'American Music' by Charmaine Wilkerson

Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid is pouring out of the sound system and washing through the rooms of the house. The boys are dancing hip hop to the classical music and it makes our father light up like a new grandparent, not like the dying man he’s supposed to be. This is how you dance to American music, my oldest says, and Dad raises an eyebrow. It’s a sophisticated line for a boy his age, but I know he got it from his own father, who showed him how to hip hop to jazz, to Broadway, to Samuel Barber.
My first-born is the color of mahogany, a reddish, lit-up kind of dark, the way my Momma was, with her same substantial legs and rear end, while the baby, the six-year-old, is lighter than I am, with butterscotch-colored curls, the same tone as his skin. And I wonder, how will their lives will be different for their differences? And what will this next baby be like, when she comes out, the first girl to be born in the family in thirty years?
Dad is making a wavy motion with his head and neck. The boys laugh and answer him back with their own moves. My sister’s son watches from the doorway, his body a seismic shift, pulling him towards manhood. We’re all dying, don’t forget that, Dad said one day, after we’d come back from the clinic. But until we’re dead, we’re still living, he said, touching the side of his head to mine. My father, dentist-turned-philosopher, wiggles his yellowed finger tips to the music.



Originally published in How to Make a Window Snake: Three Novellas in Flash (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2017, compiled by Bath Flash Fiction).

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