On this particular Summer morning, me, my older sister, and older brother waited on my father to wake up so that we could eat breakfast, or maybe lunch, depending on how bad he was feeling. When we looked at the VCR clock it was 11:43am, my mom was at work, and Dad still was not up from his late night!
Since my sister was the most stealth of all of us and the oldest, she was picked for the food run. We all knew the consequences if any small noise woke Dad up, but the hunger was speaking louder than the belt. As she made her path the kitchen, I could not help but see her as the “Food Angel”, she was going to keep us from starving to death, even though we probably had about week before that happened.
The first creek did not come until she was almost in the kitchen, but the second deadliest creak of the cabinet door, that creaky door opening woke the sleeping Monster, but regardless she had the crackers and peanut butter, and she would reach the bedroom before he could reach the bottom of the stairs. I one swift mention, she was in the bed, under the cover with the food package under her pillow, she was good.
When he came in the room we lied profusely as we laid in the bed looking confused, nobody heard anything, and we have not gotten out the bed! That seem to settle him, because he was dressed with other plans on his mind.
We soon heard him moving around outside, which a quick glance out the bedroom window confirmed that he was trying to start his car that was parked in the driveway. In complete fashion he was trying to leave with a second thought of feeding his three children, but his car would not start. My brother got the call to get dress and come help him start his car, he was very happy to hear that he was needed, he assumed it was perfect father-son bonding time.
My sister and I stayed in the room and consumed the perfect breakfast of Ritz crackers and peanut butter, while taking spontaneous glances out the window. As time went by, we heard my father’s voice get louder and louder yelling at my brother that he was not doing it right! How stupid do you have to be to put your put on the gas and turn the key. The cursing that I am sure every neighbor heard from the open windows the hot summer morning was horrible! “You stupid this, you dumb that” and everything under the sun. All because he did not take care of his vehicle.
From the window we saw and heard my brother crying in the car, while my father had his head under the hood just yelling! We saw and heard the car choke and grasp a few times. Then we saw and heard the one of the loudest booms that I had ever heard in my life. The boom brought a pop of fire and it consumed my fathers’ entire body in 3 seconds. I remember from school; stop, drop, and roll. My father may have missed that day at school, because he ran, howled, ran, and then dropped. My brother who according to my father was, “too dumb to start the engine”, jumped into action. He picked up the beloved welcome rug at the side door and began hitting my dad with it. The white neighbor that was just over the chain linked fence, who had suffered a few of my father apathies, jumped over the gate and helped my eight-year-old brother save his drugged addicted fathers life!
I do not remember exactly what came out of my “six-year-old mouth”, but when my sister told the story to my kids, she said I said, “burn baby burn”. Now as a kid it is very hard to get the sight of your father running around the backyard, like Richard Pryor on fire, out of your mind, but I cannot remember what I said. I can remember the gown I had on, the two ponytails in my hair and my brother’s tears, but for the life of me I do not remember saying, “burn baby burn”.
I remember the sheet the neighbors wrapped him in, because I thought if I took momma’s clean sheets outside, I would get the worst whupping. I remember my sister calling my grandmother for advice, before calling his wife, my mother. I remember my brother sitting on the porch crying that he killed his father. I remember my sister bringing my brother in the house and cleaning him up. I remember the police coming before EMS, I remember my neighbors standing on the side of our house shaking their heads, saying “crack heads can survive anything”. I remember my sister laying out my clothes and getting me dressed before telling me to sit in the kitchen. I remember how calm she that entire day. But still, I do not remember saying, “burn baby burn”.
After everything was said and done, I remember our house smelling like a hospital as my father set in the front room wrapped mainly on the face and neck area as a mummy. I remember the disdain he had for my brother the whole summer. I remember being happy my mom was home. I remember the mental scares my father’s irresponsibility left on our family.
And on 11/23/20 I remember wanting to tell the story at my sister’s funeral of how brave she was as a 10-year-old girl. I remember how her direction that day feed us, and comforted both me and my brother. I remember that God had sent us an Angel!
Genise Danzy lost her sister on 11/11/20. Burn Baby Burn is one of the stories of her life of growing up with a Drug Addicted father. This story commemorates what a wonderful person her sister was.