Women from Mars

We ended up in Washington, D.C., and it wasn’t until arriving at a boarding house and walking up a flight of stairs to a room with only one bed that I knew something wasn’t right. But there’d already been a lot that wasn’t right.

Daddy, Mama, and me had been trying to sign on with any traveling show that would have us or even one planning to stay put that could use a father and daughter who played trombone and a mother who sang and played piano. But times were harder than a desert bone and money tighter than a hatband. There’d been no steady gigs since the show we’d been in for some time folded up its tent over a year before. Roosevelt was into his second time around as president. His heart was in the right place, but our stomachs must not have been, ’cause all the food for thought he was serving up in his fireside chats on the radio wasn’t doing a whole lot for our hunger. We tried to keep our music open for business, playing wherever it was possible to squeeze some loose change or a meal out of people barely scratching out a living.

Mama opened up her suitcase on the bed and started unpacking, while Daddy stood a foot away from her holding his instrument case like a little boy waiting to be told what to do.

“You waiting for something?” she asked, not looking in his direction.

“Come on, Margaret.”

“Come on where? You the one going.”

“We been through all this already.”

“No, Howard. You the only one’s been through it. And didn’t make no room for me and Florence.”

“Where you going, Daddy?”

He turned to me.

“I’m a give you the whole rundown soon as your mother gives me her blessing.”

A snort came from Mama. “The only thing I bless is food on the table.”

“Good! ’Cause I’ll be sending you some money in a week or two so you can do just that.”

Daddy wrapped his arms around Mama from behind, and it seemed like all the sass was hugged out of her.

“Get on away from me before I bless you out in front of your daughter!”

Daddy let her go, stepped in front of a door-length mirror, and put more of a slant in the brim of his hat. “Come on, Flo! Let’s go for a walk before I have to get scarce.”

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