“Diego kinda reminds me of your daddy,” Little Man told Junior as they sorted through the portable orange and white basketball cage for the right sized ball. Though they’d played this sport earlier with other youths, now that things were winding down at the carnival, they wanted to play a game of one-on-one.
“I mean, he has a toothpick hanging out the left side of his mouth and everything. Just like your daddy used to do after eating,” Little Man continued.
Junior paused from his search to look over to where his father’s cousin was talking to yet another woman by a tree. “You’re right.” He nodded, noting the toothpick in Diego’s mouth. “He also walks like Daddy, has hands like him, and kinda sounds like him too at times with certain words.”
“For real?” Little Man looked amazed, forgetting about the balls in the cage for now.
“Yeah. Watch him walk now,” Junior said as Diego started walking over to the two picnic tables where the rest of their family was.
Little Man’s eyebrows rose. “Sho’ do. Man, that is spooky,” he said, slipping into a bit of slang while his starchy grandfather wasn’t around.
Having spent a lot of years in the military, Grandpa Frank insisted upon correct behavior, posture, and language in his presence at all times. He even put a halt to Cami’s tendency to curse when she was angry, though he couldn’t quite cure her of slang.
Little Man liked his grandfather’s no-cursing rule. He didn’t like his mother cursing anyway. He didn’t like a lot of things his mother did these days.
Junior laughed at Little Man’s reference to Diego’s spooky walk. “I know, but it sure helps with the hurt of missing my dad. Having Diego around makes me feel closer to my dad for some reason. But don’t let that get back to my mom, all right? She might get mad if she knew that I feel closer to Diego than I do to my stepdad, even though Diego hasn’t been around as long.”
“My lips are sealed, dude,” Little Man promised, revealing the close bond the boys still had between them, despite the fact that they lived apart for most of the year now. “I wouldn’t hurt Mama Dee for nothing.”
Junior smiled. “That’s good to know.”
Little Man suddenly looked puzzled. “But help me understand why you don’t feel as close to your stepdad. Is Uncle Royal mean to you behind your mama’s back or something? Is that why you favor Diego over him?” He grabbed one of the balls from the cage and tried to twirl it on one finger as he waited for a reply.
“No, to both things. Pop is a great stepdad. The best. Especially after he got my school to offer advanced classes just so I wouldn’t have to transfer out,” Junior clarified. “But some hurts are so deep that even he can’t reach,” he added sadly. “But I like that he tries.” He smiled, catching sight of his pop-locking stepfather helping
Little Man chuckled at Royal’s animated display. “He looks like he tries hard, too.”
“Real hard. It’s not his fault that Diego can reach me on a deeper level when it comes to missing my dad. Just like it ain’t my dad’s fault that Mom loves Pop more than she ever did him.”
“She does?” Little Man stopped spending the ball on his finger.
“Yeah. Can’t you tell how happy she is with him?” Junior pointed towards the picnic table. “She ain’t never smiled this much with my birth daddy.”
“Mama Dee has been smiling a lot more since Uncle Royal came on the scene,” Little Man said, noting the obvious joy on Delia’s face even now as she stood up and tried to pop lock with her husband. Tess and the twins stood up, as well, trying to mimic their parents.
“As you know, I didn’t like it at first. I’m cool with it now because I know Pop really loves her,” Junior replied.
“And y’all, too,” Little man inserted, speaking of what he’d observed of Royal concerning the Jackwood kids.
Junior smiled. “Yeah. Like I said before, Pop is the best.”
“I wish my mama could find a man like that.” Little Man’s eyes suddenly grew sad.
“Maybe she will one day. We can pray about it before you leave town,” Junior volunteered, having learned how to pray about everything from his stepfather and the Sunday school teachers at their church.
“Cool.” Little Man smiled, feeling better already.
Grabbing the ball out of his hand, Junior said, “Now are we going to stand here all day jaw-jabbing? Or are we going to ball?” He started to dribble skillfully, revealing his readiness.
“Let’s ball,” Little Man replied, using quick hands to steal the ball from his cousin, who obviously wasn’t as ready as he thought.
© 2008 by Suprina Frazier
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