Commentary and Philosophy Fiction posted May 8, 2011

This work has reached the exceptional level
Picture inspired story of victims of poverty.


by BethShelby

Toby sits on the grass in front of Miss Berta Mae's house listening to the old woman's tirade as she fumes at Tyrone and Theo.  Miss Berta Mae' is a big lady, who is always busy and aggravated about something. She scares Toby when she grabs him up to dress him.  If she ever sat on him, she would probably crush him to pieces.  When she wipes his runny nose, he has to check to make sure it is still there.

"You youngins is gonna be the death of me yet. I ain't got no time fo yo foolishness. Now, ya'll git yo clothes on and stop that squabblin'. The school bus is gonna be here any minute. Yo mama don't pay me enough to put up wit ya'll fightin' all the time. I's gotta feed yo brother and git some clothes on him."

Toby wishes he was old enough to go to school, so he doesn't have to stay at Miss Berta Mae's house all day while his mama goes off to work in her white starched uniform. All the old lady does is fuss. Every morning his mama yanks him and his brothers out of bed still in their sleep clothes and carts them off to 
Miss Berta Mae's house.
It is still dark when Mama leaves for her job at the hospital, and it is usually after dark when she picks them up in the evening. Lately when she picks them up, she is too tired to talk or sing like she used to. He misses those days when his daddy was still around. Back then Mama laughed a lot and had time to kiss and cuddle him.  He doesn't know why his Daddy left., Mama doesn't want to talk about him when anybody asks.

Toby is hungry. His mouth waters for the grits and biscuits he'll get later in the morning after Tyrone and Theo have gone off to school. Once in a while, Miss Berta Mae gives him a little piece of chicken. He hopes this will be one of those rare days. The old lady takes in washing and ironing from some folks that live over on the next street, so she has little time for Toby. She seldom talks to him except to yell, but she is always muttering to herself as she works.

Last week, he got into big trouble when he was only trying to help. Miss Berta Mae has been cross with him ever since. In the afternoons when Tyrone and Theo get home from school, she keeps them busy weeding the little garden plot out back. Toby thought if he did the weeding while they were at school, maybe they'd have some time to play with him. He'd only pulled up what he thought were weeds, but Miss Berta Mae came roaring out the back door swinging her hairbrush. She snatched him up and spanked his behind.

"Boy, is you crazy? Don't you know no better than to go yanking my tomato plants out of the ground? Don't you ever go near my garden agin. I ain't puttin up with none of this nonsence. You do that agin and yo Mama is gonna find herself without nobody to look after ya'll. Then you'll be havin to stay in that house by yoself, and the old buggaman's likely to git you."

Toby isn't sure, but he thinks the buggaman might be more pleasant than Miss Berta Mae.  Nevertheless, he doesn't want to take a chance. Ever since that day, he's tried harder to stay out of her way. His behind was so sore he couldn't even sit without feeling the sting.

His mama told him one day he will grow up to be a big man, and he can go off to work every day and get money. She said he'll be able to do whatever he wants to do. He knows exactly what he wants to do. He wants to drive a big yellow bus like the one that picks up his brothers and brings them back home every day.

Toby isn't sure how long it will take for him to grow big, but while he waits, he dreams of that time and plans what he'll do when he has lots of money. One thing he knows for sure, he'll make enough money so he can afford chicken and ice-cream for every meal.  And if he ever has any little boys, they won't have to go off and stay with Miss Berta Mae while their mama works.


This is picture from my writing group designed to challenge the club members. This is a glimpse into the life of a child as he deals with the circumstances in which he finds himself. The dialogue is geared to an earlier time, prehaps the fifties. Please don't feel it has to do with race, It is about poverty. The child in the picture happens to be black.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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