad when I call him Fred. “What kind of a zample is this to set for a young lady if she ever want to move up in this world. You gone be proud to have a grown daughter with no manners?” I said it real firm-like. In my heart I knowed it was nice to see my family in that moment. Those the kinds of things you remember one day when you old. But in the real world, people like us can’t play ‘round like that. Ain’t no room for it. Nuh-uh. No way. I had to be the straight and narrow for her so ain’t nobody would think she was a heathen and that I got no sense when it come to raising my chirren.
Fred was just an old, soft fool. He ain’t never been nothing but that when it come to Mercy. He can’t help it. He jes’ stood there like a scolded little boy. She swung her legs with their little white socks back and forth. He grabbed her and put her down from the counter. She give him a pout and he said, “Your Ma’s right. You getting too old for me to be letting you up here anymore, Mercy.”
They ate they okra at the table with dinner napkins like I made them to, while I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. They was still stifling giggles the whole while. Then we finally went off to bed.
Fred never understood this thing that I did. You couldn’t love like that. You ‘specially couldn’t let them see you love. The minute they do, they take that thing you love from your chest, they rip it out and tear it up and you ain’t never going to see that thing again.
And that’s what they did to our Mercy. That church blew up with her in it the next day.
That Sunday, three other girls had parents who must not have knowed this thing, neither.