I'm much closer to The End of Inner City Blues, the final book in the Stafford Brothers series, than I was the last time I posted an excerpt here. Right now it looks like the book will have a November release date, and I'll put up one more excerpt on the first Sunday in October.
This unedited clip opens Chapter Two where the family is together for Christmas and Mama Stafford takes the daughter-in-law out for the day.
Jesse watched his brothers in amazement. The moment the limo pulled off with the ladies, something peculiar kicked in. None of them would’ve admitted it, but the men actually looked forward to this assignment. They all cared for their own kids at home, but this was different. All six of the brothers and their father along with all nine of their children only happened once a year. The amazing thing was how competitive each of them became. They were all educated professional men, but today it became of utmost importance to prove they knew how to be Mr. Mom.
Of course, his father walked around as though he were the ultimate authority on child rearing sent from On High to oversee them. After he’d offered his unsolicited opinion on everything from what to feed the kids for lunch to how to get Jax to stop crying, Jesse called his brothers into a huddle. “We need to shut him up. What can we do to keep him occupied for the next couple of hours?”
“Let him make the sandwiches for lunch,” Vic suggested.
Charles groaned. “That’ll only take fifteen minutes tops.”
“I have an idea,” Marc said with a sly grin. “I need some lunch. I could send him on a food run. That should get him out of here for at least ninety-minutes.”
“And while he’s gone, we have to think of something else.” Nick finished putting the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and cleared his throat when he saw their father coming into the family room.
Marc jumped right into their plan. “Daddy, can you do me a huge favor?”
The older man nodded his gray head. “What do you need, son?”
“You guys have leftovers from yesterday’s dinner to eat for lunch, but I don’t have anything. Could you make a restaurant run for me? I want something from Tassili’s Raw Reality over on Abernathy. I know it’s a little out of the way, but I’ve been there before, and they have what I want.”
“If you ate normal food like the rest of the world, that wouldn’t be necessary,” their father grumbled with a touch of laughter behind his word. “All right, call it in and give me the address so I can plug it into the GPS.”
Marc sent his brothers a furtive smile. “Thanks, Daddy. I’ll call them now.”
Jesse added onto the plot by saying, “It looks like Cyd didn’t send enough diapers for Aniyah, and I’m afraid I might run out. She can only wear a certain brand because her skin is extremely sensitive and the other brands give her contact dermatitis. If that happens, Cyd’ll kill me.
The old man gazed toward the ceiling as though he felt they were taking advantage of him and then stuck his upraised palm out for some cash. “Fine.”
Twenty minutes later, he left and the six remaining men broke into a fit of laughter. “If he hadn’t left, I might’ve tried to kill him,” Jesse said.
“You’d think nobody in this world ever changed a diaper before he showed them how,” Nick fussed as he carried Jax over to the play yard filled with toys and placed him inside with Jelani and Lili.
Charles chuckled. “The worst part is he isn’t even a pediatrician.”
“He thinks because he had six sons, he knows everything there is to know,” Greg agreed.
“But when you hear Mama tell it, he left all of that up to her when we were little.”
“You know how it was back in the day, childcare was considered woman’s work,” Vic chimed in.”
“Hmph! I’d hate to see what would happen if I told Cher that.”
“They’d probably the last words you uttered before your lights went out, man!” A howl came in reply to Greg’s words.
The brothers spent the time while their father did the restaurant pick-up and diaper run refilling their coffee mugs and playing with the children.
Jesse put Aniyah in the swing Mama had bought in from the garage. He pushed the button hoping she’d also remembered to put new batteries in it. When the seat started to move, and she giggled, he settled back into the sofa pillows and watched Marc as he brushed ChiChi’s hair. “It’ll really be good to have you back in the A, man.”
“I’m looking forward to it.” Marc awkwardly twisted her thick, curly hair into two ponytails and fastened them with an elastic tie with little plastic animal faces on them. When he finished, they were lopsided but neat. “My years in Vegas served their purpose. I proved to myself that I could build a business, and it gave Daddy and me time to work out our stuff.”
“Thanks for having my back about the arrest.” Jesse sent his brother a lingering, heartfelt glance.
“Hey, not too long ago I was his target, so you know I understand. Seems like you really enjoy volunteering at the clinic.”
“I do, man. My work at the practice is fulfilling but in a different way. Saving lives is always rewarding, but I feel like my patients at the clinic need me in a different way. What I do there is actually more like family practice, and it’s for people who might not get the care they need anywhere else. I don’t even think about the money.”
Charles leaned over the plastic barricade keeping the babies confined and ended a tug of war between the two girls by taking away the doll they were fighting over. “Pro bono work is the most gratifying, in my opinion. I’m proud of the work I do at the children’s hospital, but what I did in Nigeria will stay with me forever. I honestly can’t wait until Adanna and I go back for our next tour.”
“When will that be?” Vic asked, then said, “Wait a minute, I hear some arguing downstairs.”
He jogged over to the open door leading to the theater. “Hey! What’s all that noise about?” his booming voice asked.
Jesse couldn’t hear the kids’ response, but Vic ended it quickly by telling the quarreling children, “If I have to come down there, nobody’s going to see anything. Settle it. Now!” A sudden silence drifted up the stairs. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“We’re going again in April for three weeks,” Charles said when Vic returned to the sofa.
“Mama said she’d keep Lani for us.”
“Sweet. You know Mona didn’t support my doing pro bono work, but she came to me a while back and said, ‘I never understood how you and your brothers could work all those hours for free. Now I get it.’ It seems that one of the women who runs the business incubator that helped her get the company off the ground told her about a charity that provides clothing for women getting their first job after being homeless or in a shelter for domestic abuse. She started giving pieces from her collection to them. They asked her to come to a luncheon where she met a few of the recipients and heard their personal stories. She even took a carload of her clothes and shoes to them. I’m proud of the way she’s grown since she’s been in business for herself.”
“No kidding. That’s major.” Jesse paused for a moment. “Mama and Daddy taught us well. That’s why I can’t wrap my head around why he wants me to separate myself from what’s going on in the Hollowell area.”
“It’s because you’re personally involved. He’d be happy if you were just sending a check.”
“This is a different situation, though. Money isn’t going to bring that kid back. Only visible, vocal protests will keep the media focused on the case. Black men have to be seen and heard speaking out against what’s happening with the police in our neighborhoods.”
“Just be careful, man.” Marc slapped him on the back. "Bullets don’t discriminate.”
Coming to Kindle, Nook and paperback November 2016