The First Paragraph from Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson"


Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and

foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lady moved

on our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup.  And

quite naturally we laughed at her, laughed the way we did at the junk

man who went about his business like he was some big-time president

and his sorry-ass horse his secretary.  And we kinda hated her too, hated

the way we did the winos who cluttered up our parks and pissed on our

handball walls and stank up our hallways and stairs so you couldn't

halfway play hide-and-seek without a goddamn gas mask.  Miss Moore

was her name.  The only woman on the block with no first name.  And

she was black as hell, cept for her feet, which were fish-white and

spooky.  And she was always planning these boring-ass things for us to

do, us being my cousin, mostly, who lived on the block cause we all

moved North the same time and to the same apartment then spread out

gradual to breathe.  And our parents would yank our heads into some

kinda shape and crisp up our clothes so we'd be presentable for travel

with Miss Moore, who always looked like she was going to church,

though she never did.  Which is just one of the things the grown-ups talked

about when they talked behind her back like a dog.  But when she came 

calling with some sachet she'd sewed up or some gingerbread she'd

made or some book, why then they'd all be too embarrassed to turn her

down and we'd get handed over all spruced up.  She'd been to college

and said it was only right that she should take responsibility for the

young ones' education, and she not even related by marriage or blood.

So they'd go for it.  Specially Aunt Gretchen.  She was the main gofer in

the family.  You got some ole dumb shit foolishness you want somebody

to go for, you send for Aunt Gretchen.  She been screwed into the

go-along for so long, it's a blood-deep natural thing with her.  Which

is how she got saddled with me and Sugar and Junior in the first place

while our mothers were in a la-de-da apartment up the block having a

good ole time.
Return to Gutenberg Lesson 15