“Yeah. That’s why you got a gut. Always waiting to eat.”
“Aw, Daddy,” I said and went to find Tina. She was in Nicole’s room, braiding Nicole’s hair. Nicole was dressed in a pretty white dress with polka dots and a matching hat that Tina had bought for her.
“Is your brother up yet?” Tina asked.
“No, Lisa’s in the bedroom trying to wake him up. She says she has a system. She sings his name and flicks the light off and on,” I said.
Both of us were straining to sound polite and happy that, after we had driven all the way out to Chino to see him, my brother was too tired to wake up and join his own party. Nicole was very smart. Tina flashed a loaded stare as a warning: say nothing that even hints of anger at Winston.
After finishing the braids, Tina led Nicole to a mirror.
“Don’t you look beautiful,” she said. Nicole smiled reservedly as she did.
Winston finally did wake and came out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes, shoeless, his new prison socks glowed white on the dingy rug.
“Hi,” he said to all of us.
“’Bout time you got up!” Mama said, rolling her eyes as she went to the kitchen to ready the food.
“Oh, uh, I’m sorry,” Winston said, shrugging his arms, looking hopeless.
Daddy shook his head, obviously irritated, but he kept his peace.
“Man, we was going to eat without you,” Jude said.
Jude ragging Winston was memorable because it was one of the few times that either of them attacked the other.
“Aw, ya’ll could have. I was just catching up on my sleep.”