I have already decided: Today is the day I will shoot Rahiem.
He is my mother's loser-boyfriend.
Mama's loaded shotgun has been leaning against her dresser for the past few weeks, practically begging me to use it. She usually keeps it locked away in her closet.
I've thought about shooting Raheiem more than a few times since he moved in two years ago, but as much as I tried to get up the nerve, I couldn't do it. I've always been a punk. Even my father used to say so when he still lived with us. In fact, it is the only name Rahiem has ever called me, even though my name is Gabriel.
I don't know why mama chose Rahiem as her boyfriend anyway. Who wants to date a pill-pushing weed-head? My mama, obviously. She said he reminds her of Denzel Washington. Ha! In her dreams! If she was a single woman with no kids, I wouldn't care who she shared her bed with. But she DOES have kids. Three of us, in fact. I’m eighteen, Sadie is thirteen and Rahiem Jr. is one.
I can protect myself, but my little sister Sadie is a different story. I've caught Rahiem looking at her when he’s taking us to school. In that way. You know which way I'm talking about. The same way he looks at mama when he wants something from her. And Sadie says he tries to hug her every morning after they drop me off. Sadie says he only leaves her alone when she starts to cry.
So I decided today is the day. I'm gonna shoot Rahiem right in mama's bed after mama goes to work and then lie and say someone broke in looking for his drugs. Mama will know the truth, of course, but she would never call the police on her own child...
Rahiem is sleeping as I take mama's gun in my hands and point it right at his skinny chest. I watch it rise and fall as I place my finger on the trigger. I can’t stop shaking.
I begin to count down from ten in less than a whisper:
Ten, nine, eight....
But what happens if I miss him? What if the gun jams? What happens if he kills me instead?
And how will mama pay the rent if Rahiem's not around? Will we have to live with Big Mama again? I hated when we lived with my grandmother. Her house smelled like mothballs.
I expect the gun to go off but instead, the click is Mama's bedroom door opening. I turn around to see Sadie standing there. "Gabriel! What are you doing with mama’s gun?" Sadie grabs the gun out of my hand just as Rahiem opens his eyes.
"What are y'all bastards doin' in my room? Can't you see I'm trying to..." he stops mid-sentence as he sees the gun in Sadie's hand. "Were ya'll trying to kill me?" He sits up in bed and rubs his eyes. "Ha! Look at this! A punk and a toothpick trying to act all bad!" He laughs.
"We weren't trying, I was GOING to kill you if Sadie hadn't come in to save you," I scream. Rahiem's eyes are so wide, they look like they are about to pop out of his head and roll across mama's shag carpet.
"If you try to touch Sadie again, you won't lived to see another day. I mean that," I say. My voice is squeaky and shaky but I mean every word.
I expect Rahiem to lunge at me but instead he pulls a cigarette out of the pack on the nightstand and lights it. "It's about time," he says as he blows a cloud of smoke into my face.
"About time?" I ask. My voice is still shaking.
"That your punk ass got a backbone. I’ve been waiting for this since I moved in here two years ago,” Rahiem says as he laughs. “Now look at you! Mama’s boy is finally a big man!” he said as he hits my chest with the back of his hand.
Sadie leans mama's gun against the wall just as mama comes into the room.
"Did I miss the party?" Mama says as she twirls around the room, showing off her new yellow dress. "I love to see all my babies getting along. I had to come back to get my lunch," she says as puts one arm around me and one around Sadie.
I turn away from Rahiem to mama. "You look pretty," I say as I notice yet another black eye under her caked-on make-up.
"You been crying, Gabe? What happened now? Jeez, I wish you would toughen up a little,” Mama says as she pats my curly afro. Her eyes move from me to her shotgun. “Gabe, have you been messin with my gun? It’s been moved. "
"No, ma'am," I say with my head lowered.
"Are you sure? Because I know it was--"
"Dammit, Sheila, didn't you hear what the boy said?" Rahiem says as he stands up. “Ugh. I gotta get outta here. This place is giving me a headache.”
“When you comin’ back?” Mama asks.
“I don't know,” Rahiem says as he pulls on his shirt and jeans and kisses mama on her forehead. When he brushes past me, he almost knocks me over.
We watch Rahiem’s Cadillac peel out of our driveway and bounce down our street, kicking up dirt along the way.
That evening when I come home from school, Mama is sitting on the steps waiting.
Every day for the next two weeks, mama spends the evening waiting for Rahiem to come back.