WHEN MY FAMILY WAS SPLIT UP, John and Inez Williams took me in. Inez was a licensed kindergarten teacher. John lived off his pension and worked odd jobs as a carpenter’s helper. There were also extracurricular activities that I would come to know oh-too-well John was a nice guy, reserved, who stood about five-foot-seven. On the other hand, Inez was quite the opposite in stature and temperament. She stood about five-foot-eleven and weighed one-hundred-ninety pounds. Because she didn’t believe in sparing-the-rod-and-spoiling-the-child, she strictly enforced a no-nonsense policy. Many felt her wrath, including adults. I consider this period in my life to be the calm before the storm.
Although I was isolated from my family and terribly lonely, my life was still better because at least they were able to meet my basic needs. Inez was a great cook, and John was no slouch, either. Whenever she was too busy, John’s cooking more than sufficed. Every chance Inez got, she preserved fruit, vegetables, or whatever, always keeping the cupboards and pantry full.
Inez baked some of the best cakes and pies one could fathom, but her specialty was chicken and dumplings. They were the epitome of what chicken and dumplings should be. I loved them until an unfortunate incident occurred, which I will elaborate on later.
For awhile, I had other children to play with, which helped my loneliness. Some of us shared a friendship that evolved into high school. I was even afforded the chance to attend several grand birthday parties.
I remember one party vividly. I was misbehaving and running through the house. It just so happened that my big nose came in full contact with a lamp stand. Blood gushed out from my nose onto my clothing and the floor. I thought Inez would comfort me, but to my astonishment, she delivered my first public butt-whipping. It was humiliating. It blistered my bottom for days, and my little heckling friends would never let me live it down.
The Williams lived in an old house with a tin roof and a big front porch. The old tin roof always seemed to leak whenever it rained, even if it was a mere sprinkle. John and Inez were adroit at placing jars and buckets under the leaky spots; it wasn’t unusual to see them running around the house at the first hint of precipitation.
Thinking of the front porch brings remembrance of watermelons and flies. Many times, I sat on that front stoop eating watermelon and fighting flies. There wouldn’t be a fly in sight until I brought out the watermelon. Then they would try to muscle me out of my piece. It was a wonder that I even got half.