THE ADVENTURES OF ME AND MARTHA JANE4A:

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THE ADVENTURES OF ME AND MARTHA JANE4A:I had a bad cold. It was just before Thanksgiving. Wearinga heavy brown flannel robe, I sat up against the headboard asMartha Jane settled near me on the bed and sat Indian-stlye. Inher hand she had a bottle of green cough syrup, a bottle of codliver oil, and a bottle of ear drops.”Okay, hon, time for dessert.””That’s not dessert,” I complained.”This is dessert for sick folks.” She shimmied her hips intothe mattress to get comfy. “Now, let’s see, what does thissay…?” She examined the label on the cough medicine. “Onetablespoon. Okay!” With a giddy smile she fished for the spoonin the paraphernalia she had gathered in a large dish towel spreadon the bed. She held up the spoon. “One tablespoon!” she an-nounced. Seeming to enjoy every minute of it, she unscrewed thecough medicine, held the spoon up as she poured the dark greengunk, and carefully brought the spoon toward my face. “Oookay…a-a-all for you, hon. C’mon. Yumyum. Yumyum.””Yumyum Yuch!” I pouted.”Come on now, you don’t want to stay up coughing all nightlike you did last night, do you?”I frowned at the spoon.”C’mon. It tastes good.””I already had some of it and I know it doesn’t taste good.It’s terrible, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth for hours.””Well, Speedy, it doesn’t taste good because it’s medicine.Medicine isn’t supposed to taste good.””Why don’t they make it in the first place so it *does* tastegood?””‘Cause if it tasted good in the first place, you’d drink it allthe time. You’d live on it, and then it would make you sick.””If it’s medicine, why would it make me sick?””Listen, stop bein’ so logical. Here. Yumyum. C’mon.”I opened my mouth and she tilted the spoon into it. I swallowedand grimmaced.”There, I knew you’d like it.””Yech.””Now where’s the cod liver oil…””Yecch!” I growled, as disgustingly as I possibly could,stretching my mouth into a horrific grimace that went from ear toear. I held the pose as if frozen into it.”Oh, stop. It can’t taste that bad. Here…” She care-fully squeezed an eyedropper of amber oil into a spoon, and thensqueezed the juice from half an orange into it. As she did thisI sat rigidly against the headboard as if long petrified, my facestill frozen in the same gruesome pose.”Speedy, stop making that ugly face. Now, here…here’syour cod liver oil. Come on, stop makin’ that face and swallowthis.”I looked her straight in the eye, with the same face.”Speedy, that is the ugliest thing I ever saw. Stop, so we canget this over with.”I let my face relax, sighed heavily, and opened my mouth. Theorange juice didn’t do much to hide the bitter, fishy taste thatclung to the inside of my mouth. “Yah!””That’s a good boy, that’s two outta three. Now let’s get thisoff the bed so you can lie down and I can fix those ears.” Sheplaced the dish towel of goods on the side table and sat up on herknees on the bed, holding the bottle of ear drops. “Lie down onyour side. C’mon, you’ve had earaches before, you know what to do.At least your ears can’t taste this.””They can too,” I insisted.”Lie down the other way first, hon, facing away from me. That’sright. Now, here…” She bent over me and placed the tip of thefilled eyedropper into the opening of my ear. The sudden contact ofthe cold glass tip made me jerk and quiver involuntarily.”Oh!” She jumped and pulled her hand away. “Oh, Speedy, did Ihurt your ear?”I shook my head no. “It itches!””Oh my god, don’t do that! You almost gave me a heart attack.I thought I hurt you!”I coiled up into a ball and feigned a low, pitiful groan, thenanother.”Oh, behave. You’re not funny. Be still.”I relaxed on my side and then cringed as the cold thin fluidfilled my ear with a small roaring noise. “It itches. Eeew, it’sso itchy.””It’ll settle in and be okay,” she said, stuffing a piece ofwadded cotton in my ear. “Now turn over so I can do the other one..Turn over.”I lay still.”Speedy, turn over so I can do the other one.”I sat up and pretended I was in a breathless daze. “What?Did you say somethin’? I can’t hear. Where am I?”Holding the ear medicine in one hand and the eyedropper in theother, she started to laugh, resisted it, and closed her eyespatiently. “Speedy, please…you’ll make me laugh and spill thisstuff all over the bed. Now…please…stop.”I groaned, “Okay,” and laboriously rose to turn over on myother side. Already weak, I feigned an even greater weakness,moving slowly and spasmodically, writhing at every turn as if inpain. “Oh…Uh…Mr. Holmes…uh..call Dr. Watson right away…it’s the deadly, poisoned ear drops…cgh, cgh.””Speedy, if you make me spill this…” She started to laughagain, and held it back with clenched teeth. “Stop, or I’m gonnaspank your butt ’till it falls off on the floor.”On my side facing her, I lay still.On her knees, she shuffled closer to me. “Honestly, I neverin my life saw anybody go through such agony…Now here, this isthe last one.”Once more, the cool fluid rushed into me and greasily leakedover my eardrum. I shivered again with the same itch in my ear asbefore, and Martha Jane sealed my ear with cotton. Then she sat backand sighed, drooping.”I am exhausted from this! You’re worse than a room full ofsick puppies.”I smiled seraphically.”Don’t you smile at me like that, you little devil.” Sheleaned closer to me and half-whispered, scowling. “Hon, you haveto get well. We can’t fuck while you’re sick like this, you’retoo weak. So there.”She rose from the bed and brought the bottles and table-clothinto the kitchen. While I heard her running water and cleaning Imade myself comfortable in the bed, lay on my side, and pulled thecovers up to my neck. I shivered as the ‘flu coarsed through me,but soon the blanket warmed me and I relaxed.Martha Jane turned off the lights, except for one small lamp inthe living room. Then she came into the bedroom and turned out theceiling lamp using the switch on the wall by the door, and reachedunder the bedside lamp to turn off the last light in the room. Wewere dimly lit by the glow from the small living room lamp.Martha Jane hiked up the legs of her jeans to make herself morecomfortable in bed, and quietly lay down beside me. She put herpalm on my head briefly. “You still have a little fever,” shewhispered. She fiddled with the blankets and straightened mypillow. She felt me tremble. “You still have chills, hon?”Lying on my side, I nodded slowly.”Well, don’t you worry, they’ll go away soon.” She stretchedand pulled blankets about, soothing out the twists and tanglesthat were made while we struggled earlier with the medications.”You just stay nice and warm and…take your medicine the wayyou’re supposed to, and…before you know it…you’ll be well andgettin’ right back into trouble, good as new.” She rested on herelbow beside me. “You ready to go to sleep?”I nodded. At that moment another chill went through me. Iclasped my arms closer to fight it off.”Want me to keep you warm?” she asked.I nodded.She moved closer to me and put one arm around my head toslightly lift and cradle me onto her bosom. “There we are,” shesaid, and as soon as I was settled against her she unbuttoned hershirt and pulled it open loosely. Then she pulled her bra up,baring her breasts, and wiggled down so that her left nipplegrazed my cheek. I reached up and kissed the brownish pink bud.”There…,” she whispered. “Sleep, hon.”The shivers made a brief pass through me as I fell asleepagainst her softness….A week or so later I was standing in Martha Jane’s kitchenas her mother, a thin lady who looked much older than my own andwho resembled her darker brunette daughter more than her fair,auburn-haired Martha Jane, carefully handed me a large tablespoonfilled with dark green syrup. Her mother always spoke slowly andwith a slight rasp, having never completely overcome the lungproblems that she developed from the long and severe illness fol-lowing her husband’s death in the war.”There,” she told me, “now go in the bedroom and give that toMartha Jane. And be certain she takes every drop of it.””Yes, ma’am,” I said. Holding the filled tablespoon face-highbefore me, I walked carefully through their living room and intoMartha Jane’s bedroom. She sat up in bed, a pink wool blanket upto her waist, the place littered with used kleenex and her school-books. Her eyes and nose were swollen and red. In one hand sheheld a thoroughly used tissue.I grinned maniacally at the door and chanted, “Yumyum.”She winced. “Don’t yumyum me, you–Is it already time forthat awful stuff again?””Yumyum.”She called into the kitchen, “Mother, I thought I already tookthis stuff!””It’s three times a day, Martha Jane,” her mother called back.”Oh my,” she moaned. I had climbed onto the bed and, on myknees, moved cloer to her with one hand holding the spoon and theother cupped guardedly beneath it.”You were right,” she said, sniffing. “That stuff really doestaste awful. And you can taste it for a week!””Yumyum,” I said, moving the spoon closer.”Oh,” she whimpered, wincing again. “Do I have to?”I nodded. “It hurts me more than it hurts you.””Right,” she muttered, eyeing the spoon with mild terror.”Oh…all right.” She opened her mouth and I dipped the spooninside. Mugging and wincing, she took it all, swallowed, andslithered her tongue around thickly. “Oh, that is so disgusting!This is supposed to be the atomic age. Can’t modern science dobetter than this?”Her mother came into the room and retrieved the spoon. Shestood beside the bed shaking her head.”Look at this,” her mother said, indicating Martha Jane’sbooks and papers all over the bed. “Look, she won’t even stopwhen she’s sick as a dog. I don’t know what to do with her,Speedy. She was awake half the night studying, and if she wasn’tstudying she was coughing *and* studying.””I have to graduate,” she muttered petulantly. “On time!””But, Martha Jane, you can’t learn very well if you don’tsleep. You need rest, dear.””Yes, mother, I know. I know, and you’re right.” She sighedand played nervously with the kleenex, which she brought back toher nose, and blew into it. “I hate people staring at me when I’msick. I’m so ugly.””Alright, I’ll go back in the kitchen. Speedy, you visit awhile and try to talk some sense into her.”Her mother left and I started to settle on the edge of the bed,but Martha Jane said, “Don’t get too close,” holding up a hand. Shesneezed suddenly, and held out her palm, indicating the box of klee-ex near my knees. I gave it to her and she plucked a new tissue.”I hate this.””I’m sorry,” I said, and sat on the bed anyway. I leanedforward to kiss her.”No,” she whispered. “You’ll get this same cold again.” Sheheld the kleenex to her nose and sniffled. “Well, alright, a littleone. Right here–” she indicated her forehead. As she held thekleenex over her nose I leaned forward and gave her a noisy kiss.”Thank you, Speedy. I’m sorry, hon, you’re really sweet. Don’t payany attention to me. I’m sick!””Is this gonna keep you from school?” I asked.”No, no, it’ll just slow me down. I’ll have to work like thedevil to keep up. I already worked myself to death, getting inschool a year ahead of my age to begin with. I hope it doesn’t hurtmy grades.” She settled against the pillow behind her and gazed outthe window. “I have to make those grades. I have to get out ofhere. I have to get out of the “Lauderdale Courts U.S. GovernmentHousing Project”.”Though I wanted her to get well, the thought that she might soonleave the project was disturbing. Fortunately for her, the Christ-mas break would soon be underway and she would not miss many of herclasses. And I knew she still had the winter and spring to go be-fore graduating. But by this time it was something she mentionedwith more frequency than I found comfortable.Falteringly I tried to think of the questions that would give memore information about what might happen in the near future. “Wouldyou move out as soon as you graduate high school?” I asked.”Oh no, hon, I still have college to go. You can’t get a decentjob with just high school, at least a girl can’t. Not in good oleMemphis, Tennessee. My poor sister got her diploma and she hardlyearns peanuts. She was hoping she’d make more, and she wanted torent a place for all of us. But she can barely support herself, andshe gives mother money to keep us goin’.” She sighed again longinglyand shook her head. “Why can’t she marry some filthy rich man whoshows up here in that driveway with sacks of money…? Oh, well,Evelyn wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t marry just for money.””Would you?” I asked, half smiling, half not.”No,” she said directly and firmly. She blew her nose.”But I wouldn’t complain if some was included.”I had no idea what to do about her completing high school, goingto college, and leaving. But I knew she was unhappy where she was.Heedless of the fact that the forces of time and economic necessityand all the rest of it were far beyond my control, I was determinedduring the following weeks to please her so well that she might havesecond thoughts about never seeing me again. Within a few days sherecovered from her cold and used the Christmas break to workfeverishly on catching up with her studies. Trying to make myselfindispensable, I checked with her daily during the holidays to seeif she needed anything. If she needed note paper I volunteered andran to the d**g store to get it. I trailed along with her to thelibrary and looked up several of her books.The weekend after Christmas, Mom had a date and Martha Jane satwith me, but I spent the entire night waiting on her, fixing dinnerand washing the dishes, bathing and cleaning up while she studied.I even prepared the bed myself so that by nine o’clock she came intothe bedroom to check on me and found everything in place.”Well!” she said, sliding into bed and hovering over me witha warm smile. “You didn’t even need me here tonight, did you?You did everything all by yourself.””You were busy,” I said.”Yes, I was. And so were you. And I’m glad you let me study,hon, I needed it. And don’t think I didn’t notice. Now, is thereanything I can do for you?”I didn’t answer. But I could see a sultry look in her eyes.More than likely, in the pause that followed while we searchedeach other’s eyes, she saw something similar in my own.She whispered softly, “I’m all sweaty. I have to clean upa little. You wait right here and don’t go anywhere.”She rose, went into the bathroom, and closed the door. Iheard the bath water running for about five minutes, and latershe opened the door, turned out the bathroom light, and came intothe room wearing her wrinkly old bathrobe that she had worn foryears. The apartment was, like all the others, not very warm inwinter. Her robe didn’t fit that well any more, seeming a littleshort, more like a short sarong than an ankle-length garment. Andit was too tight around the shoulders, so that even when she heldit closed in front the lapels ventured outward, revealing the softglimmering swell of her breasts.She had just started to slide into bed when I got up andscooted down, off the foot of the bed and onto the floor. “Waita moment, madam,” I said, rather elegantly and formally. “The,uh, services of this establishment go beyond cooking dinner andmaking beds.””Oh, really?” she asked innocently, batting her eyelashes.”It includes turning out the lights,” I said, walking aroundthe bed and shutting off the bedside lamp. In the dark I con-tinued, “And many other services to insure that you rest peace-fully during your stay with us.” I removed my underwear.She asked primly, “And do the services include the managerof the establishment making himself nekk**?”I answered, “Yes, madam. They also include the managementmaking the guest nekk**, too.””Oh my,” she whispered. “I’m shocked. And pleased.”I reached for her hand with mine, and pulled slightly sothat she rose from the bed and stood before me. I noted that wewere just about the same height now. She was only slightlytaller. In a single motion, but gently, I pulled off her robeand dropped it to the floor. It was, I think, the first time Ihad undressed her myself. I whispered, “All madam has to do nowis lie down.””And then what happens?” she whispered back.”Management…manages.””I can’t wait.”She moved into the bed, going near the other side to give meroom, and I followed. I stayed on my knees, watching for amoment as she lay flat on her back, stretching to get comfortable.Her hands were behind her head, her slim body stretched out inthe moonlight. She spread her thighs slightly, just enough toshow me in the dark that she had begun to moisten and open. Ihovered over her, surprised at how, more and more, I should be sodeeply affected by the sight of her. Then I settled on my elbowsclose to her.She started to put one arm around me, but I whispered, “No.Don’t move.”She lay silently and waited. I began to softly, slowly, andwetly kiss her, starting with her nose, her face, her neck. “Youdon’t have to do anything,” I whispered. It took me about fif-teen minutes to move my lips from her neck to her toes, and upher thighs again. By then she was trembling and sighing. When-ever she tried to help, I would tell her to lie still. One timeshe asked me, “Don’t you want me to do anything for you?” I ans-wered simply, “You are.” From that point on she gave herself tomy mouth and hands.Finally I lay betwen her thighs, my mouth nipping at thesensitive skin along the tendons and muscles there. She gave aseries of small gasps as she felt my lips licking toward her cunt.Watching her from below, I shortened each lick as I moved upward,closer. I have no idea how these techniques ever got into my younghead. I simply learned from her responses. I could see the tensionin her tightened fists as I neared her center. I knew that when sheheld her breath she would be completely ready for the touch of mymouth directly on her. Soon this happened. She lay tense andunbreathing, her thighs and tummy stiffened expectantly. I removedmy lips from her completely for only a second or two, then loweredmy tongue to nestle directly and lightly on her clit. She exhaledand whimpered, and her hips swiveled once. I removed my lips againfor another brief pause, then curled my mouth into her slit, tookher clit in my lips, and gently sucked. Surprising even me, shewhimpered helplessly, and started cumming immediately. This wassooner than I had planned, but I was not one to interrupt. Stillsucking, I arched my tongue rhythmically and slowly along her nub.She stiffened, and her hips rose slightly off the bed. Her headrolled languidly to one side. She uttered a strange sound that Ican describe only as the sound of a beautiful young woman cummingdeep and hard, and I could feel her tummy and taut thighs quiveraround me through most of it. Soon her hips fell back to the bedand she let out a long, breathy “Oh! God!”. I continued my gentlesuck, waiting for the subtle sensations that told me her hot clithad stopped swelling, and soon her thighs jerked once and I knewshe was returning to earth.I unmouthed her as she regained her breath and I licked her cuntpetals lightly, smelling the cum and the remains of the bathroomsoap on her, nipping at her thighs again, and rose to lie fully ontop of her. For a moment I kissed her neck and her nipples. Then,rising on my elbows, I aimed my cock by sight and slowly and fullyentered her.”Oh hon,” she gushed, though she still could hardly breathe.”God, that feels so good!” I didn’t move. I could feel her claspme inside, once for several seconds, then two or three contractionsaround my shaft that waned in strength.I rose on my elbows. Slowly, the new young a****l in me risinggradually and fully until I found myself unexpectedly breathingthrough clenched teeth, I looked down bakırköy escort at where we were so delicious-ly joined, and wordlessly and with a deliberate and unchangingrhythm, I fucked her until she came again. I said nothing until shegave a final quake and went entirely rigid, and as she lay suspendedand frozen in pleasure I moved my lips near her face and breathed”Cum…cum…” again and again, waivering only when I felt that oddtickle in my cock sliding inside her, and the soft writhing offledgling tubes in my lower gut that I could not resist told me witha startling jolt of pleasure that a drop of me was oozing into her.By the time she relaxed we were both overcome. Neither of uscould move. Eyes closed, she lay stroking the back of my neck.Finally she whispered. “You are such a wonderful fuck.” To which Icould only mutter into her bosom, “I had help.”With her cheek resting on my head I felt her face form a widesmile. Without seeing her, I could envision her teeth gleeming inthe dark.”Flatterer,” she purred, sounding sinfully pleased.PART 4B:Two technicalities that didn’t particularly plague me at thattime were: whatever happened to Martha Jane’s virginity? And whatdid she use for birth control?I assumed that my early sexual equipment had not yet developed tothe size required for breaking hymens. This seemed reasonable, thoughI was not that small in those days and from what I had seen and heardfrom other boys my age, I was above average in that department. Atthe swimming pool in the project and at Malone Pool, a municipal publicswimming pool nearby, plenty of k**s showed up who didn’t hesitate todrop drawers in public and hop into their swim trunks. From all Isaw, I was a definite contender. From Martha Jane’s testimony, ofcourse, I was the best in the business.Birth control was a different matter. I did my own research, atconsiderable consternation to the librarian who fetched dozens ofmedical references out of the library stacks. The best informationI could gather and decipher led me to conclude that it was medicallypossible for me to do some damage–though I doubted I’d find aurologist who would dare confirm it.In addition to official references I garnered more informationfrom every young boy’s ultimate source: the first-hand tales of thatworldliest of peers, the local 12-year-old womanizer. I don’tremember this k**’s name, but he frequented the big grassy lawn thatstretched before my building. It was a ritual about once a month forthis nice-looking, hefty redheaded k** to pontificate on the handlingand seduction of young girls before a group of enthralled listenersage 4 to 14 or so. At about that time I decided to hang around forsome of these sessions, during which I heard the usual rumors aboutvirginity often passing without pain or bloodletting, or via othermeans (sports, et al). He had his own lurid stories to relate, andoften did so with amazing clinical detail which, through my experi-ence with Martha Jane, convinced me that at least some of his reportsseemed authentic.I decided Martha Jane’s hymen had probably been taken by me–exactly when, I couldn’t say–and that its inconvenience had beenmasked by ardour and passion.My scouring about the world was not limited to what I could findin a boring book. I did consort with peers now and then, especiallyon the school playground at lunch and recess. I developed no closeor frequent friends that I recall. The one buddy I did take up withwas Stepper.I spent about a year kicking around with him. He was a blackboy my own age. We didn’t see each other regularly because he livedon the other side of the downtown area, near my Aunt Frances’ home.I met Stepper on one of my expeditions into the downtown businessdistrict. Having been packed off to my godmother’s place for a week-end, I had spent the morning sitting around their restaurant nearbusy Union Station. The usual procedure when I spent weekends withmy godparents or my father’s parents was to spent evenings in theirhome; but since they had no sitter for me and everyone in the familymanned the business during the day, they would drag me downtown withthem when they opened the Tremont Cafe in the morning. I spent halfmy time gobbling down ice cream and Cokes and whatever was on themenu, and the other half exploring the nearby railroad yards, playingArmy games near the grounds of the mammoth post office building nextdoor, or poring over comic books and sipping milk shakes. I hadexhausted my supply of comics that day and sat around looking bored,so my godmother (who was also my great-Aunt Frances) handed me twobucks for more comics.Searching the newsstands nearby in Union Station and CentralStation uncovered nothing new. So in my usual (i.e., unpredictable)way I wandered into the thick of downtown Memphis until I discovereda new and gigantic supply of comics in a hotel near Beale Street. In1949 two dollars would buy a sackful of comics, and a sackful is whatI held under my arm as I started back toward Aunt Frances’ place.Just beyond the corner of Beale and Main I heard a jazz band.Following the sound, I found a small crowd listening to the three-piece band on a block on Beale Street. This was an event in Memphis,there being ordinances against such things. All three players in theband were blacks, with a drummer and a bass player, and a trumpeter ina straw hat with a bright yellow feather. The fourth member wasStepper, a gangly black k** in loose clothing who was shuffling andtap dancing. The k**’s style caught my eye. He seemed very smoothand adept; I had seen enough Fred Astaire flicks at the Suzore’s torecognize fancy footwork.After he performed a couple of numbers he took a big bow fromthe crowd and leaned against the wall of the building for a breakwhile the band started a number without him. That’s when I walkedover to him and, too shy to know how to start a conversation with aperson who seemed so accomplished, I shuffled around without a worduntil he happened to notice the corner of a comic book cover that hadcrept up over the edge of the paper bag I held.”Say,” he said, pointing to the bag, “you got Plastic Man inthere!””Yeah. You know about Plastic Man?””Do I? My favorite. Got them funny glasses, and goes stretchin’his neck all the way around buildin’s an’ everything. Yeah, it’sfunny, it’s really weird artwork, the way they draw that guy.”We established an immediate rapport. I found it odd that a k**who performed with such alacrity and precision could have such asleepy, lazy manner of speaking. There was much about Stepper thatI found intriguing: he had a flair for dance and a sense for musicthat has never been matched by any k** I knew before or since. Hehad practical and apparently hard-earned “street smarts” that Ienvied. At the same time there was something about him that waseven more c***dlike than his 8 or 9 years. I kept seeing him as ayoungish Pied Piper.Before I left that day I offered him my copy of Plastic Man. Hethanked me but said he wouldn’t have time to read it on the spot.But I held the book out to him and said, “No, keep it. It’syours. I’ll get another one.”The k** beamed a big, surprised smile at me and said thanks.He asked if I hung around there much, and I said I’d try to getback on a weekend. As I was leaving he said, “Hey, you everget back here, look for me. Ask for Stepper. That’s me.”A few weeks later I again saw Stepper dancing with the streetband. When I talked with him during his break I was surprised whenhe reached into a wrinkled paper sack, pulled out the Plastic Mancomic and handed it to me. He said he hoped it wasn’t too damaged,he had given it to his smaller brother Junior. And even his 5-year-old sister Truluv had read it.I asked, “Really? You have a sister named ‘True Love’?””Yeah, Truluv,” he said, and he spelled it for me. “That was my Aunt Harriet’s idea. She got a lot o’ goofy ideas.”When Stepper was finished for the day he gave me a brief tour of Beale Street, which had not changed very much since its heydey at the turn of the century. This street was “downtown” for blacks who lived in that area, although many of the businesses had since been bought out by whites.Stepper told me his real name was Franklin, which he didn’t like. He insisted on being called by his nickname, Stepper. He was amused when I told him I had the opposite problem and that I hated my nickname. Stepper lived in a small house near Beale Street with his mother, an uncle, his sister Truluv and his baby brother Junior, and their dog Agnes. It turned out that his home was in the same neigh- borhood as my Aunt Frances and her next-door neighbor, my Aunt Josephine Sansone. Stepper said he was familiar with those names. He told me he had an older uncle, Robert, who was a handyman and junk collector in the neighborhood. He cruised the area with his mule and wagon and made part of his living making deliveries or picking up used tires, refrigerators, sinks, or whatever refuse could be sold or rebuilt. The local shopping area had a small supermarket, a liquor store, a cleaners, and a restaurant and beer hall on the corner of Linden Street. My relatives owned that property and ran the businesses. The area was a decaying part of Memphis built in the 1890’s. The old two-story houses that were still standing were populated by whites, many of them either closely or distantly related to me. The other side of the area was literal- ly a shantytown populated by poor negro families who lived in houses little better than shacks.Stepper became my indispensable guide to many of the dangers I had somehow avoided downtown. Standing on a street corner one day he pointed out a very large lady shopper who was crossing the street, walking in our direction.”Lookit that lady,” he murmured, pointing to her. “See, she got two shoppin’ bags she’s holdin’ in one arm, and that other bag she got down at her left side. Lookit dem two bags she’s holdin’ in her right arm. See dat? It wouldn’t take nothin’ to bump up aside her a little bit, and dem bags come tumblin’ down all over the side- walk. You could grab three or four, maybe five things outta that bag and run like the devil, she’d wouldn’t know it ’till too late to catch you.”He showed me how several shoppers left themselves vulnerableand how he could make a getaway uns**thed.I asked him how he knew these tricks.”My brother, he’s 19 years old and he has this friend, nameis Joel. Joel brung me down here one time and showed me all themtricks. Said he wanted me to do it with him. But I wouldn’t doit.””Have you ever done anything like that?””Nope. Not me. And I’m glad I didn’t. ‘Cause Joel, he’s in jail for it right now. And I’m not. But I hope I never get to the point where I have to steal like that.””Why would you have to steal?””‘Cause you get hungry. You don’t have no home. Then yougot to. Ain’t no other way.”Stepper guided me to many of the secret places in unlikely parts of the city. Like me, he was inveterately curious. We saw each other every few weeks or so and explored areas that had not been touched or seen by anyone in years. We crept through the dank, silent warehouses of the old cotton shipping district, unused at that time for dozens of years, and found remnants of an entire railroad network that connected the shipping docks. We followed the railroad itself through an old part of town, onto the bluffs along the waterfront, across the Mississippi RIver on the old Harriman bridge and into Arkansas on other shore. Traversing the old rail- road bridge was scary: there was no walkway and only a thin metal cable for a handrail, and therefore there was no escape from oncom- ing trains, short of diving into the river. The heavily rusted tracks told us that the bridge had been unused for years. Still, we played it safe and walked back to town over the DeSoto Bridge, which had a pedestrian walkway.It took over an hour to return to Memphis. Along the way, Stepper entertained me by forming his fingers tightly around his lips and showing me how to “trumpet” a blues number with his hands.When it came to adventuring with people, however, we didn’tfare so well.One hot, sticky June day I brought Stepper into my back yard and told him to wait while I went inside to get us some lemonade. Mom was making a pitcher of it when she noticed Stepper waiting out there near the edge of the access driveway.”That little boy out there..is he with you, Speedy?””Yeah, that’s Stepper. Can he have some, too?””Well,” she began, looking at him irritably. She turned andpulled two tall glasses down from the pantry on the wall, andstarted clunking ice cubes into them. “All right, but listen tome…” She bent down close to my face and in a stern whisper, soStepper wouldn’t hear, she warned me, “…I’ll give him some thistime, because I don’t think I ever mentioned this to you before.But don’t you bring any black boys around again. Hear?”Confused, I looked out through the rear screen door atStepper, who stood unknowing with his back to us and looked aboutat the goings on around him. I turned back to Mom and asked,”Why not?””Because we don’t socialize with them.””But why not?””Because he’s–” she lowered her whisper to a barely audiblelevel–“black.””But why don’t we–?””Because we just don’t. Now you mind yourself, Speedy, anddon’t ask me why not, just don’t do it anymore.”She gave me two glasses of lemonade and went about cleaningup, doing little to hide her displeasure.Perplexed at the harshness of such rules and her unflinchinginsistence, I walked outside and handed Stepper the lemonade. Hetook a quick drink and yelled toward my mother in the kitchen,”Thank you, ma’am. This is real good. You make it really good!”My mother brought her face to the screen door and smiled withstiff politeness. “I’m glad you like it.” Then she went back towork.Stepper drank the lemonade in one long, noisy series of gulpsand wiped his lips. Without changing his casual manner he saidquietly to me, “Hurry up and finish yours, and let’s go.””Where we goin’?” I asked.”You in trouble about this, I can tell. Ain’t you?”I shrugged and sipped my lemonade.”You in trouble, huh?” he asked again.I drank deeply and paused. “What makes you think so?””I can tell,” he said.Conspiratorially, we both behaved offhandedly as I finished mylemonade and returned the glasses to the kitchen. “Thanks, ma,” Isaid nonchalantly as I walked out.”You be back here at six,” she warned.”Yes, ma’am.”Stepper and I decided that from then on we would meet in a partof the project where my mother wouldn’t see us–which would be any-where except in my tiny back yard.Shortly thereafter I was similarly approached by my Aunt Frances.One Sunday morning as she was cleaning up the breakfast dishes be-fore leaving to work at the restaurant, she called me inside. I hadbeen playing in the her back yard with Stepper and his little sisterTruluv, throwing a ball for their dog Agnes to fetch.Aunt Frances stood in her kitchen with her hands on her verywide hips, her big face frowning. “You don’t let any of them k**scome in this house when we leave you alone here, do you?””No, ma’am,” I said–lying, of course, since Stepper and I hadalready explored the unlived-in, unfurnished second floor of theirbig old Victorian house.”Hm-hm,” she muttered to herself, displaying her usual distrust.”You watch out who you play with around here. Those k**s belong inniggertown, over there on Linden Street. They don’t have nobusiness around here.””Yes, ma’am, ” I said dutifully.Naturally, I disobeyed. On weekends when I stayed with AuntFrances and they were home, I met Stepper behind their house. Theirback yard had a wooden one-car garage, and a vine-covered wire fencethat ran along the gravel alleyway separating shantytown from thehomes on Aunt Frances’ block. Right behind the garage was ourfavorite spot.I was waiting there one day eating a cookie out of a big batchAunt Frances was making for the restaurant. Stepper came around thecorner of the alley before I finished.”That looks good, ” he said. “What kinda cookie?””Oatmeal,” I said. “Wait. I’ll get you one.””That’s okay, I don’t want one that bad. Don’t get in notrouble.””I won’t,” I said. “Just wait.” I went through the yard andpaused at the rear door, quickly swallowing the last cookie bite,and walked into the kitchen. Aunt Frances stood in a white chef’sapron at the big center table, rolling out cookie dough. I asked foranother cookie.”I just gave you one. You ate that already?””Yes, ma’am.””Well…all right, but this is the last one. Don’t you spoilyour lunch.””Thank you,” I said obediently, and once outside I dashed behindthe garage. Stepper’s little sister TruLuv stood shyly beside him.I gave the cookie to Stepper and said, “Now she doesn’t have one.””She can have some o’ mine,” Stepper said.”No,” I said. “Wait here.” I dashed again to the back door,paused to settle down, and strolled casually into the kitchen.”Can I have another one?”My Aunt Frances looked down at me in disbelief. “What? I justgave you another one!””I ate it.””You ate that big cookie already? Don’t you chew?”My Uncle Johnny sat in the living room reading the paper. Hecalled out in his soft, wheezy voice. “What’s the matter, Francis?”Aunt Frances called back in her shrill voice, “Your nephew eatscookies faster than I can make ’em.””Well, give ‘im another one.””He’s had two already.””He’s a k**, they eat all day. Won’t hurt anything.”Aunt Frances gave me another cookie, with a strong warning: “Nowthis is the last one. Don’t eat so many cookies, they’re not goodfor you when you eat so many.””Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”I ran outside. Behind the garage, Stepper and Truluv had beenjoined by their baby brother Junior and Agnes the dog.I handed Truluv the cookie. “Wait,” I said.Back to the kitchen door. I paused a longer time, hoping itwas enough to cover the consumption of another cookie. Then Iwent into the kitchen.Aunt Frances balked and scowled. “Don’t tell me you wantanother one!””Yeah.””How do you eat so fast?”My Uncle Johnny called, “What’s the matter now, Frances?””Your nephew already ate that other cookie!”Uncle Johnny gave his usual laugh, an ironic, tired littlewheeze. “Hell, I’m not surprised. What’s he want now?””What do you think he wants? He wants another one.””Give him one, Frances, what the hell…””Here!” Aunt Frances said, posing another big cookie in my face.”Now, that’s the last one!””Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”I ran back to the garage and behind it, and gave Junior hiscookie.”What about you?” Stepper said, munching. “Now you ain’t gotone.””Aw,” I said, “I get cookies outta her all the time.”Stepper grinned, his teeth covered with crumbs. “You some-thin’ else, boy.”This resulted in my being introduced to Stepper’s Uncle Robert,the junk man, a tall, portly, silver-haired elder who reminded meof cheerful Uncle Remus, whose Walt Disney movie I’d recently seen.Along with Stepper and Truluv, we went riding on Uncle Robert’sjunk wagon up and down Linden and Lauderdale Streets all that week-end. I spent one Sunday at Robert’s own shanty, where he made abatch of the warmest, crunchiest, greasiest, tastiest Southernfried chicken I ever ate. He called me “Mister Speedy, suh” andshowed me how he collected the junk and cleaned it up.It was a few weeks following the February cookie incident thatI was on Robert’s mule-powered junkwagon with Stepper and Truluvand Agnes. We sang and joked our way merrily down Lauderdale infront of my Aunt Frances’ home when we passed my beautiful cousinJosephine Louise, who was walking toward her mother’s home next doorto my Aunt Frances.We k**s waved and screamed hello. Josephine Louise at firstdidn’t hear, but when she did she turned to us and her face beşiktaş escort lit up.Josephine Louise was a creature of magical beauty. Her wide redsensuous mouth and huge doe-like eyes were almost as hypnotic to meas Martha Jane’s basic, tender charm. She smiled and waved.”Hi, Speedy. Y’all havin’ a good time?””Yep,” I yelled back, proud of myself as a veteran rider ofwagons and expert on the back end of mules.”Stay outta trouble now,” she called, and winked her sexy wink.As the wagon clattered by with its tin cans rattling and itsmule clopping along, I watched Josephine Louise’s sultry slinkinessturn and walk up the front path to her home. If ever I had beencrudely horny as a very young boy, Josephine Louise was the causeof it.It was on that day that the proverbial excrement first hit theproverbial fan concerning Stepper…The following day, a Sunday, I snuck around the garage behindAunt Frances’ house and met Stepper in the alley. We began walkingthrough the shantytown toward his house when we were met by hisUncle Robert. We both expected his usual, toothy grin and goodcheer. Instead, he had a long and serious face.”Stepper, you come hyah,” he called somberly from a few yardsaway. He stopped to wait for Stepper to go to him. Both of uscould tell by his cheerless tone that something unpleasant wasbrewing.Stepper looked back at me as he went to his uncle. “Wait here,Speedy, Uncle Robert’s got somethin’ to tell me. I’ll be back.”But as soon as Stepper joined his uncle, Robert took the boy’s hand and held him still. He straightened up and looked down at Stepper sternly. “Stepper, c***d, I got somethin’ ta tell ya. This is serious, now. You got to pay attention and you got to mind what I say.””What is it, Uncle Robert?”PART 4C:Robert paused, and began again with a strained voice and face.”You chillun cain’t be playin’ around here together no mo’. I donegot the word on it from yo’ brother Steve, and from Miz Sansoneacross the street. She call me on my phone at home, and when MizJosephine Sansone calls me at home, I know it’s ser’ous. She seenus all on the wagon yestiddy, and she say…she don’ wonna see nomore of it with you and Mister Speedy.””But why?””Now, I told you, c***d, please mind me.” He looked up and tooka step toward me. “Mister Speedy, I sho don’t like this. But Igot to do what Miz Sansone say.”I looked into his sad eyes and said, “Uncle Robert, you don’thave to call me mister. I’m supposed to call *you* mister.””I appreciate that and I know what you mean, but…Miss Josephine,and yo’ Aunt Lucille and Aunt Frances is all in a big uproar, and…I ain’t got no choice in this.”I asked, “But who told you we were out on the wagon? Was itJosephine Louise?””No suh, now, yo’ cousin Miss Josephine Louise, she didn’t havenothin’ to do with this. So don’t you go blamin’ her. She’s thesweetest lady I know, and she wouldn’t do nothin’ like that. Now…it don’t make no difference who said what and who done what. Theend of it is, yo’ Aunt Josephine and Aunt Lucille and Aunt Francesdon’t want you and Stepper together ’round hyah. And they ask me totell you they don’t think it’s safe, you runnin’ round in shantytown.”Stepper broke in excitedly, “Speedy, I’ll meet you up by Saint Patrick’s church from now on, won’t nobody–“”Now, Stepper!” Uncle Robert said firmly. “Please, c***d. Youheard what I said.” Uncle Robert turned to me. “I’m really sorry,Mister Speedy.”I said, feeling very staunch and grownup, “I know how they are, Uncle Robert. I understand.””Well, I know you is a smart boy, and a good boy, and I knowyou see what’s going on. I wish it could be dif’ernt, and I ain’tsayin’ it’s right, but–“”I *know* it ain’t right!” I said defiantly. “It’s not fair!””Mister Speedy, please. We all know what’s going on hyah, solet’s don’t dwell on that ’cause they ain’t nothin’ we can do aboutit. Miz Sansone and them is yo’ people, yo’ family, and you got todo what they say. So don’t be makin’ trouble for yuhself. Iconfess I did see yo’ cousin Miss Josephine Louise at the grocerysto’ this morning when she come to work, and she say she knew whatwas happenin’, too, and she was sorry. So I know how you and herfeel about dis, but…” Uncle Robert grabbed Stepper’s hand againand straightened up. “But I makes my livin’ from Miz Sansone andother folks round hyah, and…well…we got to do what we got to do.Come on, Stepper. Let’s go see ’bout some lunch.”Silently I watched them go, torn between pity and affection for Stepper and Uncle Robert, and my growing dislike for what seemed to be a mounting tide of opposing forces from adults, mean k**s, the possi- bility of Martha Jane leaving after high school, aunts who hated giving cookies, and moms who gave no reason for banishing my friends. As Stepper and Robert walked away, Stepper turned and gave me a lost look that tugged at my heart. But out of view of Robert he winked, pointing at himself and then at me, and the message I got was that he would find a way to come to me. I nodded. When they disappeared into Stepper’s slanted wooden house down the driveway, I turned and trudged back toward my aunt’s house with dragging feet. I was in no mood to give up an afternoon of Stepper and Uncle Robert for one with grownups I increasingly resented and could not fathom.This wasn’t the end of it with Stepper. A few weeks later at the end of March, he met me in the Lauderdale Courts project. He’d brought with him his pride and joy–a leatherette bag of genuine cat’s-eyes marbles given him for his birthday by his Aunt Harriett. I knew this to be a prize, as an entire bag of 24 cat’s-eyes cost more than many poor black families earned in a week.We gathered with several other k**s in a patch of orange dusta few yards west of my building, near a thick grove of hedges.This was safe from my mother’s view and within sight of most of theother k**s who lived nearby. We called this grassless patch of wornground the Marble Court. It was the perfect surface for hand-shooting marbles. The common belief was that only sissies playedmarbles on smooth surfaces; shooting and rolling in fine dust re-quired great skill.About five boys my age, and Stepper and I, and a number of youngboys and some girls were gathered at the Marble Court as Stepperamazed everyone with his expertise at marbles. I was almost temptedto take bets on the little tyke, as I had seen Leo Gorcey do withHuntz Hall in a Bowery Boys movie.The sun was lowering toward the rooftops near dinner time,and k**s were wrapping up their final marble shots, when four olderboys strolled hurriedly across the lawn toward us. Looking over myshoulder, I recognized two of them as a couple of tough k**s thathad been in fistfights in the area.One of the boys standing near me saw them as well, and he leanedclose to me. “Hey, Ricci,” he said, calling me by my last name,”here come some of them guys from the big buildings on the hill.”I murmured back, “Maybe we oughtta stop the game and spreadout. They’re always lookin’ for trouble.””Naw, they look like they’re goin’ somewhere in a hurry. They might not stop here. Make like we don’t see ’em.”The other k**s, not noticing the quartet, were on the ground,anxiously hunched around a boy who was making a critical shot. AsI tried to appear unaffected, I heard with a chill the footfalls ofthe boys walking swiftly through the grass near my back. With asigh of relief I heard them approach and then pass, appearing to beon their way into the project without noticing us.But then one of the four yelled, “Hey, Herschell, look at this!”He suddenly appeared in front of me, headed deliberately toward thek**s hovering around the game.One of the other four yelled, “Hey, JB, what the hell ‘re youdoin’?””Just a minute,” the hefty boy named JB yelled back, “Lemmesee somethin’.””Oh, what the hell!” swore one of the toughs. “You’re wastin’my time, JB. You’re always wastin’ my time!”JB stepped roughly into the group playing marbles. The k**sstood and s**ttered immediately. Only another boy and Stepper wereleft on the ground.”Hey, nigger, what you got down there?”Stepper remained still, staring up at him warily with wide,white yes.”You got cat’s-eyes, nigger? Hey, Herschell, this nigger’s gotsome cat’s-eyes. Got a nice set, too.””Are you k**din’ me?” Herschell yelled back. “C’mon, man,we ain’t got time for that. We’re gonna miss tickets for the gametonight. Cut the crap and get movin’. C’mon!”JB stood with his hands on his hips, looking down at Stepperwith a mean smile. “Them your cat’s-eyes, boy? Huh? They belongto you?””Yeah,” Stepper said politely, starting to get up. “They’smine.””Well, they ain’t yours no more,” JB said, and he reached downand scooped up a handful of cat’s-eyes. Stepper had no choice; JBwas twice his size, and almost twice mine. All the other k**sbegan spreading out, away from the Marble Court.The other three toughs were still walking on their way. “C’mon, JB,” one of them yelled. “We ain’t waitin’, man!”JB eyed Stepper with a menacing false friendliness, as Steppercarefully moved away from him. “Thanks, nigger,” JB said, grinning,spilling the marbles loudly from one hand to the other.I was a few yards away from JB. I calculated that if I brokeinto a quick run, I could pretend to have just arived on the sceneand could brush against his hands, knocking the marbles away. Ifthe goods were spilled everywhere and his friends were urging himto leave, he might just forget the whole thing and move off. I wasdesperate that Stepper should not lose those marbles and that therest of us would not be intimidated. Before I knew it I was rushingacross the front of JB’s view, headfirst.I struck his hands with my right shoulder and arm. Marblesflew everywhere. Quickly I jerked to a stop and said, “Oh,’scuse me, mister! I didn’t see ya.” I bent down, retrievingmarbles, most of which had fallen in the nearby grass.”Hey, Herschell,” I heard JB yell over my head as I bent.”You see what that little shit did to me?” He gave a rough laugh.I didn’t know what he would do next. I could not see him frommy bent-over position. But I knew I was terrified. I could seemy hands quiver as I fished for one marble at a time. I had noidea what would happen next.I didn’t have to wait long to find out.I heard and felt a violent, dull thud on the left side of myface. My head snapped to the right, straining my neck, and the restof me followed into the dirt. I don’t remember falling, so I musthave gone down instantly. I hit the ground tummy-first with asingle bounce, my mouth and nostrils filled with sticky, chokingbrown powder. One of the little girls behind me screamed. To myleft I heard feet pounding from the direction of the other threetoughs. I was numbed by a growing hum of sickening fear. Were allfour of them going at me? What a stupid thing I’d done!One of the toughs had run to us and hissed angrily, “JB,goddammit, get yer butt movin. You wanna see this game, stopfuckin’ around and let’s go!””Okay, man, okay,” JB said, swaggering over to me. “You see what this nigger-lover did to me? Like I wouldn’t know what he was up to. Hey, boy! You think I’m stupid or somethin’?”I didn’t answer. I didn’t think I could speak anyway. I lay flat in the dirt. Maybe he’d think I was knocked out.The second tough walked away. “SCrew it, man, I’m tired of your foolishness. Hey, Herschell, keep movin’, this stupid motherfucker’s gonna stay here and play. So long, JB!””I’m comin’, man, I’m comin’,” I heard JB say absently. From the corner of my left eye I could see his shoes approach me slowly. Then the shoes moved so quickly they were a blur, and I shifted two or three feet to the right as a fierce blow crashed into my left side and ribs. This time I got a good face-full of ground and felt my forearms scr****g roughly into it. I then realized the left side of my face was swelling from the earlier blow, and the rapidly spreading mixture of numbness and stinging pain in my left side meant that I had been kicked hard. I lay frozen and nauseous, waiting for more.But more didn’t come. JB scoffed, “Nigger lover,” and out ofmy right eye I saw him walking off. “Okay, fellas, I’m comin”,” JByelled.My worst fears gone, the ability to move returned to my limbs. I saw drops of blood in front of me on the ground, and my nose itched maddeningly. Rapidly, fear was displaced by rage–so much so, I felt I might go out of control. I trembled more from anger than from pain. I rose to my elbows and knees, a throbbing ache spreading through my head and face. I wondered if the bastard had broken my nose, or a cheekbone, or a rib. More blood dripped off the tip of my nose into small red blots in the dust.Stepper and two other k**s were onto me right away.”Hey, Ricci! Ricci!” one of them pleaded. “You okay?”I heard someone sniffling and crying just over my head. Iopened my eyes and saw Stepper’s shoes.”Speedy,” Stepper sobbed. “Say somethin’. You alright?””I’m okay,” I mumbled, surprised that my mouth could move, but not surprised that it hurt my nose and jaw.”He’s okay!” one of the k**s screeched. “C’mon, let’s get ‘imup.”I let out a powerful, growling scream. “Don’t touch me! Nobody touch me! Leave me alone!”I sensed the others were startled and that they began moving away cautiously. All but Stepper. He was still crouched near me, his hand on my back.”Speedy, please tell me you okay,” he sobbed.I was up on my knees now, and settled back on my haunches. I nodded. “It’s okay, Stepper. I’m bleedin, I guess, but I’m all here.””This my fault, man.””To hell with that,” I breathed. “I don’t wanna hear that.”He sobbed, “He got you in the face, man, and kicked you good.He didn’t have to do that.””Well,” I said angrily, “he didn’t have to, but he sure did, didn’t he?” I tried to laugh. My left side burned. I leaned forward on my hands and let the blood drip from my face. I hissed, “I’ll kill the son of a bitch. I’ll kill ‘im.””No, Speedy, you take it easy. We gotta find somebody to help you. We gotta find somebody.””No. Stop it,” I gruffed in a dull monotone. I felt something wildly irrational sweeping through me, starting in my gut and spread- ing into my arms. It was a rage from my dreams about being beaten, trapped, powerless.Wobbling, I struggled to stand. Stepper helped me. At firsthe tried grabbing me round the waist, but I winced and yelled.”I’m sorry, Speedy, I forgot.””It’s okay,” I mumbled, sounding drunk and unable to find anequilibrium. I finally stood but swayed, my movements muddled.Stepper was still trying to help me. I gently pushed him away.”No,” I groaned roughly. “Stepper, no. Move away. Please.Gimme room.””You okay?””I’m gonna be alright,” I slurred, not really sure about it. I tried to turn and walk to my right, but stumbled. In case anyone might be thinking of rushing in to steady me I yelled, “Stay away!”To my left I saw a very young girl in a light blue dress, sosmall she seemed puppet-like, rushing as fast as her little feetcould carry her toward the corner of my building a few hundredyards away. The front screen door of the apartment on that end ofthe building opened–it was Martha Jane’s door–and the girl andtwo other k**s were animatedly talking to her and pointing towardme. Other k**s were rushing in from across the lawn, toward theMarble Court where I stood caked with tan dust, lightly drippingblood down my green plaid flannel shirt.My rage swelled, ignited, exploded. Not only had someone beatthe hell out of me, but now every k** and mother and everyone elsein sight was going to see me stumbling and bleeding. My eyesclouded with dust, I saw Martha Jane go to the little girl, takeher hand, and start running toward me. Her mother’s face appearedat the screen door and peered out at us anxiously. I was enragedat being doubly mortified, at being beaten and being seen beaten.It was too late for anyone to squelch the primal force thatovertook me so quickly. I stumbled toward the grove of hedges andbegan tearing away at one of the shrubs, ripping it apart, lookingfor a club, a stick, anything with which to strike at anythingelse. I heard myself scream incoherently, a long, throat-scaldingyell. I grasped at the shrubs, throwing ripped-off leaves andtwigs everywhere. I encircled one shrub in a superhuman effort topull it from the ground. Of course it was impossible, but I triedanyway. The hard edges of the branches dug into my arms and torso.I grunted and again screamed, trying to uproot the plant that wastaller and wider than I was.I heard Martha Jane plead behind me, “Speedy, what are youdoing? Stop it! Please stop!”And poor Stepper, pleading and begging, “No, miss! Leave ‘imalone. Pleeease! He’ll be okay. I seen ‘im do this before!Please, miss, don’t! He won’t even know who you are!””God, what’s he doing?””He’ll be okay! Please!”After that I was aware of precious little except my own blind fury. I jerked at the shrub until I my arms could no longer grasp it, then trampled randomly into the grove of hedges and found an old four foot limb on the ground, a dead limb fallen months or years ago from the giant black oak nearby. I picked it up and charged toward the tree. I was dimly aware of faces watching in shock as I raised over my shoulder a dead black limb whose height and size nearly equalled mine. Crying, screaming, bleeding, I smacked the old wood against the trunk of the oak. The faces of four toughs loomed before me, and the faces of those who lied, cheated, stole, killed, maimed. I let into the tree with savage vehemence and loud whacking sounds. Each effort tore along my injured side. I didn’t care. Again and again I struck. With each blow, splinters and chunks of black dead bark flew every- where. Soon one end of the limb was frayed, yellow shards spewing in all directions. When too weak to hold the log I let it drop; then after a huge gasp of new air I picked it up again, raised it overhead, and hurled it lengthwise at the tree with a furious scream. The broken log bounced back toward me. Stumbling, I grasped it with sore hands and tried to raise the log over my head again. I faltered, drained and feeling barely conscious. My legs gaveout first, the weight of the log pulling me to my knees. Thescreaming gave way to sobs and heaves. I was out of breath withthe effort. I settled backward onto my ankles.A soft voice, tremulous, wary, a young woman’s voice, was justbehind my shoulder.”Speedy? Can I touch you, hon? I won’t try to hold you down.I just want to take care of you, hon. Can you hear me?””Why won’t they let me fight?” I sobbed, choking.”Can you hear me, hon?”The limb lay across my thighs. I let it go and it rolled away.I slumped. I was too tired to move. I felt like falling asleep.Martha Jane’s hand was on my left shoulder. When I didn’t resist,her other hand touched my other shoulder.A tall long-legged woman in a print house-dress stood near myleft. I could barely see her. She stared at me with a horrifiedgrimace.”Is he alright? Lord, what’s wrong with that poor c***d?””I don’t know,” Martha Jane said. “But he’s alright now.Speedy? Can I touch you, hon?””Oh, lord,” the woman above me groaned, her voice thick withdisgust at the sight of my face.”Please, Miss Ferguson.” Martha Jane said firmly. “I’ll takecare of him. Don’t just stand there staring at him.””Well!” the woman said, and turned and walked away.Martha Jane sat behind me on the ground and tried gently to steady me by my shoulders. I felt her put her face to my cheek from behind, one hand holding my forehead. “Lie back, hon. Come on, lie back against me. I’m holding you. Lie back.”I drooped, emptied, and fell back against her. She cradled me into her bosom, which became dotted with blood. Holding me with one arm around my beylikdüzü escort shoulders as I slumped against her, she stroked my forehead with her other hand. “Let your head fall back, baby. Let it fall back on my shoulder. That’s right. That’s right. Shh. Rest now.”Stepper had stopped crying. He was on the ground in front of me. “He done this before,” he told Martha Jane. “Some k**s at High Street Park, they stole this girl’s bicycle and pushed her around some, and we showed up a minute later, like, the guy’s was just takin’ off. They got away. Speedy got so mad, he tore up a garbage can. He said he mad, he wanted to fight back. So he took it out on this big drum can. He threw it on the ground over and over till the bottom came off and it jus’ fell apart. Then he was okay.””I see,” Martha Jane said. “Shh. You doin’ better now, hon?”I was too bombed out to respond. Stepper said, “He’s alrightnow, lady. He just had to let it all out.”I fought to stay alert. I knew the right side of my face hadswollen and was closing my right eye. Looking down, I saw myblood on Martha Jane’s pale green bodice. I tried in vain to pickat it, not knowing what to do.”Don’t worry about that. You just rest.”I looked into her eyes. They were bright, piercing green,wide with concern and fear.”I want to fight,” I whimpered.”I know, hon. Listen to me. I know. But you’re hurt and youhave to rest.” She called the little girl who had run to summonher. “Margaret! Margaret, go tell my mother, at that front doorover there, tell her to get Speedy’s mom. Go tell her, sweetheart.That’s a good girl.”I moaned, “I have to sit up.””You sure?””Yes.”She helped me sit up on my knees.Stepper knelt in front of me. “Yo’ Mama’s gonna be comin’,Speedy. You don’t need no more trouble from me. This is the thirdtime I got you in trouble.” He put the bag of marbles in my shirtpocket. He clasped one of my hands in his two, tightly. Thenquickly he got up and started running across the lawn.”Stepper,” I tried to shout, but I could only croak. “Stepper!”Martha Jane said, “Let him go, hon.””But he’ll never come back! I know he won’t!””Speedy…let him go. You have to let him go.”My mother and little Margaret came rushing toward us. Mom washysterical, screaming, flailing her arms. “Oh my boy! Whathappened to my son? What did they do to my boy?”All I could say to myself was, “Oh, no. Shit.” Now relativeswould be converging from everywhere. As if getting beat up hadn’tbeen enough!PART 4D:Martha Jane and my mother helped walk me into our apartment,where they settled me on the sofa and placed a wet rag over myface. Mom called our closest relatives, my Grandma Rose Ricci,to hurry over in their car and get me to nearby St. Joseph’sHospital. But Grandma Rose was too distraught to drive and shecalled my Aunt Frances, who in turn was so distraught she calledmy Aunt Josephine, who in turn was also so distraught she calledher neice, my cousin Josephine Louise, whom they all knew drovelike the wind at all times.Within 30 minutes Josephine Louise arrived in Aunt Frances’black 1947 Dodge, the car packed to the hilt with relatives likeclowns in a circus act. They rushed into our little apartmentand shook the walls with their hysteria. Martha Jane, strokingmy forehead and cheek with the cool wet cloth, watched calmlywith me as yet another car drove up and Grandma Rose and theRicci’s and Gagliano’s got out. Soon the place was so full, noone could walk.”My God,” Martha Jane whispered incredulously. “How manymore of them are there?””No one knows,” I said dryly.Amid the moaning and wailing and my Aunt Frances swooninginto a chair, her husband, my Uncle Johnny, cooly and sanelybrought the crowd to attention. “You all remember why we’rehere,” he said, gesturing toward me with his hat. “We gonnatake him to the hospital, or we gonna stand around and faint?”They all gaped at each other momentarily, then everyonestarted issuing different instructions at once. My mother andJosephine Louise edged their way through the panic and calmlylifted me into Josephine Louise’s arms.”Come on, Speedy,” she said, carrying me with one arm aroundthe back of my neck and the other under my knees. “While theywork this out, we’ll go to St. Joseph’s. Follow me, Betty,” shesaid to my still distraught mother, and she wiggled her waythrough the crowd, through the kitchen, and out to her car. Mymom and Martha Jane followed, with Uncle Johnny almost casuallyin the rear, hat in hand. The last I heard from the others, theywere still screaming at each other in my living room.At St. Joseph’s I was cleaned, poked, wrapped, injected,xray’d, gowned and wheeled up to a bed with a window overlookingthe project a few blocks away. A doctor who looked and soundedlike Joel McCrea with a Southern accent told everyone I was asturdy k** and no great damage was done–although I would haveto keep my arm in a sling for a day or two to keep from stretchingtorn muscles around my left rib cage, and I’d have a fat cheekfor a while, and I’d have to wear a thick pad on my side for afew weeks to restrain movement there, and I was warned to notstrain myself by attacking any more trees.I was in St. Joseph’s for two days, strapped tightly in acorset to keep my torso immobile, and continually monitored bya nonstop parade of Italian aunts, uncles, godparents, great-aunts and uncles, great-grandmother Nifa and her two morbidsisters, cousins, near cousins, and a number of people I neversaw before who claimed they were related. Nurses groaned andcomplained, shuffling people in and out of the waiting roomand forced to keep count of how many people were in my room atone time. I was kissed on the cheek by innumerable elderly aunts,most of whom appeared grieved as if I were dead and laid outin my coffin instead of propped up in bed.I was obliged to “be nice” and appreciative and, as JosephineLouise whispered to me with her luscious, red, magnificentlysexy mouth close to my ear at one point, “Look as if you’re inmortal pain, Speedy. These old Victorians just thrive onmelodrama.”Martha Jane visited me each day, but we were hardly able tohave a few words between ourselves. On the second day she hadenough time alone with me. While the others were out gettingcoffee, we had a brief chat.”I’ll bet you just love all this attention,” she said.”Martha Jane, you know I feel so creepy around them. I getthe same questions: Hi, Speedy, how are you? How old are younow, Speedy? How are you doing in school? What do you want tobe when you grow up? Did it hurt bad? Was your–?”She interrupted, touching my hand. “Now, hon. You should be grateful all these people care so much for you. Your Grandma Rose has been so nice, they could have just sent you straight home two days ago, but your Grandma Rose is footing the whole bill so youcould be more comfortable here.””But–“”But nothing, Speedy. You have to admit, that was verygenerous.”Guiltily, I conceded, “Well, I do like my Grandma Rose,she’s the only one I like.””And your poor Aunt Frances and Uncle Johnny–“I groaned and slapped my forehead. “No, not Aunt Frances.””Stop that, hon, I know she’s hysterical and a lifetime ofcriticism every five minutes, but she means well.””No, no, not Aunt Frances…” I groaned in mock dismay.”Stop, it squirt,” she reprimanded gently. “They all loveyou, and you know it. You devil, you’re just eating all thisup. It’s more attention than you or anybody else gets in alifetime.””Okay,” I pouted.”Don’t say okay unless you mean it.””Okay.””I gotta go study, hon.” She rose and gathered her sweaterover her shoulders. Leaning down to me, she looked back at thedoor to see if anyone might be listening. She whispered, “Youget well. Hear me?””Okay.””Because…” She licked my ear. “…I miss us.”I smiled, blushing. “Me too.”With a peck on the cheek she was gone. And just in time forthe return of Aunt Frances, Uncle Johnny, Grandma Rose, AuntJosephine, Aunt Lucille, Aunt Mary, Uncle Louie, Mom, my sister,Aunt Catherine, my *other* Aunt Catherine, Aunt Yiya, AuntTheresa, Grandpa Joe, another Aunt Josephine, Uncle Vito, UncleLawrence, Aunt Cecilia…By the end of the second day I felt well enough to startgetting unbearably bored again. Whenever I shifted restlesslymy injured side ached and cramped. Except for visits to therestroom and the coffee shop, Aunt Frances and Uncle Johnny werea permanent fixture in the room, Uncle Johnny sighing restlessly and winking at me now and then, recognizing our mutual discomfort.The worst part of the day was when Aunt Frances began cajoling my mother into moving out of the project.”But I want my c***dren and I to have our privacy,” my motherobjected, trying to be as nice as she could about it. “And wherewould we stay? I wouldn’t want to take rent money from all myrelatives. I just can’t live that way.””But, Betty,” my Aunt Frances pleaded. “You and Speedycould live with *us*.”On hearing that, I raised my eyes to Heaven. Please, Jesus. Not that.My mother said no, it just wouldn’t work. She thanked Aunt Frances. She told her she had a good relationship with my stepdad- to-be, it looked as if they were steady now, and perhaps they would marry in a year or two. I was grateful for her persistence. Not only would I not be able to bear seven days a week of Aunt Frances, but leaving the project meant leaving Martha Jane. Aunt Frances didn’t let up all day, but Mom didn’t give in and didn’t even appear to be tempted–for which I was deeply grateful. Maybe there really was a God.In a spare moment, when no one was looking, I found myself unable to resist the urge to stick out my tongue at Aunt Frances. I did so, mildly, about half an inch of it. And just as I did, Aunt Frances looked at me.I withdrew my tongue immediately, but already her big round eyes had widened and her eyebrows rode halfway up her forehead.She turned to Uncle Johnny, beside her. “Johnny, did you see what he did?””What’d he do, Frances?” asked Uncle Johnny, trying to keep awake.”He stuck his tongue out at me.”Uncle Johnny’s repressed laugh started out as a smirk, then he deftly transformed it into a wheeze, and then a mild cough. “Forget it, Frances. The boy don’t feel well.”Three or four weeks later, when Martha Jane was with me again, my cheek had cleared but I was still wearing the heavy restraining pad at my left side, held in place by thick layers of gauze around my middle. Martha Jane turned the lights out early. I had already got into bed and was lying on my back when she turned out the last light and walked over to the bed. In her jeans and white shirt she lay down beside me and began taking off my clothes in the dark. When my shirt came off she traced the bandage with her finger.”That’s horrible what that little rat did to you.””I can take it,” I said stoically.”Sur-r-re, you can, cowboy.” she said. “You sure threw a fit. I knew you had a temper, but…I had no idea it was that much of a temper.”I sat up while she removed my shirt. She unbuckled my belt and unzipped me, shoving my pants to my knees. She stood up, pulling my pants off past my feet by its legs.”I hope you never get so mad at me that you direct that awful rage at me, Speedy.””I can’t hurt people,” I said.”What do you mean, you can’t hurt people?””I can’t hurt people. Only things. I can’t hurt them, even if I hate them.””Why not, hon? You had every right to take that tough k** and beat the–” She stopped herself, and continued removing my socks. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean that. You had every right to, but you wouldn’t have done it. Because you’re sweet, hon. Even though you don’t like your Aunt Frances and all those other people, you wouldn’t hurt them. You’re a very brave boy. It takes courage to be sweet.””He had me so angry,” I said. “Why do people have to take from others like that? Poor Stepper, he’s so poor and he doesn’t have anything. And he can’t help it if he’s black. Why does the world do that?””I don’t know, hon. I wish I had the answer.” She had removed my socks, and now she grabbed the sides of my underwear. “Lift,” she said. I did, she pulled, and I was naked.She stood looking down at me in the dark. Silently she unbut- toned her shirt, looking at me with a gently intent gaze. All the buttons undone, she shifted her shoulders back and the shirt seemed to simply breathe off her. Then her bra. The moon glowed along one side of the swell of each gently sloped breast. She unbuckled the belt at her jeans, twisted the top button open, pulled the zipper down.”That horrible, violent day is all over now,” she whispered. She pulled down her jeans, dropped them on the floor, and slipped her thin panties down her long, perfect legs. Her auburn tuft glowed like a softly lighted powder puff in the moonlight. I was getting hard watching her. My cock weakly stirred and straight- ened. A slab of moonlight fell directly on it. It rose, slightly. Martha Jane looked at it and bent down and slowly, one finger at a time, she put her hand around it and held it so that only the tip stood out above her gentle fist.”I don’t know why people have such meanness,” she went on, almost absently, watching my cock. “I don’t know why they have to hurt each other. When they could give themselves pleasure and affection.””I would never hurt you, Martha Jane,” I whispered.”I know you wouldn’t, hon. And I hope I never hurt you.”She leaned down and licked the part of my cock that protrudedabove her fingers, then lightly sucked it. “He’s so sweet.”I gulped, and my cock stirred. She felt it and grinned. “He can almost talk,” she said.She lay down beside me near the window and our arms went around each other. Propped on one elbow, she caressed my chest. I lightly squeezed a nipple.”No more meanness,” she whispered. “No more hurt. No more hate. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that could happen?””It happens here,” I offered, “when I’m with you.””What a beautiful thing for you to say, Speedy,” she breathed, surprised, her eyes glowing. “What a lovely thing to say.” She held my face in her hands and pressed her cheek to mine. Her lips at my ear, she whispered, “How can I make you feel good? We have to be careful with that thing on you. You can’t move very much.””I don’t know,” I pondered. “I wanna make you feel good, too.””I know what,” she said, and got onto her knees beside me and bent over my chest and held her face over mine. “I know what we can do.””What?”She kissed my nose. She kissed my right eyelid. She kissed my lips. “You just wait…””What?” I asked again.Her voice was a langorous, barely audible whisper, mildlytaunting, motherly, lecherous, all at once.She bagan softly, “The management of this establishment isestablishing new management.”She kissed my ear.She raised her face above mine again and touched a finger to my lips.”Don’t talk,” she whispered.She was so quiet, I heard the “k” in the last word linger in the air for several seconds.She nipped at my throat, around the side of my neck to my other ear. One of her nipples grazed one of mine. She put her lips onto my ear.”Don’t move.”She kissed my neck, licked my neck, trailed kisses slowly across my chest with tiny, almost unheard little puffs and lickings. She kissed not with her lips, but with the inside of her lips. She put her lips on my left nipple and softly opened them, made a tiny pool of the inner lining of her lips around my nipple, and gently sucked. My cock got very hard. She used the tip of her tongue, only the tip, to move down my chest until she got to the bandage. Then she looked down.”You’re hard,” she observed aloud, under her breath. “How nice.”It was so quiet and still in the room I could feel the moonlight on my stiffened, upright cock. My eyes were closed. Now I knew why she swallowed so much when I did this sort of thing to her. It was something to replace speech, for there were no words for the pleasure she was giving me.Watching my cock intently, she moved as if in slow motion, and still on her knees she stretched her neck elegantly forward in the dim light and poised her head straight over my erection. She opened her mouth. She lowered her head, straight down, slowly and cau- tiously, hardly touching my cock with her mouth. When her head was all the way down, and her lips grazed my pubic fuzz, she closed her mouth around me fully, sucked, and drew up. She did this four times, wetly. Soon I throbbed and felt a drop of my nascent cum being siphoned up my shaft into her mouth. Apparently she tasted it. She came off me, licked the inside her mouth.Then she turned to face me, hovered over me. She lifted one leg over me, her knee settling into the bed on my other side.”Careful,” she whispered. “Don’t let me hurt you.””It’s okay,” I whispered back. It always seemed so sacrilegious to talk aloud at such moments with her. Like shouting in church.Her face over mine, her knees on each side of me, her back raised so we didn’t touch below the waist, she looked down and positioned each of her nipples over each of mine, then pressed into me.”Does it hurt your side if I press my titties on you like that?””No.” I mouthed the word, rather than speak it. I wasspeechless, enchanted, amazed.”I’m not really sure how to do this,” she whispered with a nervous little laugh. “I never did it before. Let’s see…” Closing her eyes and rising on her arms, she bit her lower lip in deep concentration, and down below she slowly and tentatively hunted in small movements with her wet cunt, searching for my standing cock. Her outer lips found my tip, circled two or three times, wetting me, then lowered. With a long sigh she took me all the way into her. She looked down.”That okay?” she asked.”That feels so good!””Yes, it does…verrry good.”For a while she experimented, sometimes moving up and down on me; sometimes circling just my tip with her warm slithery outer petals; sometimes taking me all the way and grinding her clit against my shaft, which she seemed to enjoy the most; sometimes taking me in only halfway and pumping rhythmically for a while. Several times she asked me if my side was okay, and I told her it was. She searched and discovered patiently and ardently, often breathing her pleasure in my ear with the most obscenely graphic phrases she could think of. In time she became less careful, gradually more swept up in her heightening pleasure. Soon her wet channel became more snug around me and then began contracting irreg- ularly, at which point she would stop and pant over me for a moment. Then she would start again, growing tighter around me, her grinding more urgent and more intuitive. As her breathing grew more ragged, she began sighing and whimpering. Gradually she assumed more often the position of settling tightly all the way down, squeezing me, rotating subtly on my shaft. And eventually she stiffened, her straightened arms quivering. Her grinding became so intense she rocked the bed, and I knew she would be unable to stop this time around.She began to chant, “oh hon…oh hon…”, and then she beganto sing, “oh hon…!” and finally she groaned loudly, “Oh, yes!”and her head snapped forward and she writhed her clit furiouslyagainst my shaft, holding her breath, and I circled my hips in theopposite direction against her, and she answered with a low groan,”Yes…”, and her cunt clamped on me madly for a long moment. Thenshe passed her peak, her head fell back and then forward, and sheslackened, holding still, gasping deeply and loudly and quickly,her hips and back softened and I saw her breasts had swollen againstme and were hot, a vein on one side of her neck throbbed and Ireached up and sucked it and her hips jerked once, making the bedsqueak, and her neck was hot and salty with sweat and I stroked herhair as if strewing balm on her agonizing pleasure, and she rested,still sucking me inside now and then, and I felt her hot cuntlipsdrain wet around the root of my shaft. Twice my cock had felt thelong moment of sweet tickling inside her as she moved on me, twiceI had felt some of me seep into her, and I was content with bothher pleasure and mine.

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