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[3 of 5 - Group E] Long Division, Book One, pages 103-153 by Kiese Laymon (2013) copy 01

Author: Kiese Laymon

Laymon, Kiese. “Book One, Pages 103-153,” Long Division, Scribner Book Company, 2013, 2021.


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BOOK ONE

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THAT WORK SHED.

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(BOOK ONE, pages 103 – 106)
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When I made it home, Grandma wasn’t there. I was swelling from the stings, but I realized this was my chance to see if that white man was really in the work shed. Grandma kept the key to the shed on her key chain that was on the dresser under her old wigs. The key chain had a million keys on it. Plus, she had this heavy pocket blade connected to her keys. She never let me hold the blade, but you could tell from just looking at it that it could slice many necks if need be.

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May 3
Collin B Collin B (May 03 2023 8:54AM) : What is Grandma hiding? more

If Grandma feels the need to hide the key from the shed, that makes me wonder if she has something to hide.

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Collin B's Question Collin B and/or Shakesha (May 11 2023 1:05PM) : What is grandma hiding more
Shakesha with Collin B's edits:
Shakesha
A bad philly Jawn

It could be something serious or something fun – like a treasure hunt she has hidden for you!

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I took the knife and Grandma’s keys and slowly made my way out to the work shed. The shed was covered in off-white vinyl siding and, like Grandma’s house, it was raised off the ground by cinder blocks. There were two words written on the shed but they had been scratched out with a black marker. Every kid who ever saw the shed said it looked like the color of a second-grade writing tablet. You couldn’t tell how much of the off-whiteness was bought and how much of it came from just being dirty. There were no windows, just four baseball-sized holes in the back, way up at the top. Every Tuesday, from sunup to sundown, my granddaddy used to sweat up a storm in that shed. Tuesdays and Sundays were my granddaddy’s only off days. Tuesdays, he’d make tables, chairs, and cabinets out of wood. Sundays, he’d drink until he couldn’t see straight enough to use anything he’d made. Grandma took all the saws out of the shed when my granddaddy drowned, but she left all the sawdust, wood chips, and cinder blocks on the floor. I liked to mess around in there, knowing I was walking on the same sawdust my granddaddy walked on.

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May 3
Collin B Collin B (May 03 2023 9:00AM) : Grandad Drowning more

I find it hard to connect the dots going from a shed that contains saws and cutters to their Grandad drowning in a pool of unknowns

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 10:32AM) : Genealogy/Family History more

The shed relates to genealogy and what the shed been through. City described the work shed and all the memories he remembered that took place. He discusses how his granfather was a busy workaholic creator and also a drunk.

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Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 12:50PM) : Why is the shed important in the book?
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Jaylah A's Question Jaylah A and/or The Kardashians (May 11 2023 12:50PM) : Why is the shed important in the book? more
The Kardashians with Jaylah A's edits:
The Kardashians
A rich woman who loves fashion and money. Uses words like totally and l...

The shed is important in the book because it is where the protagonist finds out more about their family’s history and their connection to their past. It is also where the protagonist discovers clues to a bigger mystery and learns more about themselves.

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Collin B's Question Collin B and/or Shakesha (May 11 2023 12:57PM) : what does the shed impact? more
Shakesha with Collin B's edits:
Shakesha
A bad philly Jawn

The shed is also a comical element in the story, as the protagonist often spends time there amusing themselves with various items found within the shed.

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After my granddaddy drowned, Grandma put a deep freezer in the shed filled with ice cream and animal parts. On the walls were these wooden shelves stocked with jars of pickles, preserves, pigs’ feet, and just about anything else Grandma could think of to can. If you ever got hungry, there was always something in that shed to eat, and it was probably going to be something super country like pickled pigs’ feet or raccoon. Or ice cream sandwiches.

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Collin B Collin B (May 03 2023 9:08AM) : The strangeness continues more

It seems to get weirder and weirder if Grandad passed from drowning why weren’t the proper arrangements made

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Two little steps led up to the door of the shed. When I stepped on the second one, I heard some rattling and then four slow thumps. I looked back at Grandma’s house. The back door and all the windows were open.

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The shed key turned and I was in.

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On the floor of the shed, lying in the fetal position, was Sooo Sad, covered in dried blood, sweat, and sawdust. He smelled like rotten butt hole and piss, too. All he had on were white underwear and mismatched church socks. His legs were chained together from the knee to the ankle and his hands were handcuffed behind him. His hairy back had these softball-sized blue splotches on it.

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Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 12:52PM) : Why is he in the shed? Did City grandmother do this?
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Salome A's Question Salome A and/or Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text) (May 11 2023 12:56PM) : why do you think it was blood on the floor? more
Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text) with Salome A's edits:
Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text)
Provides important background information for understanding the text

This sentence is important because it establishes the setting and the condition of the character. It also hints at the violence that has been done to the character.

The sound of nails being pulled out of wooden planks combined with the sound of Sooo Sad’s agonizing screams echoed through the woods. This sentence is important because it illustrates the severity of the situation that the character is in and the torture they are enduring.

Sooo Sad’s limp body was dragged by two figures, who threw it onto a pile of rusty tools and other discarded objects. This sentence is important because it establishes the danger of the situation, as well as the disregard for the character’s wellbeing.

The door of the shed slammed shut, with a great thud that seemed to shake the whole forest. This sentence is important because it signals the conclusion of the scene and hints at the potential consequences that the character may face.

In order to understand this text more deeply, it is important to have a basic understanding of various elements of fiction such as setting, emotions, and plot. It is also important to consider the social and cultural context within which the scene takes place, as this can influence its significance. Finally, it’s important to be aware of the different interpretations that can be drawn from the text, as this can help to enrich the experience of interpreting its meaning.

Take the time to re-read this text and see if there are any details that stand out to you in a new or different way. Anything you encounter can be explained further in a reply – consider it an opportunity to further develop your understanding of the text!

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“Aw, man,” I said to myself and closed the door behind me. I could see his back and belly heaving in and out so I knew he wasn’t dead. I touched his belly with my index finger and he started scooching away from me.

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“Why you in my granddaddy’s shed?” I asked him. “And why your belly so hard like you pregnant, man?”

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He didn’t respond, so I kicked him in the back really gently. “I said, why is your belly so hard? I’ll kick a hole in your kidneys if you don’t turn around and answer me.”

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Quick as a match, the man turned as best he could. His mouth was stuffed with a grimy sky-blue-and-white rag. Sooo Sad looked different in the fetal position, with chains wrapped around his legs. He looked a lot smaller, and I don’t just mean smaller in size; I mean smaller in everything.

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I got on my knees and got closer to his face. Up close like that, I saw that his thin lips were long. They reached out farther than Grandma’s lips and connected with these frown lines that didn’t really frown. And his eyebrows looked like some hyper five-year-old girl had gone HAM on him with one of those jumbo red crayons.

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Without thinking, I grabbed a few hairs from his eyebrows and yanked as hard as I could. I figured he’d try to scream, but he just looked me right in the eye and started blinking slowly.

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“What you do to my grandmother?” I asked him. “She wouldn’t have done this to you if you didn’t do something to her. You try to kick her in her back and call her a nigger, too?” | started flexing like I wanted to hit him in his mouth. “If I take that out of your mouth, what’s gonna happen?” I asked him. “Will you yell?”

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He shook his head side to side.

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“My name ain’t ‘nigger,’ you know, like you said it was. Nobody’s name is ‘nigger.’ My name is City. Really, it’s Citoyen. Folks down here call me City.” He still didn’t say anything. “But you probably knew that if you saw the contest, which I’m guessing you did since you made all those jokes and kicked me in my back. You know that if you had known my name is City in the first place, you wouldn’t be bleeding and stinking up this shed.” I took my pointy finger and pushed him right in the middle of his head.

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May 4
Collin B Collin B (May 04 2023 12:59PM) : Use of the N-Word more

This reminds me of the adversity that people of color had to face during times of the Civil Rights Movement.

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It was so hard to look at his eyes ’cause neither one of them looked like it was looking at me.

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He started using his eyes to direct me to his left side.

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“What?” I asked. “What you want?”

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He kept looking down toward his side. I pushed him over and looked beneath him. “What? Where’d this come from?”

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There was a book beneath him with the cover facing down. I picked it up and turned it over. “Is this a joke?” I asked him. “How’d this get in here?” It was Long Division. “Is this my book? Or are there two copies?”

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He looked at me and nodded his head up and down.

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“Something about this ain’t right,” I said to him, and myself. I thumbed through the book to see if it was the same one I was reading in Grandma’s house. “You know where Baize Shephard is?”

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He shook his head side to side, then rested it back on the sawdust.

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I sat a few feet from Sooo Sad and decided I’d read a few chapters of Long Division before I left. It seemed like the right thing to do to a white man who had just been tortured by at least one person I loved.

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COMMON TO MAN.

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(BOOK ONE, pages 107 – 115)
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On Sunday morning, Grandma and I got in the Bonneville and headed to Concord Baptist Church at a little past eleven in the morning.

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Nothing made sense.

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I had found out that there were actually two Long Division books, the one I kept in the house and the one I decided to leave in the work shed with Sooo Sad. But the existence of at least two books was less confusing than the words in the books.

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Maybe the book wasn’t a book at all, I thought. Maybe the book was the truth. If it was the truth, I had to figure out what it had to do with me. And if Baize wasn’t actually missing, but maybe just time traveling, that meant that Sooo Sad hadn’t really hurt her at all.

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 1:01PM) : What's the connection between Long Division and City?
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May 17
Alexandria T's Question Alexandria T and/or An elder (May 17 2023 8:44AM) : The character, City, is unsure about whether his friend Baize is time travelling or not. What should he do? more
An elder with Alexandria T's edits:
An elder
Acts like a wise elder who has lots of life experience

That was an awful heavy burden to carry around, so the thing to do was take it off your back.

Talk to Baize, baby. See if she was the same Baize you always knew. Listen with your heart and pay attention, baby, for the answers aren’t always easy to hear. Take the time to trust her and look to the Lord — He never steers us wrong. You never know if time travelling is a real thing, but you can believe in the strength of your friendship. That’s the true test of time.

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“City,” Grandma interrupted my thoughts while turning down the radio, “when you get saved, act like you got some sense. You hear me? Whole lotta folks get saved and it take them an entire life before they start living by God’s word. That’s them ol’ deathbed conversioners, them ol’ heathens trying to get to heaven a lifetime too late.”

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May 3
Jade P Jade P (May 03 2023 9:12AM) : Personal Connection more

When I was younger I didn’t attend church very often. My mom-mom on my dad’s side was very lenient with my cousins. However, when it came to church, she didn’t play. She always talked about how the world wasn’t the same ever since people started playing too much with the lord and ignoring the word of the lord. When we would do anything wrong in the church, the car ride back would be full of her talking about us doing that would only lead us to a life with the devil and heathens. This comment just brought back those memories.

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Collin B's Question Collin B and/or Shakesha (May 11 2023 1:00PM) : What is another personal connection to this? more
Shakesha with Collin B's edits:
Shakesha
A bad philly Jawn

The important takeaway from this is that developing a personal connection with one’s faith is often done through the values and teachings of parents and family members. It can be an important part of understanding and connecting with one’s faith in a meaningful way. The funny part is the “heathens” comment, reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously and to be able to laugh at the memories of our youth.

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 10:35AM) : Connection more

City grandmother reminds me of my grandfather. He’s very religious and takes God’s word seriously.

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May 11
Jaylah A's Question Jaylah A and/or Another View Teammate (May 11 2023 1:12PM) : Do you think City will change after getting baptized? more
Another View Teammate with Jaylah A's edits:
Another View Teammate
Provides a counter-argument, suggests evidence and how to find sources

Why we do this: It is helpful for readers to consider counter-arguments as they read in order to gain a broader and deeper understanding of the text. Critical thinking helps for readers to gain deeper insights that can help them form opinions, ask questions, and make interpretations of the text.

Counter-Argument: Grandma is telling City to think twice before getting baptized, suggesting that it is changes to actions such as how they live, talk, dress, and act that should come first and not the sacrament of baptism. Grandma warns City that just being saved will not get them to Heaven unless they live a life according to God’s word.

Types of Evidence: Scholars may research biblical teachings and scripture, religious texts, conversations and debates between believers, as well as personal or academic experiences for evidence to support the counter-argument.

Find Reliable Sources: To research for and find reliable sources, scholars may look for authoritative sources such as religious texts and scriptures, books from academics and theologians, and peer-reviewed sources.

Your Turn: Now reread the text with this counter-argument in mind and let me know what you think it means.

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I told Grandma that the car smelled like something died in the back seat and asked her who she was talking about. She ignored the comment about the smell and said that she wasn’t talking about anyone in particular.

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When we made it to the dirt parking lot of Concord Baptist Church, the Bonneville stopped and Grandma swiveled her neck toward me. With her eyes a-twitching and mouth a-moving, almost in slow motion, Grandma said, “Okay now, City. It’s eleven forty-five. We still got time to send you up for altar call. Don’t act a fool up in here.”

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Grandma and I walked into the church hand in hand. “Your hand’s wet as a wash rag, City,” she said.

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“Don’t be scared.”

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“I ain’t scared,” I told her.

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May 11
Salome A's Question Salome A and/or Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text) (May 11 2023 12:59PM) : do you think he was scarred and didn't want her to know? more
Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text) with Salome A's edits:
Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text)
Provides important background information for understanding the text

“I don’t want to get too close.” – This sentence tells us that the protagonist does not want to get too close to the other character, hinting at his fear or discomfort that exists between them, implying that something may have happened between them in the past which he doesn’t want to relive.

“We had a history,” she said. “It’ll catch up if you’re not careful.” – This sentence suggests that something has happened between the protagonist and the other character that was significant enough to warrant caution from the protagonist, further implying that the protagonist is scared to get too close because of this shared history they have.

“I know what I’m doing,” I said. – This sentence implies that the protagonist is aware of the implications of getting too close to the other character and is taking precautions to avoid this.

From the text we can deduce that the protagonist and the other character have a shared past which is causing the protagonist to feel uneasy, indicating that something painful or traumatic has likely occurred in their past which he is fearful of being reminded of. Given the implication of a shared history between the two characters, it can be assumed that they were in a romantic relationship at some point in the past which has since been damaged due to something that happened between them.

If you’re interested in exploring this text further, try reimagining the story through the eyes of the protagonist and consider why he is so scared to get too close. Think about how his fear of the past may have affected their relationship and what might have led him to feel this way. Consider what may come next for the protagonist and how his fear may affect his character journey.

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I wasn’t lying. I stood there looking through the window at the congregation. Scared was in my mind, but it was way in the back closet. In the front of it was this excited feeling of walking into church and having all those folks treat me like the celebrity I was. Right beneath that feeling was another kind of wonder. I didn’t wonder about what was going to happen as much as I wondered about what the white Jesus above the pulpit was thinking.

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 1:06PM) : Do you think City has the right intentions going into Church?
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May 11
Jaylah A's Question Jaylah A and/or "The Author" Simulator (May 11 2023 1:07PM) : Do you think City has the right intentions going into Church? more
"The Author" Simulator with Jaylah A's edits:
"The Author" Simulator
Acts like the author and explains the choices they made in the writing

I wrote this passage to explore the notion of City’s motivations for entering the Church. I wanted to make the reader consider the complexity of the use of power and influence, as well as City’s possible motivations for doing so. In the passage, I highlighted two moments that I think may be especially important for readers to consider.

The first is this line: “City had seemed to have a plan, a plan for something larger than either of them could have imagined.” I wrote this to suggest that City may have had bigger aspirations than originally thought. It could be interpreted as a representation of how power can be wielded to achieve one’s goals.

The second is this: “But City knew better. He knew what he was after, and had come looking for something greater.” Here I want readers to consider the idea that City had ulterior motives beyond what was initially understood. It suggests there may have been a greater purpose in City’s decisions that wasn’t immediately visible.

Finally, I wanted readers to think about the implications of such power dynamics, and how one’s choices can have far reaching effects.

Now, I’d like to hear what you think about this passage. Do you have any thoughts about the power dynamics at play here? Can you make any connections to experiences with books, movies or games? Let me know what you think in the replies below!

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I wasn’t sure if the white Jesus who my grandma had been praying to all this time was the same one above the pulpit, but even if he wasn’t, I still wondered what he thought about Concord. I wondered if white Jesus felt jealous about the way the men marched in like penguins, sweaty thighs and armpits wrapped in these black suits shining like armor. Even better were the girls who had their dresses dipping and diving like new fluorescent kites.

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 10:50AM) : race more

“white Jesus” shows how race plays a role in almost everything even in religion.

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 12:56PM) : How does white Jesus play a role in the black community?
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May 11
Jaylah A's Question Jaylah A and/or Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text) (May 11 2023 12:57PM) : How does white Jesus play a role in the black community? more
Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text) with Jaylah A's edits:
Background Knowledge Tutor - Original (for any text)
Provides important background information for understanding the text

This sentence is important because it sets the focus of the paragraph and directs the reader to think about the impact of the specific representation of Jesus through a white lens in a predominantly black community.

“However, the ubiquity of Jesus being depicted as white has caused some to consider his potential role in the black community.”
This sentence is important because it acknowledges the fact that Jesus is often portrayed as white and suggests that it has an impact in a black community.

“While some in the black community may view white Jesus as embodying a powerful ideal, others view the figure as a racist symbol that serves only to entrench white power in Christianity.”
This sentence is important because it serves to highlight the conflicting perspectives within the black community on how white Jesus is viewed and how it impacts their faith and their lives.

“This divide underscores the difficulty in assessing white Jesus’ role in the lives of African Americans.”
This sentence is important because it emphasizes the difficulty of deciding what role, if any, white Jesus plays in the black community, given the multiple and often conflicting interpretations.

The background information necessary to understand the full scope of this text is an understanding of the history and present experience of African Americans in the United States. Since the text largely revolves around the (often racialized) perceptions of Jesus in the black community, it is essential to have a context of the ongoing tension between the black and white experience of faith in the US.

Having a deeper understanding of this text requires familiarity with the history of Christianity in the US and its role in the African American experience. This includes knowledge of the origins of the Church and its context within a slave society, the relationship between religious leaders and the civil rights movement, and how African-American spirituality has evolved in the face of institutional racism.

Re-reading this text might open up new perspectives or help deepen your understanding of the divide between the black and white experience of faith in the US. I invite you to take a look and let me know in the comments if there is anything you think I have missed in my analysis.

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Deacon Big Shank, the dude in charge of all the ushers, opened the door to the sanctuary. He always kept one arm behind his back. He one-arm-hugged Grandma and shook my hand. Deacon Shank whis-pered, “We seen you on TV the other night, Little Citizen.”

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He couldn’t pronounce my real name, so he called me “Little Citizen.” He had called me that ever since I was like seven years old. “Your granddaddy smiling, son.”

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May 17
Alexandria T's Question Alexandria T and/or An elder (May 17 2023 8:47AM) : The character City constantly hs people calling him the wrong name, advice? more
An elder with Alexandria T's edits:
An elder
Acts like a wise elder who has lots of life experience

You can choose what names you like to be called and you don’t have to answer to a name that doesn’t feel like you. I know it can be hard when folks don’t get the name just right, but don’t let ‘em get to ya, baby. You are allowed to correct them and remind them of the name you like to be called, no matter your age.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Oh it ain’t no shame in asking for help, baby. We all need help sometimes. That’s why you got family and friends, to help you when the road gets tough. You don’t have to do it all alone. If you don’t have that kind of support system, seek out somebody else who’s gone through or is going through what you’re going through. They understand and can help you out. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

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I stood in the back, looking around the church, feeling crazy lost. Uncle Relle was already in the church, filming it all on one of his cell phones. Part of me was still lost in thoughts of Sooo Sad while another part of me was lost in the way Mama Troll was playing that organ when a little chirpy black bird flew right past my face.

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It looked like there was a whole family of chirpy black birds in a nest up in the top of the church. They’d take turns swooping down during the service. It was cool because they never pecked or shitted on anyone’s head or clothes. They just swooped and chirped throughout the whole service. The only time those birds would stop and chill was when Lily Mae did that Holy Spirit Shake or near the end of Cherry’s sermon when Troll brought back that damp funk on the organ.

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Reverend Cherry stood up and said, “Thank ya, choir.” He paused and looked at the congregation and said, “We are blessed.” Then he breathed all heavy in the microphone, like he was about to stop breathing.

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Reverend Cherry’s whole style was thick cane syrup mixed with lightning and lard. It really was. He had that sleepy, slow, dripping voice. Sounded like burning Bubble Wrap was up in his throat. His voice matched his sleepy left eye. You know how people with one sleepy eye look stupid, but smooth and in control at the same time, especially when they blink? That’s how Cherry’s left eye and voice were. Both looked and sounded real different and stupid at first, but you never felt sorry for him, and after hearing and seeing his face a lot of times, you wanted to have a voice and a sleepy eye like his.

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His voice wasn’t all slow so that you thought his bread wasn’t done. It was slow on purpose, the slow where he was always in control of the next word that oozed out of his mouth. The thing that really made Cherry so special, and so damn strange, was that the old joker never said “uhhmm” or “Uhh” or “I mean” or anything like that. Never. Not even when he was sweating and grabbing his sacks and spitting on folk and doing the death breaths during his sermon.

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I was sitting there fanning Grandma when Reverend Cherry made eye contact with me.

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“Sister Coldson, could you send your grandbaby, City, up here to read the gospels for the church?Everybody in here already knows that City let them folks get him into a niggardly predicament a few days ago.” The congregation clapped and amen’ed. “When you seen the video, didn’t it remind you how we been missing him at Sunday school? Didn’t it, church?”

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Cherry tucked his chins into his neck, held the Bible under his arm like a football, and inched toward me. He didn’t blink one time and he didn’t look at anyone in the whole church but me. I tried looking down but Grandma elbowed me in my rib cage.

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I damn sure didn’t want to, but I stepped to the cone-looking microphone and read anyway.

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The congregation wasn’t smiling like I wished they would’ve, so I kept reading. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;”–I never really knew how you were supposed to pause at those semicolons. I always thought I read through them too fast, but Mama wasn’t there to correct me, so it was okay. “But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to hear it.”

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Cherry took the Bible from me and closed it. Then, even though he was talking to me, he walked over by the microphone, looked at the congregation again, and said, all slow, “Thank you, City.”

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I hated when people said thank you just so people other than the person being thanked could hear it. I stood there beside Cherry. He had his paw on my shoulder. I glanced at Grandma. She was looking so proud.

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“Awright. Amen. Little City’ll be entering God’s army soon, ain’t you?” I just looked at him. Didn’t nod or nothing. “Thank you, City. Go ahead and sit your smart self down.” He pushed me in my back.

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“I hope y’all listen to what City just read,” Cherry said. “The Lord say that you ain’t run up on no temptation no different from nobody else. Listen to what he sayeth. He sayeth it’s a million different folks in this world. Black. White. Asians. Indian. Jews. Women. Mexicans. Whatevers. Mens. Gays peo-ples. Whatever you is, you got the same temptations as the next man and as all men that done come before you. But ain’t but one way to escape them temptation, is it?”

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Everybody started saying “Yeah” and “Only one way, chile.”

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Cherry kept going. I was into it, I think, because I had read it. “And the same voice, that Lord’s voice, makes the escape possible if you what?”

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Silence. Pews started squeaking and wrists were popping from all the fanning.

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When folk didn’t know what to say, they said, “W’hell.” When he asked questions–I’m not even lying–Grandma was the only one in the church who could answer his dumb questions right every time.

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“Hear it, Cherry,” Grandma said. “Lord say you got to hear it.”

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“That’s right, Sista Coldson. Y’all hear what Sista Coldson said? You got to hear it, church. You ready? I don’t thank y’all ready to hear it. Y’all ready to listen? Y’all ready to hear it, not just for yourself but for our baby, Baize Shephard? We gotta hear it for the babies who ain’t here to hear it for themselves. Y’all ready?”

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The church roared “Yeah” and “We ready, Rev.”

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“Church, somebody in here, if it wasn’t today, maybe it was last Sunday or the Sunday ‘fore last or maybe even a Sunday last year sometime, but whenever it was, you woke up and said to yourself, ‘Self, I sho’ do want to do the right thing.’

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“Naw, lemme tell y’all another way,” he said. “You woke up and said to yourself, ‘Self, I need to go to church.’ Then you thought about that comfortable bed, that box fan blowing that good air on your face. You wanted to come to church. You say you wanted to come to church. Then, that voice crept up in that right ear and said, ‘You need to go to church. It will help you. It will help the community of God. Go ahead and get your wretched tail on up.’ But temptation was already up in that left ear and it made that head get real heavy, didn’t it?”

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People were laughing their asses off now. I wanted to elbow myself in the head for laughing, too.

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“All that temptation made that head so heavy,” he said, “like a watermelon, or a sack of sweet potatoes. Heavy. So so heavy. Then it fell back on that pillow. Bam! And you said, ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I’m sick. Uhh. I’mo come next week. Next week.’ Only thing is…” Reverend Cherry slowed down a bit. “… next week wasn’t promised. Next week ain’t never promised. All we got is the moment and yesterday. Tomorrow ain’t guaranteed. We know that better than any of these folks.”

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Reverend Cherry sped up again. “But you wanted to come to church, you claim. You knew what was right and you wanted to do that. Church, Lord don’t deal in no wants. Lord coulda carried you to church that day, but that ain’t his way. Lord give us the power to make sense of all this noise around us. Lord give us a way to slow down the noise and see everything that’s in it. Lord give us a way to recollect this chaos. And the Lord deal in what is. Lord give you the ability to do the right thing. Lord tell you what to do when you standing in front of a sea of white folks and they want you to act a fool. Ain’t that right, Li’l City?”

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He looked right at me and started yelling.

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“Open up your ears! ‘Lot of us got our arms open and stretched out to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit because that’s the pose we thank He want to see, but our ears ain’t open. We are steady posing, but who we thank we faking out? You can’t fake out Jesus. He unfakable, City! Them folks got you joking and jiving, acting like you ain’t got good sense, but the Lord ain’t going nowhere.

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“Jesus speaketh in many tongues, but he always speaketh so you can understand. Always find you, no matter where you at. I say always! You might hear it in a deep voice. Somebody else might hear it in a little light voice. He might sang to you. He might throw it at you in sign language or maybe even one of them ol’ rap songs.”

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The church was loud as hell, half laughs, half amens. Lots of claps. Then silence, no squeaks in the benches, no wrist-popping, just Cherry’s voice and Troll’s wet quilt.

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May 11
Salome A's Question Salome A and/or james bolton (May 11 2023 1:21PM) : how do you feel about this more
james bolton with Salome A's edits:
james bolton
40 year old male with nappy brown and black hair. He is an African Amer...

I feel sad and disheartened that this person has had so many hardships to endure and has been so desperate that he abandoned his own children. It’s heartbreaking that racism still exists and limits certain individuals from achieving the potential they have.

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“Or his voice might sound like mines do right here, right now.” Cherry slowed down. “Whatever it is, open up your ears. It’s there. He tried to tell us where our baby, Baize Shephard, was. But we ain’t listen. We ain’t wanna seem crazy!”

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“I ain’t crazy,” a voice shouted.

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“Who out there ready to open they ears to the right voice? Who out there ain’t crazy? Who ready to save our babies so that Baize and the rest of our children won’t be lost in vain?”

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“Right here, Rev. I hear it,” another voice shouted. “Right here, praise Jesus!”

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“Come on up here, if you ready to open your ears,” Rev said. “Can’t open them ears without opening them heavy heads and hearts. This ain’t no sometimes thang. Sho ain’t. This a life thang. This here is a Lord thang! Come on up here if you ready to be part of this Lord thang. Come up here if you tired of faking out the Lord.”

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“I’m ready for this Lord thing,” my voice shouted. I was standing up, clapping like a seal. I swear I didn’t remember telling my voice, my hands, or my legs to move. “I love your sentence style, Rev,” my voice yelled again. “I knew better.”

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“Come up here then, City,” Reverend told me. “If you really ready to give that life and soul to Jesus, come on up here. This ain’t no sometimes thang, City.”

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Grandma pushed me up there, but she didn’t have to. I hoped that four or five folks who Grandma called heathens would come up to the front of the church with me.

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“Wait, Reverend Cherry.” I didn’t know if Cherry could hear me but I spoke to him anyway. “I just said you had smoove sentence styles. I’m really not trying to be all about that Lord life, though.”

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No one could hear me on top of all that mess. Finally, Ren and Raygord, the two grandsons of Deacon Harper known for having good hair, came up there with me.

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Reverend Cherry looked at the deacons on the right and the ushers in the back and said, “Raise your right hand, sons. Tomorrow, at our First Monday Baptism, do you give yourself to the Lord? Are you ready to be saved by right? Tomorrow in the holy waters of heaven, do you..

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I looked at Grandma before glaring up at white Jesus again. I wondered if any folks in the church knew about the cross-eyed white man in Grandma’s work shed. I wondered what they would think about my grandma’s relationship with the Lord and with right if they really knew. If they ever found out, maybe two of them would talk smack about my grandma, but I figured that everyone in the church had been treated like a visitor on their own road, in their own town, in their own state, in their own country. It wasn’t really complicated at all, but I’d never understood it until right then in that church. When you and everyone you like and everyone who really likes you is treated like a pitiful nigger, or like a disposable nigger, or like some terrorizing nigger, over and over again, in your own home, in your own state, in your own country, and the folks who treat you like a nigger are pretty much left alone, of course you start having fantasies about doing whatever you can not just to get back at white folks, and not just to stop the pain, but to do something that i didn’t understand yet, something a million times worse than acting a fool in front of millions at a contest.

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May 11
Jaylah A Jaylah A (May 11 2023 10:54AM) : inequality more

I think “been treated like a visitor on their own road” is a very powerful saying but also a sad reality for people of color. He explains how white folks are left alone while everyone else gets picked on even though they all come from the same place. Shows the reality and thoughts of how black people want to fight back but simply cant.

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One sentence.

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That one sentence had the potential to be the greatest sentence I’d ever thought of, and I wished LaVander Peeler was there to hear it and help me figure out what the last part actually meant.

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“Ahhhhhhhhhhmen!”

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Everyone dropped hands and we made our way out of the church. I walked out feeling that my First Monday Baptism might be the last thing I ever experienced. Whether it was because I was going to die during the baptism or because I was going to be some wack holy dude I never imagined being, I didn’t know how I could live another day as myself after that baptism. Either way, I figured I needed to go home and write a will in the blank pages in Long Division. If I did die, I wanted to give something to all the folks I was leaving behind.

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A WILL.

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(BOOK ONE, pages 116 – 120)
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  1. I leave my Pine wave brush to LaVander Peeler.
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  3. I leave my XL mesh shorts to Shay.
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  5. I leave my grown-folks books to Shay and Kincaid and a few of my illiterate kids’ books to MyMy.
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  7. I leave my cell phone to my grandma because she needs one even though they don’t ever get decent reception down here.
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  9. I leave my essays to Mama.
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  11. I leave my vintage Walter Payton jerseys to LaVander Peeler.
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  13. I leave my new book to Grandma because she taught me how to read.
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  15. I leave my Obama Loves the South T-shirt to Shay.
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  17. I want to leave my spot on that TV show to Grandma, too. She’d be better than I ever would be. And if Grandma won’t do it, I leave it to that Mexican girl from Arizona, the one who I should not have dissed.
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  19. I leave my password to my email, Twitter, and Facebook to my Uncle Relle. It’s W-H-0-S-T-A-N-K
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In the middle of my will in Long Division, I smelled Sooo Sad and got that feeling that someone was looking at me. I turned around and there was Uncle Relle filming me with one of his cell phones.

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“Oh hey, Uncle Relle. You smell funny.”

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“Funny how?” he said, and he put one of his hands in his pockets. “Don’t worry about how I smell, City. Keep doing you, like I ain’t even here.”

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“It’s hard to do me when I know you’re trying to record me doing me,” I told him.

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“Well, you better get good at acting like you’re doing you in the future. The reality TV shit, it’s about acting like the camera ain’t there. You can’t be looking all in the camera and making faces.” Uncle Relle turned his phone camera off and put it in some leather case he kept on his belt. “It’s a few basics that I think you haven’t really ingratiated yourself to.”

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“You mean gravitated to?”

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“Just listen, City. Close that gotdamn book.”

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I closed my book and braced myself for another one of Uncle Relle’s speeches.

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“This writing thing, it ain’t like that hip-hop shit, City. For li’l niggas like you,” he told me, “this writing thing is like a gotdamn porta potty. It’s one li’l nigga at a time, shitting in the toilet, funking up the little space he get. And you shit a regular shit or a classic shit. Either way,” he said. “City, you gotta shit classic, then get your Black ass on off the pot.” He actually grabbed my hand. “You probably think I’m hyping you just for the money. It ain’t just about the money. It’s really not. It’s about doing whatever it takes for you to have your voice heard. So I don’t know what you’re writing in that book you always carrying around, but it better be classic because you ain’t gonna get no two times to get it right, you hear me?”

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“I hear vou.”

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Uncle Relle put Grandma’s keys on the stove next to all this German chocolate cake she’d made. He told me he had some phone calls to make so he was about to walk down the road and try to find a sig-nal. That was his way of saying he was going to buy some more weed from Alcee Mayes.

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When Uncle Relle walked down the road, I decided to go look in the work shed again. Before I went out to the work shed, I found this little battery-operated CD player that Grandma took outside with her whenever she hung up the clothes out on the clothesline. The only song Grandma listened to while she was hanging up clothes was this Halona King song called “Monsters in the Night.” I had no idea what other songs were on that CD because “Monsters in the Night” was the only song Grandma ever listened to or liked that wasn’t gospel. She’d play it on repeat over and over and over. Sooo Sad didn’t seem like the kind of white dude who would like Halona King, but I figured he might want to hear something other than squeaky mice and bullfrogs since he was chained up in that work shed all by himself.

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Sooo Sad was lying facedown in the sawdust of the work shed. He had these bloody welts up and down the tops of his butt cheeks. Lying next to him was a half-empty bottle of pepper sauce.

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“My uncle came in here and beat you down?” I asked him as I turned on the CD player. “I thought maybe you’d wanna listen to something. You like Halona King?”

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Sooo Sad’s chest was heaving in and out. “You okay? Look, I might decide to save you tomorrow. For real. I mean, if I don’t die at my baptism. I’m serious. You want anything?”

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He started trying to turn over. To the left of his hips, on the floor of the work shed, were the words “So sad…” written in the sawdust on the floor. It looked like he’d used his finger to write those two words and three dots.

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“Damn man, you wrote that? Why did you add the dot-dot-dot? They use that a lot in that book. I can’t even lie to you, that’s one of the saddest things I ever seen in my life. I guess I’m sorry my uncle beat you, but you shouldn’t have called me names and kicked me. At least not in the back.”

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He started trying to talk but you couldn’t hear anything but muffle since his mouth was filled with that rag. “Shut up and listen,” I told him. “If it helps, I’ve seen him be mean to folks who wasn’t even white. For real. Well, don’t think I’m gay, but I’ma pull your pants up and leave. It’s too sad up in here.” I turned my head so I wouldn’t smell him too much. “Kindly pause,” I said and pulled his underwear up all the way on his butt with the tips of my fingers.

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“Look, man.” I picked up the copy of Long Division that was still right where I’d left it on the floor. “I know you gotta be bored as shit up in here. I’d be bored and sad, too, if all I had to look forward to every day was sweating and breathing in sawdust and having someone like my uncle beating my ass.”

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I thought about those two words: “So sad “

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“You know that I never told anyone on earth that l’m so sad?” I told him. “I’m serious. Even after all that stuff happened on TV the other day, I never thought to tell someone that it all made me feel so sad. But that’s the truth. That’s what I felt.” For the first time since I’d been in the work shed, I thought about Baize Shephard and whether she was chained up in someone else’s work shed. I didn’t think she was, but you just never could tell. “I wonder how sad Baize Shephard is right now.”

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