Time & Again: an Excerpt:

(Dallas, TX, 1962)

. . . . As stark as my prior Christmas’, none had ever been this bad. Aggie was having a terrible time too. She’d had to miss a couple days work earlier in the week so her check was short. After putting aside rent, she had managed to buy Andy a cheap toy and a few jars of baby food, but her refrigerator was just as bare as ours.

She and I finally bundled up the baby and our dirty laundry and lugged it to the Washateria which was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. My brothers stayed home by themselves because of the cold. We were the only ones washing that day which didn’t surprise either of us. We sat in the plastic chairs by the front window and stared out at the decorations on houses and storefronts, and made up stories about the celebrations we were going to have in the future

We were both so depressed by the time we finished the clothes that we decided to spend the rest of the change we had to buy ourselves and the boys a Rockyfeller hamburger for supper. Rocky’s burgers were nothing more than a couple of small buns, a thin slice of hamburger meat, minced onions and a ketchup-based sauce called Rocky’s Special Sauce. They cost twenty cents each and we just barely had enough to buy two a piece. Aggie had some R.C. Cola and that was a good thing or else we would have had to wash our burgers down with water.

We dropped the clothes at the apartment and walked to the Rocky’s on Jefferson near Sunset. When we got home Tom and Royce devoured theirs like they hadn’t eaten for days. It’s quite possible they hadn’t. There was never any food in the apartment. I wasn’t sure if that was because they kept everything ate up or because there was nothing there to begin with. Aggie and I had eaten so many meals at Rockyfeller’s we had to force down the last few bites even though we were very hungry. I kept thinking of all those people out there who were going to be complaining about leftovers tomorrow.

“Aggie, do you know anything about God?”

“I don’t even know if there is one!” she answered.

“Well, when I was going to Sunday School they used to say all the time, how much God loves his children. If that’s so, how can he just forget about us? Aren’t we his children too? How come some people have so much and we have nothing?”

“Beats me. But I’ll tell you one thing. I don’t care what I have to do. I ain’t going through another Christmas like this!” She looked at me and there were tears in her eyes.

We sat around her apartment for a while longer trying to cheer each other up but finally I went to my room and turned on the radio. My brothers drifted in a few minutes later and lay down across the foot of my bed. Neither of them said anything but I could tell they were depressed too. I didn’t know what to tell them. I couldn’t explain anything that was happening to us. We listened silently to the Christmas carols and they ended up falling asleep. I didn’t have the heart to wake and send them into the deserted apartment. I crawled in at my end and slept fitfully until morning. My dream was about Mama. In it, she didn’t look or act like anyone I knew. I kept trying to find out what had happened to her, why she’d changed so much, but when she opened her mouth to answer, nothing came out but the sound of the wind.