It was still dark when Big Ma woke me up. I looked up at the clock it was 3:30. I remembered it was the market day today. She said she was taking Stacey and me to the market in Strawberry. We got into the wagon at the back. Suddenly we saw TJ hop in the back. I just realised we are only going because of TJ. Big Ma says, ” Mr Avery said he needed some things from Strawberry he couldn’t get from the Wallace store so he sent TJ” It was a very long trip. I feel asleep for a while. Then Big Ma tugged on me “Well child here we are open your eyes and take in Strawberry”
All it was, was a normal town nothing special. We went into the market, down a dirty road and in front of us all these people had set here. I thought we were going to stay here but Big Ma kept on going to the other side, which was a deserted place. Big Ma started setting up, I cried “what are we doing here nobody can see us” Don’t worry Big Ma said; we will get our usual customers. It didn’t make good business sense to me. Some customers came and brought things like butter, milk and eggs. After we had packed everything up we went into the main town centre were there was a lot of hustle and bustle.
We parked up near a Building and on it, it read: Wade W Jamison Attorney at law. Mr Jamison lives here I said, Yes this is his office replied Big Ma. For some reason I liked Mr Jamison, He is the only white person that I heard call Big Ma and Mama missus. Big Ma said to Stacey ” Y’all wait here for me, I’ll be back soon and then we will go and do the rest of the shopping and do TJ’s list as well” After a few moments of standing around TJ spoke “Lets go down to the mercantile and look around”
I was complaining at first telling us about what Big Ma had said but then we got bored and went. It was a big building called the Barnett Mercantile. It had everything, everything you could have ever dreamed of ladies ribbons to burlap bags it was all there. TJ who had obviously been here before lead us to a counter near the back. It was a pistol cabinet; he proudly showed us this pearl-handed pistol “Ain’t she something” he exclaimed. I looked down at the price; I screamed, “$35. 95 just for an old gun and it looks like you can’t even hunt with it”
TJ with a weird look at me “Its for protection not for hunting” then he quickly turned to Stacey and spoke with a determined voice “I’m gonna get that gun one day Stacey I swear” Then we went to the front counter and TJ handed a list to Mr Barnett. Mr Barnett looked at the list and said “You one of Grangers people” “Yessir” TJ answered. Mr Barnett started to fill the order when some white people came, he then stopped doing TJ order and he started filling up other white people’s list. I felt confused, why had he left our list. We waited several minutes before he came over to us.
As soon as he approached us a little girl came over with a list, he forgot us and started doing her order. I felt quite angry I mean I understand why he started doing the other peoples orders because they were adults but this is just a little girl a little younger than me so I went up to him “Excuse me sir we were in front of her” He replied with a low tight voice “Get your little black self over there and wait your turn” I was really angry “You’ve got no right calling… ” he then interrupted “Whose little nigger is this” All of a sudden a big crowd developed. I was beginning to get scared.
Everyone was looking at me with disgust. Suddenly Stacey pushed me towards him “Shut up Cassie lets get out of here” He just pushed me through the crowd and out of the shop. When we got out I cried “Why you do that for” He stood there quietly and then spoke in a calm voice “You know it, I know it but he don’t know that’s where the problem lies. We kept walking along the path to see if we could find Big Ma, all that time I kept thinking why had Mr Barnett acted that way, That’s when I bumped into Lillian Jean Simms. “Why don’t you look where you’re going? ” she bellowed
I stood there looking at her “Why don’t you apologise? ” she ordered. “Okay I’m sorry,” I said. Then she looked at me “That’s not enough you don’t belong on the footpath get on to the road” I stared at her “You crazy I ain’t doing that” I tried walking past her but she stood in my way. Then she tried pushing me down. I backed off quickly. Then suddenly from behind twisting my arm and threw me down on the road. I turned around feeling the pain by now it was Lillian Jean Simms Dad. He bellowed, “If my girl asks you to get on the road then you damn get in the road” “Now you apologise this minute to my daughter,” He shouted.
I stammered close to tears “I’ve already apologised” He then jumped down on to the road heading for me, I thought he was going to wear me out. “Come on child we’re going home now” Big Ma said from behind. I weren’t that scared now Big Ma had come. “Not before she apologizes she ain’t” said Mr Simms. “Go on child apologize” Big Ma spoke “But… ” “Do like I say child” she said. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled “I’m sorry Miss Lillian Jean,” demanded Mr Simms. “Say it child” Big Ma said softly. I’m sorry Miss Lillian Jean,” I cried feeling confused, hurt and betrayed. I ran towards the wagon crying, this was the cruellest day of my life.