Youth Loses Identity


Serendipity, a news-junky, often gets a flash. Like the time she was all set to groove on Luther Vandross at Tower Records listening station.

Her right sandal slipped on a thick stack of loose white papers left on the floor. But before she nose-dived, her backpack strap got caught by a dangling headphone. What luck! She chipped her big toe nail polish, not her front tooth.

Retrieving grace and poise, clutching the white papers like an office party pizza box, Serendipity scuttled across the street to the retail competition and the nearest not out-of-order women's restroom.

"Hello? Hello? Is this 215-246-1357? Can I speak to Ja-Mall Johnson? Why not? Let me explain. Is this 6220 Stinking Ginkgo Projects, Building A, 3rd Floor, Unit 10? So what? Who am I speaking to? Does Ja-Mall Johnson live here? Maybe? Who am I? A good Samaritan, that's who. No. Not Sallie Mae. Samaritan. Never mind. Let me explain. You're his momma? Can you prove it? Do you know his social security number? Well, I do. Prove it? The last four digits are 0001. Thank you, ma'am. Let me explain.

"I was all set to hear "Dancing with My Father." Yes, Luther's here! No, not in person. His new CD. Yes, it's on first-day sale! Well, you better grab a helicopter because the line is out the door and halfway down the block. In fact, if I don't get back there in ten minutes, they'll be sold out, and I'll have to take a rain check like I did for "We Are The World's" Twentieth Anniversary Extended Version, so, please, Mama Ja-Mall, let me explain!

"I was all set to float away on Luther's celestial serenades when I slipped on a stack of paper and almost fell flat on my high and mighty! High and mighty? Mama Ja-Mall, I mean no disrespect.

"When I regained my composure, I picked up the offending stack of papers and read them.

"Now, Mama Ja-Mall, I want you to know that my cell phone is not open for business 24 -7-365. I do not gossip. I was raised right in a "no news is good news" patriarchal family.

"But when I read the top sheet of that stack of white papers that almost caused me to break my neck, I couldn't stop. I read clean down to the bottom of the last page.

"Your son Ja-Mall is six feet four, weighs one hundred and seventy pounds, and will be nineteen in six weeks. That means you carried him all summer almost twenty years ago! Congratulations! You deserve a medal for that... Excuse me? Of course, I know he was much smaller then.

"Ja-Mall attended six different elementary schools, three middle schools and only two different high schools. He just finished his first year at community college. Even made the Dean's List. Congratulations! Excuse me? You knew he could do it? Of course, you're his momma.

"Ja-Mall is a burger aficionado. Aficionado? Never mind. He's worked at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Chow Fat's American Pagoda.

"Ja-Mall is a coupon, credit card, debit card wizard. He's cashiered at Pathmark, Thriftway, CVS, and Dollar Bazaar.

"Speaking of credit cards, Ja-Mall's account number is 800648... Mama Ja-Mall, please don't screech in my ear... No, I am not the IRS. No, I am not a paralegal for his ex-girlfriend's momma. No, this is not Reality TV!

"Please, let me explain. It's all here in my two honest-to-goodness hands. In black and white. A stack of resumes that almost broke my neck.

"All I want to know is... May I help you? What do you want me to do with Ja-Mall's private parts, I mean, personnel privacies?

"Will that be all? Have it your way. Thank you ma'am. Have a good day."

Serendipity switched off her cell phone. "Youth Loses Identity" What a great headline! Then she tore the thick stack of Ja-Mall's summer job applications into tiny paper-shredder bits and flushed them down the only working women's public toilet for several blocks.

Emerging from the stall Serendipity faced a long line of frothing-at-the-mouth females of all shapes, sizes, colors, and shelf life. But she wore the broadest, self-satisfied smile. Then a question crossed her mind. She stopped dead in her tracks.

Suppose Mama and Ja-Mall have caller I.D.?

About the author:

The poet Yvonne writes short fiction under the name Yvonne Chism-Peace. In 2003 she won the Leeway Foundation Award for Emerging Writers (Fiction). In 2002-04 these ezines published her stories: Outsider Ink, Muse Apprentice Guild, Melic Review, Wired Hearts, The3rdegree, Tattoo Highway, Pindeldyboz, Moxie, ken* again, Inkburns, Word Riot, Clever Magazine, Moondance, Feminista, and In Posse Review. Her books of poetry are IWILLA SOIL, IWILLA SCOURGE, and IWILLA RISE (Chameleon Productions Inc. 1985, 1986, 1999) for which she won NEA fellowships.