Title: K My Name is Kendra
Author: Kamichi Jackson
Genre: Young Adult
An Uncomfortable Uncle CJ Memory
My uncle had come into town to do some pre-game interviews one Saturday and had stopped by the house early that morning to invite my father to go with him. Daddy was so excited that he didn’t even answer his brother, but he was upstairs and in the shower within seconds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move so fast in my life.
Mama was out grocery shopping that morning, Jada had gone to a slumber party the night before, and Philip had gone to watch Aris scrimmage with the All-City high school football team, so it was just me and Uncle C.J. in the living room once Daddy went upstairs. He sat down on the couch beside me and started asking me how school was and what my favorite subjects were. He wanted to know if I had any hobbies and what I liked to do for fun. After I answered all his questions, he told me how much of a young lady I had become since he last saw me, which had to have been about three years ago, I think, because Mama always seemed to have something to do outside the house whenever he called to say he was in town and wanted to visit with us, and she always took me and Jada with her. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend and I told him I didn’t—that Mama was not having that. He laughed and said that with a body like mine, Mama was right to keep boys from around me. Something about the way his eyes dropped to my chest and then down to my hips made me really uncomfortable. I was glad I could use the excuse that I had to get dressed to meet up with Nita. I got out of there quick and fast.
Trip to the Principal’s Office
“Tell me what’s happening at home, Miss James,” says Principal Moore.
I fidget in my chair for a few seconds, and then I shrug my shoulders, like I don’t have anything to lose by telling him what’s up.
“My father walked out on our family the other night because he and my mother had a huge fight about my older sister wanting to come back into our family after being gone for ten years. She ran away when she was fifteen—I don’t know why because no one will tell me—and up until a few days ago, we didn’t even know she was still alive. Mama wants her back and Daddy doesn’t, so he left,” I say, almost all in one breath.
“That’s a lot to deal with,” he says gently. “Truth be told, if I was your age and I came to school with all that on my mind, I’d probably have felt like running away to be by myself for a while too. The thing is, there are consequences to almost everything we do, even if we are under duress when we do them. Now, in most cases, what you did warrants an immediate suspension. Do you think you deserve to be suspended?”
“No, I don’t,” I say, shaking my head.
“Because I’m a good student. I never get into trouble. I made a stupid mistake because I was—I was under duress, like you just said.”
“Then what do you think you deserve?” he asks, sitting back in his chair.
I’m thinking, is he serious? I get to pick my own punishment? I wonder what his angle is. I can’t tell yet.
“Clinic,” I suggest after a few moments.
Clinic is what our school now calls Detention. Why, I don’t know. I guess they think spending time after school with a roomful of students you’re not allowed to talk to and a teacher who is mad that they have to be there to sit with you is somehow supposed to heal a student in trouble.
“One week,” he says, but to me he looks like he’s willing to negotiate.
“Three days,” I say. “Max.”
Principal Moore stares me down for a minute and I wonder if maybe I read him wrong, but then he throws his head back and lets out a big booming laugh.
“I like her,” he says to Aris, then turns back to me.
“Three days, starting tomorrow. And I’ve already spoken to Miss Wilson about you spending them with her. I read your file, Miss James. I’ve seen your transcripts. You’re a very good student, but you’re an even better writer. Gifted, with the potential to be brilliant, even at your young age. I want you to use this time in Clinic to be productive. Take all this negativity and spin it into something positive. Writing under Miss Wilson’s guidance is a good start. How does that sound?”
“I can do that,” I smile.
“Good. We’re done here then.”