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  • Detour

     

    another errand,

    same instructions.

    go straight there. don’t stop. don’t talk to nobody.

    stay away from those boys.  come right back.

    a dripping sticky moistness attacks  her hairline,

    dark visage,  patent leather-shiny and dewy damp.

    an adventuresome spirit whispers a daring detour,

    safety secured by villagers, seen and unseen.

     

    just two doors away, inside the front porch of her cherry red bungalow

    mrs. jones languishes alone, chatting to no one.  inviting her up the steps

    the neighbor presents  ice-cold, wonderfully-sweet lemonade in a tall, sweaty glass.

    daring to hope for more,  the girl settles on the steps, grins, and mops her oily wet brow.

    all orange hair and scarlet lipstick, mrs. jones waves a pale, delicate hand.

    go along now. i’m going in for my nap.

     

    across the narrow street

    the  pony-tailed twins beckon from their shady porch.

    wanna watch bandstand with us?

    standing by  the  screen door,

    the girl pretends to watch fleeting shadows dance on the small black and white  screen.

    instead she steals sly glances as the suave older brother improvises his own nimble steps. 

    sashaying off,  she relishes the momentary freedom.

     

    energetic skipping  propels her past  a lively game of jacks at the flournoys.

    nosey aunt dora,  on her perch, points a gnarled finger and nods.

    the girl prances on, sweat rivulets streaming down her back.

    as the sun parades across the afternoon sky, 

    chocolate- brown, ginger- tan, and  golden-skinned boys 

    crack bats and race around the verdant grassy field.

     

    she hurries along,

    destination closer,

    nodding  at the misters  and missuses

    who  throw up their arms in greeting.

    afternoon ma’am; afternoon sir.

    yes ma’am,  i’m jennie’s girl.

    the forbidden high school boys clustered by the market

    ignore her furtive admiration.

     

    she quickens the  pace.

    until her breathless arrival at nana jen’s threshhold.

    rapid, anxious knocking hurries nana to the door.

    embarrassed, the girl stutters the message.

    nana jen motions her inside,

    presses tightly-wadded bills into her hot palms,

    and folds  her fingers around them.

    take this to your ma. don’t talk to nobody. go straight home .

     

    she dashes through  the short-cuts,

    scurries past two empty lots,

    darts along a worn dirt  path near the neighborhood  vegetable garden,

    and crosses the street to home.

     

    her mother stands,

    right foot beating a steady rhythm against the sidewalk,

    one hand on hip,

    waiting.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    About The Author

    Jacqueline Henry Hill

    Jacqueline lives in southern California where she is a member of Writer’s Anonymous, a workshop of the UCLA Writing Project. She has published her poetry and creative nonfiction in phati’tude, Reverie, Chaparral, Oasis Journal 2010, 2011, and 2012. Jacqueline published the memoir, Jennie Wren, Memories of Mommy in 2014. She is also co-editor and contributor to Out of Anonymity, The Journal of The UCLA Writing Project 2014.