“Excuse me? How old is he? OMG!” Maureen blurts out loud into her iPhone.
Silvia darts her eyes of of the highway to glare over at her sister, “What? What’d he say? How old?”
Maureen holds up her hand, waves her away, “Heifer! Pay attention to the dang road, I got this!”
Silvia swerves, darts the mini Ford around a pothole, looks at her sister again frowning.
Maureen growls, points two fingers at the road, “Focus girl! Focus your eyes in the dang Focus! Detroit already sports sinkholes that swallows up cars!”
“Swallows up, say what?” Their cousin Chaps blurts into the phone.
“Chaps, relax, it wasn’t what you’re thinking! Go back to what you were saying. What happened when Joynae met Silva’s -so called ‘internet boyfriend’?
“Girl, let me tell you, that lil’boy had mad game, I see how he pulled lil’ vulnerable Silvas heart right out of her chest!”
“Oh snap, how little? Come on now, spill the beans!”
“Listen, okay, so Joynae got cuz Silva’s voice down pat and last night convinced lil’Rerun to go downtown Dayton and have dinner with her at this plush lil’dive called De’lish Cafel, and ooh um, lemme tell you about the Creole Ribeye’s, Mama would be proud, uh huh…”
“Chaps! The boy!”
“Oh right, okay so Joynae got lil backside just like Silv’s but not her funny looking mug…” Maureen snickers as Silvia glances over curiously. “Anyways, so girl, Joynae’s at the bar waiting on lil’Gary Coleman, we know’s he’s going to have on a Polo shirt and TImbs while carrying a white rose. I’m hiding out at a back table while she has her backside all popping fresh all over the place causing a traffic jam in the restaurant you know what I’m saying. So, we looking for this man and then walks in, a boy maybe, eleven, twelve?”
“How old? Oh darling!” Maureen gasps.
Silvia swerves again disoriented.
“Girl he was pimping it too, ill Kangol pulled back, Pelle Pelle’d out, Gucci rope with the Timbs and Polo on, killing it for Junior high!”
Maureen shakes her head, “Dang! For real?”
“This lil boy strode like he done owned the store, ninety degree lean, poppin and locking, oozing swag all over the place! I see how he got past security, they was confused!”
“What Joynae say to him??”
“Girl, I’m getting there, let me tell you! Joy put it on him! He approached, all swagerific, ready, thirsty! Lil’boy had the nerve to lick his lips when he spotted the booty, girl, it was horrible!”
“What she do??”
“All he got was “Silvia?” And it was on! She turned around slow, glared at him – you should have seen his face, his jaw dropped, his demeanor just all changed up. Joynae pointed her finger and snapped, “I got your Silvia boy! Boy you trying to catfish my ll cuz, wait, wait a minute, Tremel? Tremel Bishop? You were in my science class when I substituted at the prep academy! What! I should tan your hide over my knee you messing with the wrong fam! What’s wrong with this picture? I know your Mama!”
Maureen starts clutching her sides trying not to laugh too hard.
“Girl, the whole joint was rolling, even the singer Dave Speed and the Platinum Blend band had to pause the jams to see what what up! Joynae was still cussing him out as he and his crew ran out of the place, oh and trust, I have that on my phone, watch, I’ll send you the link to the upload!”
“Oh girl, that is nuts! I can’t even hold it! I have to pee! Goodness, why does Zeke’s keep calling this phone?
SIlvia scrunches her face, “Well its my phone thats why! They probably wanting to know where the bread order is, I’ll get back with them later.”
“Cougar, they calling back to back. Pedophile.”
“What? Pedophile? Cougar?”
“Honey child, handle your business, I’m trying to walk these dogs and I think they just spotted a muskrat! Cujo slow down!” Chaps blurts out.
“Boy, a muskrat?? Where are you with those crazy dogs?”
“I’m out in the Glen Helen, they bout to yank me down these steps and I’m not the one!”
“Oh, that pretty place with all the big trees and waterfalls and stuff we went to when was kids? Aww, I like that place.”
“Well drag your honey butt down here sometime and get your nature on, right now I’m bout to flip down these slippery steps, I gotta go bye!”
“We here.” Silvia brings Maureen to reality as they have left the highway and are driving through a Cass Corridor neighborhood. Maureen rolls up her window. “What’s the matter with you, you scared?” Silvia snickers.
“Girl, I had nightmares about this neighborhood since we was kids. I don’t like coming over here.”
“Nightmares? This neighborhood bout as hood as any other Detroit area. What’s so different? Heck, I like some of the music shows I’ve come to down here.”
Maureen looks at her solemnly, “Girl, you know this is the last place daddy was before he died. I think he saw the Rouge.”
Silvia arches her eyebrow, “Say what? The what?”
“Girl, the Nain Rouge, didn’t you ever hear that horror story when you was younger?” Maureen barely registers above a whisper prompting Silvia some concern. “When people see the lil’ evil gnome like character something bad happens to you. People have died, or got really sick, had war, lost their fortunes. Probably why Detroit bankrupt now! Daddy was down here getting flour for the restaurant right there around the corner, next thing you know he had the heart attack. I don’t mess with this neighborhood.”
“You really serious bout this, what is this, an urban legend of some sort? Oh my goodness, Maureen believes in fairy tales?”
“Girl bye, I have to remember you the baby and they didn’t share these stories with you. Let’s find this Ponyi character, see what Kevin’s got himself into, and get out!” Maureen eyes open wide as she sulks down in the seat.
“And we need to discuss this intel that Chaps found out.” Silvia pauses spotting the huge banner portraying ‘Nain for Manager’ in announcement of the Marche du Nain Rouge parade.
Silvia shakes her head, “Wow, and I thought you was the only loony one.”
They pull down a nondescript but busy neighborhood street, children are playing, people are outside barbecuing, tending yards, hanging laundry in this mostly working class mixed cultural area. A carload of men slowly drive by blasting music and stare at the girls as they approach a small house set back from the road. An older car on blocks hogs the small driveway, hanging laundry cloaks the entranceway.
The phone buzzes again, Maureen holds it up to show twenty-two missed messages. Silvia shakes her head. Maureen turns it off and hands it to Silvia.
“And what are we doing here again? Darling, this doesn’t look promising.” Maureen surmises as Silvia climbs out of the car.
“Sis, let’s go, we didn’t come out here for nothing. This girl may know something, anything about where our brother has been for what, nine years? We owe this to Mama if anything, I would hate if something…”
“Shut it! Nothing’s going to happen to Mother besides getting better – right? Let’s go.”
Maureen dons her Louis Vuitton bug glasses, sprays some Allure perfume on her Versace leather coat making sure she’s fabulous arriving at the home. Silvia looks down to earth in her Apple Bottoms outfit as neighbors notice their stroll in tandem towards the door.
A petite Indian woman, in traditional multicultural shawl arrives on the small porch carrying a small basket of laundry. Maureen and Silvia stop short of the porch taking in the small woman as she does the same to them. Even doing domestic chores the young woman looks graceful, classy makeup applied, hair done back.
“May I help you?” She looks at them quizzically. “I don’t talk to solicitors, you go up street, no thank you.”
The sisters eye each other sassily, “Excuse me? Anyways baby girl are you Ponyi? Ponyi Patel?” Maureen breaks the ice.
“And who wants to know, I’ve paid my taxes, my bills are up…”
“Girl, this isn’t about you. We’re not collecting any money or nothing. We’re looking for somebody you may know…” Silvia injects.
Ponyi arches her back, gets a look of defiance on her face, starts to retreat to the house, “I don’t know anybody, I’m not from here. Please go.”
“Ponyi, please, its our brother. Kevin, we’ve been looking for him a long time. Please.”
Ponyi pauses hearing his name before opening the door.
Maureen steps forward, “Wait, I’m not sure what your relation is with our brother but you have to understand, we love him and he left us under bad circumstances. We’re not intending any harm to him if you’re trying to protect him. We miss him dearly and you seem to be the only connection to him after our mother cho…choked your name out on her hospital bed…” Maureen is not able to continue.
Ponyi grips the door, stoic in her stance until she hangs her head.
Maureen turns not able to face them, she grips the laundry pole line. Silvia takes a breath and steps forward, “Ponyi, our mother is sick, possibly dying, she has not said a word in the last two days – until she said you, who we’ve never ever heard of. Please help us.”
The women are at a standstill as silence envelopes the claustrophobic yard. Not even the busy neighborhood could be heard. Maureen takes a breath and wipes her face. The next person who sobs is Ponyi. Silvia and Maureen eye each other and take the cue to approach her.
“Ponyi sweetie, please.” Silvia touches her shoulder.
Ponyi looks up, her makeup smeared, her face softened. Maureen takes the basket. “I know who you are Woods sisters. I am sorry, this is very difficult for me to retain this secrecy, this has never been my intent.”
They sit on a bench on the porch, “Secrecy? What is going on Ponyi, where you dating my brother?”
Ponyi hangs her head lower as the girls try to comfort her. “It’s okay Ponyi, we just want to contact him, for our mother.”
“He doesn’t think we blame him for what happened to our dad does he? That is so not the case if it is.” Silvia blurts out as even Maureen eyes her surprised.
“You two are nice, your brother spoke highly of you. Sorry to come all this way and I am no help. For you see, your brother, I have not seen him in long time, my apologies.”
“Wait, really? I mean, do you have his number, email, anything to contact him?”
Ponyi shakes her head, children laughing, coming closer interrupts their moment. Ponyi gets her wits about herself and stands, “Listen, it was nice meeting you two, I had hoped meeting his family would have been under better circumstances, give my regards to your mother, she is an outstanding woman, I must go.”
Maureen starts to become unraveled, stands, “OMG, Silvia, I knew this was a dead end, this whole situation with Mama and Kevin, this neighborhood, this is getting to me, come!”
The children become louder as Ponyi nervously tries to get her basket into the house, “I must go, good day Woods sisters.”
“Wait, what, what is happening? Ponyi please.” Silvia attempts to walk into the house with her much to Ponyi’s surprise.
“Please Sissy, let’s go! I feel the Nain Rouge is here!” Maureen is escaping halfway across the yard tripping over children’s toys.
Ponyi pushes on the door, “Ms. Woods, please!”
Silvia, taller than the short Indian suddenly notices something odd on the adjoining bookshelf. She stiffens, quiets as Ponyi follows her gaze. Her pupils widen, she bites her lip as the two women eye each other.
“Ponyi, is that?”
Ponyi shakes her head, “No, no, please, do not go there.”
“Oh my goodness!” Silvia’s mouth drops as she whips out her phone, she turns it on and searches for a number.
“No, its not what you think, Ms. Woods please! I beg of you!” Ponyi pleads to deaf ears as Silvia heads off the porch.
Maureen, almost at the car but trying to avoid a bicycle notices Silvia all smiles, “Heifer, what in the world? What happened? Who you calling?”
“Ugh! They are still calling crazy from the restaurant!” Silvia puts her finger up as Maureen curls her lip. “I’m calling my home girl Layne Weiss, shes a journalist.”
Ponyi puts her face into her hands.
“Layne? Hey girl, hey. What you doing?”
Layne is surrounded by thumping music and lots of chatter, “Living the dream girl, about to interview Slum Village up at the Fillmore. What’s good, how’s Mama?”
“She’s the same girl, still on critical. Hoping for the best.”
“Sorry baby, I’m hoping too.”
“Slum Village huh? That’s your boys, how they doing?”
“I know right, they doing it big up here with Guilty Simpson and Black Milk, I’m in heaven right now. Interviewing all of them!”
“Oh I’m jealous! Need to take me next time!”
“Nothing but a thing to call me, you know where I be.”
“No doubt, speaking of which, what’s the word on Kommandoz performing here? I remember you interviewed them some time also. Aren’t they coming soon?”
“Kommandoz? Oh yeah, Utopia already copped tickets from me for their show. They’re here this weekend.”
“Oh goodness, that is wonderful! Layne, you ever talk with their drummer?” Silvia searches her phone for pictures of the band.
“Their drummer? Kwame? You know, I’ve talked with everybody in the crew but he seems to never be available. Odd, he’s the D-town native too.”
“Wait, did you say Kwame? Is that the right name?” Ponyi sobs on the porch.
“Yeah, last article I posted his name Kwame Da’man, girl you know that’s probably his stage name. Why?”
Silvia gasps, looks at an obscure sideview picture of Kwame.
“Silvia?” both Layne and Maureen ask her quizzically.
“Layne girl, I know you busy, thanks baby girl. I’ll be reading your Inmylanye.com when I get home!”
“Oh okay girl, had me worried. You do that and make sure to get me some of that great Ten-cheese soul macaroni, I’ve been craving it! Hit me up you need anything!”
“Okay girl, hook me up for that show and I’ll bring you all the cheesy mac you want!”
Silvia hangs up the phone and approaches Maureen trying to get her heel out of the bicycle spokes. “Baby girl, what was all that? Said this place was getting under my skin – so this better be good.” Silvia eyes her with a weird smile, mild look of shock, Maureen looks at her concerned, “Wait, what, what is it?”
Silvia holds up her phone to show the picture of the drummer, Maureen’s eyes go wide.
Their moment is interrupted by emerging children finally arriving. The children laughing, running, kicking a ball back and forth. They range in age from seven to nine, two of them are little Hispanic boys, one white, two black, the middle child is distinctively black but with a reddish tint and wavy curls.
This boy slows, eyes the women startled, curious. Maureen and Silvia stand rigid, with the same surprise, their gut feeling was one of familiarity.
The boys friends look on unaware their friend’s predicament.
“Hey Kevin, see you at school!” The boys race off to their respective homes for lunch.
Silvia drops her phone as Maureen’s mouth gapes.
Ponyi sighs, “Kevin, say hi and come eat your lunch.” He waves nervously at them as they meekly wave back. He races off into his home hugging his mother before entering.
Ponyi shrugs, “We’ll talk.”
The sisters nod speechless.