From where I am sitting on the porch, I can see Pumpkin walking down the sidewalk. He stops, turns around and just stands there. I am about to yell and ask him what he’s doing, but he turns and starts heading for our house again. When he gets to our driveway instead of coming up to the house he walks into the middle of the street.
“Boy, what the hell are you doing?” I ask him.
“Nothing,” he says. He keeps looking down the street. I look, too. I spot three teenage boys coming down the sidewalk.
“Damn it, why did you come home? You know better, now they know where you live.”
He doesn’t respond. I walk to my car in the driveway and grab my security system. It’s a short yellow bat. It’s also a flashlight and there are about four D batteries inside, it packs a punch. I sit back down on the porch with my little friend beside me. The three guys get to our house. They stand in a semicircle around Pumpkin. One of them says, “What’s up?” Pumpkin doesn’t respond. He isn’t a talker. I have seen him fight before. He won’t talk shit and he won’t throw the first punch, but he will respond accordingly. The boys continue talking trash and start walking around him. He changes position to keep an eye on them. Neighbors begin walking to the edge of their porches or stand on the curb. No one says anything. I hear a noise behind me and before I can turn around I hear Ruby yell, “That’s my brother,” as she pushes open the screen door and runs toward the street while biting off her fake nails. You can’t make a fist with long acrylic nails. She will throw a first punch.
Now that she’s out there, Pumpkin has another person to keep an eye on. One of the boys moves in her direction. That’s when I hear myself yell, “That’s my baby, don’t touch her,” as I grab my bat. Before I know it, I am in the street, too. Now we are all moving in a circle looking at each other, like some slow motion square dance.
“No, she’s not. I’m the baby,” Pumpkin says.
“Really? You want to do this now? She’s the girl, she will always be the baby,” I say. The three boys are looking at each other now.
“Just shut up, Trey,” Ruby says. “Come with it, what ya’ all here for?” she asks the boys. Not only will she throw the first punch, she will also talk shit. The boys start looking around and notice the neighbors silently standing around. Teddy, from across the street, is standing very close on the curb sipping a tall PBR.
“Come on, before someone calls the cops,” one of them says to the other two.
“Oh, we don’t call cops here,” Teddy says before taking another swallow of his beer.
“Naw, I don’t want anybody to call the cops. I didn’t just ruin my nails for nothing. What you gonna do stand there all day?” Ruby says in the direction of the three boys. “Trey, don’t do nothin’, that way you can say your momma and sister whipped their asses,” she says laughing.
“I can see why she’s the baby. Such a fragile little female,” Pumpkin says. He always thinks she’s my favorite.
“She wouldn’t be out here acting like this if you hadn’t brought these dumb asses to our house. Now it’s a whole other level. You just don’t think half the time. And she’s out here sticking up for your ass, so shut up.”
“I didn’t know they were following me till I was right here. Do you think I want more charges? I’m not trying to go back to jail. But I will,” he quickly added looking back at the stalkers.
Lowering the bat to my side, I turn, put my hand on my hip and look at Pumpkin, “Then stop doing stupid shit.”
“Trey, if mom was black you’d be dead. She always lets you get away with stuff. You need discipline,” Ruby says glaring at him. Before we realize it, we have our own circle and aren’t even paying attention to our would-be attackers.
“How many times did you get suspended from school this year? Oh that’s right, EIGHT times,” Pumpkin retorts. We all begin bitching at each other.
“Man, let’s get out of here,” we suddenly hear. We turn our heads back to the boys, at the same time remembering why we’re in the middle of the street to begin with. The three boys begin to back away, facing us the first few feet and then they turn and walk down the street. We head back up to the porch.
“You owe me a set of nails. I didn’t even get to punch anybody,” Ruby says to Trey, while inspecting her bloody fingertips.
“I don’t even know who the hell they were,” Trey says, still watching them.
“If you can’t beat them, confuse them and they will go away,” I say sitting down on the steps.
“Oh, I coulda beat them,” Ruby says.
“I know, baby.”
“She’s not the baby!”