Book Excerpt – Love Don’t Come Easy
Love Don’t Come Easy
by J.T. Smith
Publication Date: Jan 01, 2002
Imprint: Pyramid Press Publishing
Publisher: Pyramid Press Publishing
Parent Company: Pyramid Press Publishing
Copyright © 2002 by Pyramid Press Publishing. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted with permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
After finishing my job with Lance, I hurried back home and washed up. Looking at the alarm clock on my nightstand, I saw that it was a little after three. I hurriedly put on a gray dress shirt, a nice pair of gray slacks to match, and my pair of brand-new black loafers. I then threw on a light jacket and rushed from out of my room.
I passed by Tucker in the kitchen. He was drinking some type of health shake concoction that he’d been making lately to help him lose some of that flab from around his stomach. (It didn’t appear to be working that much if you asked me.)
“My, don’t we look cute. Where you going to?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but Jeanette’s mother made dinner for me.”
Tucker looked at me strangely as I headed towards the front door.
“Dinner? At her mom’s?”
“That’s right.” I replied proudly.
“Anybody else coming?”
Tucker seemed highly curious about something. What it was though, I didn’t have a clue.
“Not that I know of.”
“What’s she serving you guys for dinner?”
“I don’t know. What’s with all the questions?”
Once again, an odd look appeared on Tucker’s face.
“Brother don’t you know?”
“Know about what Tucker?”
A look of amusement came over Tucker’s face next.
“You really don’t know, do you?”
“Know what Tucker!?!”
I was not in the mood for one of his capers at the moment.
“I thought you said your Daddy talked to you about the facts of life?”
I had had enough.
“You know what? I’ll see you later.” I hissed as I continued towards the front door.
“J.C. wait! This is serious!”
Tucker followed me into the living room with his health shake in his hand. I turned around at the front door.
“No one never explained to you the significance of, The Sunday Dinner?”
I looked at Tucker as if he was speaking Chinese.
“Come sit down and I’ll explain it to you quickly.”
“Can’t this wait until I get back? I’m going to be late.”
“It just might be too late by then.”
“What might be too late?”
Tucker sat down in our easy chair and motioned for me to do the same. I sighed softly as I walked over and sat down on the couch.
“Listen,” Tucker began, “in the Black Community, there is the age old tradition of sisters inviting their boyfriends over to eat Sunday dinner...”
“So?” I interjected.
“Will you let me finish dammit!”
“Anyway, what a lot of brothers out there don’t know is, this is a trap to get you into homegirl’s family...as in marriage.”
“Say what?” I asked.
(Tucker never ceased to amaze me with some of the stupid things that he could come up with.)
“It’s a trap to get you married. If you ever go to your girl’s mama house to eat dinner with her and her family on a Sunday, and they’re serving you fried chicken? Don’t eat it! Get out of there quick!”
I sat there for a whole minute observing Tucker, waiting for him to crack a smile...he didn’t. He was actually serious.
“What kind of racist bullshit is that?”
I hadn’t meant to curse. I had promised myself that I would stop swearing-especially on Sundays, but Tucker had a way of finding the right buttons to push on me.
“It’s not stupid, it’s the truth! If Jeanette’s mom is over there with other family members, and they’re serving fried chicken, don’t eat it! If you do, then you’ve just unknowingly consented to join the family.”
“Who told you this shit Tucker?”
I had cursed again. Dammit...
“My father. The men in the Tucker family have passed this information on down to their sons for generations.” Tucker
“We just don’t let on to our womenfolk that we know what’s up.”
I knew better than to pay Tucker any attention, but I just had to ask him a couple of questions to see how sick he really was...
“Is it only fried chicken?”
“Why is that?”
“None of the men in my family really know, but personally, I think it has something to do with the grease it’s cooked in.”
“What if it’s baked chicken?”
“Then you’re cool.”
“What about fried chicken on any other day of the week except Sunday?”
“What if it’s fried chicken on a Sunday, but no family’s there?”
“That’s kind of iffy. I wouldn’t chance it myself.”
“Let’s say that I do eat this particular meal along with Jeanette’s family on a Sunday but I refuse to marry her?”
Tucker looked at me seriously.
“That doesn’t happen. You join, or else.”
“Or else? Or else what?”
“They kill you.” Tucker whispered.
“Get the fuck out of here!”
I was on a roll with the profanity.
“It’s true J.C., remember my cousin Sammy Garrick? He used to live over there off of Farrow Road, out in the Greenview section of Columbia?”
“Didn’t he mysteriously disappear or something the week before he was supposed to join the Army?”
Tucker sighed deeply as he bowed his head. There was a look of remorse on his face.
“Guess where he ate dinner at the Sunday before he finally told his girl that he had enlisted in the service and had to ship out to Texas?”
“Quit bullshitting me!”
“We tried to warn him what he was up against, but he wouldn’t listen.”
That was four times that I had cursed because of Tucker. It was time for me to leave. However, I had one more question for him…
“What about you and Yolanda?”
“Yeah she did it to me, but only after I was ready for her to.”
“Thanks for the information.” I said sarcastically to my roommate as I opened the front door.
“If you don’t believe me J.C., ask any brother who’s married. He’ll tell you what happened to him!” Tucker yelled after me
as I walked out of the apartment.
Jeanette’s mother lived above her daughter in the same house, so I didn’t have to worry about getting lost in Queens again. I laughed all the way over to the Charles’ residence at Tucker’s silly forewarning. When I pulled up in front of Jeanette’s house, her driveway was already filled with several cars.
I found a park out in the street. As I walked towards the house, I could hear some of the commotion that was going on inside of it. It sounded like a serious party!
After I rang the doorbell, I silently cursed myself because I was supposed to stop by the grocery store and pick up some ice cream. Preoccupied with the foolishness that Tucker had told to me, it had totally slipped my mind. Jeanette’s mother answered her door.
“Come on upstairs. Everybody’s waiting to meet you.” Lucille Charles said with a wide grin.
When I walked inside Mrs. Charles’ apartment, I saw that there were twelve other people in the room that I had never seen before. (I knew that none of the men in the room was Jeanette’s father. She had told me when we first began dating that he lived down in Texas somewhere and was not on good terms with her mother.) Everyone in the room stopped talking and stared at me.
“Everybody, this is Javier Collins.”
“Hello everyone.” I said weakly.
“Javier, this is my family. Now I want you to go on around the room and meet everybody. And don’t be shy, because like I said, we’re all family in here. Dinner will be ready shortly.”
I scanned the room and noticed that Jeanette was nowhere in sight!
“Uh, where’s Jeanette?” I asked Mrs. Charles before she could take a single step away from me.
“She ran out to get some film for her camera. She’ll be back soon. Now go on and mingle.”
“I uh, forgot to pick up the ice cream Mrs. Charles. Maybe I should go back out and get some?”
“Nonsense son. The important thing is that you’re here. Now go and mingle!”
Mrs. Charles grabbed my hand and pulled me over towards her nearest relative before she hurried off into her kitchen. I felt like the neighborhood crack-head when he was in his local bodega-under close observation.
I was in the middle of meeting the last of Jeanette’s family members there, an older cousin from Staten Island, when Jeanette finally arrived. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to see her. I excused myself from cousin Thelma, or whatever her name was, and walked over to greet Jeanette.
“Well, look who’s finally here?”
We hugged each other-lightly.
“What’s all of this?” I discreetly whispered into Jeanette’s ear as we embraced.
“Just a little family get together.” she answered nonchalantly.
“You call this little?”
“It’s nothing, relax.”
No matter how hard I tried to, I couldn’t make myself feel comfortable. Something about this whole scenario had me feeling just a little bit edgy. As much as I hated to admit it, Tucker’s little caution kept haunting me.
“Are you okay Javier? You seem to be jittery.” Jeanette asked me with concern in her voice.
“I’m fine, just a little hungry.”
At that exact moment, Mrs. Charles walked back into the room. She grinned delightfully when she saw Jeannette and I standing together.
“Dinner’s ready everyone. Let’s wash up so we can eat.”
I waited my turn to go into the bathroom and wash my hands. When it came, I closed the bathroom door and looked at myself in the mirror.
“Get a grip J.C., you’re worrying about nothing. You know better than to believe anything that Tucker tells you, right kid? Right?”
There was a loud knock on the door.
“Everything’s alright in there Harvey?”
It was Jeanette’s burly Uncle Pete from Mount Vernon, New York. He was a truck driver or something.
“Yes sir! Coming right out!”
When I walked into Mrs. Charles’ huge kitchen, I saw that she had the table laid out with an extensive array of food. There was cabbage, macaroni, cornbread, greens, peas, rice, buttered rolls, cranberry sauce, and two huge pans of lasagna!
“You, you made lasagna?” I asked Mrs. Charles happily.
“Yes I did.” she responded proudly.
I felt as if a heavy burden had been suddenly snatched from off of my shoulders.
“You like lasagna Javier?”
“More than you’ll ever know mam!”
“Good. I’ll have to make you some one day. These here are for Jeanette’s class tomorrow. They’re having a party. I’ve got something else cooked for you...”
My heart sunk as Mrs. Charles put the pans of lasagna away in her refrigerator. She then reached over to her oven door and yanked it open. In there, sat a large tray of chicken-all of it fried.
“Now I made all of this especially for you, so I want you to eat up, okay son?”
Mrs. Charles smiled at me. I was still in stunned silence.
“Okay Javier?” Mrs. Charles repeated.
I looked around the room and noticed that everybody was watching me again.
“Yes mam.” I answered submissively.
My brain was churning at a furious pace. There was no way that I was going to eat Mrs. Charles’ cooking! I still didn’t believe what Tucker had told me, but I couldn’t afford to take any chances neither. The coincidences were too scary to ignore completely.
We all sat down at a large table that actually consisted of two tables joined together. I was seated between Jeanette and her mother.
“Would you care to say the grace Javier?” Mrs. Charles asked of me.
I didn’t see any problem with praying at the moment.
“Dear God,” I began, “please help me-I mean bless me, and all of the other people who are gathered around this table, as we embark to enjoy this meal that was so thoughtfully prepared by your servants.”
Some of Jeanette’s relatives called out “Amens” and began to raise their heads, but I wasn’t quite finished yet...
“And Heavenly Father,” I continued, “please look out for me-I mean us, as we go about our life’s journeys. We know that there is nothing in this world that you cannot do! And finally Father, please deliver me-us from all evil, as you know that it lurks all around me-I mean us. These and other blessings we ask in your precious name please...Amen.”
When I finally raised my head up, I found that everyone was looking at me oddly.
“Well, that was some grace there Harvey. Can’t say I ever heard one put like that before.” Jeanette’s Uncle Pete stated, breaking the silence.
“Dig in folks.” Mrs. Charles commanded.
While the members of the Charles family attacked the food that was set before them, I waited to see if perhaps by chance all of the chicken would be gone. It didn’t happen. There was still plenty of it left.
I piled my tray up with everything except bird, in hopes that no one would notice that I didn’t have any. Just as I was about to raise a fork full of rice to my mouth, Mrs. Charles caught me...
“Don’t move Javier!”
Seeing that she held a large knife in her hand, I froze as instructed. Mrs. Charles stabbed three huge pieces of chicken with her cutlery and placed them onto my plate.
“You forgot to get yourself some of my chicken baby!” Mrs. Charles informed me with a smile. I grinned at her sheepishly.
“Sorry bout that.”