The 9 Lives of Oliver 6: VIVA VONETTA!

Ollie’s sister, Vonetta, already had a room at her house for him. He would get a job. She was responsible, young, and kept an eye on him. Moms always said, “Vonetta always wanted a little brother.” Her twin, Loretta, was technically 10 whole minutes younger than Vonetta, and was less excited about the idea. Vonettta and Loretta always kept a safe distance from Moms. They lived with their father and step-mom. Sista Moms’ and Grandy’s insistent scripture quoting, religious fervor, and condemnation of their lifestyles was too self-righteous for them. Moms had a distant way of being close – but she loved her daughters, greatly. 

Vonetta cherished Oliver and always prioritized her visits with him. She gifted him the most thoughtful gifts; when Moms didn’t have much concern for Christmas, or birthdays. Vonetta carried him to visit river streams in the mountains with her hippie friends; to see the drag races, or talk for hours on driving trips to Boston. She was a well-liked employee at Ford General Motors, until she was laid off in the mid 80’s. She liked to party like her daddy, and smoke those ‘refers.’ Vonetta was the first person Oliver ever remembers with an Afro and a black fist. 

Vonetta was his good soul with a loving heart. Sista Moms kept Oliver too isolated in her opinion. He had no friends. Every time he made one, he moved away. Moms’ head was caught up in church teachings and in all the prayer ministries she sent dollars to like, “Lotto.” Vonetta had always assured him he always had a place to go. Bet. Fast-forward six months.

Oliver transferred back to his hometown – from Dwight PHS to HackenSaturn HS. He moved in with Vonetta and began navigating life without parental guidance. He wanted to live on the good side of the tracks – wherever that was – he had been to both. He knew his family was good people. They were a snapshot of spiritual, magical Black folk descended of enslaved Africans and Indigenous Americans from the Deep South. His peoples moved up North into the projects and marginalized living; then, bought houses and land. Head in the heavens, with just a toe on the earth, was mighty fine living for them. 

Life with Vonetta and her daughter, Dee, was great. The three of them had always been a tight unit when Oliver visited. Road trips to Boston, TV whenever, cool food, and looking out for his niece. However, feelings began to change after a few months of him moving in. He was parenting and cooking, more. He noticed little pointy, red straws like flags around the house. Cloudy mirrors carelessly abandoned. Vonetta was always running out. Suddenly, a slimy new boyfriend appeared, “Leon,” who was supposed to be the plumber had already made an ugly hole in the living room ceiling. The house was part of her inheritance and it was slipping away.

A nauseating new toxic odor now tainted the air in the house. Whispers behind closed doors more often locked, became the fashion in the house. In passing, Vonetta sniffed uncontrollably, and joked about her loss of appetite, “At least, I can lose that weight, now. Heh, heh.” Her eyes appeared drowsy, yet, she seldom slept.  She missed work, more. She was easily agitated, and suspicious of Oliver – WATCHING her, JUDGING her – convinced he was eavesdropping through the house vents. 

Oliver took more and more responsibility for his niece’s care. He woke Dee in the morning, made sure her teeth were brushed, helped her dress, made breakfast and dinner. He dropped Dee off to school, and then arrived late to his classes. His first period teacher empathized. Sometimes, he would come home before Dee – to find Vonetta gone, and Leon – naked and passed out. Oliver complained to Vonetta that Dee could have seen Leon. Two days later – the day after his 16th birthday – Vonetta phoned O. from Leon’s with instructions: Oliver should move out immediately and go find his mother. He moved out the next day.

Intellectual property of ML. King, House of Aleijuan, all rights reserved, 2019


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