Cover

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pp. 1-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Melvin in the Sixth Grade

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pp. 1-16

Maybe it was around the time that the Crips sliced up my brother's arm for refusing to join their gang. Or it could have been around the time that the Crips and the Bloods shot up the neighborhood one Halloween so we couldn't go trick-or-treating. It could have even been the time that my brother's friend, Anthony, got shot for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. ...

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Three Ladies Sipping Tea in a Persian Garden

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pp. 17-33

This morning I woke up on my back and alone, because already, I think I've been through another man. A fight about something stupid ended in sex. And then me, alone on my back, listening to my front door close too loudly. So I decided to do something, wear something, that made me feel not like a woman who is sad because of a man. ...

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Break Any Woman Down

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pp. 34-59

Bobby used to love to watch himself so much, videos of his work. He called himself "shy," just like all his other actor friends. Get those people in a room, though, and youVe never seen so much goddamn ham in your life. With Bobby it was always rewind, back up, what did you think of that shot? I look pretty good, right? ...

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Mouthful of Sorrow

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pp. 60-74

Why don't you come and sit with me for a spell, keep me company? That's right. Right c'here on the porch with me. It's evenings like this I get to thinking bout things. When the heat start to break and the sky get that gray-blue in it, touching the tops of the trees out yonder. Best time of day in the summertime. ...

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Hot Pepper

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pp. 75-82

I guess nobody thought nothing of Uncle Smiley taking up with that girl because he'd already bought two wives out of a catalogue. Nobody say where the wives be now, but anybody who know anything about Uncle Smiley—that he ain't usually one to be smilin' ...

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Clay's Thinking

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pp. 83-104

Trip out. She's not the type that usually scams on me. All professional. But this one's trying to. She looks like she works in an office with her suit-type thing going on, gold jewelry, all that. Til have to investigate what's up with her. First time I see her, I'm in the photo lab, wearing my pussy uniform and developing the usual lame pictures when she comes through the door. ...

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Bars

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pp. 105-114

You tell me: a woman in a bar, all alone. Hopping bars all alone. What you think about that? See? I knew you'd say that: what she looking for in a bar all by herself? You sound like my son Rasheed, or La Trice, my daughter, trying to tell me like you know so much. But what Fm telling you is yeah, that's right. I like bars. I like going to bars alone. ...

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Something to Remember Me By

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pp. 115-133

You will celebrate with us, my dying cousin West called up to inform me. You will come out, get out of that lint box you call an apartment, get up off your behind. Do something. ...

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Markers

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pp. 134-156

When my big brother calls me up and tells me to do something, I do it. That's all. He couldn't drive mama to do her errand today because of his double-shift at the sprinkler factory, but somebody ought to, because it's one of the hottest days on California record, ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 157-158

I would like to thank my family and friends for their guidance and support, especially Lou Mathews, Tony Ardizzone, Alison Umminger, Mimi Lind, Sabrina Williams, Cathy Bowman, Laura Williams, Alyce Miller, Romayne Rubinas, Brian Ingram, Daryl Brown, Thomas Jones, Mark LaMonda, ...