Friday, February 26, 2016

A Illustrated Short Story By Christal Rice Cooper On February 8, 1974 GOOD TIMES premeired on ABC television . . .

Christal A Cooper                                              

Artwork by Mitzi C Fleming

Short PhotoStory by C.A. Cooper

         My dad hit my mom all the time, but he never hit me.  I was an obedient child and would do whatever my dad told me to, even if it meant going out into the icy cold, barefoot and with no jacket.  Better to be cold than to face my father. 

         At first it was easy for me to escape.  When I was real little, I’d bury myself under the blankets, with a pillow over my face, or I’d hide underneath the bed.  When the noises still came through, I’d hide in my closet.  Then, when that no longer worked, I’d climb out the window to the small steel ladder that rested against the building.  

         I would climb down the ladder and walk a few blocks to the railroad tracks.  There I could be anyone I wanted to be or go anywhere I wanted.  All I had to do was walk up and down the rails and wait for the train to come by.  When I’d hear that glorious music I’d step off the track a few yards from the train, and just look in wonder, as the soft breeze, created by the train, touched my face.  Then I would stand very still; close my eyes, stretch out my arms, and listen to the music, pretending that I was flying far away.   Hearing the train’s horn and its touch against the rails allowed me to be just where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be for that one moment.  The train was so strong and was always going some place – never being left behind or stuck.  Someday, I was going to be like that train, strong enough to never hear those noises again and free enough to not have to go back.  

         I loved the nighttime because it made me feel safe and hidden.  I would balance my feet on the rail and look up into the sky, observe the stars and the moon, and form pictures in my mind out of them.  One time I saw a honest-to-goodness angel winking at me.  The moon was his eye, a wispy cloud his wink, and the three stars were his nose and mouth.  I would smile and talk to Danny about all the people or things I’d see in the sky.  Danny was my very own special friend and was a prince who had magical powers.  Danny and me had lots of conversations.  

         My mom loved to sleep and she cried a lot, too.  Not the noisy cry when my dad was home, but the soft kind of cry that is safe, silent, and sad.  Sometimes she’d cry for 15 minutes, other times 30, but sometimes her cries would last a long time.  I would do everything I could think of to make her feel better.  I’d run back and forth from the bathroom to get toilet paper for her face.  Sometimes I’d sing to her the happy songs I had learned in school.  She never talked much and she always seemed to be drowsy, sad, and old.  I thought old people were the only ones who had hearing problems, forgot things, or didn’t know how to have fun.  My mom was all of these things, some days worse than others.  Sometimes I’d make faces to try to get her to laugh, which she never did -- but she would sometimes smile, and that made me feel special.      

I loved television.  My favorite show was Good Times and I lived to watch the reruns everyday after school.  I wanted a mom like Florida and a dad like James so badly.  Daddy Evans was tall and strong but he was so nice and he always kissed Mom Evans on the cheek and called her baby.  Sometimes, after the show, I’d go to my bedroom and Daddy Evans would hug me real good and give me a nice kiss, or J.J. would have a nice talk with me.          

One afternoon I was watching the show while my mom was lying on the sofa.  I thought the Evans apartment building looked like mine.  It would be so wonderful if they lived here.  I could show up on their doorstep and they would welcome their son and brother back home.   
         “Mom, you think the Evans family live in the same building we do?”
         “Sure, baby, they live in the same building.”

         I took a bath, got all dressed up, and began to look for them.  I knew they wouldn’t live on the first floor because they always had to walk the stairs or take the elevator to get to their apartment.  So I started on the second floor.  The first lady said, “No” and closed the door.  I went to the next door and the man just got real angry and said something that I couldn’t understand.  I went to a few more doors with similar results, until, finally, I came to the next door, and it was right across from the elevator just like on the show.  They must live here!  I made sure my clothes were nice, my hair in place, and knocked on the door.  I didn’t know what to say when an old man opened the door instead of Dad or Mom Evans.  When I asked about my family the old man laughed loudly.  “There’s no such thing as the Evans Family, boy.  They’re just actors livin’ in Hollywood.”  I ran down the stairs to my room and cried.   

         At first, I didn’t go to school that much.  After I missed a lot of days, some lady got in touch with my mom and dad, and then she came to see me and asked me a lot of questions.  I couldn’t understand why she was asking me all these questions.  I never did anything wrong.  My dad gave me a cheap alarm clock, showed me how to use it, and ever since I would go to school every single day, even if I wasn’t feeling too good.           

         Sometimes the alarm would go off while J.J. was playing checkers with me, or Daddy Evans was giving me a big hug.  At first, I hated that the alarm went off, but once I got up, got dressed, ate whatever I could scrounge up, I was glad I had that cheap alarm clock.       

         My teacher was so pretty -- just like a princess I read about in a book.  She had a pretty voice and talked so nice to me.  She smelled real good, too.  She smelled like vanilla ice cream and her breath smelled good, too.  She didn’t have that medicine smell like my dad did.          

         My favorite school day was Friday when my class and me got to go to the library.  I loved to look at all those picture books about people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  They both looked like good daddies and their wives never had bruises on their faces, and the words were real big so it was easy for me to read.

I loved lunch time and thought of that time as a luxury.  Every day before the class would go to the cafeteria my teacher would say a short prayer.   Whenever she would pray I wondered if Jesus was real.  Mom Evans believed in Jesus.  She even had a picture of the white Jesus on the wall.  I wondered if Jesus was black.  Michael Evans thought so. 

         My favorite lunch day was Wednesday when they had tacos, cinnamon roles, and chocolate milk, which was a real treat for me.  I also liked lunchtime because it made me feel real special.  Most of the kids would have to give dollar bills or change to get their lunch, but all I had to do was show an orange piece of paper.  At least that’s what I told myself.

         The last day of school, before Thanksgiving Day vacation, I came home and I saw my mom on the couch crying.  I walked closer to her and saw bruises on her arm and knew those were new bruises because she didn’t have them yesterday.  I went to go get her moody pills but couldn’t find them.  I figured my dad flushed them down the toilet like he had done lots of times before.  My mom wrote a letter to the Health Department and sent me to pick up moody pills for her.    

          For Thanksgiving dinner I made hot dogs with mustard and ketchup.  My mom was in bed and still not feeling well.  The moody pill must not have worked this time.  My dad was gone for a while, then came back, put on his best shirt, dabbed on lots of cologne and walked out the door.  My mom and me knew he’d be gone all night and we were happy.   

         That same night I had a beautiful dream.  In the dream I held a gun in my hand and shot my dad in the face, blood started gushing, and he fell dead.  My mom then ran to me wearing a white gown and looking so pretty, even prettier than my teacher.  I then held my mom’s hands and we walked away to a magical land.  I hated to wake up because I would become sad and begin to cry.    

         In school they had a Christmas party and my teacher invited a fireman to come and talk to the class about the telephone and 911.  The fireman said it was very important for kids to dial 911 for a big emergency, especially fires.  He said that most fires happened during Christmas time and that the kids should be very careful.  He also said that kids should dial 911 if someone was hurt and needed help.  I immediately thought of my mom and the family’s ugly black telephone on the tray next to the refrigerator.  

         On Wednesday nights at 8 o’clock, I would stand in front of the television.  The Greatest American Hero came on every week and my favorite part was the theme song.  When the song began to play I’d close my eyes, spread out my arms, and fly like a bird.  When I heard the main chorus I felt as if I were flying far and far away.  “Believe it or not I’m walking on air.  I never thought I could be so free.  Flying away on a wing or a prayer.  Who could it be?  Believe it or not, it’s just me.”  

All of a sudden my wings fell off and I fell to the ground.  My head turned sharply toward the noisy bedroom door.  I turned up the volume on the TV to drown out the noises but that didn’t help, so I covered my ears with my hands, but I could still hear the noises.  I ran to my bedroom, opened my window and placed my leg over the sill.  It was so cold outside but it felt good to me and I could finally breathe.  Before I could place my other leg over the sill I heard my mom make a noise that I had never heard her make before.  My dad must have had a bad day.  

I remembered my beautiful dream, picked up the baseball bat, and took one step toward my bedroom door, then began to sob, throwing the baseball bat on the floor.  The screams continued and my cries began to increase.  My whole head hurt and my face was wrinkled and wet from the tears.          

I had an idea!  I took a deep breath.  My dad didn’t have his beer yet.  That’s why he was having a bad day.  I went to the refrigerator, got a beer, and took tiny steps to the noisy bedroom door.  I knocked softly on the door.
“Dad!  Dad!  I got your beer.  You haven’t had your beer yet.”
“Shut up!”

 I couldn’t breathe and heard myself make sounds I never heard before.  I held the beer in my hand and gazed at the phone, and, suddenly, the phone didn’t look so ugly.  I walked across the room to the phone and then froze just like Frosty.  My dad would be so angry.  What would he do to me?  What would Frosty do?  Frosty loved that little girl so much that he just about melted away so she wouldn’t freeze to death.  

 I set the beer next to the telephone on the tray, picked up the receiver, and with trembling fingers dialed 911.  A lady started talking to me and asking me questions.  At first I couldn’t talk because everything got stuck in my throat, sort of like medicine does when it tastes real bad.    

When I finally answered, I was no longer a little boy, but a machine with tears clogging it all up.  I couldn’t remember what the questions were but I answered them, holding the phone tightly, my panicky eyes constantly moving over the bedroom door.   

         After a few seconds I dropped the phone and opened the apartment door, hoping to see the policemen climbing up the stairs or getting out of the elevator, but they weren’t there.  I heard a scream and became more afraid when I realized the scream didn’t come from my mom, but from me.    

         I ran into the bathroom, locked the door, sat on the toilet, and turned the water on full blast, my hands covering my ears.  I sobbed heavily, rocking my body back and forth like a rocking chair.  

         A long while later I heard a loud knock on the bathroom door, and gasped, my head turning so sharply that my neck began to hurt.  
         “Jamal!”  It was a stranger’s voice.  “Jamal, it’s the police, son.”
         I removed my hands from my ears and when I didn’t hear the noises, I thought, at first, that I was dreaming.  I lifted my head, stood up, and slowly unlocked the door, opening it a little at a time.  The policeman was kneeling,  “Son, everything is going to be okay.” 

         I opened it a little bit more and saw my dad in handcuffs, in between two policemen, walking out the door.  I looked at the policeman.     
         The policeman extended his hand to mine.  “Your safe.  Your mom’s safe.  Everything’s going to be okay.  It’s okay.”
         “But the Evans Family don’t live here.  They’re just people living in Hollywood.  That’s what the man said.” I could feel the tears roll down my cheeks.  

         The policeman opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it, and placed his hand back to his side.
         I saw my mom sitting between two other policemen.  I ran to her, wiping my face with my hands, and then held her hand. 

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