Life in Harlem isn't easy, but Tippy and his grandmother are doing okay. Then Grandma Carrie gets sick, and Tippy goes to live with Lonnie, his father. Lonnie's got his own thing going on, and he doesn't have much room in his life for a son he barely knows -- unless, that is, Tippy is willing to walk the far side of the fine line between right and wrong. Grandma Carrie always said if he had Jesus in his heart there wasn't anything to worry about, but sometimes it's not that simple. When the chips are down, will Tippy be able to call for help -- and is there anyone out there who will listen?
Grandma Carrie used to get money from Social Security, and sometimes she did day's work. Things had been going pretty much all right with us. Most of the day's work wasn't really working because she used to go up to the house of a lady she knew real well and they would drink coffee and talk about different things. The lady's name was Mrs. Lilly. I saw her sometimes on Sundays after we got out of church and me and Grandma Carrie would take the subway over to where she lived. She was old like Grandma Carrie, and she was a lot smaller, too. Grandma Carrie was almost as big as a man. She always said when she was young she didn't have time to be studying on being little and things like that -- she had to get out and work. She was strong-looking, too. She said when you can't reach around and grab nothing to help you, and you didn't have a man to hold on to, you had to reach inside yourself and find something strong. I guess she must have done that because, like I said, we wasn't doing too bad.
Mrs. Lilly was Jewish and lived clear out in Brooklyn, away from where the black people lived. Me and Grandma Carrie lived on Manhattan Avenue near 125th Street. It used to take us a hour or more to get to Mrs. Lilly's place. She lived in a old building that smelled like it was a museum or something. She had a son somewhere who worked down on Wall Street, and he used to send her money once a week, and he would come to see her about twice a month. Mrs. Lilly told Grandma Carrie that she would like to see him more, but she knew he had a family of his own and everything. She said sometimes she spent all day thinking about if she should call him or not, then when she did call him she wouldn't even know what to say. She said he was a good son and he wanted her to come and live with him, but she wouldn't do it because she didn't want to be a burden.
Then one day Mrs. Lilly told Grandma Carrie that her son was sending her to Florida.
"You got people in Florida?" Grandma Carrie asked.
Mrs. Lilly said that she didn't but that her son thought it was a good idea. They both talked about her going to Florida like it was a good thing, but when the time come for her to go she was crying and so was Grandma Carrie. When Mrs. Lilly was getting into the car, she told Grandma Carrie that she didn't think she was going to live a long time. Her son was saying things to try to make her stop crying, but she didn't. Then they was gone off in the car, and me and Grandma Carrie was standing there with a suitcase and two shopping bags full of stuff that Mrs. Lilly had give to us. We took the stuff on home, and I could see that Grandma Carrie had something on her mind. She was real quiet and sat on the edge of the bed and rocked a little. I asked her what it was that was wrong, but she didn't say nothing. I wanted to go out and see what was going on outside, but when Grandma Carrie got into one of her rocking moods it wasn't much good to ask her to go out. I looked at the paper for a while in the kitchen, and then I heard her speak out. I didn't hear what she said, so I went into the bedroom and she said it again.
"You know she gave us a nice piece of money every week," Grandma said. "I don't know what we gonna do now, boy. Guess the Lord will provide."
She didn't say much more about it then, and I didn't ask her nothing, either. We watched television for a while, and then she called me in for Sunday evening prayer.
"Lord, this is Your servant Carrie. Thank You, Jesus, for looking out after me and this boy today. Thank You, Jesus, for providing us with the meals to nourish our earthly bodies. Thank You, Jesus, for providing us with Your love to nourish our heavenly spirits.
"Lord, take care of Mrs. Lilly so that she can seek Thy grace and the peace of Thy love. Go ahead, boy."
"Thank You, Jesus, for our daily bread. Thank You, Jesus, for the love You have shown us and for Your mercy. Amen."
"You thanking Jesus from your heart or you thanking Him from memory, boy?"
"I'm thanking Him from my heart, Grandma Carrie."
"Go on to bed."
I went on to bed, and things went on about like they used to except for Grandma Carrie not going to see Mrs. Lilly. Grandma Carrie said we had to cut back on spending, and I said okay. It was summertime and school was out, so I didn't have much to spend on, anyway. Grandma Carrie said we was poor in the ways of the world but rich in the spirit of Jesus. That was okay with me, because we always had enough to eat and everything, anyway. Sometimes I would go down to the market and either carry bags for people or help them clean out the vegetable department. The man who was the manager of the produce department was named Sal, and he didn't work you too hard, and he always gave you fifty cents or a dollar extra if you didn't fool around.