fifteen-year-old that Mama warned me about earlier that had been in so many homes. She was white, with long black hair. She had clear skin with freckles across her nose. She had broad shoulders and big boobs.
Bart opened the door and Penny came in with Charisse, Andre, and Jasmine the youngest, called Jazzie. Penny stepped between the bunks and stood over me. I still had the toothbrush in my hand.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” she said. “I it is a girl!” she said and turned to Charisse, “I think!” They all howled with laughter. “What’s she doing in here with Brat?”
“Must be some mistake, Penny,” Charisse said.
“He said his name is Ronni with an “i.” Have you ever heard of such as that?”
“Ronni with an “i.” How sweet!”
“We haven’t determined if it’s a boy yet!” Andre said.
Penny turned, “Good point, Andre!” She turned back to me. She could be very menacing hovering over me like that. “Ronni, why don’t you be a good sport about this and show us all what you’ve got down there. You could put all the rumors to rest right now.”
She got close enough that I could smell her. Her breath was bad and she smelled like pits.
“If you mean pull my pants down in front of everybody, I don’t want to do that. Just trust me, I have a penis.” I searched her eyes for a second or two. She did not expect me to be so forthcoming.
“Then why do you talk like a girl, all dainty and shit?”
“I’m… It’s just the way I am.”
“I know what’s going on here,” Penny said, “You’re one of those funny boys I’ve seen downtown. You’re a girl with a cock, what did my man call them…?”
“Queers,” Bart said.
“Yeah, he’s a queer all right, but he’s something else, too.” She snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it! You’re a transvestite! That’s what my Angel called them, transvestites!”
“I’ve got to talk with Mama. I ain’t staying in no room with no queer,” Bart said.
“You don’t want your cock sucked every night?” Penny asked. Everyone laughed.
“Not by another boy!” he said. Everyone laughed.
They filed out of the tiny room. I grabbed my used shirt and put it to my face and cried. I hadn’t been there one whole day and I had already ruined everything. I stayed in the room until dinner. Mama made me come to the table.
I sat by Papa on my left, Bart on the right. Papa was a tall man with broad shoulders. He cut his black and gray hair close to his head and had a receding hairline across his forehead. His black forehead shined in the kitchen light. He had smiling eyes and one gold cap on his front tooth. Mama was across from me by his side so she could wait on Papa. He worked at a mill. I don’t know what kind of mill. He was dirty and tired and I felt sorry for him. He looked plainly wore out. His black skin was dusty past his wrists where he had washed.
The kitchen was a big room with the sinks and stove opposite the wide entrance door from the living room. The refrigerator, which was off limits, was to the left when you walked in, but the table took up the rest of the room. It was huge and seated twelve. Someone, Mama I suppose, had already fixed my plate before I sat down. Mama said grace and I cried all through it.
Everyone started eating. I looked at my pork chop, beans, and cornbread. It looked good, but I was not hungry. I drank some iced tea and tried to be invisible. I pretended to eat as I looked around the table. It surprised me to see that the kids were either black, or had some dark-skinned blood in them. Penny was even dark-skinned. I hadn’t noticed it before. I thought she was white,