Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
“Whatchu doin?” he asked her.
“Nada,” she said as she took the cigarette. She kept quiet for a minute. She noticed he looked uncomfortable, like his muscles were sore. “You get hurt?” she asked him. He was a twelve-year old apprentice to his father, a Church Padre. Sometimes the Padre was strict with him.
“Nah,” he said. “I get in trouble all the time.
She didn’t say anything for a long time. “We leavin’,” she finally told him. Then she felt like crying.
“Leavin’.” He seemed surprised. He looked down at his feet and watched her through the side of his eyes. “Why?”
“Mamma lose her job.”
He whistled. “What you goh’ do?”
“We don’t know,” she said.
“You ain’t got no place to go?” he repeated.
“Gaw, you quick,” she said.
“Don’t be cold,” he said back. Rosa just stared. Then she held his cigarette out to him.
“Where you goh’ go?” he finally asked, taking the butt back.
“DC,” she said.
“DC,” he repeated, like he couldn’t believe it. “Why you go there?”
“We got cousins.”
Basil didn’t say anything, but he was being quiet in a different way. He looked pretty agitated. “You come to Church?” he finally said.
“To Church?” Rosa said after him. It was hard not to laugh. “My father, he never go there.”
“We take people in,” he said. “It part of our mission.”
“My Daddy even knew you was here, he prob’ly throw me out.”
“You be better off,” Basil said.
“What that supposed to mean?”
Basil shrugged. He seemed to be struggling with something. “I know some shit,” he finally said.
“What?” Rosa demanded.
Basil looked like he didn’t want to answer. “All I know is that it ain’t safe not to have a job.”
Basil looked up at Rosa. “You come live with me,” he said. “Forget your parents. You come marry me.”
“What? Marry you?”
Basil tried not to look embarrassed at the way she responded. He turned a little angry. “You can laugh if you want,” he said. “But it ain’t safe not to have no job. You stay with your parents, you see. One day someone come—“
Something began pounding in Rosa’s ears. She couldn’t listen. “Our President take care of us!” she screamed, to block out his voice. She had forgotten it was the middle of the night and she was outside. “Vaya, punk! I never want to see you ugly ass again.”
She turned and ran. He chased her, grabbed her wrist, and pulled. “Wait, Rosa, wait!”
She allowed herself to be pulled, even yanked around. She looked at him hard, her wrist in his hand. “What?”
He held out a little gold chain to her.
“What that?” “A chain. Like a promise. You think about it?”
Without answering or returning his gaze, Rosa took the chain. After a quick look, she stuffed it in her pocket.
They both stood there quiet, like there was more to say. Finally, Basil said it, but it wasn’t what Rosa expected.
“You want to come see the Church?”
When she heard him say that, her breath rushed out of her like the air out of an opened balloon. “Your Church?”
“I thought you wasn’t allowed to show me that.”
That was because she was chuseno and her father would shit bricks if he even knew she was talking about it.
“Padre ain’t gon’ like it.”
“Because if you thinking of going out there where the crazy white people live, you better have another choice.”
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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