Margaret Buckhanon's work of fiction was published in Birmingham Arts Journal,The Delmarva Review,
Edify Fiction, Mississippi Crow, Shalla magazine and recently, The Wax Paper.
Her essay Am I Hearing Voices?" on the writing process appeared in the latest issue of WINK: Writers In The Know.
Follow her on Writerbuck50 at Instagram and on Facebook.
(Excerpt from novella in progress Velvet after Midnight)
It was the worst house in the best neighborhood. Mother was so proud of her accomplishment, a single woman with two children buying a house in 1970 when home availability and a mortgage was difficulty for a black woman.
It was a cape with a big fenced-in yard and a deck presented the view of the morning sun and the sunset. Each girl had a bedroom and the house had two real bathrooms, a luxury forty years ago.
In the beginning, mother took great care of her investment. In the summer she hired landscapers to pamper the lawn. In the fall they returned to rake the leaves, and in the winter plowed the snow.
It was a cul-de-sac full of high ranches, capes and colonial homes. The neighborhood was predominately white with the exception of the Patels and the Lees. Other than the minorities of Asians, the number of blacks could be counted on less than two fingers. Initially the majority of white people made it clear she was not wanted but mother was steadfast in her conviction to stay despite the scorned looks, signed petition and the cross made of Popsicles stick planted firmly on the lawn.
They were glad to get out of the projects; Selena and Felicia were miserable living there. The children in the projects taunted them to no end, especially Selena, because of her light eyes, rain proof hair and white skin. They threatened to cut her straight hair and slice her pretty face. Felicia was victimized too for not being as pretty as Selena, the euphemism for not being white like her. And because of the sister’s noticeable difference, mother was branded a whore, a white man’s bed wench.
Mother was the first in her family to graduate from college, taught grammar school for a few years, and then switched to social work. Her reason: she realized how little patience she had for children. Social work allowed her to help others she deemed less fortunate or lacking the wherewithal to do better. She could be a snob sometimes too. The irony was she could help everyone except her children and herself.
Mother never raised her voice, never screamed or threw tantrums--nothing. She simply did nothing.
One day, Selena came home crying hysterically because her white father ignored her during the day. Mother sat in her favorite recliner with a cigarette in one hand, a vodka tonic in the other, scanning LOOK magazine not bothered by her crying. Selena screamed louder for mother to react but she did not move. After five minutes, Mother finally diverted from the magazine and watched her, motionless. Felicia could not bear her little sister’s agony any longer.
“Do something, Mama!” she screamed, then ran over to Selena and hugged her while mother stared at her young girls.
She was paralyzed by sadness, or grief, something. Felicia stole a glance, watching her for a moment. The haze of sadness overwhelmed her, eyes glassy from tears or drunkenness, Felicia was too angry to decipher.
“Selena, come here,” she finally said after taking a drag of her cigarette. Selena moved slowly, her little hands over her face, sobbing. Mother placed her cigarette in the ashtray and grabbed a tissue to wipe her eyes. “Why did you go to his office? Didn’t I tell you not to bother him during the day?”
“Felicia said my daddy only loves me at night time, and I told her that ain’t true!” she said between heaving sobs, snot and tears.
“That is not true,” she corrected Selena’s grammar, then looked over at her. “Why did you go over there, Felicia?”
She could always be honest with her mother. She never had to lie to get out of trouble because mother wouldn’t react anyhow. “Selena was bragging her daddy loves her day and night, I told her he only loves her at night, so I double dared her to go to his office…”
Selena began to wail harder and louder.
“…and she went in there to see him and…”
“He yelled at me. He told me to get out, Mama,” Selena interjected, and buried her face into mother’s lap.
Felicia folded her arms sitting on the edge the chair facing her mother, waiting, wanting something to happen to allow her to see if mother had a pulse, a feeling, a reaction of care. She wanted mother to seethe, become blind with rage, and storm off to town with Selena and her in tow to his office and curse at him, the way Felicia had witnessed the project mothers cussing people for messing with their children for lesser infractions; she wanted that for her and Selena.
Mother pulled Selena close to her rocking her gently. “Selena, you must never go to his office again, you hear me?” She looked over at her eldest daughter. “Felicia, you should know better, do not bother him when he’s working. People come to his office all the time…”
“His wife and baby was there when he yelled at Selena,”
Mother ignored her and gently cupped Selena’s white face in her brown hands. “He takes care of you. Look at all the nice things you have because of him, like this house. Your father helped me buy this just for you and your sister, Selena. Remember how you and Felicia hated living in the projects? He got you out of the projects.”
That day Felicia hated her mother.
Selena’s old father lived until eighty eight years. He finally recognized her after mother’s death, of post racial Trump’s America, police brutality; the normality of racism with gun toting right wingers who shoot first, then lie later; of Black Lives Matter defying the archaic pacifism of the NAACP. But by then she wanted nothing to do with him. She did not invite him to college graduation or to her wedding or any important events in her life. She did not visit him in the nursing home where his children abandon him.
The scar of his rejection decades ago was still a fresh wound.