The best part of being a kid is that no one thinks you know anything. I sit here every day. The grown-ups ignoring me. Speaking what they will because they think I don’t know nothing. That I’m too young to get it. Fttt…let them believe it. Stupid adults.
My name is Frankie. I live in Brooklyn with my parents and a pain in the ass baby brother, Johnny. Kids are to be seen and not heard, and that’s how it is in my family. It’s 1932. I’m lucky to be sitting here on the stoop when I’s want and not having to be out selling papers or worse, working in the factory. That’s what I’m reminded of daily. You see, I’m a gimp, a disappointment. Something’s about my birth going bad. My Uncle Mike says it’s ’cause my “dumb-ass father” dropped me on my head when I was days old. Ftt…let them think what they will. I am what I am, so says Popeye. But no amount of spinach is gonna cure me and get me my legs strong. I sit, I watch and I take it all in. They don’t remember I’m here.
I sit here on the stoop every day ’cause this is where they stick me. So, you tell me, wouldn’t you get into everybody else’s business if that’s what you had to see everyday? Oh yeah…I sees a lot and I knows a lot. You know what I know…some people have a funny way of showing love to their momma.
Mrs. Pauley lives across the street from me with Mr. Pauley. She says I should call her mama. Afterall, she looks over me more than my moms. Don’t get me wrong about my moms. She’s at the factory working her ass and fingers off so ladies can wear fineries of lace and junk. Ftt…she’s gotta do what she’s gotta do to keep the food on our plates and the booze in dad’s belly. So, Mrs. Pauley, er..mama…keeps an eye on me for what seems like forever. Nobody asked her. She’s just a good lady. Smells like chocolate chip cookies.
Mama Pauley has lived across from me at 1333 Stockton all my years. I hear she’s been here on this stinking street forever. Her and Mr. Pauley. Married like forever. I hears they have six sons. I’ve never seen ’em. Guess they’re grown and long gone or sump’in. She talks a bunch about them how they’ve got better jobs, got them some money and best yet, moved away from this dang neighborhood. God knows where. I sorta tune out after awhile. Got them some money…fft..all the good that’s done her now hasn’t it. Ya see I’m sitting here on my stoop. This stupid stoop and I’m watching the police help that scumlord Mr. Rizotti get rid of Mama P.
Mama P. hasn’t been able to pay the rent. Ya see, Mr. Pauley up and died. Mr. Pauley didn’t leave mama anything but a whole lotta gambling debts. She screamed that as they dragged her from her place. It was like she was pleading her case to the street or the universe to save her or somethin’. Nobody came to her rescue. Fttt…you thinks you know them. Mr. P seemed like a good guy. Always doted on mama, getting her flowers and kissing her even though they were way too old for that crap. Guess ya just don’t know what’s going on behind the closed doors on Stockton Street. I gotta say I didn’t expect it. I shoulda seen it. I woulda helped her if I coulda. Damn legs…ftt!
But here’s where I’m getting mad and such. Where were her boys? Lord, she had six of them. All big shots from what she said. None of them, not a one came to her rescue? What kind of scum are they? This was Mama P. She smelled like chocolate chip cookies for god’sake! If she could be mama to some reject kid across the street wasn’t she a great mom to them? Didn’t she comfort them, hold them, believe it them when they were snot nosed brats like me? Ya mean to tell me none of them, not a one, could come to rescue their mama? Fttt…I’d thought I’d seen a lot sitting here on this stoop. Guess I not seen it all.
Image: Rhonda Hansome