speak softly or indistinctly
Another policeman is standing over me,
murmuring, “It’s a kid. It’s a kid.”
a sheath for carrying a handgun
The policeman’s hand covers his
any customary observance or practice
Ma leans down, hugs me. Grandma slides another stack of pancakes on my plate. “Promise?”
ritual every day.
short and plump
pudgy, easily teased.
the state of being clean and conducive to health
pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
The Temptations. Smokey Robinson. The Supremes. Sixties pop music.
Lame. Hip-hop is better.
a column of light
He opens the door; there’s a
shaft of hallway light.
the hopeful feeling that all is going to turn out well
Three. Grandma’s special number. “Three means ‘All.’
Optimism. Joy,” Grandma says everyday. “Heaven, Earth, Water. Three means you’re close to the angels.”
fraught with danger
Ma always says, “In this neighborhood, getting a child to adulthood is
the remains of something that has been destroyed
Neighbors tried to clear the
debris, make a basketball court. It’s pathetic.
deserving or inciting pity
Neighbors tried to clear the debris, make a basketball court. It’s
squeeze together tightly
clenches her hand, purses her lips.
contract one's lips into a rounded shape
Kim clenches her hand,
purses her lips.
sweet dessert or topping made of beaten egg whites and sugar
The kitchen table is covered with food—my favorites, potato salad, lemon
meringue pie, pork chops.
break down, literally or metaphorically
To my right, Pop leans into the corner. Like he wants to
collapse into the space and disappear.
speak in a harsh, grating voice
“I’m here. I’m still here,” I
shine brightly, like a star or a light
She looks up and through me. Her eyes
glimmer; she nods. Does she see? Does she see me?
treat with contemptuous disregard
scoffs Reverend. “This is Chicago. Jerome’s soul is already gone.”
the quality of being fair, reasonable, or impartial
justice. No peace,” says Pop.
make very hot and dry
My heart shatters. Nothing hurt this much, not even the bullets
searing my back.
lacking clarity or distinctness
Across the street, I see him.
Wispy like soft rain. A ghost?
sorrowful through loss or deprivation
It’s awful spending days in the apartment, everybody angry and
so badly formed or distorted as to be ugly
At night, the living room fills with shadows.
Misshapen, ugly things.
cry weakly or softly
Kim, whose bed is the couch,
whimpers while she dreams.
a genre of evangelical Christian music
gospel and wherever I move, she seems to know.
box in which a corpse is buried or cremated
casket,” murmurs Ma.
filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise
stunned hearing Grandma speak to me. But I can’t move on. I don’t know how.
be teeming, be abuzz
Deacons and church ladies in white dresses
swarm about my family, fanning them, guiding them from the vestibule into the church.
a large entrance or reception room or area
Deacons and church ladies in white dresses swarm about my family, fanning them, guiding them from the
vestibule into the church.