Part II: Theo Speaks

Original artwork by Susan T. Ranscht. Thanks so much, Sue!

Hello. My name is Theo. My brother Izzy is my favorite person in the whole wide world! Has he told you ‘bout me? I am small, six-years-old. But my Daddy says, “Boy, you have a big heart!” So, I think my heart is too big for my body. How did God fit it inside me? Do you know?

We’re at my Nan’s for the summer. School is out back home in Hassee, Florida. My teacher, Mrs. Shambry, won’t be back when I go. She said she is going to another school within the state. I will be in 2nd Grade when it’s time for school again. Big boy school is the best! I love it more than home school with Mommy.

She’s okay, but at home, I was by myself while Izzy was learning at big boy school. Did my brother tell you that I call him Izzy? When I was a baby, I couldn’t say “Isaiah.” It was too hard. Too many sylla… you know what I mean? Too many letters. Mommy said I started calling him Izzy one day and like white on rice, it stuck.

N’Awlins, Lusiana is where my Nan lives. She has fire for hair and fierce green eyes. She is a train of a woman, all the time chugging along. She don’t walk too good. Something happened to her leg when she was Izzy’s age and it hasn’t been working right since then. Izzy is 12. Did he tell you? I am sure he did. He likes to talk. Nan picked us up from the bus station and the first thing she said was, “I don’t want no mess outta you two this summer.” Mommy would have told her about bad manners. She didn’t even say, “Hello.”

Courtesy of James Michalopoulos

Nan’s house smells like cake and candied yams. It also has a lemony smell to it. She wipes down the walls with something called “Pine Soul” or “Pine Saul.” I don’t know how to say it. Izzy knows what it is. She’s always humming some gospel song. She plays jazz until it’s time for dinner. We don’t watch t.v. at Nan’s house. She says it’s full of mindless drizzle. I don’t know why she calls the t.v. rain. It’s dry, never gets wet.

I have a friend here, my best friend. His name is Zion. He’s 5. We play in Nan’s backyard or Izzy takes us to the park. Zion has a sister, we call her Punkin. She’s always smiling. Izzy thinks she’s cute. Me and Zion sing a love-birds song whenever Punkin sees Izzy:

“Izzy and Punkin/sitting in the tree/ k-i-s-s-i-n-g/first comes love/then comes marriage/then comes Punkin/with a baby carriage.”

Nan caught us singing this one day and popped my legs. We don’t sing it near Nan’s house anymore. She’s too sensitive. Oh! I gotta go! Auntie Josephine just pulled up and every time she comes, she brings candy for us.


You cannot tell Nan that. Nan says, “Josie you gonna cause those boys’ teeth to fall slap outta their heads.” ‘Cept, she says it with a thickness to it. Sometimes in a language Izzy knows, but he’s teaching me too. Oh! You wanna know something else?

Auntie Josephine tells Nan to “Hush up all that fuss, Pip! Don’t nobody wanna hear you speak.” I look at Izzy when Auntie Josephine says this and we keep quiet.

We keep really, really quiet.