Miss Big and That Nigga’ Down the Street

by Mercie Metcalf

Somewhere down south, where the sun got higher and the education funds got lower, sits a grubby little project called The Ward. The streets weren’t paved in gold, no sir, in fact, they looked greasy and the sidewalks were warped, cracked, and neglected. The trees were a sadder sight with their droopy leaves and pitifully thin trunks. Even the grass couldn’t muster up enough energy to be anything brighter than a dry brownish green.
The people in The Ward all lived in tiny boxed houses placed close together like Legos, each equipped with rusty window unit air conditioners that futilely tried to blow away the heat that was trying to melt every one away. Each little box had a screen door that snapped closed as the dwellers tried to figure out if it was hotter inside or out, and there was always dust in the air. But just because The Ward wasn’t much to look at didn’t mean that the people were unhappy. It just that The Ward was a certain type of place for a certain type of person. From the drunks that liked to preach at the corner stores to the mangy, panting dogs that sought shade underneath the parked cars to the women and children who gossiped and giggled the days away, the people weren’t too happy or too sad. They just were.

Tucked furthest to left of the least dirty street was the house that belonged to one little Miss Big, well her family anyway. Miss Big was the cutest thing in hand me down jeans, with fussy brown hair that was combed and brushed and oiled into two fuzzy puffs that looked like Mickey Mouse ears. Her legs were long and her knees were ashy, but Miss Big was the shortest tall child in The Ward. Some of the older girls who wore their skirts short and popped their gum loud, would tell her that she was too little when Miss Big would ask to play hopscotch or jump rope. And Miss Big would just dust off her knobby knees and puff out her flat chest and say, “I’m Big.” Pretty soon the whole neighborhood would hear her little proclamation and the people would shout back.

“You too big for me!”

One day Big Mama sent Miss Big out to play while she put Big Baby down for his nap. The little girl was hopping her scotch, jumping her rope, and minding her very own business when a man came skulking up to her mama’s screen door. His hair was braided and he had tattoos of women in their underthings on each arm. His pants were saggy like one of Big Baby’s diapers. He had skin the color the mud turned when the white dust of the graveled driveways started to blend in; he smelled like hot onions and sour milk. Miss Big didn’t like him not one bit.
She ran and stood in front of her door and puffed her chest out before his crusty hand with its dirty nails could touch the latch.

“Who are you and what ‘chu want?” she asked with a glare.

He looked down at her, then smiled with teeth stained with a thousand cigarettes and laughed with breath hot as a thousand of The Wards meanest suns. Miss Big was short and he was tall, tall enough to cast a shadow over the whole front door. The shade felt warmer than the sunlight.

“My name is Sincere and I’ve come to see Big Mama, little one,” he said smirking. “I’m gonna make her my queen.”

“I’m big and you ain’t no king,” she responded.

Sincere laughed again and reached into one of his drooping back pockets, the movement causing his muscle shirt to lift up over his rounded gut so that Miss Big could see his boxers. They were black with little red dancing devils, naked as the day they were born. After digging for a bit, his hand came back with a crumpled and smashed pack of cigarettes and a solid gold lighter. He lit one up.

“How you know I ain’t a king? Have you ever seen a king befo’ little one?”

The lighter glinted as he took in a great lungful.

“I’m big and there ain’t no castles ‘round here for no king to live. You. Ain’t. No. King,” said Miss Big.

The man started to look a little angry. He glared down at Miss Big as he released the smoke through his chapped lips. Miss Big glared right back, folding her skinny arms in front of her puffed out chest. Sincere must have found something funny about her sweet, but glaring face because he smirked again and brought the cancer stick back to his lips. After a few inhales, he bent down so that the two were face to face and exhaled those fumes and his funky breath right into her big brown eyes.
Miss Big didn’t even blink.

“Let’s strike a bargain, little one,” he began with a whisper. “I’ll give you three tries to prove I ain’t a king and if you do it, I’ll give you this here lighter.” Sincere held it up to her nose. It was the shiniest thing she had ever seen.

“I’m big. And what if I cain’t proof it?” she asked.

Her eyes darted from the lighter to his eyes and back. “Well if you cain’t prove it, then that means I’ma king and I’m gonna make Big Mama my queen.”

Miss Big had a dilemma on her ashy little hands. Something was telling her that, king or not, this Sincere meant her big little family no good. He was nobody’s king and she was all Big Mama and Big Baby needed. She knew telling him to go away wouldn’t work ‘cause even though she was big she wasn’t as big as him. But it seamed that Sincere was as wealthy in brains as he was in hot water, or else he’d have known the moment he laid eyes on her that she was no fool. She looked down at his worn out sneakers.

“It’s a saaad and sorry king that gotta walk everywhere he go.”

Sincere stood up abruptly and his smirk melted away like an ice cream cone on the sidewalk. He flicked the cigarette to the pavement and ground it beneath his heal. “Shit, that don’t mean nothin’. I got a hundred horses on the corner, too tired to take another step ‘cause of all this heat. I’m just lettin’em rest while I come get my queen, little one.”

Miss Big looked at the holes in his pants and the stains on his shirt.

“I’m big and I wouln’t go ‘round callin’ myself no king with clothes as nasty as yours. You get that dirty from the corner to here?”

The man looked down at his clothes. An offended expression covered his face. He rubbed at his nasty shirt and pulled up his pants a little, looking at Miss Big with eyes that seemed to turn black with hate and anger.

“That don’t mean shit, either little one. You keep talkin’ ‘bout how I look but that don’t mean SHIT!”

Sincere dropped down again, except this time his movements were jerky and he was a little closer than he was before. So close they were breathing the same breath and Miss Big wanted to upchuck. He held up his gold lighter once again and shook it in front of her eyes as he spoke.

“You so smart, you explain this. This here lighter, belongs to a king and that gold is as real as you and me.” He tapped the metal with his index finger and let yet another smile spread across his face, but this time it was triumphant…and a little feral. “Tell me how I got a lighter fit to belong to a king if a king I ain’t, little one?”

The little girl pursed her lips, and appeared to be thinking deep on Sincere’s words. There was no doubt that any king would be proud to own a lighter as fine as the one the man held in his grubby hands. Sincere smiled wider at the girl’s silence.
“That lighter sure is pretty,” she stated and tapped it with her little pointer finger just as he had, “and there prolly ain’t one finer. That lighter belongs to a king.”
Sincere’s yellow teeth parted as he began to laugh, rising to reach for the door’s latch.

“But…you ain’t no king and I’m big.”

Miss Big watched Sincere’s face go slack before it morphed into an ugly(er) mask of rage. He seemed to grow bigger and his shadow became blacker. His milky, muddy skin suddenly had a red glow and even the house began to sweat as the heat took a sharp climb up. Sincere took a great big breath, as if to let out the loudest roar he could, and his lips pulled back– turning his smile into a vicious, yellow snarl. His fist wrapped around the lighter, rose into air, blocking out The Ward’s sun like an eclipse.

She watched the wannabe king’s body tremble and his knuckles whiten. She watched him take breathe in and out like a wounded dragon. She watched him watch her and she didn’t blink. And just as quickly as his anger swelled him into the monster before her, Sincere deflated like an untied balloon. His fist opened and the lighter fell to the ground.

“All right, all right.” He was nodded his head and held his palms up in surrender. Then backed up slowly. “You too big for me,” he said and turned around to walk back down the road that brought him.

“I told you I was big.”

“Yeah, well get yo’ big behind inside and wash up for lunch,” said the voice of Big Mama behind her. Miss Big spun around as her mother finished tucking something into her apron.

“Aw mama…”

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