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Isaiah & Theo

Courtesy of New Orleans Museum of Art

I am bussed here from Tallahassee, Florida. I have my things. They are with me. My brother Theo carries a bag bigger than he is, wobbling and whining outside of the crowded bus station. It is hot. The sun is sitting on the top of a building pelting us with pain. I do not need its rays. Theo likes sunshine. He is six. I am twelve. There is no reason for the gap. It is just how things happened in our home. This is what my mother says, “I did not plan the gap. It just happened.” She is Creole. Her name is Antoinette. She corrects people who try to combine the TO and N without recognizing the I. I shake my head. Theo and I have it easy. No need in correcting people.

I am named after my Father’s Father, Isaiah Henry Moody. I am not moody, though. I do not like our last name. It is a trigger for things I cannot explain. People see “Moody” and think, “he’s gonna be trouble.” My middle name is different than my Grandfather’s. Pierre. Theo, Antoine. Mama wanted a girl, she did not have one. So, Theo got to be Antoine. I am happy to be Pierre. We wait for my Nan to pick us up. She has wild hair with flashy green eyes and walks with a limp. The story of her disability is one she would switch-me-up for if she knew I was gonna tell you.

But, I am gonna tell you anyway. She was twelve, like me. Her Daddy advised her to go out back and clear the weeds near the shed. She wasn’t all too eager to do this, but she did it. Standing near the shed was an ax, nothing dull about it, her Daddy used it every single morning to chop wood.

Well, let Nan tell it, the ax jumped up and introduced itself to her shin. Theo and I always roll our eyes when she gets to this bit. We have heard of the juju stories from our family members over the years and Nan’s is the only one we do not believe. She said someone cursed her, made that ax cut her leg. Theo and I think Nan did it to get out of clearing the weeds. The elders say spirits from moons ago surrounded her shaking body, wrapped her in a thick cloth, and prayed to the ancestors for them to heal her. Before they could release her, Nan’s Daddy ran outside and caught a glimpse of the witchery and bid her to stay inside for four months. Why four months? We will never know. Nan always forgets when she gets to that part. But, her limp, let her tell it, is from that very story I just shared with you.

Courtesy of Insidenola.org

Nan, along with her limp and wild hair, is here to pick us up. We smile. We greet her with proper manners. She is loud, not because she is deaf, but because she is just loud. She has a heart full of acceptance and everything that we are, she adores. Theo likes her homemade shrimp and crab etouffee. He also goes bananas for jambalaya. Me? I love gumbo. Nan makes three of our favorite dishes upon every visit and after that, it’s what she puts on the table. You’ll either eat it or starve. “I cooks what I cook. I don’t do no double cooking. What you get on that dinner table is what you get.” We like what we get. We don’t complain. We see what complaining gets young folk around here. We don’t want that.

Nan has a sister. Aunt Josephine. She visits sometimes when we are there and she brings her dog, Pepper too. Pepper is spunky. Theo loves Pepper. They run out back, Pepper eager to fetch and Theo happy to throw.

I sit. I watch. I read.

This summer, it is my goal to finish Native Son and The Third Life of Grange Copeland. I am a voracious reader. My free moments, I read. I absorb what I can, when I can, because I do not feel like I am being challenged in school. Daddy says, “Educate yourself! You do not know something, ask questions! Those answers do not suit you, ask more questions. If you feel those questions are still not answered, research until your mind goes numb.” He is a professor at a prestigious university and I cannot share the name with you because that would be revealing what my Daddy makes as his annual income and in my house, “My business is my business. It should not leave these walls.”

But, Aunt Josephine gives me books to read. Books she’s read within the year. I savor them. I read to Theo at night for storytime. He never interrupts. He sits still and looks at me and the book we have selected intensely as if the scenes from the book will jump out and grab us. I love storytime. We both learn. We become the essence of the book, if only for an hour. Aunt Josephine calls Nan “Pip.” No one will tell us the story of why. Theo called Nan “Pip” one time and we liked to never hear the end of it, “last time I checked, you ain’t no 65-year-old woman with auburn hair. I am not Pip to you. I am your Nan.” He never called Nan “Pip” again.

So, this is where we are. New Orleans, Louisiana for the summer. Our second home. Want to know a little secret? I love coming here, but I won’t tell my parents that. They send us here because they think we hate it.

Let’s keep that between us, okay?