Not Tonight, Honey
By: Antwan Crump
The blustering horn of the morning train sent quakes through the closet-sized apartment – awaking, the child.
“Woman, if you don’t shut that god damned nigga’ up!” – Cilas was always ornery in the early hours of the day.
“I’m trying!” the woman screamed in return – completing their usual morning ritual.
Maria and Cilas had just moved North -in search of opportunity and liberation from Jim Crow’s South. What they found upon their arrival was little more than “more of the same, just smaller”.
“A can. All this way, for a fuckin’ can of a home, a can of food, and a cryin’ fuckin’ baby.” – Cilas shouted rhetorically, while the child continued to cry from hunger, and as Cilas’s betrothed attempted to console the “two men of her life“.
“Cilas, if you keep going on like this, you’re gonna’ end up sick again.” She pleaded -as was her way- watching Cilas struggle to gather his things, as he prepared for work.
“A fucking can!” he continued, putting on his second boot.
“Baby, please just remember what the doctor told you.”
“Don’t tell me how to live my life woman.” – he muttered through his teeth, grabbing his hat and leaving their home.
“I love you…” -her affection was met with the sound of a door slamming, and the unsettling blast of air horns from the nearby tracks.
-The child, fell fast asleep shortly after.
“Cilas!” -a voice shouted from behind, as he walked the muddy roads.
“Cilas, wait up!”
Bobby was a neighbor, and obligatory friend of Cilas’s -as he was the father of the child he was raising. Cilas took extreme displeasure from the friendship, but appreciated that he could guilt Bobby into pretty much anything – so long as he could convince him that it was for the child.
-Bobby said lowly as he caught up, and walked beside Cilas-
“Why don’t you ever give a brother a break, huh?”
“You know why. What do you want?” he answered Bobby in as casual a manner as he could.
“Well, we work together, live damn near next door. How hard would it be to come get me on your way to work?”
“Harder than you’d think.” Cilas said, audibly losing his restraint.
Oblivious -as always- Bobby proceeded to pry-
“Or if you’d rather, I could come by and-“
Cilas stopped midstep and flashed his workbag pistol to Bobby-
“You come within a hundred yards of my home, and I’ll see to it that you never make it back to yours.”
Cilas closed his bag, and continued forward. Fear-stricken, Bobby fell a few yards behind him, and followed slowly and out of pace -with his head down.
-The two boarded the train into the city.
The last bell of the day had finally rung, and Cilas was in a slightly better mood. To him a hard day’s work, was gratification enough, and a welcomed escape from his torrid home life.
“You know Cilas, you keep up the good work, and you might be the first negro from… Where are you from again?”
– his boss inquired -pandering as he often did to the underpaid staff.
“The South, Sir.”
“South, huh?” -he said a bit startled before placing his hand on Cilas’s shoulder, and concluding-
“Well I’ll be damned, if you ain’t the first colored folk I’ve met, that may actually make an honest break of things. Get home safe, will ya’?”
“Will do, Sir” -Cilas smiled. As his boss walked out of ear shot , he grit his teeth, and clenched his fist-
“Cracker ass cracker” – he mumbled -collecting his belongings, and leaving the factory.
“Cilas!” -he heard from close behind him and thought-
“What do you want now, Bobby?” Cilas questioned -insincerely- as Bobby jogged up.
“I was trying to give you this earlier” – Bobby said -panting- and reaching into his jacket.
“It’s a stuffed elephant. For the boy.”
“It looks like crap.” Cilas said plainly.
“Come on, Cilas. It wasn’t cheap. Can you see that he gets it?”
Cilas snatched the toy from Bobby and shoved it into his bag-
“Yea’, he’ll get it – on the condition that you don’t say a single word to me for the rest of the trip.”
– Bobby nodded in agreement, and the two made their way home.
This was the first time that Cilas had enjoyed Bobby’s company. But it wasn’t for the peace,
-he took pleasure in watching Bobby squirm in silence for the hour long voyage.
And for a small amount of time, he didn’t feel alone in that hell.
The two parted ways upon reaching their street. Cilas was particularly happy to attempt conversation in their final moments of the day together -knowing that Bobby would be too afraid to test his resolve.
“See ya’ tomorrow!” -he shouted with a smile – as Bobby sobbed away from him – giving in to his emotions- after over an hour of Cilas’s verbal assault.
Entering the home, he was surprised not to hear the child’s piercing cries. Concerned, he rushed to the bedroom – only to find both the child, and Maria resting tranquilly next to one another. He smiled, placed the baby in it’s crib – and pulled a blanket over Maria’s sleeping body.
He fixed himself dinner, and afterward, accompanied the two -to bed.
Feeling a tap on his shoulder, Cilas awoke from his slumber to see -a stuffed elephant beside him.
“Maria, what are you doing up?”
“I was waiting for you – Me and the baby must’ve fell asleep just before you got in.”
“No worries darling. I wouldn’t wanna’ hear that banshee cry anyhow.” Cilas said -through the cracks in his voice.
The two shared a low-pitched laugh.
“You don’t have to call him a banshee.” -Maria smiled and sat beside him.
“We missed you Cilas. You ornery ol’ coot.”
Cilas smiled back.
“I missed you too” – he said placing the elephant in the baby’s cradle -and continued –
“It’s a strange world out there. Stranger times.” – he gently held her hands in his own- ” I just hope he’s ready for it.”
“Well, it may help if he had some company.” -Maria said bashfully, as she moved his hand between her thighs.
“Not tonight, honey.” -he answered.
“I’ve got work in the morning.”
The two shared a kiss, as the child awoke and cried.
Hope that you all enjoyed. Feel free to let me know in the form of: likes, comments, and golden geese.
Special thanks to: @ChuckWendig & @Squeg.