What We Make

Patricia Burton

PHILADELPHIA
LAURA BLACKWELL, PATRICIA BURTON, YONIQUE MYRIE, AND DONALD REESE

 
Scrubbing marble steps and hopscotching
That cheesesteak not for the cheapskate
I hear that soulful music
Jump up and dance and then I lose it

 

 


 

 

THE GAME

 

We had been playing the game for a while now. It always started in the same way.I’d be playing with the new toy or pet that Mr. Johnny had brought me when he would call me into the kitchen. This time I had gotten a cute black and white rabbit who I named Miss Tootsie. I had just gotten her a few days ago, but I loved to take care of her and she seemed to follow me everywhere I went. I guess she liked me too. For Easter a few months ago I got some baby chicks. They didn’t live too long, but they were real cute and fun to play with. There was always a lot of new toys, books, or pets to play with. Mr. Johnny, her mom’s new boyfriend, liked to buy me a lot of stuff. I liked the stuff, but not him. But maybe next time I’ll let him buy me a puppy.

 

I missed my own Dad, my brothers and mostly my grandmom. There was nobody to play with round here since she and her mom moved in some months ago. Her mom would be home tomorrow with a brand new baby sister, but she wouldn’t be able to play much ‘cause she was still too little. But right now, here I was… 4 years old and home alone in this scary man’s house. I never did like the house ‘cause it was always too dark and had a long, green hallway leading to the kitchen. I used to imagine skeletons under the bed at night who would come out to get me if I was a bad girl. I was not going to be a bad girl.

 

I picked up Miss Tootsie and started down the green hallway towards the kitchen. She was squirming so much that I couldn’t hold onto her. She scooted down the hallways and ran under the kitchen table. Mr. Johnny had fixed me a bologna and cheese sandwich, potato chips and grape Kool-Aid, my favorite. I was real hungry, but I ate slowly, taking small minced bites instead of big ones. I kept my head down, staring at the scratches on the red, metal kitchen table.

 

“What’s the matter, Patsy? You not hungry?” Mr. Johnny peered at me from across the table.

 

“I don’t know why you always fixing me bologna when everybody knows I only like peanut butter and jelly.” So I take my time… I guess that’s part of the game too. After a few bites, I said, “I don’t like this sandwich; do I have to eat it?”

 

“I don’t know why you always fixing me bologna when everybody knows I only like peanut butter and jelly.” So I take my time… I guess that’s part of the game too. After a few bites, I said, “I don’t like this sandwich; do I have to eat it?”

 

I threw the rest of the sandwich in the trash and put the plate on the counter not the sink. Grandmom didn’t like people to put dishes in the sink. When I turned around I noticed Miss Tootsie sitting by my chair and I scooped her up before she got a chance to run again. I felt safe with her in my arms again.

 

Mr. Johnny patted his thigh and told me to come sit on his lap. I didn’t like that too much and I tried to sit sideways, but he made me straddle his lap this time. With a lump in my throat, I clutched Miss Tootsie so tight, I do swear we shared heartbeats and I was trying to put as much distance as possible between me and him. But he kept pressing in closer I could feel and smell his hot stinky breath as he continued to lean in closer… and closer.
We started with the usual “Patty-cake, Patty-cake,” then Ears, Eyes, Nose and Mouth games… touchy feely games I didn’t like. But I was getting bored ‘cause it wasn’t much fun anymore. I turned my head and heard a group of birds singing outside the kitchen window. I became absorbed by their presence; I kept watching them, started counting them and playing matching games in my head. I wished right then that I could become invisible or at least be outside flying with the birds… anywhere, but in this dingy kitchen playing ugly games I don’t like.

 

I don’t know how long I needed to watch those birds, but they were so beautiful. Mr. Johnny was fumbling around now, zipping his pants back up when I noticed his other hand was still inside my panties. I was too scared to move and looked back to the birds but they had scattered and gone. Miss Tootsie had fallen or been pushed off my lap during the game and was back under the table again, hiding…

 

I pushed hard against his fat stomach to break myself free and scrambled to my feet… running to find her, “Miss Tootsie, come back.” I hope she didn’t run away.

 

“I’m gonna tell my Daddy on you, you just wait!”

 

I didn’t want anymore stuff from him… and guess what? When we left, I took Miss Tootsie with me, ‘cause she was mine.

Patricia Burton

PATRICIA BURTON is an Art Education major at Temple University and a full time employee at the the Free Library of Philadelphia. She has been active in her Logan community since 1978, developing reading and art programs for over 200 children. Born and raised in Philly, Patricia is a visual artist, the family genealogist, and hopes to write fun and inspiring books for children and youth. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction class.