Home > The Hate U Give(9)

The Hate U Give(9)
Author: Angie Thomas

Hailey didn’t come. Her dad didn’t want her spending the night in “the ghetto.” I overheard my parents say that. Maya came but ended up asking her parents to come get her that night. There was a drive-by around the corner, and the gunshots scared her.

That’s when I realized Williamson is one world and Garden Heights is another, and I have to keep them separate.

It doesn’t matter what I’m thinking about doing today though—my parents have their own plans for me. Momma tells me I’m going to the store with Daddy. Before Seven leaves for work, he comes to my room in his Best Buy polo and khakis and hugs me.

“Love you,” he says.

See, that’s why I hate it when somebody dies. People do stuff they wouldn’t usually do. Even Momma hugs me longer and tighter with more sympathy than “just because” in it. Sekani, on the other hand, steals bacon off my plate, looks at my phone, and purposely steps on my foot on his way out. I love him for it.

I bring a bowl of dog food and leftover bacon outside to our pit bull, Brickz. Daddy gave him his name ’cause he’s always been as heavy as some bricks. Soon as he sees me, he jumps and fights to break free from his chain. And when I get close enough, his hyper butt jumps up my legs, nearly taking me down.

“Get!” I say. He crouches onto the grass and stares up at me, whimpering with wide puppy-dog eyes. The Brickz version of an apology.

I know pit bulls can be aggressive, but Brickz is a baby most of the time. A big baby. Now, if somebody tries to break in our house or something, they won’t meet the baby Brickz.

While I feed Brickz and refill his water bowl, Daddy picks bunches of collard greens from his garden. He cuts roses that have blooms as big as my palms. Daddy spends hours out here every night, planting, tilling, and talking. He claims a good garden needs good conversation.

About thirty minutes later, we’re riding in his truck with the windows down. On the radio, Marvin Gaye asks what’s going on. It’s still dark out, though the sun peeks through the clouds, and hardly anybody is outside. This early in the morning it’s easy to hear the rumbling of eighteen-wheelers on the freeway.

Daddy hums to Marvin, but he couldn’t carry a tune if it came in a box. He’s wearing a Lakers jersey and no shirt underneath, revealing tattoos all over his arms. One of my baby photos smiles back at me, permanently etched on his arm with Something to live for, something to die for written beneath it. Seven and Sekani are on his other arm with the same words beneath them. Love letters in the simplest form.

“You wanna talk ’bout last night some more?” he asks.

“Nah.”

“A’ight. Whenever you wanna.”

Another love letter in the simplest form.

We turn onto Marigold Avenue, where Garden Heights is waking up. Some ladies wearing floral headscarves come out the Laundromat, carrying big baskets of clothes. Mr. Reuben unlocks the chains on his restaurant. His nephew Tim, the cook, leans against the wall and wipes sleep from his eyes. Ms. Yvette yawns as she goes in her beauty shop. The lights are on at Top Shelf Spirits and Wine, but they’re always on.

Daddy parks in front of Carter’s Grocery, our family’s store. Daddy bought it when I was nine after the former owner, Mr. Wyatt, left Garden Heights to go sit on the beach all day, watching pretty women. (Mr. Wyatt’s words, not mine.) Mr. Wyatt was the only person who would hire Daddy when he got out of prison, and he later said Daddy was the only person he trusted to run the store.

Compared to the Walmart on the east side of Garden Heights, our grocery is tiny. White-painted metal bars protect the windows and door. They make the store resemble a jail.

Mr. Lewis from the barbershop next door stands out front, his arms folded over his big belly. He sets his narrowed eyes on Daddy.

Daddy sighs. “Here we go.”

We hop out. Mr. Lewis gives some of the best haircuts in Garden Heights—Sekani’s high-top fade proves it—but Mr. Lewis himself wears an untidy Afro. His stomach blocks his view of his feet, and since his wife passed nobody tells him that his pants are too short and his socks don’t always match. Today one is striped and the other is argyle.

“The store used to open at five fifty-five on the dot,” he says. “Five fifty-five!”

It’s 6:05.

Daddy unlocks the front door. “I know, Mr. Lewis, but I told you, I’m not running the store the same way Wyatt did.”

“It sho’ is obvious. First you take down his pictures—who the hell replaces a picture of Dr. King with some nobody—”

“Huey Newton ain’t a nobody.”

“He ain’t Dr. King! Then you hire thugs to work up in here. I heard that Khalil boy got himself killed last night. He was probably selling that stuff.” Mr. Lewis looks from Daddy’s basketball jersey to his tattoos. “Wonder where he get that idea from.”

Daddy’s jaw tightens. “Starr, turn the coffeepot on for Mr. Lewis.”

So he can get the hell outta here, I say to myself, finishing Daddy’s sentence for him.

I flick the switch on the coffeepot at the self-serve table, which Huey Newton watches over from a photograph, his fist raised for black power.

I’m supposed to replace the filter and put new coffee and water in, but for talking about Khalil Mr. Lewis gets coffee made from day-old grounds.

He limps through the aisles and gets a honey bun, an apple, and a pack of hog head cheese. He gives me the honey bun. “Heat it up, girl. And you bet’ not overcook it.”

   
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