Momma forgot to tell me there was a God.
Most of what I learn, I learn from Momma. She always forgets to tell me stuff, like that there’s a God and all. When I ask Momma about the stuff she forgets to tell me, she said they don’t matter much; which is why she didn’t tell me about them in the first place.
We live outside of town. Way outside of town. Momma is the only person I really have to ask these things to.
Momma cleans some houses and does some other folks laundry. She had a job waitressing for a while but the county people kept coming out to find me all alone in the house and they took exception to that.
Momma had it rough ever since my daddy left. Momma said he didn’t leave her a red cent. (I didn’t know they came in different colors.) I guess I look like him cuz I don’t look much like Momma. She has fiery red hair and green eyes. Momma says my hair color is called “dishwater.” Momma’s says her skin is called “porcelain.” Mine’s called “pasty.” I was real small when Daddy left. I ask Momma where he went, since most kids seemed to have daddies. She says she hopes he is in Hell. I guess that is in another state.
Momma can’t seem to get me to school much. She tells me she’s teaching me everything I need to know. I guess that’s right, I can fix myself some supper and clean a floor real good. On the days I don’t go to school, I listen to records all day. All those people on those records talk about love. They tell me they love me when they sing. People say God speaks to you when you are listening. I wonder if He is on those records.
But those county people kept coming by and saying I had to go to school. Momma told them that if they want me in school so bad, they can come get me. Soon after that, a school bus started coming ‘round. Sometimes it forgets though. I don’t blame them, we live way outside town.
I wasn’t too fond of going to school at first. Nobody talks much to me. They act like there is something wrong with me and Momma. I have to be in a class where the kids are younger than me on account of I don’t read so well. I guess Momma didn’t teach me everything I needed after all. So I work triple hard. I am sure the other kids will be my friend as soon as I read as good as them.
My teacher, Miss Doyle, takes a little extra time with me each day. But I have to meet her after class and that bus isn’t going to wait for me. Some days I come home tired as can be after walking home. Momma has had it up to her chin with me not helping out no more. I don’t know why she‘s always hollering at me. The county is the one saying I have to go.
I never tell Momma how much I like what I am learning in school.
Kids at school talk about God a lot. So do the teachers. He comes up when we pledge the flag or someone gets sick or something good happens. I keep asking Momma about him because I feel I should know who I am talking about. She rolls those big eyes of hers and says,
“Geez, Sudsy, He’s that guy upstairs.” Then she points her thumb at the roof.
I get confused because we don’t have an upstairs. We have a crawl space where Momma puts the stuff that’s broken or we don’t use any more. This makes me nervous. God sounds kind of important and I am not sure how comfortable the crawl space is. When Momma’s not looking, I leave a few pieces of bread with some butter under the opening just in case He gets hungry.
Momma got so tired about my asking time and again so she told me to ask the preacher man at the church. I don’t know why him, Momma hated him. But I figured if she told me to do it, I should do it. That preacher man seemed awful mad about me being in that church. I’d wiped my shoes and everything. It was all a big mistake. He thought I was a Bastard and kept calling me that. I told him my last name was Brown, not Bastard. We never did get nowhere.
That preacher man went away soon after I came to see him anyhow. He’s married to a shaky woman named Mrs. Greene. That’s how fancy she is – she puts an extra E on her name. These women at the school kept saying Pastor Greene and Miss Prett were together all the time. People always get their facts wrong - that’s what Momma always says. Anyway, Pastor and Mrs. Greene left all sudden and Miss Prett went to stay with her aunt. Things worked out OK for Miss Prett, though. She had herself a baby real soon after she left, so that was nice.
Today I stayed extra late after school today. Since Miss Doyle is so nice to me, I thought I might ask her about God. I was getting a pretty good idea that He was looking over all of us, like the mayor, but I still had lots of questions. I know when Momma asks the mayor to fix the holes on our road, that doesn’t happen. But Ginny Taylor says her momma asked God to save her little brother from those terrible shaking fits and He did. Maybe He can fix Momma’s knees.
The bus left without me so I walked home. There is a strange car in the driveway. It says something about home on the door. When I walk in, Momma is sitting at the kitchen table with a very clean lady wearing a blue coat. Momma says me she can’t keep me no more. She blurts it out just like that – like she was telling me it was Wednesday or something. She says this lady is going to take me to a home for little kids until they find me another momma. The words run around in my head until I don’t know what order they go in. I tell Momma I don’t want another momma. I tell her I will work extra hard to help around the house. She just shakes her head. She says something about Henry Smith – that man who comes calling Friday nights and doesn’t leave until Sunday morning.
I try real hard not to cry. I try to show how little trouble I will be from here on out. The clean lady stands up. She has a pillowcase full of my stuff in her hands.
“It’s time to go, Susan.” There is no reason not to cry now. I throw my arms around Momma’s neck and hold on until she pushes me off. Her face is all blurry. I beg her a bunch of ways to let me stay. She says,
“Get going, Sudsy. It’s done.” and walks out of the room.
I take the clean lady’s hand. She tells me her name is Sister Clarence. We get into the big car in the drive. I look up for one last look as we back out. My heart is sitting there on the porch of my momma’s house.
Sister Clarence says a bunch of stuff about where I am going and how much I will like it there. I don’t listen but her voice is real soft and feels good. She calls me ‘Susan.’ No one but Miss Doyle ever calls me Susan.
I wonder who will tell Miss. Doyle about me going away. I hope she doesn’t think I ran off on her after all she’s done.
We are in the car for a long time. I turn to Sister Clarence and ask if she knows much about God. She smiles nicely and says she does. I ask if He will be looked after in our crawlspace. She pats my hand and then she starts to talk about God.