by LaPorscha Rodgers
I’m gonna tell you a story. A story ‘bout me an’ my kin, an’ our problem. See, my name is Betrice. Betrice Coleman. Me an’ my family—Mama, Daddy, an’ Sister Darlene—had a problem with the Golds. An’ the Golds had a problem with us…even though we died first. But the Golds thought too highly of themselves an’ claim this here home to be theirs. As soon as they realized they wasn’t the only spirits here they almost died again. They was nasty to us. As soon as they noticed one of us, which was Daddy, they spittin’ “nigger” at him.
Daddy said it was all right, though, ‘cause the way they died. I saw it myself. Mr. Gold was nasty to the black folk who passed these here parts. He’d throw rocks an’ cuss at ‘em, but one time he did it to the wrong one. A ol’ man, didn’t know his name, but he sure was brave. Mr. Gold had smacked the man’s daughter across the face one afternoon. She was just gettin’ her children off the lawn, but that was the problem. Mr. Gold didn’t want no black folk on his lawn. His actions didn’t sit right with the old man (I think the ol’ man was crazy), ‘cause one night he came with bricks an’ torches. He had his sons with him, an’ they burned the place down along with Mr. Gold, his wife, an’ his young daughter.
That was twenty years ago. We been sharin’ this burned down home for twenty years. Except now it’s finally fixed up an’ a new family is suppose to be here soon. Problem is, none of us want to leave. Us Colemans want to stay because our family lived in this house for generations. Our family was slaves here; they were servants here. Our family inherited this home through sweat, blood, an’ tears. The Golds just didn’t want no “nigger stuck to this here good house.”
There was one thing us an’ the Golds shared—we weren’t leavin’. No matter who the newcomers was, we was stayin’. Mr Gold vowed to scare off any black folk who might move in. He doubted any black folk’d move in, though, sayin’, “Ain’t no nigger affordin’ this here home.”
That caused Daddy an’ Mama to vow to scare off any white folk. Daddy really hate white folks. I understan’ his reasons, mainly ‘cause we died at their han’s. Most of us, anyway. Sister Darlene died of illness. I think it’s ‘cause we were all gone, but Daddy, Mama, an’ I were hung—years before the Golds came. It all happened ‘cause Daddy crossed a white policeman. The man was gettin’ on me an’ Mama for bein’ somewhere we wasn’t allowed to be. He started yellin’ an’ shovin’. Once Daddy saw, he blew up.
It was April when the new family arrived—two parents an’ a baby. Once Daddy saw them, he changed. He no longer wanted to drive them out.
“Maybe things is different,” he said.
But seein’ the new family enraged the Golds, especially Mr. Gold. Never in his day—any of ours really—had we seen a black with a white. Mr. Gold wouldn’t have it. Now we had a new problem. We had to protect that family from those crazy white ghosts. An’ we did. We awakened the spirits of our ancestors an’ drove the Golds to hell. We protected the new family from the Golds, but couldn’t protect them from the res’ of the world. Their child was killed by a rock. The husband was beaten, an’ the wife, she couldn’t stan’ it an’ went away.
The house is empty again. There are no new spirits; me an’ my family are the only bein’s left. The husband, Earl, he didn’t stay. I guess he had no reason to. He wasn’t a stubborn white man, an’ he had no bloodlines attached to this house. The house, for him, was jus’ a reminder of what couldda been. But for me it became more than a inheritance, more than a home. It’s what I thought could never be.