<p>Bad Boy Billy Bishop better be bringing Brittany back before bedtime. Brazenly, Billy began began bringing Brittany back before breakfast. Big Brother Brandon beat Billy bloody behind Big Bart's barn. Badly bruised, Billy begged Brandon's benevolence. "Bastard!" Brandon barked, beholding Brittany's bulging belly.</p>
Scouts Honor (Excerpt)
<p>We weren't thieves. We never stole anything from any person we knew, except for maybe Fat Herschel, but he was technically the size of several people and meaner than any person we knew. Crackheads stole their own mama's only TV and would try to sell you their baby's only pair of shoes. We were just poor, not savages.</p><p>On the first and fifteenth of every month, everybody in our neighborhood got a little book of multi-colored Food Stamps, all purple, red and green. Even our one white neighbor, Mrs. Smith, got them. She was older than our house, my brother Kip said. She wore only housedresses with faded flower prints that matched the bright blooms outlining her screened in porch. She wore her duck feather hair soft pink rollers, pulling taut her rice paper skin, which had yellowed with the years.</p><p>Mrs. Smith cared more about watering her plants, working and re-working her needle-points and pretending not to watch my brother and me, than she cared about the mailman delivering her foodstamps. Kip said she didn't really need them, because she didn't mind when or mother June, who everyone called Junior, took them out of her mailbox.Junior would sometimes sit right on the porch with Mrs. Smith after taking her Food Stamps.</p><p>After a while, Fat Herschel would come pushing his three-wheeled shopping cart, which doubled as his walker and mobile junk store.&nbsp; He would slowly shuffle down the sidewalk. His ankles has years ago buckled under the strain of his several hundred extra pounds. Now, he pounded forward on useless, dangling feet, threatening to topple with each step. Junior would quietly leave Mrs. Smith to finish her needlepoint cocker spaniels and fall in line with Herschel's sluggish stride. Off they would go to some place that made them forget were home was for a few days.</p><p>The stores in our neighborhood carried all the stuff someone had decided people on Food Stamps needed, not much else. Cardboard and sugar-flavored cereals, extra-salty Saltines, pickled, potted sausages and juice that turned our mouths blue, were easy to find. For the things we could not buy with Food Stamps, or dig our of Fat Herschel's cart/walker, like soap that didn't make you itch or cereal with real cartoon characters on the box, we had to go to the big grocery store in the white neighborhood on the other side of the woods. Kip would bring the wagon we found in the alley and pull me most of the way to the store with the bright lights. I'd sit in the wagon reading, resting up for the walk back.</p><p>"Don't move Pepper. I'll be right back. Sit here and don't talk to nobody, ok?" Kip would say, as if I didn't know how to be invisible.</p><p>The white grocery store didn't take Food Stamps and we didn't have money.</p><p>"Did you get me some gum this time?" I'd ask as Kip quickly loaded his heavy backpack and emptied his pockets into the wagon.</p><p>"No, Pep. I told you, I ain't stealing you no more gum. Gum ain't food." Kip said, loading his disappointing haul of Spaghetti-Os, Pork 'n' Beans, peanut butter and Wonder Bread into the wagon.</p><p>Just two months before, for my seventh birthday, Kip got me a pack of Grape Hubba Bubba along with our other groceries. He had just handed me the pack when a tall man came up behind Kip and put his hand on his shoulder. I ran home through the woods. I saved the last piece of gum and gave it to Kip when he came home for juvie a week later.</p><p>
</p><p>At home, we hid some of the cans of food in the empty space underneath my mattress, which used to house a trundle bed. When our old neighbors, the Coopers, had a house fire the year before, they simply abandoned their rented house and everything in it, including their daughter's bed and chest of drawers, which would still smelled like burned wood when I was in high school. Kip slept on the floor in our room, on Juniors old stained mattress.</p><p>Hiding the food in our room was just one part of our plan.At the ages of 11 and 7, respectively, Kip and I had already decided that we couldn't live with our mother. We'd say our prayers every night and end with, "God, please kill Junior." Twice we thought God had heard us when we stood over Junior's bed watching her mouth foaming and her black, track-marked arms flailing. Both times she lived. God wasn't interested, Kip said. We had to leave.</p><p>In seven years, Kip would be joining the army, leaving just Junior and me and all of the things I would come to understand about what happens to girls when no one is watching....</p><p>
A boy can dream.
Every field goal he just kicks like mad.
Perfectly quiet, resilient, steady.
The universe's very wide xpanse yields.