Homage to Jamaica Kincaid
Don’t smoke cigarettes, and if you do, never smoke in the house or on a date; and by all means don’t walk while smoking or you’ll look trashy; don’t drink till you’re twenty-one, and not much then, some boy will try to get into your pants and there you’ll be—unmarried and a baby to raise. Open the door for the person behind you, whether it’s a girl or boy; there’s no substitute for good manners, it means good breeding; whenever you leave, be sure Blackie has water in the backyard and front. Always answer the phone on the second ring; the first makes you look too eager, no sought-after girl wants to look eager; the third ring makes you look lazy, a sign you’ll be fat one of these days; and work on baking your biscuits, just never eat them or you’ll be big as a house. Always be sweet as pie to the postman, Blackie’s bitten him twice; never contradict your father, especially when he comes home from work; after he’s had two bourbons and finished the news, then you can talk. Always close the door to your bedroom; you never know when a workman’s in the house, and if he sees your bed, he’ll think you’re a loose girl and start talk about you. Don’t let air escape in public; it shows you were raised in a barn; bathe once a day, and if you can’t, always take a whore’s bath; a lady never smells, and that goes for deodorant too. Don’t spit in public; a lady never spits when she can be seen, and if you have a piece of chicken you can’t swallow, excuse yourself and spit it in the toilet. Pay attention to the preacher on Sunday; if his wife catches you looking off, she might think you’re tired from fooling around Saturday night and start talking about you. Take the house key whenever you leave; you never know when your father or I may run out; and never on your life have a boy inside this house unless one of us is here. Boys are out for one thing, and if you’re that kind of girl, you’re going to wind up like your cousin Lynette—unmarried and a baby to raise.
Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. With a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry, she is the author of four poetry and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry and stories appear in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly, Nano Fiction, The Los Angeles Review, and The Collagist. Her recent novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow, is available at Amazon. Reared in the Appalachian South (North Alabama), she now lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with another writer and two cats.