Dana L. Davis
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
London scowls. “What about him?”
“He beat you out for the Young Scholar Award and the Minority High Honor Award for the eleventh grade last year. Let’s just be real. He’ll probably beat you out for valedictorian, too.”
London turns to Anthony. “Dad. Can you please tell Nevaeh not to interrupt what I’m grateful for? That’s so rude.”
“Nevaeh, don’t interrupt what London’s grateful for,” Anthony replies as if on dad autopilot.
“I’m stating the facts. Besides, how can you be grateful for something that hasn’t happened?” Nevaeh asks.
“It’s called faith,” Anthony replies. “The evidence of things not yet seen.”
“But that would be like me saying I’m grateful I might maybe be valedictorian, too,” Nevaeh explains. “In six years. That’s stupid.”
“Yeah, that is stupid because you get Cs,” London replies smugly. “You’ll never be Curington’s valedictorian.”
“That’s stupid,” Pumpkin squeals.
“London and Nevaeh. Sweethearts,” Margaret cuts in calmly with her polite head tilt, “that’s a bad word for Pumpkin.”
I look over at Pumpkin, whose mass of curly hair is approximately three times bigger than her head. The plate in front of her is plastic and instead of a fancy, gold-rimmed glass she’s got a Tinker Bell sippy cup, which she suddenly hurls through the air. I watch it soar before it splashes down into the pool. Man, that kid’s got an arm on her.
“Yay! Fun!” Pumpkin claps.
Anthony waves his hand at Margaret. “Don’t get it. Let her learn. You throw your cup, you don’t have anything to drink.”
“I’m grateful I might be valedictorian, too,” Nevaeh says. “In six years. When I graduate. That’s what I’m grateful for. I have faith.”
Anthony rolls his eyes. “Heaven? What are you grateful for?”
“I’m grateful our first scrimmage game is next Friday.”
“Finally, right?” Nevaeh says. The twins bump fists across the table.
“Sixth-grade basketball.” London rolls her eyes. “How droll.”
“Tiffany, do you play ball?” Anthony asks. “I would imagine, with all that height.”
“No. Not since I was four and had one of those plastic basketball hoops attached to the bathtub.”
“Tiffany plays the guitar, Dad!” Nevaeh exclaims excitedly. “She brought a guitar case with an actual guitar inside.”
Anthony’s brow furrows. “Well, that’s a shame about not playing basketball. With all that height? We gotta get you on the court. Basketball skills run in the Stone family.”
A sport played by two teams with five players each on a rectangular court: how Wikipedia describes basketball.
Something fun to watch or play: how most people describe basketball.
Sweaty athletes exhausting themselves while running around and throwing an orange bouncy ball back and forth until a winner is declared and the madness ends: how I describe basketball.
“You should see if you can try out for Curington’s team!” Nevaeh suggests. “Stone house rules say you gotta play a sport. Why not basketball?”
“I have to play a sport?” Dread crawls up my spine. “Why?”
Instead of answering my question, Anthony nods and says, “Good idea, Nevaeh.”
“But, Dad,” London cuts in. “JV team is suspended this year for hazing. And varsity tryouts are over.”
Anthony shrugs. “I’ll talk to Coach James. See what we can do. She’s a transfer. She deserves a shot.”
I picture myself on the court, braids out, hair in a Buckwheat-style ’fro with tiny bald patches peeking through. Gripping the ball, running across the court in tears. The referee blowing his whistle at me. The other girls on the team hurling profanities my way. Crowd hissing and booing. Cheerleaders standing in disgust, arms folded, refusing to cheer.
“Margaret, babe. What are you thankful for?” Anthony asks.
“I’m thankful Pumpkin’s doing so well. Her behavior therapist thinks she might not even have the diagnosis by the time she’s ready for kindergarten.”
“See, honey? I told you not to worry so much. It’s all about intervention with autism.”
“Our hard work is paying off. Finally.” Margaret turns to Pumpkin. “And what are you thankful for, Pumpkin, my love?”
“You thankful?” Pumpkin replies.
“No, honey. I’m asking you. Tell us what you’re thankful for. Or maybe just something that makes you happy. What makes you happy?”
Pumpkin grins and looks my way. “Hi. How you?”
“Me? Oh... I’m...fine?”
“Pumpkin, tell us what you’re thankful for,” Nevaeh insists.
“I sick!” Pumpkin suddenly wails. “I hun-gee.”
“So then you can be thankful for food,” Nevaeh says kindly. “Say you’re thankful for food so you don’t have to be hungry.”
“No! I mad,” Pumpkin wails. “I so fus-tated!” She picks up her plastic plate and hurls it across the table, narrowly missing Anthony’s head. “I very not happy!”
“Pumpkin!” Anthony bellows. “That is inappropriate behavior. You do not throw your plate!”
An epic-size shriek escapes from Pumpkin’s tiny, little body. She kicks at the table. Beautiful, expensive dishes wobble dangerously as she thrashes about in her chair. “Leave me ’lone! I sad!”
Margaret tosses Anthony a worried look. “I don’t think she gets thankful yet. It’s making her upset. Can we let this one go? Please?”
“No,” Anthony replies sternly. “Bedtime. Take her now.”
Pumpkin’s eyes fill with tears and she immediately calms down. “No! I so sorry. I so sorry, Daddy.”
“Thank you for saying sorry, Pumpkin,” he replies. “But you still have to go to bed. Your behavior is very bad and Mommy and Daddy are very sad and frustrated.”