The stories presented here are installments in an anthology of short stories written by John Sprecher entitled “Welcome My Name is Ruby.” The anthology documents the life of a fictional character named Ruby across various moments of her journey, told most often in the voice of the character at the time of the story. The anthology contains adult themes. John Sprecher holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).
These folks, I think they think they can fool me by puttin baby books on the bed but I know a pubic hair when I seen one and I seen one again today on the sheet when I pull the blanket back. I likes too how someone fold down the bedspread on this one side only, sneaky see, and stack the pillows on the same side like it was only one of em readin there or sleepin there and then they got up. But this room, it smells like sex and yesterday was Thursday and Thursday is every other day, and every other day since they checked in a week ago this bedroom is this way, and every other day it’s not. Fact, this bedroom ain’t even occupied when I thinks about it. They sleep upstairs with the little girl in the portacrib in their room, the little boy’s across the hall in the other bedroom, so this has to be their sexin room as I see it, otherwise what’s a curly hair doin in bed if you’re readin stories to babies right, unless you’re doin wrong by babies? And I don’t think that’s what they doin, no.
They seem like nicer white folks who got money but not so much cause they don’t seem to know what to do or how to act with me around, fixin their beds and washin their clothes and foldin their laundry and doin dishes by hand, this rental’s old dishwasher just won’t clean glass clean. You can see it on their sunburn faces, especially the man, he don’t much like to look at me, white folks uncomfortable with a black woman in uniform tendin to them and I know they thinkin: I didn’t ask for no slave, just a lovely all clusive rental house on the beach for two glorious weeks in paradise.
Why I say that they got money but not so much is cause I know that look on white faces, like guilt like in the Bible, the sins of the father become the sins of the son. I don’t see it much on whites who really rich cause they don’t even see you, they don’t even see my nametag Welcome My Name Is Ruby. With them you just like another piece a furniture, cause they got the same furniture workin for them at home or in their office or wherever. In particular white teenage boys that got a lotta money, they can look right through you even if you standin square in front of em, so as to see out the window to the beach and some chicky walkin by.
Cept that white boy last month. Now he looked me right square in these old grey bloodyshot eyes when I opened this bedroom door and he was kneelin on this same mattress, straddlin like he was ridin a stallion my black young Grenadine man who bussed tables at the restaurant, they both whip their heads aroun like the gates a hell parted when I opened that door and me like Lucifer standin in the doorway. That white boy, he didn’t look through me then like he done before, he saw me good and square and it was the first time since he came into my house fo sure. I knocked, I know I knocked, I musta cause I just closed that door without makin a sound and that family checked out four days later and I kept my job, the boy kept his job too, but he since quit I think, I don’t see him around no more.
You learn a lot about human beins when they live in your house. This family, they like snacks like I like snacks. They snack all day, candy wrappers and soda pop and three different bags a snackie chips in the frigerator, the mother learned quick after a day open in the cupboard if you wanna keep food from stalin in this humidity, you frigerate it, so that’s how I deduce they must be from the north. The wife she younger than the man by ten years I’d say and she babies them babies, they walk all over her skinny ass, the five or six year old most of all and even the girl, she not even three and a what a whiner. But beautiful, just a beautiful white child with bluest blue eyes. They drink pricey alcohol and a lot of it the way them bottles empty each day, fancy names I ain’t familiar with, but I recognize the words vodka and rum in my life, that tells you somethin. Same with launderin clothes, you learn more than you can begin to wanna know when you turn a stranger’s underwear back outside out or smell their smell.
All of it, you learn about their soul.
What these folks are mostly are indifferent, you ask me, and by that of course I mean these parents. Spend nine to two with people every day like I do here in my house, Saturdays and Sundays too, the roles kinda reverse after a certain while, my estimate is four days, and you see through them just as clear as they see through you. It’s like they get naked, they all become naked, some it takes longer than others but eventually there it is, stripped away, their bare soul. Now these guests grant you, they willing to acknowledge me but not too much, kinda howdy how are ya that’s it gotta go now Ruby, so that tells me what I observe earlier about money, and maybe other circumstance, too, like they been humbled some in their lifetime or maybe they have some Jesus light in em. But washin their dirty plates like I do, by hand at the sink, or wipin their table clean or pickin up their wet towels or sweaty tee shirts off the floor, between it all you see them for real, the man sittin at a computer too much and the lady sunnin too much, while the girl watches TV too much and the boy is in his room with the door closed playin video somethin too much. At least that’s how Ruby sees it when I look at em and then outside to that gorgeous stretch a Carolina beach they ignore that God hisself personally came down and traced outa sand with his almighty artist finger. They don’t know what they missin and one day it be too late.
I never got to go to no beach, not that I remember or that Mama ever told me. My daddy died when I was six years old. We lived in Detroit then. When Roy come to live with us I shoulda asked, he had a good job at the auto plant and he was kind to us. But then his cousin Oz come poker playin one Friday night and shushed into my room and climbed his drunk ass on top of me, and I smell his man sex and told him get away and the bedroom door swung open and Oz’s Lucifer, Roy, he was standin in my doorway the hall light behind him like the shadow of death. Only they sent Roy to prison for manslaughter and Mama, she never forgave me for takin away her man. Eleven years old, I barely had boobs and Oz wasn’t her man.
So yes, I knows a sexin bed when I see one and these people, well, they ain’t foolin me, they foolin themselves. That’s all I gotta say.