Clarice Randell marched back then forth down the vacant road and its barren surrounding landscape. She turned a frightened eye to her oldest child.
“John, where she at?! You was supposed to be lookin’ after her!”
“Mama, I don’t know she was sittin’ right here just a minute ago.”
Before she could leap to attack her son, her husband grasped her wrist.
“Clarice juss calm down, she couldn’ta went too far.”
“Almita!!!!! I don’t trust it … these roads. You know what they doin’ to colored folk down this way Henry?!”
Silence, fear, and resentment hung heavy. Father and son did the work of preparing the car to be road worthy.
Her mind drifted to a day a few months before.
“Baby don’t come in here! Mama’s not feelin’ well and lord knows I don’t need you gettin’ what I got. Gone back in there with John.”
“It’s okay Mama. I’m a doctor.”
“You a doctor?”
“Yes ma’am. I’m gonna take care of ya.”
“Is that right? Alright Ms. Doctor. Take care of me.”
Almita jumped right in staring intently into her mothers eyes, then ears, then throat. She flexed and bent her arms and legs. Finally, she put her head against her mother’s chest to listen to her heart.
It was here that the memory froze, and Clarice’s heart broke. Her legs folded and before she knew it she was on the ground. She sobbed heavily and cried out one last time.
There was brief silence, then the roaring of an engine. She lifted her head and was greeted by a large billow of dust. The jalopy pulled abruptly next to her nearly running her over. In an instant she heard …
Almita jumped out and ran over to her mother.
“What’s the matter Mama?”
Anger and relief washed over Clarice. She swatted Almita has hard as she could across her back side, then immediately kissed her and wept.
A small statured white man got out of the car.
“You might wanna keep an eye on her.”
The twang in his voice and the implication that she would neglect her child, stirred hatred within her but the relief of having her child back kept it at bay. She rose, thanked him for his kindness and began to walk back toward her family. He followed.
Smiles and laughter as the family reunited fell to awkward silence.
“May I help you sir?”
“I fancy myself a photographer. You’re a right smart lookin’ group of coloreds. I wanna take your picture.”
Clarice looked to Henry.
“Yessir, but we do need to be gettin’ back on the road.”
“Won’t take me but a minute.”
The gentleman fumbled with his clunky equipment as Henry, John, and Clarice ready themselves to leave immediately after the photo was taken. Almita, ever the curious rebel, ran toward the gentleman, past her father, down beside her brother, while resisting her mother’s last minute adjustments to her hair.
“Okay Mister! I’m Ready!”
photo courtesy of the Waheed Photo Archive