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Articles: Short Story - You Can't Take it With You...

Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 06:25 AM, (1712 Reads)

I wrote this story when I was in my wee twenties, back in the early stages of my writing career, so You Can't Take it With You holds a special place in my heart as the first short story I ever wrote.

It's written in dialect, so some might find it difficult to read. You Can't Take it With You might also be considered a "morality tale". I don't make the claim that it is the best story ever written, but only the first. I hope you enjoy it.

Originally published here - http://love-lovepublishing.com/?p=93

Life ain’t nothin’ but a drama, a never ending saga. Seems like somebody up there in them clouds is laughin’ an’ playin’ a joke on some of us. Or maybe we’s jus’ playin’ jokes on ourselves!
Everything I lived for, was the very thing that killed me. Ain’t it funny how many different endings life will bring? How some people die peacefully in they sleep, and other folks die in a hospital or nursing home all by theyselves?

Why? Seems nothin’ is really important when you layin’ in the ground beneath all that cold dirt. Material possessions ain’t really important. And money sho’ll nuff” ain’t important cause you can’t take it with you!

In the end all you got is love. Because love is the last thing you gonna think about, and the last thing you gonna feel (trust me I know!). Somebody up there musta been laughin’ pretty hard, and was playin’ a cruel joke on me, and my Anna. . . .

I remember lookin’ at my baby all dressed up in her weddin’ gown. She was wearin’ a white weddin’ gown. She earned that wedding gown. I made her wait. Just so she could wear that white weddin’ dress. Ohhh! She looked so pretty! Furthermore she would have looked absolutely beautiful if it wasn’t for that sad look in her eyes.

Most girls cry on they weddin’ day. But that wasn’t why my Anna was lookin’ so sad. She wanted to marry that boy. That boy she been datin’ since she was sixteen. But you know what I told’ her? “If you marry that low class street bum. . . I will tear you ta pieces! You ain’t welcome in my house, and I won’t never see your kids!”

That sure got ridda that boy real quick. They got outta high school and thought they was gonna get married. But my Anna likes ta please her mama, so she did just like I asked her’ to. She gave that boy back his jacket, and his class ring, and told him to hit the dirt! She came home looking so sad too. Just like she do today. I’m gonna have a talk with my Anna and tell her not to drop one tear on her face. All that’s gon do is smear her makeup. And I don’t want her brand new husband to raise that veil and look into no sad eyes and smeared eye liner! Oh no! That won’t do! Cause if it was me I wouldn’t wanna marry no sad looking woman. A sad, ungrateful woman. She ought to be glad she marrying Richard. He gots plenty of money to take care of her and give her everything she need. Oh that’s right! He come from an af-fluent family. They RICH! And I want my baby to be well taken care of when she leave my house. So you know what I did? I walked right up to Anna and I told her “Wipe that look off your face and get it together honey. You think Richard wanna marry a sad, miserable woman? Don’t no man want no miserable woman! He marry you to make hisself happy, and you gonna do everything you can to make that happen! Now straighten up your face and pull it together! Your job as a wife is to make your husband happy. So stop thinking ‘bout yourself cause there ain’t no I’s in a marriage that works!” She looked at me with them sad, miserable eyes then smiled at me as bright as she could. That smile was so bright it could have lit up the room, and she says, “Sure mama. Whatever you say…” She gathered up that long train on the back of her gown, and rose from in front of that mirror she was looking into and walked out the room. Real slow.

Dum, dum, da dum! Dum, dum, da dum! He sho’ll kissed his bride! And they looked so happy. But I was feeling kinda mad. . . You know that boy my Anna was tryin’ to marry? That one I made sure she dumped? You know he had the nerve to show up here? In the church! Looking at my baby with them sad eyes of his. I gave him an evil look. Cause if looks could kill that boy would be dead! I didn’t want him here looking at my baby, trying to make her change her mind. He thought he was slick. Looking at Anna from inside them tattered clothes. I didn’t want my baby’s n’ laws thinking at my daughter like she was into slumming with the likes of him. That would have made her not good enough for they son. After the wedding that boy even showed up for the reception! That scoundrel! Off whispering to my daughter. I wasn’t scared though. That Richard and my daughter was married! It was too late for him. And he was looking down. So sad. Walking out the door looking like he was gonna’ kill hisself. That would have been the best thing for him to do. What good is life if you ain’t got no money?

Many people ask me, “Why you so hard on that boy? He loves your Anna!” But see, love don’t pay no bills. Love don’t put no food on the tables, and love ain’t gon’ keep my baby in the best of nothing like some cash. She wasn’t raised to wash dishes, or have no job. My baby is supposed to have a husband taking care of her! All these women call theyselves goin’ to work. Becoming doctors, lawyers, and police officers. Them some fools! Why would anybody go out there to work when they can stay home. And I don’t mean stay home and get no welfare, that ain’t no fun at all! Why would anybody want to stay home for four or five hundred dollars a month? Why, by the time they pay the rent, and the electric bill, they ain’t got nothin’ but ten or fifteen, sometimes twenty dollars to live on. I don’t see how them poor fools do it. Tryin’ to raise three, four, five, six kids on absolutely nothin’! Got the whole world on they backs calling them lazy too. Why, if women wasn’t taking all them jobs from men, people wouldn’t have to be on no welfare. Somebody husbands should be working them jobs. I told my Anna she betta’ not ever get no welfare. Welfare is for fools. Po’ fools! And she wasn’t gon’ be po! AND she wasn’t gonna’ marry that boy! Let me tell you about that boy. . . .

That boy, the one who was tryin’ to marry my Anna, come from a lowly family. They so po’ they might a well be still in slavery. His mama spent her whole life workin’ at some restaurant cleaning, and scrubbin’ dishes. I would come in there and she would be smilin’ at me. I didn’t see what was so funny! She didn’t have nothing to smile about. She had them wrinkled dishpan hands, and no matter how nasty you would get at her, she would always be smilin’. She didn’t have no reason to be happy. She was po’ as dirt! And that boy of hers was just as happy, with his nothin’. I didn’t want my Anna to be happy with nothin. If that woman loved her son she would have given him something. But she’s a fool! You know she actually bought that boy into that restaurant to work with her on the job! And even though he spent all his time workin’ while he was likin’ my Anna, he ain’t never bought her nothin’! Said he was saving for his future. That’s the oldest line in the book if I ever heard one. I was glad after my baby got married. That boy went away quick! Left town for free hanging on the back of a train. Silly fool. Where was he going? He had nothin’ and he was never gonna be nothin’!

My Anna. My baby! Moved in her first house with her bran’ new husband! They got theyselves a mansion. His family SO RICH! I can’t wait to meet them! My baby and her husband had been married for months, and you know my n’ laws ain’t never invited me over for a meal. You would think they want to talk about gran’chilren and stuff like that! But they never said a word to me at the wedding. They didn’t say nothin’ to me at the reception at all. They just admired that white wedding dress they bought for my Anna. They was so happy for that dress they bought! And that church that they paid for! And the reception, and photography fees they covered! It’s tradition for the father of the bride to pay for weddings, but Richard’s parents said we betta save our money for other things! They would pay for the entire wedding! “Thank you” I said proudly. Ma husband though, didn’t want them to pay. He said he could afford to cover the charges, he worked hard his whole life for that day, and we’s middle class people! He so foolish. Husband said Richard’s family was lookin’ down they nose at us. I told him “Don’t you know how nice rich folks are? Why would they think they betta than us? We got everything we wants?” It took days before I could convince him to let them pay. After husband gave in, he left out to get a drink at some bar. He wasn’t gonna’ spend our cruise money for that wedding when Richard’s people was gonna’ pay for it. Don’t he know how nice rich folks are? My husband ain’t got no class!

A few months after the wedding, as hard as I tried, I hadn’t heard from my baby in some while. I heard she’d be hosting dinner for Richard’ s rich friends. They always tellin’ him how pretty my Anna is (and that’s because she takes after me and not her daddy!), and how he gots a good wife. I was proud. Them men he be with is so proud of Richard! They say they wish they had a wife who wanted to stay home. They got them wives who like workin’ for charities, or law firms, or into the stock trade. And my Anna said when them women come around they don’t talk to her. And she don’t talk to them! Says there ain’t nothin’ to talk about! All she do is serve them drinks, and make sure everything is running smoothly. My daughter sounded like the happiest woman in the world. Sometimes I wished I was in her shoes. Just for a day! Living in that castle Richard bought for her. I went there once and they even had a maid. But that maid didn’t make me no drink. Richard said him and Anna had guest coming over. And he wanted to make sure things was running smoothly cause his parents was gonna’ be there. So I gave them both a kiss on the cheek and left.

Later that night, when I went home and told my husband what happened at Anna’s house. He got up and through his beer against the wall. “Them folks think they slick! Don’t you see it baby? You need to get your’ nose out them clouds and see those people for what they are, and stop lookin’ at they money! Anna ain’t happy wit’ that man of hers. . . and I’m gonna get my baby out of there!”

“You will do no such thing!” I hollered. “Leave them alone! Anna is a grown woman and she can take care of herself. She ain’t told me she was unhappy with Richard. So mind your own business.” Husband shook his head and sat back in the recliner. He started starin’ at the TV like I wasn’t there. I went to bed.

I stopped off at Anna and Richard’s house. And true like my husband said, Anna wasn’t happy. My baby said Richard wasn’t talking to her no mo’, and she bored with life and him. All they do is put on fronts for people. She says her face is like porcelain for smiling so much like she don’t want to. She said she got on her porcelain mask, and its always smiling when she ain’t even happy. “Anna. . . get your husband a child and all your problems will be solved. Babies solve everything! All you need to do is give him a baby and he’ll turn into a lovin’ husband again.” I don’t have to tell you. She did just like I asked.

The day had arrived. My Anna at the hospital giving birth to a lil’ boy! I was so happy. Richard and my Anna was doing just fine. He was happy they was gonna have that baby! Turns out, having a baby was a good idea. At first, even I was starting to have doubts, but it all worked out. Shortly after Anna and I had that talk. . . Richard’s parents had been trying to talk to him about divorcing my baby. Talking ‘bout she wasn’t educated enough, and why would he marry some low class woman like her! “What do her parents do? You mean to tell me her father is a handy man? Her mother a retired nurse? Richard! What about the family? And everything we worked for? Those people are going to embarrass us!”

His mother said it right in front of my child, with no regard for her feelings! But when Anna announced five months later that she was gonna’ have their precious grand baby everything changed! Anna was the one who was in charge. They wanted to make sure she got everything she needed cause that baby was one of them! Ha! Call me low class? I’m always ahead. Always thinking ahead! But that night I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

Husband and I were waiting to go up and see Anna and gran’chile’. But when we went upstairs the nurse said “Family only!”

I was astounded. “FOOL, I am her mother.”

“Ma’m I was given instructions not to allow anyone up here. I was told this by Mrs. Parents themselves.” I just looked at her real crazy like, because she might as well have slapped me silly.

That was the last straw for husband. We had a big blowout. We tried to call Anna, but the hospital didn’t allow no calls after ten. It was well past twelve. Husband stormed out the hospital, threw his hat on the ground and spit. He was walking so fast I could barely get up to him. “We’ll see her in the morning. Don’t worry.”

“I’m tired of these people! They don’ did everything they could to be rude to us. I tried coming over to Anna’s house and half the time I can’t even get through the door!” We got into the car.

“Anna is a grown woman! If she wants to see us, or if you want to see her’ just do it at our house. Anna is a RICH woman and they busy all the time. We just got to respect that and let her do what she needs to do!” Husband was drivin’ so fast I thought we was gonna’ crash into somethin’. His face was red hot an’ he seem to shoot fire from his eyes. He pulled in front of our house and crashed the car into the garbage can, knocking trash all over the lawn. My mouth was wide open. Then he turned around and looked at me and said, “I’m leavin’ and I ain’t never comin’ back.”

“Why?” I says. Dumbfounded. The inside of my head was spinning like one of them electric fans.

“I’m tired of you. You and your’ greed. I tired of you carryin’ my wallet and my balls in your’ purse. I wanna be happy babe. I just wanted to get married and have a family. I don’ spent the past thirty-somethin’ years of my life unhappy with somethin’ I should have been happy with cause I been lustin’ for things, and desiring for stuff I ain’t never needed. We had careers, you had a good job as a midwife! You wasn’t never happy. I woulda been happy if you didn’t make me feel so bad for not wanting more. Now you don’ did the same thing to our daughter. She didn’t want no baby. And I don’t want money hangin’ out my mouth when I die. I want to be simple. Live simple. I don’t need these things your heart been lustin’ after for so long. . . you can have the house.” Husband got out of the car and slammed the door. He didn’t even walk inside the house to get his clothes. He just kept walkin’. And I ain’t seen him since.

After husband left, things went downhill. After a few months, the bills started piling up. And I still hadn’t seen my gran’chile. Lucky for me, Anna paid last month’s mortgage. Money been real tight since husband left. I don’ been so used ta gettin’ stuff without thinking bout it. Budgeting was hard. Husband never did buy nothin’ for himself. He was always saving. For when he leaves, probably. I heard he went off and found himself some older woman. He living out there in the country with her. I bet she ugly. All them buck teeth country women are ugly. Husband keeps her house up, and they just spend time, and heal each other’s loneliness… Or so he tells my daughter. She said he sounded quiet and wanted to talk a little more. But she didn’t have much time cause the baby had to be at church for his christening and Richard’s parents were waiting.

Things went on that way for quite a while. Year after year, until the baby was about three years old. Anna bought the baby over sometimes. I saw them every now and then. Anna had been helping me with the bills. Thank goodness she was rich! If she hadn’t been rich I wouldn’t have made it without husband. That’s why I was so glad I pushed her as hard as I did to be ambitious with other folk’s money. Never know’d when a man gonna leave you. Husband could go his way, I thought. As long as Anna had money I didn’t need him no way. Or so I thought…

It was baby’s third birthday. Anna told me it was gonna’ be a birthday party. Still, no invitation. So you know what I did? I got all dressed up and I marched down there to see my daughter. I rang the bell. And that snotty woman, Richard’s mother, opened the door. The lint in her pocket probably cost more than everything I had on. She looked down at me and raised her eyebrows so high. “I come for my gran’chile’s birthday celebration.” I said.

“You’re not on the list.”

“What list? I don’t need a got damned thing. Where’s my daughter? I want to see her right now!” I screamed.

“Anna doesn’t live here anymore,” the woman said.

“Where’s the baby?”

“He’s here, where she left him. Can’t say I didn’t warn my son. Now we have this mess on our hands. You make sure you tell that daughter of yours that it’s too late to come back.”

The woman slammed the door in my face. And it was a good thing because I was about to hit her.

How could they take Anna’s baby away? So you know what I did? I walked down the street then came back with a huge stone and I hurled it at the window. As soon as I did I could see Richard through the curtains, running down the stairs. He tore the door open and stormed out at me like a fire dragon. “What in the hell is wrong with you?”

“I wanna know where I can find my Anna, and I want to see my gran’chile!”

“Your Anna is a whore!”

I was bout ready to hit him square in the face. I pulled my fist back and squeezed my eyes together in a fit.

“She left a few months ago. When I see her she smells of liquor and God knows what else. She was here a couple of weeks ago and didn’t come back with my son until three in the morning. I told her she couldn’t leave with him again. It was the last time I saw her. And hopefully I won’t be seeing her again after this. She staying down there on Oak street.”

“What did you do to run her away from here? Her own home?”

“Nothing. She left because she wanted to.”

I walked away from Richard. I was flabbergasted! My Anna, ied to her own mother? Richard said she lived on Oak Street. Oak Street? In the ghetto? Why? Why was my baby doing this? Leaving her own chile? With them? Gone? Where was she getting the money to help with my mortgage? What happened? Was she gonna help me with my mortgage!? And all the bills?

I drove down to Oak Street. I drove down to Oak Street everyday. Until I saw her. She looked cheap. Her clothes were tattered and her shoes had holes in them. What did she do with the beautiful clothes Richard had bought her? My goodness I must convince her to go back. Beg. Cry. Crawl. Grovel if she must! I stopped the car! I got out. I threw my arms around her. She stunk. Wreaked of something, just like Richard said. “Why?” I asked. She shirked my arms from around her and put some bills in my hand. I shoved them into my purse and followed her to where she lived, in an abandoned building. Again I asked, “Why?”

Then she said, “It don’t matter.” I followed her up the stairs to a little dirty room. There was a man waiting for her when we got there. She walked over to him and laid across his lap right in front of me! The nerve, the disrespect. What was going on with my Anna?

“Surely this isn’t the life you wanna to live?” I asked.

“Why not? I’ve been living a life I didn’t want for years. Richard was the man you wanted to marry. He wasn’t the one I wanted. And I didn’t want to bring no babies into this screwed up world either. That was your plan. Did you think they was gonna like me? Or care about me just cause I had his child? Well guess what? They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was take him away from me. But they didn’t have to cause I didn’t want him anyway. I didn’t want that LIFE, that MAN, that BABY, their MONEY, or that EMPTY HOUSE. Least now I get to choose the life I don’t want” Anna took out a little plastic bag with some white stuff in it. Her man friend pulled out a tiny mirror and a straw. Then she dumped the contents on a compact mirror that she had taken out of her purse…right in front of me. Her friend gave her a razor blade and together they lined the powder up.

Anna and her friend pulled the straw to their noses, then started sniffing the white powder. I just stood there, looking at her. Flabbergasted! I smacked it out of her hand. Suddenly, Anna jumped up and lunged at me like a deranged lunatic. So I smeared the powder across the floor with my foot, leaving the imprint of my shoe in the powdery dust. Anna slid to her knees with the straw in her hand and starts sniffing the white powder right from the floor. The both of them. “Why?” I asked again.

“I was bored stiff mama. (SNORT!) Rich folks do stuff they ain’t suppose to do too. Where you think I learned how to do this?”

She looked at me for a moment, her eyes never wavering then said, “don’t come back no mo’! I don’t want you to see me like this! Go!”

She gets off the floor and starts throwing stuff around the room. So I did what any sane person would do in middle of something crazy, I ran. And I ran. No sense could be made of what happened to my Anna. I felt hurt, shocked, and betrayed. I needed somebody to talk to. So I ran home. And when I got home, I waited for husband. But, I didn’t have no husband no mo’. . . I was alone. Completely alone. I don’t have to tell you what happened next. . . .

I couldn’t afford my house no mo’. And I could barely eat. I didn’t have nobody. No husband. No gran’chile. No daughter, whom I passed on the streets sometimes. I don’t look at her, she don’t look at me. She just be standing on the corner, laughing with them street hustlers, faking happiness, looking high. So I ain’t got nothin at all ‘. . . no friends, no family and no money! I sat in my house staring at the walls. Day dreaming. Wishing there was something like a roast in the oven instead of noodles in the pot. I didn’t have no retirement money. Didn’t work as much as I was supposed to. All I had was my social security check. And that wasn’t enough! I sure wished I had what I had before all that stuff happened. My husband. My daughter. Somethin’, anything to remind me of yesterday. When I was truly rich, or what some people call blessed!

I sat in my kitchen waiting. Waiting for my eggs to finish cooking. All I had to eat was some eggs and canned ham. Or so I thought. The doorbell rang. I opened the door. A handsome young man was on the outside. I knew him from somewhere. He was so handsome and clean he was glowing. I thought the angels had come for me.

“Good morning, Ma’m. It’s nice to see you again.”

I gave him a funny look.

“I don’t mean to disturb you. I was walking by when I saw smoke coming from your windows. Is everything all right?” he looked over my shoulder at the empty frying’ pan burning on the stove top. I smiled, because I recognized his face.

“Boy? Is that you?” I squinted my eyes. “It’s so nice to see you. It’s so nice to see somebody. Come on in.”

“I can’t.”

He looked at my face thoughtfully, for a moment. “Well maybe just for a minute. . . so how’s Anna?” He walked over to the couch. We sat.

“She fine baby. She got everything she ever wanted. Looks like life’s been good to you boy.”

“Well, I can’t complain. Just got out of college a couple of years ago. Got a good job. Makin’ lots of money too.”

My heart lifted.

“MAYBE you could go see my ANNA. She always liked you…always.”

“– I’m married now.” The boy stood up and looked at me, his eyes filled with sadness, empathy, and something else. He then reached into his pocket and took out some bills that he stuffed into my hand. “Hey’ breakfast is on me this morning. Maybe we could go together some time. You can tell me how Anna’s doing.”

I couldn’t look at him. So I don’t say nothin’. Let alone I couldn’t hear him no mo’. He who looked for a moment like my last hope. And I don’t remember him walkin’ out the door either. So I sat there, with my eyes closed feeling like there was nothing left in the world to look forward to.

I was tired. Cold. Hungry. Lonely. And po’. So tired, that I laid down with my fingers clutched around them dollar bills, the boy put in my hand. It was all I could do. Thinking last of my Anna and my husband, I closed my eyes. I COULDN’T open them no more. I didn’t WANT to open them no more. So I didn’t… and days later when the neighbors found my cold, brownish blue body on the couch, they pried them bills from my hand.

When you layin’ beneath the cold, moist soil of the ground, after having spent a lifetime lustin’ and desiring for things that don’t mean nothin’. You just may end up exiting the gates of life with nothin’ in your’ pockets but a broken heart. I guess in the end it’s when you realize that you can’t take it with you.

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