Barbie Shoes—A side story of Glory and JT

Marcus Jackson picked up the hysterically laughing ten-year-old and gave him a gentle noogie.  “Ready to take a break, Shorty?” Marcus asked.
“What’s the matter Pops, you tired of this shorty whoopin’ on you?” JT made a perfect jump shot, sinking the ball into the hoop, “Nothing but net!”
“Yeah right,” Marcus grumbled, limping over to the back porch steps. “You know I’m going easy on you, right Shorty?”
“Hey Dad, think fast!” JT whipped the basketball at his father.  Marcus easily caught the ball in one hand; so quickly, it looked like the ball had stopped in mid-air. “Boy, I got two feet and twenty-two years on you. You got at least ten years before you’ll be fast as me!” He tossed the ball back to his son and sat down on the third step.
Marcus picked up a forty ounce beer bottle and took a long drink. JT mimicked his father with a sports drink and took a seat on the bottom step. “Hey Dad, am I in trouble?” he asked.
“Now why should you be in trouble?” Marcus asked, turning up the bottle again. “What did you do?”
JT’s eyes went wide. “Nothing, this time, I swear!” he held up his right hand. “I swear to God!”
“Boy, quiet down. “Yo’ mama hear you out here swearing to God, we gon’ both be in trouble.”
JT hung his head. “Sorry, but I really didn’t do nothing this time. Honest!”
Marcus laughed at his son’s plea of innocence and reached out and rubbed JT’s head. “Calm down, Shorty. You not in trouble. Cain’t a man come and shoot hoops with his son?”
“Yeah, but you always wanna talk to me too.” JT sighed. “What did I do now?”
“Heh heh.” Marcus chuckled a little. “Ok, yeah, you got me. How’re things going at school? Everything alright? Nobody messin’ with you, right?”
“Everything’s good, Dad. I’m gettin’ all E’s this time.”
“That’s real good, son.” Marcus took another swallow from the beer bottle. “You know, Son, you can be anything and anybody you wanna be and me and ya’ mama still love you.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And if you ever wanna know about man stuff, all you haft do is call me.” Marcus felt himself getting choked up. He took a long drink to compose himself. “Even though I’m not here all the time, I’m’a still teach you how to be a man, ok?”
“Ok, Dad, what’s wrong? Are you moving outta town or something?”
“Naw son, nothing like that.” Marcus sniffed and wiped his face with his shirt. “Ain’t nothing goin’ on, but ya’ mama is kinda concerned—”
“I told her it wasn’t my book! Kevin got it from his brother—”
“Hold up, hold up!” Marcus laughed. “This ain’t about dirty books, but we’re gonna talk about that too. This is a little more serious.”
“Okaay?”
“Son, you wanna tell me about the Barbie dolls under your bed?”
“No.” JT hung his head and kept his eyes down.
“Did you steal ’em or something. Yo’ allowance ain’t enough to buy all that?”
“No, I didn’t steal ’em.” JT protested.
“Oh. I see. Well, I’m’a have a talk with your grandmother—”
“No, Dad. I didn’t get ’em from Grandma!”
“Well, Son, you gon’ hafta tell me something. It’s a little strange findin’ a box of Barbie stuff under your boy’s bed.”
“Dad—”
“Nah, if you like that sorta thing, I’m’a be surprised but I’a still love you—”
JT slapped his forehead. “Oh my God! Dad, it’s not what you think!”
“Well, then what?”
“It’s a big secret. You hafta promise not to tell anybody, especially Ma.”
Marcus stared at his son for a minute. What could possibly be such a big secret? Maybe he wanted to be a fashion designer. Calvin Klein was a man, and nobody called him funny. “Ok, Son. I swear to Dr. J. I won’t tell anybody, not even your mama.”
JT smiled. “Ok, dad.” He leaned back against the banister. “I’m keeping them on weekends for a friend.”
“What friend is this? One of these little boys around here play with Barbie dolls?”
“No Dad. I’m keeping them for Glory.”
Marcus’ face brightened and he breathed a sigh of relief.  “So, a little girl, huh? Is she cute?”
“I guess.” JT blushed.
“Hold up!” Marcus laughed. “Is that the little girl you tried to marry and she kicked yo’ butt?”
JT pulled his knees up to his chest. “Yeah, that’s her. Her mom made her throw away all her toys and I saved her Barbie case from the garbage men.”
“Wow son, that’s a real nice thing you did.” Marcus tried not to sound too proud, but he couldn’t help smiling. “You care a lot about this lil’ girl, huh?”
“I guess so,” JT said. “We’re friends, and we have joint custody. She keeps ’em at school, and I keep ’em on weekends.”
Marcus laughed a little. “Joint custody, huh?”
“Yeah, And she gave me a hug too!”
“Oh, she did? Well, she’s lucky to have a friend like you.” Marcus rubbed the top of JT’s head. “You’re a good man, boy. Keep it up, ok.”
“Ok, Dad.”
Marcus stood up and stretched. “I gotta go see a man about a dog,” he said. “I get back. we’ll play one more game and I won’t go easy on you this time.”
“Ha! Bring it on, Pops!” JT executed another perfect jump shot.
Marcus came out of the bathroom and followed the sound of the blues and melodic humming to the kitchen. He leaned against the door jam and admired the best thing that had ever happened to him. He’d always thought Evelyn was the finest woman in the world, but in the five years since the divorce, she’d gotten even more beautiful. “Mm mm mm, damn woman! You get finer and finer every time I see you!”
“Leave me alone Marcus.” Evelyn stood at the sink cutting whole chickens with a butcher’s knife. “What did he say.”
“I can’t tell you.” Marcus moved across the kitchen and stood behind his ex-wife, massaging her shoulders. “Baby, why so tense? I know how to relax you.”
“I said leave me alone, man. Now tell me what’s up with JT?”
He slipped his arms around her waist, nuzzling her neck. “They say when a man treats his woman like a princess, it’s proof that he was raised by a queen.”
“So you’re saying your mother ain’t a queen, huh?”
“Woman, you wound me,” Marcus said, kissing her shoulder. “He’s ok. Nothin’ to worry about, just leave him alone about the dolls. And don’t tell anybody either.” He held her tighter and pulled her closer, moving in time to the music on the radio.
“You know, Marcus,” Evelyn said, slowly pulling the knife through the joint between the chicken leg and thigh. “It’s bad luck to mess with your ex-wife when she’s dismembering chickens.”
“Huh? What’s that?” Marcus let go of her and took a step back. “Coming, son! Our son is calling…gotta go. You understand. Yeah, JT, I’m coming!”
Heading out the back door, Marcus kicked himself for the umpteenth time for letting that good woman get away.

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