Mama Black Widow, Mama moaned, “Thet fool chile.”

“But, God, you taught me to love and to help everybody regardless of race and color. And it was you, Lord, who directed me to go everywhere I was needed. You sent me to the Northside to lay my healing hands on a poor white spinster sick in mind and body. And some black lying snake in this church is trying to show my good works as evil. And about the church’s money, you know how I sacrifice many of my comforts to save church money. I would never steal the church’s money for—”

At the end of our first week in Chicago a snowstorm hid the grimy bleakness beneath three feet of glamorous whiteness. Cousin Bunny made Papa smile for the first time in Chicago. She gave him a pile of winter work clothes that her dead husband had worn to work sewers and to collect city garbage for twenty years. Then she had Soldier Boy, an acquaintance of hers who was a snow scuffler, pick up Papa to help shovel snow from the sidewalks of commercial businesses for a fee.

I listened to the radio pouring out the sorrow and anger of America. Dozens of times during the lonely night I went to the window and tried to argue myself across the sill to the concrete four stories down. Each time I could feel some frightful force inside me pulling to propel me through the window. It was a deadly struggle to snatch myself away. I knew that if I didn’t stop going to that window I would certainly give in to the horrible impulse that got stronger and stronger.

She lay beside me in the late March night, naked and crying bitterly into her pillow. The bellow of a giant truck barreling down State Street in Chicago’s far Southside almost drowned out her voice as she sobbed, “What’s wrong with me, Otis? Why is it so hard for you to make love to me? Am I too fat? Do you love someone else? Yes, I guess that’s it. And that’s why you haven’t married me. This is 1968. We’ve been sleeping together for a whole year. I wasn’t brought up like that. Let’s get married. Please make me Mrs. Tilson. I hope you’re not stalling because I married twice before.”

With Papa gone, Lockjaw started hanging around the flat a lot, especially on weekend evenings. Mama didn’t object because he handled her like she was a cream puff. And the choice cuts of meat and fancy pastries he lugged in didn’t get him treated like the pompous ass he was. In fact, when he would angrily recoil from Carol’s numerous and chilly rebuffs, Mama would lead the monster to her bedroom and soft talk him to gentle him down. She’d shove him out the front door and his live orb would be radiant with revived lust and hope that Carol would one day be his.

– Iceberg Slim

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